My best of 2013 is less of what was the best books in the year and more of a selection of books that I either read for the first time or revisited during the year. (The Allen Say, Miyazaki, and McNaught books were published prior to 2013, while the rest were published sometime during the year.) Note, I also didn't read everything that I wanted to. Also, The Miyazaki book is not comics.
Dockwood by Jon McNaught
I met Jon at the Stumptown Comics Festival last year and was charmed by his humble and easy to talk to personality. I was blown away by this book and it is a perfect evolution of the Chris Ware moment to moment, panel by panel pacing. The story is sweet and meditative. The artwork and pacing is phenomenal.
Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée
Castrée's linework is very tight, cute, and very influenced by Julie Doucet's comics. This book is making everyone's best of lists so I don't care to say much more. It's great!
Starting Point 1979-1996 by Hayao Miyazaki
I re-read this book this year and found so much I had missed the first time I'd read it. It's full of my hero's philosophy on why he makes the kinds of films he makes, and anecdotes about the creation of his early to mid-career films. Miyazaki's words are passionate and deeply rooted in a careful examination of what kinds of stories would not only be entertaining but have a positive impact on children and society at large. The flip-side is that he's never around to be a good father. His wife takes on that responsibility. I saw an interview on the Panda Go Panda DVD with his son, Goro, a director himself, in which Goro talked about not seeing his dad when he was younger. Hayao Miyazaki would always be working late, and then leave for work after his children were already off for school. I admire Miyazaki so much, however, I cannot admire this aspect. He does address it in this book of essays, lectures, and interviews as the only way to make the work he makes. Hmm.
Paul Joins the Scouts by Michel Rabagliati
I will put any Michel Rabagliati book on my best of. This book takes a look back to the years Paul became a scout amidst political tensions and the separatist movement in Quebec. Ultimately it is a tragedy and a memoir about friendship, belonging, and its abrupt departure. It's very sad and sweet. Rabagliati makes books that are composed with full emotions. I'm so pleased that this seems like only the beginning of the artist's career. How many more books can we expect from him, I wonder.
The Summit of the Gods vol. 4 by Jiro Taniguchi
This, the fourth in a five volume series is written by Yumemakura Baku and brought to life in pen and ink by Jiro Taniguchi, and presumably an army of assistants. Summit of the Gods is about obsessive men who climb the tallest mountains in the world, risking their own lives, and the people who love them. I quite enjoy the obsession in these books. The series follows two characters and one's determination to summit Mt. Everest on the most dangerous side, in winter without oxygen. I wonder how can a book exist with hundreds (over a thousand in the whole series) of drawings of people climbing the sides of mountains. The artwork is beautiful and it baffles me. I don't think about the process at all, however, until I'm finished with the book. The story is engrossing and I cannot wait for the final installment. Jiro Taniguchi is certainly one of my favorite cartoonists.
Ballad by Blexbolex
I admit I have not finished this book. I just bought it and I'm enjoying taking it slow. It's a really magical and weird fairytale-ish book intended for children. The artwork/printing is beautiful and I like to spend several minutes soaking-in each page. Very unique work. This is the kind of book that inspires me to make different work. Wish I had seen him when he was in Portland recently.
Goddamn This War! by Jaques Tardi
Tardi's previous treatment of WWI with It Was the War of The Trenches made me want to snatch this one up as soon as it hit the shelves. I liked it very much, and it reads like another great anti-war ballad, along with vivid historical detail that gives a good overview on the war and what was going on behind the scenes. I wish there was a bit more in terms of drawing and comics (Each page is laid out with long panels, three to a page). Goddamn all wars! I hope kids get to read this one when they're studying the topic in high school.
World Map Room by Yuichi Yokoyama
I am a big Yokoyama fan and I was pleasantly surprised with this book in an advancement in his narrative dialogue. His art is stunning: giving great detail to character design, and dynamic panels of moving bodies and objects. His storytelling is all about momentum and mystery. People are going somewhere. What are they doing? Who is this? What is that? Some things are explained very matter of factly such as what might as well be a line in his book, "I see a road. Let's walk down the road. Here are some rocks. These are unusual looking rocks. Let's collect them. etc." The book ends.
Drawing From Memory by Allen Say
This one came out a couple of years ago but I forgot to mention it. It's a children's book by beloved author/illustrator Allen Say. This time he's opting for a more comics-style approach instead of his more photo-realistic water color paintings. His line work is cartoony and more evolved than his earliest works such as The Bicycle Man. I am so happy that he's gone this way. His newest book about his daughter has continued in this direction. Anyway, the story is a memoir about Say when he was growing up in Japan and how he became a celebrated Mangaka's apprentice. It's similar to Tatsumi's A Drifting Life and Tanaguchi's A Zoo In Winter, in that it's a coming of age story set in Japan with a boy becoming a manga artist through apprenticeship. Great book for adults, not just children.
Map of Days by Robert Hunter
Map of Days caught my eye strictly for it's visuals. It looks like dry pastels or I guess I could just look it up. This book is bright and pretty. There is a story here too, but it's the visual language that keeps me reading. Another book that's inspiring me to change things up.
Disclaimer: If you didn't see your book here it's because Tom Spurgeon already loves you. Also I didn't get to and still want to read Peter Bagge's Woman Rebel: The Margret Sanger Story and Seiichi Hayashi's Gold Pollen and Other Stories. Masters of Alternative Manga Vol. 1. They may just make my list. I hope.