I never really do best of lists, so please don’t consider it a best of list. I did this for the Daily Cross Hatch. The work on the list is more like a list of stuff I like and I think people should check out. There is a lot of other comics that I have enjoyed immensely, and if you want more suggestions, email me or just listen to some of the 200 interviews here. The image above is provided by the wonderful Noah Van Sciver. I plan on looking like that on New Years Eve.
BEST OF 2009
Pim and Francie by Al Columbia–This book shows what happens when you allow a cartoonist to do the work that they want to do, with out interference. I really think the world of Al’s work. Some of his Mome stuff has been amazing and he show’s no sign of slowing down or letting up.
A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi–Meeting Tatsumi at TCAF was a highlight of the year. The man was getting some well deserved attention and in turn, he was extremely generous with the folks there. My sketched in copy is a prize of the Inkstuds collection.
Spot 12: The Story of a Birth by Jenny Jaeckel–This is probably removed from everyones radar. I bought this off a friend that was selling it for her at a small comic convention in Vancouver. This Xeric grant winning book is an autobio story in the tradition of amphromphsizing the story to really boiled it down to the basic properties. I had no idea this comic even came from Vancouver!
You Are There by Jacques Tardi–I have been a fan of Tardi’s for a very long time and when I heard that Fantagraphics was going to start reprinting work, I was was pretty stoked. Both You Are There and West Coast Blues are fantastic. West Coast Blues serves a great purpose of showing all those guys doing cheesy crime comics, how it’s really done. You Are There on the other hand, really stands out to me even more, because of the way that he is able to play with the medium and push the comics to a point of no return.
Complete Jack Survives by Jerry Moriarty–A fine work that could have been lost to obscurity but thanks to the devotion of Alvin Buenaventura and Chris Ware, Jerry Moriarty’s masterpiece sees the light day for a new generation of cartoonists to learn from. This book works on a couple of different levels. First of, it’s cartooning or as Jerry refers to himself, paintooning at its best. Secondly is to understand how Jerry is able to break comics down into a way that hearkens to Bushmiller’s Nancy. Jerry is able to express so much with minimal activity, providing a snapshot of a point in time and a visceral experience at the same time. Buy this book!
BEST OF THE 2000’s
Journal #45 Life After Black by Barron Storey—I can’t say enough about how important Barron is. It is really a shame about the high price of the book and its limited print run. Barron is doing something in this comic that stretches the expectations of what one can do with a traditional narrative and beating it with a very large stick.
Louis Riel by Chester Brown—This book makes me proud to be a Canadian. Not only is Chester Brown a national cartooning treasure, but his take on the life of one the more formidable figures in Canadian history is unapolagetically honest and succinct. It’s an odd book, because in one way, Chester is the only cartoonist that makes war look so boring, but that seems to be his purpose. There is no glorification of events and hero making. Chester is more involved in deconstructing some essential Canadian myths.
Kramers Ergot #4 by Various—This is like the art comic equivalent of NWA’s “Straight Out of Compton.” Sammy Harkham and company put together a really amazing collection from beginning to end. For a lot of people, this was there first exposure to some of the more interesting art comics folks producing work. I don’t think that any of the previous Kramers have really stepped up the game as much as this book. It seems like the later volumes seemed to try and and create to follow the mold, but whole point of KE 4, was that they broke the mold.
Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow by Anders Nilsen—Heart breaking and beautiful.
Notes for a War Story by Gipi–Where the hell did this guy come from! Amazing. i wish comics were always this good.
Black Hole by Charles Burns—I don’t know if i can add anything new that hasn’t already been said about this book. One of the master’s of comics creating his masterpiece.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Kim Deitch—It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Kim’s work. This book show’s that he is at the top of his game. He seems to get better with time and with each book better than the last, but this is the one that sticks out to me, as really breaking through and making a strong impact beyond his the underground roots.
Jimbo in Purgatory by Gary Panter—I don’t know if i can really do this book justice in describing why it’s important. Panter is able to weave several stories through a dizzying complex of illustrated narratives. This book can be a challenge to read, but well worth it, once you start to explore the parts that create the whole. It’s a shame that this is so out of print now, I think of all the academic work that is being done around comics, this is probably the most deserving and essential. Each page comes carefully notated at the bottom, citing the literary sources that he uses. It creates this interesting blend where in one part you have original canto by Dante as the theme and the dialogue is an amalgamation of Classical, Biblical and Renaissance literature. With all this fancy literature, Panter places images of modern pop iconography and somehow it all makes sense, especially once you dig deep and understand how the narrative and context in each quote works together.
Schizo #4 by Ivan Brunetti—Dear Ivan, please please put out another issue. I love the anthologies you do, but I think its time for some more comics.. In an interview I did with him a couple of years ago, Ivan mentioned that he was working on a strip about Jeff Magnum from Neutral Milk Hotel. I would be happy with just that. Please Ivan, make an Inkstud happy.
Acme Novelty #19 by Chris Ware—It’s really hard for me to pick my favorite work by Chris for the decade. Acme #19 is probably the most evolved and dynamic of his output. I am sure there are a million and one reviews of this book, written by better writers than myself, so i will just say that I really liked it and you should too.