The International Best Comics Poll picks top ten

krazy_kat.jpgRecently, the Hooded Utilitarian polled a bunch of comics-type people to answer the question “What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?” The results of the poll have been unveiled this week. Over 200 replies were received, so it’s a pretty representative sampling. The #1 was revealed this morning and it’s not a big shocker — neither are any of the other Top 10:

1. Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz
2. Krazy Kat, George Herriman
3. Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson
4. Watchmen, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
5. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Art Spiegelman
6. Little Nemo in Slumberland, Winsor McCay
7. The Locas Stories, Jaime Hernandez
8. Pogo, Walt Kelly
9. MAD #1-28, Harvey Kurtzman & Will Elder, Wallace Wood, Jack Davis, et al.
10.The Fantastic Four, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, with Joe Sinnott, et al.

What just missed the top 10? IN some ways it’s a more interesting list than the Top 10:
11. The Fourth World Stories, Jack Kirby, with Mike Royer, et al. [22 votes]
12. The Donald Duck and Uncle $crooge Stories, Carl Barks [20 votes]
(tie) From Hell, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell [20 votes]
14. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Chris Ware [17.25 votes]
15. Tintin, Hergé [17 votes]
16. Cerebus, Dave Sim & Gerhard [16 votes]
17. The Counterculture-Era Stories, R. Crumb [15.167 votes]
18. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller, with Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley [15 votes]
(tie) The Spirit, Will Eisner, with Jules Feiffer, et al. [15 votes]
(tie) Thimble Theatre, starring Popeye, E. C. Segar [15 votes]

A further list of The Top 115 picks is here, and the above links led to essays by folks like Shaenon Garrity, Jeet Heer, Tucker Stone, and more, so it’s a good way to kill some time on a summer Friday.

Comments

  1. Isn’t “your favorites, the best, or the most significant?” kind of three different questions? But I think that explains how Watchmen is #4.

  2. jacob goddard says:

    I’d love to see an international list. Tintin and Cerebus are the only two listed from outside the US.

  3. I’m glad I participated in this, as I think it turned out wonderfully, and I was happy to see 3 of my choices land right at 3, 4 and 5. I’m looking forward to seeing the full lists, though, just so I can see what other 4 people with obviously excellent taste agree with me that “Maison Ikkoku” is, bar none, one of the greatest comics of all time.

  4. jacob goddard says:

    Should have read the whole list. Interesting to see that the Locas stories ranked higher than the Palomar stories.

  5. patrick ford says:

    It would be interesting to tabulate the votes in a number of different ways.
    A graph might show, for example, that things like Miller, Moore, and Sim were all voted for by people who read their (80′s) work when it was coming out, and who were fans of super heroes in general at that time.
    Anyone who would consider voting for the Marvel comics of the 60′s would almost certainly have to be over the age of 50, and is still warmed by the comforting embers of nostalgia.
    The best point I’ve seen made so far was by someone who pointed out the top ten is dominated by comics which reflect a long term body of work. Lists like this are always problematic because you’ll see one shot efforts, being compared to something like Pogo, or the Barks Duck comics.
    Trying to appraise a single story is tricky.
    Consider how difficult it would be to appraise photography on the basis of a single image. A “great” photograph could be taken by accident, the only way to be certain the photographer is great is to see his body of work. I’d thick everyone has one single panel cartoon inside them which is great in the same way anyone might take a great photograph. Obviously it’s not possible to create a great longer form structure like a film, or long comics narrative by chance, but I’d still argue it’s not possible to appraise a very limited body of work with any degree of certainty.

  6. Will J Rivera says:

    11. The Fourth World Stories, Jack Kirby, with Mike Royer, et al. [22 votes]

    It’s funny how these books where seen as a failure when they came out. I read somewhere that during the seventies some retailers would sell comics and still report them as non-sold returns. If you look at how replenent the DCU is with these characters (Ditko and Kirby creations are all over the the last few big DCU events, on Smallville, the Brave and the Bold cartoon, used time and again by many different Writers and artists)

  7. @Patrick Ford: “Anyone who would consider voting for the Marvel comics of the 60’s would almost certainly have to be over the age of 50, and is still warmed by the comforting embers of nostalgia.”

    Well, I voted for Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man and I’m only 32. I guess you could say some of it is the embers of nostalgia in that I read many of them when I was a kid as reprints in Marvel Tales, but when I was reading them, I didn’t even realize that they were 20-year-old comics. I just knew they were GOOD, and re-reading them over the years has done nothing to dull that opinion.

  8. I find it hard to believe that Flaming Carrot Comics (the entire series, as a body of work) didn’t make the top 20, but Tintin and Maus are on there. I don’t recall any giant spiders with diapers on or moon men in 40 league boots showing up in Maus.

  9. patrick ford says:

    Will, What you mention about the Fourth World books apparently happened with quite a large number of the fan favorite books of the time.
    Robert Beerbohm has written quite a lot about the strange situation where not only the Fourth World, but the Adams Batman and Green Lantern books saw sales decline. Adams pointed out that Green Lantern sold worse ever issue until it was canceled while getting major media attention (Time, Newsweek,etc.). The Joe Kubert Tarzan books sold so poorly DC couldn’t justify Kubert’s page rate on them and substituted lower paid artists. It’s also thought the poor sales on early issues of Marvel’s Conan were the result of dealers buying up large quantities direct from local distributors. This had two effects. The comics purchased by large dealers from local distributors were reported as unsold and destroyed by the distributors, and the distributors got credited for “returns.” Secondly the bundles of comics sold to comic book dealers didn’t get distributed to newsstands. Many comic books from that early 70′s era which are marked “low distribution” in the Overstreet Price Guide are in fact issues which got normal distribution, because they weren’t purchased in large numbers by comic book dealers.

  10. I have no first-hand nostalgia for the Marvel Silver Age, since I started reading comics in the 1970s. I would still point to the first 51 issues of FF and the first 38 issues of ASM (plus annuals) as among the best and most important comics of the 20th century. They defined the template for the superhero stories that dominated the medium in America over the following 50 years.

    You should keep in mind that I believe that comics in America survived because of superheroes, not despite them. The broad American retail market basically abandoned comics over the course of the 1960s and 1970s and only the devotion of superhero fans kept the medium alive for the artistic renaissance of the 1980s. If you believe otherwise, I can see not ranking those comics as highly.

  11. Yeah, I wasn’t around for the print of the Fourth World, but they are my favorites now. That’s why I made the Watchmen comment, which wasn’t meant as snarky, that people were voting “favorite” instead of “important” or “influential.” They can be the same, but not necessarily.

  12. patrick ford says:

    A better list would be comprised of the greatest cartoonists of all time. To get the full measure of an artist, the worst work is as important as the best.
    A few scant examples in isolation can tell you as much about the reviewer and his personal tastes than the artist.

  13. It wouldn’t be a “better” list, it would just be a different one. Same as how, say, Rolling Stone’s list of the top 100 artists isn’t the same as their top 500 albums, which isn’t the same as their top 500 songs, but all 3 lists are chock-full of great music.

  14. Torsten Adair says:

    Influential:
    Mad Comics (and magazine through 1973)
    [influenced undergrounds, National Lampoon, SNL]

    Zap Comix (the vanguard of underground comics)

    American Splendor (the ur-bio-comic)

    Heavy Metal Magazine (introduced the U.S. to Eurocomics)

    Maus (influenced by MAD and Zap, later influenced the alternative comics scene)

    Understanding Comics

    Watchmen

    Pokemon (defibrillated the American comics industry, opened up the bookstore and library markets, influenced a generation of teens to draw comics)

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid

    #10… are comic strips influential to other comic strip artists? Probably Krazy Kat, which did influence Charles Schulz. Maybe Calvin & Hobbes (I do see the writing style on webcomics). Perhaps Peanuts. The Far Side allowed for surrealism and strangeness (although VIP and Jerry Van Amerongen were prominent before that…) AHA! I’ve got it!

    The New Yorker.

    Now, favorites? I’d probably go the Hall of Fame route and select entire works. Neil Gaiman. Carl Barks. Walt Kelly. Don Rosa. Kyle Baker. Bill Watterson. Gary Larson. Charles Schulz. Alan Moore. Bill Mauldin.

  15. patrick ford says:

    Jason, It’s the The HU list which I’m talking about and the way it has single stories (songs) periods of work (albums), and whole bodies of work (artists) all lumped together on one list rather than breaking things down like the Music based lists you mention.

  16. Hey all. Thanks for so many interesting comments on the poll. I just wanted to make a couple quick responses…

    First, there are a number of non-US comics on the list other than Tintin and Cerebus. It is anglophone focused, though, even though we did have a number of individual lists from non-U.S. folks.

    Second, I’m going to post some thoughts on the issue of favorites vs. best next week if all goes well. There are going to be a number of other essays about the list as well, focusing on some issues raised here (such as European comics, for example.)

    I think a best of comics creators list would be interesting. Robert Stanley Martin (the organizer of this project) points out that if you went by votes for creator, Alan Moore would have won by a wide margin, followed by Jack Kirby (with Schulz at 3.) Some folks did vote for individual issues on their own lists (for example, I voted for a Haney/Aparo issue of Brave and the Bold and for a single Moto Hagio story) but those tended to be collapsed by Robert into runs for voting purposes (for instance, my Hagio vote ended up going to Drunken Dream as a whole.)

    I don’t think that a great haiku is less great than a great novel, personally. Any great art is a bit of a miracle, whether it’s small and perfect or longer and perfect.

  17. Andrew Farago says:

    It’s pretty interesting to see how the whole list turned out. A whole bunch of people submitted top ten lists, then the Hooded Utilitarian folks crunched the numbers and came up with the top 115.

    I’m surprised that the list branched out as much as it did–by the time I’d listed ten absolute classics, I felt I’d barely scratched the surface of the really great comics, and hadn’t even started listing anything controversial or that wouldn’t be turning up on other lists. Another five or ten slots on everyone’s ballot would have *really* gotten some weird, unexpected results.

    Ranking comics in this way is a bit of an odd exercise. Comparing Watchmen to Peanuts to American Splendor is like trying to figure out how to rank the Beatles, Robert Johnson and Beethoven on a best musicians list.

  18. Antaeus says:

    Easy to see the website got a lot of American voters. If it got more European voters or Japanese voters the list would be very different from the one presented.

    In Europe only two of the top 10 would have a chance in a new top 10.
    Calvin & Hobbes and Watchmen. In the future we will probably see more and more Graphic Novels on the top lists instead of the more classic comics, however I definately prefer the classic comics.

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