(from an article posted on The Comics Reporter, 26 April 2009)
In a news item that went almost unnoticed in light of the change to quarterly publication status, MAD Magazine is celebrating its 500th issue. With the long-running serial comic book fading from existence, I think it's safe to say we will not see MAD's like again. Here are my Sunday-Morning choices for the ten best comics series of all time. A lot of this is by caffeine-fueled feel. I'm not sure that I can present a clear list of criteria employed. I find myself wanting to work with long-time series, so that meant a baseline of more than 10 years publishing. I'm staying in North America -- no Spirou, no Garo -- although I was tempted to fake it. I looked at artistic achievement and historical impact as equally important factors and then worked from there in terms of folding in lesser factors like influence and uniqueness. This isn't a best-works list. I think more of Weirdo, for example, than I do six works that made this top ten. It's also not divorced from artistic considerations, so it's definitely not an industry-oriented list. Action Comics would have to be on that kind of list, and it's not on this one. I also wanted to have the list entire cover a great deal of aesthetic and historical ground, or at least as much as that would be possible as a later consideration. Basically, I just wanted a nice snapshot of what comics series have meant to the art form and to those who enjoyed comics that way. What follows isn't perfect and may not even be defensible, but these kinds of exercises can't be the former and sometimes work better as the latter. I hope you enjoy it...
1. MAD (1952-present)
2. Love and Rockets, Vol. 1 (1981-1996)
3. Walt Disney's Comics & Stories (1940-1962)
4. RAW (1980-1991)
5. Zap (1968-2005)
6. Four-Color Comics (1939-1962)
7. Amazing Spider-Man (1962-present)
8. ACME Novelty Library (1993-present)
9. King-Cat Comics and Stories (1989-present)
10. Cerebus (1977-2004)
10. Cerebus (1977-2004)
Although few comics readers know quite what to do with the content and themes of the book as they developed in its second half, Dave Sim's 300-issue achievement remains monumental in terms of scope and personal ambition, and is also noteworthy for the craft chops and unique storytelling solutions frequently on display. It's probably the most fascinating object among the great comic book series, by which I mean it's the only comic on this list I can imagine people wanting to read a collection of its letters pages or its editorials or its back-up features in addition to the several collections featuring the comics narrative. Cerebus served quite effectively as a vehicle for Sim's personal views and as a platform for the gospel of self-publishing as a viable business choice in the Direct Market-dominant 1980s and 1990s. I don't know yet what I think of it as an artistic achievement, but I greatly enjoyed huge swaths of it. The further away from its published conclusion I get the more I'm convinced that it's something special in terms of comics history, and the further along I get in my own artistic journey the more I'm certain that even if he doesn't realize it, Dave won.
********I also considered the following great series: Weirdo, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Sandman, Hate, Eightball, Bone, Frontline Combat, Optic Nerve, Fantastic Four, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Daredevil, The Spirit, Donald Duck Adventures, Yummy Fur, Classic Comics, Monster and Shonen Jump. No doubt I've completely spaced on a half-dozen mighty achievements of this type.