In the early days of The Center for Cartoon Studies (fall 2005), our fabled instructor Steve Bissette taught his first CCS course: Survey of the Drawn Story. At the beginning of each session, he asked a few of us to explain our top three comics… What three comics have had the most profound influence on you and your artwork? It's an intriguing question, and one that requires some probing into one's unconscious. After some thought, I determined that my top three comics were…
1) SPIDER-MAN, because it was thanks to the wallcrawler that I became interested in comic books in the first place. At age four I saw Spidey on television and then acquired a Spidey comic the first chance I got. (I even had a period in preschool when I wore a Spider-Man mask at all times.) I was influenced by a variety of Spidey creators, including the classic work of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. I have continued to follow the wallcrawler ever since.
2) DOOM 2099, a '90s series that featured a futuristic version of the classic Marvel villain Doctor Doom; Warren Ellis wrote some of the series including the noteworthy "One Nation Under Doom" storyline. DOOM got me particularly interested in science fiction and the future, including cyberspace, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and genetic engineering. I explored similar future technologies and their philosophic and political implications in A HUMBLE JOY and MYTHS FROM THE FUTURE; and in my unpublished work-in-progress graphic novel ARRIDABA.
3) THE SANDMAN, particularly volume 8: WORLD'S END. I discovered Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN at age 17, and WORLD'S END was the first volume that I read. It was a reading experience unlike any I had ever had in a comic book before. It enabled me to envision more possibilities for the comics medium and ways that I might use it than ever I had previously.
Every member of our CCS inaugural class had a different set of top three comics, although LOVE AND ROCKETS, AMERICAN ELF, and CALVIN AND HOBBES had the special distinction of making more than one top three list.
The top three comics project gave each of us a rare insight on our colleagues artwork--the influence of their respective top three comics was often quite evident. I also noted that many comics that made the top three list of one student or another (ARCHIE, Swedish children's comics, Marvel STAR WARS comics, etc), were not works that most critics would consider for a "100 best comics of the 20th century" list. It showed that a comic doesn't necessarily have to be formally perfect to influence someone, to inspire them to take their life in a particular direction, whether towards drawing comics or towards something else.
I'm sure that by the standards of most analytical critics, JIMMY CORRIGAN would rate as a better comic than SPIDER-MAN. But it was SPIDER-MAN, not JIMMY CORRIGAN, that captured my imagination as a youngster and made me want to be a cartoonist. When Chris Ware (author of CORRIGAN) visited CCS, I got a bit frustrated at his criticisms of my web-slinging hero (prompted by a Spider-Man poster that I had affixed to the wall of our classroom/ studio.) So I produced this cartoon (for a little thank you booklet that we made for the guests of honor).
I was concerned that Chris might find this cartoon a bit harsh, so also included a warm and nice note in the copy of the booklet that we gave him. I don't know what was his reaction. I do know that Tom Devlin (Creative Director at Drawn and Quarterly publishing) really liked this cartoon.