Here’s me and Casey Jones hanging out at the New York Comic Con last February. I’d recently had a dream where he and I were camped out searching for the Shredder in a rich guy’s giant backyard. It was one of the best dreams I ever had and running into the guy who out-crazies Raphael can make February seem like summer.
I love comics too much. My dad had a similar relationship to them as I did, relying on them to supply happiness. I spent my childhood running away from the boredom of school and the pain of dealing with other people through comic books, videogames, candy, day dreaming and running away. There were no casual interests, everything became an obsession. I’m surprised that drugs and alcohol haven’t caused me more trouble than they have. Comics were the most important of all my obsessions, and I spent all the money I could find on attaining them. I wanted to own them all and at one point I practically did before realizing that owning all the comics in the world wasn’t going to make me happy. You can’t buy happiness but you can buy beautiful things and that’s something.
Mikhail insists that I number these lists in countdown form. I don’t like it. It might mislead readers into thinking that these lists are intended to be in a definitive order, which they are not. These aren’t my top ten comics in book form in order of my love for them. These are ten books that own, like and I hope aren’t overly familiar to the reader.
10) Mad For Keeps (1958)
You’ve probably seen crumbling copies of those digest sized paperback reprints of Mad that printed decades ago. Mad For Keeps is one of three large hardcover anthologies that Mad put out and it’s a lot less crumbled if you can find a copy. This cover, an edited version of the cover art for Mad Magazine #30 is possibly the most iconic and frequently used image of Alfred E. Neuman. It was painted by Norman Mingo, a master of watercolors who did most of the great Mad covers. This volume collects some of the best stuff from the first few years of Mad, both as a comic and magazine. There’s a funny little introduction by Ernie Kovacs even. It opens with a parody of stamps, makes fun of Ed Sullivan and then there’s a letter from Alfred E. Neuman, published before it was determined that the name belonged to the “What-Me-Worry?” Kid.
9) Lobo’s Greatest Hits (1992)
Lobo scared me when i was little because he lived in a world with no hope but now I think he’s pretty funny. This book shows Lobo riding on his space motorcycle through space when a spacey VW Rabbit cuts him off and he follows it through a blackhole. Lobo is then lost within some maze where he wanders into doorways that force him to relive past moments of his life, a pretty cool device to use to reprint old material. At some point it turns into a choose your own adventure thing. We get to see Lobo in his original pink and orange skintight outfit and his unexplained change to his biker look. I don’t know if they explained why his facial make up (tattoos? Scars? Alien skin patterns?) went from looking beetle-ish to being all angular. I guess that when Simon Bisley got to draw the character he did his best to make Lobo look like him. Also, check out Simon Bisley’s death metal band.
8) The Comic Strip Art of Lyonel Feininger (1994)
This is a great collection of the comics drawn by Lyonel Feininger for newspapers back in 1906 and 1907. The Kin-Der-Kids was a newspaper strip drawn in a beautiful German expressionist style. The kids get lost at see in the Kin-Der family bathtub and a whole bunch wacky shenanigans take place. There’s a character named Mysterious Pete who flies around on a cloud with a sign sticking out of it that reads “Private Cloud, Keep Off!” There’s Piemouth who won’t stop eating and also “Japansky, the Clockwork Waterbaby.” Also there’s a dog named Sherlock Bones.
7) A Raw One Shot #1, Jimbo by Gary Panter (1982)
This big giant newsprint comic is bound in corugated cardboard and I think that’s neat. It collects some of the Jimbo comics from Slash Magazine and it’s black, white and red. Gary Panter’s a super genius and Jimbo is an awesome comic. Jimbo’s a punk, runnin’ around in a scarier version of LA in the early eighties. Everything’s crazy and drawn well. I love it too much. Oh, oh, oh.
6) Goodman Beaver by Harvey Kurzman and Will Elder (1983)
Goodman Beaver is naive and well meaning character who gets into odd situations, kinda like Spongebob. He hangs out with Tarzan in one story and in another he’s trying to convince an apathetic Superman to not give up on humanity. In another he becomes a policeman and the local young folks and although he thinks they’re being nice to him because of his Marlon Brando impersonation it’s really because they think his gun is cool. Eventually Goodman was changed into a sexy lady character and became Little Annie Fanny which ran in Playboy for a real long time.
5) The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo by Al Capp (2003)
This collects the first and only major Shmoo storyline from the Lil Abner comic. Most people don’t seem to know about the Shmoo now but when the Shmoo was introduced it turned it was an international sensation. There were songs and dances based on the Shmoo. Prominent political figures would reference the Shmoo casually. People started saying “Happy Shmoo Year!” It was huge. It rivaled Mickey Mouse. You read this thing and you can see why.
Lil Abner accidentally winds up in the Valley of the Shmoon where the Shmoo dwell. The Shmoo are the ultimate natural resource. The reproduce lickety-split, have no bones and if you want to eat them they die on the spot from joy. They produce milk, eggs and butter and they’re eyes make ”the best suspernder buttons.” Lil Abner brings the Shmoo back to the town he’s in and everybody’s lives are improved except for the crooked local business owners and eventually the world’s captains of industry. The Shmoos crash the world’s economy and so the government send out “shmooicide squads” to exterminate all of the shmoos. Two shmoos survive and reproduce and they return to the Valley of the Shmoon from whence they came.
Despite being a giant craze it also pissed off a lot of people. Capitalists and Marxists both felt it was directed at them and didn’t appreciate it.
4) Invasion De Los Elvis Zombies by Gary Panter
This is the Spanish version of Gary Panter’s Invasion of the Elvis Zombies. I have no idea what it’s about beyond aliens that look like Elvis. It is based on how Panter always thought that Elvis seemed more like he was from outer space than a human being. It even comes with a flexi-disc that I think he recorded. The art’s pretty.
3) Madman: Two Trilogies by Mike Allred (1995)
I would stare at this advertised in the back of Madman Comics and wish I had fifty dollars to buy it with. Later on I was able to get it for half of that on Ebay. This is a signed hardcover book that collects the first two Madman comic series, Madman and Madman Adventures. In the first one we’re introduced to Frank Einstein, a guy with amnesia running around in this costume who’s trying to figure out what’s going on. The second series shows him going on adventures through time and adventuring with space aliens and is a lot more adventuresome. Dan Clowes inked the first series or drew the backgrounds or something. I forget because he’s not really credited. Madman never got a movie like it’s peers, Hellboy and Sin City did but Mike Allred was a huge point of obsession. For me his highpoint was Madman Adventires #3 and Madman Comics #1. I liked when his inking was still a little scratchy.
2) Sudor Sudaca by Jose Munoz and Carlos Sampayo (1986)
Jose Munoz is an Argentinian artist whose super inky, high contrast drawings have heavily invluenced Frank Miller, Dave McKean and other people who are better known to English readers. His drawings are somewhere between Mike Mignola and Raymond Pettibon. There’s a great mix of little lines, fields of blacck and giant sloppy but purposeful brushwork. I have no idea what this comic is about but I love staring at it.
1) The Great Comic Book Heroes by Jules Feiffer (1965)
I don’t have the dust jacket for this so it’s just a red rectangle but this is still an important book. Jules Feiffer, the super famous cartoonist and illustrator wrote some great stuff about the meaning and importance of comics. His writing was accompanies by reprinted origin stories of many of the major super heroes of the day. This might be the first notable collection of super hero comics into a book and certainly the first time that someone respectable said, “Hey, this isn’t garbage. This deserves your attention and respect.” Thanks Jules Feiffer.