By Charles M. Schulz (Henry Holt & Company, Inc.)
This was a hand-me-down paperback that I've had my entire life, and I still enjoy today. This was the first work of art that I can remember having an emotional response to. Also, this was the best incarnation of these characters: bigger heads on the kids, Snoopy acting more like a regular dog, etc. The extreme cuteness of the visuals works perfectly with the sadness and bitterness that permeates the content of this strip.
Flies on the Ceiling
By Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
I give complete credit to Jaime and Gilbert for showing me, at age 13, that comics was a medium that you could use to tell any kind of story you wanted. Today, this is about the most obvious observation one could make on the subject, but at that time-it was a revelation. I love all the Love and Rockets books, but I picked this one because it captures the two artists going in fairly disparate directions, and doing it so beautifully. Gilbert seemed set on trying anything and everything here, and Jaime's skills as a short story writer reached new heights of perfection.
By Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics Books)
I get the impression that several years ago, Clowes might've decided to hold himself (and his readers) to a higher standard than ever before, leading to comics that could be studied and decoded in addition to simply being "read." It's almost like the real story is all taking place "offcamera," and we have to sort of piece it together ourselves based on the clues provided. The story in this issue, "The Death Ray," is his greatest accomplishment in this vein to date. Not only is it a great, entertaining read, it also gets richer and more resonant with each re-reading.