My favorite comics

A look at the comics that have a special place in my heart.
October 26, 2006
I've always loved comics so it's only natural that my first article on Retrojunk would be a tribute to my favorite medium. Below you will find 26 comics that have had an impact on my life and that I've always enjoyed reading.

Anyway, let's get started...and don't scroll down to see the first place, okay?

26. Krazy Kat (by: George Herriman)

'Krazy Kat' is the oldest comic on my list, it is also the greatest triangle drama in the history of comics as far as I'm concerned. 'Krazy Kat' features the title character, an ambigiously gendered cat who is in love with Igantz the mouse. Ignatz however, who is quite a sadistic little asshole repays Krazy for his/her love by throwing bricks in the poor cat's head. One who is really in love with Krazy is a dog named Bull Pupp who serves as the local police, each time Ignatz inflict injuries upon Krazy, Bull Pupp places the rascally rodent in prison. What Pupp doesn't realize is that Krazy wievs Ignatz's abuse as a sign of love (sic).

Surprisingly, Herriman managed to make 'Krazy Kat' one of the most funny and poetic comics that ever appeared in a newspaper. Filled with humorous, intentional spelling-errors and mysterious, ever-changing backgrounds, 'Krazy Kat' is a true classic that inspired many famous cartoonists like Bill Watterson, the creator of 'Calvin & Hobbes'.

25. Batman: The Joker's five-way revenge (by: Neal Adams & Denny O'Neil

If you were an insane criminal mastermind who was betrayed by one of his five underlings, what would you do? If you anwered "kill all of them in various horrific ways" you'd propably get along pretty well with Gotham City's own 'Clown-prince of crime', just watch out for a certain caped crusader.

Anyway, 'The Joker's five-way revenge' is arguably my favorite 'Batman' story. It made Joker into the totally remorseless maniac he is today. During the comic's course the reader sees The Joker offing his former henchmen (with poisoned water and exploding cigarrs filled with nitroglycerine) until there's only one left. Naturally, Batman tries to prevent The Joker's murder-spree but it seems that the maniac is always one step ahead of him.

With 'The Joker's five-way revenge' The Adams/O'Neil team created a comic that kept me on the edge of my seat as I read (and this comes from a guy who isn't a very big fan of superhero comics) and although Miller's & Mazuchelli's 'Year One' is very good too this remains The 'Batman' story to read, if you ask me.

24. The Spirit (by: Will Eisner)

Will Eisner is often heralded as the creator of the american graphic-novel but for me he will always be the creator of 'The Spirit', one of the first mature comics I read. The main character in 'The Spirit' was Denny Colt, a police-detective who was supposedly killed in a battle with the evil scientist Dr. Cobra. Of course, the rumors of Colt's death were greatly exaggerated and the detective soon returned to the land of the living as The Spirit, a masked crimefighter who co-operated with the police but also operated outside the law to catch the criminal's the police couldn't get their hands on.

So far, this sounds like a fairly ordinary mystery comic but Eisner also spiced his stories with comments on the american society, sometimes, The Spirit himself was only a minor character while his creator let the spotlight shine on escaped convicts, crooked politicians, milkmen and other people that populated Denny Colt's hometown Central City.

23. Corto Maltese en Siberie (by: Hugo Pratt)

Hugo Pratt was one of the masters when it came to epic adventure comics and the creator of the character Corto Maltese. In 'Corto Maltese en Siberie', Pratt's melancholic hero finds himself involved in the civil war that raged Russia after the revolution. Corto and his best friend/worst enemy Rasputin has been hired by a mysterious organisation called 'The Red lanterns' to steal the gold located on self-proclaimed dictator admiral Koltjack's army-train.

What I really like about this comic is how Pratt don't pull any punches, everything that makes a classic adventure is here including beautiful and deadly women, assassins, conspiracies and much more. Other things that makes 'Corto Maltese en Siberie' a favorite of mine is the dialogue between Corto and Rasputin (Corto: What did you do with the guard? Rasputin: I ate him. Corto: Shame on you!) and the historical characters that appear in it. If you like classic adventure stories then you should read 'Corto Maltese en Siberie' immediately.

22. Sluggy Freelance (by: Pete Abrahams)

While 'Sluggy Freelance' wasn't the first web-comic I read (that honor goes to Scott Kurtz's 'Player vs. Player') it's bar none my favorite, rivaled only by 'The Order of the Stick'. Sluggy's main plot focuses on the two main characters Torg and Riff as they and their friends battles vampires, demons, evil corporation and other manifestations of pure evil. Throw in some really good parodies and a switchblade-wielding bunny and you have a comic that manages to mix epic storylines with some really funny moments. In other words this comic is nifty.

21. Chaminou & Le Khrompire (by: Raymond Macherot)

'Chaminou & Le Khrompire succesfully combines elements from Macherot's other funny animal comic 'Chlorophylle' with spy-stories á la James Bond. The comic takes place in Zooland, the kingdom of animals where eating meat is strictly forbidden. However, there are those that don't want to obey this law, one of them is the vicious leopard known as 'The Khrompire' (the zoolandian word for vampire) whom is used as a pawn by Zooland's corrupt governor in order to establish a new and more carnivore-friendly world-order. The only one who can prevent this catastrophe is Chaminou, a cat who also happens to be one of the king of Zooland's secret agents.

'Chaminou & Le Khrompire' is a great hommage to/parody on the 'James Bond' movies (which were new when Macherot made his comic). The hero drives a fancy sportscar that is instantly wrecked in the beginning of the comic, smokes like a chimney and raises his right eyebrow when something out of the ordinary happens. The villain, of course, has a secret base complete with a shark-infested pool. 'Chaminou & Le Khrompire' may not be as good as 'Chlorophylle' another one of Macherot's funny-animal comics but it remains a great read nonetheless.

20. Preacher: Until the end of the world (by: Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon)

'Preacher' the controversial comic about Jesse Custer, a Texas-priest who has been possessed by a powerful enity known as Genesis and now travels America with his gun-toting girlfriend and an irish vampire in search of god reached it's peak with the second volume in the series: 'Until the end of the world'. This volume introduced us to Jesse's ever so evil grand-mother and her cohorts Jody and TC as well as the evil organisation called 'The Grail' and one of it's highest-ranked agents: A completely insane german named Starr (It's Herr Starr to you!) whom ends up receiving quite a nasty surprise thanks to one of his henchmen's inexperience when it comes to dealing with prostitutes.

If I could summarize 'Preacher' in a few words I would describe it as: Gross, violent, quite intelligent and always funny and while the later volumes aren't as great as the first ones they're still worth picking up.

19. Asterix chez les Bretons (by: Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo)

'Asterix' was the comic that got me interested in history in the first place and while it's presentation of the Roman empire isn't the most accurate (but I didn't know that then) the comic still taught me what Paris was called in the year 50 B.C. and what the phrase "Alea jacta est" meant so cudos to 'Asterix' for that. The real strenght of 'Asterix chez les Bretons' (and frankly, all the books in the series) is it's humor. Rene Goscinny who wrote the adventures of the heroic gauls was a comedic genius and his take on british clichés never fail to put a smile on my face.

18. Lucky Luke: Les Dalton dans le blizzard (by: Rene Goscinny & Morris)

Another comic written by monsieur Goscinny was the 'Lucky Luke' series about a lonesome cowboy and his surprisingly intelligent horse. The comic was created by Maurice de Bevere under the pseudonym Morris and Goscinny helped writing the plot to many of the 'Lucky Luke' albums, for example the one I've chosed to include on my list: 'Les Dalton dans le blizzard'.

The nefarious Dalton brothers have once again escaped from prison and decide to hide out in Canada since they haven't commited any crime there and thus can't be arrested. When the brothers learn that they will only have to deal with one 'measly' Mountie they go on a crime-spree throughout the country. The brothers soon learn however that the Montie is not someone to be trifled with and of course, Lucky Luke is hot on their trail.

This is a very funny comic and much of it's humor comes from the Dalton brothers, they are malicious but so amusing that you can't help liking them and 'le blizzard' is propably the best 'Lucky Luke' featuring the wily gang.

17. Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge (by: Carl Barks)

Carl Barks is propably the most famous of all Disney comic-book artists. It was Barks that tranformed Donald Duck from the simple-minded hot-head of the cartoons into a complex and varied character that felt as real as any actual human being. Barks surrounded Donald and his nephews with heaps of new characters such as Gladstone Gander, Mr. Jones the neighbor, the Beagle Boys, Magica DeSpell, Flintheart Glomgold and last but not least Scrooge McDuck. The latter would replace Donald as the main-character in the long adventures Barks sent his ducks out on in the 50's. All of Bark's 'duck' comics from that time and onward are pure classics and deserve a place on any best comics list.

16. Assar (by: Ulf Lundkvist)

If I had to chose one swedish comic it would be 'Assar', the on-going saga about a hot-dog (sic) that escapes from the vendor and ends up in a remote society called Nollberga ('Zero Mountains') where everything can happen. Like The Spirit, Assar is often reduced to the role of an observer while Lunkdvist focuses on more colorful characters like the villainous Razor (more evil than Lex Luthor) and the clichéd mad scientist Baron Bosse (whom naturally has a german accent). To this day, 'Nollberga' with it's odd characters remains one of my favorite places not only in comics but in all of fiction.

15. Iznogoud (by: Rene Goscinny & Jean Tabary)

This is my favorite comic written by Goscinny, it takes place in Bagdad during the medieval ages and stars the evil grand-vizier Iznogoud who has only one goal in life: To become caliph instead of the caliph!

In order to reach his lofty goal Iznogoud, aided by his faithful assistant Dilat Larath (called Waat a Laaf in the english translation) tries everything, including a dangerous poison that's actually ordinary toothpaste, time-machines and amulets that make ones dreams come true. Fortunately all of Iznogoud's schemes have a tendency to backfire somehow, mostly due to bad luck.

Like the other comics Goscinny wrote, 'Iznogoud' is at best hilariously funny, the fact that the villain of the comic is the main character is also something I enjoy since I have a weakness for the bad guys.

14. Gaston LaGaffe (by: André Franquin)

Still the funniest humor comic I've read, 'Gaston LaGaffe' was a spinoff of 'Spirou & Fantasio, the comic which made Franquin famous'. Originally, the main character, Gaston was a minor character in Spirou's adventures but he soon became the star of his own comic, in the first episodes it's actually Fantasio who gets the ungrateful task of being Gaston's boss at the office of the editor 'Dupuis' where they both work.

I say ungrateful because Gaston, despite being one of the kindest guys you'd ever know is (to put it mildly) a walking catastrophe. He spends most of his time in the office not working but instead either feeding his animals; a blackheaded gull and a cat or working on one of his inventions. Gaston is also very musical and one of the re-curring gags in the comic is his own self-made instrument, a huge monstrosity which when played on causes the office walls to crumble.

Needless to say, whenever I read a 'Gaston' album I can't help laughing (or smiling) at the guy's antics while I feel grateful that I don't have him as a co-worker.

13. Les Aventures extraordinaires d'Adéle Blanc-Sec: Le Demon de la Tour-Eiffel (by: Jacques Tardi)

I don't think any comic has a more correct title than 'The Extraordinary adventures of Adéle Blanc-Sec'. This, Tardi's most famous work features a young woman named Adéle who has various adventures in Paris before, during and after WW1. The adventures involve mad scientists, living pterodactyls, assyrian demons and living mummies among other things. Adéle herself is a grim cynical who doesn't hesitate to break the law if it suits her needs.
Even if Tardi seems to have lost interest in his heroine in later years (the last 'Adéle' book came out eight years ago) the early episodes about her adventures are some of the best comics influenced by old 20th horror stories I've read. Particularly outstanding is 'The Demon of The Eiffel-Tower' in which a mysterious cult tries to destroy Paris from the top of it's most famous landmark. If you liked Moore & O'Neill's 'The Leauge of Extraordinary Gentlemen' I'd strongly advise you to pick up 'Adéle Blanc-Sec' as well.

12. La Nef des fous: Eauxfolles (by: Turf)

'La Nef' (The Nave) is the strange world created by the pseudonym Turf, it's a place populated by all sort of odd people and creatures. A grand part of the first book, my personal favorite takes place in the palace of king Clement XVI a benevolent monarch who goes around dressed only in a red-striped pajama (hey, he's the king, he can dress however he want). There's also the king's scheming wife, his daughter who has falled heads over heel for the court-jester and last but not least Ambroise, the prime-minister who dreams of taking over the kingdom for himself (in short he wants to be caliph instead of the caliph).

While all this makes for a drama of Shakespearian proportions, Turf still weaves elements of humor into his story, some of them are pretty obvious like the carnivorous smurfs, others are more subtle, for example the revolutionaries led by Ambroise wear the logo of Delcourt, the company which publishes 'La Nef des fous' in France. Did I mention the dream-scenes by the way? No? Then I'd better do that because they're something of the most endearingly psychedelic 'dreams' since those featured in Hergé's 'Tintin'.

11. Donjon Zenith: La Princesse des barbares (by: Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim)


'Donjon' (translated into english as 'Dungeon' by NBM) is the result of a co-operation between two of the most influential of the younger generation of french cartoonists: Sfar & Trondheim. The main series called 'Zenith' is basically a parody of the fantasy-genre while the other series 'Potron-Minet' ('Dungeon: Early Years') and 'Crepuscule' ('Twilight') are considerably darker and more epic.

The main characters in 'Zenith' are Herbert the duck and Marvin the dragon, they both work for The Keeper, an old bird with a keen sense business-sense. The Keeper is the owner of The Dungeon, which, attracts heroes from all over the world. The heroes are, of course, slayed by the monsters that inhabits the bowels of the dungeon and The Keeper's employees take care of the fallen heroes stuff.

The third 'Zenith' album is pretty much my favorite, thanks to the intrigue which is quite good and has some thrilling moments among all the jokes. It also introduces Isis, the titular 'Barbarian Princess', one of the most independent and charismatic female characters I've seen in a comic.

10. Watchmen (by: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons)

The charming fellow in the picture is called Rorschach and he is one of the protagonists in Moore & Gibbon's masterpiece 'Watchmen'. Despite the hype that has surrounded it since it was released 'Watchmen' is actually an excellent graphic novel well worth the praise it has gotten. The story begins with two detectives investigating the murder of ex-superhero Comedian, one of few masked vigilants who operated with permission from the law. You see, in the world of 'Watchmen' superheroes have been declared illegal due to a police-strike and only two of them; Comedian and Dr. Manhattan (the only superhero with actual powers) are permitted by the government to continue their crusade.

The Heroes in 'Watchmen' are all more human than for example Superman, some of them are well-balanced human beings wrestling with your average day-to-day problems others are violent madmen and Moore makes us feel for both kinds. The fact that Rorschach, one of the most cold-blooded killers in comics manage to gain the readers sympathies should be proof of how well-written 'Watchmen' is.

9. Blake & Mortimer: L'Affaire Francis Blake (by: Jean Van-Hamme & Ted Benoit)

It's not an easy task to continue a comic which is so strongly associated with it's creator as 'Blake & Mortimer' and yet the team Van-Hamme & Benoit managed to pull it off exceptionally well. 'L'Affaire Francis Blake' is basically an ordinary spy story in which Blake, one of the main characters of the series and the head of MI5 is accused of treason and forced to escape. Blake's best friend, professor Philip Mortimer decides to find Blake before the British government does while Blake is set on clearing his name and find the real traitor.

Despite not having any of the Sci-Fi elements the comic has become famous for 'L'Affaire Francis Blake' still manage to capture the spirit of the duo's creator Jacobs. Certainly not a groundbreaking comic but one of my absolute favorites nonetheless.

8. Lefranc: Le Mystere Borg (by: Jacques Martin)

While the historical comic 'Alix' is Martin's most famous work I've always had a weakness for 'Lefranc' particularly the first three albums which seem inspired by 'Blake & Mortimer' with it's mix of detective-stories and Sci-Fi. While the plot in 'Le Mystere Borg' won't win any awards for originality it's very well-written with it's deadly super-viruses and classy villain Axel Borg who could be taken straight out from one of the best 'James Bond' movies. 'L'Ouragan de feu' ('The Firestorm') is another excellent 'Lefranc' but 'Le Mystere Borg' is the one I prefer.

7. La Quete de l'oiseau du temps (by: Regis Loisel & Serge Le Tendre)

'The Quest for the timebird' stands out as one of the greatest work in the fantasy genre I've ever encountered. This four-part saga proves that your comic don't have to go on for hundreds of issues in order to provide the reader with a really epic 'end of the world' tale. 'The Quest' is the story of Bragon, once the greatest knight on the planet Akbar, a girl called Pelisse who Bragon believes to be his daughter and their quest to find the legendary timebird in order to save Akbar from the imminent threat of Ramor, the demon-god who is about to break his bounds and wreak havoc on the world once again.

While reading this 'The Quest' may seem like traditional fantasy stuff but Le Tendre & Loisel managed to create a comic full of original characters and people (there are no elves or dwarves on Akbar). There are some humorous moments among all the serious ones and in the end the reader is treated to a genial plot twist and one of the greatest endings I've seen.

6. De Cape et de Crocs: Pavillon noir (by: Alain Ayroles & Jean-Luc Masbou

'De Cape et de Crocs' ( 'The Cape and the Jaws' if I'm not mistaken) is a mix of historical comic and fantasy which takes place in an alternative 15th Century world where humans and antropomorfical animals co-exists. The main-characters are a French fox, a Spanish wolf, a Turkish human pirate and a rabbit whom are all looking for the fabulous treasure of 'The Tangerine Isles'. In their way are pirates, sea-monsters and the nefarious captain Mendoza, one of the most evil blackguards ever to appear in a comic.

While it has a captivating story, 'De Cape et de Crocs' greatest strenght lies in it's four main characters, all of them more charismatic and likeable than many other heroes.

5. Tintin: L'Affaire Tournesol (by: Hergé)

Come on, who has never heard about 'Tintin', the most famous european comic of all time? It was created by Georges Remi under the pseudonym Hergé and while the first three adventures of the young reporter and his faithful dog Milou (or Snowy in the english translation) wasn't something to write home about Hergé soon learned to master his craft.

The greatest 'Tintin' book if you ask me is undoubtedly 'L'Affaire Tournesol' ('The Calculus Affair') a document of the cold war in which Professor Tournesol (Calculus) has invented a weapon that uses soundwaves to destroy for exampel glassware at a long distance. Naturally this attracts the curiosity of the rivaling countries Syldavia and Borduria that both wants to get their hands on the professor and his inventions to use it for evil purposes (or at least the Bordurians wants to do that, I'm not sure about the Syldavians).

When Tournesol is kidnapped Tintin and captain Haddock isn't late to follow him, it's the beginning of a great chase in which an annoying insurance-salesman, a crazy driver and an Italian professor named Topolino (Mickey Mouse) all play important roles.

4. Spirou: Z comme Zorglub (by: André Franquin & Greg)

The 'Spirou' comic reached it's height when André Franquin took it over from the previous artist Jijé (what is it with french/belgian cartoonists using pseudonyms?). Franquin surrounded the main characters Spirou and Fantasio with a huge cast of characters such as the friendly scientist the Count of Champignac, Fantasio's evil cousin Zantafio and last but not least The Marsupilami; a wonderful character that was butchered by 'Disney'.

Franquin also had help from various authors and the one he co-operated the best with was Greg. Their partnership resulted in some truly fantastic stories for example 'Z comme Zorglub' ('Z is for Zorglub') which introduced us to Zorglub, the megalomaniac but sympathetic mad scientist and his attempts to take over the world.

This was one of the earliest comic albums I remember reading and mostly everything about it blew me away. Laih Bulgroz! (Hail Zorglub!)

3. Mickey Mouse (by: Floyd Gottfredson)

Carl Barks may be the most famous 'Disney' artist but none of them beat Floyd Gottfredson that drew the 'Mickey Mouse' comic strip from 1930-1976 when it comes to great artwork and stories. Under Gottfredson's pen Mickey turned into an eager adventurer who searched for lost treasures, battled the Nazi's during WWII and encountered sinister villains like prof. Triplex, Dr. Vulter, Sylvester Shyster and The Phantom Blot.

One of the best things about the comic strip was how Gottfredson treated Mickey as an actual human being with numerous flaws, in fact no cartoonist before or later has managed to make Mickey so sympathetic as he was under Gottfredson's pen.

2. Chlorophylle: La Revanche d'Anthracite (by: Raymond Macherot)

Of all the funny animal comics I've read none come close to Macherot's 'Chlorophylle', this seemingly innocent comic featuring a cute mouse in the main role was actually pretty dark and didn't hide things like warfare and coup d'etats from it's readers.

A coup d'etat is the subject of 'Anthracite's revenge' one of the albums that took place in 'Coquefredouille', another of Macherot's animal kingdoms but more charming than Zooland. In the beginning of the story, Anthracite, the public enemy number one escapes from prison and manages to steal the newly developed Z-Bomb. With the help of this terrible weapon, Anthracite forces the king to make him the new chief of police. Soon the whole country lives in fear under Anthracite's reign of terror, only Chlorophylle and a small group of freedom fighters has the courage to fight on, but the battle isn't easy and the heroes must use all their cunning if they shall have even the smallest chance of winning.

Like many of Macherot's stories, 'Anthracite's revenge' has it's fair share of sarcasms and cynisisms. Anthracite himself is wonderfully morbid yet funny and his escape is wonderful. It's hard for me to think of a comic that tops 'Chlorophylle' but there is one, and I can see that it's heading our way.

Are you ready? Good, cause here it comes; my favorite comic.....

1. Blake & Mortimer: Le Secret de L''Espadon (by: Edgar P. Jacobs)

When I began writing this article I already knew that I would put one of Jacobs's classic 'Blake & Mortimer' comics at the top. The question was, which one? After all I love all of them but in the end I went with 'The Secret of The Swordfish' due to the fact that I enjoy long, epic stories and you hardly get more epic than this one.

'The Secret of The Swordfish' begins in 1946 (the same year Jacobs began drawing the comic) in the heart of Tibet. The country has been taken over by the 'Yellow Emperor' (I know! I know!) Basam Damdu and his advisor colonel Olrik. Like every megalomanical warlord, Basam Damdu is not content with ruling just one country, oh no, he wants to dominate the world and launches a surprise-attack which leaves most of the world's capitals utterly destroyed.

Now, the world has only one hope to regain it's lost freedom: 'The Swordfish' a combined submarine/airplane developed by professor Philip Mortimer. This ultimate weapon could easily thwart Basam Damdu's plans if it were finished. However, colonel Olrik who is a pretty smart villain attacks the base in which Mortimer was working on his pet-project, forcing the professor and his friend captain Blake to escape with the plans to 'The Swordfish' in order to avoid having them fall into the hands of the empire.

What can I say except that this is one of the greatest sagas ever told. Sure, Jacob's stories would get more sophisticated but none of them comes close to the intensity and cinematic feeling of 'The Secret of The Swordfish'. This is one comic I would love to see at the movies, yeah it will propably never happen but a guy can dream, right?

Well, that's all folks, I hope that you enjoyed my article and that I've somehow managed to make you interested in the comics I've mentioned.

Keep in mind though that this is not an ultimate 'best comics list' since ther're many comics that I haven't read. The ones I've presented are simply the best I've read so far.
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