This year-end list my be my favorite annual Cross Hatch feature, if only for the fairly consistent complaints I receive from a litany of prominent cartoonists, writers, publishers, journalists, museum curators, and other industry folks. It’s always the same thing: how dare I ask them to boil down a year’s worth of comics into a list of five books? Don’t I know that we’re in the middle of a sequential art renaissance?
Fair enough, but let’s be honest, given the sheer number of folks who respond to this list each year, five seems like a pretty good cap—it took me a few hours to piece this thing together, as it is.
The other reason I love compiling this list is the opportunity to spot trends amongst those surveyed—do any books seem to stand out as clear favorites? Last year that title belonged to David Mazzucchelli’s modern sequential masterpiece, Asterios Polyp. The year prior, it was a four-way tie with Bottomless Belly Button, What it Is, Swallow Me Whole, and Skyscrapers of the Midwest all nabbing high marks.
While I wouldn’t go so far as choosing a clear “winner” for 2010, Chris Ware really did sneak in last second with the latest issue of Acme Novelty, a book that has blown away nearly everyone who has cracked open its cloth cover, your humble blogger included.
As always, I encourage readers and artists alike to contribute their own lists to the comment section below. Let’s keep the conversation going.
Ellen Abramowitz (MoCCA)
1. Body World by Dash Shaw
2. Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware
3. Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso
4. 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz
5. To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher by William Ayers
Thomas Baehr (Pole)
1. The Scorpion #3 The Holy Valley by Stephen Desberg and Enrico Marini-This series appears every year on my list. Why? Easy: Desberg is a very, very good writer and Marini is simply one of the best artists I’ve ever met.
2. Northlanders The Plague Widow by Brian Wood and Leandro Fernandez-The first issue of The Plague Widow was already on my 2009 list. Therefore, the trade should be on the list for 2010.
3. The Example by Tom Taylor and Colin Wilson-Awesome little story from Australia.
4. The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl-Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Simply amazing.
5. Lady S. #2 Latitude 59 Degrees North by Jean VanHamme and PhilippeAymond-A thriller written by Jan VanHamme. He sells millions of books in Europe–for a reason.
Darryl Ayo Brathwaite (Little Garden Comics)
1. King City by Brandon Graham-This comic is a synthesis of so many comics traditions that it’s hard to know where to begin. Graham borrows as easily from Franco-Belgian comics as he does from Japanese comics as he does from American strips as he does from crime/noir as he…(etc) Graham’s characters navigate an extensively-drawn out fantasy world and let loose face-palming puns with the same ease that they crawl into the back of your skull and kick downward into your heart chambers. Best comic book.
2 through 5: I missed a bunch of important books this year (Love and Rockets, X’ed Out) and therefore feel that the rest of my list is flawed.
I really dug:
Nurse Nurse by Katie Skelly
Ivy by Sarah Oleksyk
Orc Stain by James Stokoe
Rav by Mickey Zacchilli
Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso
Vattu by Evan Dahm
Box Brown (Everything Dies)
1. ACME Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware-I can’t be too hyperbolic when talking about this book. It should be standard reading for everyone alive. It’s perfect.
2. X’ed Out by Charles Burns-Charles Burns in color? My only problem with this book (series?) is that they need to come out at least twice a year and probably won’t.
3. Pterodactyl Hunters by Brendan Leach-Best “mini-comic” I read this year. Printed on newsprint, which fits with the theme of the story.
4. Lemon Styles by David King-I’ve read through this book a number of times each time I’m equally baffled and fascinated and occasionally I laugh!
5. Pictures for Sad Children-My favorite webcomic. John Campbell innovates where others stagnate.
Jeffrey Brown (Funny Misshapen Body)
1. Acme Novelty #20 by Chris Ware-The latest by the best.
2. h day by Renee French-Normally I’m not a big fan of wordless comics, or one panel a page comics, but this book actually warrants multiple readings, and manages to convey more story and emotion than many comics with lots of words and panels in them.
3. The Playwright by Eddie Campbell and Daren White-A funny and well thought out booked that wraps up neatly but not too neatly, brilliantly drawn by Campbell. The only reason I’m not putting the Alec collection in this spot is because… well, I don’t know why. I just didn’t.
4. Market Day by James Sturm-Sturm’s art is minimal and elegant, pacing a thoughtful story that’s sad, occasionally humorous, but all in all meaningful.
5. Inside Moebius Volume 6 by Moebius-The latest volume of Moebius’s stream-of-conscious semi-autobiographical surreal books. Absolutely beautiful, and unfortunately for me, in French. Why there isn’t more Moebius available in English, I don’t know.
Susie Cagle (Nine Gallons)
Lewis by Laura Park-These made me cry on several occasions. I kept trying to think of some beautiful and empathetic comment to write, but then my cat would saunter over and I’d just lose it again. I’m getting misty just writing this review.
Just So You Know #2 by Joey Sayers. Another dispatch of this hilarious heartbreaker. I was sad to see “Thingpart” end, but really looking forward to what Sayers does next.
Salad Days by Minty Lewis. This new series from Lewis cements her status as one of the best dialogue writers in comics. Crap, I think I said that in my review last year too.
“We Be Ouija” by Eleanor Davis-I guess Eleanor Davis has been taking a break from making new comics, but you wouldn’t know it from reading her sketchbook–these are ten times better than a lot of other peoples’ finished work (sorry, other people). I especially like the “Gobo” story.
Meanwhile by Wendy MacNaughton–A new monthly series of thoughtfully reported and watercolored dispatches from around San Francisco. I love Wendy’s eye for character and color, and look forward to more of these in 2011.
Joe Decie (What I Drew)
Best European book: Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason-Jason’s comics are sublime; the little details, the pace, the everyday dialogue. I could read them all day.
Best Anthology: Solipsistic Pop # 3 edited by Tom Humberston-Beautifully rendered in black and red, this anthology has more than a few gems. Warwick Johnson Cadwell for instance; so good.
Best Newsprint comic: The Enquirer Dharbin by Dustin Harbin-This is my favourite of all the newspaper print comics popular at the moment; Harbin is a true draftsman and damn funny, to boot. Every home should have a copy.
Best Child Friendly book: Vern & Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre-Sarah has a lovely drawing style, her colouring is a joy and the book is a pleasure to read.
Best: Wilson by Daniel Clowes-Daniel Clowes creates such compelling characters. I’m sure you already own this.
Andrew Farago, (Cartoon Art Museum Curator)
Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee-My favorite Marvel book of the year. So fun, so accessible, so light-hearted and enjoyable—so of course it sold about nine copies in the direct market and got canceled almost immediately. Artist Chris Samnee’s an incredible talent, and I’ll be following his career closely from here on out. As for Roger Langridge…
The Muppet Show by Roger Langridge-It’s sad to think that we had two monthly
comics by Roger Langridge throughout most of 2010, and that Roger’s leaving both of those gigs early next year. Still, we’ve had almost two years of the best Muppet material since 1981’s Great Muppet Caper from BOOM! Studios, so I shouldn’t complain.
King Aroo: Volume One by Jack Kent-Jack Kent’s King Aroo was right up there with
Barnaby on my “they’re never going to reprint this, are they?” list, but IDW put out a great edition of this incredible comic strip earlier this year, and it looks like Barnaby‘s finally gotten the green light. When I found out that Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was finally getting the deluxe treatment, I officially gave up on trying to predict what companies would or wouldn’t reprint.
Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai-Los Bros Hernandez and Stan Sakai have been so good, so consistently, for so long that it’s easy to take them for granted and forget to put them on year-end lists. Jaime’s story in L&R: NS #3 will remind you why you should never forget that he’s one of the all-time greats, and any Usagi Yojimbo comic collection or single issue will remind you that Stan’s always made great cartooning look easy.
Josh Frankel (Zip Comics)
1.Market Day by James Sturm-I once had a professor who told me that progress has a tendency to destroy people as well as create new opportunities. Market Day is such a beautiful example of that sad truth that affects us to this day. That alone warrants a position on my top five list plus James Sturm’s amazing art does not hurt either.
2.The Search For Smilin Ed by Kim Deitch-Kim Deitch consistently puts out some of the most interesting and well-drawn comics out there. The Search For Smilin Ed is one the weirdest Deitch books, with aliens, demon, and pygmies. It also captures Deitch’s interest in preserving the old culture of television perfectly. Top that off with Deitch’s classic cartoon on acid trip visuals and it is a winner of a book.
3. Acme Novelty Library 20 by Chris Ware-Ware has long shown the suffering of the outcast; while that has been amazing in it’s own way, the new Acme Novelty Library departs a bit. It shows the suffering of the charismatic and somewhat likable Jordan Lint, but that in reality he is as miserable as any of Ware’s usual cast
4.Wilson by Daniel Clowes-Wilson is about a near-sociopathic curmudgeon. While the story is interesting enough, the art is the best reason to pay the price of admission. Clowes changes art styles on every page; while this may seem like a gimmick he does it so masterfully it is actually a selling point.
5. Blindspot by Joseph Remnant-(Disclosure: Joseph is illustrating Harvey
Pekar’s Cleveland, which I am publishing) Blindspot is 30 pages of amazingly witty vignettes. My personal favorite being that of Ace Goddard, a washed-up rock star. Remnant’s art is reminiscent of R. Crumb in the best of ways and is much a reason to buy as the intelligent script.
Shaenon Garrity (Narbonic)
Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee
King Aroo: Volume One by Jack Kent
A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio
Castle Waiting: Volume 2 by Linda Medley
Picture This by Lynda Barry
Nathan Gelgud (Simon’s Soup)
2010: Year of the floppy?
1 800 Mice #5
I Want You #2
Boys Club #4
Joe Gordon (Forbidden Planet)
Been a great year for some Brit comics – the collective self published crew behind Solipsistic Pop created another triumph anthology of the best of the UK small press scene and for the first time in far too long we have not one but two good Indy comics publishers becoming well established here: SelfMadeHero and Blank Slate Books. Okay, I am a little biased since Blank Slate was set up by Kenny Penman, director at Forbidden Planet and my boss, but any books I’ve been picking out are because I liked them (hopefully our blog speaks for itself on the honest opinion stakes) and several of my best of the year choices are coming from these two publishers this year. And how nice to be able to pick stuff from home-grown publishers doing interesting work from native creators and translating work from Europe.
Psychiatric Tales, Darryl Cunningham, Blank Slate LINK
An apparently simple cartooning style takes us into the complex world of mental illness and how it is perceived, from the perspective of an artist who worked in a care home and who also share his own breakdown with the reader. Unremittingly honest but wonderfully, touchingly sensitive, this has been getting a lot of mainstream attention too (a US edition has just come out from Bloomsbury, an Italian one from Coconino is scheduled) and is one of those books everyone should read, be they comics readers or not – it’s not just good, it’s important. I’ve heard of some sufferers of mental illness who have bought copies for family so they can understand them better. This is one of those books we can wave in the face of the elitist who still scorns the comics medium as ‘kid’s stuff’.
Sleepyheads, Randall C, Blank Slate LINK
Belgian creator Randall C’s artwork wowed me even when I first saw it with Flemish dialogue – the art alone swayed me towards it. I was delighted when BSB translated it, it’s a beautiful series of linked vignettes through a dreamscape. It’s hard to summarise because like a dream it seems to flit around you as you try to remember the details – it’s less narrative based and more a work that you let yourself become immersed into because it’s beautiful.
Dance by the Light of the Moon, Judith Vanistendael, SelfMadeHero LINK
Another Belgian work translated, but very different from Randall’s work, this is a semi autobiographical account of a young, confident, educated woman in Belgium falling for an African refugee, much to the upset of her parents. Told in two halves, the first from the long suffering dad’s point of view, then the second from the woman herself, years later, it’s very honest, romantic and touching, while the family touches will be familiar to many of us from our own homes, like the dad absolutely forbidding his daughter to do something, only to be seen in the next panel, with a sigh, helping her do just what she wants because she is his wee girl and he’ll do anything to help her. The romance is beautifully done – the first sex scene is an elegant dance of intertwining bodies across the pages – and the underlying themes of racism and the plight of refugees adds a compelling note to it. I’ve been showing it off to non comics reading friends in my book group as an example of the diversity of comics and they seem quite taken with it too.
Gonzo: a Graphic Biography of Hunter S Thompson by Will Bingley and Anthony Hope-Smith, SelfMadeHero LINK
The great Gonzo has been an icon of mine since my teens. He’s as much, if not more, myth than reality, much of that public persona and myth created and encouraged by Thompson himself. Here they guys dive behind that imagery to look at Hunter himself, what drove him – arrogant, often nasty, hard to get along with, but with genuine claims to be important to modern journalism and to how America views itself, an iconoclast to stand alongside others like Bill Hicks, in my book. As with the graphic bio of Johnny Cash SMH published a couple of years ago this is a fresh look at a well known, iconic figure. Jump into Hunter’s life, it’s like swimming in a washing machine on spin cycle, while it’s full of bourbon instead of water. It’s a hell of a ride.
Louis: Night Salad, Metaphrog LINK
I’ve loved Metaphrog’s Louis books for years – they have the deceptive simple, colourful look of a child’s picture book and indeed children can read and enjoy Louis books, but for the adults there are many layers suggested to them, darker, disturbing elements below the beautiful surface, like a David Lynch film. The core here is Louis’s attempt to save his friend and pet and is both sweet and sad and happy all at the same time, touchingly emotional in a way anyone who has lost a loved pet will recognise and the art is the best Louis they have created yet. The underground city is reminiscent of P Craig Russell’s lovely Baghdad work for the Ramadan issue of the Sandman.The creators, Sandra and John, have written a look into the making of the new Louis book which you can read on the FP blog.
Tom Hart (Hutch Owen)
Was Bodyworld 2010? Bodyworld by Dash Shaw
I haven’t seen Bayer’s ROM yet but have big hopes.
Make me a Woman by Vanessa Davis
Locas II by Jaime Hernandez
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz
Dean Haspiel (Cuba: My Revolution)
Impossible to remember everything I read in 2010, I elected to acknowledge five original works that were released this calendar year rather than choose from the many great collections, anthologies, and archive editions that break my wallet nearly every month.
1. The Playwright by by Daren White and Eddie Campbell
2. Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis
3. Richard Stark’s Parker Book Two: The Outfit by Darwyn Cooke
4. Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera, Various
5. Motel Art Improvement Service by Jason Little
And, because webcomix are just as valid and cool and hardly get the same credit as print comics, I’d like to alert you kids to my favorite of the year, Michel Fiffe’s Zegas.
Eric Haven (Tales to Demolish)
Prison Pit 2 by Johnny Ryan
Dungeon Quest: Volume One by Joe Daly
Market Day by James Sturm
Ten Thousand Things To Do by Jesse Reklaw
The Heavy Hand by Chris Cilla
Brian Heater (The Daily Cross Hatch)
1. Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware
2. Afrodisiac by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg
3. The Search for Smilin’ Ed by Kim Deitch
4. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring
5. Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis
Raighne Hogan (Good Minnesotan)
1. Flesh & Bone by Julia Gfroerer
2. Young Lions by Blaise Larmee
3. Like a Dog by Zak Sally
4. Blammo series by Noah Van Sciver
5. Location #3 edited by Scott Nedrelow-More of an expensive art book–super beautiful though!
Joe Keatinge (Editor, PopGun)
1. Arzak: L’Arepenteur by Moebius, Glenat-I had a feeling this book would top my chart even before I saw it. The only project by any creator with the potential to excite me more than Moebius finally revealing the origins of Arzak would be a completion of his Aedena Cycle. Despite an inability to read French, I highly enjoyed the mammoth (in terms of dimensions) album and eagerly await the next two. While it’s still relatively fresh, I remain confident in saying I have never been more impressed by his work on an artistic level. This is even more impressive considering he’s in his seventies.
2. Orc Stain by James Stokoe-On the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of age is James Stokoe, whose work blows away many veteran creators despite him being in his early twenties. Like Arzak: L’Arepenteur, I feel Orc Stain is easily Stokoe’s best work, on every level possible.
3. King City by Brandon Graham-My favorite comics are the ones which are purely comics. There’s no easy adaptation to any other medium. I feel none embody this more than King City.
4. X’ed Out by Charles Burns-Special mention for Johnny 23, his “bootleg” version published in France by Le Dernier Cri: Charles Burns illustrating a trilogy of fever dreams inspired by the work of Herge sounds as ideal as it gets. I was also taken with Johnny 23, the version of X’ed Out riffing on the Chinese Tintin bootlegs. It’s a fascinating piece in of itself to a point I considered giving its own slot.
5. Spider-Man Fever by Brendan McCarthy- …And out of no where this year featured Brendan McCarthy taking on his longest work yet, featuring Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Wildly imaginative, perhaps more so than any other mainstream superhero work this year. I’m very disappointed to hear plans for a sequel weren’t approved.
Honorable Mention: Lose #2 and Spotting Dee by Michael Deforge-I really sweated the inclusion of Michael Deforge’s second issue of Lose and his full color Spotting Deer, to the point I felt the need to include my first ever Honorable Mention in the three years I’ve been contributing. Deforge may be my number one Talent To Watch Out For. His comics don’t look or read like anything else I’ve seen before and the fact he’s so young, yet producing so much amazing work has me stunned. I cannot wait to see what he does next.
Danno Klonowski (Staple Genius)
1. Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz -This book wins the #1 spot for one reason (the fact its funny, insightful, and wonderfully written and drawn aside): It’s the only comic that came out this year that entertained me, shamed me, and then entertained my shame as I read it cover-to-cover one Saturday afternoon outside on my patio as I got shit-face drunk. It was a pretty perfect reading experience for a pretty perfect book.
2. The Art of Failing Buddhism by Ryan Dow-Ryan Dow’s Webcomic Introspective Comics has been a consistently enjoyable series for over the years now, and The Art of Failing Buddhism is his first collection. Watch the evolution of both the artist and the man in this wonderful 204 page book.
3. Revolver by Matt Kindt-We are all fortunate enough to be living through a golden of age of comics, and sure as peak oil spells the end of all that soon enough, we can also be sure Matt Kindt is one of the modern masters working at the top of his form during this era.
4. The Civil War 4 #1 by Casey Van Heel and Maxeem Konrardy-Yes, I know you’ve never heard of this outstanding historical fiction dramedy. But it’s only on part 1 (of 4), and Abe Lincoln-willing we’ll see more of it in 2011. Until then, go read (and buy) part 1.
5. Good Minnesotan #4 from 2-D Cloud-Minnesota is sick with cartooning talent, and this anthology (which is actually four mini-comic style anthologies packaged together in a lovely slipcase) features 32 of those said sickos, and that’s only the tip of the MN iceberg (but what an iceberg if GM4 contributors Kevin Cannon, Will Dinksi, Tom K, Zak Sally, and Tim Sievert are just the tip, right?).
Smile by Raina Telgemeier-It’s my 14 year-old step daughters favorite of 2010.
Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks-It’s my favorite comic of all time, and the 2010 re-release by D&Q is a chance to pick it up and make it your favorite as well.
Transformers: Bumblebee by Zander Cannon and Chee-If you had been written-in to the Transformers universe as a military man who gets to aid the Autobots and blow-up a Decepticon, you’d mention it too.
Sarah Morean (The Daily Cross Hatch)
1. Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis
2. Body World by Dash Shaw
3. The Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City by Brendan Leach
4. Solipsistic Pop Volume 2 ed. by Tom Humberstone
5. Undeleted Scenes by Jeffrey Brown
MariNaomi (Kiss & Tell)
Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis- The book is gorgeously designed. I loved just holding it in my hands–great cover, paper quality, vibrant colors…and Vanessa’s coming-of-age stories are hilarious, heartbreaking and compulsively
readable. She makes me wish I were Jewish.
Ten Thousand Things to Do by Jesse Reklaw-Reading Jesse’s diary comics one after the other made me feel a little OCD. In a good way.
Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz-This is Julia’s first non-Fart Party book. It’s still as enjoyable to read as ever (witty, charming), but it adds another layer in that it
tackles deeper subjects than before (codependence, substance abuse). But without being heavy-handed. Really good stuff!
Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse-This is a 2010 reprint of a 1995 book, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it and it was brilliant. The art is so meticulous (if Diego Rivera did comics, this is what they’d look like), the story (a gay man’s coming out during the civil rights movement) is simultaneously horrific and innocently sweet. If you love comics and haven’t read this yet, you should get on it immediately.
Prison for Bitches: A Lady Gaga fanzine edited by Ryan Sands-I love that this got made, and that it’s so fun and earnest. I like Lady Gaga, but I adore this zine!
Jeff Newelt (comics editor, Heeb; editor, Pekar Project)
Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel-Gripping memoir that much more potent because it was not about a teenage girl’s resistance to Castro but her initial longer-than-you’d-think-it’d-last enchantment with his regime and then her gradual and of course eventually horrifica change of heart. Super potent art by Dean Haspiel
Dead Boy by Rick Parker-Its obvious Dead Boy was created one page at a time, with no idea what was going to happen to the Goodman Beaver-esque protagonist and his corpse and crow sidekicks next. But that’s a good thing! The reader rides with Parker’s pun-encrusted pen. Freewheeling fun page-to-page improv anchored by virtuoso entertaining cartooning. Rick Parker was clearly having a blast and wearing his influences on his sleeves: classic Kurtzman/Wood/Davis/Elder plus the Crypt Keeper nuttiness.
Red Light Properties by Dan Goldman-This full free graphic novel online is noteworthy both for its bold and successful experimentation in format, fully digital, with 3D rendering as well as panel-to-panel instead of page-to-page clicking and also for its highlarious psychedelic story. With instantly loveable characters, believable family dynamics, and some scary shit!
Blindspot by Joseph Remnant-This debut by Pekar Project artist Joseph Remnant is both hyperintelligent and charming. His voice reminds me of the non-neurotic side of Woody Allen, when he’d highlariously complain about doofuses who’d irk him (like on line at the movies in that scene in Annie Hall). The faux-bio of Ace Goddard, aging rockstar is spot on as well.
The Playwright by Eddie Campbell & Daren White-It’s like My Dinner With Andre meets Larry David… a just tremendously interesting odd hilarious lead character who wishes he were a lothario but in reality is more an eloquent jon lovitz.
Josh Neufeld (AD: New Orleans After the Deluge)
Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel-A tremendous and powerful work by two people I’ve known for almost thirty years. My only criticism of the book is that it is being promoted as a novel when in fact it is pure autobiography. Lockpez’s searing story of life under Castro is unlike any account of Cuba I’d ever read before, and Haspiel’s cartooning is, as ever, top-notch. This book defies easy characterization, but it is a must-read.
Motel Art Improvement Service by Jason Little- Little is one of my favorite cartoonists–and in my opinion, one of our most under-rated. He combines the clean line and exquisite coloring of Hergé with a formal inventiveness and playful love of experimentation. Bee is a wonderful character; I’ve been following her new adventure online for years, and am excited to own a hard-copy of the book.
Market Day by James Sturm-I always look forward to a new book by Sturm. His interest is history, which he brings to life through poignant, character-driven storytelling — in this case, a Jewish merchant’s experience in an early 20th Century shtetl. Market Day is both angst-ridden and contemplative–and altogether sublime.
X’ed Out by Charles Burns-In many ways a “typical” Charles Burns production (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), X’ed Out adds a veneer of Tintin homage. It’s a weird marriage, which, again, is par for the course for Burns. To me, Burns’s nightmarish, surreal work hearkens back to the 1990s halycon era of independent comics — and I love it. I look forward to more volumes in this series.
Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale by Belle Yang-I blurbed this book, so I’ll just repeat it here: “Forget Sorrow is intimate and yet grand in scope. Through Belle Yang’s expert weaving of personal memoir and family history, we emerge with new understanding of pre-Communist China, ancestral lore—and father-daughter reconciliation. Yang’s drawings–and her heartfelt dialogue — make these long-ago stories feel both present and personal. A compelling addition to the comics memoir form.”
Rick Parker (Dead Boy)
I realize it may not be a proper thing to try and “blow one’s own horn”, or direct attention toward one’s own work, but obviously I am very happy with Deadboy, which I self-published in 2010 and is the only thing of any real substance which I ever both wrote and illustrated and represents, I think, a look directly into my unique imagination while utilizing all the skills I have spent most of my lifetime developing.
My other offering for 2010 was Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring, a comic parody of the Harry Potter Series (for which I only did the illustrations) over a period of 750 hours from April 28, 2010 until May 30, 2010. I think it stands up as sophisticated comic entertainment whether one is familiar with the Harry Potter series or not.
The other work which impressed me greatly were Crumb’s Genesis and Clowes’s Wilson, both of which were magnificent examples of our artform.
I am quite sure there are many other great works by such artists as have not come to my attention,since I spend most of my waking hours working. I am quite sure that the medium is being better served than ever before by a greater variety of talented creative men and women “with something to say” and I have no doubt that you and your blog will bring more of that excellent work to our attention. Thanks.
John Porcellino (Map of My Heart)
Eden by Kioskerman-Argentinian cartoonist Pablo Holmberg (AKA Kioskerman)’s beautiful comic makes its English language debut, and it’s a revelation. He’s created a poetic, understated, and dreamy world all his own. But not so dreamy that it doesn’t include the harder parts of being alive. Amazing.
AOA #1 by Melinda Boyce-The surprise of the year for me… Maybe I’m out of the loop, but where did Melinda come from? She walked up to me at Portland Zine Symposium with a handful of perfect, completely solid books of comics. She’ll probably get comparisons to Vanessa Davis (she writes autobio in luscious hand-applied color), but she’s definitely doing her own gorgeous thing.
Ku(Š) by various- Full-color Latvian comics anthology in English includes work from plenty of natives, but also cartoonists from the US, other parts of Europe, and Japan etc. And due to the generosity of a bunch of Latvian Arts Organizations, it’s cheap!
Strange Growths #15 by Jenny Zervakis -Jenny is maybe mostly unknown to younger comics fans today, but her long-running series Strange Growths is one of the most influential self-published comics of the 90’s. Low-key, charming and weird, her scratchy true-life stories point to a not often perceived reality. This is her first release in six years!
Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz-Of course Julia’s comics are crude and hilarious, but the thing I always found interesting about her stuff is that, at their core, there’s an underlying, almost hidden, warmth to them. This depiction of her first year in New York City (after leaving San Francisco) is both laugh-out-loud funny, and emotionally real. Probably my favorite comic of the year.
Gabby Schulz/Ken Dahl (Monsters)
1. Acme Novelty Comics #20 by Chris Ware-A lot of people have claimed this has attained Best Comic Ever status. I can’t go that far, but there’s no way to even spin it ironically: it’s a pretty damn good read.
2. Cock Bone by Josh Simmonds-I find myself thinking about this gruesome, irredeemably bleak horror comic quite often. Josh Simmonds is one of the only cartoonists today not afraid to scour the truly dark parts of the port-a-john for some juicy cockroaches to insert right under your eyelids.
3. “Browntown” by Jaime Hernandez (part of Love & Rockets: New Stories 3)-I love that cartoonists don’t start sucking as they get older, but just get better and better and better.
4. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring-See explanation for #3. 2010 seems to be the year of the Old Dude Comeback.
5. Gaylord Phoenix by Edie Fake-This epic, sexy rebuttal of the gender prison proves the new dudes can bring it, too.
Julia Wertz (Drinking at the Movies)
The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier-Walker Bean is the kind of book I was constantly in search of as a kid, and still was delighted to find as an adult. Aaron excels at creating fantastical worlds you can get completely lost in and his illustrations are so intricate and amazing that i can stare at them for hours. Aaron makes real life just seem so boring.
I Want You #2 by Lisa Hanawalt-Lisa’s comics are absolutely disgusting, and I mean that only in the best way and with all of my adoration.
How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden-While Sarah was working on this book, we kept making fun of its description on Amazon as “an emotional journey.” But then it turned out that when you couple that with an intelligent and objective view of a historical and political conflict, it makes for a pretty damn good book.
Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood by Martin Lemelman-I like pretty much any comics where childhood nostaliga and New York is drawn in loving detail, but Martin’s story encompasses more than just that. It’s a story of a family and changing city and all that stuff that makes you have feelings and what not. Highly recommended even if you don’t live in Brooklyn.
Make Me A Woman by Vanessa Davis-Reading Vanessa’s comics are like spending an afternoon baking cookies with your favorite funny aunt. I’ve never actually done that, but I imagine it’s very pleasant. Few people capture the nuance of daily life as well as childhood stories and longer narratives with the hilarity and charm that Vanessa does. Arg I hate that sentence but I mean it!
J.T. Yost (Birdcage Bottom Books)
Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware
X’ed Out by Charles Burns
Wilson by Daniel Clowes
The Book of Genesis by R. Crumb
Picture This: The Near-sighted Monkey Book by Lynda Barry
Top 5 mini-comics:
I Want You #2 by Lisa Hanawalt
Uptight by Jordan Crane
Process: How I Make My Comics by Jeffrey Brown
Small Victories by Victor Kerlow
Blammo #6 by Noah Van Sciver
Tracy White (How I Made it to 18)
Smile by Rain Telgemeir and Mercury by Hope Larson
Koko Be Good by Jen Wang
Market Day by James Sturm
Alec: The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell
Stitches by David Small
Alex Zalben (Thor and the Warriors Four)
1. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez-Specifically the superb, experimental “Keys to the Kingdom,” which took every issue, and played with style and form. There may be no better single issue of a mainstream comic this year than the excellent Calvin & Hobbes tribute in issue #2. Gabriel Rodriguez and Joe Hill deserve all the success they’ve gotten from this book, and I can’t wait for the TV adaptation–I hope it does the book justice.
2. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley- Proof that there’s no real “Big Two” anymore, Bryan Lee O’Malley wrapped up his landmark series in style, with a volume that was original, heartbreaking, and most of all, funny. Also proof that you don’t need your character to have big changes (Death! Marriage! Etc!) to have big changes–sometimes, getting one year older is just enough. Oh, and the movie was damn good, too.
3. American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque-Another breakthrough work, though you wouldn’t necessarily consider Vertigo indie. Scott Snyder works perfectly with artist Rafael Albuquerque to create something that goes beyond sparkle-pires and hunky werewolves to get to the heart of what made vampires classic in the first place: their metaphorical powers are stronger than their supernatural ones. Snyder also managed to break past the “Stephen King presents!” buzz of the first few issues, and make the title stand on it’s own. One of the great new series coming out today, and one I hope to be reading for a long time from now.
4. Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee-Roger Langridge’s script is great and all (and it is great), but the pencils by Chris Samnee, and colors by Matt Wilson are insanely good, possibly the best in current mainstream comics. Samnee & Wilson’s depiction of Namor as a slightly blue-skinned sea creature redefined the character for a new generation, something I never thought would be possible. It’s a huge bummer the series was cancelled before the team could tell their entire story, but we’ll always have the first eight–classic–issues.
5. Jimmy Olsen by Paul Cornell and Nick Spencer-Action Comics is pretty damn good right now, with Paul Cornell’s fun, loopy story of a power-mad Lex Luthor taking the title away from Walkabout Superman. And there’s almost too much from newly hot scribe Nick Spencer to choose just one thing, but I will: Jimmy Olsen is one of the most fun things to happen to DC Comics in a good long while. The back-up story of the Daily Planet’s most famous intern/reporter/photographer wrangling with some party-hungry aliens is funny, zippy, and what comics should be across the board: enjoyable to read. Here’s hoping, with all of DC’s back-ups going away, that we still get more of this in the New Year.
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman-Great comic, great TV show, great example of a new concept in comics making it big. More of this type of thing, please.
Thor and the Warriors Four by Alex Zalben and Gurihiru-Hey, I wrote this! So I’m not going to say it was one of the best of the year or anything, but Gurihiru’s art, Colleen Coover’s back-up story, Dave Sharpe on letters, Jordan D. White and Nate Cosby on edits, and the entire team at Marvel certainly made this the highlight of my year. Also, it just got released as a digest, so wouldn’t that be a perfect stocking stuffer? It sure would, I’ll tell you what.