Matt Seneca, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Greatest Comic of All Time | Arsene Schrauwen #1

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention tables of the world, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Arsene Schrauwen #1 (of 3), by Olivier Schrauwen.  2012.  Self-published; printed by Zaadmat.

Best single image: 

A study in contrasts, like this whole comic: a complex composition drawn in a bone simple style, the most banal of subject matter given the most elegant of treatments.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Batman

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention tables of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Batman, by Josh Simmons.  Dated 2006-’07.  Self-published.

Best single image:

Hard to argue with this comic’s screenprinted cover drawing, actually…

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Nick Fury, Agent of … S.H.I.E.L.D. #2

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention tables of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Nick Fury, Agent of… S.H.I.E.L.D. #2, by Jim Steranko.  Cover-dated July 1968.  Published by Olympia Publications, Inc./Marvel Comics Group.

Best single drawing:

This composition never made it into the pantheon of iconic Jim Steranko centerfold images, but let’s see if we can’t rectify that oversight here, shall we?  Ask me, this might be the best image of one of comics’ foremost image-makers’ career.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Light Comitragies

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention tables of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Light Comitragies, by Greg Irons with an art assist by Sheridan Irons and prose excerpts by Tom Veitch.  Cover-dated 1971.  Published by Print Mint; a What’s So Funnies production in cooperation with the Overland Vegetable Stagecoach and T.V. Enterprises, Ltd.

How acquired: Every used bookshop in the East San Francisco Bay Area worth its salt has at least one big box of old underground comics sitting atop a pile of cat hair off in some dusty and neglected corner.  A few decades back there was a minute where the world’s most aggressively different comics were all created, printed, and distributed in Oakland and Berkeley and S.F., the big difference between then and now being that in those days the best regional alternative comics got print runs in the hundreds of thousands or even millions, and today they’ll maybe top a hundred copies if you’re real lucky.  A century from now you’ll still be able to get cheap underground comics in the Bay Area.  They left a mark on their birthplace the like of which few comics — hell, few arts scenes in general — have ever been able to.  I grabbed this one out of the back of the dilapidated box in the secondhand store down the street from the house where I grew up.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Wayward Girls (Slechte Meisjes) #1

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention tables of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Wayward Girls (Slechte Meisjes) #1, by Michiel Budel.  Cover-dated 2012.  Published by Secret Acres.

How acquired:  Skimmed off the top of a box of books the fine folks at Secret Acres hand-delivered to the comic shop I work at last month.  Sometimes the perfect comic comes to you in the perfect way.

Suggested soundtrack to this comic: Here

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Daredevil #220

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Daredevil #220, composed and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Christie Scheele, scripted by Denny O’Neil, with unspecified assistance by Frank Miller.  Cover-dated July 1985.  Published by Marvel Comics Group.

How acquired: In a back-issue sale at the worst/best comic book shop in the Los Angeles area.  You know the type of place: dust everywhere, smell of Indian food, way too hot, full boxes of X-Force #1 from the early ’90s blocking the shelves in the back.  The type of place where when they have a half-off bin blowout you can grab all the David Mazzucchelli Daredevil issues for a flat fee, and get them to let the ones that aren’t in the bins (like this one) go for half price too, provided you’re willing to sell them your heavily dented copy of Absolute Watchmen.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Chimera

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Chimera, by Frank Santoro.  Cover-dated Summer 2005.  Published by Picturebox Inc.

How acquired:  The best way you can get a comic — across the table from the person who made it.  Specifically, Frank brought a few copies of Chimera along to his similarly classical art/Greek myths-themed painting show New Values in Los Angeles a few winters back.  “These are already starting to look a little different,” he said as he handed one over to me.  Even five years and change on, the newsprint broadsheets the comic is printed on were turning brown and brittle, its searing yellow and pink tones bleeding through the pages onto one another.  This is a comic whose individual panels and single drawings are constantly in the process of losing their identities as separate from what surrounds them, a whole whose parts are engaged in losing themselves.  Which, as we’ll see, is perfect.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Paradax! Remix

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Paradax! Remix, drawn by Brendan McCarthy, colored by Frankie Stein and McCarthy, scripted by Peter Milligan.  Cover-dated August 1987.  Published by Vortex Comics.

How acquired: As a major proponent of old-school analog back issue hunting, it pains me to admit that everything leading to my ownership of this comic happened online.  Brendan McCarthy is one of a very few great cartoonists whose complete works can be feasibly tracked down by normal dudes with rent to make and girlfriends’ acting classes to pay for, and having decided to become one such dude, I used the unofficial guide that can be pieced together from this Comics Comics Magazine comments thread as a road map for a shopping spree at an online back issue retailer.  Two weeks later a box of McCarthy comics, including this one, showed up.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Obsolete

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…

Obsolete, by Mikkel Sommer.  Cover dated 2011.  Published by Nobrow Ltd.

How acquired:  Straight from the box before it went on sale at the comic shop, just like all the good ones from the past half-decade.

Best single drawing: 

Pretty much every drawing in this thing is perfect, and there are a few that could have taken the top spot but for their inclusion of story material that’s best experienced firsthand — so I’m going with this one, which contains both a head-smackingly intuitive use of sound effects and a great bit of portraiture.  Determination in the face of sorrow.  Check out how every last detail is described with a completely uniform line weight.  Good stuff.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Zen Intergalactic Ninja: Tour of the Universe Special

The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and swap meet hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unremembered crags and pockets of publishing history…

Zen Intergalactic Ninja: Tour of the Universe Special – The Airbrush Art of Dan Cote, by Dan Cote with an introduction by Steve Stern.  Cover dated 1995.  Published by Entity Comics/Express Publications.

How acquired: A flash of shiny pink and silver caught my eye midway through a box of “special stuff” at the legendary, trash-strewn, dust-encrusted, Indian food-smelling SuperSecret Comics Warehouse in Brooklyn.  The pink was the comic’s own holographic foil cardstock cover (I love ’90s comics), but the silver was a faded glint of metallic Sharpie tracings.  Yes, folks, this is a signed copy — albeit one signed by the dude who wrote the comic’s introduction, with ink that’s made more moves toward fading off than staying on since.  This thing smells like Sharpie too, so overwhelmingly that I have to hold it at arms’ length when I read it — probably the result of the no doubt extremely hazardous chemicals used to produce such a shiny cover.  Which, as you’ll come to understand, is perfect.

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Greatest Comic of All Time | Thor #160

Welcome to Greatest Comic of All Time, a new weekly column spotlighting great comic books that don’t appear on the bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves.  They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and swap meet hawkers of America, living like the comics medium itself in the unremembered crags and pockets of publishing history.  It is a testament to the form’s strength that overlooked and forgotten work as potent as the celebrated masterpieces exists, and it is a testament to comics’ true devotees that these diamonds still emerge from the rough to shine once more for those who seek them out.

Thor #160, composed and illustrated by Jack Kirby, inked by Vince Colletta, dialogued by Stan Lee.  Cover-dated January 1969.  Published by Marvel Comics/Perfect Film & Chemical Corporation.

How acquired:  Thrown in on top of a box of late-’80s/early ’90s superhero comics given to me by a guy who worked at an iron furnace company whose building I used to hang around. “This one’s actually good,” is the quote I remember.

Best single drawing:

Full effect.

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Your Wednesday Sequence 47 | George Herriman

Krazy Kat, April 4th 1937.  George Herriman.

George Herriman has spent the better part of a century as the pick of those who know for greatest cartoonist of all time.  And yet his masterpiece, Krazy Kat, is a much less striking thing than work by so many others in the pantheon of immortal comics makers.  It doesn’t bowl the reader over visually like McCay or Moebius, and it doesn’t grip and not let go like Mignola or Kirby.  One doesn’t marvel at its intricacy of structure like one does with Ware, or feel dizzied by its singularity of vision as in PanterKrazy Kat is not a comic of surface effect, and Herriman did not intend it to be so.  Rather than stretching a dazzling skin over his creations, he left them open — full of empty space, available for differing interpretations — and simply put forth content.

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Your Wednesday Sequence 46 | Chris Ware

ACME Novelty Library #1 (1993), page 28.  Chris Ware.

Chris Ware is one of a very few artists working in comics — honestly, a very few ever to have worked in comics — to have developed a completely unique visual style.  We can look at anything Ware draws and know it’s him by the precision of his meticulous, even lines, the muted but expressive color palette, the simplification of forms that manages to seem both naturalistic and artificial.  Any single Ware  drawing codes for an entire way of making comics, a language the artist has created for himself from the raw material of panels and balloons.

Which makes it all the more interesting to see work by Ware done in different styles.  The experience of reading a comic hammers the style the artist uses into our heads so relentlessly — the goal, after all, is that you fully believe their particular system of shapes and colors represents objective reality — and it can be easy to forget anyone can draw in a different style than we’ve seen on their most recent pages.  With Ware especially, the world drawn is so rich, so much more varied in what it presents than almost anywhere else in comics, that seeing him do something outside his usual mode is almost a visceral shock.

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Your Wednesday Sequence 45 | Hugo Pratt

Corto Maltese in Africa (1978), page 51.  Hugo Pratt.

American action cartooning has Jack Kirby, the Japanese have Tezuka, France has Herge — and in Italy, there is Hugo Pratt.  Like all the truly great cartoonists, Pratt picked up his country’s comics tradition and moved its trajectory into line with that of his own work: the epic historical adventures contained in his Corto Maltese saga provided a stylistic blueprint Italian cartoonists would draw on or react against for decades after the series began appearing, and Pratt has provided inspiration for comics artists around the world — Paul Pope is an avowed devotee, Eddie Campbell and Mike Mignola picked up more than a few lessons, and hey, does anybody remember the name of the contested island that provides Frank Miller’s Dark Knight with its nuclear conclusion?  It seems bizarrely fitting that in the week Moebius passes on, the English-speaking world should be reintroduced to late 20th-century Europe’s other foundational cartoonist via a new series of Corto translations.

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Your Wednesday Sequence 44 | Kyle Baker

Truth #2 (2003), page 12 panels 1-4.  Kyle Baker.

When you boil it down to the core, action comics is basically an artist manipulating a set of stock poses.  The writing can invent different reasons for conflict to come about and layer significance into it as it’s happening.  Different page construction tools — both layout and in-panel composition — control the ebb and flow of what we’re reading, making each impact feel a little different and each action taken pop out as unique.  Even if we’ve all read thousands of panels in which someone gets punched, each one is the only one that shows it happening a certain way.  Finally, the stylism a cartoonist blankets their drawing with is as much a part of any piece of comics as the content — even if an artist copies another’s page panel for panel, the mannerisms that are an unavoidable byproduct of the act of drawing ensures that the result will be something significantly different.

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