Posted by
• 06.11.15 10:48 pm

The final episode of Free Speech was devoted to listing all great cartoonists in order of greatness. If you don’t like comics, don’t bother tuning in (and that includes super hero fags). Peter Bagge won. 

Here’s the list…


Each cartoonist has a P or a D next to his or her name. The P stands for Picasso and means they put the imagery over the idea. The D stands for Duchamp and means they put the idea before the art.

To be on that list you have to get that comics are ultimately about entertaining you with raw rock and roll. They should be like the song “Louie Louie.”


1- Peter Bagge – P


2- Robert Crumb – P


3- Dan Clowes – D


4- Ivan Brunetti – D


5- Joe Matt – D


6- Chester Brown – P


7- Jeffrey Brown – P


8- Art Spiegelman – D


9- Peter Kuper – D

He VERY nearly was banished to Graphic Story Tellers.


10- Johnny Ryan – D


11- Gabrielle Bell – P


12- Julie Doucet – P


13- David B – P

Another guy who was a cunt hair away from the Graphic Story Teller list.


14- Dave Cooper – P


15- James Kochalka – P


16- Kaz – D


17- Adrian Tomine – D


18- Archer Prewitt – P


19- Derf Backderf – D


20- David Collier – D


21- Debbie Drechsler – P


22- Laura Park – P


23- Dan Zettwoch – D


24- Michael Dougan – D


25- Allison Bechdel – D


26- Charles Burns – P


27- The Hernandez Bros. – P


28- Mike Dawson – D


29- Craig Thompson – P


30- Ellen Forney – D


31- Jessica Abel – P


32- Carol Tyler – P




(All Ps)

These are too sophisticated to be in the above group. They’re more about creating an experience than reading a comic book. Still wonderful of course but it feels like a separate genre.


1- Jim Woodring


2- Anders Nilson


3- Ron Rege Jr


4- Marc Bell


5- Seth Tobocman


6- Henriette Valium


7- Al Columbia


8- Drew Friedman


9- Renée French


10- Gary Painter



Like the above category but it’s not so weird you can’t tell what’s going on. These guys tell stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end but there’s no ZAP, BANG, POW! They’re more like novelists who added beautiful pictures.


1- Seth


2- Chris Ware


3- Raymond Briggs


4- Dylan Horrocks


5- Sammy Harkham


6- Kevin Huizenga


7- John Porcellino


8- Paul Hornshmeir




(All Ds)

Peter Bagge is the first guy to be in two categories here. His libertarian comics for Reason are so different than Hate, it’s like he’s two different people.


1- Joe Sacco


2- Peter Bagge


3- Guy Delisle



When they do graphic novels, they feel like compilations of strips – even Chast’s “Can we Talk About Something More Pleasant” which clearly wasn’t.


1- Lynda Barry


2- Roz Chast




Jamie Hewlett

Though Tank Girl can get pretty kooky, this work ultimately classifies as super-hero comics and that’s not part of our world.


Julia Wertz

One of the few female cartoonists who is a D and not a P. Though her stories are fun, she needs a bit more time at the table under her belt before we can put her with the greats.


Kim Deitch

This is a psychedelic poster artist who happens to do cartoons.


Tony Millionaire

I can’t explain why I hate these comics. There’s just something not right about them.


Scott McCloud

More known for his comics about comics than anything else.


Bob Fingerman

The way he draws is almost like he’s trying to torture you. He should be doing caricatures in Times Square.


Sam Henderson

Very funny dude who can’t draw.


Aline Kalinsky Crumb

One of the worst cartoonists in the world. She actually brought down Crumb’s legacy from #1 to #2.



GABE FOWLER: Gabriel is the proprietor of Desert Island, a wonderful comic book store in Brooklyn on 540 Metropolitan Ave. He sells just about everything there so that might be why he wasn’t joining my condemnation of super hero comics. This episode was about listing the top 32 cartoonists of all time (something we finished on but Gabe didn’t seem to enjoy the idea of ranking and listing artists. This may be the last episode of Free Speech as I am moving the operation over to Love you guys. Don’t go changing. Not your socks, nothing.

  1. A. Non. Amiss says:

    Hey Gavin, congratulations being 20 years late on the adulation of these artists (I guess 55+ years on Crumb?). You didn’t invent hipsters, you just made them more mediocre.

  2. MoistAngst says:

    I can’t believe that there’s no mention of Harvey Pekar here. He pretty much invented the autobiographical comic genre with his American Splendor. He was also great at busting David Letterman’s balls back in the day. Phoebe Gloeckner deserves a mention too. Her book Child’s Life and Other Stories is a dark and twisted account of drugs, sexual abuse, and recovery that is beautifully drawn.

  3. pat says:

    not bad nigga. liked gavin’s illustrations back in the day, including the
    bdp rapper stuff. some crumb and pekar would be welcomed tho.

  4. shimizu says:

    joan cornella

  5. justin says:

    @A. Non. Amiss

    20 years late? so if someone 30 years from now appreciates these same artists they’ll be 50 years late? fuck off hipster.

  6. Billy Gutsgruff says:

    Art Spiegelman? Yuck. Good thing you didn’t double this one up on TakMag.

  7. Enar says:

    In Sweden we have the old “Pyton” and “MegaPyton” comics that were satire ones. Not sure if that’s the thing you’re after though.

  8. The Seahorse says:

    This is a list of all time bests?
    Winsor McCay and George Herriman are not included but Adrian Tomine made the cut?
    Chester Brown should have been placed higher – especially for the Louis Riel book.
    Cool episode!

  9. The Seahorse says:

    MoistAngel has a good point too.
    Pekar put your buddy Malice on the radar, no?
    Pekar was the only way I would have heard of Malice before this podcast.

  10. The Seahorse says:

    What about Bill Watterson??
    This is a gen x-er’s list.
    Gary Larson??
    Or this only underground-ish comics?

  11. wert says:

    A Wyatt Mann.

  12. Gavin says:

    Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Harvey Kurtzman and Charles Schulz did comics for kids. We didn’t include Bill Watterson either even though he’s incredible. They did children’s books, essentially.

    Harvey Pekar can’t draw so how is he a “cartoonist”?

  13. Minkawf says:

    Many weird ideas and misconceptions flying around here. Of course I’m only 12 minutes in.

    Re: that last comment, all four of the above-mentioned cartoonists did work that adults can and do read/appreciate. They’re all supremely original artists. Everything Kurtzman did after Mad (which includes some of his best work) is not in any way directed to children. Dismissing these artists from a discussion of comics in favor of Dylan Horrocks is madness.

    Comics are storytelling of some type, using sequential still pictures (usually drawings) and often words. There’s no need to define them beyond that, or get tied up in knots over different genres. No form of fiction is automatically bad, whether fantasy, brutal realism, etc.

    Sometimes you like comics because they just create a world you can believe in and the drawings bleed greatness. Whether anything of much import happens in that world is not always the point. Comics are drawings, so usually if the drawings are shitty or boring, the comics are.

    Personally I like comics where every panel is a drawing, meaning it’s a considered aesthetic creation that reflects, in a personal way, the particular hand and head of the artist. There are many skilled competent cartoonists who I can’t really read (including some under discussion here), because I don’t sense any sweat or joy or interest in the actual lines and marks themselves. I see slick, well-executed pictures, and I don’t care.

    My list of greats would be

    Ditko (today’s supehero comics are awful, but the genre used to be interesting, and in Spiderman, Blue Beetle, and many other titles, Ditko creates a bizarre, frightening New York filled with insane people, paranoia, and obsessive freaks. The stuff’s incredible)

    Also Peter Bagge and McCay are great. Charles Burns Hardboiled Defective is mastery. There are some other good people/books but also some boring ones.

    Crumb’s “silly pointless” stuff is often some his best stuff, for the sheer joy in creation that it exudes.

    Autobiographical comics can often be a good read but there are so many of them. They’re not super exciting as an idea/formula, maybe.

  14. Minkawf says:

    Also Don Martin and Roz Chast are gifts to planet earth.

  15. joeyjoejoe says:

    What is a short list of “the great” graphic novels in English?

    I can’t say I care for the style of much of the various cartoony stuff depicted above.

    Mostly what you hear about is the Alan Moore and Frank Miller stuff, which is pseudo-superhero (Watchmen, 300). I can’t say I’ve much interest in any of that. Seems a touch juvenile, even if well drawn.

    As movies I found quite interesting “Ghost World” and “Persepolis”, which I gather were very straight adaptations from the respective graphic novels.

  16. The Seahorse says:

    Minkawf, didn’t Geoff Darrow do Hardboiled?
    Gavin, the list of cartoonists that I mentioned are way more important as they are influential than a lot of the people on your list.
    While a lot of the people on your list are neat and some have done very good work – I see them more as INFLUENCED and not INFLUENTIAL.
    In other words cartoonists in the future will look at McCay, Kurtzman, Watterson and they will have more of an effect on their work than Tomine, Clowes or Derf.
    I like those guys.
    The only Derf book I had was the one where he was buddies with Dahmer?
    Matt and Seth could go, but not Brown. Brown is really great.
    But whatever, I like arguing about comics.

  17. joeyjoejoe says:

    gavin, your lines about not learning anything from fiction/novels are a bit odd. Understanding the fictional literary tradition of a nation is the fast track to understanding its collective psyche and personality. No, the events in “Dead Souls” and “Anna Karenina” did not happen, but you’re going to learn more from carefully reading those books than from the vast majority of related non-fiction.

  18. The Seahorse says:

    the crow soundtrack is the best way to learn about the psyche of this nation. especially the dead souls cover – trent nailed it. its the only cd you really need.

  19. joeyjoejoe says:

    To pick just two novels for America I’d say The Deerslayer and Moby Dick. I like NIN but that ain’t gonna enlighten you about shit.

  20. In your comment above you designate McCay and Herriman as “comics for kids”.
    Perhaps if McCay’s Little Nemo was his only major work that would be arguable, but he produced beautiful panoramic and intentionally adult-themed editorial cartoons for over 15 years.
    I doubt many children could understand the poetic intent of Herriman’s Krazy Kat. Perhaps you are thinking of the Horrible animated cartoons done with his characters after his death.
    I will concur with Minkawf’s statement about Kurtzman.
    That said, the article appears to be a list of artists who are currently working in the medium. If the list was intended to be for all time I would site numerous omissions.

  21. alex says:

    You don’t know cartooning well enough if you haven’t mentioned Robert Grossman here. See just about any of his strips in New York Mag, Rolling Stone, The Daily News, The Nation, NY Observer, etc. great artists mentioned, but any one of them will tell you you shopuld’ve mentioned Bob Grossman. Shame on you.

  22. The Seahorse says:

    Will Eisner is also an all time great.

  23. MildMessiah says:

    Gavin said “…We didn’t include Bill Watterson either even though he’s incredible. They did children’s books, essentially”

    Watterson completely dominated the large format for years in every age group but the kiddies, even forcing many papers to give his Calvin & Hobbes strip half a page, a first in the Sunday comic format. Many strips, if not aimed at the mature crowd, had a universal appeal, working on many levels. All this with zero merchandising of his characters, though he did sell millions of bound books.

    Take another look at one of his anthologies. Never too late to add him back in.

  24. MoistAngst says:

    Harvey Pekar did draw, but he sucked horribly at it. By his own admission, his work was little better than “stick figures.” As such, he had others draw for him. However, he still made the preliminary sketches for his projects and produced his own mockups, layouts, and panel design. He also supervised all of the illustration for his projects and had the final say on how everything went together. He clearly put the idea (his projects were obviously his ideas) before the art in all of his work and that would make him fall into your Duchamp category. Actually, the Duchamp analogy is very apropos here when one considers Duchamp’s “readymades.” Some examples:

    Duchamp didn’t actually make the urinal or bottle rack or shovel, and he certainly wasn’t responsible for the Mona Lisa, but he still conceptualized these objects as art (by adding the mustache he made the Mona Lisa his own) and once people understood his ideas and thought process, they began to see these objects as art as well. I don’t think that too many people would say that the piece “Fountain” is any less of an iconic work of modern art just because Duchamp didn’t fire the porcelain himself. Similarly, whereas Pekar may not have been as directly hands on in regard to illustration as some of the other artists listed above instead placing more emphasis on the writing, he was no less of a cartoonist for doing so. Pekar was also responsible for either starting, advancing, and/or enhancing the careers of countless people, including many of the above (Crumb, Sacco, the Hernandez brothers, and Bechdel). At a time when comics were mostly either superhero or anthropomorphic/talking animal stuff for kids (think Disney), or underground counterculture stuff (think Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers), Pekar had a huge hand in bringing comics to a mainstream adult audience. Seth said of Harvey Pekar:

    “The underground cartoonists were a generation — a group of artists who knocked down the walls between art and commerce, shattering the traditional shape and meaning of a comic book. Later, the ‘alternative’ cartoonists came along — or whatever you wish to call my generation of cartoonists — who wanted to produce comics as a legitimate art medium. But in-between these two generations there was Harvey. A generation of one. Probably the first person who wanted to use the comics medium seriously as a writer. Certainly the first person to toss every genre element out the window and try to capture something of the genuine experience of living: not just some technique of real life glossed onto a story — not satire, or sick humour or everyday melodrama — but the genuine desire to transmit from one person to another just what life feels like. That’s the highest goal of art in my mind. I still think Harvey was right: it’s getting at that quality of real experience that counts. His work was an enormously influential turning point in the history of the medium. It was a terrible shock to hear he was gone. I can only suspect that the impact and influence of his work will only grow in the decades to come.”*

    Sacco also said of Pekar:

    “It helped that he couldn’t draw, that he approached the medium as an outsider, as a voracious reader of prose. He recognized that the medium had the potential to examine the human condition directly, and he threw himself into proving it and getting others to believe it. The best of his stories about day-to-day life — about his loves, his obsessions, his work, his hobbies, his neuroses, his illness, his successes, his failures — were powerful examples of what comics could be. Crumb, Griffith, Spiegelman and others also were pivotal in preparing the ground for the rest of us, but Harvey was an essential component in that underground mix; it is hard to imagine what comics would look like today without his ground-breaking, autobiographical explorations.”*

    *both taken from

    Long story short, I’ve always felt that Harvey Pekar was indeed a cartoonist in every respect, and that no serious discussion of American comic-making/cartooning can take place without his being mentioned. Of course, this is just my opinion, and people’s opinions are absolutely fucking meaningless, so, uh… whatever…

  25. Os says:

    That P/D business is insulting, needlessly reductive and plain inaccurate.Reading the comments gives further cause for concern.

  26. GhettoDefendant says:

    @Gavin, no, Windsor McKay also did a shit ton of adult oriented satire, and was one of the direct influences on a lot of the guys on your list.

  27. GhettoDefendant says:

    And you left out Gilbert Shelton, one of the great underground guys right there alongside Crumb and Pekar. Fat Freddy’s Cat is classic.

  28. Cheap Peeps says:

    What?? No Michael DeForge?? Not even a runner-up! Disappointed.

  29. M Otis Beard says:

    Wow. Wow wow wow. I am stunned by the clueless, self-congratulatory stench of this article. It’s like someone rolled up every stereotype about millennials, smoked it, and then exhaled into the Internet.

    You could have just written “I AM A DOUCHEBAG” in giant letters on this page and been done with it. . . that would have had the same effect and value, without wasting so much of your — and everyone else’s — time on it.

  30. Ed Smythee says:

    Will Eisner is notably absent from this list. Bear in mind that “A Contract With God” is more or less adult-oriented, so McInnes can’t even justify this omission by recourse to his “adult comix only” stipulation.

  31. Ed Smythee says:

    You also forgot Moebius, and once again, your stipulations (“no superheroes” and “adult comkx only”) don’t apply here, as Moebius mainly drew western and sci-fi comics.

  32. Ed Smythee says:

    *comix. Sorry for the typo; I wrote my previous comment using a smart phone.

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