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Monday, January 3, 2011

(Some of my) FAVORITE COMICS OF 2010

I spent most of 2010 driving around the USA trying to sell my own comic books, and/or laying in bed wondering where it all went wrong, so I have to admit I didn't read a whole lot this year.  But these are some of the comics, new and old, that stuck out for me in 2010.  In no particular order:

1. Eden by Pablo Holmberg (Kioskerman) (D+Q)

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.


2. Supermen!: The First Wave Of Comic Book Heroes 1939-41, ed. Greg Sadowski (Fantagraphics)

What happens when you throw a bunch of sometimes-talented, always-desperate cartoonists in a room and force them to churn out page after page after page of comics at a deviously inhuman rate?  What happens is Faro: “super-detective of the netherworld, the one man who can thwart the evil doings of vampires and werewolves that have invaded the Earth from Pluto.”  Oh my Lord.  This sooper-fun and enjoyably bizarre collection of early "Pre-Code" superhero comics features work by Jack Kirby, Basil Wolverton, Will Eisner, Fletcher Hanks, and Jack Cole, among many more lesser-known artists, and would make a nice companion read alongside the equally excellent Men of Tomorrow (see below)... 


3. AOA #1 by Melinda Boyce (self-published)

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 self-published comics.  She'll probably get comparisons to Vanessa Davis (she writes autobio comics in luscious hand-applied color), but she's definitely doing her own gorgeous thing.


4. Gazeta #1 by various (Gazeta)

This excellent new anthology of international comics (in English) features artists from Cuba, Portugal, Italy, Serbia, Thailand, and France (among others), but the standout is good ol' boy Ron Rege Jr.'s intricate and compelling essay on love, sex, and spirituality, one of the best comics I've read in years.



5. Ku(Š) by various (Ku(Š) Publications)

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 thanks to the generosity of a bunch of Latvian Arts Organizations (take the hint, America), it's CHEAP!  There's no better way to get a taste of the diversity going on in the International comics scene.


6. From the Shadow of the Northen Lights Vol. 2 by various (Top Shelf)

Swedish comics stand out for me because they seem so close in spirit to what's happening in the North American comics world.  Not that the two are copies of each other, but that the Swedish and American stuff seems to be running along the same wavelength.  So that makes these nicely crafted anthologies a perfect place for the English-speaking reader to begin to explore the world of European comics.  Volume One is also recommended, but in Volume Two Top Shelf has really outdone themselves.  An incredible varied and high-quality read, you're sure to find many stories in here that lead you in new, compelling directions.  Excellent!


7. Strange Growths #15 by Jenny Zervakis (self-published)

Jenny is maybe mostly unknown to younger comics fans today, but her long-running series Strange Growths was one of the most original 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!




8. Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones (Basic Books)

Fascinating look at the early, incredibly strange days of the Comic Book, featuring such luminaries and weirdos as Siegel and Shuster, Stan Lee, Kirby, Eisner, Pop Gaines and his son, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and plenty more.  The story includes cheap printing, trucking, organized crime, and the Kefauver hearings and subsequent "Comics Code."  By turns sad, funny, and infuriating, this is a well-written and riveting account that reads as American History 101 for comic book fans.


9. Charles M. Schulz: Conversations, ed. M. Thomas Inge (University Press of Mississippi)

Great, career-spanning collection of articles and interviews, highlights being a weird interview with Mary Harrington Hall for Psychology Today, "Charlie Blue" by Sharon Waxman, and the lengthy, famous Gary Groth interview from The Comics Journal.  Whether you're a cartoonist or just a human being, the man is an inspiration, and his words provide a guide towards a truly profound way of living life.  Of course I don't agree with everything he says, but he says it all with such an understated, down-to-earth sincerity (there's that word!) that you can't help but feel improved upon just listening to the man talk.


10. Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz (Three Rivers Press)

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 resonant.  Probably my favorite comic of the year.



11. Blammo #6 by Noah Van Sciver (Kilgore Comics)

Like I said last year, Noah started out good and only gets better and better with each new release.  This recent issue is a barrel of monkeys from start to finish (Punks vs. Giant Lizards?) but it's the amazing "Abbey's Road," a sincere and non-judgemental look at the life of a Juggalo, that's the quantum leap in terms of Van Sciver's storytelling.



12. Abandoned Cars by Tim Lane (Fantagraphics)

I'd never heard of Lane when I first saw this book, but his slightly off-kilter noir-ish comics and perfectly human, hand-lettering had me picking it up every time I went to the bookstore. Finally, I got a copy and was blown away. His excellent, down and out, Beat-inspired tales of post-war/modern day America are unique to the form, and his grappling with what he calls the "Great American Mythological Drama" yields some of the most literate, stark, and surreal comics I've ever read. The stories were produced over a range of years and vary slightly in terms of drawing style-- you can see Lane working out his methods on paper-- but they combine to form a perfectly rendered whole. Great book.


13. Where Demented Wented: the Art and Comics of Rory Hayes, ed. Dan Nadel and Glenn Bray (Fantagraphics)

Another book I flipped through whenever I saw it, I finally got a copy from the library, and was really surprised.  I'm not personally too much into gore/horror/depravity in my comics, but the opening and closing essays by Edwin "Savage Pencil" Pouncey and Hayes' brother Geoffrey, reveal a kind of lost and strikingly innocent artist. The comics themselves, though undeniably crude at times, have a rock solid EC-inspired prose style, which when combined with the brutal/cute drawings makes for some compelling reading.  As time goes on, Hayes' imagery becomes more and more refined, and there are pages in here that are just simply beautiful.  A real surprise, and a book that kept me thinking for days afterward.


14. One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry (Sasquatch)

I finally managed to read this latest comic-strip form release from Maestro Barry (her two recent D+Q releases are also outstanding, but of a slightly different cloth), and was very moved and inspired.  Dealing with her growth and struggles as both and artist and a person, this book seems like a return to her comics roots.  Sort-of kinda autobiographical, it's a fascinating look at the life of one of the most influential cartoonists of recent times.


15. Caricature by Dan Clowes (Fantagaphics)

I of course read these stories (from the mid-nineties) in their original releases in Clowes' comic-book, Eightball, but I hadn't sat down with them in years, so I checked this volume out of the library.  Reading them, I was immediately taken back to the good old glory days of Alternative American Comics.  I remember reading stories like "Immortal, Invisible," and "Blue Italian Shit" with my jaw hanging open...  you could feel the boundaries of comics expanding with each panel.  These particular comics remain some of my favorites of all time.

3 comments:

  1. There was a new Strange Growths???!

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  2. "Supermen" was probably my favorite Graphic Novel of the past year or so. One thing you didn't mention about it is that all the stories are from the late 30's, before and just after Superman appeared -- so the concept of 'the superhero' was still largely undefined and unrefined. Much of the charm of the book comes out of this "anything is possible" spirit. It's a superhero world where no rules have yet been established. Super fun stuff.

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  3. Men of Tomorrow shares the limitless possibilities of stepping into the unknown, chasing dreams and damn fool luck, so inspiring and somehow feels to me like now,
    thanks for the tip off Mr P.
    You rule as always.
    Jason G

    ReplyDelete