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Introduction

I originally kept a text list of my 100 Things I Love About Comics just to keep track and make sure I hit 100 on the mark, because I decided for design reasons not to have numbers on each one. It is worth noting that these are not in any sort of order of importance -- #73 means as much to me as #13 in the grand scheme of things. The numbers are more a tracking method of 100 nearly equal things, in other words.

I quickly realized I really ought to have at least some pointers for folks who might be interested in a panel or three -- since the whole point was really to show the great diversity out there and how wonderful ALL of it is.

So here are notes and annotations on the 100 Things I Love About Comics.

#100 - Getting to be in them - art Copyright (C) Jason Marcy. Jay created this piece of art as one of his daily strips following my family's recent visit. The white bit of fabric is my wife's arm. You can view the original strip here.

#99 - Iconic versions of old favourites - Justice League art by Bruce Timm. Not much to note on this one, other than that my wife and daughter both thought it said "ironic" when they looked at it.

#98 - The art of Bryan Hitch, from the variant cover to Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of The Authority #1, a mini-series that overall didn't need to exist, but Hitch's cover for the first issue summed-up the character so well that it kind of justifies it.

#97 - The best magazine about comics ever, The Comics Journal. And getting better all the time, lately.

#96 - The way Rob Liefeld refuses to ever go away. His famous Captain America illustration, where Cap has a fridge down his shirt. I've had this hideous, hilarious art on my harddrive forever, and finally had a good chance to use it.

#95 - The comics and music of James Kochalka, Superstar.

#94 - Daredevil, by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. Of all the superhero comics I have read in the 33 years I have been reading comics, no run of any title was ever more visceral or exciting than Daredevil #158-191. As Frank Miller expanded his creative abilities, my comprehension of what was possible within the boundaries of a superhero comic expanded right alongside. The apotheosis of Miller and Janson's run was #181, which proved to me that when creators are given free reign, nearly anything could happen. Unfortunately, the nature of the industry is such that the events of the issue were later exploited and reversed, but, at the time, 16 years old, man, I had never seen anything like it. It blew my mind. The entire Miller/Janson run is available in Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Volumes 1-3, and if you want a real sense of what an exciting time the early '80s were in monthly superhero comics, you could do far worse than reading them.

#93 - Bluesman by Rob Vollmar and Pablo Callejo. In my Five Questions for Rob Vollmar, we discussed this book pretty extensively. It's been out a few weeks now, and everyone who's e-mailed me to tell me they picked it up on my recommendation has loved it. You will too. Three issues, tell your retailer you want 'em.Preview here.

#92 Neilalien - One of the oldest and best comics blogs, by one of the comics internet's most iconoclastic and independent thinkers. Also a really smart guy who has saved my bacon with his technical knowledge on mutliple occasions: Neil, thank you.

#91 - Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. Most Alan Moore runs on every title he has worked on are noteworthy in some way, with very few of them anything less than excellent entertainment. But his Swamp Thing changed comics, and caused an entire generation of creators to rethink the way they approached their craft. Few have come anywhere near living up to the standards set in this series, thankfully in print in a series of trade paperbacks from DC Comics. The only aggravating thing is that they don't include Moore's actual first issue in the first TPB because it was a wrap-up of a Martin Pasko story, but, the issue is not impossible to track down, especially in digital format. Hint, hint.

#90 - R. Crumb. One of the great masters of the comic artform, as I explained in my Masters and Masterworks essay.

#89 - The Journal Comic by Drew Weing. Not sure what he's up to these days, but you can order the collection from his website and hope he does more of this again someday.

#88 - Street Angel by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca. I reviewed the first couple of issues here, but let me say definitively that this five issue series is a modern-day classic and an absolute blast no matter how you look at it. I'll be re-reading and enjoying and recommending these books as long as I draw breath, and I'm eternally grateful to Rugg and Maruca for giving me a comic I can get this excited about after three decades of reading the damned things.

#87 - Sleeper by Brubaker and Phillips. It's a bittersweet thing for me, knowing this exquisite book is drawing to a close as Brubaker heads off for some creator-owned work and some sort of "exclusive" deal with Marvel (where, at least, his Captain America so far is quite good). But between the five issues of Point Blank that preceded it, 24 issues of the two "seasons" and a couple one-shots or so, Brubaker and Phillips and others have given us a pretty good armload of some goddamned great funnybooks, certainly the best title either Marvel or DC has released in the last decade. If you've skipped Sleeper, you've really denied yourself some wonderful stuff, filled with paranoia, double-dealing, shocks and surprises. And man, Phillips can draw the hell out of anything.

#86 - Origins of Marvel Comics. Up until Christmas of 1977 (I'm guessing on the year, but it was no earlier than '76 and '78 seems too late), the only Marvel Comics I had read were the monthly floppies. This thick collection surveyed the length and breadth of the Marvel Universe, packed with stories by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others. For the first time, at a key moment in my transition from child to adolescent, reading it by the light of the Christmas tree while the rest of my family slept that Christmas day, I saw just how much history there was to comics. Of course, the true history of the medium wasn't even hinted at in this Marvel-centric volume, but this was my first glimpse that a far greater canvas existed and needed to be investigated. Tragically, I loaned my original copy to a friend who took it with him when he moved out of town, but last year Earthworld in Albany acquired a copy in really nice condition, and I snapped it up instantly, delighted to finally have at least a facsimile of one of the most important books of my life back in my hands.

#85 - Daniel G. Clowes. The creator of Eightball is probably the cartoonist whose best work most viscerally impacts on my consciousness. From Ghost World to Ice Haven and beyond, I am awestruck and speechless in trying to beging to explain how deeply his best work affects me. This is probably where that infamous "Arctic Shitknife" thing came from, come to think of it. Sorry, gang, Clowes just reduces me to a slack-jawed nitwit. Sort of like seeing Venom makes certain Marvel fans pop wood, y'know?

#84 - Earthworld Comics. Albany's best comic shop is also, so far as I am able to determine, the best comics shop in upstate New York. Owner JC Glindmyer has a true businessman's instincts and a great love of comics, and that's much more rare in the industry than you might think. It's also why a half-dozen or so comics shops have come and gone in Albany in the past decade or so, but Earthworld keeps on truckin'.

#83 - Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Not my favourite Alan Moore work, but certainly one of my favourite superhero stories, and a grand accomplishment in its time that can never be understood in its full and proper context unless you were there at the time.

#82 - The "Alec" stories of Eddie Campbell. The four graphic novels currently collecting these works, The King Canute Crowd, How to Be An Artist, Three Piece Suite and After the Snooter, are among the most human, moving, funny and dramatic stories ever told in comics form.

#81 - John Romita's Spidey. Is there a more evocative image in all of superhero comics?

#80 - The Complete Peanuts from Fantagraphics Books. One of the most correct and justified undertakings in the history of the medium. These books will be remembered, re-read and cherished by future generations long after we're all turned to dust.

#79 - Maakies by Tony Millionaire. Evil, funny, tragic, comics' most fascinating car wreck.

#78 - Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. No other comic strip has ever distilled what it is to be a boy down into a more accurate portrayal.

#77 - Jay's Days by Jason Marcy. Somewhere in-between Harvey Pekar's misery and James Kochalka's joy of life lies Jason Marcy's blunt, delightful autobiographical comics. Three volumes in print to date, more on the way. Get them all and watch the artistic growth of one of my favourite cartoonists.

#76 - The art of Gil Kane. One of the finest craftsmen ever to work in comics, and probably, after Bernard Krigstein, one of the most thoughtful artists.

#75 - X-Man #63-76 by Ellis, Grant and Olivetti. Remember "Widescreen" comics? This entertaining and unique run is one of the forgotten gems of the era, widescreen more in concept than visual execution. "The shaman always lives outside the village." I've re-read this run maybe a half-dozen times, and I still enjoy it every time.

#74 - Comics by Richard Sala. From Peculia to Evil Eye to Maniac Killer Strikes again and all his other short works and spot illos and whatever else, Sala is one of the most holistic and iconoclastic cartoonists alive today. He basically does one thing, but he does it so well that every iteration is more fascinating than the last. Seek out his work, you won't regret it.

#73 - Fantagraphics Books. North America's most important comics publisher, period.

#72 - Steve Ditko. If he hadn't existed, Neilalien would have had to make him up. His art is one of the most riveting things ever to come out of corporate comics, but his personality is almost as interesting.

#71 - David Mazzucchelli. His transition from mediocre superhero artist (pre-Daredevil: Born Again) to incredible superhero artist (in Born Again and Batman: Year One) to true artist (with Rubber Blanket and City of Glass and anything else he's done since leaving Marvel) is one of the artform's greatest success stories, a triumph of art over commerce.

#70 - Harvey Pekar. The debt comics owes this pioneer of underground/alternative/autobiographical comics cannot even truly be estimated. Buy any of his American Splendor books and find out why he has the respect and admiration of so many students of the comics artform.

#69 - Small Favors by Colleen Coover. I can't think of any comic book that ever depicted sex so wonderfully and joyously. Sure, it's porn. What's wrong with that? I wish there was more like this. And no, it's not a coincidence that this came in at #69, ha ha. Me funny.

#68 - King-Cat Comics by John Porcellino. I came to this book very late, but it's everything you've heard it is. Humble, honest, and exquisitely quiet.

#67 - Avengers #161 by Shooter and Perez. Examined to death right here.

#66 - Forlorn Funnies by Paul Hornschemeier. Superbly experimental and emotive comics, with a surprise on every page of every issue.

#65 - The Beguiling, Toronto, Ontario. The best comics shop I've ever been in, and very likely the best one in the world.

#64 - The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon. The industry's Most Valuable Player, a critic of discernment and wit. Also co-wrote the definitive Stan Lee biography.

#63 - Darwyn Cooke. From Catwoman to New Frontier, and everything else he's done, Cooke demonstrates a love and understanding of what works best in superhero comics.

#62 - Superman vs. Spider-Man Treasury Edition. I still have the dog-eared, tattered copy of this I bought new off the stands in 1976. It's the comic I've had continuously the longest in my life, and it remains one of the most exciting moments ever in superhero comics.

#61 - Fred Hembeck. The inspiration for this list of 100 Things I Love About Comics, and another formative influence for me -- in the 1980s, Fred taught me through his comics that it's not only okay to talk about comics, but that it is absolutely necessary and can be personal and entertaining as hell.

#60 - Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. The biggest surprise in comics for me in 2004, Pilgrim combines manga-influenced storytelling with the best elements of North American-style alternative comics. Just excellent, excellent stuff.

#59 - B. Krigstein. The smartest artist ever to toil in the industry.

#58 - Ben Reilly. The original Spider-Clone story from the 1970s was one of my childhood favourites, and when Marvel revisited it for seemingly years on end in the 1990s, I was riveted, despite the shitty quality of many of the stories. The best thing to come out of it was probably the Dan Jurgens-helmed Sensational Spider-Man #0-6, or maybe it was the column Life of Reilly, which originally was hosted on this site. Read the column for the behind the scenes story of one of comics' greatest clusterfucks.

#57 - Phoebe Gloeckner. One of the most important voices ever to speak out in comics form.

#56 - Barry Windsor-Smith. One of the most gifted artists and storytellers ever to work in comics. Storyteller remains a highwater mark of comics history, and the fact that the market couldn't deal with it in the 1990s remains one of my major annoyances with comics overall. Luckily Fantagraphics is re-presenting the contents in a beautifully-produced series of hardcovers, The Freebooters the next scheduled for release, this summer.

#55 - Super Friends Art. Yeah, not so much the show, just that image, so iconic and representative of superheroes in the early 1970s. Revised to marvellous effect by Mike Oeming on a couple of Powers covers a couple years back.

#54 - The Midnighter. The only panel I out-and-out screwed up on this thing, as I forgot to put a label on it. Oh, well. Anyway, this angry gay master strategist is the single best superhero ever created. If you don't think so, you're wrong (*).

#53 - Renee French. Her lush, otherworldly illustration is one of the greatest pleasures comics has to offer.

#52 - Adrian Tomine. His Optic Nerve is the true new mainstream I want to see, gifted cartoonists telling human stories with appeal far beyond the realm of emotionally retarded thrill-seeking fanboys.

#51 - Frank Quitely. Grant Morrison's most valuable creative partner, everything the two of them create transcends expectation every time. Apart from Morrison, Quitely's done great work with other writers, too, and is one of corporate comics' most interesting talents. If only he could crank it out a little faster. Sigh.

#50 - Chris Ware. His Acme Novelty Library is a masterwork series demonstrating an astonishing range of cartooning ability informed by thoughtfulness and intelligence; it was with the Acme Novelty Library Datebook, though, that I really began to appreciate just how much effort and struggle goes into everything Ware does.

#49 - Seth. His mannered, nostalgic cartooning and mastery of tone set Seth apart from most of the industry, and he just seems to get better with every new release.

#48 - Alan Moore's Marvelman. As with Watchmen, maybe you had to be there to truly understand the impact this series had. Most easily obtained these days through covert, digitized means, Marvelman (or Miracleman, as it had to be called in the States in the 1980s) is a key piece of superhero comics history that influenced nearly everything that came after it.

#47 - Grant Morrison. Morrison's brain works like no other, and while his reach often exceeds his grasp, when he hits the target dead-on (as with We3, The Filth, The Invisibles, New X-Men, Seaguy and many more), he stuns the reader with his narrative ingenuity. The Filth remains misunderstood and criminally underestimated as a landmark work in comics.

#46 - Drawn and Quarterly. After Fantagraphics, North America's most vital and important comics publisher.

#45 - Love and Rockets. After decades of top-quality comics in serial form, we now have two massive and massively entertaining hardcovers to introduce this series to readers with. If you haven't read Locas and Palomar, frankly, you don't know the first goddamned thing about comic books (*).

#44 - Ivan Brunetti. It took the recent Comics Journal interview to give me a fuller appreciation of Brunetti's twisted brilliance. I've been catching up on what I missed, and am eagerly anticipating Schizo #4, due out sometime this year.

#43 - E-Man by Cuti and Staton. The original Charlton-published issues were a formative reading experience for me in the early 1970s. I recently re-read them and realized that the satire and energetic artwork hold up remarkably well, justifying my long-held feeling that the series was one of the best superhero moments of its time. I would really love to see these re-issued for today's readers, and a little bird tells me that any publisher interested in doing so would have a really, really easy time putting a package together (hint, hint).

#42 - Bipolar. An essential anthology series featuring Tomer Hanuka, perhaps best known as the cover artist for DC's Hard Time. Readers need to explore his fantastic and fascinating work in this series, as well as the work of his brother Asaf.

#41 - Invincible. Writer Robert Kirkman's excellent superhero series, one of the few good ones being published today.

#40 - Hellboy. Writer/artist Mike Mignola's talent almost exists in a world all its own; even the non-Mignola-produced side-projects usually are of excellent quality, but when MM is handling his baby, fantastic comics are guaranteed.

#39 - Cartoon History of the Universe. Larry Gonick's hilarious, informative look at, well, everything.

#38 - The Ultimates by Millar and Hitch. The catastrophic miscalculation at the end of Wanted might have aggravated a lot of people (myself included), but The Ultimates gets better with each passing issue, one of the very few Marvel comics I am currently interested in as a reader.

#37 - Top 10 by Moore, Cannon and Ha. One of the gems of the America's Best Comics line, and so narratively and visually dense that you can never stop spotting things you missed every time you go back and re-read it. Delightful.

#36 - Wallace Wood. Died by his own hand just as I was discovering his place in comics history. A true artistic genius whose demons took him from us way too soon. His EC work is essential, but his Daredevil and THUNDER Agents stuff is quite lovely to look at, as well. My all-time favourite Wood work, strangely enough, is The Outer Space Spirit.

#35 - Louis Riel. A lengthy and idiosyncratic biography that I believe is one of the top five most accomplished and ironically personal graphic novels yet created. Louis Riel is among the most compelling comics works I've read.

#34 - 1970s Earth Two. As best visualized by Paul Levitz and Wallace Wood in the revival of All-Star Comics, I was swept away by the idea of a middle-aged Superman and Co. carrying on adventures on an alternate earth. Its destruction was, creatively, the worst thing to come out of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

#33 - Dr. Doom. Doom is Doom. Doom needs no explanation. You should be killed for even expecting one, lickspittle.

#32 - Strangehaven by Gary Spencer Millidge. A strange and eerie series, unique and filled with wonder.

#31 - Reggie 12. Highwater Books released this awesome all-ages book on Free Comic Book Day in 2004 and then went out of business, leaving an expected series up in the air. There was a great Reggie 12 story in Blood Orange #4 from Fantagraphics, though, so track down any Reggie you can, it's all wonderful.

#30 - Gabagool! is the funniest comic book in the world. If you don't know why I can never eat Egg Drop Soup again, you need to read it.

#29 - Giant-Size X-Men #1 and Uncanny X-Men #94-143. Probably the best run of any Marvel Comics title ever, from one brief, shining moment Chris Claremont was able to craft comprehensible, entertaining stories and John Byrne put storytelling before his monumental, anti-human arrogance. A comic run so great, you can forget while reading it that its two prime movers never again did anything anywhere near as entertaining. Special mention should be made of inker Terry Austin, whose precise, exacting embellishment was so valuable that if he hadn't been part of the creative team, I'm quite convinced this run would be no better remembered, say, than Claremont and Byrne's Marvel Team-Up run.

#28 - Stray Bullets by David Lapham. An intensely personal work of fiction that really belongs in everyone's library. Complex storytelling that hits you hard right where it counts.

#27 - Joe Sacco. Probably the most significant journalist ever to work in comics form, his reporting from Palestine, Bosnia and other places has provided vast rewards to readers at great personal risk to its creator.

#26 - From Hell by Moore and Campbell. The greatest graphic novel yet created. Yes, it has Jack the Ripper in it, but (as the moviemakers failed to understand), it's about so much more than that. Moore's footnotes are essential to fully appreciating what an accomplishment this book really is, and you need to read them chapter-by-chapter as you go along. Since you asked.

#25 - Ross Andru's Spider-Man. Wonky and perhaps a bit less accomplished than, say, Ditko, Romita or Kane's interpretation. Nevertheless, Andru was my first Spidey artist, and thus his version retains an inexplicable power over me.

#24 - Achewood. Tragically, the collection I reviewed was never released, but the strip remains online and is a subtle joy. For best effect, read a good, long run of them, as it's a cumulative pleasure.

#23 - Peepshow by Joe Matt. Perhaps the most selfish, obnoxious self-depiction ever in autobiographical comics. Funny and repulsive, often at the same time.

#22 - Planetary. This and The Authority remain the highwater marks in Warren Ellis's comics-writing career.

#21 - Ernie Colon's Richie Rich. A key element of my childhood love of comics, Colon's smooth lines and inventive scene-setting were a joy to behold.

#20 - Comic Art Magazine. It can't compete with The Comics Journal for depth and a cumulative sense of context, but Comic Art is a beautifully produced magazine for intelligent, curious comics readers.

#19 - Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin. One of the best comics blogs around, retailer Mike Sterling's perspective is delivered with wit and the occasional dose of much-needed sarcasm.

#18 - James Sturm. One of the few cartoonists who has never let me down, all his stuff is fascinating, compelling reading.

#17 - Green Lantern drawn by Dave Gibbons. No idea if these hold up today, but with Hal Jordan back in business, DC could do worse than to repackage this run by the artist of Watchmen, as they looked fantastic and were some of the most entertaining DCs of the '80s.

#16 - The Comics Blogosphere. And welcome to it.

#15 - Action Figures.

#14 - The Far Side. Was there ever a freakier presence on the funny pages?

#13 - Alan Moore. Simply the best, most accomplished writer ever to put his talent to work creating comics.

#12 - Stan the Man. I am told this image may be a fake, Photoshopped into obscenity. That saddens me, as I prefer to think Stan would actually throw that pose at an unsuspecting photographer. Oh, well.

#11 - Free Comic Book Day. Our national holiday. The yearly post-game analysis frustrates with its shortsightedness -- this will take a decade or more to fully infiltrate, folks -- in other words, to actually pay for itself. If they keep doing it right, though, eventually it will all be worth it.

#10 - Rob Vollmar. The only man in comics who taste I trust without question. Without him, I never would have read comics by Paul Hornschemeier or Farel Dalrymple, and Rob's own comics (BLUESMAN, THE CASTAWAYS) are wonderful in and of themselves.

#09 - Collecting Original Art; art by Pablo Callejo. I don't have much, but I treasure each piece I've been lucky enough to acquire.

#08 - Previews Review. Christopher Butcher is second only to Rob Vollmar in earning my trust, a wide-ranging and informed critic of comics as an artform and an industry. Also, he gave me garlic bread.

#07 - Tony Isabella. One of the original innovators of online comics commentating, and a wise and measured presence in any discussion.

#06 - The Infinite Wonders of Jack Kirby. As I said in my entry on Kirby in my Masters and Masterworks essay, "Jack Kirby invented American superhero comics; if he didn't, he invented how people think and feel about them." Nuff said.

#05 - Charles Burns. The recent conclusion of Black Hole is perhaps a much greater achievement than anyone has yet said, but perhaps the upcoming collection from Pantheon Books will provide the context in which this sweeping and disturbing epic of alienation can be better appreciated.

#04 - David Collier. His point of view is deeply Canadian, and his art is heavily influenced by R. Crumb. Collier's used his cartooning skills to examine his own life and those of others, and no matter who or what he's reporting on, it's always fascinating stuff.

#02 - Mini-Comics from USSCatastrophe.com. Anyone curious about the larger canvas of comic art would do well to click over to the Catastrophe Shop and preview some of the comics available for sale. Most everything is highly affordable and provides a much higher value-for-dollar than just about anything you'll find on the superhero racks of your local comics shop.

#01 - Comic Book Galaxy. Longtime readers might recognize the beat-up comics box from my first, unskilled efforts at visual branding. Since then I've been extremely lucky to have Anthony Schiavino design logos for us, lending the site a more mature and professional design sense. No matter what it's looked like, though, from the very beginning this site has seemed like my life's mission to me, and the response to the 100 Things I Love About Comics or many of the other reviews and essays I've written has been a large part of why it's all seemed worthwhile all these years. Another gratifying aspect has been in bringing in new writers and helping them develop their skills and, in a way, teach them to find whatever it is within them that they want to say, be it about comics or anything else. Everybody associated with Comic Book Galaxy is grateful every time a reader like you writes in to let us know what you think, which is why we always have the author's e-mail address attached to the writing that appears here. So the next time you read something that you agree with, disagree with, that delights or infuriates you, drop us a line and let us know how we're doing. And thanks, as always, for taking the time to read what we write.

-- Alan David Doane

(*) - Don't bother complaining, I only say things like this to get a rise out of you. Although I mean every word.



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