What do you re-read? Not just once, but what do you go back to again and again to study and analyze? What comics compel you to understand how and why they work? What comics do you go back to to just enjoy over and over? What comics possess the ability to awe you again and again?
I made a list. And here it is, in the order that I thought of them. Which says something but it shouldn't be considered a ranking. I elected to limit myself to comic books and leave comic strips for another time.
- Barks' ducks
- Tomb of Dracula
- From Hell
- Swamp Thing
- Ditko's Dr. Strange
- Lee's and Kirby's Fantastic Four
- Love & Rockets
- Legion of Super-Heroes
- Magnus Robot Fighter
- American Flagg!
- New Gods
So, what's the pull of these comics?
Love & Rockets. What we used to call “indies” were almost always self-indulgent and quite often awful. That was/is imply not the case with Los Hermanos Hernandez. Writing the equivalent – WHOA! I just realized that this is the only title on the list that is still in serial publication – of doorstop-size prose novels, the Hernandez Brothers have a real claim to that poorly defined and almost always mis-used term “graphic novelists.” Jaime's “Archie style” might be a bit confusing for the uninitiated, contrasting as it does so often with the story matter he presents. I hesitated to use the hackneyed “uninitiated,” but on reconsideration, it's apt. Diving right in the middle of the Locas/Hoppers cycle is probably not the best way to get the most out of it. There's a lot going on. Both Jaime and Beto (in his Luba/Palomar cycles) have engaged in a lot of mythos creation in their long-form works. And they haven't done it in the haphazard way that marks super-hero comics. They've taken their time and used foreshadowing – sometimes years in the making – and the development over time of minor characters into major ones. Characters grow and change as a result of their experiences and we get to see that growth and change in the images as well as read it in their “voices.” And the faces! Most comics book artists have three faces: man, woman, child; but Beto and Jaime each give each figure its own, unique face. But, at the same time, you can family resmeblances between characters that are related by blood. It's amazing that they can do so much with such simple shading. Both brothers work in whites as much as in blacks; every line is placed with precision that is made to look easy. I can go on a great deal about Love & Rockets but I'm trying to keep to my self-determined commentary length. Suffice it to say that Love & Rockets is the most important comic being serialized today and mean in important in the sense of what is says about and to the medium. And it is really, really good.
That's eight of the fourteen. I'll save the rest for the second installment. I hope that ya'll will make you own lists of the comics that you return to for study and analysis and share some of your reasons.
Tony Rose has been a contributing member of the GCD since the late 1990s. He was a member of the original board of directors and has served there since 2000 and has served as membership coordinator, policy coordinator, new indexer mentor, editor, committee member, and treasurer.
Editor's Note: Don't forget to check out the Grand Comics Database at www.comics.org to learn more about each of the books in Tony's list: Carl Barks's Checklist, Cerebus, Tomb of Dracula, From Hell, Saga of the Swamp Thing, Swamp Thing, Strange Tales, Dr. Strange, Fantastic Four, Love & Rockets