• List: Matthew J. Brady posts his picks for the best comics of 2010 on his Warren Peace Sings the Blues blog (where there are links to his past reviews), including:
"25. Temperance... is a confounding work, and a fascinating one, with some excellently moody art. I still don't know if I really understand it, but it's a strange, unforgettable book."
"23.Set to Sea... is lovely to look at, full of beautiful seascapes and cartoony movement. It may be a small and quick read, but it doesn't seem that way in subsequent memory."
"18. Wally Gropius... is a deeply weird comic, but one that is not easily forgettable, starting with an off-kilter take on old teen comics and throwing in a sort of dada energy, social commentary that isn't always easy to decipher, some startling sex and violence, and an angry attitude toward the idly manipulative rich and their disdain for the rest of humanity. It's also really funny, and what seems like random incidents eventually cohere into an actual story, but the crazy contortions of the characters, the financial imagery and sound effects, and the bizarre dialogue and actions from the characters are what will haunt the mind for some time to come."
"10. It Was the War of the Trenches... is one of the most incredible books of the year, an ugly, grimy, angry look at the devastation of war on everything it touches, an endless cascade of horrors that are all the more effective due to their reality. This is arresting work, something everyone should read, lest we forget how easy it is to get caught up in the killing once again."
"7. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories [...] From the beautiful artistic filigrees that fill panels throughout, to the firm grasp of character and complex emotional examinations, every page of this book is an essential bit of reading for manga fans."
"3. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3... is an amazing example of how great these creators are, and the way comics can be used for maximum effectiveness to tell emotional, realistic, beautifully real stories."
• Interview: Sean O'Toole of South African culture mag Mahala talks to Joe Daly: "Whatever other influences effect my comics worldview, I always end up coming back to Tintin. It’s an impeccable foundation text in terms of characters, story telling and artwork. I also appreciate the fact that it’s written and drawn by one person, George Remi aka Hergé (although I know he had studio assistance later in the series). It’s a complete creation, in that way, there’s a deep level of cohesion between the drawing and the narrative."
• Interview: At Comicdom, Thomas Papadimitropoulos talks to Jim Woodring (interview in English follows introduction in Greek): "I write all my stories out in words, describing the action. After a lot of rejecting of alternatives I end up with something that feels meaningful to me, even if I don't know why. In fact I prefer it if I don't know why. If I can tell there is some significant meaning respiring in the depths of the proposed action, I don't worry about what that meaning might be; I draw the story up and allow the meaning to occur to me and to readers whenever the time is right." (via The Comics Reporter)
The issue also includes the reviews excerpted below:
The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi: "A strong Jules Verne flavor dominates the story’s stew of mystery farce and sci-fi adventure, from the ship named the Jules Vernez to the assortment of just-plausibly-outlandish vehicles and deep-sea mechanical apparatuses. But the real fun comes from marveling at it all in Tardi’s expansive, ice-blasted scratchboard tableaus that feature one breath-stealing scene after another, all the way through to the cheerfully villainous finale. A devious bit of far-fetched fun." – Ian Chipman
Freeway by Mark Kalesniko: "Kalesniko reprises his alter ego, Alex Kalienka, for his most ambitious and accomplished graphic novel yet. [...] Although Kalesniko’s formal storytelling devices, particularly his deft panel arrangements and intelligent compositions, are largely responsible for Freeway’s impressive effectiveness, it’s his distinctive and delicate drawing style that supplies the emotional component, best displayed in the economical character design and in the painstakingly researched, lovingly depicted scenes of a bygone Los Angeles." – Gordon Flagg (Starred Review)
Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti: "Obviously but never verbally a parable of Christian redemption, Piersanti’s story becomes extremely compelling in Mattotti’s hands. ...[H]is swirling realization of atmosphere, the protagonist’s states of mind, and human figures conjures the raw power and compassion of such great Italian neorealist films as Bicycle Thieves and La Strada." – Ray Olson
• Plug: "It really is amazing that there are generations growing up, only knowing the Disney characters from the theme parks. Thankfully, Fantagraphics is doing something about it, restoring and publishing a complete archive of the Mickey Mouse comic strip by cartooning legend Floyd Gottfredson." – Stefan Blitz, Forces of Geek
• Plug: "Fantagraphics' collection of Floyd Gottfredson's complete run on the Mickey Mouse comic strip of the 30s and 40s is one of the most exciting things on upcoming comics collection list (although I'm most excited about the same publisher's announced reprinting of Carl Barks' complete run of Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics)." – Pop Culture Safari
• Plug: "I've been looking forward to Wilfred Santiago's Roberto Clemente biography 21 for what seems like years now, maybe because it's actually been a couple of years. But you wait for the good ones." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "This book kills. It’s well worth the price of admission just to gawk at the artwork, which, had I not read the back cover, I would have guessed was the work of a master cartoonist who had honed his craft for decades. [...] Drew Weing does to Set to Sea what Quentin Tarantino did with Pulp Fiction. He (Tarantino) took the done-to-death stories of the fighter who decides not to throw the fight, the mob hit gone bad, and the goon messing with the mob boss’s wife — all fairly clichéd bits — and takes up the challenge of smashing together a brutally entertaining piece of work. That is exactly what Set to Sea is — but without all the gangsters and boxers and dancing." – Chris Reilly, The Panelists
• Review: "It’s like Let the Right One In — the horror of the supernatural is set against a dull and mundane urban background, without the lights and glamour of an American city, just miles of concrete, drainpipes and bannisters. Many of the stories [in Pocket Full of Rain ] share Steig Larsson’s sense of Scandinavian unease, and reek of Doc Martens, subtitled pop culture and Automatic for the People-era R.E.M. The title story was first published in 1995, and feels like Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron by Dan Clowes." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "I’m in love. With the town of Palomar. How could you not? You’d have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with Hernandez’s creations. The characters [in Heartbreak Soup] are so warm, and lifelike, that even the ones that are supposed to be annoying (like Tonantzin and Toco) are just so loveable, you can’t help but sigh and say, 'Oh you!' under your breath, even though you don’t even really know the character too well yet!" – Lisa Pollifroni, lisaloves2read
• Review: "Surrealism is dangerous. Mostly, when you leave the rails, the result is less glorious freedom and more quick kablooie. It’s an easy method for the lazy writer, but somehow when Ray Fenwick does it, it works. Mascots, his second book, is short on — but not absent — narrative. Its pages are made up of paintings on book covers that are largely text-based... Somehow, they hang together enough to produce a fuzzy but charming impression." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "...[T]he impressive thing about [Special Exits] is that, despite depressing subject matter, it’s extremely readable and fairly funny. Yes, you’ll think about the horrors of getting old and failing to maintain your independence, not to mention the even scarier prospect of taking care of your own parents. But if Farmer’s book is meant to soothe your fears, it kind of works." – Hillary Brown, Paste
• Review: "The black-and-white Hey, Wait… and Sshhh! are low-key ruminations on grief, loss and aging that bear Jason’s trademark anthropomorphic animals, clean lines and Scandinavian black humor. [...] Jason’s beautiful craftsmanship overcomes The Iron Wagon’s familiar material and, along with the rest of What I Did, foreshadows the excellent work to come later in the decade." – Garrett Martin, Paste
• Review: "There's no doubt in anyone's mind that Roy Crane was a first-class cartoonist, frequently making panels on the newspaper page that were absolutely to die for, stop-and-study moments of the kind that inspire the best students and discourage the worst. There are times when reading these rousing adventures of Navy pilot Buz Sawyer and his support man Roscoe Sweeney that it's hard to believe anything this striking ever appeared on the comics pages..." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "A book like this should be must reading for those who want to know how the shojo we know today came to be. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is not just for lovers of girl's manga, however. It's a book worthy to be read by anyone who likes good comics with a touch of fantasy and a touch of sadness. As with any book by a great creator, the appeal is almost universal... Hopefully, this will be the start of getting Hagio's name on the same pillar as Tezuka, which is clearly where she belongs. If by some chance you haven't read this manga yet, you owe it to yourself to find a copy right away. [...] This is one of those books that is not to be missed. It's destined to be a classic." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Review: "...[E]ach page is a single panel, but each of those panels is so attractively detailed and evocative that the storytelling structure never feels rigid. Instead, it comes across as economical and precise while still filled with event and emotion. It’s a quick read, but it’s very satisfying, and it just invites you to revisit the story again. [...] Set to Sea ... is artistically successful on every front, but Weing’s substantial craftsmanship never overwhelms the simple, heartfelt story he’s telling." – David Welsh, The Manga Curmudgeon
• Review: "Destroy All Movies is an addictive, ambitious, behemoth of a book and it’s funny as all hell. There are too many sidesplitting takedowns of bad movies to list in this review, but if you enjoy bad movies (and especially if you enjoy stuff like Mystery Science Theater 3000), you will love this book. [...] Destroy All Movies truly shines as a lengthy love letter to cult cinema, punk pride notwithstanding. [...] You will want to refer to it and reread it over and over. It’s got that much good, not-so-clean, fun packed into its 500-plus pages." – Less Lee Moore, Popshifter
• Reviews (Audio): The new episode of Easy Rider, the radio show for "rock, punk rock, country, power pop, garage and comics" from Radio PFM out of Arras in northern France, features FUC_ __U, _SS __LE: Blecky Yuckerella Vol. 4 by Johnny Ryan and Bent by Dave Cooper among their Comics of the Week
• Plugs: Chris Mautner of Robot 6 on the newest volumes of Krazy & Ignatz, Popeye & Prince Valiant: "What stands out for me here, other than George Herriman’s usual artistry, is the subtle jokes about race… Considering Herriman’s own ethnic and racial heritage, I find moments like this fascinatingly telling. [...] I’ve gone on and on about my love for Segar’s Thimble Theater… Suffice it to say I think it’s an American classic and earns my heartiest recommendation… I still can’t quite get over just how much fun Hal Foster’s medieval epic is. Far from the dull, staid, storybook slog a first glance would suggest, the strip bursts with life and adventure, and not a little bit of bloodsport."
• Interview: Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter: "It's my hope that the following interview with Tim Kreider comes close to replicating the experience of reading the author's new book, the Fantagraphics-published February offering Twilight of the Assholes. Both are long, both I hope are funny at times nearly all the way through (the book surely is), and both book and interview prove uncompromising in terms of both self-laceration and repeatedly stabbing the country's excesses, shortcomings and hypocrisies right in the face. [...] Kreider is... maybe as skilled a writer as there is out there also working with cartoons, and luckily Twilight of the Assholes includes both the cartoons and mini-essays explaining each one. I find him almost terrifyingly funny, both when I agree with him and when I don't." Kreider: "I think historians are likely look back on those eight years as a last chance squandered, a disastrous passing beyond the point of no return, the moment when America went irreversibly over the edge into terminal decline. Which is great news for me, as my cartoons happen to comprise a document of what it felt like to live through that time."
• List:iFanboy's Jason ranks Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition at #1 on the Top Collected Editions of 2010: "Fantagraphics has treated us with a 1,160-page, two volume slipcase collection that reprints the first seven trade paperbacks worth of content, as well as 50 covers and lots of never-before-seen backmatter."
• List: "I don’t understand how Medley can write and draw so well. The story is entertaining and well-paced. The art is spacious, smooth with expressive lines. I have no idea why Medley hasn’t won every award everywhere. Volume two picks up where the first left off, telling the stories of a group of people who have retired to Castle Waiting, a refuge in a difficult, quasi-medieval world." – Carol Borden, The Cultural Gutter, "10 Comics I Liked in 2010"
• List:Paul Gravett's Best of 2010 is very, very extensive, including mentions of no fewer than 10 of our titles
• Review: "The unease which Mezzo brings to King of the Flies is ever present in the twisted shapes of his men and women, the oversized drops of an acrid drizzle, the fur like scrub which seem like the myriad hairs of a fly’s appendage, a modern day dance of death choked with the dregs of modern life; the strange underbelly of free will and capitalism — sex, drugs and alcohol; death, lust and tainted beauty; the unsettling horror of kitsch; the nauseating mingling of youth, disease and dementia." – Ng Suat Tong, The Hooded Utilitarian (The Comics Journal)
• Interview: At his Talking with Tim blog, Tim O'Shea talks to Destroy All Movies!!! editors Zack Carlson (quoted here) & Bryan Connolly: "I’m constantly shocked by people’s willingness to forgo the most valuable resources we have — like bookstores and video stores — because of the lazy convenience of the internet. Why don’t people want to leave their homes? Are they afraid they’ll get struck by lightning or bitten by a dog? It makes me nuts."
• Plug: "...Set to Sea is an astounding visual piece with a simplistic narrative that avoids the saturated complexities of other graphic works. I’ve been a long time fan of Weing’s, and highly recommend this title." – Michael Dean, Slither and Friends
The American Library Association has announced their Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) 2011 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and bringing up the rear alphabetically by author last name, it's Weing, Drew with Set to Sea! Great news for a great book. Congrats Drew!
• List/Review: At Seen, Sam Humphries ranks Special Exits by Joyce Farmer #6 on the Best of 2010: "Sure, Special Exits is sad. But it’s also funny, touching, thought-provoking, and life-affirming. It’s never trite, cheap, or hokey, like, say, Patch Adams. This is the raw, unvarnished truth about the end of life, elegantly put to page by Farmer’s lyrical drawings, a welcome, thoughtful evolution of the raucous underground style of the 60s and 70s. Most of all, Special Exits is powerful. It’s vital; almost essential. [...] It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s one that everyone can benefit from reading. Your future self will thank you."
• List:Fangoria's Michael Koopmans puts two of our classic reprints on their list of the 10 Best Horror Comic Releases of 2010:
"If you asked me to make a list of my all-time favorite comic artists, I’d just hand you [Four Color Fear], because all the greats are present in this terror tome... This is a truly amazing, thick collection of rare treats, as well as a nice reminder that EC wasn’t the only ones churning out the goods back in the 1950’s."
"A companion piece to last year's Strange Suspense (Vol. 1), this volume [Unexplored Worlds] continues to showcase the goods from one of my all-time favorite artists. And by 'goods' I mean the most unique and disturbing horror and sci-fi comics you will ever come across! As is the case with all Fantagraphics releases, the original works are untainted and scanned perfectly."
"Set to Sea, by Drew Weing, is actually the unqualified top of my list. My absolute favourite of the year, just for the sheer pleasure of it. It’s the deceptively simple life story of a struggling young poet who finds a life for himself at sea, and it’s a proper misty-eyed treat."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is my tip to the old hands that brought out work this year. As much as I love the others..., Woodring is for me in a class of his own. Reading an extended work by the man, you find yourself falling into a different state of mind, a world of sickly, queasy imaginings. [...] Few are as adept at drawing you so deeply into worlds which are so utterly alien, yet so incredibly personal."
• Review: "If this is your first encounter with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, I feel I should warn you about the faint regret you'll feel for not having a chance to read these earlier in your life. These comics feel lost in time; they are reminiscent of Victorian adventure novels but maintain a strong contemporary cultural relevance. [...] Whatever your age, this is escapist reading of the finest sort — readers will get lost in Tardi's breathtaking ornamental artwork and marvel at how captivating an old-fashioned yarn can really be." – Jeff Alford, About.com: Contemporary Literature
• Review: "Action action action. Balls to the wall and guts to the ground action. And sick sick drawings. That's what you will find in this book. [...] Is this an evolution of Johnny Ryan we are witnessing with this series? Is he taking his unique manner of storytelling to another level with Prison Pit? Whatever, but there's obviously more to come with this series and I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Seattle-based publisher Fantagraphics' second volume of the collected Prince Valiant by series creator Hal Foster is a sumptuous package bringing together the Sunday strips that were published during 1939-40. ...[T]his restoration of one of the most influential comic strips of all time... [is] an essential purchase for anyone interested in the history of the American comic strip." – James Peaty, Den of Geek
• Review: "Throughout it all, Segar's art is energetic and expressive, the printed-page equivalent of the black-and-white cartoons of the '20s, and his characters are broad and exciting but always identifiable. Popeye in particular has depths that later stories rarely dealt with... Segar's Thimble Theatre stories are great American originals, and they suffered the fate of every other great American original: to be watered down and redone a thousand times by a thousand hacks in search of a quick buck and a sure thing. But the original endures to be rediscovered, as often as necessary, and that's no small thing." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Review: "Coming in at nearly 1,000 pages, [Meanwhile...] was done with the late Caniff’s full cooperation and benefits from the fact that he and Harvey were friends. [...] Any storyteller as influential as Caniff was and is deserves a biography of this caliber." – Tim O'Shea, Robot 6
• Review: "As biographer and historian, Bell excels. He is able to really understand the cartoonist he is documenting and boil it down to the essentials. [...] The production on [Fire & Water] is amazing. Bell is able to reproduce a good amount of original artwork that allows you to see just how skilled a draftsman Everett was." – Robin McConnell (Inkstuds), Robot 6
• Review: At The Panelists, a "One-Panel Review" from Jim Woodring's The Book of Jim by Charles Hatfield: "Something I miss in Jim Woodring‘s current work is a sense of fear being enacted directly through his drawing, through his handiwork—in other words, a sense that the drawings themselves are shivering and smearing and decomposing out of sheer, gut terror."
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Daniel Clowes: "I can't say that I would never do another comic and call it Eightball. I say there's actually a very high probability that I would do that some day. Kind of for old time's sake, or something. Or just to kind of rethink what a comic book means at some point. But right now it sure doesn't feel like the thing to do."
• Interview: And another great interview from Tom at The Comics Reporter, this time with Jaime Hernandez: "Gilbert and me always ask each other, 'So, what do you got in the new issue? What's coming up?' And I go, 'Well, I got this one story about Maggie, blah blah blah...' and I called it 'Maggie in Palomar.' I kind of aimed it that way, where I'm like, 'Oh, boy. A place where nothing happened.' It gives them room to do everything, because there's nothing there."
• Interview:The Los Angeles Times asks Drew Friedman for his thoughts on the Academy Awards: "The Social Network gets my vote for best film. Aside from it being the only film I've seen this year, I always support films with Jewish leading men playing Jews, even if the Jew is Mark Zuckerberg via Jesse Eisenberg. Good for the Jews!"
• Coming Attractions: More reporting and commenting on our Carl Barks news from Matthias Wivel at The Metabunker
• List:Robot 6's Chris Mautner names "The six most criminally ignored books of 2010," including:
"1) Captain Easy Vol. 1 by Roy Crane. ...I consider this to be one of the big publishing events of 2010. [...] The Sunday pages in this book are full of high energy, action and slapstick."
"4) High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez. [...] Those who feel that Hernandez’s work relies too much on female objectification and fetishization need to read this book to understand how self-aware he is of that fact and its real-world consequences."
• List (Audio): On the Inkstuds radio programme, host Robin McConnell discusses the Best of 2010, including Tim Hensley's Wally Gropius, with cartoonists Michael DeForge, Zack Soto and Noah Van Sciver
• List: At Robot 6, Kevin Melrose includes Drew Weing's Set to Sea on his list of The 50 Best Covers of 2010: "The limited palette and gold highlights on the waves help to lend the cover to Drew Weing’s debut graphic novel a gorgeous dream-like quality."
• Review: "In a robust, finely crafted package, Fantagraphics celebrated the 25th anniversary of the wandering rabbit ronin... by collecting the first seven volumes in two hardcover books sheathed in a sturdy, eye-catching slipcase. ...Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition is in a class all its own in terms of presentation." – Alex Carr, Omnivoracious
• Commentary: A commenter at Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin predicts: "The recently announced Carl Barks collections by Fantagraphics will receive public attention on the Today Show via Al Roker and become selections in Oprah’s Book Club. The widespread exposure of clever humor and commentary by 50-year old Donald Duck comics create a nationwide movement of crazy alternative-energy initiatives and treasure hunting." (The Roker part is not completely far-fetched — Al did the Introduction for the next volume of The Complete Peanuts) (Mike also plugs Flog, which is nice of him)
Time for lots more awkwardly-formatted year-end lists, a review from The Washington Post and much more in what might be the longest Online Commentary & Diversions ever:
• List: For the Las Vegas Weekly, J. Caleb Mozzocco counts down his top 5 comics of 2010:
#3: Temperance by Cathy Malkasian: "Blessed with a Dr. Seuss-like ability to evoke the most serious problems and bleakest emotions in personalized, original, timeless fantasy elements, Malkasian has constructed a graphic epic involving a handful of colorful, tragic characters and their interlocking lives."
#5: Werewolves of Montepellier by Jason: "A successful jewel thief disguises himself as a werewolf during heists, eventually attracting the attention of real, actual werewolves in Jason’s latest deadpan dramedy masterpiece. While that might sound like the protagonist’s most urgent problem, his doomed crush on neighbor-turned-friend Audrey is the only thing truly eating him."
• List: The bloggers at Robot 6 count down their choices for the best comics of 2010:
"7. Set to Sea: The story of a would-be poet who is shanghaied and learns about life at sea the hard way, Set to Sea is drawn in a series of single panels, each of which is a miniature masterpiece on its own. It’s a singularly economical way of telling a story, and Drew Weing makes each of his panels into a tight little world of its own." – Brigid Alverson
"4. You’ll Never Know, Book Two: Collateral Damage: [...] Tyler skillfully handles multiple strands of her story, using a variety of styles and formats for different episodes, slowly building a complete picture from several different sources." – Brigid Alverson
"16. It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi: French master Tardi does to the Great War what the Great War did to the bodies of millions of young soldiers: blow it wide open and root in the mess. Depicted primarily in an unyielding onslaught of widescreen panels, it’s like a slog through the trenches itself. Furious and full of contempt for war and its masters." – Sean T. Collins
"6. It Was the War of the Trenchesby Jacques Tardi: Reading Trenches, you realize just how far afield, just how dead wrong most American (and British) had it in their depiction of war. Even Kurtzman’s war comics (which I love) seem like kiddie sermonizing, an overly sweet, sanitized warning, next to Tardi’s uncompromising depiction of WWI. You want to know how brutal war can be? You want to know how war should be depicted in comics – how to look the utter savagery, inhumanity and square in the eye using only pen and ink? This is how you do it." – Chris Mautner
"15. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio: I gasped aloud repeatedly while experiencing the sheer loveliness of this book, a collection of short stories from throughout the decades by shoujo-manga pioneer Moto Hagio. Best of all, there’s a cake beneath all that icing, as Hagio’s stories are frequently sophisticated, moving, and unwilling to pull punches." – Sean T. Collins
"13. Prison Pit Book 2, by Johnny Ryan: Johnny Ryan journeys deeper than ever before into his inner ickiness and returns with an action-horror hybrid it’s almost impossible to 'enjoy' in the traditional sense of the word — and which thereby takes those two genres in stunning new directions." – Sean T. Collins
"11. Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso: A war comic like none you’ve ever read, Megan Kelso’s ambitious alt-fantasy is concerned not with conflict’s immediate carnage, but with its lasting effects on the societies engaged in it — economic, cultural, religious, familial, even geographical. I found it humanistic, unsparing, and fascinating." – Sean T. Collins
"10. Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring: It’s always darkest before the dawn, and the psychedelic body-horror of Jim Woodring has never been darker than it gets here. His hapless, villainous Manhog is made to suffer like you’ve seen few comics characters suffer before in any style or genre…only to emerge enlightened and overjoyed on the other side in a final act that feels like that first breath of fresh cool air after you’ve hidden your head under the covers in terror for minutes on end." – Sean T. Collins
"2. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: [...] It’s a twisting, twisted, often bizarre, often disturbing but always gripping tale of one creature’s self-redemption and ultimate sacrifice told without words and often as enigmatically as possible. If you had any doubt that Woodring could still deliver after laying low for so long, consider them erased." – Chris Mautner
"7. Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer: ...[N]early every meticulously crosshatched panel [is] drawn as if [Farmer's] life depended on it. Maybe it did. This is a magnum opus no one expected to read, a brutally frank depiction of what it’s like for full lives you love to end, and it has the most painfully happy ending of the year. It made me cry. Don’t do what I almost did and ignore one of the year’s most moving comics." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Wally Gropius, by Tim Hensley: The first great comic of the Great Recession. Tim Hensley’s breakout graphic novel, previously serialized in the Mome anthology, seems like a send-up of silly ‘60s teen-comedy and kid-millionaire comics on the surface, but beneath lies as odd and accurate a cri de coeur about capitalism and consumerism as I’ve ever read. It also does things with body language I’ve never seen in comics, and is funny as hell to boot. There’s nothing else out there like it." – Sean T. Collins
"5. Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: The funniest comic of the year, Gropius is both homage and raised middle finger to the kids comics of yore, chiding them for their superficiality and yet revealing in their sublime shallowness all the same. That Hensley managed to have his cake and eat it too in such a breezy fashion suggests he will be an artist to watch for in the coming years." – Chris Mautner
"2. High Soft Lisp / Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez: This year I read nearly every comic ever created by Los Bros Hernandez; what a pleasure to discover at the end of my immersion that their two most recent comics are also two of their best, and thus two of the best comics by anyone. Gilbert and Jaime both tear furiously into love and sex in these two collections; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful." – Sean T. Collins
"3. Love and Rockets [New Stories] 3 by Xaime and Gilbert Hernandez: Gilbert’s contributions are great as usual (his work here and in the recently collected High Soft Lisp proves he’s no second banana brother), but it is Xaime’s 'The Love Bunglers/Browntown' that makes this volume so worthy of praise. A harrowing story of abuse, familial neglect and regret masterfully told, I defy anyone not to read this tale and not be devastated by its conclusion. Not a single line goes to waste here. To say it’s the best thing Xaime’s done is a stunning comment considering his lengthy and exemplary body of work, but there’s no question he’s raised the bar once again." – Chris Mautner
• List: The great Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose names their 2010 Graphic Novel Favorites, including:
"The Sanctuary by Nate Neal is one of the most adventurous, exciting, complex and beautiful graphic novels. [...] Nate Neal creates a language for the clan, and tells the entire story without any recognizable words, making The Sanctuary a quiet and dark collection of gestures and expressions."
"Pirus and Mezzo’s King of the Flies is a dark romp through a strange drug filled, sex crazed world of small town Europe. [...] Pirus and Mezzo aren’t afraid to tell a story full of our darkest desires and needs, but they’re also startlingly poetic."
"Weathercraft, by Jim Woodring, is a beautiful dream and a beautiful nightmare. [...] Weathercraft is page after page of utterly original, outrageous, wordless thrills. Somehow, in a place where confusion and chaos seem to reign, Woodring creates sense. The challenge and beauty of Weathercraft is taking hold of that sense, and letting it go when the dream becomes too beautiful to pass up."
"C. Tyler continues her inquiry into the true story of her father’s WWII experience with You’ll Never Know Book Two: Collateral Damage. Tyler’s colorful panels and line work is a welcome relief to the usual comics format; and her creative shifting of perspective and story... offer just the right amount of energy and relevance to make this book (and the previous volume) one of the best of the year."
"Hinging on one supernatural occurrence after another, the misadventures of Adele Blanc-Sec are surely one of the most welcome events this year. [...] This is a classic which should not be missed."
"...Moto Hagio’s story collection, A Drunken Dream, is a welcome and celebrated relief to the mainstream, translated Japanese comics, giving the reader a meaningful and deeply felt experience. ...Hagio’s exploration of loss... and identity... is equal to the best that any literature offers."
• List: Brazilian site Ambrosia names The Best Comics Published in the U.S. in 2010 — Alternatives and Classics, including:
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "The French Tardi is a versatile artist, a thorough storyteller of historical fact and fiction. The clean lines and light of his drawings refer to the style of another Frenchman, the revered Moebius."
The Littlest Pirate King by David B.: "Accustomed to living with sea monsters, plundering ships and murdering sailors, a group of scary undead pirates has its routine radically transformed when they are forced to care for a child. David B.... uses his beautiful and dark art to adapt a fun text by Orlan."
• List: At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson names Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley the Best Graphic Novel of 2010: "Exceptionally illustrated fantasy revolving around everyday life among a stunning cast of unusual characters who make their own unusual family in an abandoned castle."
• Review: "Saucy, bold, enigmatic, gently funny, reassuringly romantic; brimming with human warmth and just the right edge of hidden danger Castle Waiting [Vol. 2] is a masterpiece of subtly ironic, perfectly paced storytelling that any kid over ten can and will adore. Moreover, if you’re long in the tooth or have been around the block a time or two, this fantastic place can’t help but look like home." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List: At The Casual Optimist, Dan Wagstaff names Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier one of his Favourite New Books of 2010: "Ostensibly the book is about a thief called Sven who disguises himself as werewolf to rob people’s apartments and incurs the wrath of the town’s actual werewolves. It is, however, as much about friendship, identity, loneliness, and, ultimately, Sven’s unrequited love for his neighbour Audrey. [...] The whole book is achingly brief, but Werewolves of Montpellier is possibly my favourite Jason book to date." (Via Robot 6)
"14. Artichoke Tales(Megan Kelso) [...] Kelso's simple lines beautifully capture the emotional turmoil of the characters and move the action along fluidly. This title caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it — it looks deceptively simple, but there's a lot going on in this ambitious book."
"10. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) (Jacques Tardi) [...] This story is full of broad characters and is really silly, but it's a really riveting, often funny book that you can't help but love to spend time with, featuring some of Tardi's best art period. Plus pterodactyls in Paris!"
"6. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 [...] The Hernandez Brothers' third annual release of Love and Rockets is their best yet. Gilbert Hernandez has long been a favorite artist of mine and he offers some pretty dynamic stories this time around as well... Jaime develops his characters effortlessly as he produces what may be one of the best offerings of his career."
"4. Castle Waiting (Volume 2)(Linda Medley) [...] This book is overflowing with great characters, the story unfolding cinematically to Medley's beautiful cartoony art. The domestic life that readers glimpse with these volumes is an absolute pleasure to behold, and I really enjoy the time I spend with the people in this title, as they explore the castle and unlock some of its mysteries while settling in. A real treasure."
"1. The Littlest Pirate King(David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan) – My favorite comic that I read this year is David B.'s comic adaptation of the prose story by French writer Pierre Mac Orlan. ...David B. elaborately illustrates this world with amazing mastery of the craft. The coloring, the pacing and panel arrangements, and the world of these pirates pillaging ships and being general menaces all make for a fun, engaging experience. This book contains some of the most beautiful panels that I've seen in years, and confidently sits at the top of my list for best of the year."
• List: On his MadInkBeard blog, Derik Badman lists Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 as one of the Best Print Comics of 2010: "This is Jaime doing what he does best, advancing the lives of his characters, adding to their histories, introducing side characters, and generating an emotional impact." (Via Robot 6)
• List: On The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, Martin Steenton of Avoid the Future names his top 3 Best of the Year: "...Drew Weing’s Set to Sea is one of the most beautifully-rendered graphic novels you could hope to see ever, let alone from within the past twelve months. [...] From start to finish, Set to Sea feels like a true classic; the graphic novel equivalent of Treasure Island, if you will. If you’re the sort of parent that doesn’t mind exposing your children to a few gory moments, I like to imagine that this is the book you’ll give them to usher them into their lives as comic readers. Think what a cool mum/dad you’d be."
• List: At Imprint, Michael Dooley names the Best American Comics Criticism panel at Skylight Books one of "the best speaker events that involved comics and graphic design" in L.A. last year
• Review: "Four Color Fear is editor Greg Sadowski's commemoration of horror publishers other than dominant Entertaining Comics ... [T]his volume contains many... complete tales, giving the reader a sense of how hard it was to meet the genre's three main requirements: sudden fear, ample gore and twist endings, all in the space of six to 10 pages. [...] One leads off with this fraught question: 'Have you ever heard a strange voice whisper, "Come with me into the Blackest depths of evil"?' To which I would have answered in the 1950s, 'What took you so long to ask?'" – Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post (via Newsarama)
• Review: "Johnny Ryan is in my mind is one of the best modern humorists in comics today. It's not the kind of humor that's gonna get him invited to lots of prestigious awards ceremonies, but you can not deny that this shit [is] funny! Seriously for all those people who have not read a Johnny Ryan book for whatever stupid reason, pick [FUC_ __U _SS __LE] up. There's gonna be something in here that will make you laugh or puke or laugh and puke at the same time. It's an awesome awesome book. Loved it all the way through." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Review: "Taking quotes from people who met King, journeyed with him, and experienced his teachings and shortcomings firsthand, the book gives readers an honest and refreshing take on the man that became a legend. The art in King is a sight to behold... While some will undoubtedly walk away with the impression that this take on King’s life somehow lessens his impact on society, others will hopefully find that the humanistic aspect enhances the appreciation of his determination to make a change. Rating: ★★★★1/2" – Matt Peters, Pads & Panels
• Plug: "Mascots is a beautiful new book by Ray Fenwick collecting a series of color paintings on found book covers. [...] You must all surely concur that this new book establishes Ray Fenwick as the foremost satirist-illustrator-typographer-poet-designer of our time." – Matt Forsythe, Drawn
• Plugs: At The Moviefone Blog, David Brothers recommends "Comic Books for Movie Buffs"; his picks for war movie fans and samurai movie fans, respectively:
"...It Was the War of the Trenches shows how war simultaneously dehumanizes and strengthens our connection to life. The dehumanization derives from the fact that soldiers who die in this book tend to do so alone, or by surprise, and life just goes on. The strengthening point, however, is due to how the soldiers eagerly grasp what life they have left, despite their situation. It Was the War of the Trenches is heartbreaking and maybe a little funny, but more than anything, it's fulfilling."
"...Usagi Yojimbo is not only deadly serious, but a fantastic read. Sakai clearly knows the era he's writing stories about very well, and his research shows. If not for the funny talking animals, this series would be fantastically realistic. With them, though, it's a series that hits many of the same high points as classic Kurosawa, but often from a fresh angle."
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part one) includes a classic Peter Bagge quip ("What was the biggest story in comics in 2010?" "No one has any money") plus input from Noah Van Sciver
• Analysis: In an academic paper published in the University of Florida's interdisciplinary comics studies journal ImageTexT, Joel Simundich examines "Translation, Transparency, and Genre" in Jason's The Iron Wagon (recently reprinted in What I Did)
• Interview: On his Princess Sparkle Pony blog, Peter Huestis presents a transcription of his 1995 interview with Jim Woodring which was published in Hypno Magazine: "I never use any of my dreams in the Frank stories. I've evolved a way of writing those stories that I adhere to pretty much all the time. I go down into this ravine near my house and hide in the bushes and write in my notebook. I write the stories out in words. I'll write an opening line like, 'Frank has a heavy heart.' If I like that for an opener, I will ask why he has a heavy heart. Sometimes I get an answer and sometimes I don't."
• List/Plug/Coming Attractions:The Millions names among their Most Anticipated books of 2011 two by Alexander Theroux: this month's The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("Part biography, part artistic analysis, and part memoir of a long friendship, with exclusive interviews conducted shortly before Gorey’s death, this book is generally accepted as the most comprehensive portrait of Gorey ever written") and July's Estonia ("The book emerges from Theroux’s time spent in the former Soviet republic while his wife was on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ever observant, Theroux uses Estonia and its people as a lens through which to look back at America"); elsewhere at The Millions, Theroux himself weighs in on his Year in Reading