Updated weakly.

John P. has a PATREON. / King-Cat 82 is OUT.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

(Some of my) FAVORITE COMICS OF 2012

It may be that 2012 was the year comics reached saturation levels, at least in my brain.  Not only could I not afford all the comics I wanted to buy (nothing new), I couldn't even find the time to read all the comics I did buy.  There's that much great stuff out there now.  And this was the first year where I had to decide between not just two, but three festivals taking place on the same date.

Plus, 2012 was a weird year for me, in that I feel I had even less time to read comics than usual.  I was on the road a lot, and when I was home I was often slogging through a hefty history of World War II instead of reading comical books.  Also, depression.

What follows is a list of some of my favorite comics I read this year.  Please note that a lot of books I'd imagine would have made this list have gone unpurchased (Pure Pajamas, Out of the Shadows) and/or unread (Infinite WaitThe Voyeurs) due to the factors above. Fantagraphics in particular released a slew of titles late in the year that coincided with me going broke -- The HypoHeads or TailsThe Cartoon Utopia, etc. -- that I'm really looking forward to reading.  Well, that's what 2013's for, right?

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In no particular order:

Apartment Number Three by Pascal Girard (Colosse)

This was my favorite comic of 2012.  Girard's squiggly, lovely line is put to perfect effect in this short and funny story of a young woman who becomes obsessed with discovering the identity of the overweight, bearded hermit in the basement of her building.  Turns out it's noted cartoonist Pascal Girard.  This wonderful little comic makes me laugh every time I read it.

By This Shall You Know Him by Jesse Jacobs (Koyama)

Following up 2011's stellar Even the Giants, Jacobs' second book continues his playful, mythic, open-eyed examination of suffering and beauty, with this tale of bumble-headed and not very altruistic beings who create and destroy worlds for fun, pride, and vengeance.  It's to Jacobs' credit that such heavy themes can be addressed in a wonderfully humorous manner, and his trippy but rock-solid cartooning is a joy to behold.

The Complete Talamaroo by Alabaster (Hic and Hoc)

In this age of pretty-but-empty comics, it's a rare delight to find a book as beautiful as Alabaster's Talamaroo that still holds up when you read it.  The charming cartooning inside belies the very thoughtful and human crises of faith and understanding that these little furry creatures go through.  Plus, it's funny.

1999 by Noah Van Sciver (Retrofit)

Noah is a great cartoonist who's constantly striving to become better.  His creative ambition and drive shows in everything he does, and his ability to write characters that are gently shaped but fully formed is remarkable. This short story, about a 90's loser who finds some kind of love before discovering that it's tough to be a winner, is his best work yet.

"Fly Like an Eagle" by Carrie McNinch, from Three #3

Carrie McNinch is mostly known nowadays for her excellent diary comics, which are some of the best we have.  It's nice though to see her stretch out here, with an extended look at her adolescence and the growing realization that she's gay.  Funny, moving and very real, this is certainly one of the stories I enjoyed most this past year.  And it's in full color!

X-ed Out by Charles Burns (Pantheon)

I've always enjoyed Charles Burns' work, but I had no inkling of the spell this recent book was going to cast over me.  The follow-up to his monumental Black HoleX-ed Out brings the masterful chops he developed over that decade-long project to bear on the more surreal (and funny) traits of his earlier work, and the result is this treasure house of comics.  Weird, biting, and deeply personal, I can't wait to see where this story goes-- I haven't been this excited about a comic in a long time.

Captain America Omnibus by Jack Kirby (Marvel)

In 1976 and '77, The King of Comics, Jack Kirby, returned to Marvel, the publisher he carried on his back for a decade, and to one of his original characters, Captain America.  This giant collection compiles a couple extra-length Annuals, the epic (and originally oversized) Bicentennial Battles, and his complete work on the monthly Captain America and The Falcon series.  This is Kirby Unleashed, from the period where he was writing, drawing, and editing his books, and this run on Captain America is everything we've come to expect from him-- nutty dialogue ("I'm going to do what SHIELD expects of me--!  But not before I've had a new hair-do!"), crazy villains and monsters, giant, beastly machinery, and delightful double-splashes all over the place.  Cap and his buddy The Falcon tangle with The Night People, The Red Skull, and bio-engineer Arnim Zola (the man with an ESP Box for a head), and every page is a delight.

Haunted Horror (series) edited by Craig Yoe (IDW/Yoe Books)

This new series of Golden Age Horror reprints is edited by Craig Yoe and released bi-monthly, so I have a good reason to head on down to my local comics shop on a regular basis!  Beautifully printed, with great old kooky comics by the likes of Simon and Kirby, Jack Cole, Jay Disbrow, and more, these lovely books are a steal at 52 pages for four bucks...  I em a heppy heppy ket.

Happy Hour in America #4 by Tim Lane (self-published)

The artist behind Fantagraphics' Abandoned Cars quietly continues releasing this amazing "one-man anthology" that is unlike anything else going in comics today.  Drawing equally from hard-boiled pulp, the beat writers, and Dick Tracy, Tim Lane makes comics that are ruthlessly violent, openheartedly sincere, and packed full of his deeply personal explorations of American Myth.  The latest issue features a bloody edition of his ongoing Belligerent Piano storyline, a journalistic look at a homeless tent city in St. Louis called Hopeville, and a few other short stories, "In My Dream," and "Diary of a Second Class Citizen."  Few artists working in comics today have the drawing chops Lane has, and couple that with his impeccable, gritty taste, and you've got a singular talent that's humbling to witness.

Notebook Drawings by Jim Rugg (Adhouse)

Not comics, but it might as well be -- for as fun as it is to look at -- this book reproduces Jim Rugg's eye-googling drawings that he draws in cheap, spiral notebooks, with ball-point pens.  (See examples here.)  Cheap, spiral notebooks, with ball-point pens.

After School Special by Dave Kiersh (Teen Pulp)

I've been watching Dave's comics develop since he was a teenager. He's one of those artists that has a kind of single-minded drive towards a deeply personal ideal, and his work is a shifting examination of recurring themes:  the loneliness of lust, the lostness of adolescence, and the decay of time.  After School Special, which he self-published via a Kickstarter campaign, is in many ways the culmination of his whole career up to this point-- in it he's absolutely nailed the essence of his obsession.  Everything he's done, most of it excellent in its own right, has led up to this point.  Brilliant.

July Diary by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized)

If you're like me, you want to read everything Gabrielle Bell puts to paper, including, and maybe especially, her great diary strips.  In July Diary she sets herself the goal of doing a page-long comic every day for the month of July, and she succeeds admirably.  Like most cartoonist's diaries, it's interesting to peek behind the scenes at her methods, process, and even her personal relationships with other cartoonists, publishers, and friends; but Bell is such a strong writer she ultimately transcends any simply voyeuristic motivations in the reader--  her gently intelligent and thoughtful search for meaning is inspiring and heartfelt.

* * *

Lastly, a tip of the King-Cat Cap to Fantagraphics, for completing their amazing publishing runs on E.C Segar's Popeye, and Herriman's complete Krazy Kat Sundays.  Cartoon aficionados the world over thank you!


  1. I'd like to thank the person who anonymously sent me a copy of Marc Bell's Pure Pajamas!

  2. Great list! I found a few things that I have to get. Thanks'!


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