The Comics Journal

Jay Lynch self-portrait for The Comics Journal No. 114 (February 1987)
Editor-in-chief Gary Groth (since 1977)
Categories comics, criticism, history, interviews
Frequency Twice a year
Publisher Fantagraphics Books
First issue 1977
Country United States
Language English
ISSN 0194-7869

The Comics Journal, often abbreviated TCJ, is an American magazine of news and criticism pertaining to comic books, comic strips and graphic novels.[1] Known for its lengthy interviews with comic creators, pointed editorials and scathing reviews of the products of the mainstream comics industry, the magazine promotes the view that comics are a fine art meriting broader cultural respect, and thus should be evaluated with higher critical standards.[2][3][4]


In 1976, Gary Groth and Michael Catron acquired The Nostalgia Journal, a small competitor of the newspaper adzine The Buyer's Guide for Comics Fandom. At the time, Groth and Catron were already publishing Sounds Fine, a similarly formatted adzine for record collectors that they had started after producing Rock 'N Roll Expo '75, held during the July 4 weekend in 1975 in Washington, D.C.

The publication was relaunched as The New Nostalgia Journal with issue No. 27 (July 1976), and with issue No. 32 (January 1977), it became The Comics Journal ("a quality publication for the serious comics fan"). Issue No. 37 (December 1977) adopted a magazine format.

In addition to lengthy interviews with comics industry figures, the Journal has always published criticism—and received it in turn.[2] Starting in the early 2000s, the Journal published a series of annual specials combining its usual critical format with extended samples of comics from specially selected contributors.

With issue No. 300 (November 2009), The Comics Journal ceased its semi-monthly print publication.[5] TCJ shifted from an eight-times a year publishing schedule to a larger, more elaborate, semi-annual format supported by a new website.[6][7]


Over the years The Journal has been involved in a handful of lawsuits.[2] Artist Rich Buckler attempted legal action for a review that called him a plagiarist while printing his panels next to earlier and quite similar Jack Kirby art.[8][9][10][11] A Groth interview with science fiction writer Harlan Ellison sparked a lawsuit by writer Michael Fleisher, over an informal discussion of Fleisher's work and temperament.[12] Co-defendants Groth and Ellison won the case, but emerged from the suit estranged.[13][14][15]

Ellison later became a plaintiff against the Comics Journal, filing suit in part to enjoin The Comics Journal Library: The Writers, a 2006 Fantagraphics book that reprinted the Ellison interview, and which used a cover blurb calling Ellison a "Famous Comics Dilettante."[16] That case was ultimately settled, with Fantagraphics agreeing to omit both the blurb and the interview from any future printings of the book, Ellison agreeing to post a Groth rebuttal statement on Ellison's webpage, and both sides agreeing to avoid future "ad hominem attacks."[17]

The Journal has on occasion published, as cover features, lengthy court transcripts of comics-related civil suits. Notable instances include the Fleisher suit[15][18] and Marv Wolfman's failed suit against Marvel Comics over ownership of the character Blade.[19]


The Journal features critical essays, articles on comics history and lengthy interviews, conducted by Gary Groth and others. Noteworthy interviews include Gil Kane in No. 38, Steve Gerber in No. 41, Harlan Ellison in No. 53, Dennis O'Neil in No. 64, Robert Crumb in No. 113, and Charles M. Schulz in #200.

The Journal's combination of forthright news coverage and critical analysis – although the norm for traditional journalistic enterprises – was in sharp contrast to the affectionate and promotional methods of publications like Comics Buyer's Guide and (later) Wizard. In 1995, publisher Gary Groth joked that his magazine occupied "a niche that nobody wants."[20]

Staff members and regular contributors

Gary Groth has been the Journal's publisher and nominal editor for almost all of its existence. Staff members and regular contributors have included Kim Thompson, Greg Stump, Eric Millikin, Eric Reynolds, Ng Suat Tong, R. Fiore, R.C. Harvey, Kenneth Smith, Don Phelps, Robert Boyd, Tom Heintjes, Michael Dean, Tom Spurgeon, Robert Rodi, Gene Phillips, Marilyn Bethke, Cat Yronwode, Heidi MacDonald, Lee Wochner, Arn Saba, Ted White, Bob Levin, Carter Scholz, and Noah Berlatsky. Guest contributors have included Dave Sim and Trina Robbins.

Managing editors

Online editors

The Journal's Top 100 Comics list

The Journal published a 20th-century comics canon in its 210th issue (February 1999). To compile the list, eight contributors and editors made eight separate top 100 (or fewer than 100 for some) lists of American works. These eight lists were then informally combined, and tweaked into an ordered list.[21]

  1. Krazy Kat by George Herriman
  2. Peanuts by Charles Schulz
  3. Pogo by Walt Kelly
  4. Maus by Art Spiegelman
  5. Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay
  6. Feiffer by Jules Feiffer
  7. Donald Duck by Carl Barks
  8. Mad Comics by Harvey Kurtzman and various
  9. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green
  10. The Weirdo stories of Robert Crumb
  11. Thimble Theatre by E.C. Segar
  12. EC's "New Trend" war comics by Harvey Kurtzman and various
  13. Wigwam Bam (L&R) by Jaime Hernandez
  14. Blood of Palomar (L&R) by Gilbert Hernandez
  15. The Spirit by Will Eisner
  16. RAW Magazine, edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly
  17. The Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware
  18. Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett
  19. The Sketchbooks of Robert Crumb
  20. Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks
  21. The New Yorker cartoons of Peter Arno
  22. The Death of Speedy Ortíz (L&R) by Jaime Hernandez
  23. Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
  24. Flies on the Ceiling (L&R) by Jaime Hernandez
  25. Wash Tubbs by Roy Crane
  26. The Jungle Book by Harvey Kurtzman
  27. Palestine by Joe Sacco
  28. The Mishkin saga by Kim Deitch
  29. Gasoline Alley by Frank King
  30. The Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
  31. Poison River (L&R) by Gilbert Hernandez
  32. Plastic Man by Jack Cole
  33. Dick Tracy by Chester Gould
  34. The theatrical caricatures of Al Hirschfeld
  35. The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
  36. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  37. Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau
  38. The autobiographical comics from Yummy Fur by Chester Brown
  39. The editorial cartoons of Pat Oliphant
  40. The Kin-der-Kids by Lyonel Feininger
  41. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
  42. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
  43. Amphigorey by Edward Gorey
  44. The Idiots Abroad (Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) by Gilbert Shelton and Paul Mavrides
  45. Paul Auster's City of Glass by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli
  46. Cages by Dave McKean
  47. The Buddy Bradley saga by Peter Bagge
  48. The cartoons of James Thurber
  49. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
  50. Tantrum by Jules Feiffer
  51. The Alec stories of Eddie Campbell
  52. It's a Good Life by Seth
  53. The editorial cartoons of Herblock
  54. EC's "New Trend" horror comics by Al Feldstein and various
  55. The Frank stories by Jim Woodring
  56. Julius Knipl by Ben Katchor
  57. A Contract with God by Will Eisner
  58. The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams
  59. Little Lulu by John Stanley
  60. Alley Oop by V. T. Hamlin
  61. American Splendor #1–10 by Harvey Pekar and various
  62. Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray
  63. Hey Look! by Harvey Kurtzman
  64. Goodman Beaver by Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder
  65. Bringing Up Father by George McManus
  66. Zippy the Pinhead by Bill Griffith
  67. The Passport by Saul Steinberg
  68. Barnaby by Crockett Johnson
  69. God's Man by Lynd Ward
  70. Jimbo by Gary Panter
  71. The Book of Jim by Jim Woodring
  72. The short stories in Rubber Blanket by David Mazzucchelli
  73. The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick
  74. Ernie Pook's Comeek by Lynda Barry
  75. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  76. The Master Race story by Bernard Krigstein and Al Feldstein
  77. Li'l Abner by Al Capp
  78. Sugar and Spike by Sheldon Mayer
  79. Captain Marvel by C. C. Beck
  80. Zap Comix by Robert Crumb and various
  81. The Lily stories (Daddy's Girl) by Debbie Drechsler
  82. Caricature by Daniel Clowes
  83. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
  84. Why I Hate Saturn by Kyle Baker
  85. The Willie and Joe cartoons of Bill Mauldin
  86. Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse
  87. The New Yorker cartoons of George Price
  88. Jack Kirby's Fourth World by Jack Kirby
  89. The autobiographical comics of Spain Rodriguez
  90. Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
  91. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  92. The "Pictopia" story by Alan Moore and Don Simpson
  93. Dennis the Menace by Hank Ketcham
  94. The humor comics of Basil Wolverton
  95. Los Tejanos by Jack Jackson (alias Jaxon)
  96. The Dirty Plotte series by Julie Doucet
  97. The Hannah Story by Carol Tyler
  98. Barney Google by Billy DeBeck
  99. The Bungle Family by Harry J. Tuthill
  100. Prince Valiant by Hal Foster

The Village Voice cited the survey's ad hoc criteria:

"Putting Bernard Krigstein and Al Feldstein's eight-page story "Master Race," Hal Foster's 34 years of work on Prince Valiant, Al Hirschfeld's theatrical caricatures, all the horror comics EC published in the first half of the '50s and Robert Crumb's sketchbooks in the same category suggests that they've cast their net a bit wide."[22]

Among the controversial omissions to the Top 100 was Dave Sim's Cerebus series. Sim and the Journal had periodically found themselves at odds in the years preceding the list's formulation.[23] Issue No. 213 included eight pages of responses to, and defenses of the list; Journal columnist R. Fiore wrote "Dave Sim must now think you have a personal vendetta against him," and co-publisher Kim Thompson conceded, "If I had to do it over again, I'd squash together the Hernandez material into two entries [and] put Cerebus and two other things in the vacant spots."[24] Twelve years later, the omission was still being acknowledged by the Journal, which noted that Dave Sim's Cerebus "was conspicuously excluded."[25]

Less surprisingly, given the magazine's longstanding editorial standards and preferences, the list was also light on the dominant genre of superhero comics. Editor and survey participant Tom Spurgeon wrote, "I voted for most of the men-in-spandex titles that made the list – Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Plastic Man – despite the sheer lousiness of some of those works' contributing elements."[26] Ultimately, the Top 100 included six superhero works, including the deconstructionist Watchmen. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns was one well-regarded mainstream superhero project that was considered but ultimately not chosen, according to co-publisher Kim Thompson.[23]


Awards and award nominations for The Comics Journal
Year Organisation Award Result
1990 Harvey Award Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation Won[27]
1991 Won[28]
1992 Won[29]
1993 Won[30]
1995 Won[31]
1996 Eisner Award Best Comics-Related Periodical/Publication Won[32]
1997 Best Comics-Related Periodical/Publication Won[32]
Harvey Award Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation Won[33]
1998 Eisner Award Best Comics-Related Periodical/Publication Won[32]
Harvey Award Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation Won[34]
1999 Eisner Award Best Comics-Related Periodical/Publication Won[32]
Harvey Award Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation Won[35]
2000 Won[36]
2001 Won[37]
2003 Best Anthology
Comics Journal Summer Special 2002
2005 Eagle Award Favourite Magazine About Comics Won[39]
2006 Harvey Award Best Biographical, Historical, or Journalistic Presentation Won[40]
2009 Eisner Award Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism Nominated[41]

See also


  1. Wolk, Douglas. Reading Comics (2007) Da Capo Press. p.68. ISBN 0-306-81509-5
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Brad Brooks; Pilcher, Tim. The Essential Guide to World Comics. London: Collins & Brown. pp. 32–36. ISBN 1-84340-300-5. 
  3. Inge, M. Thomas, Comics as Culture. p.153.
  4. Skinn, Dez. Comix: The Underground Revolution. p.244.
  5. The 300th and final magazine-sized issue of the Comics Journal The Comics Journal No. 300 free and online
  6. Phegley, Kiel. "Rethinking 'The Comics Journal'", [[wikipedia:Comic Book Resources|]], October 30, 2009
  7. Spurgeon, Tom. "TCJ Moves More Dramatically On-Line; Print Version To Come Out Two Times A Year", The Comics Reporter, October 27, 2009
  8. "Plagiarism: Rich Buckler Signs his Name to Jack Kirby's Work," The Comics Journal #83 (Aug. 1983), pp. 33–35.
  9. "Rich Buckler Answers His Critics," The Comics Journal #86 (November 1983), pp. 28–31.
  10. "Rich Buckler Sues Comics Journal and two of its Writers for Libel," The Comics Journal #88 (Jan. 1984), p. 13.
  11. "Buckler Drops Comics Journal Libel Suit," The Comics Journal #93 (Sept. 1984), pp. 11–12.
  12. "Newswatch: Notice From The Editors," The Comics Journal #59 (October 1980), p. 19.
  13. "Harlan Ellison Out of Comics Journal Libel Case," The Comics Journal #69 (December 1981), p. 29.
  14. "Newswatch: Comics Journal wins Fleisher libel suit". The Comics Journal #113 (December 1986), p. 11.
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Comics Journal #115 (April 1987), pp. 51–142: Special section on the Fleisher lawsuit, including the testimony of Ellison, Groth, and [[wikipedia:Jim Shooter|]]; the disposition of [[wikipedia:Dean Mullaney|]], closing arguments; and jurors' recollections.
  16. Deppey, Dirk. "EXTRA: Harlan Ellison sues Fantagraphics" Journalista! blog post (2006). Retrieved 2006-11-12.
  17. Rahner, Mark (August 16, 2007). "Ellison vs. Fantagraphics: comics publisher to remove author's name from books". Seattle Times.
  18. The Comics Journal No. 115, April 1987
  19. The Comics Journal No. 236, August 2001
  20. Cusick, Rick. Gauntlet magazine. Issue 9, Vol. 2, 1995
  21. The Comics Journal No. 210, pages 34–108
  22. Wolk, Douglas, Village Voice Literary Supplement (VLS), April–May 1999
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Top comics make fans pick sides". [[wikipedia:The Baltimore Sun|]]. May 2, 1999.
  24. Comics Journal No. 213, June 1999, Fantagraphics Publishing, pgs. 2–9
  25. Kreider, Tim (June 21, 2011). "TCJ #301: Excerpt from 'Irredeemable: Dave Sim’s Cerebus'". The Comics Journal.
  26. Comics Journal No. 213, June 1999, Fantagraphics Publishing, pgs. 9
  27. 1990 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  28. 1991 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  29. 1992 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  30. 1993 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  31. 1995 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 List of Eisner Award winners at the San Diego Comic-Cob International website
  33. 1996 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  34. 1998 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  35. 1999 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  36. 2000 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  37. 2001 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  38. 2003 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  39. 2005 Eagle Award winners at the Eagle Awards website
  40. 2006 Harvey Award winners at the Harvey awards website
  41. 2009 Eisner Award Nominees Announced (press release), [[wikipedia:Comic Book Resources|]], April 7, 2009


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