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CR Sunday Feature: The 50 Things That Every Comics Collection Truly Needs
posted September 28, 2008
 

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1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library

The great thing about ACME Novelty Library is that nearly every single thing Chris Ware has done under its banner has been worth collecting in one way or several, right down to -- or even especially -- the sheets from the weekly newspaper in which the comic's pages originally appear. The sketchbooks that have appeared in two volumes as ACME Novelty Datebook are worthy of your collection as well. Ware is a game-changing giant of comics, both as a cartoonist and as a designer.

*****

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2. A Complete Run Of Arcade

One of the two or three great comics being made during the 20th Century's lousiest period for great comics, the fallow era between the heyday of the alternatives and Jack Kirby's DC resurgence and the rise of the indy- and alt-comics movements signified by RAW, Love and Rockets and the extended narrative era at Cerebus. You can see Arcade's influence in every great anthology that's come since, and nearly all of it holds up as compelling comics today -- in fact, nearly every contributor is a significant cartoonist right now, which is astonishing.

*****

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3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics

Sub-Suggestions: At Least One From Fort Thunder, One From Before 1990, One From Tom Hart, One King-Cat, One From Kevin Huizenga

You should really own a lot of mini-comics, a giant basket full of them if you can stand it, and part of their appeal is that as handmade objects your collecting of them will be haphazard and hard to control. Mini-comics are simply handmade comics, really, and as such afford an opportunity for insight into an artist unmatched by other art forms and approximated by things like clipping JD Salinger's New Yorker shorts, or getting bootlegs of the Grateful Dead, or watching Hal Hartley's pre-feature short movies.

Of the sub-suggestions, the pre-1990 work might be the hardest for you pick up, but you could go with some Gary Panter or a charming superhero take-off or maybe something from stick-figure king Matt Feazell; that work is still out there to be found and through eBay and the occasional clearinghouse like Rick Bradford's Poopsheet Foundation it's remarkable how frequently old mini-comics come to be available. People forget how amazing that burst of early '90s Tom Hart minis was, and they still hold up as perfect little comic books; a lot of the second-generation alternative cartoonists did great minis. Kevin Huizenga is the best cartoonist of this current, still emerging generation, Fort Thunder was the most important comics collective of the last 15 years and King-Cat Comix and Stories is a top five post-1980 comic book series in terms of its importance and impact.

*****

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4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s

I'm sure the new Fantagraphics Pogo series will be lovely, and will have the advantage of presenting everything published (I'm not sure the paperbacks do that), but the 1950s collections are well-designed, nearly perfect little books and the only comics that many people of that generation kept into adulthood.

*****

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5. A Barnaby Collection

Maybe someday someone will pay the Crockett Johnson people enough money or whatever it is going to take to have them sign off on a complete collection of Crockett Johnson's mighty Barnaby; until then, you can find the two hardcovers for pretty cheap through places like abebooks.com and the softcovers that came later for slightly more. Your favorite cartoonist probably has one or the other or both already. There's nothing really like Barnaby now, and it's still funny in a way comics weren't before and haven't been since. I could read these for a solid week as a substitute for food and sleep.

*****

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6. Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary

The source for every bizarre and funny and touching confessional comic that's come since, Justin Green's masterwork was almost from the moment of its publication one of the obvious, point-to-it foundational comics of the 20th Century. If comics were a team of bad guys fighting the Defenders, this would be one of the 12 members.

*****

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7. As Many Issues of RAW as You Can Place Your Hands On

A monster reinvention of the comics anthology, the great filter through which many American readers first consumed the strong brew of European art comics, and the debut of so many great talents of the late 20th Century alternative comics movement, RAW had it all. One of the magic names in all of comics.

*****

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8. A Little Stack of Archie Comics

I always think people should own a few Archie Comics, as some of them are very good and even the very bad ones teach us something about the way comics of a certain kind have become commercialized and formulaic over the last half-century. The core five-member cast make-up and their relationships to one another is one of the best set-ups anyone's ever figured out for situational comedy, and two of the pairings within that group of five -- the iconic Betty and Veronica duo and the underrated Archie and Jughead team -- work almost as well on their own. Don't shy away from Bob Bolling's excellent Little Archie comics as part of your array.

*****

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9. A Suite of Modern Literary Graphic Novels

We live in the day of the modern literary graphic novel -- comics intended for the same adult audience that might be interested in prize-winning prose work -- and there should be a number of them in any good collection. A sample group if you were limited to five might be, say, Epileptic, The Jew Of New York, Gemma Bovery, Black Hole and It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken. Another sample group: Fun Home, Ghost World, Blankets, L'Autoroute Du Soleil and Ode to Kirihito. There are at least 100 worthy candidates for you to mix and match -- or to buy outright -- many of which you can find out in places like the Comics Journal's Top 100 list or simply by watching for reviews of works in national prose review sources.

*****

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10. Several Tintin Albums

I think Herge's work for kids of all ages is just great to have around; they are foundational comics and provide a whole way of seeing the world through the comics form that's become ubiquitous in popular visual arts. In fact, I'd say Herge's way of making comics is so ubiquitous that you forget how fun it is to see it for the first time. You should own somewhere between a few of these books and all of them, but at least get one.

*****

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11. A Smattering Of Treasury Editions Or Similarly Oversized Books

Sub-Suggestions (Treasury Editions): Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, Captain America's Bicentennial Battles, 2001, The Bible
Sub-Suggestions (Oversized Books): Ninja, Destroy!!, Storeyville, RASL, Kramer's Ergot Vol. 7

I think these are some of the very best comic objects out there, and a pleasure to have on that basis alone. Jack Kirby's work in the treasuries is a lot of fun, as one might expect, but the Neal Adams Superman vs. Muhammad Ali book holds up remarkably well as a lushly illustrated piece of 1970s goofery, with both icons larger in life in its pages than they've ever been just about anywhere else. Picturebox, Inc. is one of the leading publishers today of new material at a giant size. Jeff Smith is doing his RASL collections much larger than the standard comic book-sized serial.

*****

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12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series

Sub-Suggestions: Hate, Tantalizing Stories, Palooka-Ville, Eightball, Optic Nerve, Eddie Campbell's Comics and Stories, Dirty Plotte

It may seem odd, but there was a time when a lot of people's comics buying wasn't wrapped up in stand-alone trades and graphic novels but more tightly focused on following a number of comic book series. Like the independent comics movement, alternative books were one author/one title affairs, but they tended to be one-person anthology featuring a number of approaches more than they were dominated by a single, sprawling saga. Hate remains one of the best comedies in any medium about the 1990s, while Eightball would be worth buying all by itself for the astonishing growth you can see from cartoonist Dan Clowes.

*****

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13. A Few Early Comic Strip Collections To Your Taste

Sub-Suggestions: Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Little Orphan Annie, Little Nemo In Slumberland, Popeye

Both the rise of comics intended for adult audiences in the 1980s and today's recognition of the literary graphic novel came with a significant republication effort for the best and brightest of comics that did many of the same things: popular strips from the first half of the 20th Century. There is so much great comics work out there in this form: from the jaw-dropping visual of Winsor McCay to the vibrant and vitally American adventure comics in Roy Crane's Wash Tubbs to the irresistible soap opera and terrifying depiction of space you can find in Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie. A significant recent discovery can be found in Drawn and Quarterly's Gasoline Alley series. What was once thought a charming strip with several jaw-dropping Sundays is now revealed as a wonderful, even rip-your-heart-out depiction of the daily joys and fears of parental responsiblity ripped out of a life carefully constructed for ideal, single-person enjoyment. There's also Thimble Theatre with #1 comics character of all time Wimpy and #3 Popeye and then there's the best comic of all time, the beautiful and incomparable Krazy Kat. There's so much more available, there's bound to be something that resonates with you. Seriously, take your pick.

*****

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14. Several "Indy Comics" From Their Heyday

Sub-Suggestions: American Flagg!, Cerebus: High Society, Heartbreak Comics, Zot!, Nexus, Flaming Carrot, Mister X

After the great early comic strips and the EC books of the 1950s and the underground comix movement, you can say that the independent comics movement of the 1980s sort of reinvented the wheel with its idea of comics for more sophisticated readers derived from various pulpy genres as viewed from a superhero-dominant mindset. Some of the comics are great, though, and beyond that quite compelling for what they both accomplished and failed to do.

As far as the sub-suggestions, Howard Chaykin's American Flagg! seems prescient in terms of its treatment of the media and celebrity if a little 20th Century in its fear of the shopping mall, but it's bizarrely fun and naughty and silly when it's hopping along at its best. Dave Sim's High Society is part of his longer Cerebus -- I own all of that work and think it's worth having for sure -- and as a stand-alone really captures some very time-specific, wonderful ideas about what comics could do: the idea of one cartoonist/one overriding work, the creation of complicated fantasy universes with a ton of backstory, sprawling narratives, pop culture satire, some really out-there applications of craft. It's baffling to think that all of those elements could ever be thought to work on the comics page, but they did with Sim and others like him. David Boswell's great stand-alone Heartbreak Comics suggests a wider universe the way many of the best indy comics do and is well-drawn, funny and mindful of comics' power when depicting motion. Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot remains funny and looks like comics that were drawn by a genius hobo in an abandoned train car, a reminder that great comics could come from just about anywhere. Mister X presaged many modern comics in that all of its sometimes very well-crafted comics never matched the power of its idea and the way it looked in several cool poster illustrations: concept over execution.

*****

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15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books

Because comic books are read in a way that we invest a lot of ourselves in the telling, because they're visual in nature, and because for generations they were among the only art forms available for a child to easily own, they can be powerful nostalgic items. It's always great to have a few comics around that you either remember reading or simply recall wanting more than anything in the world. You may be surprised by how much of your comics reading since has been shaped by those feelings.

*****

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16. At Least One Comic That Failed to Finish The Way It Planned To

Sub-Suggestions: Big Numbers, D'Arc Tangent, Atomic City Tales, Underwater, Hepcats, Betsy and Me, Thriller

Comics is full of false starts, failed assaults on various windmills, and absolute train wrecks -- it's the beauty of an industry that exists so close to the ground that certain series and efforts never make it past a first or second issue of a planned several, never get close to the finish line. While having an Underwater or a D'Arc Tangent or a Big Numbers in your collection may be frustrating in the sense that their narratives will almost certainly never see completion in this world, they can be a beautiful reminder of comics' appealing raggedness and an embodiment of the notion that many comics are done by imperfect people rather than hop-to-it corporations. Besides, without a conclusion out there in print, such enterprises can stay perfect in each of our minds.

*****

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17. Some Osamu Tezuka

Sub-Suggestion: Buddha

You have to have some of Japan's great Tezuka in your collection, and while just about everything published by Vertical, Inc. has been a worthy addition to the library -- I'm particularly fond of Ode To Kirihito, the closest comics has ever come to the raw craft, bustling energy and near-dementia of a great Sam Fuller movie -- I would still suggest starting with Buddha of everything's that's out there to collect.

*****

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18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series

It doesn't matter if it's created or co-created by Jiro Taniguchi (The Times of Botchan), Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub) Rumiko Takahashi (Maison Ikkoku), Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball) or any of the thousands of worthy creators working first in the Japanese market, I'd suggest finding a manga series you like and following it from beginning to end. There's a great thrill to a serial publishing effort done right, a satisfaction to one that has a beginning and ending that's hard to match in your typical endless American comic book series.

*****

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19. One Or Two 1970s Doonesbury Collections

Sub-Suggestions: Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!, As The Kid Goes For Broke

Comics fans frequently forget the all-time giant still in our midst that is Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury. Someday you'll want the whole thing, or at least great chunks of it, but for now you need to have a few of the 1970s collections, back when the strip was a deserved sensation on the newspaper pages. My suggestions are either Guilty! Guilty! Guilty, which is one of the funniest titles ever, or As The Kid Goes For Broke, which contains most if not all of the Ginny Runs For Congress sequence that I think is Doonesbury's all-time best sustained run. The strips in the mini-run from where the title is derived are kind of amazing to read now in that you can't imagine anyone doing that kind of silent sequence on today's comics page.

*****

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20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover

Sub-Suggestions: The Passport, The Inspector, The Labyrinth

Light on narrative yet formidable in every other way, Saul Steinberg's cartoons are an encyclopedia of drawing and cartooning techniques marching across the page in the same kind of group lockstep he favors as a recurring visual motif. They're also deeply funny, and, once you understand that Steinberg maintained a nearly life-long, deep affection for his adopted country to the point that he loved the way it looked from the window seat of a bus, touching.

*****

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21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped

Back before trade collections of nearly every newspaper strip going, kids all over the country cut comic strips like Little Orphan Annie and Terry and the Pirates out of the newspaper and kept them in piles or pasted into notebooks for return visits and re-reading. In fact, the efforts of some of those people have facilitated some of the best archival comics projects published in the last quarter century. It's a fun process to put together a little run in a notebook or a little stack of strips, particularly an obscure one that has some sort of meaning for you, and provides insight into the way the art form has meant a great deal to a lot of people then and now.

*****

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22. A Selection of Comics That Interest You That You Can't Explain To Anyone Else

Every great comics collection needs something inexplicable and odd to it the same way every iconic beauty rallies around a slight imperfection as much as their perfect features to move from the ethereal into the real. There is probably something you like about comics that you can't explain to everyone as easily as you make a case for your copies of Maus and Watchmen: a fondness for the Atlas/Seaboard line, or a devotion to Herb Trimpe's Hulk cover work, or an inexplicable fondness for the world's least cost-efficient assassin Arcade or a passion for those killer Al Hartley single-page illustrations in his run of Spire Christian Comics. These are all awesome things, for which no one need ever apologize, and any collection worth its salt makes the case for something that maybe few people get as well as embodying those things on which many people agree.

*****

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23. At Least One Woodcut Novel

The first sustained expression of the graphic novel in the 20th century, these wordless narratives are frequently beautiful and through their concentration on imagery get at the heart of what makes a certain kind of comic book powerful and affecting. Many have been reprinted since their original heyday, in very good collections, but I have a personal fondness for older editions of these books. They can also provide a bridge between comics as we tend to understand them an an entire world of edifying sequential art projects, comics minus cartooning, if you want to go there.

*****

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24. As Much Peanuts As You Can Stand

A colossus of 20th Century popular art, licensing and mass culture, Charles Schulz's great, great strip about little kids in a post-World War II neighborhood works as everything from a solid gag feature to a psychological mirror for all of North America. The complete series from Fantagraphics is wonderful, but like many of the great cartoonists there's something to the design and presentation of Peanuts in all of its forms that's almost always satisfying and educational in terms of the comics medium. I really like the early paperbacks, for instance; even the Dell comic books, the only Peanuts comics to which someone other than Charles Schulz contributed, are fascinating for exactly the reason that they involve outside talent. You can't have enough Peanuts.

*****

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25. Maus

Art Spiegelman's star-making book is so representative of a certain bid for legitimacy and respect on behalf of the art form that we frequently forget how great that narrative provide by Vladek Spiegelman is, how fundamentally solid Spiegelman's approach in terms of the foundational craft used in its presentation can be, and how satisfying an overall read the book remains several years later.

*****

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26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks

The greatness of Robert Crumb is that he would be a significant figure if all he had given us is one of the several component aspects of his long and productive career. One of the contribution frequently overlooked by many comics fans is how his awesome sketchbooks can be viewed not just as a sideline obsession of a talented draughtsman but as a comics themselves with the subject matter being life as it crosses in front of his eyes. There are some wonderful German collections if you can find and afford them, and Fantagraphics has released several low-cost efforts in this area of Crumb's overall output.

*****

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27. The original edition of Sick, Sick, Sick.

I personally own as much Jules Feiffer as I've been able to find, and I love the new series from Fantagraphics. However, I think the original softcover Sick, Sick, Sick is one of the perfect comics publications, and it's really easy to get in used form. If you only have one Feiffer in your collection, this is the one. You know those science fiction stories where we discover with astonishment some older civilization using modern technology, or even American scientists having things like computers and cell phones in the 19th Century or whatever? That's what Feiffer's scathing psychological portraiture and gut-wrenchingly funny gagwork is to modern comics, this kind of freakish display decades before people thought they invented them.

*****

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28. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics

Maybe the greatest single comics publication of all time, my personal choice for desert island book, and a seminal work that nearly everyone in the comics industry over the age of 35 read multiple times in their respective younger years. You could almost read The Smithsonian Collection for the historical significance of it being assembled and ignore all the great comics it contains. So much astounding work is represented here in significant chunks; it'd be an amazing book if it came out today, and to come out when it did changed the course of comics.

*****

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29. Several copies of MAD

I'd say you need about ten issues, and although I quite like the modern magazine I think the historically significant period runs to about 1978. Really anything between the first issue and the bulk of the 1970s is going to have something in it you'll like and that's awesome comics-making. Whether you pick books or reprints from the Harvey Kurtzman years, when MAD established itself as one of the great 20th Century sources for humor by embracing the most significant truth of the age -- "They're lying to you" -- or the vastly underrated Al Feldstein period when he assembled a mighty collection of artists and writers for an unbelievably long time and put them to work slapping over-seriousness in politics and media wherever they could find it, you can't go wrong.

*****

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30. A stack of Jack Kirby 1970s Comic Books

Jack Kirby's last great twin bursts of energy, first at DC and then at Marvel again. The King's 1970s work contains some of this most personal material (the anti-war theme in the Fourth World material) and some of his most frequently out there and splendid image-making.

*****

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31. More than a few Stan Lee/Jack Kirby 1960s Marvel Comic Books

The pinnacle of superhero comic books is the 1960s Marvel run, and as much as I love Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Gene Colan and John Romita, the heart of that line was the collaboration between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Although you can collect a lot of this stuff in archived or cheap reprint collections, I really think every good collection should have some originals. You can get Fantastic Four issues from about #30-on for a decent price if you look around, and Thor once they got going is maybe the most underrated superhero comic of all time.

*****

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32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix

Sub-Suggestions: Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Zap, Tales of Toad, Air Pirates Funnies

I think you need some of the originals of these, maybe ten or so: both all-time comic book series like Zap and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and random issues from talents over all the place. Ideally, they should be stored in a drawer somewhere. Don't worry about the edition, although it shouldn't be impossible to get some from that time.

*****

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33. Some Calvin and Hobbes

Sub-Suggestion: The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book

All the Calvin and Hobbes books are pretty great, including the complete, slip-cased volume, but I think the best one out is this paperback because it contains Bill Watterson's essay about all things comics within its covers. I think it was his tribute to a similar look at the medium and industry published by Walt Kelly. At any rate, even though there are interviews with Bill Watterson no matter what newspaper profiles claim, including a good one that ran in The Comics Journal, the essay is the best insight into comics' JD Salinger. All of the older C&H softcovers are a great pick-up at a discount at most Barnes and Nobles, if you've never seen them before. As for the work itself, it remains one of the five best comic strips from the second half of the 20th Century.

*****

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34. Some Love and Rockets

Sub Suggestions: Love and Rockets, Vol. 1

I'm a fiend for the Hernandez Brothers, to the point where I'll ask friends with pin-up art purchased directly from the creators to send me Xeroxes so that I can have those around, too. I feel every comics fan should have everything they've ever published. But I even more firmly believe the first, 50-issue Love & Rockets Vol. 1 is the best comic book series of all time and some of it needs to be in the collections of those that somehow don't care as much for the Hernandezes as I do. Love and Rockets is significant within the industry and art form as the jumpstart to the alternative comic book movement, it contains five or six of the 100 best extended narratives of the 20th Century, it contains two or three of the best comics shorts of that same period, it's fun to read every time it's collected in a new way, and, well, what the hell else do you need? The latest and greatest thing about the series is that a Fantagraphics re-packaging of that work in smaller digest-sized form, which many fans like me thought completely unecessary, has ended up being a terrific and flattering way to consume those comics -- at a great price, too.

*****

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35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber

This should probably be a sub-suggestion under some cleverly-titled, broader heading, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what that should be. This comic is not only a cultural relic from a recent era when Marvel was doing so poorly that it made perfect sense that a mostly penniless art comics publisher might offer to pitch in with a few bucks, it's also the first time a lot of people read some of the best cartoonists of the Fort Thunder collective and the post-alternative generation, a reminder that with every new group of cartoonists comes a new list of comics for whom they may feel unironic affection (Warlock from the New Mutants, say), and in its own way a re-emphasis of just how solid the best Marvel concepts were in terms of how far out there you could go with them.

*****

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36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue

While there are many, many great comics translated from languages other than English, I think it's always useful to have some comics around that are still in their native tongue. Nothing makes you pay attention to visual iconography more quickly than being confronted by words you don't understand, you can frequently see a lot more of a culture's various preferred art styles than you can simply by restricting yourself to translated works, and it's nice to have a reminder that there are always more comics out there to read.

*****

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37. A Nice Stack of Jack Chick Comics

You'll want a stack of the classic pamphlets from the Christian proselytizer, but I'm also quite fond of the Crusaders series and its mix of Christian Brotherhood and terrifying, at-times deplorable view of the modern, secular world.

*****

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38. A Stack of Comics You Can Hand To Anybody's Kid

If I were President, I would mandate that every household in America must have a white wicker basket holding an approximately 24-inch tall pile of beat up old comic books for kids to read. So certainly someone with a sizable comics collection should be able to offer a stack of old funnybooks to their sister's kids -- or their neighbor's, or their employer's and so on. I don't think the comics have to be rigorously excellent when they're aimed at this audience, because the repetition that signifies such comics as uninspired might be lost on fresh eyes. That being said, really bad comics might not have what it takes to capture anyone's attention, let alone a kid soaked in today's visually-saturated media offerings.

*****

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39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics

Sub-Suggestions: Swamp Thing #22, Watchmen, Superman Annual #11, From Hell, Lost Girls, V For Vendetta

The writer Alan Moore specializes in formally ambitious works that use the genres in which they function to make social and political commentary; this frequently extends into a discussion of that specific kind of art as well. With great energy, Moore set a new baseline for American adventure comic books in a way that creators are still only beginning to understand.

*****

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40. A Comic You Made Yourself

It doesn't matter if it's a professional effort, a 24-Hour mini-comic or something you drew in the back of study hall; it's great to have work of your own in the collection to reflect upon when you get the chance. Not all art forms afford that opportunity. I was once criticized for espousing the opinion that at least some of your favorite sports memories should involve your playing them. Someone objected saying that this stance meant I thought that the most significant encounters one should have with art should be in work that you yourself do. The problem is I believe that to be true as well.

*****

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41. A Few Comics About Comics

Sub-Suggestions: Hicksville, Wimbledon Green, Sin, Animal Man, Understanding Comics, Perspective!

This is purely personal taste, but I think if you're going to own some art, works that get into the art form and its accompanying culture and what makes those things tick are frequently a great addition. It's almost like a justification for why you're bothering to collect these things, in a way, but many of the works in comics about comics are also playful and fun and excellent on their own terms.

*****

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42. A Run Of Yummy Fur

I don't think it's particularly in favor right now, but Chester Brown's Yummy Fur was one hell of a comic book series, potent and weird and affecting and kind of irresistibly entertaining in a way that for a while there everyone was grabbing everyone else and forcing them to read the darn thing. My friends and I drove two hours to buy a bunch once. Brown is a very tastefully collected cartoonist, and all of his books are worth having, but I like the original comic books: their sometimes-silly covers, the messy sprawl of the original presentation of the "Ed, The Happy Clown" narrative, the mix of scatalogical humor and bible stories in the early issues, the refined and elegant and heartbreaking autobiographical work that came later. I consider this a bookend series with Love & Rockets in terms of defining 1980s alt-comics.

*****

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43. Some Frank Miller Comics

Sub-Suggestions: Ronin, Elektra: Assassin, Daredevil: Born Again, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One

Fran Miller's comics are fun, potent, and frequently thrilling. An underrated fight choreographer, in itself an undervalued skill, Miller has worked with a number of talented collaborators: Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley, Bill Sienkiewicz and David Mazzucchelli among those in the short list of works cited above. The best in my opinion is Batman: Year One, with its panel to panel beauty and general storytelling economy. We're about due for a re-appreciation on Elektra: Asassin, too.

*****

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44. Several Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man Comic Books

The original run of Amazing Spider-Man is one of the best ten comic book series of all time, and its concept of a troubled superhero trying his best to live up to the responsibilties thrust upon him has such potency that it remained reasonably potent fresh for about 130 issues or so, which is kind of astonishing from the vantage point of our current era where some comics don't make it to issue #5 with anything resembling the same sense of urgency with which they launched. Although this material is available via trade reprint, and it's fun to read them that way, I like the original-format comics either themselves or the reprints done in Marvel Tales. A fun thing to do might be to select an odd number of books in this run you'd like to collect and then decide for yourself once and for all by how many of each you get if you prefer Steve Ditko's groundbreaking, emotionally rich comic book or Jazzy Johnny Romita's glamorous follow-up.

*****

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45. A Few Great Comics Short Stories

Sub-Suggestions: "Master Race" by B. Krigstein, "Minnie's 3rd Love" by Phoebe Gloeckner, "Pictopia" by Alan Moore and Don Simpson, "I Was Killing When Killing Wasn't Cool" by Al Columbia, "The Hannah Story" by Carol Tyler, "Here" by Richard McGuire, "Big Man" by David Mazzucchelli.

Sometimes you don't have to buy a whole series when all you really want or need is a specific story or two. These are some of the best comics of all time.

*****

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46. A Tijuana Bible

Comics have a fine tradition of filth that your collection should recognize even if you have no taste for the stuff yourself. If the modern stuff depresses you more than interests you, that's okay -- although there's a lot of interesting work in modern porn from Frank Thorne to F. Solano Lopez to the New Bondage Fairies -- but you should at least have one of the old Tijuana Bibles. As many have pointed out, these bootleg sex narratives are kind of a precursor to MAD and underground comix in the way they satirize popular forms and figures through acts of sexual excess and tweaking standard formulas. You don't need to dig up the originals; there are works out there that have been put into reprint form.

*****

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47. Some Weirdo

This magazine and 1980s West Coast powerhouse counterpart to the East Coast's RAW made for a medium-specific culture battle a bit less violent than that which has flared up in the rap community over the last 25 years. What gets lost at times when it comes to Weirdo is that it was frequently a wonderful comics magazine, and in my opinion the last great charge with bayonets raised for underground comix as originally understood. There's a staggering amount of very good Robert Crumb work here, but Weirdo also gives us Crumb's view -- followed by Peter Bagge's view and then Aline Kominsky-Crumb's view -- on what made great comics.

*****

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48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres

Sub-Suggestions: Crime Does Not Pay, Just About Any to All of the EC Comics, Sandman, Martin Goodman-Published Monster Comics, Hiraku no Go, Gold Key's Star Trek series, Dalgoda, Criminal

Comics has a hugely rich tradition of publishing in a variety of genres, from westerns to horror to crime to science fiction to fantasy, and you'd be remiss in your buying even if these comics didn't necessarily rock your world not to have a few of them in your collection. The generally best-crafted comics that adhere to genre formula can be found in the EC line, done by a 1927 Yankees-style murderer's row of writing and illustration talent. You can also find fun genre work in strange places, like the fantasy "Grimwood's Daughter" backing up the science fiction romp "Dalgoda" in the Fantagraphics comic bearing the latter feature's name. The manga tradition is famous for offering up comics in almost every genre to nearly every taste, while American mainstream publishers produce the occasional respected non-super series like Sandman or Criminal.

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49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two

Sub-Suggestions: Duh... And Other Observations, Tom Toles; Off To The Revolution, Pat Oliphant; Willie & Joe: The World War II Years, Bill Mauldin.

The best political cartoonists provide trenchant commentary supported by an illustration that adds to the overall effect of the individual cartoon -- whether it's something drawn in the wonderully facile style of Pat Oliphant, a caricature by David Levine, or the spot-on art in that great Tom Toles cartoon where Goofy is in Vietnam fleeing napalm. Even better, when you get this work in collected form it's as if you're engaging in a conversation with that cartoonist over what matters and what doesn't, what's true and what's not. If you're forsaking political cartoons for the sake of more clearly delineated narratives in your comics, you're missing out on some extraordinary work.

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50. A Few Collections From New Yorker Cartoonists

Sub-Suggestions: At Least One Peter Arno, One William Steig, One B. Kliban, One James Thurber, One Charles Addams, One Helen Hokinson, One Roz Chast, One Jean-Jacques Sempe.

You can still find affordable copies of books from all the great New Yorker-affiliated cartoonists. I like the modern, themed anthologies just fine, but I greatly prefer the artist-specific book more prevalent in years past. Peter Arno's books in particular are a great big naughty joy and B. Kliban is the most underrated comics maker of the 20th Century. My dad was a big fan of Sam Gross; I am, too.

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editor's note: that didn't turn out the way I thought it would, and I don't think I could defend some of the choices, approaches and bizarre, arbitrary distinctions if I were forced to in nerd court, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway

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You Can Play Along Now #1:

What suggestion or suggestions would you add to the list? For every suggestion you add, tell me which requirement you'd take off the list, so that the number stays at 50. Answers added to the bottom of this posting as they come in.

Sean Kleefeld
I'd suggest adding "Some Will Eisner" because of his powerful impact on just about all aspects of the medium over the course of most of the 20th century. Even his weakest work is still incredibly well-executed and powerful, and his masterful storytelling techniques are worth seeing, if not studying in depth. To keep the list at 50, I'd remove #21: Self-Clipped Newspaper Strips primarily because anyone who hasn't done that already isn't going to realistically be able to go back and amass that sort of collection with any real significance.

John Vest
I enjoyed the CR Sunday Feature. Here are three suggestions I'd add to your list: 1. Some Steve Gerber comics. Howard The Duck may be the one genuine classic from mainstream comics after the 70's got going. Some of his other titles (Defenders, Man-Thing, Omega The Unknown )hold up well too. They still resonate and have laugh out loud moments. 2. A few magazines or fanzines about comics. Some choices from the present and past could include the Comics Journal, Cascade Comix Monthly, Alter Ego, and the Jack Kirby Collector. In pre-internet days fanzines were a real source for comics history and information about creators. 3. A couple of golden age comics that live up to the name. I'd include Captain Marvel (Otto Binder and C.C. Beck) and Plastic Man to have a few truly great golden age stories in a collection. Although there have been deluxe hardcover reissues with both characters in recent years, the reprints in 70's DC comics were nice introductions to both characters. I'd leave these comics off the list: 18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series 35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber 41. A Few Comics About Comics I enjoyed seeing Jack T. Chick on your list. Now and then I've thought about ordering a set of the tracts from either Chick or Last Gasp but haven't. They're fun to collect by finding them in a random way. I'd include some Sad Sack comics in the stack of comics you can hand to anybody's kid. I never remember seeing much written about George Baker but I always thought his covers were really amazing.

Douglas Wolk
I'd add: a few pages of original comics art that is somehow personally meaningful to you. It's a beautiful thing to look at, it's fun for a collector to have something that's one-of-a-kind, and it's good to have a physical reminder that even the best comics didn't come into the world fully formed and mass-produced--that they were the product of ten thousand little decisions and attempts and revisions on every page. If you're looking for original art that isn't by super-famous artists, it's still often very affordable, too. And I'd remove: the Saul Steinberg hardcover. I like him too, but I wouldn't single his books out as essential to the point where I feel like a collection is incomplete without one.

Kioskerman
I would add "Magazines about comics" and sub.suggest (The Comics Journal, Comics Comics and Comics Art). I would take 44 "Comics about comics."

Wayne Wedge
1. 80s British comics (Luther Awkright, 2000ad at its mainstream-changing peak, Viz, Warrior, Escape). Their best stuff has a visible effect (for better or worse) on Tv, movies, games and sci-fi novels since. You included Moore, but his biggest impact was during this period. 2. Eightball should gets its own entry - the most entertaining, well-written, funny, re-readable and still surprising comics series of the past two decades. Where's issue 24??? 3. Horror short story comics from EC to Charlton to DC to Skull Comix - there's something kind of perfect about that format in its conservatism. With comics' best artists, from Jack Davis to Alex Toth to Spain, having so much fun with 'em! I'd take out: (49) Editorial cartoonist collections. OK, I love New Yorker stuff, but apart from Steve Bell and a few pre-WW2 cartoonists, 'topical' spot cartoons do nothing for me. (35) the Marvel benefit comic (just because 'benefit' anything usually lowers the quality control too much), (25) Maus. The most overrated comic/cartoonist in the history of the medium. I always hated the facile cat and mouse concept, and felt brow-beaten into appreciating it just because of its subject matter (see also Schindler's List). Sorry! A great editor, though. Couldn't it come under a general 'Raw' alumni banner, along with collections/one-shots by superior cartoonists like Friedman, Panter, Beyer, Burns etc.?

Christopher T. Davies
Along with MAD Magazine and The New Yorker, National Lampoon in its hey-day had some amazing contributing cartoonists that are valuable to any collection. Bruce McCall, Edward Gorey, Vaughn Bode, and Gahan Wilson are all very worthy cartoonists. National Lampoon (the magazine) seems to have been entirely forgotten in the shadow of "Animal House" and "Vacation", but in the context of comics it is clear that it bundled some great talent. I think I would remove Jack Chick from the list. His comics are, without a doubt, extremely disturbing and absolutely ridiculous, yet he has only really been "appreciated" in recent years and I don't think he is a truly significant, influential figure in comics- merely a novelty. I would also consider combining MAD and National Lampoon (both humor magazines) , though MAD does need to stand on its own, especially since it started out as an EC book.

Matthew J. Brady
Original art, or a sketch from a creator you like -- not too hard to obtain the latter, if you ever attend a convention, or even a reading/appearance by a creator. And while the former can be pricey, it's cool to be able to own a bit of comics history that nobody else will be able to say they have. If I had to choose one category to lose, I would combine the RAW and Weirdo categories, or maybe the Arcade and "Underground Comix" categories.

Jamie Coville
Things to add: 1. Action Comics #1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and Detective Comics #27 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. These has been reprinted many times and considering it's importance, you cannot be a comic fan without owning it in some format. I'd also argue All Star #8 for Wonder Woman but I that hasn't been as reprinted nearly as much. 2. Mort Weisigner edited Superman related oddball comics. They can even be Legion of Superheroes or Bizarro stuff. 3. Schwartz related Silver Age comics. Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, etc. 4. Silver-Bronze Age War comics. Sgt Rock and Sgt. Fury being the most obvious, but there are others, particularly in DC. 5. Silver-Bronze Age Western comics. Jonah Hex and Two-Gun Kid or Rawhide Kid again being the most obvious. 6. Comic Magazines. Be it a Warren Publication or something Marvel/DC/Heavy Metal did. 7. Wacked out Ditko work outside of Spider-Man. Preferably Dr. Strange, but some of his Charlton work fits too. 8. A run of a spin off now dead universe book. Be it !mpact, Milestone, New Universe, Marvel 2099, Comics Greatest World, etc.. Most of these had at least 1 book that appealed to us that we'll argue was a great book in spite of the whole line being trashed by the industry at large. Moving on to something a bit more modern: 9. An OEL/World Manga book. I'm not saying you have to like it, but you should have least given it a try. My recommendation would be Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova 10. A run of a Vertigo series. There has been too many good series from this imprint to not have at least own 1 of them. Things I would take out. 2. A Complete Run Of Arcade. 47. Some Weirdo. I think both should fall under: 32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix. 5. A Barnaby Collection. 8. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics. 20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover. 26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks. 35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber. 36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue. 40. A Comic You Made Yourself. 42. A Run Of Yummy Fur. The rest I'm yanking out because they mostly don't apply to me.

Darryl Aylward
At least one original EC comic. The last hurrah from Golden Age of comics, and the high water mark for classic American comic art. So many influential artists produced their career best work for EC, that it deserves an entry purely for that alone. I remember the thrill I had when I discovered my first EC (very rare in Australia), a torn and tattered copy of Shocking Suspensstories with (most of) a gangster cover by Wally Wood. It should replace item 16 (At least one comic that failed to finish the way it should have), whose main appeal would be nostalgic, i.e. if you collected it early on when your standards were lower.

Kiel Phegley
To your list, my addition would be... At Least One Comics-Related Piece of Merchandise. Sure, there are a lot of crappy products based on comics and comics characters out there, but there are also a lot of really keen products made by or in conjunction with the creators and publishers that are worth a look. Considering comics place as a medium meant to be mass produced, ancillary product seems to work much better with us than with other media, and in my list of possible items marked for inclusion, I'd single out any comics fanclub kit from the Merry Marvel Marching Society to those Atomics kits Mike and Laura Allred produced a few years back, any pins, buttons or plastic rings given out at cons, trading cards featuring new art by the original artists, toys that involve the creators like that vinyl Jimbo figure and a No Prize. From your list, I guess I'd drop A Run Of Yummy Fur because, well…because I'm completely unfamiliar with it outside owning some of the Ed reprint issues more than anything else.

Stu Mark
Change Tijuana Bible to Any X-Rated (or Adult) Comic. I think that this is an important area for comic book fans to support - free speech is a comic artist/writer's blood. Add: Horror Comes (Creepy, Eerie) - Combine Raw & Love & Rockets.

Ryan Hupp
1. At least one Jim Woodring book or comic. Woodring's best work, like Frank, takes the unsettling undercurrents in classic newspaper comics and cartoons and hauls them screaming up to the surface -- I promise you you'll never read Krazy Kat the same way again. A major artist who has more than earned a place in the critical canon. And we wouldn't have Jerkcity without him. 2. A healthy collection of bande dessinee or other European graphic albums. This is sort of already covered by #10, "Several Tintin Albums" and #36, "A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue," but this is such a fertile area of comics that it deserves a wider, more inclusive category for the likes of Enki Bilal, Asterix, Moebius, Hugo Pratt, etc. 3. At least one art book by or critical examination of an artist or creator. There's been a flood of high-quality books of this type lately, from Mark Evanier's Kirby book to Paul Pope's PulpHope collection to the new Ditko book from Fantagraphics. 4. A complete run of Flex Mentallo. I'd remove 2. A Complete Run Of Arcade. Too expensive to put together, and many of the major artists are represented elsewhere in the list. 21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped. Because most newspaper comics just aren't worth the effort anymore. 42. A Run Of Yummy Fur. Like Arcade, this is pretty expensive/difficult to put together, excellent though it is. 49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two. I'll admit, I can't really justify this beyond some vague hand-waving about how single-panel cartoons with clearly labeled ideas aren't really all that relevant to modern comics and how they can be (and often are) crude and obvious, but this is personal taste more than anything.

Jeff Watson
Remove the New Yorker cartoon collections and add: Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo. Mike Mignola's Hellboy to the idependent section. Carmine Infantino's The Flash. Matt Wagner's Mage. Nice to see Dalgoda on your list. Not sure anyone but me remembered that strip.

Jane Urry
I would drop the Tijuana Bibles--because they can be covered under 48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres and instead add Raymond Briggs' Fungus the Bogeyman. Funny, beautifully drawn, suitable for all ages, especially 8-year-old boys. Not well known because it wasn't published in the US until recently. Also worth having: Father Christmas and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday.

Daniel
Second, I would drop the following from the list: * Barnaby * a self-clipped Comic Strip Run * Coober Skeeber * Yummy Fur * Love & Rockets (I love Los Bros Hernandez, but the Literary Graphic Novels and Significant Runs on Alt-titles requirements render the last two redundant). In their place, I would include: * some Will Eisner * Some Claremont-Byrne X-Men (their importance can not be understated) * Understanding Comics (I know you have the Comics About Comics requirement, but this book is on another level entirely. It's used as texts in college courses.) * Some EC horror comics * some issues of 2000 A.D. (An incredibly fertile breeding ground for British creators; DC probably would not have survived the 80s had this magazine not existed) * DC comics from the 1950s (Broome/Infantino "Flash" & Fox/Infantino "Adam Strange" if you're looking for something good, Weisinger-era "Superman" if you're looking for something ridiculous, yet entertaining).

the mza
I'd remove New Yorker, Maus, Archie, Coober Skeber, and self-clipped strips; and I would add th following: 51. English Translations of Comix That Contain Drawings of Buildings by François Schuiten Moebius would work in this category, too; 52. Actually Moebius Deserves His Own Category, I regret not buying ALL those Epic translations when they were easily available; 53. At Least a Few African-American Science Fiction Comix, What is it about these blacks and their science fiction that fills me w/ equal parts utter joy and utter disorientation? Sun Ra, Funkadelic, Ultramagnetic MCs ... Walker of the Universe ...! 54. Asian Comix That Aren't Japanese, I regret to report that I have no Filipino comix; 55. Speaking of Filipinos How About Some Lynda Barry Collections, Am I Right?? But I would remove all th strips emcee'd by a poodle and focus on the family stuff.

Dougal Campbell
I'd add "Some 1980s issues of Heavy Metal and Epic magazine." Once upon a time, Heavy Metal had some great one-shots and series running. Epic was probably their main competition in that space, and also had some really great alternative/grunge/sci-fi comics going. Try to find the Cholly and Flytrap stories. That's some seriously funny post-apocalyptic weirdness. smile I'd combine numbers 30 and 31 in your list, because you've basically got two entries just for Jack Kirby. The man is a legend, but still...

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You Can Play Along Now #2

Via Stephen Frug, comes this idea, which I've altered a tiny bit. Copy and paste the list below into a post.

Leave Plain = Things I don't have
Make Bold = Things I do have
Italics = I have some but probably not enough (optional)
Underline = I don't agree I need this (optional)



* Stephen Frug
* Sean Kleefeld
* Jarret Duncan
* Matthew J. Brady
* Bill Doughty
* Stu West
* Chris Marshall
* The Crown Prince
* John Pittman
* Kiel Phegley
* Fortress Keeper
* Matthew Springer
* Ryan Hupp
* John Platt
* JK Carrier
* Dr. K
* Christopher Beckett
* Chris Mautner
* Johnny Bacardi
* Jarrett Duncan
* Sean Kleefeld
* Chris Butcher
* Chris's Invincible Super-Blog
* Alan David Doane
* RobotJohnny
* Satisfactory Comics
* Twice The Writer I Am Graeme McMillan
* John Kovaleski
* Tomb of the Cyber-Dan
* alertnerd
* New York
* the mza

To be clear: I asked for the links and not the lists themselves because I don't have the time or the inclination to code multiple lists for the letters section. I mean, I like looking at your lists, but I'm the only one who's going to unless you post it yourself someplace else and send me that link!

1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library
2. A Complete Run Of Arcade
3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics
4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s
5. A Barnaby Collection
6. Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary
7. As Many Issues of RAW as You Can Place Your Hands On
8. A Little Stack of Archie Comics
9. A Suite of Modern Literary Graphic Novels
10. Several Tintin Albums
11. A Smattering Of Treasury Editions Or Similarly Oversized Books
12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series
13. A Few Early Comic Strip Collections To Your Taste
14. Several "Indy Comics" From Their Heyday
15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books
16. At Least One Comic That Failed to Finish The Way It Planned To
17. Some Osamu Tezuka
18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series
19. One Or Two 1970s Doonesbury Collections
20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover
21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped
22. A Selection of Comics That Interest You That You Can't Explain To Anyone Else
23. At Least One Woodcut Novel
24. As Much Peanuts As You Can Stand
25. Maus
26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks
27. The original edition of Sick, Sick, Sick.
28. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics
29. Several copies of MAD
30. A stack of Jack Kirby 1970s Comic Books
31. More than a few Stan Lee/Jack Kirby 1960s Marvel Comic Books
32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix
33. Some Calvin and Hobbes
34. Some Love and Rockets
35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber
36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue
37. A Nice Stack of Jack Chick Comics
38. A Stack of Comics You Can Hand To Anybody's Kid
39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics
40. A Comic You Made Yourself
41. A Few Comics About Comics
42. A Run Of Yummy Fur
43. Some Frank Miller Comics
44. Several Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man Comic Books
45. A Few Great Comics Short Stories
46. A Tijuana Bible
47. Some Weirdo
48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres
49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two
50. A Few Collections From New Yorker Cartoonists

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