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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(Some of my) FAVORITE COMICS OF 2009

Everybody makes these kinds of lists, so, I thought, why not me?  These are just SOME of the comics I read last year, that I really enjoyed.  Some of them came out a long time ago, but I only finally read them in 2009.  One of them came out in 2009, but I didn't read it till a few weeks ago--  I still included it.  Of course, this is no definitive list:  I can't claim to have even begun to KNOW of all the comics that came out last year, and I'm an old man--  undoubtedly I've forgotten something.  Also, I still have a box of comics that I got while on tour that I have barely begun to crack.  So take this list with a grain of salt, and if it turns somebody somewhere on to something that they wouldn't have known about otherwise, that's the point.  Huzzah!

(No particular order):

1. Genesis by R.Crumb (Norton)

This book really surpassed my (high) expectations.  People I know and respect have had varying opinions on it, but I think it's a masterpiece.  By restricting himself to the traditional text, Crumb has achieved something really special, something that only an artist with his age, experience, and perspective could have pulled off.  I have a special place in my heart for these types of old religious writings, but even so, I was surprised to find myself moved to tears at the conclusion.  Now--  how about Exodus?

2. OMAC: One Man Army Corps by Jack Kirby (DC Archives)

My friend Ray has been trying to get me to read OMAC for years now, going so far as to send me issue #1 in the mail.  So I finally read it.  We'll see how it all shakes out, but this may be one of the most influential comics for me, as an artist, that I've ever read.

After years of hand-wringing and miserablism, this collection reminded me of just how much I love comic books.  Ever since then I've been on a comics rampage-- I can't get enough of them!  And that long-term doubt and shame I've felt about my role in life, as a cartoonist, has evaporated in the morning light.  I LOVE COMICS.  There.  I said it.

3. Like a Dog by Zak Sally (Fantagraphics)

It's impossible for me to be objective about this book, as Zak is one of my closest friends, but this is a really powerful, fascinating collection of comics.  Very dark, and even brutal sometimes, but bracing, and highly original.

4. Blammo by Noah Van Sciver (series) (self-published/Kilgore Comics)

Another great comic by another good friend.  Noah started out talented, and has improved with every issue.  Bleak and hilarious, his comics emerge from a classic Underground sensibility, but are thoroughly modern at the same time.  Great stuff.

5. Amazing Adult Fantasy Omnibus by Kirby, Lee, Ditko et al. (Marvel)

I discovered the existence of this book while messing around online, and when I did, I became very, very happy.

Before it became the launching pad for good ol' Spiderman (in issue #15), Amazing Adult Fantasy ("The Magazine That Respects Your Intelligence!") featured goony, wonderful sci-fi and monster comics by Kirby, Ditko, and Lee, among others.  Reading this stuff changes my brainwaves in a very, very good way.  Also highly recommended:  Marvel Masterworks reprints of Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense.

6. A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn and Quarterly)

A brilliant, engrossing memoir of Tatsumi's early years in Manga, from his precocious childhood through early adulthood, when he and his friends created the mature, groundbreaking gekiga style of Japanese comics.  Didn't want it to end.  Will there be a Volume Two?  Please say yes.

7. Aya by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (series) (D+Q)

Nothing too earth-shattering here (except of course for totally destroying the typical American notions of what life in Africa is really like), but this day-to-day tale of growing up in 1970s-80s Ivory Coast is absolutely beautifully written and drawn, and a complete joy to read.

8. Cecil and Jordan in New York by Gabrielle Bell (D+Q)

The best collection yet of one of my favorite contemporary cartoonists;  Gabrielle Bell's quietly detached views of modern life are sweet and smart.

9. The Complete Little Orphan Annie Vol. 1 by Harold Gray (IDW)

After years of hearing how great this comic was, I was happy to find that it completely lives up to its reputation, and then some.  Masterful from its earliest pages, in this classic strip Harold Gray really knew how to keep you coming back for more.  I'd tell myself "Just one more page... then I'll go to sleep!"  Not likely!  Can't wait to read the next one, and the next one, and the next one...

10. Doing Time by Kazuichi Hanawa (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

I kept looking for a portal into Manga, for something idiosyncratic and personal that I could really sink my teeth into, and this true account of Japanese prison life was it.  I read it at Zak's while on tour, and afterwards I felt like a whole new world had opened up for me.

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