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Robert Boyd on Top 100 With Rankings
posted November 30, 2004

Robert Boyd
via the Internet

I took a close look at your top 100 list and have a few comments. You don't get any "Genius!" awards because nothing on the list that I'm familiar with seems undeserving. In other words, you get a "Genius!" pretty much for the whole list.

A bunch of things were ranked too high for me:

21. I've just never loved Steig all that much

11. I love Nausicaa, but I don't believe it's the 11th best comic ever

8. Ditto with Little Nemo. It's hard to say that it should be lower because it's so beautiful and so formally inventive, but the content is so empty. At least to me. Maybe there are people who are really moved by Nemo's adventures.

4. Tezuka is such an important figure in comics. There's nothing like him in the West, no one who is so foundational and at the same time so good. Still, when he tried to do a serious work, he couldn't escape his cartoony, silly roots. In a way, that's charming, but it also would make it impossible for me to put any of his comics in the top 10.

2. People love Peanuts way out of proportion with its greatness. It's not that Peanuts isn't great. I just don't see it as being number 2. That's obviously a minority opinion.

On the Too Low side of things, I'd bump up Binky Brown quite a bit.

I am assuming you can read French, and that some of these manga titles you've chosen are available in French but not English. True? Botchan No Jidai (77) may be one of those titles. I can't comment on it, but why not The Walking Man? Is Botchan No Jidai so much better? Enlighten us. Ditto with Jinuku (58). Is that really much better than Doing Time (which I love)? At 37, why not Comanche Moon or Indian Lover? Is Muno No Hito (23) something available in French? Because I've only seen 3 stories by Tsuge in English, though I would love to see more. Also Kampung Boy (12) -- is it so much better than Town Boy that it deserves to be at 12 while Town Boy is not even in the top 100?

Those are questions that popped into my mind as I read the list. Often I see something that seems like you're picking a single work by an artist as a stand-in for his or her whole career. I guess this helps to avoid the Hernandez Brothers problem that the CJ list had, but it presents new problems-- namely, it elevates one work by an artist way above all his or her other works.

No for the section I call, How Dare You! In other words, the great cartoonists you left out (unless I somehow missed them, which is entirely possible).

Dick Tracy -- my God! Were you high?

Do you hate the English? Where is Posey Simmonds? Eddie Campbell's "Alec" stories? Glenn Dakin (admittedly not someone who would make most people's list, but he's one of my all-time favorite cartoonists).

What about The Gumps? The Bungle Family? Out Our Way? King Aroo?

No Max? No Rius? No Quino?

Do you hate hippies? No Gilbert Shelton?!

I'd also put Dylan Horrocks up there, although I can see where the hindsight of history might be necessary to properly judge Hicksville.

I could probably think of more flaws, fatal and otherwise, with your list. The thing is, it's a great list. Anyone interested in comics who wanted to have a small library of some of the best stuff ever done would do very well to go by your list. My disagreements are symptomatic of the inherent problem with such lists, that they simply cannot be definitive. But that's OK. A list like this is really the start of a dialogue about comics.

Tom Spurgeon Responds:

Thank you, Robert.

1. I can get through French comics with my dictionary nearby, although as I've shown on the blog I'm HORRIBLE at scanning the language quickly, maybe worse than if I didn't know the language at all. Sadly, I'm sort of that way with English on some days.

2. I think we just sort of disagree on Steig, Tezuka, Peanuts, Binky Brown and Nausicaa in terms of degree, which is really hard to argue. Uh-huhs to your Nuh-uhs. I think Nemo becomes more affecting if you look at Nemo as an innocent of his time rather than as one of ours, and to keep his perspective in mind when delighting in one of McCay's visual tricks.

3. Robert, you have to remember the original list was done in about two days. A lot of the distinctions you're talking about between things like Botchan no Jidai and Aruku Hito are just judgement calls based on my own memory of each work, and sometimes even on guesswork when it's been a LONG time since I've seen something. I would do more work if I were writing a book, I swear. You're right in that I'm picking representative works, and if you keep that in mind, I don't think it really severely devalues anything.

4. I have to admit, I don't care all that much for Dick Tracy. It looks great, though. Not a fan of The Gumps, either. King Aroo was one of the last three cut, and I'm fond of The Bungle Family, but I think most people like it because Spiegelman wrote that clever article for American Heritage, not because it actually demands that sort of respect.

5. Of course I hate the English, but I hate the English for themselves, not for their comics. Campbell's already on the list twice. Simmonds and Dakin might make the list were it done another weekend, although I'm not crushed to have left either out. I think David Low was the last person I cut, to be honest.

6. That's right: No Max, Ruis or Quino.

7. I'm surprised Shelton isn't on there, but I do hate hippies. Hipsters, too. And hippos.

8. I'm fond of Dylan Horrocks like he was my best pal who sat next to me in kindergarten and moved away, and Hicksville is a very dear work to me, but I'm not sure how I feel about Hicksville as a great, great work. I would definitely re-read it if I were doing such a list for publication, but right now putting it there feels like putting an ex-girlfriend on a "Most Beautiful Women" list.

Thank you for the nice note, Robert, and I hope this wasn't too disappointing or content-lite a response.