Saturday, December 31, 2011

8 Favorite Comics of 2011

Hello everybody. I usually stray away from making a "best of" list but for some reason I'm not this year. Looking through my books to compile this list I realized how disappointed I was this year. There were some big titles from some of my favorite creators this year but when I look back in all honesty I didn't really enjoy them that much. Enjoyment is my #1 concern. Some books got me angry and some books got me thinking but overall that doesn't mean that the book was a success. They will just have to stay off this list and you'll just have to guess which books those are. Some of these books that I wanted to like more were collections of comics that just worked better as single issues. Or maybe I enjoyed them less because I'd already read them and spent so much time admiring them in their pamphlet infancy. One caveat to my list is that I didn't read every book put out this year of course. Jim Woodring's Congress of the Animals is one I, if I'd read it, would have added to this list. But there must be a reason why I didn't buy it. Another caveat is that some of these books that did make my list are collections from much older work that have been re-published or collected in 2011. Update: I just read John Porcellino's King Cat #72. That should have been on my list.

8. Papercutter #17. Edited and published by Greg Means of Tugboat press, this issue is probably one of my favorite issues of this anthology. Unusual for this anthology, one writer, Jason martin, provided all the stories. seven cartoonists: Jesse Reklaw, Corinne Mucha, Francois Vigneault, Calvin Wong, Sarah oleksyk, Hellen Jo, and Vanessa Davis were employed to turn those stories into comics.  Jason Martin's stories provide a nice framework for the artists in a way that allows easy comparison to Pekar's American Splendor. 

7. Blammo #7. Noah Van Sciver continues to make good comics. Each issue has several stories and I'm often pleasantly surprised by the way Noah Van Sciver ends a story. Usually, punctuated in a way that makes you feel uneasy and with more questions than answers. Looking forward to his book, The Hypo, about a young Abraham Lincoln.

6.  The Incal. Written by Alexandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Moebius, this is a collection of the classic comic that the duo created in the early to mid eighties. It took me a while to read this book I must admit. The font is very tiny and hard to read. That combined with stiff dialogue and a sprawling science fiction tale continued to make this book less enjoyable to me. It was fun to pick out ideas in this book that influenced a range of films and books but often it seemed as if Jodorowsky and Moebius was being influenced by obvious sources as well. All in all, Moebius's artwork and his colorists' coloring is the reason to pick up this book. Gorgeous to say the least.

5. Mister Wonderul. Daniel Clowes was certainly my gateway into comics as an adult. First, with the film Ghost World and then with back issues of Eightball. Mister Wonderful is a nice expanded collection of comics Clowes drew for the New York Times Magazine. I enjoyed the story and the characters much more than Clowes' other recent book, Wilson, and I'm not interested in the new slick version of The Death Ray. I already own the $7.00 over-sized pamphlet. That printing is a work of art.

4. Americus. Another book edited by Greg Means, Americus' first chapter debuted in an earlier issue of Papercutter. Written by MK Reed and illustrated by Jonathan Hill, Americus is a solid book. The storytelling is well structured and compelling enough that I read it in one morning straight through after several months of not being ready to read it. It's a very good book for a middle schooler or someone in high school.

3. Garden. Yuichi yokoyama has been a favorite of mine for some time. I like to call his work, "Future Comics." As compared to some of his previous books, Garden begins to employ dialogue as characters comment on the many amazing and absurd situations they bare witness to. At the beginning, when they are told the garden is closed, hundreds of these people sneak into this garden/theme park and pass by grass mazes, ball-waterfalls, rock cars, and many many strange physical features and odd phenomena as they try not to get caught by security personnel. I'm not interested in his newest, Color Engineering. I prefer his comics to his paintings.

2. Approximate Continuum Comics. This book collects several issues of Lewis Trondheim's autobio comic The Nimrod. Trondheim has been a huge influence on me, just as the Norwegian cartoonist Jason, for drawing animal comics. I love Trondheim's humor and what I love too about this book is Trondheim working his family, business (co-running La Association), and his comics aspirations. I don't care for Trondheim's more recent diary strips, Little Nothings, because they amount to little more than a laundry-list of superficial anecdotes. This book, however, provides a much more in-depth look at a person and I really enjoy the partying and inner-fighting at La Asso., which is now legend.

1. A Zoo In Winter. Jiro Taniguchi has made a handfull of books. Half of them I love, and half of them bore me out of my mind. Walking Man, A Distant Neighborhood vol. 1 and 2 and this is one are the ones I like. This book reads as a memoir of the young cartoonist, similar to the recently published, A Drifting Life by Tatsumi. Being a cartoonist, nothing is more thrilling to read then how great cartoonists broke into their field, especially the Japanese masters with their furious work ethic. It is thrilling to read as Taniguchi, almost unaware, falls into the position of assisting one of the manga stars during the late 1960s. I have a feeling that this book was overlooked more than a little. I loved it.


  1. I've yet to read any of these, so it's good to see a best of list of contemporary comics that look interesting. I didn't even know there was a collection of the Nimrod comics released (did read most those when they were originally published, I guess).

    When you mentioned Taniguchi, maybe it was just a figure of speech, but you said he, "has made a handful of books." Maybe you meant to say a handful of his books have been translated in English(?), as he has actually done TONS of comics... here's a link to an incomplete bibliography with lots of samples of book covers and artwork...

    at least 42 series published in Japan! and it looks like about half those series have been published in France as well. I don't know why English translations are so far behind...

  2. Yes Jeff, you're right about Taniguchi. I meant the books translated and published in English by Fanfare/ Ponent Mon. Thanks for posting that list/link. I didn't know he was THAT prolific. Wished there was more in translation.

  3. Update... I finally took a good long look at the new D&Q edition of Clowe's Death Ray. The end pages alone make this edition worth it. Especially the front inside cover end pages. Funniest thing ever! Well done Mr. Clowes. All end pages should be designed this way.