Twenty-Five Things Every Comics Collection Truly Needs To Be Awesome

So earlier tonight, Dr. K pointed me to an article at the Comics Reporter where The Spurge thoughtfully listed fifty things that, according to him, every comics collection needs to be complete. And while I hate to be the guy to come in and say I can do better (this is a lie, I love being that guy), I’m pretty sure I can do better.

And I can do it in half the time.

I mean, sure. You could sink your money into the complete works of Chris Ware and the dead-eyed horror of Little Orphan Annie, but what’ll that get you? Anyone can make a comics collection complete.

Making it completely awesome, however, requires a bit of help, which is why I’m sweeping in for tips on how you can tailor your collection for maximum radness and a lucrative career posting scans of kooky ’60s comics with funny captions.

Keep in mind, this list assumes that you’ve already covered the basics, and are looking to trick it out. Allow me, then, to be your personal Xzibit.

 


 

1. The Mod Gorilla Boss

 

 

Or, failing that, the Primate Patrol, Francois the Nazi-Fighting Gorilla, Super-Gorilla Grodd or a number of others. Why? Because it’s important to understand the relationship that comics have had with gorillas and monkeys over the years. I mean, think about it: Imagine if you will a world where Every Which Way But Loose, in which Clint Eastwood stars as a trucker who fights for money and has a pet orangutan, was so influential on the world of filmmaking that Hollywood had tried every year to top it. That’s what comics are like, to the point where the Flash not only fights a gorilla, but a talking telepathic cannibal super-gorilla, and we don’t even bat an eye.

 

2. A Collection Of Stories From The Golden Age

Every now and then, I’ll wonder what it was like to be there at one of the moments when Everything Changed, like being there to pick Fantastic Four #1 up off the rack and seeing how different it was from anything else I’d ever seen. But the fact of the matter is that I’d rather be reading comics now than at any time in history, because there’s such a wealth of reprints going around.

Not just in terms of cheap reprint books like DC’s Showcases and Marvel’s Essentials–although those are worth their weight in gold to the amateur retrologist–but in that over the past decade, there’s been a concerted effort to shine a light on the forgotten treasures of the Golden Age. Even Marvel, which has–for good reason–long ignored its Timely roots in favor of Stan and Jack’s 1961 starting point, have gotten into the act with collections of Daring Mystery and USA Comics dropping in the past year.

And you need to read them, because they are fucking insane.

The two titles mentioned above include both a hero from an underground nation that is exactly the size of the United States of America who fights Nazi saboteurs and elves in equal measure and a Hobo Super-Hero named the Vagabond who is not actually a hobo (he’s a hobo clown who is actually an FBI agent) and is not actually called the Vagabond (he is “better known to himself as Chauncey Throttlebottom III”). These are the punk rock of comics. They’re the ones that a bunch of kids were making back when the rules hadn’t even been invented yet, when comics were a blank slate with no idea that was too crazy, nonsensical or downright unreadable to get published.

If you only get one, though, it should be Paul Karasik’s collection of Fletcher Hanks stories, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets, which is just jaw-droppingly surreal. Seriously.

 

3. At Least One Comic By Kyle Baker

Because no one–no one–should live a life without Cowboy Wally.

 

 

4. A Prose Novel About Comics

And no, Greg Rucka’s novelization of No Man’s Land doesn’t count, no matter how entertaining it actually is. Now, the obvious choice here would be Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the story of two young men at the dawn of the Golden Age, as it won a little thing called The Pulitzer Prize, and therefore gave Chabon the right to refer to any and all Eisner winners as “quaint.” And it’s good, too, and well worth picking up. But, there’s another book that’s far less well-known that fits the bill: Robert Mayer’s Superfolks, a groundbreaking, darkly comedic story of the human side of a retired super-hero that hit shelves in 1977 and quietly influenced creators like Alan Moore, Kurt Busiek and Grant Morrison, even prompting the latter two to write forewords for its last two editions. I’m always a little amazed that it’s not brought up more often, but it’s there, it’s amazing, and having it on your shelf will serve as a subtle reminder that you occasionally read books without pictures in them.

 

5. Something That Will Allow You To Sound Smart In Public

I refer, of course, to Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s Action Philosophers!, a comic that I’ve said time and again should be in every library in the world.

I’ll be honest with you, folks: I took one (1) course in Philosophy in college, and while I’m normally a pretty good student (shocking, I know), I did miserably. The best thing to come out of it was a note on my paper from my prof that read “You write so well that it’s a shame you have no idea what you’re talking about.” Seriously.

Since the debut of AP, however, I find myself not only interested in the subject, but versed enough in the details to discuss the finer points of Lao Tzu and Spinoza with other people, although I’ll confess that these conversations usually occur over drinks and involve me struggling to remember that Wittgenstein didn’t actually have Angry Lines radiating from his head at all times.

 

6. A Comic That, If It Came To It, Could Block Shuriken, Blowdarts, And Most Medium Caliber Handgun Rounds

Or: “A Slipcased Hardcover So Expensive That You Hope For The Inevitable Zombie Uprising That Will Force You To Use It As A Club, Thereby Justifying the Amazing Expense.” I’m looking at you here, Completely MAD Don Martin.

 

7. One, and Only One, Issue of Pizzazz

Specifically, this one:

 

 

8. A Comic Written by a Rapper

This is becoming an increasingly easy one to find, with the Method Man’s graphic novel out recently and one from the GZA in last month’s Previews catalog, and if you’re out for something more revolutionary, you could track down last year’s sadly unfinished Public Enemy (cowritten by Chuck D), wherein–and I am not making this up–Flava Flav uses a clock on a chain to battle evil government thugs.

If you’re really dedicated though, and you want to kick it Old School, you can attempt to track down this bad boy:

 

 

That’s right: 1994′s Break The Chain by Kyle Baker and KRS-One, which originally came polybagged with a casette tape of the Blastmaster rapping the script with instructions to turn the page every time he says “Word!” I have had this thing sitting on the shelf for two years without even opening it. I don’t think my house could contain that much awesome.

 

9. Jack Staff

I’ve mentioned before that while I’m usually a little reticent to call something my favorite comic–because let’s face it, I fall in love with something new at least once a week–there’s no question in my mind that Paul Grist’s Jack Staff takes the cake. And it’s something everyone oughtta have, not just because it’s an amazingly fun read that’s still one of the most engaging and innovative comics I’ve ever read, but because it teaches us a valuable lesson.

Jack Staff started out as a rejected Marvel pitch. That explains, of course, why Jack himself bears a strong resemblance to Marvel’s vampire-hunting Union Jack, and why–especially in the first story–there are analogues for other characters cropping up: Sgt. States in lieu of Captain America, Tom Tom the Robot Man filling in for Iron Man and so on. But beyond that is the fact that Marvel rejected what would eventually grow and evolve into the best comic I read. There’s a lesson about perseverance in there, and like all the best morals, it comes wrapped in the story of Becky Burdock, Vampire Reporter.

 

10. A Story That Deals With a Serious Issue

 

 

Because it’s important to know that there was a time when stories like the one above were saying things that nobody else did, and that no matter how hokey and cliché they might seem now, there was a time when they were as earnest and unflinching as they’d eventually become.

Unless you’re Judd Winick, in which case they’re simultaneously earnest and unbearably hokey.

 

11. Something Romantic

Because every now and then, a young man or woman’s fancy turns to ahhhhhhrrrrromance! But don’t feel that you have to go with Blankets or Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane or the dismal, heartsick pit that is the Charlton Romance Comic! There are lots of things in comics that are romantic!

Like the time Scott Pilgrim headbutted that guy so hard he turned into change!

 

 

Now that is the glory of love.

 

12. Cover Girl, by Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church and Mateus Santolouco

 

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13. Something That Is Totally Awesome But That You Totally Do Not Understand

 

 

I find that most great manga and the works of Bobs Haney and Kanigher fit into this category pretty nicely.

 

14. Something That You Can Give To Someone Who Doesn’t Get It

For any dedicated comics reader, there’s always that moment where you go up against a friend, significant other or family member who wants to understand your love of comics, but meets you with a blank stare no matter how many times you try to explain the whole Every Which Way But Loose metaphor.

The problem here is that in order to capture your love for comics, they need to have that one defining moment, and since that’s a lot more likely to come along when one is six years old at the Ameristop looking for something to kill time between cartoons, you’re usually too late, and have to come up with something that’s both an entry-level book and embodies everything you love about comics. It’s a tough one, since every person’s tastes are going to be different, but as a good place to start, you could do a lot than Scott McCloud’s Zot!, though depending on your affection for River City Ransom, Scott Pilgrim does a heck of a job.

 

15. A Comic That Was Ten Years Ahead of Its Time

In the forties, it was Jack Cole’s Plastic Man and Will Eisner’s Spirit. In the fifties, it was the EC Books. In the sixties, Metamorpho and Herbie, and in the ’90s it was Starman. Every good comic is going to stick out from the crowd, but these and others are the ones that read like they were sent back from the future to show people how it was going to be done, whether it’s in panel layout or self-aware humor or kicking off the trend of retrospective super-hero comics that continues today. They’re the leaps forward in the form. They are, in effect, the mutants of comics.

And comics love mutants.

 

16. Porn

Yeah, that’s right. I said it.

I’ve mentioned it before, the marriage of comic books and pornography is often one that falls extremely flat, as any harrowing look through the pages of Previews Adult will show. I’m not sure if it’s just a side effect of sixty years of engaging in adolescent power fantasies rather than just adolescent fantasies, but it’s rare that anything comes along that’s worth bothering with.

Which is why it’s always interesting when something does. There’s Alan Moore’s Lost Girls–which is not to be confused with Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, which is only porn for research librarians–and Phil Foglio’s long-running XXXenophile, in which centaurs factor and it’s actually pretty funny. Even so,it’s Colleen Coover’s Small Favors that I like the most, probably owing to the fact that it can honestly be described as “cute and hilarious” and has a premise so strange that it could’ve come from Bob Haney, in that the principal characters are a girl and the size-changing manifestation of her conscience that was assigned to her by an old woman who lives in the girl’s head to keep her from doing exactly what they end up doing.

And on the flipside…

 

17. Something For The Kids

So here’s the deal: Back before DC decided that there was no middle ground between Identity Crisis and DC Super Friends, there was a long stretch of time in which both the best Batman comic and the best Superman comic by far were the kid-friendly, done-in-one issues that tied into the animated series. Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck’s Batman Adventures were like textbook examples of how to tell great Batman stories, and Mark Millar’s work on Superman Adventures are not only the best Superman comics of the ’90s, but the best work of the man’s career. They’re that good.

And yet they never really sold all that well, a bit of history that’s repeating itself today, when Marvel Adventures Avengers is the best Avengers book in quality and the worst in sales. Why? Because it’s a kid’s book. And even stranger, I’ve had customers that come in asking for new Shazam stories that turn their nose up at Mike Kunkel’s Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam because they want serious stories.

About Captain Marvel.

Who is a child who turns into a super-powered grown-up when he says a magic word.

AND FIGHTS A WORM WITH A RADIO ON ITS NECK.

Brother, I don’t even know where to begin with the logic behind that, but I’ll try to sum it up like this: There are good stories for mature readers that couldn’t have been done otherwise (see above), but a good story is good no matter what age group it’s directed at, and to paraphrase Penny Arcade, if you’re worried that somebody’s going to think you’re immature for reading a kid’s comic, then guess what? You’re already reading comics, and they’re not going to care if it comes from Vertigo or Johnny DC. Sheesh.

And speaking of Penny Arcade…

 

18. A Print Collection of a Webcomic

 

At this point, I think it’s become obvious that–just as it was with music–the Internet is the unavoidable future of comics, both in terms of distribution (everyone’s enjoying those discounts on trades at Amazon, right?) and creation, largely through the medium of webcomics. Still, there’s always going to be a market for print and at least for now, one of its chief benefits is a sense of legitimacy that comes with a hard copy.

I mean, let’s be honest here: Webcomics–like blogs–are relatively cheap and easy to create, to the point where anyone can do it, but getting a book published is a heck of a lot harder than setting up a website. The end result to all this: the ones that do get picked up tend to offer a lot more once they do, whether it’s additional strips like Order of the Stick, bonus commentary like Penny Arcade, or beautiful formats like Achewood and Wondermark, and that’s in addition to being able to read through them in the rare event that you’re away from your computer.

Plus, you know you want to have this in your house:

 

 

19. A Story That Hits All Three

My friend Scott has a theory about what makes a good comic that goes like this: There are three types of ways that a comic can affect you. It can go to your head and make you think, your heart for an emotional connection, or your gut for the fist-pumping “fuck yeah!” moment. Anything that gets one is enjoyable, and a good comic will get you two, but a great comic… That’s one that hits all three.

Like, say, JLA #41, when they’re fighting Mageddon the Anti-Sun and the Justice League gives everyone on the planet super-powers and they all fly out to space to help Superman. Not only is that a clever solution that works within the context of the story and makes perfect sense given that it takes place in a world where everyone on the planet owes Superman their life a hundred tiems over, but it’s such a great image. Everybody in the world getting superpowers! And… and they put aside all their differences to help Superman… and..

Sorry, got a little something in my eye. I’ll meet you down at #20.

 

20. A Run You Had To Hunt For

I mentioned before that one of the reasons I love reading comics right now is that there’s so much stuff that’s available, and that’s true. And yet, there are still comics that have never been reprinted.

Two of the best comics DC’s ever published are Suicide Squad and Hitman, and if you want ‘em in trade, you’re out of luck. Yes, they did publish a few trades for Hitman while the series was coming out, but they never got to the later issues, and I’m pretty sure that the only issue of Suicide Squad that’s ever seen a reprint is #13, which shows up in the Justice League International hardcover.

Now, if those two series–or ROM, for that matter–were collected tomorrow you could sit down, read ‘em, and have a fantastic time. But there’s something about having to hunt down an issue to complete a run that’s an entirely different experience, and while I want trades of those issues as much as anyone, the thrill of triumph is something that everybody ought to feel.

Ditto for the disappointment when you get that last handful of Dr. Fate and find out that your friends like it a heck of a lot more than you do.

 

21. Showcase Presents Sugar & Spike

 

 

OH WAIT! I FORGOT! THIS DOES NOT EXIST BECAUSE DC HATES MONEY.

 

22. A Comic Where Somebody Punches Hitler

 

 

Because seriously, fuck that guy.

 

23. Something That You Absolutely Love, Except For One Little Thing

 

 

“Oh man, this thing is great! A couple of sexy girl bounty hunters blowing stuff up and getting in car chases in Chicago! And the art’s beautiful! The cars and guns are painstakingly researched, and the car chases have a sense of motion to them that I’ve never seen before in comics! The jokes are funny and the action’s intense and… Hey, wait. It says that Ken and Minnie May were shacking up together ‘four years ago.’ But… but she’s eighteen now… and he’s in his thirties.

Ooh, a Bean Bandit story!”

 

24. Something That Might Not Be Very Good But God Damn It, It Means The World To You

 

 

25. Something That You Absolutely Hate

Why? Because if you’re gonna read comics for any serious amount of time, you can’t read the good stuff all the time. Now, I would never advise someone to keep reading a book they didn’t like; if you stop enjoying a comic, then stop reading it. But… if you find something so monumentally bad that it transcends itself into something beyond, something that you can’t believe could possibly exist in a world that also has Watchmen in it, then you’ve got to stick with that one, whether you’re gleefully marveling at it or just trudging through for the benefit of others

Mithridates, after all, died old.

86 thoughts on “Twenty-Five Things Every Comics Collection Truly Needs To Be Awesome

  1. Big, big, big MOTTO on #17. Several of my all-time favorite stories in nearly ten years of reading & following comics are from the Batman: The Animated Series tie-in lines.

    So many fun stories, so much cleverer (and often, more mature) than they had any right to be. Ty Templeton, where have you gone?

  2. Lets see how well I’ve got this one covered…

    #1)Don’t have THAT issue. But I do have a Flash trade where Grodd just DESTROYS several blocks of Central City. Oh and an Astro City issue with the Gorilla Swarm. Telepathic hive-mind gorillas with the HEADS OF BEES…

    #2) Sadly nothing I can think of…

    #3) Special Forces. Used to have some of his Plastic Man…

    #4) Got the Chabon book. Also “Soon I Will Be Invincible”. And the “Superheroes” anthology…

    #5) Vol. 1 and 3. VOlume 2 was out of print last I checked…

    #6) HC editions of Runaways or Annihilation? Scud: The Whole Shebang? Books 1-13 of Cerebus?

    #7) Er..what?

    #8) *ponders*

    Can’t think of anything. Unless Garth Ennis is secretly Method Man?

    #9) Buying the current run. I’d get the previous ones, but I decided to try and buy up Kane first…

    #10) Well crap. I got rid of all my Winnick Green Arrows and Outsiders issues…

    #11) Have all 3 books you mentioned. Plus My Faith In Frankie…

    #12) Got that. Twice…

    #13) Yotsuba& and Showcase: War That Time Forgot

    #14) I’ve been giving the niece/nephew spawn Leave it to Chance and Yotsuba& for Christmas. Might move to some Marvel Adventures books this year…

    #15) On my third buying of Starman with the omnibusses…

    #16) Lost Girls, all six volumes of XXXenophile, both Small Favors collections AND the color issue, the Cherry Poptart written by Neil Gaiman and the Omaha collections…

    #17) Leave it to Chance hard-covers, the Jeff Smith Shazam book and the current Kuenkel one…

    #18) Order of the Stick, Shlock Mercenary and the Great Outdoor Fight…

    #19) Annihilation when Drax unleashes Galactus from his chains…

    #20) Blood Syndicate, Firearm, the entire Vertigo run of Animal Man (not just the Morrison stuff), Grimjack and now Suicide Squad AND refinding the Niecza New Warriors run since I let mine go after thinking MAYBE Marvel might do a collection or three…

    #21) Um. I’ll take your word for it. Unlike Herbie this is one where the posted panels don’t make me understand WHY you all think this is awesome. Sorry…

    #22) Savage Dragon. He beats up on Hitler. Who is a brain in a jar. ATOP A TELEKINETIC GORILLA. And why is Hitler’s brain attached to an ape? HELLBOY.

    #23) Welcome Back Frank. The Daredevil part…

    #24) Mars Attacks Image. So dumb. SOOOOOO dumb. Its got LABMAN for Thor’s sake…

    #25) While I can think of books I really, truly utterly hate (and I mean loathe on an atomic level) I can’t think of any that I even try to follow the way you do for Tarot or the Anita Blake comics. I’ll sometimes flip thru an issue of The Boys on the rack just to remind myself why I want it to die I guess…

  3. I think Born Again satisfies my Hits All Three quota. You have that whole bit where he’s back in the costume and the fire and I’m just like “Holy shit! This is amazing, I think my brain exploded!” Then you have the part where the Avengers show up and the little narration boxes get to me too. Mostly it’s all Dave Campbell’s fault.

  4. Great post, Chris, and a list for people (like me) who love comics for all the pure, childlike reasons that we initially bought them for when we were children. Don’t get me wrong–I love “The Canon,” but it’s sort of like going through life only reading Penguin Classics or buying Criterion Collection DVDs. It might make you smarter or more cultured, but it isn’t something you’re likely to share a beer over.

    And yeah, JLA #41 is, I think, the best pure single issue of a superhero comic ever published by the Big Two. I felt that way while I was reading it when it came out, and I still do. I still get goosebumps thinking about when Wonder Woman leads the Army of Men into space to fight the Anti-Sun. And how would I ever get to type a sentence like that discussing Little Orphan Annie?

  5. Cool, I seem to fill a lot of those categories. I’m going to cross-post this with my own LJ shortly, with a few additional notes.

    -Gorillas: JLApe, baby!(which also fills #24′s quota, too)
    -Kids comics: I’ve got the Scott McCloud trade of Superman adventures and a few others. Even some MA Avengers.
    -A run you had to hunt for: Steel. Cripes, do you have any idea how hard it was to find #27 of all things, and a lot of Christopher Priest’s run?
    -Porn: Preacher might count.
    -Prose novels: some Frank Byrne work, a short story collection called Superheroes and some Cyber Age Adventures. I also write some of my own
    -Smart in public: Superheroes & Philosophy and Physics of Superheroes

    One addendum that really SHOULD be on this list, no matter what:

    Work by Jack Kirby. And there’s enough of it out there that it really wouldn’t be that hard.

  6. today’s Amazon order was:

    1 x Cowboy Wally

    1 x Superfolks

    1 x Break The Chain (yes, with the tape, all mine for $9)

    1 x Gunsmith Cats

    But nowhere on earth can I find JLA #41

    Lurkerwithout – your comic porn-fu is strong!

  7. @Olav: Have you tried the online stores for Mile High Comics or All About Books & Comics? If not JLA#41 is part of the World War III trade paper back. Though if you’re patient it looks like DC is rereleasing the Morrison JLA run in hardback…

  8. -Porn: Preacher might count.

    Not really. The purpose of porn is to titillate and arouse, whereas the purpose of Preacher is to tell a story.

    One addendum that really SHOULD be on this list, no matter what: Work by Jack Kirby.

    I’m pretty sure that falls under “The Basics.”

  9. #18 Girl Genius is a gorgeous example of Web-to-print; many volumes are available. Crying Macho Man is a terrific and funny Webcomic that is on its second book. Cool Jerk is a print-to-Web-to-print comedy strip, also on its second book. (Yeah, that last one is mine. What.)

  10. Damn. Then, I guess I fail in the porn category. Ooh, what about the sex issue of Swamp Thing that Alan Moore did? It’s pretty out there, but damn, there were parts of it I admit to being aroused.

  11. #20:
    Three attempts:

    1) The “5 years Later” Giffen run on LSH.

    2) The Helfer-Baker run on THE SHADOW.

    3) A complete run of a series in ANOTHER LANGUAGE. In ’87, I spent the summer in Norway, and tried to find the whole run of WATCHMEN in Norwegian. It was fail, non-epic, but the excellent part about it is that now I don’t rememeber much Norwegian, so the comics are almost totally unintelligible.

    Best of all, the one Norsk issue I still have is the one where Rohrschach gets psycho-analyzed.

  12. My collection has approximately a 72% Awesomeness Quotient.

    I’m missing:
    7. I *had* some issues of Pizzazz as a youth, and *wanted* that particular first issue, though….
    8. No rapper comics, and I fear I lack the awesomeness to appreciate one.
    9. Jack Staff. Hmm, I should correct this deficiency, sounds like.
    12. Ditto.
    14. I probably do have this, but I’m not sure what it would be, exactly. I do have this covered (and also encompassing 17 and 24) for younger readers: Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars.
    16. Hmm, I think I have some stuff that’s kind of on the verge, but no actual pr0n… and I do love Colleen Coover….
    21. A gap we all share.

  13. Funny thing is, I just read ‘Small Favors’ yesterday. Damn, that’s an awesome series. Coover really does prove that “well-written porn” isn’t an oxymoron.

    I score pretty high, having a reprint of the Detective Comics issue where Batman fights a gorilla that has all of Batman’s knowledge and an atomic bomb strapped to its chest. In fact, I think you can honestly reduce the list down to one item, and it’s this issue.

    My prose novel is “Soon I Will Be Invincible”, my smart comic is Larry Gonick’s “Cartoon History of the Universe” (saved my butt in high school, that did), my romantic comic is ‘Small Favors’ (it’s doing double-duty, since it’s sweet and sexy), and my comic that hits all three…

    Astro City, Family Album. Every time Astrid wins the golden jack and puts it in her souvenir box, I just bawl.

  14. Did you just quote (well… paraphrase) one of my favorite poems ever? I love Housman. One of my favorite possessions is a really old hardcover of A Shropshire Lad… Although I am probably missing some other source that you are referencing. Usually I’m like.. hey I love that line… Shakespeare, right? The response is usually… ‘Actually it’s a line from Star Trek’

    Good list. I love hearing what others recommend/feel is essential. It’s like giving me a shopping list.

  15. Got Superfolks at a garage sale recently for 25 cents.

    25 cents well spent!

    (It even was the first edition)

  16. (It probably says something about me that my favorite poem is about a young man’s response to friends and family who criticize his choice of reading material)

  17. I think I have a lot covered:

    1. Super-Heroes Vs. Super-Gorillas, published by DC: Also equals AWESOME.

    2. I have some Flash reprints from the 40′s, I could probably do better.

    4. Fortress of Solitude by Jonathon Lethem. People fly in that.

    10. Impulse #6; Because a kid being abused is almost never funny.

    11. Thank you quarter boxes for some Young Love issues. And does Binky count?

    17. A nice run of Imoulse and the current Blue Beetle series. Teenagers are kids, right?

    19. Blue Beetle #25- Crazy science, heartfelt moments, and Jaime fucks shit up. A Fuck Yeah moment indeed.

    20. Just finished up most of my New Teen Titans run this weekend. What a pleasure finally holding Annual #3 in my hands, finishing off the Judas Contract. Awesome.

    22. I have a comic where someone punches Hitler who is inhabiting Superboy’s body, that counts, right?

    25. Thank you, Bruce Jones, for ruining Checkmate.

    Now I know what I have to do to finish up my AWESOME collection.

  18. I have now ordered Superfolks and Action Philosophers!

    …but for geographical reasons, they were ordered from amazon uk, apologies to your ad revenue!

  19. also can someone tell me where I may find those Green Arrow/Green Lantern tales collected?

    Worth finding for ‘My ward… is a JUNKIE!’ and GL being a total asshat.

  20. Can you recommend a substitute for #16 for those with a moral objection to pornography (I’m not trying to be superior or anything, I just don’t want to buy smut).

    While your at it, throw in a sub for #21 since that’s not a real thing.

    And hell, how about one for #12 since that one was clearly sponsored and thus, doesn’t count.

  21. Can you recommend a substitute for #16 for those with a moral objection to pornography (I’m not trying to be superior or anything, I just don’t want to buy smut).

    No.

    While your at it, throw in a sub for #21 since that’s not a real thing.

    No.

    And hell, how about one for #12 since that one was clearly sponsored and thus, doesn’t count.

    Annnnnnnnd no.

  22. Oh come off it, Sims. It’s not like this liost was compiled according to any real standard. Besides, you clearly indicated that there may be any number of substitutes for #1, so it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for this sort of thing.

  23. Mr. Dan13l, if you do not purchase the required books on the reading list, then you will fail the course, and there are no refunds on the considerable sum that you paid for this course.

  24. Mr. Dan13l, if you do not purchase the required books on the reading list, then you will fail the course, and there are no refunds on the considerable sum that you paid for this course.

    Can’t I just borrow what I need from the Library and photocopy everything I need to know before the final exam?

  25. Huh. So…

    PORN: Morally objectionable.

    CALLING A COMPLETE STRANGER THE RETARDED CHILD OF A VILLAGE WHORE: not objectionable at all!

    You’re a curious creature, Dan13l.

    Now fuck off, shitbag.

  26. Of course, because that extended bit of text bellow the insult where I apologized couldn’t have possible been any sort of indication that I was joking. Nope, not at all.

  27. Trevor, if there was no hate, there would be no intenet.

    NOW RAGE! RAGE FOR PROGRESS!

  28. I’m not trying to be superior or anything

    As your follow-up comments have indicated, including the “joke” Chris had the good sense to delete, yes, you were.

  29. Kids, kids. Please.

    Let’s get back to the discussion at hand, which is that a list with “no objective standard” doesn’t really have to have 25 entries anyway.

  30. 1. I think the combined might of Showcase presents: The Flash volume 1 and that Flash JLApe annual I have fill this quota

    2. Really, really want to get “I Will Destroy All The Civilized Planets”, but I have an old copy of “The Great Comic Book Heroes” By Jules Feiffer which has all of the first appearances of Batman, Hawkman, Green Lantern, The Spirit, etc, all of which blew my then 14 year old mind.

    13. Will have to work on this.

    4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, baby. Superguys sounds like its worth picking up though.

    5. My knowledge of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis comes from the comic adaptation of it I had to read for a class.

    6. Fantastic Four Omnibus vol 1 can take armor piercing rounds, while the Brubaker Captain America omnibus is a great offensive weapon.

    7. IT WILL BE MINE

    8. Sadly, the closest thing I have is that DC Halloween special with a story by *shudder* David Arquette.

    9. Given my recent fascination with Union Jack/ Captain Britain and MI-13, I will have to track this down.

    10. Green Arrow/Green Lantern vol 1 and the “Demon in a bottle” issue of Iron Man.

    11. I’d have to go with Blankets as far as indies go, but Alan Moore’s swamp thing annual where he journeys into hell to save Abby’s soul is probably the most romantic single issue of any comic I’ve read.

    13.That’s pretty much how I felt about Morrison’s JLA, atleast the first few reads of it. I can’t think of anything I own that fills the niche now. Oh, hey,
    silver age Batman, how are you?

    14. Sandman and Watchmen seem to be the two in my experience. In terms of less obvious stuff, I’m not sure.

    15. That would have to be Gaiman’s Sandman

    16. I need to pick up some Small Favors.

    17. The first trade of Batman Adventures was bought per your recommendation and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

    18. I own the first PvP trade and cherish my signed copy of The Trial of Colonel Sweeto.

    19. I’m going to have to go with either Wally West taking down Professor Zoom and finally walking out of Barry’s shadow at the end of The Return of Barry Allen or Reed Richards admitting his own inability to use magic to defeat a magicked up Dr.Doom in Unthinkable.

    20. That’d be Impulse (I have all the waid issues), Hitman (still working on it), Suicide Squad (still working on it) and Swamp Thing (nearly done)

    22. See: Robinson’s The Golden Age.

    23. I really liked The Starman Omnibus, but Robinson’s dialogue/narration is sometimes alittle too grandiose for its own good and oh yeah what the hell was up with the random “Jack sleeps with the squid woman” bit that came literally out of nowhere? All small things though.

    24. Going to go with that Batman “Realworlds” one shot that came out like 8 years ago. Looking back, it probably wasn’t great, but it opened me eyes to indie comics.

    25. Youngblood #1 remains in my collection for this reason.

  31. IMO, the other great comic book porn is Omaha the Cat Dancer, now reprinted in some nice volumes by NBM. It even has a more well-formed plot than “Small Favors” does, though after a point it starts getting a bit tangled in the same way that Strangers in Paradise did. The fact that the characters have animal heads means it could qualify for #23, too.

    Gunsmith Cats is also a quintessential for #23. I just have to add 5 to everybody’s age in my head and it works out mostly OK.

    And, to whipsaw to things that aren’t about sex and/or possible pedophilia, a whole lot of Chris’ categories can be covered by Astro City. Not #25, but including #8 when you remember Kurt Busiek’s second career as under-appreciated rapper Mix Master KB Shizzle.

  32. Oh, yeah, and about that issue of “Pizzazz” the answer to one of the questions on the cover is “with a harpoon gun.”

  33. Even though I consider myself a discriminating consumer of smut, I don’t have a single copy of Small Favors. Don’t know why. That will change.

  34. Given that Chris described Small Favors as something that could have been written by Bob Haney, I’d imagine that those who don’t like pornography could just pick up any old issues of The Brave and the Bold and just use a pencil to draw boobs on all the characters.

  35. I’d like to make a tentative recommendation for Bill Willingham’s Ironwood for #16. With the caveat that you should never even think about looking at Vol 2, not because it’s brain-breakingly awful, but because the ending will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
    No, I said a bad taste. Try to keep up. ^_^

    Oh, and Dan13: If your aversion to smut comes from a consideration of pornography as degrading to women- a position that I can sympathise with- please check out Small Favours in any case. Seriously. It’s cute and tender and loving and *fun,* and if we’re talking it up too much, it’s because it deserves to be talked up.

  36. Number 25 for me – Catwoman, Guardian of Gotham featuring the talents of Jim Balent. Bad enough to make me drop comics for a year or two, yet I still own that piece of @##$%

    I loved Omaha the Cat Dancer back in the day … mostly because the sex was just one aspect of characters I actually cared about and I was a. naive and b. didn’t really care anyway about that whole furries thing.

    And I’ve long considered Golden Age comics are the 4-color equivalent of punk rock. I’m so glad others out there think the same!!!!!

  37. Ironic considering the last “run hunt” I did was to pick up 4 issues of Hitman that I was missing.

    And I did it without using any internet ordering services.

    Yes, I’m proud of that.

  38. That was a fantastic list. It also made me feel good about myself that my relatively modest comics collection covers 16 of the 25 points.

    And now I just have to abuse my credit card till I make it to 25.

  39. Chris, I couldn’t agree more with your list. I read Spurge’s list and Graeme McMillian’s list and felt there was something missing fundamentally in the heart of their arguments. Jeff Lester’s list was better but still. Something missing.

    I had a Mod Boss Gorilla-shaped hole in my heart and didn’t even know it.

    Now I am complete. Thanks for that.

    PS Colleen Coover’s “Small Favors” is ridiculously good. Possibly even rediculously good.

  40. Mod Gorilla Boss is the great comic villian ever. Possibly greatest comic book character
    i haven’t been collecting comics in awhile… i’ve got the essentials, i’ve got Kavelier & Clay, and i’ve got some random Batman

    i suddenly want a story where Hellboy punches a gorilla

  41. I just noticed that neither Matt Fraction nor Walt Simonson are on the list. Tell me Chris, are they insufficiently awesome? Certainly no “complete” collection can be lacking Simonson’s Thor.

  42. Given that Chris described Small Favors as something that could have been written by Bob Haney, I’d imagine that those who don’t like pornography could just pick up any old issues of The Brave and the Bold and just use a pencil to draw boobs on all the characters.

    Do we have our first suggestion for the next ISB Drawing Contest?

  43. i suddenly want a story where Hellboy punches a gorilla

    Oh, son. You don’t even know.

    I just noticed that neither Matt Fraction nor Walt Simonson are on the list.

    You could fill your gorilla needs pretty handily with Fraction and Kuhn’s Mantooth! (which I’ve recommended a ton of times on the ISB), and as for Simonson’s Thor, I don’t consider it necessary for being awesome.

    I consider it necessary for living.

  44. So this means my comic collection is almost completely awesome. Thank God. I’m missing out on a few of those (a comic by a rapper for example), but I figure having complete runs of Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Hama’s G. I. Joe probably makes up for it somehow.

    BTW — to those interested in philosophy (I, like Chris, took only one course in college), I found Does the Center Hold? by Donald Palmer a really excellent, readable intro that also uses a lot of cartoons.

    Also…Marvel Adventures Avengers is the worst in sales? Goddamn it, sometimes I hate my fellow comic fans. That’s one of the most consistently entertaining books Marvel is putting out right now IMO. Parker is great at the All Ages stuff…it’s fun but not, you know, dumbed down.

  45. Also…Marvel Adventures Avengers is the worst in sales?

    Among the Avengers books, yes. To get a little into the business side of things, the store where I work sells around 80 copies each of New and Mighty Avengers, about 50 of Avengers: The Initiative, and about 8 MA Avengers. That’s actually not too bad for a kid’s book, and it does very well in the digests, but if sales related to quality, it’d be blowing the other ones out of the water.

  46. Let’s see…

    1. The Mod Gorilla Boss

    -I have a Justice League Unlimited story featuring Gorilla Grodd disguised as Detective Chimp. How boss is that?

    2. A Collection Of Stories From The Golden Age

    -I fail. But I do have I Shall Destroy All Civilized Planets in my Amazon Wishlist, and if I don’t get it for Christmas I may have to whip out the plastic.

    3. At Least One Comic By Kyle Baker

    -I’ve got The Spirit #7, and a bunch of comics where he does covers or has some artwork appear (OHOTMU, etc.)

    4. A Prose Novel About Comics

    -I have a horror novel where a comic book supervillainess comes to life and turns out to be the embodiment of a Greek mythological figure. It’s as good as it sounds.

    5. Something That Will Allow You To Sound Smart In Public

    -The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe taught me the words “paraphernalia” and “tertiary” before I started grade 2.

    6. A Comic That, If It Came To It, Could Block Shuriken, Blowdarts, And Most Medium Caliber Handgun Rounds

    -I would have to rely on my faithful cats to avenge me, I’m afraid.

    7. One, and Only One, Issue of Pizzazz

    -I fail again.

    8. A Comic Written by a Rapper

    -And again.

    9. Jack Staff

    -And again. I’m starting to resemble the 2008 New York Yankees.

    10. A Story That Deals With a Serious Issue

    -I don’t know if I have anything that did this before it was de rigueur. Maybe the issue of The Avengers where the Watcher tricks the heroes into killing an innocent man?

    11. Something Romantic

    -I’ve got some of those Marvel Romance titles that came out a few years back.

    12. Cover Girl, by Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church and Mateus Santolouco

    -I am made of fail.

    13. Something That Is Totally Awesome But That You Totally Do Not Understand

    -I have YOTSUBA&!

    14. Something That You Can Give To Someone Who Doesn’t Get It

    -Huh. I’m terribly at gauging this sort of thing. I must have something, but I wouldn’t know what it is.

    15. A Comic That Was Ten Years Ahead of Its Time

    -Squadron Supreme. The original 12-issue series. You can tell it was ahead of its time because Marvel and DC are still re-telling the same damn story. Heroes mindwiping villains? Check. Superhero civil war? Check.

    Hell, it was 20 years ahead of its time.

    16. Porn

    -My friend Terri gave me an issue of Bondage Fairies for my birthday last year. I was gobsmacked.

    17. Something For The Kids

    -I’ve got some Marvel Adventures, some Tiny Titans, the Gumby trade, and some Family Dynamic. A couple of years after that, I can give them X-Men First Class and Wolverine First Class — but not Weapon X First Class. WTF is going on with that?!

    18. A Print Collection of a Webcomic

    -Not one, but two Dr. McNinja trades are mine!

    19. A Story That Hits All Three

    -These subjective ones are tough. Probably James Robinson’s Starman, although I’d have to reread to see if I could find one issue that did all three.

    20. A Run You Had To Hunt For

    -The underrated Xombi from the underrated Milestone line, and Ann Nocenti’s Kid Eternity. I would have said Nomad, but I discovered a few weeks back that I’m missing a couple of issues, dagnabbit.

    21. Showcase Presents Sugar & Spike

    -:(

    22. A Comic Where Somebody Punches Hitler

    -Does Ryan Choi jumpkicking jetpack Hitler in The All-New Atom count?

    23. Something That You Absolutely Love, Except For One Little Thing

    -I’d have to say Yotsuba&!, which I adore. I just have trouble with the weird hints they drop very rarely about her past. It’s really minor, and probably nothing.

    24. Something That Might Not Be Very Good But God Damn It, It Means The World To You

    -See above-mentioned incomplete Nomad run.

    25. Something That You Absolutely Hate

    -I bought an issue of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose to see for myself how bad it was. I had to wash my hands after reading it, and not for any improper reasons.

  47. I popped over to Wikipedia to read the Hitman article — and was pleasantly surprised to find that I’d forgotten the Superman/SixPack team-up in Superman 80-Page Giant #1.

    Which I have.

    So I closed the evening with the sight of SixPack kicking Doomsday squarely in the nuts. Thanks, Chris!

  48. Alright, let’s see:

    1. Uhh… I have the Spawn issues with Cy-Gor in them as well as a few issues of the Cy-Gor mini series… does that count?

    2. The spider-man essential

    3. Nope
    4. Nope
    5. Does Alan Moore’s From Hell count?

    6. Heh, again: Alan Moore’s From Hell (although it’s a softcover, I’m afraid)

    7. …What!?
    8. Surely not…
    9. Sadly, no.
    10. Yes, several
    11. Check
    12. Yyyyyyynno.
    13. “Lune de guerre” (adapted into the movie “The Wedding Party” which made a whole lot more sense)
    14. Yes, several
    15. Dunno… *scratches head*
    16. Sadly, no
    17. Not anymore; I gave my Smurf and Garfield comic to my kid sisters a long time ago.
    18. Fuzzy Knights TPB
    19. Watchmen (specifically, the first part about Rohrschach – go figure)
    20. The German issues of “Helden” (published by Caption Comics in the US)
    21. Errr…
    22. Hmmm. I have the German FF issue where Nick Fury shoots Hitler….
    23. X-Men: AoA Factor X TPB (“Summer’s List,” anyone…?)
    24. The first Poison Elves tpb
    25. Heroes Reborn: Captain America #1

  49. In the store I used to work at I had this really odd experience one day.
    A guy came up to me with a copy of I killed Adolf Hilter by Jason. He asked me what it was about, I told him it was funny and sad, like most of Jason’s books. He asked again what it was about, and I told him a time travelling animal person went back in time and killed Hitler.
    He then said something like “Does Hitler at least get to kill anyone?” When I responded negatively he said “Well that sucks.”
    I wanted to clarify, so I asked him if he thought a comic where Hitler gets killed sucked. He said yes, and I walked away from him because I didn’t know what to do.
    Thankfully he then left the store.
    Fucking nazis.

  50. Oh, and in more awesome news, here is a dream I had the other day.

    I was in a parallel dimension populated by hyperintelligent, militant gorillas. We had to get back through the interdimensional portal that was in the jungle.

    I made it back through, but I think some other people didn’t. My friend and I closed the portal and we think we’re safe. But one of the gorillas has made it through. And he’s driving a truck.

    We run through the forest back to the military base and all the soldiers are dead (not from the gorilla, I don’t know why). We manage to pick up some of their weapons before the gorilla stops the truck and gets out. The weapons are weird combo shot gun/automatics, and we have to keep reloading them often as the combo part means they can’t hold much of either ammo.

    And then it gets really videogamey. We start shooting the gorilla, but he’s really hard to hurt. Also, I think he is wearing military fatigues.

    We’re chased into a poorly lit military compound and we’re running around shooting the gorilla. Because we can’t really hurt the gorilla with our weapons we have to shoot him until he’s stunned, and then smash his wrists and ankles by using our guns as clubs. Then he gets up and starts chasing us again. We’ve smashed one of his ankles, but because he’s a gorilla and can lope around using his arms it’s not really slowing him down.

    Also the gorilla has a huge knife.

    We try to get back outside but the exit door is locked. The gorilla is coming for us and I’m trying to reload and I have to jump out a window so I can open the door from the outside for Nadya.

    And then I woke up. And my back hurt from sleeping on it weird.

  51. I don’t see any Goon in there. I think you should rectify this problem post-haste. I mean, if comics are a drug, then the Goon is pure-grade unrefined coke made by half-naked supermodels in Colombia.

  52. Just so everyone knows: “Superfolks” is amazing… It’s recently been re-released after a while out of print…

  53. Man, I’ve got 23 out of those 25. Can’t get the Sugar & Spike Showcase because it doesn’t exist, and special ordering porno comics always makes me feel like a perv.

    I don’t suppose Buck Godot counts? I mean, it’s kind of like XXXenophile. Kinda.

  54. I would have liked to see an entry for semi-philosophical/trippy early 70′s Marvels (see: Gerber, MacGregor, Moench, Brunner:
    -Killraven
    -Howard the Duck
    -Warlock

    And the DC young gun artist equivilant from the early 70′s
    -The Shadow (Kaluta)
    -Sword of Sorcery Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser (Chaykin)
    -Swamp Thing (Wrightson)
    -Manhunter (Simonson)

  55. I like your list better, Chris. Because it tells me I MUST own something where someone punches Hitler, instead of just me wanting it (because seriously, fuck that guy).

  56. I’ll have to wait until I’m at work tomorrow to read through all these comments, because the comments are the secret weapon of the ISB. So: apologies if I’m repeating what someone else already asked, but:

    Is Minnie May really 18, or is she 18 for US purposes and really 14 or 16 in Japan? Because that just makes things…that much creepier.

  57. She’s actually 17 when the story starts (which was raised to 18 in the original English publication, but then put back to 17 for the “Revised”/corrected edition) and started working at a bordello four or five years before that.

  58. #7– If you can’t find Pizzzazz, does Dynamite count? I was buying the early issues in school as a kid, when they did features on various superheroes and their origins.

    #13– Finally, my collection of the recent Metal Men miniseries is justified! Still wondering if any of that “talking to the elements” hoodoo from Grant Morrison makes sense or not.

    #16-Porn? You coulda mentioned Horny Biker Sluts or Xaime Hernandez’ Whoa Nelly. Or maybe that’s just me.
    #20– STILL trying to find issue 3 of the Flex Mentallo mini-series. Is it out in TPB?

  59. Second Squeamish on The Goon. Purest awesome, w/ a kick like down-home meth.

    I can go Killraven the Duck one better– the complete run of Moench and Gulacy’s Master of Kung Fu. It’s Eastern philosophy, poetry AND face-kicking. Desperately needs to be TPB’ed.

  60. 1. The Mod Gorilla Boss
    Adventures in the DCU had Grodd stories.

    2. A Collection Of Stories From The Golden Age
    If digital downloads from Wowio counts, I have the comic that first featured the Fighting Yank.

    3. At Least One Comic By Kyle Baker

    Wish I knew his work

    4. A Prose Novel About Comics

    I don’t have it, but does that Goosebumps book where a kid becomes a superhero count? Otherwise, I have adaptations, but no original novels about comics not inolving getting into the business. Unless some Transformers books count.

    5. Something That Will Allow You To Sound Smart In Public

    Like anyone listens to me.

    6. A Comic That, If It Came To It, Could Block Shuriken, Blowdarts, And Most Medium Caliber Handgun Rounds

    Batman: Digital Justice, Essential Iron Man 1&2, Essential Godzilla, Voltron Omnibus

    7. One, and Only One, Issue of Pizzazz

    We all new I fall short of awesome. Here’s proof #1

    8. A Comic Written by a Rapper

    Unless Will Smith makes a comic (not into a lot of what qualifies as rap music), proof #2

    9. Jack Staff

    proof #3–I don’t know enough about it

    10. A Story That Deals With a Serious Issue

    I have the Teen Titans anti-drug PSA, the Spider-Man/Power Pack comic where Peter admits to being molested as a pre-powered child, the story where Iron Man saves kids from land mines or something, and Superman for the Animals…something has to count in that list

    11. Something Romantic

    I’m not sure Against the Grain counts..probably proof #4

    12. Cover Girl, by Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church and Mateus Santolouco

    proof #5

    13. Something That Is Totally Awesome But That You Totally Do Not Understand

    If you can’t count the untranslated Mazinger Z collected comic (that also should go in #6, now that I think of it), nothing counts.

    14. Something That You Can Give To Someone Who Doesn’t Get It

    I stopped caring what people think a long time ago with my Transformers. I’m sure nothing changes with my comics.

    15. A Comic That Was Ten Years Ahead of Its Time

    Not sure if I have anything that qualifies or not, so I won’t give it a proof #

    16. Porn

    proof #5–why remind myself I’m lonely?

    17. Something For The Kids

    I have two issues of DC Super Friends. If that doesn’t count, nothing does. I also miss MA:Iron Man, grab the occasional MA:Avengers and MA:Super Heroes, Billy Batson, waiting on the Supergirl advertised in Batson, the various Marvel and DC 90′s toon spinoffs that often play too close to the mainstream universe, only to be messed up by the cartoon itself. (And Gotham Adventures taking away Langstrom’s Man-Bat free happy ending was wrong. Just wrong!)

    18. A Print Collection of a Webcomic

    I’m currently collecting the Dreamland Chronicles. Such an amazing comic.

    19. A Story That Hits All Three

    There has to be one or two of those in my box.

    20. A Run You Had To Hunt For

    The original Firestorm, Steel, and I’m sure a whole bunch others once I make my list of comics I need.

    21. Showcase Presents Sugar & Spike

    proof #6

    22. A Comic Where Somebody Punches Hitler

    If I don’t have one now, I’m sure I’ll get one eventually. Heck, I’d buy a whole comic that was nothing but people beating on Adolf.

    23. Something That You Absolutely Love, Except For One Little Thing

    Probably in there

    24. Something That Might Not Be Very Good But God Damn It, It Means The World To You

    I really need to read through my boxes again. Right now, I’m busy drawing up my Transformers timeline lists.

    25. Something That You Absolutely Hate

    The last few years of Iron Man before I gave up. And I have the season 1 episodes on video.

    (Note: also picked up the movie with the preview episode of Armored Adventures. Looks promising if your not a total purist. We’ll have to see what happens, but X-Men: Evolution was a darn good show.

  61. I went out and picked up the first volume of Jack Staff, I’m only about 70 pages into it but goddamn if I don’t love it so far.

  62. (everyone’s enjoying those discounts on trades at Amazon, right?)

    Actually, I buy my trades at the local comic store, in the vain hope of keeping them in business.

    But I don’t buy single issues, so it balances out.