In celebration of Bloom County’s return, we count down our ten favorite comics strips
Lee Falk’s Phantom predates many other superhero debuts, and uses story tropes that would be essential to other characters later. These strips were the beginning of The Phantom’s legacy and paved the way for other colorful crime fighters
Aaron MacGruber’s political cartoons are among the the sharpest satire this side of ‘The Onion’. Detailing the misadventures of Huey Freeman and his family moving from Chicago to a White Suburb in California, the strip uses the rich well of racism and culture shock as the basis of the strip. The strip has ended and relaunched many times, some because of the controversial stories told by MacGruber, a theme that would carry over to the animated series..
What started out as a college comic strip evolved into a touchstone for the 80’s. While drawing on contemporary politics and culture, Berkeley Breathed avoided the type of specifically that might have dated his work. Instead he concentrated on the foibles of society which never seem to change much (his illegal hair growth tonic/drug war parody remains as apt as it ever was). More importantly he filled his strip with endearing characters, who immediately won the hearts of readers. Opus, Bill the Cat, Steve Dallas and others are all fondly remembered decades later. Also, Berkeley is a skilled cartoonist, filling his panels with expressive, imaginative images. I never realized how much I missed this strip until it returned once more
Hal Foster is one of the most amazing artists in comics history. His magnum opus, Prince Valiant, is one of the finest examples of classic comics storytelling in the history of the medium. Beginning in 1937, told in full page color installments once a week, Prince Valiant has inspired readers young and old for nearly 80 years–though Foster’s run concluded in 1971. A tale of Arthurian adventure, chivalry, and medieval awesomeness, Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant is a story every comics fan should read. The gorgeous hardcover reprints are some of the most wonderful offerings around, and a fantastic value as well. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t checked it out, and at least give this story a gander the next time you have the chance, I promise you won’t regret it.
Like other sketch comedy shows after Monty Python, The Far Side has been often imitated but never matched. Larson took the single panel format and transformed it to an outlet for his demented, at times disturbing wit (a flip through a selection of cartoons his editors rejected reveal just how far Larson was willing to push the envelop). Irreverent, dark, filled with cattle, The Far Side was instantly recognizable. Yet, for all his absurdity, Larson took his science seriously, observing once “I feel there should be a confessional where cartoonists can admit ‘Father, I have sinned, I have drawn humans and dinosaurs together.'” The scientific community, in turn, would produce some of his biggest supporters. There’s even an insect named for him. Seriously. It’s a chewing louse, Strigiphilus garylarsoni.
I really can’t say much more about this other then it’s phenomenally imaginative and endearing. Windsor McCay was so far ahead of his time that we still haven’t caught up yet.
It’s impossible to think of strip comics without seeing Peanuts by Charles Schulz. One of the most iconic casts of any comic strip ever, and has provided generations with a collection of stories that to this day are reprinted in newspapers and books. The scope of influence Shulz’s masterpiece has had is enough to put it at the top of this list in my opinion. Nearly every creator that came after Peanuts began cites it as an big influence or inspiration for becoming a strip cartoonist. Running for just shy of 50 years straight,(October 1950-February 2000) and totaling 17,897 total strips, Peanuts is one of the greatest achievements in American cartooning ever. Its translation into 21 different languages proves that it also has a universal appeal that few creations ever manage to attain
Will Eisner is one of the legends of comic books, yet, he and his signature creation The Spirit started out in the funny pages. The Spirit debuted as part of a Sunday newspaper insert, which gained the nickname “The Spirit Section.” The Spirit chronicled the tales of its title character, a mysterious crime-fighter who has somehow cheated death. In a short amount of space Eisner was able to tell rollicking adventures, noirish mysteries and touching character studies. These stories strengthened by Eisner’s bold art, especially his innovative page layouts. 75 years later it is as clear as ever why Eisner’s Spirit work is some of the greatest sequential story-telling ever