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The Negative Zone: What Didn't Make Our Final List

Every list, by its nature, leaves something out — and we hear you, we hear you, there are a lot of classic comics that didn't make our final list.

This list isn't meant to be a best-of; it's much more subjective than that. Our expert panel took the things you loved and combined them with the things they loved to make something we hope everyone will love.

"We wanted it to be a list that will drive new discovery, not simply a familiar litany of classic comics," says our own Glen Weldon. And that meant not everything that got nominated ended up on the list.

Some titles got cut because while they're definitely classics, they just as definitely didn't age well — so goodbye to things like the work of R. Crumb, and books like Cerebus and The Spirit. Towering achievements all, but tainted by racism and sexism, and so not books we felt comfortable sending kids to the comic store to look for. (We couldn't leave Will Eisner off the list entirely, though, so you'll find A Contract With God in the Graphic Novel section, and Glen tipped his hat to Crumb with Zap Comix, in his post on game-changing comics.) By the same token, Preacher — which is definitely a classic among 1990s Vertigo books — fell to Transmetropolitan, which our judges felt had aged better.

Some comics didn't make the list because, well, ummm, we had to draw the line somewhere when it came to art. As it were. So XKCD fans, we're sorry, we love you (and some of the judges fought for you) but in the end, those stick figures didn't clear our bar.

And some comics suffered for their creators' success: Brian K. Vaughan, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, for example, appeared so many times that we had to make some choices about what to include. In those cases, the readers were our guide: Saga crushed Y, The Last Man and Runaways. All-Star Superman and Doom Patrol beat out Astonishing X-Men and The Invisibles (which made me all kinds of sad — but then, I might've cosplayed as Ragged Robin once, so I'm not exactly impartial). And with Alan Moore, it was almost impossible to choose — but Watchmen and Saga of the Swamp Thing were the titles our readers loved the most.

Finally, our judges realized as we worked through the list that some comics have just faded from the public mind. Jack Kirby, for example — the legendary co-creator of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Black Panther and the Hulk, among many others — doesn't appear anywhere on the list, though his influence is felt throughout it. (Most notably in, you know, Black Panther.)

But even if your very favorite comic isn't on this list, we hope you'll find some new ones to love.

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Petra Mayer died on November 13, 2021. She has been remembered by friends and colleagues, including all of us at NPR. The Petra Mayer Memorial Fund for Internships has been created in her honor.