N is for Naughty Bits #6It's sad that there are pitifully few comics by women compared to those for the blokes (although I gather manga is doing better in that respect). But one of the great comics of the alt-explosion of the 1990s was Roberta Gregory's "Naughty Bits," which was as raw and unguarded a look at a woman's mind as anything by R. Crumb was for men. Gregory's signature character is, ahem, "Bitchy Bitch," a frustrated single 30-something hugely unpleasant office drone whose life is unending misery and, well, bitching. Bitchy is bitter, cynical and battered by life, and her ranting interior monologues are great visceral fun to read -- Gregory captures a truer voice for women than most comics artists have, even if this character isn't a pretty picture. Her comics are very lewd with plenty of sex, cussin' and bad behavior, but under all the naughty bits is a fair amount of heart, I think, which makes them worth hunting out. Perhaps my favorite story in the series was the three-parter that began in #6, called, er, "Hippie Bitch Gets Laid," which is a both tragic and witty tale set in the 1960s about Bitchy Bitch's teen days, her first time and first abortion. It's hardcore stuff but relentlessly honest. A great sampling of Gregory's bitch-fest is in "Life's A Bitch."
O is for The One #1I have a particular love for this very oddball, somewhat forgotten 1985 miniseries about the end of the world, an early but kind of amazing work by Rick Veitch. It's a strange bit of 1980s paranoia time-capsule, all Reagan and Soviets and nuclear angst wrapped up in a superhero sandwich and crossed with a fair bit of hippie utopia. It's kind of like Veitch was trying to do his version of "Watchmen" but it's filtered through an LSD experience, with colorful superheroes, goofy punk rockers and plenty of ultraviolence. Veitch swings between loopy cold-war satire and a genial, optimistic dream. For 1985, and published by Marvel Comics of all places, it was pretty out there -- any series that ends with a giant rat devouring Washington, D.C. and a naked love-in probably would be. For my mind, "The One" holds together as a unit better than some of Veitch's other work like Maximortal and Bratpack, which are also quite spectacular superhero-deconstruction visions but marred by feeling rather unfinished. "The One" is a trippy comics experience indeed, and worth seeking out.
P is for Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #72I know, I already had Spider-Man once on this list (as in Amazing...") but hey, I'm a webhead, so I can do him twice. And I had a strong spot for this long-gone 1980s series with the bulky title, which ostensibly focused as much on hapless Peter Parker, college student, as it did the superhero stuff. There was an excellent run on this series from #50 up to #100 or so, and many issues featured inventive, playful covers by the superbly underrated Ed Hannigan. I picked out #72 as a quite fun representative of the time -- Spider-Man is searching for an escaped Dr. Octopus, but ends up tangled up with a misguided misfit kid who idolizes the villain and has created his own makeshift "Dr. Octopus" costume. The tale of goofy fan Ollie Osnick is a fun romp that touches on Spider-Man's own outcast history. This one wasn't a pivotal comic that changed the medium forever or anything, but for me it sums up the essence of Spider-Man.
(*Previously in this series: A: Amazing Spider-Man, B: Batman, C: Cerebus, D: Doom Patrol, E: Eightball, F: Flaming Carrot, G: Give Me Liberty, H: Hate, I: Incredible Hulk, J: JLA, K: Kingdom Come, L: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and finally, M: Miracleman.