Every year for the past three years, we’ve asked artists and other important industry folk to present a list of their top five books. Like clockwork, a number of participants issue the same complaint: it’s impossible to narrow the list down to five. We’re living in an era of unprecedented creativity for the sequential art medium, as as such, I can’t really take issue with those who are just flat out unable to produce a list by the deadline.
Now take that indecision and multiply it by ten. The decade is quickly coming to an end, so we decided to take a similar approach toward picking the best books of the aughts. We asked each artist to pick their ten favorite books of the past decade. Naturally, plenty simply couldn’t. As such, the following list is decidedly shorter than the Best of 2009 that we presented last week. Given the relative scope of the list, however, I hope you will find it equally illuminating.
Thomas Baehr (The End is Here)
1. Parade (with Fireworks) by Mike Cavallaro—I love the story, the colors, the drawings. And the artist is really a nice guy, too!
2. Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore—Just great stuff.
3. Autoroute Du Soleil by Baru—Baru’s try in Manga is the best book he ever did.
4. The Scorpion by Stephen Desberg and Enrico Marini—Everything Marini is doing is eye popping. And Desberg is a very modern old school storyteller, one of the best you can find in France.
5. Fishtown by Kevin Colden—It’s cruel, it’s true, it’s well done. It’s just perfect.
6. Whiteout Volume One by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber—What a thriller!
7. I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason–Amazing and weird story.
8. The Killer by Matz and Luc Jacamon–An interesting point of view. Not only the story – the same goes for the art, too.
9. Skaggy the Lost by Igor Baranko—I had a lot of fun!!!
10. The Plot by Will Eisner—Because he was the master and he belongs in this list. Period.
Jeffrey Brown (Sulk, Funny Misshapen Body)
1. Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware—Rewards multiple readings with continued brilliance
2. Louis Riel by Chester Brown—A masterful use of the comics form in pacing and visual efficiency, but also entertaining and informative
3. Monsters by Ken Dahl—Perhaps one of the best sex ed books ever written
4. Three Paradoxes by Paul Hornschemeier—Mixing styles and twisting threads of thought for an engaging look at the creative process in the context of living
5. Eightball #23 by Dan Clowes—Reads like a novel five times as long, thought provoking with some dark humor
6. McSweeneys 13/Kramers Ergot by Various—The two anthologies that have defined alternative/independant comics for the past decade
7. Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow by Anders Nilsen—Heartbreaking and beautiful
8. All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely—I don’t particularly care for Superman, to be honest, but this is what superhero comics should be like
9. Black Hole by Charles Burns—Perhaps the best example of a graphic novel as “novel”
10. American Elf by James Kochalka—As much as I’d like to see Kochalka write more non-diary autobiographical comics, his American Elf comics are an impressive achievement
Susie Cagle (Nine Gallons)
Palestine by Joe Sacco.
Pyongyang by Guy Delisle.
Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware.
Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco.
Louis Riel by Chester Brown.
Collected Peanuts 1952-1953 by Charles Schulz.
Black Hole by Charles Burns.
Curses by Kevin Huizenga.
Epileptic by David B.
Ghost World by Dan Clowes.
Austin English (Windy Corner)
Late Bloomer by Carol Tyler—These stories may have felt slight when released on their own. but together they add up to something spectacular. Tyler writes about human beings in tough spots but somehow treats everyone with dignity. She also doesn’t simplify whats happening—doesn’t caricature the emotions.
Asthma by John Hankiewicz—Easily the richest comics collection in recent memory—rich in terms of thought, ideas, drawing, and an overall punch of humanity.
Pretend by Fiona Logusch—Fionas comics are very under the radar, but as an artist, nothing has been more inspiring than her work. She made 2 great minis over the last 10 years. years, Birdhosue and Pretend. Changed my idea of what you can do with cartooning…these comics are upfront with their emotions, the drawing is really thick, and the stories are quick.
China Guy by Greg Cook—Greg Cook has made many of my great books, but this slight little mini is my favorite.
Unspoken by Megan Kelso—It’s hard to pick my favorite Megan Kelso book. I read this mini over and over…
Sammy the Mouse # 1 and 2 by Zak Sally—Wrote about this book in last years list. Where’s issue #3?
Spaniel Rage #2 by Vanessa Davis—Reading this mini (that was later included in the Buenaventura collection) I just remember how much I loved the way Vanessa drew figures….they just seemed stronger than anyone else’s. Changed the way I drew over time…
Summer of Love by Debbie Drechsler—Drechsler is probably the most skilled cartoonist I can think of. I think maybe people have forgotten just how strong those issues of Nowhere are…one of my favorite comics ever for its drawing and writing.
Dead Ringer by Jason T Miles—Hopefully, this comic is a preview of the rich writing and thought that comics have in store.
W the Whore Makes Her Tracks by Anke Feuchtenberger and Katrin De Vries—Hard to pick one Anke book. She is one of those people that makes a lot of cartoonists (myself included) feel like it’s ok to do comics—she embraces old “classic” stuff but also doesn’t pay attention to most of the rules of those comics. She picks and chooses and pulls off the most beautiful, smart comics around. She’s a GREAT writer too (although this particular book is written by Katrin De Vries) which rarely gets discussed.
Tom Hart (Hutch Owen)
Rabbi’s Cat 1 and 2 by Joann Sfar
Locas I and II by Jaime Hernandez
Explainers 1 by Jules Feiffer
Abe: Wrong for the Right Reasons by Glenn Dakin
Most Eddie Campbell Alec stuff, and/or Bacchus stuff
Fear of Comics by Gilbert Hernandez
Most Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware
Bike Rider by Josh Bayer
Epileptic by David B
Dean Haspiel (Fear, My Dear, The Alcoholic)
All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
The Incredible Hulk by Bruce Jones
100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev cum Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke
100% by Paul Pope
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
The Punisher: The End by Garth Ennis and Richard Corben
Brian Heater (The Daily Cross Hatch)
Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Ice Haven by Dan Clowes
Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell
Wimbledon Green by Seth
Pyongyang by Guy Delisle
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
American Elf Vol. 1 by James Kochalka
Kramers Ergot 7
All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison
Joe Keatinge (PopGun)
1. Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen—I hold a firm belief Erik Larsen holds the title of Greatest Cartoonist of His Generation for his unrelenting dedication to producing his life’s work, Savage Dragon. While a television show, multiple toy lines and recent interest in a film adaptation have come his way, he has continued to focus on creating a work unapologetically meant to be read as an ongoing series of single issue comic books. While his output greatly decreased in the mid-2000s due to his role as Image Comics Publisher Erik Larsen, it has seen a recent renaissance upon his resignation. Since then the series has seen a surge in sales, beginning with his then unheard of endorsement of President Barack Obama, followed by the series’ lead returning to his roots on the Chicago Police Force. Not one to retread old ground, Larsen has taken this role into an entirely different direction by outright murdering his lead mere issues later. If it wasn’t for this Best Of The Aughts list, the series would have topped my Best of 2009 list as well. That said, I felt it more appropriate to give the series a nod on a grander scale as Larsen shows no sign of slowing down on what I truly believe is the Great American Comic Book.
2. Madman Atomic Comics by Michael Allred—At a time when a vast majority claim everything has been done before, cartoonist Michael Allred and colorist Laura Allred have pushed and broken the boundaries of what comic books are capable of. From an issue exploring the subject of self as told through the entire history of the comics to a single panel issue, the multiple award-winning Allreds have done the greatest work of the career and show the promise of even greater work on the horizon. This is a series those wishing to learn more about comics’ potential need to read.
3. Marvel Boy by Grant Morrison—Grant Morrison and JG Jones’s six-issue mini-series created the new century’s first great new character in a reality bending revenge thriller exploring the potential of the Marvel Universe, later further realized in Morrison’s New X-Men. Running on what seemed to be a thousand ideas an issue, their collaboration quietly shaped the entire Marvel line for the next ten years. Unfortunately the work has gone largely ignored in continuity by the company and Noh-Varr, the titular Marvel Boy, altered beyond recognition. Further insult to injury was given when the promised sequel, Marvel Boy 2:001, was slaughtered by what seemed to be confused higher ups unsure what to make of it. However, the series and character’s potential will never be forgotten.
4. Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady—While the series kicked off at the tail end of the nineties, Warren Ellis and John Cassady’s dissertation on pop fiction proved to be one of the defining series of the decade, inspiring the approach many of comics most revered creators. Each issue was a self contained and designed read, which flawlessly fit into a larger whole. Planetary is a work the comics community will be discussing for many decades to follow.
5. Everything by YOSH Collective—At one point in the last decade cartoonists Brandon Graham (King City, Multiple Warheads), James Stokoe (Won-Ton Soup, Orc Stain), Corey Lewis (Sharknife) and Marley Zarcone (Forgetless) lived in a house in Seattle, WA where they began creating the comics that would get them noticed throughout the years, including multiple Eisner nominations. The work they produced was the firing shot for a new generation of creators intent on doing wildly original work unlike anything that has come before. While they have gone their separate ways, they continue to produce some of the more interesting work coming out of cartoonists of any age and show the promise of becoming the cartoonists to define their era. In addition they’ve brought in a number of newer cartoonists, such as Elephantmen and BEAST artist Marian Churchland, who have already shown the best work in comics is yet to come.
Neil Kleid (The Big Kahn)
Justice League: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke—Darwyn Cooke, you make my heart sing. King Faraday and the Martian Manhunter alone sell this one, but toss in that Vegas Captain Cold scene in issue 2 and the great opening featuring the Losers… man, I could go on all day about the design and story well-deserving of a billion Eisners.
Bizarro Comics, Volume One by Various—Believe it or not, this book helped launch my comic book career, and I’m not even in it. I’ll tell you about it sometime.
Starman #72—One of the pages from this book hangs in my studio, a testament to the meaning of heroism and being a great father. The final Ted Knight-Mist scene gets me every time.
9-11 Tribute books—Probably the most important books of the aughts that never should have been made.
Bone: One Volume Edition by Jeff Smith–Arrest me; I’m an indie cartoonist and the first time I read BONE, was with this single volume edition. I came to the party too late and decided to take it all in at once… and now I’d like some more, please.
The Other Side #1 Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart —As editor Will Dennis once wrote, easily the most well-written first issue I’ve ever read.
Finder: Talisman by Carla Speed McNeil—Never underestimate the power of a good story, or the heartbreak of losing a favorite book. This meta-tale about what it means to be a writer should be read by every would-be storyteller itching to put pen to paper.
Paul Moves Out by Michel Rabagliati–Like Chip Kidd’s Cheese Monkeys, this excellent graphic novel by Michel Rabagliati offers a look at what it meant to be a graphic designer rather than “a commercial artist.” The art director and new homeowner in me can;t recommend this one enough.
Planetary #11 by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday—While near impossible to choose a single issue in this amazing series, I’ll go with “Cold World”, Ellis and Cassaday’s Steranko inspired look at John Stone, the bar where scientists explode, and devices like the blitzen suit.
Pounded by Brian Wood and artist Steve Rolston —This one came to me at a time in my life where I needed a little rebellion, was trying to figure out what I should be, and when I started hanging with a pretty indie crowd of artists and actors. Fun and fast-paced, Wood and Rolston’s ode to Heavy Parker encapsulates that DIY mentality born and nurtured in minicomics and online forums right at the beginning of the decade and puts me back in Ace Bar on the Lower East Side, pounding beers and talking comix with abandon.
Robin McConnell (Inkstuds)
Journal #45 Life After Black by Barron Storey—I can’t say enough about how important Barron is. It is really a shame about the high price of the book and its limited print run. Barron is doing something in this comic that stretches the expectations of what one can do with a traditional narative and beating it with a very large stick.
Louis Riel by Chester Brown—This book makes me proud to be a Canadian. Not only is Chester Brown a national cartooning treasure, but his take on the life of one the more formidable figures in Canadian history is unapolagetically honest and succint. It’s an odd book, because in one way, Chester is the only cartoonist that makes war look so boring, but that seems to be his purpose. There is no glorifaction of events and hero making. Chester is more involved in deconstructing some essential Canadian myths.
Kramers Ergot #4 by Various—This is like the art comic equivalent of NWA’s “Straight Out of Compton.” Sammy Harkham and company put together a really amazing collection from beginning to end. For a lot of people, this was there first expsosure to some of the more interesting art comics folks producing work. I don’t think that any of the previous Kramers have really stepped up the game as much as this book. It seems like the later volumes seemed to try and and create to follow the mold, but whole point of KE 4, was that they broke the mold.
Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow by Anders Nilsen—Heart breaking and beautiful.
Notes for a War Story by Gipi–Where the hell did this guy come from! Amazing. i wish comics were always this good.
Black Hole by Charles Burns—I don’t know if i can add anything new that hasn’t already been said about this book. One of the master’s of comics creating his masterpiece.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Kim Deitch—It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Kim’s work. This book show’s that he is at the top of his game. He seems to get better with time and with each book better than the last, but this is the one that sticks out to me, as really breaking through and making a strong impact beyond his the underground roots.
Jimbo in Purgatory by Gary Panter—I don’t know if i can really do this book justice in describing why it’s important. Panter is able to weave several stories through a dizzying complex of illustrated narratives. This book can be a challenge to read, but well worth it, once you start to explore the parts that create the whole. It’s a shame that this is so out of print now, I think of all the academic work that is being done around comics, this is probably the most deserving and essential. Each page comes carefully notated at the bottom, citing the literary sources that he uses. It creates this interesting blend where in one part you have original canto by Dante as the theme and the dialogue is an amalgamation of Classical, Biblical and Renaissance literature. With all this fancy literature, Panter places images of modern pop iconography and somehow it all makes sense, especially once you dig deep and understand how the narrative and context in each quote works together.
Schizo #4 by Ivan Brunetti—Dear Ivan, please please put out another issue. I love the anthologies you do, but I think its time for some more comics.. In an interview I did with him a couple of years ago, Ivan mentioned that he was working on a strip about Jeff Magnum from Neutral Milk Hotel. I would be happy with just that. Please Ivan, make an Inkstud happy.
Acme Novelty #19 by Chris Ware—It’s really hard for me to pick my favorite work by Chris for the decade. Acme #19 is probably the most evolved and dynamic of his output. I am sure there are a million and one reviews of this book, written by better writers than myself, so i will just say that I really liked it and you should too.
Josh Neufeld (A.D.)
Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair
Y, the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and (mostly) Pia Guerra
The Salon by Nick Bertozzi
Bone by Jeff Smith (shouldn’t count because it was mostly done in the 90s but he didn’t complete it in 2004)
Black Hole by Charles Burns (similar)
Jeff Newelt (Smith, Heeb)
Promethea by Alan Moore, JH Williams, Mick Gray
100% by Paul Pope
Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Kim Deitch
All Star Superman by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot
Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar & Joyce Brabner
The Salon Nick Bertozzi
Cat Eyed Boy by Kazuo Imezu
Crypto Zoo by Rick Veitch
Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes
David Press (Freelancer)
Casanova by Matt Fraction, Fabio Moon, and Gabriel Ba: the most fun book on the market. Matt Fraction may have been part of a team to win an Eisner for Iron Man but this book is his best work.
Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.
Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.
Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark
It’s A Bird by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
52 by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Greg Morrison, Mark Waid, and Keith Giffen
The Quitter by Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel
The Winter Men by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon
NYC Mech by Ivan Brandon, Miles Gunter, and Andy MacDonald.
Leigh Walton (Top Shelf)
Top Ten Non-Top Shelf Books
Achewood by Chris Onstad
Bone by Jeff Smith
Demo by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Jimmy Corrigan / the work of Chris Ware, including McSweeney’s, which introduced me to a lot of greats
Little Nemo: So Many Splended Sundays by Winsor McCay and Peter Maresca
Promethea / the work of JH Williams III
Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson
WE3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely