Opus Sixteen:

1. Top One Hundred Print Cartoon Creations of the Century (12/29)

1. Top One Hundred Print Cartoon Creations of the Century.
Impossible, of course. But everyone's doing it. Making up lists of
one hundred of all manner of things. It's a game of the season.
It's a way of celebrating the end of the century. There are other
ways. But this is the way lots of folks are doing their celebrating.
Some are doing it with a thousand things instead of a hundred
because it's also the end of the millennium, in case you hadn't
noticed. I don't know that you could avoid noticing. The racks of
tabloid newspapers at the check-out stand in the grocery stores
scream the significance of the millennium at you: it's the end of the
world, we are assured.
     The last days are upon us. The signs and portents lay before
us--pestilence and chaos on every hand. Crime and violence in the
streets, mysterious new killer viruses on the loose, radically
changing weather patterns, earthquakes, floods, famines, destruction
and death and terrorism everywhere. If that's not a portent, I
wouldn't know one when I see one.
     It's pretty unsettling, let me tell you. I don't know if I can go
through this every thousand years.
     One of the most intriguing millennium lists is the one that makes up
the book 1,000 Years, 1,000 People. Agnes Hooper Gottlieb, Henry
Gottlieb, Barbara Bowers, and Brent Bowers undertook to rank order
the one thousand men and women who did the most to shape the past one
thousand years.
     Their method is admirable in theory even if tedious in execution.
Using a Biograph System, they awarded candidates points in each of
five categories: lasting influence, effect on the sum total of wisdom
and beauty in the world, influence upon contemporaries, singularity
of contribution, and charisma. You could award as many as 10,000
points in the first category; 2,000 in the last.
     The highest possible score is 24,000, but the first ranking
personage had only 21,768 points. That was Johannes Gutenberg, who
invented the printing press and movable type in the 1430s. He toted
up a pretty good number of points in every category except
"charisma," where he got only 210 points out of the 2,000 possible.
How did our quartet of authors know Gutenberg was an old stick in the
mud? Dunno.
     Katherine Hepburn made the list. Ditto Captain Kidd and Coco
Chanel. Andy Warhol is ranked 1,000 as a gesture of poetic justice:
so at last he'll be famous for more than fifteen minutes.
     Lady Godiva didn't make the list, though. Neither did Amerigo
Vaspucci, Pocahontas, or Ronald Reagan. Or, alas, Cal Ripken, Jr.
     In picking the top one hundred works of comic art in the last
century, my criteria aren't as mathematically pure as Gottlieb and
Bowers'. In fact, my method is simplicity itself. The criteria?
Just works of genius, that's all. Works of one kind of genius or
     Some are pace-setting (Terry, The Far Side, Peanuts), showing others
the way. Some are simply unique exploitations of the medium by
masters (Betsy and Me, Popeye, Gordo, Alley Oop). Others are works
of a cartoonist whose influence was wider than is represented by a
specific work; so these works (Scrooge McDuck, Dark Knight Returns,
The Spirit) are merely touchstones representing that cartoonist's
pervasive impact upon the profession and the craft. And often I
mixed up both these criteria and myself.
     In citing long-running works like the comic strips Terry or Peanuts,
I often give the dates of the period when the work was most
influential or at its peak. Here we go.

100. Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers by Gilbert Shelton; flagship
creation of the underground by one of the medium's founders.

99. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; a vivid demonstration of
the medium's capacity for serious, non-narrative discourse.

98. Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai; a superior example of non-superhero
comics storytelling in both picture and words.

97. Zippy by Bill Griffith; an underground creation that crossed-over
successfully to syndication, proving that unconventional cartooning
can survive in the mainstream.

96. Betsy and Me by Jack Cole; an innovative comic strip in both
graphic style and narrative technique, the third of Cole's masterful
achievements in the medium.

95. Greeting cards by Sandra Boyton; a blend of words and pictures in
a wholly novel (and highly comical) manner.

94. Suburban Heights (et al) by Gluyas Williams; a sustained example
of Williams' pristine black-and-white style.

93. David Levine's caricatures in New York Review of Books, revived
the art of pure caricature in this country.

92. Katzenjammer Kids by Rudolph Dirks; set the pace for the medium
in the closing years of the 19th century by deploying both words (in
balloons) and pictures to tell its stories. And it's still running
today, the longest-lived American comic strip ever.

91. Mort Drucker's caricatures in Mad parodies; a stunningly accurate
"portrait" painter.

90. Mutt and Jeff by Bud Fisher (1907-1930); the first daily "strip"
established the form by running across the page instead of in a box
somewhere on the page.

89. Felix the Cat by Otto Messmer; a visually inventive creation,
Felix was the first super star of animation.

88. Bootsie by Ollie Harrington; a social protest series of panel
cartoons by a passionate master.

87. Brenda Starr by Dale Messick; a role model in the funnies by a
role model at the drawingboard, the first nationally recognized
syndicated female cartoonist (although not "the first syndicated
female cartoonist").

86. The Lonely Ones by William Steig; shows how cartooning can step
beyond laughter into philosophical satire.

85. Gasoline Alley by Frank King (1918-1946); the characters aged,
year by year, and also set the pace for homespun narrative in small
town American when small town America was vanishing apace.

84. Barney Google (July 17, 1922 until DeBeck's death in 1942); one
of the first comic strips to extend itself beyond the funnies pages
into popular culture at large, inspiring a popular song ("Barney
Google with his goo-goo googly eyes") and coining a host of
expressions ("sweet mama," "balls afire," "time's a-wastin',"
etc.--mostly from the hillbillies).

83. Little Annie Fanny by Harvey Kurtzman & Will Elder; the most
luxurious full-color comic strip in print for the first 10-15 years
of its run in Playboy.

82. Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller; revitalized superheroicism
in comic books by treating the superhero "realistically" as a flawed
human being rather than an icon.

81. Maus by Art Spiegelman; the first serious narrative in the medium
to earn public recognition via a Pulitzer Prize.

80. For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston; a comic strip with
heart and humanity, setting an example for the medium.

79. Rose Is Rose by Pat Brady; one of the few imaginative
visualizations yoking word and picture in newspaper comics.

78. Dennis the Menace by Hank Ketcham; a stylistic triumph in

77. Caspar Milquetoast by H. T. Webster; one of the first comic strip
celebrities to have his name seep into popular culture.

76. Magazine cartoons by Tom Henderson (1950s); visual-verbal
blending of the first order.

75. Joe Palooka by Ham Fisher (c. 1935-1950); one of the most popular
comic strips in the medium's history, the strip's hero was a role
model for young Americans.

74. Professor Lucifer G. Butt's Inventions by Rube Goldberg; another
cartoonist who infiltrated popular culture, giving his name in the
dictionary to any mechanical device that seems more complicated in
operation than the task it is intended to perform.

73. The Far Side by Gary Larson; set the pace for bizarre humor in
the last decades of the century.

72. Harem girl cartoons by E. Sims Campbell; a place-holder for the
cartoonist who designed Esky, the goggle-eyed mascot for Esquire
magazine, and who devised the comedy for most of the magazine's
cartoons in the early years.

71. Political cartoons by Rollin Kirby; the first winner of a
Pulitzer for editorial cartooning, Kirby invented the notorious Mr.
Dry, a funereal symbol of Prohibition in the twenties.

70. The Gumps by Sidney Smith; established the continuing story mode
for daily comic strips, making suspense a vital ingredient on the
comics pages.

69. Bringing Up Father by George McManus; by the 1940s, Jiggs and
Maggie were probably the most famous comic strip characters in the
world--and they were elegantly rendered, too, by a master.

68. New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams established the macabre in
cartoon humor.

67. Male Call by Milton Caniff; the most widely circulated comic
strip in history (about 4,000 base and unit newspapers during World
War II), it featured the curvaceous Miss Lace, a daringly risque
departure in comic strippery but justified considering the exclusive
audience--soldiers and sailors in wartime, who, Caniff said, needed
to be reminded of what they were fighting for.

66. He Done Her Wrong by Milt Gross; a graphic novel without words, a
tour de force.

65. Betty, Veronica, and My Friend Irma by Dan DeCarlo (1950s);
established a style for rendering cute but sexy women.

64. Gordo by Gus Arriola (c. 1955 on); a beautifully designed strip
that also deliberately acquainted its readers with the customs,
language, and folkart of Mexico.

63. Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett (c.1925-1950); another
triumph in graphic design.

62. Little Lulu comic books by John Stanley; captured the aura of
childhood like no one else except, maybe--

61. Capp Stubbs and Tippie by Edwina Dumm; the first lady of
cartooning (who was doing editorial cartoons for a daily newspaper
before women could vote), Edwina defied logic again by producing the
epitome of a boy strip for over 40 years.

60. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson; captures the child within us
all but with an adult perspective.

59. Editorial cartoons by Jeff MacNelly (c. 1970-1990); the
pace-setter in editorial cartooning for the last quarter of the

58. Boys' Ranch comic books by Jack Kirby (mostly) and Joe Simon; the
apogee of the team's achievement in visuals and thematic narrative.

57. Skippy by Percy Crosby; the classic roughneck boy down the block,
Skippy was, by turns, philosophical and petulant, but he was always a
graphic delight, Crosby's sketchy renderings capturing youthful
energy like no one else (not even Edwina).

56. Sad Sack by George Baker (1942-1946); everyone's low man on the
totem, the Sad Sack was the quintessential put-upon dogface soldier
of World War II.

55. Gasoline Alley by Dick Moores (c. 1960-1986); in revitalizing
Frank King's classic, Moores proved that a successor can improve upon
a creator's achievement.

54. Li'l Abner by Al Capp (1934-1960); the second strip in the
"modern era" (since 1930) to have a political stance, Abner paved the
way for all political satire in the last half of the century.

53. New Yorker cartoons by George Price; unique renderings, Price's
drawings represented the dottiest of our population in the most
loving manner.

52. Masses cartoons by Art Young; exemplar of an idealistically
driven cartoonist, Young never drew a cartoon whose message he didn't
believe in passionately once he'd converted to Socialism in the early
years of the century.

51. Fox and Crow comic books by Jim Davis; the con man and his
perpetual victim were never so thoroughly explored (and exploited) as
in this title.

50. Editorial cartoons by J.N. Darling ("Ding") (c.1910-1945);
perhaps the first nationally-recognized editorial cartoonist, Ding
set the graphic fashion for his generation of the breed.

49. Bravo for Adventure by Alex Toth; a beautifully executed
expression of a cartoonist's belief in his art and in the moral
function of heroism.

48. Playboy cartoons by Jack Cole; divorcing himself from the linear
medium of comic books, Cole set the pace for all Playboy cartoonists
with his watercolor masterpieces of the mid- to late-fifties.

47. Editorial cartoons by Paul Conrad; particularly during the Nixon
administration and ensuing Watergate era, Conrad exemplified
hard-hitting, merciless metaphorical cartooning.

46. Fantastic Four comic books by Jack Kirby (mostly) and Stan Lee; a
watershed creation that sparked a revival of superhero comic books.

45. Blondie by Chic Young (until c. 1960); the ultimate in domestic
comedy for its time, Blondie was among the top five comic strips in
worldwide circulation.

44. Crimebuster stories in Boy Comics by Charles Biro and Norman
Maurer; a benchmark here for the documentary style of narration that
characterized the Lev Gleason books of the 1940s and 1950s, setting a
model for Kurtzman and others, who, later, tried for serious
storytelling in the medium.

43. Mickey Mouse (comic strip) by Floyd Gottfriedson (c.1930-c.1950);
established the character of The Mouse better than the films.

42. Dick Tracy by Chester Gould (c. 1930-1953); set the pace for
authenticity as well as violence in cops and robbers strips.

41. Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray (c. 1930-1949); exemplified
self-reliance for a Depression-racked country and was perhaps the
first nationally distributed strip to overtly assume a "political"

40. Daredevil by Frank Miller; demonstrated how a creative
intelligence can revive a faltering character in a marketplace

39. Spider-Man by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee; shifted the age group to
which superhero comic books appealed from early to late teens,
attracting a college audience.

38. EC horror comics by Al Feldstein and Jack Davis and Graham
Ingels; created a new kind of comic story with twist endings and
vivid grisly graphics.

37. EC science fiction comics by Al Feldstein and Wally Wood; another
standard established, particularly in visuals.

36. Mad parodies as drawn by Wally Wood; for cute silliness and sexy
cartoon women, unequaled.

35. Mad marginals by Sergio Aragones; masterful pantomime comic art
of seemingly endless inventiveness.

34. Batman by Bob Kane and Bill Finger; added costumed vigilantism to
the comic book canon with the second of the genre's icons.

33. Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker; helped change the direction of
newspaper comic strips by introducing magazine-style drawing.

32. Scrooge McDuck by Carl Barks; a complex and whole personality
infused into a duck and coupled to moral lessons in perfect tune with
his society.

31. Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau; turned name-dropping into political
satire, a major step for syndicated comic strips.

30. Editorial cartoons by Herblock; a hard-hitting pace-setter in the
1950s who coined the term McCarthyism.

29. Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; a creation that was
soon so popular that it spawned an entire industry.

28. EC war stories by Harvey Kurtzman; took the glamour out of war
and established a new style of comic book storytelling, too.

27. Stories in Zap Nos. 1-4 and Snatch Nos. 1-3 by Robert Crumb; the
success of these titles took underground cartoonists out of
newspapers and into comic book formats, virtually creating
underground comix.

26. Mad parodies as drawn by Will Elder (Nos. 1-23); manic visual
invention set Mad's style.

25. Sick Sick Sick by Jules Feiffer; a new approach to social
commentary in which characters reveal their flaws in endless

24. Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay; a work of graphic
genius so far ahead of its time that it was never successfully

23. Alley Oop by V. T. Hamlin (1939-1960); an absorbing combination
of legend, history, science fantasy, and, even, comedy, all held
together by the commanding presence of a taciturn cave man.

22. Willie and Joe WWII cartoons by Bill Mauldin; caught the essence
of the dogface (soldier in the trenches) for a generation.

21. Krazy Kat by George Herriman; a lyric poem to the triumph of

20. Barnaby by Crockett Johnson; more lyricism, but this time of the
high comedy kind that champions the power of imagination over

19. The Pie-face Prince of Old Pretzleburg by George Carlson; an
inimitable work of visual puns and linguistic legerdemain, wedded in
antic comedy.

18. Captain Marvel by C. C. Beck and Otto Binder; a superhero of
science fantasy that mocked the conventions of the genre, creating
comedy as well as suspense and adventure.

17. Peanuts by Charles Schulz; in visual style, comedic approach, and
sheer merchandising, the strip that so changed the face of newspaper
comics as to justify our dubbing the last forty years of the comics'
first century The Age of Schulz.

16. Tarzan by Harold Foster; in the Sunday pages particularly,
established realistic illustration as a visual standard for serious
adventure comics.

15. Cartoons in True magazine by Virgil Partch (VIP) (c. 1940-1955);
re-vitalized the single-panel magazine gag cartoon by making the
sense of the picture dependent upon understanding the caption beneath
and vice versa.

14. Cartoons in assorted 1920s publications by John Held, Jr.;
pictures that set the fashion for the Jazz Age.

13. Plastic Man by Jack Cole; apart from the novelty of an elastic
superhero, these comic books were hilarious demonstrations of the
power of sight gags to infuse a creation with a distinctive
ambiance--in short, a cartoonist's power.

12. Captain America by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon; demonstrated how to
render action sequences with such persuasive graphic power as to make
superheroes believable.

11. Mad comic book (Nos. 1-23) by Harvey Kurtzman; satire that
stripped pretense and posturing away from social institutions,
setting the style for the magazine for a generation and ripping the
rose-tinted glasses from the eyes of American Youth raised on Disney
visions of homespun rural contentment.

10. Thimble Theatre (Popeye) by E. C. Segar (1929 until Segar's death
in 1938); a work of endless comedic invention and visual genius
(Popeye's bulging forearms alone convinced us of his fistic prowess).

9. New Yorker cartoons by Peter Arno (1927-1950); embodying the
spirit of the magazine as no other New Yorker cartoonist, Arno made
his words completely dependent upon the pictures for comedic sense
(and vice versa) thereby establishing the single-speaker caption for
gag cartoons.

8. The Spirit by Will Eisner; after developing the grammar of the
comic book form in the late 1930s, Eisner went on to demonstrate how
a masked crime-fighter could provide a framework for human interest
stories with genuinely literary qualities.

7. Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond; the most vivid demonstration of the
power of stunning visuals for creating a world.

6. Wash Tubbs (and Captain Easy) by Roy Crane (c. 1928-1943); the
adventure strip that inspired and led all the others.

5. Sports cartoons by Willard Mullin; set the style for the entire

4. Theatrical caricatures by Al Hirschfeld; another who, like
Mullin, embodies an entire cartooning genre.

3. Editorial cartoons by Pat Oliphant; revolutionized the appearance
of editorial cartooning and its method by making comedy a weapon.

2. Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff (1934-1946); redefined the
adventure strip genre by practicing a chiaroscuro manner for
realistic rendering and by making character integral to his plots.

1. Pogo by Walt Kelly; at its best, this strip scaled the heights to
which the visual-verbal medium of cartooning can aspire by combining
vaudevillian comedy and caricature with satirical allegory, creating
meaning on two levels at once, each serving the purposes of the

That's my list. About which, without further adieu, I say merely:
stay 'tooned.

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