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Ultimate The Comics Reporter’s Top 100 Comics Works of the 20th Century List—Now With Rankings!
posted November 28, 2004

From #50, Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco

More Notes

Since someone asked, and because I thought it would be fun, below is my early November re-numbering of The Comics Reporter's Top 100 Comics Works of the 20th Century.

I wanted to wait a few weeks to look at it so I could test out a theory: that as it's difficult enough to make distinctions between 100 good comics and everything else, to actually make distinctions between the works is so near-impossible that even one's reading one's own list after just enough time to forget it yields any number of bizarre surprises. It wouldn't surprise me if I did the same job tomorrow were I to decide that I didn't like the Tezuka work I selected at all, or I felt Justin Green's seminal autobiographical comics work needed to leap up the chart 50 places.

I am old enough and set in my ways to the point that the bulk of my list will probably remain the same for a while, so take it for what you will when deciding if my reviews have any credibility whatsover.

If anyone wants to write in at and comment, I'll run the add-ons below here. I'd particularly love it if you let me have it in the following areas:

Genius!: My Best Choice
Bozo!: My Worst Choice or Omission
Too High: A Comics Work on the List I Rank Too High
Too Low: A Comics Work on the List I Rank Too Low

But don't let me limit your creativity.

The Comics Reporter's Top 100 Comics Works of the 20th Century, Ranked from number 100 to number 1.

100. From Hell (1991-1996) Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell
99. MaMaFuFu, Imiri Sakabashira
98. Sports Cartoons (1934-1966)+ Willard Mullin
97. King-Cat Comics and Stories (1992-2000)+ John Porcellino
96.Watchmen (1985-1987) Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
95. Akira (1982) Katushiro Otomo
94. Dans Les Villages: La Jole (1990) Max Cabanes
93. Fuochi (1984) Lorenzo Mattotti
92. Harlem as Seen by Hirschfeld (1941) Al Hirschfeld
91. L'Autoroute Du Soleil (1995) Baru

90. Perramus (1982-1985) Alberto Breccia, Juan Sasturain
89. Plastic Man (1943-1952)+ Jack Cole
88. Le Jeune Albert (1985) Yves Chaland
87. The Spirit (1946-1948)+ Will Eisner
86. Editorial Cartoons (1965-2000)+ Pat Oliphant
85. Partie De Chasse (1983) Enki Bilal, Pierre Christin
84. Editorial Cartoons (1920-1945)+ J.N. Darling
83. Amphigorey (1980) Edward Gorey
82. Afternoon in the Attic (1950) Charles Addams
81. Asterix et les Normans (1966) Rene Goscinny, Albert Udozo

80. Bottle Fatigue (1950) Virgil Partch
79. Bootsie and Others (1958) Oliver Harrington
78. "Minnie's 3rd Love" (1994) Phoebe Gloeckner
77. Botchan No Jidai (1985) Natsuo Sekikawa, Jiro Taniguchi
76. Arzach (1975) Moebius
75. Brouillard Au Pont De Tolbiac (1982) Jacques Tardi
74. Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1991) Kim Deitch
73. God's Man (1930) Lynd Ward
72. Hate (1990-1999) Peter Bagge
71. Caricature (1995) Daniel Clowes

70. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1972) Justin Green
69. Cartoons in The Masses (1912-1918) Art Young
68. Graffiti Kitchen (1993) Eddie Campbell
67. Calvin and Hobbes (1986-1990)+ Bill Watterson
66. Gasoline Alley (1921-32)+ Frank King
65. Die Stadt (1925) Frans Masereel
64. Doonesbury (1972-76)+ Garry Trudeau
63. Fable de Venise (1981) Hugo Pratt
62. Panorama of Hell (English Title) (1982) Hideshi Hino
61. Ici Meme (1979) Jacques Tardi

60. Prince Valiant (1940-1950)+ Hal Foster
59. Hurrah for St. Trinian's (1948) Ronald Searle
58. Jiniku (1994) Kazuichi Hanawa
57. Joe's Bar (1982) Jose Munoz, Carlos Sampayo
56. Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (1996) Ben Katchor
55. Le Spectre Aux Balles D'Or (1972) Jean Giraud, Jean-Michel Charlier
54. Fantastic Four #44-63 (1965-67) Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
53. Peter Arno's Parade (1929) Peter Arno
52. Art Moderne (1980) Joost Swarte
51. Polly and Her Pals (1920-1935)+ Cliff Sterrett

50. Safe Area Gorazde (2000) Joe Sacco
49. Slaloms (1997) Lewis Trondheim
48. L'Affaire Tournesol (1956) Herge
47. The Jungle Book (1959) Harvey Kurtzman
46. Terry and the Pirates (1940-1944)+ Milton Caniff
45. The Handala Cartoons (1975-1987) Naji Al-Ali
44. The Kinder-Kids (1906) Lyonel Feininger
43. What Am I Doing Here? (1947) Abner Dean
42. Radio Lucien (1982) Frank Margerin
41. Willie and Joe (1940-1944)+ Bill Mauldin

40. The Fun House (1987) Lynda Barry
39. Z Comme Zorglub (1961) Franquin
38. Conte Demoniaque (1996) Aristophane
37. Los Tejanos (1982) Jack Jackson
36. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000) Chris Ware
35. Barnaby (1942-1946) Crockett Johnson
34. Little Lulu (1945-1961) John Stanley, Irv Tripp
33. Robert Crumb Draws the Blues (1992) Robert Crumb
32. "Here" (1989) Richard McGuire
31. Goodman Beaver (late 50s/early 60s) Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder

30. Jimbo (1982) Gary Panter
29. Hadashi No Gen (1972-73) Keiji Nakazawa
28. I Never Liked You (1994) Chester Brown
27. Little Orphan Annie (1928-1940)+ Harold Gray
26. Lost in the Andes (1949) Carl Barks
25. The Cartoon History of the Universe (1997) Larry Gonick
24. Piero (1999) Edmond Baudoin
23. Muno No Hito (1991) Yoshiharu Tsuge
22. Negres Jaunes (2000) Yvan Alagbe
21. The Lonely Ones (1942) William Steig

20. Thimble Theatre (1932-1934)+ E.C. Segar
19. Locas (1981-1996) Jaime Hernandez
18. Wash Tubbs (1929-1940)+ Roy Crane
17. "Master Race" (1955) Bernard Krigstein, Al Feldstein
16. Maus (1986) Art Spiegelman
15. Men, Women and Dogs (1943) James Thurber
14. Frank (1991-2000)+ Jim Woodring
13. Journal (1999) Fabrice Neaud
12. Kampung Boy (1979) Lat
11. Kaze no tani no Nausicaa (1978) Hayao Miyazaki

10. L'Ascension Du Haut Mal (1996) David B
09. Mr. Natural (1968-1980)+ Robert Crumb
08. Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905-1911) Winsor McCay
07. Palomar (1981-1996) Gilbert Hernandez
06. Pogo (1949-1954)+ Walt Kelly
05. Sick, Sick, Sick (1958) Jules Feiffer
04. Phoenix (1954-1989) Osamu Tezuka
03. Mad #1-23 (1952-1955) Harvey Kurtzman
02. Peanuts (1955-1975)+ Charles Schulz
01. Krazy Kat (1919-1940)+ George Herriman

As per the last list a "+" signifies that I know there are other works on either side, I just think this is the high point and offers what is most noteworthy about the longer work.


Eric Reynolds
Fantagraphics Books

Genius!: Phoenix (at least I suspect it might be from what I know) and Abner Dean (though no Artzybasheff, *sob*)
Bozo!: Louis Riel, Black Hole and Jimbo In Purgatory (three recently completed instant classics)
Too High: Prince Valiant (zzzzzz....)
Too Low: Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary

Additional commentary here.


Colin Blanchette


Fred Hembeck


Adam Hines

Genius!: Lat's Kampung Boy. Too many people forget about Lat, so well done.
Bozo!: Excluding Cava entirely (especially L'Expiation or Berlin 1931) is unforgivable, and where's Heinrich Kley?
Too High: Easily, Krigstein and Feldstein's "Master Race". If it were my list, it wouldn't even be on it, but even then, the entirety of Locas or Thimble Theater is inferior to this? Runner up: Tezuka's Phoenix.
Too Low: Perramus would be in my Top 10. From Hell, simply because it's below Watchmen. And I suppose Osterheld's Ernie Pike, because it's not even there.


Andi Watson


Alan David Doane

Genius!: Krazy Kat at #1, with the caveat that I strongly feel this work has not been re-presented to modern audiences to its best effect. The current Fantagraphics volumes are a good try, but man, what I wouldn't give to see the strips reprinted at about twice the size Fantagraphics is using. I just feel like the art is too restricted at that size to truly be appreciated to the degree it can and should be.
Bozo!: From Hell at the very bottom ofthe list at #100. I continue to feel From Hell is the best, most holistic and complete use of the graphic novel format yet devised.

Now we enter into nitpicking territory...

Too High: I hold Crumb's autobiographical stuff, and even his collaborations with Harvey Pekar, higher than Mr. Natural. This may be a generational thing, though...
Too Low: I would probably put "Master Race" in the top 10...


Eric Millikin

Genius!: I'll cheat here and say Kaze no tani no Nausicaa. This is cheating because I've never read it, but might now that you've recommended it at #11 no less. (If I don't think you're a genius after I read it I'll send you a brutal follow-up "bozo" message.)

Bozo!: Worst Choice: Watchmen. Moore was better both before (with Swamp Thing) and after (with From Hell, which you've placed several notches below Watchmen, right at the very bootom of your list).

Worst Omission(s): Gaiman/McKean/et al on Sandman, Richard Sala's Maniac Killer Strikes Again, Renee French's Marbles in My Underpants, and Charles Burns' Skin Deep or Black Hole are all better than Willard Mullins' "Sports Cartoons." Not to hate on Peter Bagge, but Sam Henderson's Magic Whistle is better than Peter Bagge's Hate...

Too High: By far this has to be "Master Race" -- because it's a single short story that you're ranking above 15 years and 700 pages of Locas, 14 years of Calvin and Hobbes, 35 years of Oliphant, etc. If you'd named Krigstein's entire EC career or EC comics from a couple peak years as being just a slot below Maus then this might make more sense, but a single 8-page story?

Too Low: Safe Area Gorazde, Panorama of Hell, From Hell, and Boulevard of Broken Dreams could each move up about 25 notches.


Robert Boyd


Sean T. Collins


Steve Block


Shawn Hoke

Genius!: Krazy Kat at #1 and Kurtzman's MAD in the top 5, yay! Herriman's Sunday strips should really be at the top of any list. Kurtzman's MAD stuff is also indispensable and probably much more influential than most people give it credit for.

Bozo!: No Herb Block editorial cartoons? His stuff is every bit as good as Mauldin or Oliphant. Also, Souther Salazar's mini-comics work should be on there somewhere. Please Don't Give Up would be a good single pick, but you could just bulk it all together and go with that. Kevin Huizenga's latest Supermonster would be another good mini-comic to include, but that could just be my bias towards minis. Julie Doucet's later issues of Dirty Plotte as well as Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville seem like two other omissions, but we could play this game all day. Instead, maybe I'll just try to familiarize myself with the works you mentioned that I'm unfamiliar with. There were several, I'm afraid.

Too Low: Boulevard of Broken Dreams seems like it should be settled in at around the low 30s or something. King Cat Comics and Stories at 97 (below Watchmen) seems low, but it's nice to see it on the list.

Too High: I'm eyeballing Phoenix suspiciously, but I haven't read it yet, so I'll back off.