Emanata: The Funniest Comics Ever

  • Share
  • Read Later

In honor of April Fool’s Day, here’s a sampling of seven of the funniest comics out there. They may not (or may) be the deepest or most beautiful in other ways–they’re just the ones that have made me laugh hardest.

Mister O. The great and unbelievably prolific French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim has written and/or drawn something on the order of a hundred books. Of the ones that have appeared in the U.S. so far, though, the funniest by far is this wordless book consisting of a few dozen strips, each composed of sixty tiny panels, about a little round entity who only wants to get from one side of a chasm to the other and is perpetually stymied. Part of the joke is its utter economy of means and variations-on-a-theme tone, but it’s basically all about Trondheim’s perfect comedic timing. Trondheim later drew a sequel of sorts, Mister I, whose similar protagonist also has only one need–to get some food–but it’s not nearly as funny.

The Great Outdoor Fight. Chris Onstad’s Achewood may be the best webcomic in the form’s relatively brief history. Sadly, after a year or so of sputtering, intermittent updates (some of which were among the funniest Achewood strips, some of which were just baffling, but that was always its way), Onstad recently put it on indefinite hiatus. There are three collections so far, but the best is this one, a comedy about machismo and violence whose non-sequiturs gradually link up with one another and start making hysterically loopy sense. Also, it features dialogue like “He was like the Thomas Edison of handing a dude his ass!”

(More on TIME.com: Emanata: Whatever Happened to Romance Comics?)

I Killed Adolf Hitler. The Norwegian cartoonist Jason specializes in a particularly deadpan vein of comedy–so dry, in fact, that this career peak doesn’t seem particularly funny while it’s in progress. And then, after it’s over and you realize that you’ve just read a tender romantic comedy about a time-traveling assassin pursued across the decades by Hitler, in which everyone has animal heads, it retroactively turns hilarious.

High Society. For most of the 1980s, Dave Sim’s Cerebus was the funniest comic book around. (Let’s not talk right now about what happened after that.) This extended political satire–the second volume of the series, in which a barbarian aardvark becomes the prime minister of a medieval city-state–is probably its comedic peak, a perfectly pitched combination of the modes of Chuck Jones cartoons, Marx Brothers movies, Molière plays and Monty Python sketches.

Deadpool #11. There’s enough Deadpool overkill these days that it’s hard to remember a particular Deadpool comic as being anything special. But this one was: a 1997 issue by Joe Kelly and Pete Woods, in which the wisecracking assassin finds himself trapped in a 1967 issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Literally–he’s drawn into an expanded reprint of Stan Lee and John Romita’s comic book, fourth-wall-breaking the whole time. It’s a clever conceit, perfectly executed.

The Bojeffries Saga. Alan Moore’s written some very funny comics in his time–I wrote about D.R. and Quinch here a few months ago. This collaboration with artist Steve Parkhouse, though, is the one that cuts deepest. Its basic setup is same as The Addams Family, or The Munsters, or John Stanley’s Melvin Monster: an extended family of monster archetypes. But Moore’s comedy here is a particularly British breed–the comedy of the indignant slow burn, and of individuals attempting to swim upstream through societal traditions. (The funniest episode is probably one in which a vampire is trying to get to a health food store to buy his “soy blood,” but keeps getting disintegrated en route.) It’s been out of print for a while, but Top Shelf has announced that there will be a new collection of the entire series–with a new story by Moore and Parkhouse–at some point.

(More on TIME.com: Weekly Comics Column: Alan Moore’s “D.R. and Quinch”)

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! This is a strange case, because it wasn’t originally intended to be as funny as it is. The complete known work of Fletcher Hanks–a few hundred pages of comics, drawn between 1939 and 1941–is collected in this volume and a follow-up, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, both edited by Paul Karasik (who also wrote and drew the afterword here about his search for the facts behind Hanks’ life. It’s cheap, gaudy stuff, starring characters like Stardust the Super Wizard and Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle. But I also laughed more at this book than at nearly any other comics I can think of–not just giggling at its crabbed, nutty tone and combination of cookie-cutter formula and pantheon of dei ex machina, but shaking from the kind of laughter that comes from contact with the genuinely uncanny.