The following lists were submitted in response to the question, “What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?” All lists have been edited for consistency, clarity, and to fix minor copy errors. Unranked lists are alphabetized by title. In instances where the vote varies somewhat with the Top 115 entry the vote was counted towards, an explanation of how the vote was counted appears below it.

In the case of divided votes, only works fitting the description that received multiple votes on their own received the benefit. For example, in Jessica Abel’s list, she voted for The Post-Superhero comics of David Mazzucchelli. That vote was divided evenly between Asterios Polyp and Paul Auster’s City of Glass because they fit that description and received multiple votes on their own. It was not in any way applied to the The Rubber Blanket Stories because that material did not receive multiple votes from other participants.

Ray Mescallado
Writer, Pleasure Principled; erstwhile columnist, The Comics Journal

Feiffer, Jules Feiffer


My list hasn’t changed all that much from my TCJ Top 100 list many years ago. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.
Jason Michelitch
Contributing Writer, Comics Alliance, The Hooded Utilitarian

Hark! A Vagrant, Kate Beaton


ON PICKING TEN: You’re bastards, the lot of you. Ten comics? I could pick ten movies. I could pick ten albums. I could even pick ten people to kill, somewhere in the world, just by pressing a button in this here box, and in return I’ll receive ten million dollars and a subscription to The New Yorker, and I’ll magically be imbued with the ability to find the cartoons funny. I could do all that. But ten comics? You might as well ask me to pick ten fingers and cut off the rest.

I don’t know what it is about comics—that they’re such a strangely personal and direct form of popular narrative entertainment, that the medium has developed in the most scattershot and confounding ways, that there’s such a diverse array of expression that I find it maddening to try and compare an issue of Batman to a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip to Evan Dorkin’s “Merv Griffin” single-pager to Frank Santoro’s Incanto mini-comic to Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn. Maybe it’s because, of all the art forms I love, I understand comics the least (which only makes me love them more).

Whatever it is, picking ten comics has been awfully hard. I think I botched the job. I ended up with what looks like an awfully safe, middlebrow list. But what am I to do? It feels right. It’s the closest I can get the weird alchemical mixture of personal enjoyment, historical importance, and artistic significance (all filtered through my own subjective point of view, of course). I had to kill a lot of darlings. I really, really wanted to include at least one totally stupid pick, ideally the 1992 64-page DC self-mocking Ambush Bug Nothing Special by Giffen, Fleming, and Gordon, which is full of nothing but deliberately dumb jokes about ’90s comics. But I just couldn’t fit it in. I also would have really liked to have a more diverse list—more women, more creators of color, some European comics, some manga—but apparently I’m a sexist, racist, nationalist thug when it comes to taste in comics. Who knew? But I feel okay enough about my list. I can at least come up with a decent defense of each entry.

Krazy Kat—An ur-text for so much of what makes comics great. Simple iconography against lavish backdrops, slammed together over and over in deranged conflict, at once completely personal and effortlessly universal.

Amazing Spider-Man—The best super-hero character, a neurotic adolescent dumped unceremoniously into a science-fiction adulthood, in which he has to learn how to balance his family, his passions, his job, and his conscience. Sweaty, twisted, frustrated muscles and awkward, terrified, bugged-out eyes. It stayed good after Ditko left, but what it gained in Romita’s ability to draw pretty girls, it lost in Ditko’s pure feverish tension.

The Fourth World Saga—For a certain type of reader, and I confess I’m one of them, you can’t have comics without Kirby. And this is Kirby’s apex: His most successful, uninhibited exploration of his relationship to heroics, gods, myths, and war. One of the attendants at the sprawling, awkward birth of super-hero comics three decades previous, Kirby in 1970 delivers the ultimate expression of the original super-hero form. Historical artistic markers almost never line up perfectly with actual chronology, and Kirby is no exception, but The Fourth World is in many ways the last burst of original creation in a genre already dedicating itself to nostalgia, self-reference, and self-reverence. Stan Lee may have been a smoother crafter of dialogue, but Kirby reveals himself to be the better writer, in that his dedication is to exploring ideas and feelings, rather than cleverly re-packaging adventure tropes. The haphazard and unfinished production of the saga serves as much to its benefit as its detriment—Kirby’s concerns were not with conclusions or structure, but rather with firing off his idea-cannons with frenetic speed, and exorcising his deep passion and rage in crackling, frighteningly powerful lines. The best range of Kirby’s art is on display here—the first parts inked by Vince Colletta, who, though he unforgivably deletes portions of Kirby’s layouts, provides a smooth, humanizing touch to faces and a fine, feathery line reminiscent of antiquity to those drawings he deemed worthy of inking; the second parts inked by Mike Royer, providing what most would say is the rawest, most “pure” embellishment of Kirby’s pencils ever printed. Kirby is a seismic psychological event, and the ripples of his impact can be seen throughout the history and geography of comics. The Fourth World is the epicenter.

A Contract with God—I’m a sucker for ambition, and for shots fired across the bow. Will Eisner consciously forced Western comics to change the way they look at themselves. I’m also a sucker for the drowning sumptuousness of Will Eisner’s rain, one page of which alone would be worth a spot on this list.

Maus—Maybe the biggest target of cries of “overrated,” I keep returning to Maus. Its core creative choice, the central visual metaphor, is deceptively simple, often slandered as “easy,” but the effects it achieves are monumental—the cartoon animals are instantly empathetic, but the non-human anonymity drains the work of the melodrama that chokes most other holocaust-based narratives, and the self-referential “comic bookiness” creates a dialogue among the reader, the work, and the medium, as well as a self-interrogating dialogue between the artist and the qualities of realism, honesty, and iconography that permeate the book.

Love and Rockets—Hands down, the best modern American comic. Innovative, energetic, beautiful, influential, complex, human, funny, moving—all the adjectives you normally throw at stuff nowhere near as transcendent as the work of Los Bros.

Alec—A relentless thinker about the form trying just as consciously as Eisner to muscle comics into new territory, wielding sketchy, “unfinished” panels in a dense and super-functional 9-panel grid, mining the raw viscera of his own life for romantic, half-drunk, observational fiction. Comics’ own On the Road, except the rambling hero eventually matures, settles, and becomes more bemused than besotted. I don’t love anyone’s comics more than I love Eddie Campbell’s.

Bone—I don’t know where Bone currently stands with critics—not sure if this is a safe pick or an odd one. But is there anything more perfect than the first chapter of Jeff Smith’s all-ages fantasy adventure? From the first panel of the three Bones lost in the desert, the rhythm never misses a beat. The pinging dialogue, the falling layer of snow, and of course, the stupid, stupid rat creatures. Maybe this is a sentimental choice, but it’s also the very first book I thought to put on this list, and I never even considered taking it off.

From Hell—Coming at comics, as I do, from the background of your typical American comics fan, Alan Moore is tremendously important to me. I think that his talent holds up when looking from outside that particular community, but there’s no way for me to be sure. So I trudge on, wowed by his genius, of which From Hell is the most focused, sustained, and successful example. Eddie Campbell often wished he was working on Moore’s other great graphic novel at the time, Big Numbers (still and likely forever unfinished), but his sooty, ink-stained touch is so perfectly suited for the setting and subject matter, and his realistic, homely characters so necessarily defusing of titillating spectacle, that I can’t imagine anyone imagining the book existing any other way.

Hark! A Vagrant—One important aspect of comics is the varied and scattered ways in which different audiences interact with them. Mini-comics traded at convention booths, newspaper comics, spot illustrations in magazines, Jack Chick tracts left in bathrooms, webcomics posted to someone’s LiveJournal…comics to me are so often not discrete works of art to approach one at a time, but a sea of snippets and glances of pages and panels. A single daily dose of a great comic strip can be as deeply rewarding as a thousand-page graphic novel. A photocopied handmade mini-comic can run circles around a professionally printed, digitally colored commercial comic book. Comics are everywhere, comics are huge, but comics are still very small and personal when they need to be. They’re an incredibly direct delivery system of individual expression. This entry could have been any one of a number of different comics that I have primarily interacted with in short and infrequent doses through non-traditional means, but I chose the one I did because no one makes me laugh harder than Kate Beaton.
Eden Miller
Writer, Comicsgirl, Ignatz Awards coordinator, Small Press Expo

Why I Hate Saturn, Kyle Baker

Gary Spencer Millidge
Cartoonist, Strangehaven

La Femme du magicien, Jerome Charyn & François Boucq

Evan Minto
Editor-in-Chief, Ani-Gamers

Buddha, Osamu Tezuka

Wolfen Moondaughter
Contributing writer, Sequential Tart

Paradise Kiss, Ai Yazawa

Pat Moriarity
Cartoonist, Big Mouth

Frank, Jim Woodring

Pedro Moura
Writer, Ler BD

Le Portrait, Edmond Baudoin

Todd Munson
Associate Professor of Asian Studies, Randolph-Macon College

American Splendor, Harvey Pekar, et al.

Rachel Nabors
Cartoonist, Rachel the Great

Sailor Moon, Naoko Takeuchi


Sky Doll, Barbucci.

W.I.T.C.H, also Barbucci, but through Disney. This series showed that you can successfully sell graphic novels to girls. They are quite popular in Europe and all over the world. Why? Because Disney knows how to sell to this demographic, preteens without credit cards but with $5 allowances.

Rachel the Great, because I made it and I still get heartwarming “your comics changed my life” emails.

Bizengast, by M. Alice LeGrow, because I enjoyed reading it.

Bleach, by Tite Kubo, because he’s so damn good at drawing hot guys. Rawr. If only there were more Ulquiorra!

Gen 13, the parts done by J. Scott Campbell. The series went meh when he moved on, but it was my favorite comic as a pre-teen. My favorite character was Fairchild, the Amazonian redhead with smarts. (I wonder why?)

Catwoman, any incarnation. She’s just rawr no matter how you look at her or who is drawing her. She’s an anti-hero, and I loved every minute of her escapades growing up.

Sailor Moon, by Naoko Takeuchi introduced myself and a whole generation of girls to the idea that women could be heroines and that there were comics out there, in Japan, where women were as prolific authors and artists as men. Changed the face of comics.

The Boondocks.
Mark Newgarden
Cartoonist, We All Die Alone; co-creator, Garbage Pail Kids

Hey, Look!, Harvey Kurtzman

  • Dauntless Durham of the U.S.A., Harry Hershfeld
  • Dick Tracy, Chester Gould
  • Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, Winsor McCay
  • He Done Her Wrong, Milt Gross
  • Hey, Look!, Harvey Kurtzman
  • Krazy Kat, George Herriman
  • The Little Man with the Eyes, Crockett Johnson
  • Nancy, Ernie Bushmiller
  • Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz
  • Thimble Theatre, starring Popeye, E. C. Segar
  • ______________________________________________
    Eugenio Nittolo
    Writer, La Carotte

    Astérix the Gaul, René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo


    Your idea—it’s very funny.

    For Ralf König, I don’t know the English edition but I very much love Wie die Karnickel [Like Rabbits].
    Rick Norwood
    Editor, Comics Revue

    V for Vendetta, Alan Moore & David Lloyd

    It is hard, really hard, to limit my list to 10.

    How are you going to count the votes? For example, suppose you have one vote for Watchmen and one vote for “comic books written by Alan Moore.” If you combine them, you give prolific creators an advantage. If you don’t, then prolific creators have an extreme disadvantage, because their vote is split among so many different titles. It might be best to list the ten best comic creators of all time instead of the top ten comics.

    Another way to go would be this. Combine the votes of each creator to get a list of the top 100 creators, then next to each creator list just the title that got the most votes, and have a second round of voting.
    José-Luis Olivares
    Cartoonist, End of Eros, The Cannibal

    Uzumaki, Junji Ito

    Tim O’Neil
    Writer, The Hurting; contributing writer, PopMatters, The Comics Journal

    Louis Riel, Chester Brown

    Jim Ottaviani
    Scriptwriter, Feynman, T-Minus: Race to the Moon

    Spider-Man, Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

    Jason Overby
    Cartoonist, Jessica, Exploding Head Man

    Supermonster #7, Kevin Huizenga


    [About Supermonster #7] This was such a big one for me. It hit me pretty strongly at a time when I was really disillusioned with comics (what else is new). It was probably my introduction to mini-comics, crummy on the surface but secretly amazing. It’s a perfect Zen monologue where a guy is just walking around his neighborhood, taking in the random bits of data with all his senses. I bought the original art for the first page from Kevin years ago, and it’s the only piece of original art I own.
    Joshua Paddison
    Assistant Professor of American Studies, Indiana University

    L’Ascension du haut-mal [Epileptic], David B.

    Nick Patten
    Cartoonist, Unreachable Beasts

    Hellboy, Mike Mignola

    Marco Pellitteri
    Author, The Dragon and the Dazzle; contributing writer, The Comics Journal

    El Eternauta, Héctor Germán Oesterheld & Francisco Solano López


    Here are my titles. I focused on general works (series, etc.) or specific books, not specific story arcs or particular stories of long series. I have followed these criteria: 1) content relevance; 2) aesthetic relevance; 3) linguistic relevance; 4) historical relevance; 5) popularity relevance; 6) geographical distribution—and tried to ponder over in my mind.
    Michael Pemberton
    Professor of Writing and Linguistics, Georgia Southern University

    The Fantastic Four, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby


    Thanks for the opportunity to participate in your survey (I think). You have caused me to do some teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling, and head-banging in trying to limit my selections to a mere 10. I’ve managed to narrow down my list by deciding to include comics work that I felt was (a) brilliantly written, (b) skillfully drawn, and (c) either culturally significant or that had a dramatic impact on the comics field.
    Kai Pfeiffer
    Instructor, Kassel Art Academy; cartoonist, Realm; editor, Plaque

    From Hell, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell


    This “canon” is an almost arbitrary choice from a much larger list of books that hit me just as hard (Krazy Kat, Jimmy Corrigan, Black Hole, The Fate of the Artist, Ici même [You Are There], Le Royaume [The Kingdom], Georges et Louis Romanciers [George and Louis, Novelists], Yume no q-saku…)

    Greetings from Berlin—love your blog, expressly for the highly opinionated content.
    Stephanie Piro
    Cartoonist, Fair Game, Six Chix

    Brenda Starr, Dale Messick


    I also used to love Rivets by George Sixta, and Dondi by Irwin Hasen in the papers as a kid. Just putting in a plug for two sort-of-forgotten strips.
    John Porcellino
    Cartoonist, King-Cat Comics and Stories, Perfect Example

    OMAC, Jack Kirby, with Mike Royer


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