• List:PLAYBACK:stl's Steve Higgins puts What I Did by Jason on his Top Graphic Novels of 2010: "In my recent review of What I Did, I stated, 'Each story on its own is unquestionably superb, and readers will delight in the moods Jason evokes and the artistic techniques he employs. Together the stories in What I Did are sterling examples of Jason’s fantastic skill as both an illustrator and a storyteller that are well worth the purchase in spite of their vast differences in tone, style, and content.' And it’s still true."
"Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 — [...] While shocking scenes gave Gilbert's stories of cultural and commercial exploitation a fresh horror, the emotional aftershocks of Jamie's stories of personal loneliness, loss and violation haunted me all summer." – Suzette Chan
"The second hardcover volume in Linda Medley's Castle Waiting series is a fantasyish, girl power fairy tale — and so much more." – Rebecca Buchanan
• Review: "Each change, each mutation is the beginning of a thought without a defined path that will take the reader into the recesses of his mind. It can be simple aesthetic sensory enjoyment, perhaps of ravishing beauty, perhaps creepy horror; it can be a profound reflection on the significance of humanity or a simple gag in the purest tradition of slapstick. Either option is good: the silent Frank stories are surely a shock that spins the reader's neurons at high speed, a total reset of the system of established reality that leaves the mind in a renewed state of equilibrium. A masterpiece..." – Álvaro Pons, El País (translated from Spanish)
• Review: "[King of the] Flies is essentially about moments, one strange moment after the other. It brings to mind David Lynch but it should also bring to mind Alfred Hitchcock. Rigorously planned out ahead of time, his best work retains the freshness and kinetic energy of so many strange moments perfectly timed. Undoubtedly, Flies will be more than a string of moments and will have an ending as poetic as its best scenes." – Henry Chamberlain, Geekweek
• Review: "Prince Valiant comics are constantly being reissued around the world, but this collection began in 2009, published by Fantagraphics, is special for its concern with restoring Foster's work with the utmost fidelity. The original art was respected and carefully reconstructed from the original proofs and other sources of high quality. The publication in color, in hardcover and on luxurious opaque paper is just right. It is a definitive edition and a fitting tribute to the art of Hal Foster." – Gustavo Guimaraes, Ambrosia (translated from Portuguese)
• Review: "Jason’s tales of the distracted and listless existences of dog-faced Europeans are so consistently excellent that it’s almost predictable, but while [Werewolves of Montpellier] has his usual skilled construction and subdued colour palette, there’s also some rather good characterisation." – Grant Buist, The Name of This Cartoon Is Brunswick
• Review: "These strips can be a comfort, an amusement, can provide a moment to stop and think. Here [in The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952] you see Charlie Brown before his shirt gets the zig-zaggy stripe; how Linus was introduced as a baby as was Schroeder. You see the small common things that set the groundwork for what would become a life’s work." – Jenny Spadafora, 12frogs
• Profile: Sean O'Toole of Johannesburg's The Times tracks down Joe Daly: "I'm partly curious to see if he looks like his character Steve, described by Millennium Boy as an 'old orangutan mama.' The thin, bearded, slightly awkward man I meet in Observatory isn't apish, nor does he wear a bathrobe à la Jeff Lebowski. He also doesn't have lactating boobs, which Steve briefly grew in a strip appearing in Scrublands, Daly's first US book from 2006." (The Comics Reporter has additional commentary on the article.)
• Profile:Mania's Niko Silvester puts Moto Hagio in the "Creator Spotlight" with a brief overview of her career
• Interview (Audio): Get ready for an epic Inkstuds interview as Al Columbia joins host Robin McConnell for a 2-hour chat
• Plug: "If you’ve not been checking out Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts series, I would highly recommend that you start doing so! They are archiving Peanuts every story that Shulz ever wrote, in gorgeous hardcover collections, that contain one to two years of the strip, starting from 1950. It’s one of the best archive projects out there, and I can’t recommend collecting them highly enough!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
• List: At Seen, Sam Humphries names Love and Rockets: New Stories #3The Best Comic of 2010: "While it’s astonishing to see Los Bros Hernandez deliver some of their greatest work at this stage in their careers, at the same time, it should be no surprise at all. They’ve been killing it for nearly 30 years. [...] Both brothers are digging deep into the psyche and hearts of the human condition. The results are powerfully moving."
• List: "[It Was the War of the Trenches] burns with a sense of outrage at the meaningless slaughter and sheer injustice of the events of almost a century ago. A century ago, perhaps, but we should never, ever forget and works like Trenches serve both as a fascinating piece of comics work and also an accessible reminder of history that has now all but passed from living memory and relies on books, film and other media to remind us." – Joe Gordon, "Best of the Year," The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Plug: "It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics) – Tardi is, simply put, one of the most important and influential French comic artists of the last 30 years. This welcome translation of his harrowing and haunting first World War narrative is as good a place as any to start." – John Byrne, The Irish Times (via Robot 6)
• Review: "Several artists have the ability to capture some physical element of a city or a time; Tardi summons all of that with a fealty to detail and a consistency that eventually yields a more rounded, complete experience. Go all in, and by [The Extraordinary Adventures of Adéle Blanc-Sec Vol. 1]'s final 20 pages one can feel the air hit people in the face when they stumble out of doors, sense the temperature, smell the panoply of city-borne scents. ...[B]oth stories reprinted here with Kim Thompson's droll translation positively whip at the notion of competence in higher places, the rationality of power, that anyone rich ever pays for anything, and the law-driven society generally, all until the skin shows, raw and bleeding. It's a gas... I could personally read 10,000 pages of this material, stopping to stare at the prettier parts, returning to such a book over an entire summer. [...] It's a rare work that makes you like it and wish others would, too, that's for sure." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "...Castle Waiting has been one of the most joyous comics discoveries for me of the last couple years. ...[D]espite this volume clocking in at 375 pages I read the whole thing in one sitting…and enjoyed every freaking second of it. I laughed repeatedly and more often than not was caught just smiling like an idiot as I read about these beautifully crafted characters and their completely boring but somehow also completely fascinating lives. It doesn’t hurt that Medley is truly an incredible illustrator." – Kelly Thompson, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "I frequently gasped, out loud, at the beauty of this goddamn thing. [...] Most of [the stories in A Drunken Dream] remind me of Jaime Hernandez, of all people, in that the force of the narrative is toward the protagonists coming to terms — with the damage done by a cruel mother, with the inspiration that arose unexpectedly from a childhood tragedy, with the sudden loss of a friendship through a shared mistake in judgment, with the death of a hated rival, with a necessary but traumatic decision, with the death of a parent. Or not! [...] Each story’s big narrative and emotional moments seem to swell within and explode out of these textures and lines, like they’ve actualized the potential energy there all along. [...] Reads like a dream, looks like a dream." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "The back cover of Unexplored Worlds loudly proclaims, 'This is where Steve Ditko became Steve Ditko.' Indeed, in this second chronological volume of the Steve Ditko Archives, collecting 39 stories from 1956-57, we see the influential American cartoonist come into his voice. ...[I]t's fascinating to witness Ditko grow as a storyteller, to see the first hints of the layouts and compositions that would make his 1960s work on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange set the standard for decades to come." – Claude LaLumiere, The Montreal Gazette
• Review: "I think what ultimately struck me the most about The Littlest Pirate King (which B. adapted from a story by Pierre Mac Orlan) was how it weaves back and forth between innocent and grim. ...[I]t’s a gorgeous book. Even at its most nightmarish, there’s always something to admire within The Littlest Pirate King." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "[Rip M.D.] ...will delight monster-fans of all ages and signals a welcome return to upbeat and clever kids’ fiction. ...[T]his spectacular, spooktacular romp is a fabulously punchy, action-packed, wickedly funny treat for kids of all ages that will leave every reader voraciously hungry for more." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List (Audio): On the Inkstuds radio programme, listen to Chris Butcher, Bill Kartalopoulos, Tucker Stone and host Robin McConnell discuss the Best of 2010, including Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Brothers — we haven't had a chance yet to listen ourselves but Robot 6 reports that Stone in particular has good comments on L&R
• List: At TIME.com – Techland, Douglas Wolk lists "15 Excellent Things Happening in Comics Right Now." First on the list: Jim Woodring's Nibbus Maximus and the coming of his Congress of the Animals ("If you are wise, you will not miss it"). Third on the list: "Cathy Malkasian's Temperance came out in the middle of last year, and I still don't know quite what to make of it, which is probably a good sign. [...] It's lovely to behold, rather difficult, terribly sad, very frustrating in some ways, and absolutely worth looking at."
• Review: "Since the appearance of Hey Wait…, Jason's first book to be translated into English, the Norwegian-born cartoonist has remained one of the most distinctive voices in comics. What I Did is the latest omnibus collection of Jason's work… into a beautiful hardcover volume… Grade: A" – Mike Sebastian, Campus Circle
• Review: "Stacked with surprising twists and intricate plotting, [The Search for] Smilin’ Ed revels in Deitch’s increasingly complex personal universe, threading new characters into the established histories of his previous protagonists. Densely detailed and creatively laid out, the art can absorb a reader’s eye for days, with tons of nods, winks and subtle touches embedded in nearly every scene." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "Steve Ditko has produced a disproportionate amount of my favourite, formative fiction over the decades. His is a unique voice wedded to an honest heart blessed with the captivating genius of a graphic master. The tales [in The Ditko Collection Vol. 2] have seldom been seen elsewhere; never often enough and always with little fanfare. If you can find this volume and its predecessor you’ll see a lot of his best work, undiluted by colour, and on lovely large white pages. Even if you can’t find these, find something – because Steve Ditko is pure comics." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Coming Attractions: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner looks at "Six potentially great 2011 comics you haven't heard of," leading off with The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen (coming in late Summer): "If you’ve had the lucky opportunity to read Schrauwen’s My Boy, or perused his work in the anthology Mome, then you’ll know this Belgian artist is the real deal — a true, utterly unique and frequently inspired cartoonist who draws upon century-old cartooning styles (McCay, Outcault) to create something contemporary and frequently bizarre."
• Coming Attractions: At Examiner.com, Richard Lipski looks ahead to our Fall 2011 publication of Oil & Water, a chronicle of the Gulf Coast post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill, written by Steve Duin and drawn by Shannon Wheeler
• List: At Seen, Sam Humphries ranks It Was the War of the Trenches and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec Vol. 1 by Jaques Tardi together at #4 on his Best of 2010: "Jaques Tardi is a badass. A titan of French comics, he writes and draws his comics with a relentless focus. Thick lines and dark shadows spill from a tide of incessant ink. Under his pen, sticky subjects must bend and yield to his cynical, humanist worldview. [...] Both books are thrilling to experience. [...] Regardless of country, these are amongst comics’ greatest treasures, and it’s intoxicating to have them in our hands."
• List: Among London shop Orbital Comics' staff favorites for 2010, Jim Woodring's Weathercraft: "The book is every bit as beautiful, weird and mesmerizing as I expected, and serves both as great introduction to Jim Woodring’s wondrous world and a wonderful treat to those already familiar with it."
• Review: "What’s amazing is that [editor Glenn Head] found the comics anthologies of the days to be wanting in terms of having things he wanted to read and look at, and so he gathered up a huge cast of creators and proved that there was another way to go in assembling such books that had its own creative gestalt. That’s all any reader can ask of an anthology, whether or not its contents interest them in particular. Hotwire should have some stories that any alt-comics reader would find to be top-notch..., and for a certain segment might prove to be the anthology made just for them." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• List:Hypergeek's Edward Kaye names The Best Original Graphic Novels of 2010, including (deep breath):
Werewolves of Montpellier: "Part lycanthropic thriller, part romantic comedy, and part existential drama, all told with Jason’s trademark anthropomorphic characters. The visuals are minimalistic and haunting, and the sparse dialogue is wry and delivered with deadpan execution. It’s one of the best things that Jason has ever written, and he continues to outdo himself with every new story."
Love and Rockets: New Stories #3: "Los Bros Hernandez return for a third volume of New Stories. The stories in this volume are fun, bizarre, wacky, and at times profoundly moving. The brothers have been at this for 28 years now, and are still telling stories brimming with originality, and illustrated in inimitable and unparalleled fashion. A true watermark of the series thus far!"
Prison Pit Book 2: "Johnny Ryan has outdone himself on this one. It's intensely violent, horrific, grotesque, sickening, and just plain fucked up! That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! You should buy this book and give it to all of your friends that think that comics are for kids. It will make them cry!"
Weathercraft: "I only discovered Jim Woodring this year, on a recommendation. I was so impressed by this enchanting, silent masterpiece that I went out and purchased everything else I could find with his name on it, which as it turns out is surprisingly little. It's a beautiful and spellbinding book, with otherworldy illustrations that take you to another place. It's hard to adequately describe this story, it's really beyond definition, it's better that you just experience it for yourself."
Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird: "Tony Millionaire gives readers a sequel to 2006's Billy Hazelnuts. It's an all-ages tale about a golem on a quest to reunite a baby bird with its mother. It's a charming and wacky parable of adventure, discovery, and find one's way in the world. A contemporary fairy tale that is perfect adults and children of all ages. Simply enchanting!"
The Troublemakers: "Gilbert Hernandez releases a second volume of this Love & Rockets spin-off series, featuring B-Movies starring Luba's half-sister, Fritz. This fantastic tribute to film noir is sure to please fans of the genre, while serving as a fantastic introduction to L&R. It's a hard-boiled classic, brought to life with Beto's bold and distinctive artwork. Oh, and did I mention the massive boobs?"
• Review: "It's unlikely I'm telling anyone reading this anything new by suggesting that Lorenzo Mattotti draws like Caruso sang, and that reading this latest work with screenwriter Claudio Piersanti [Stigmata] is at times an assault of exquisite visual pleasure of the kind that makes your whole face sting." – Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter
• Review: "'The Carnival' [in Mome Vol. 14] is an exquisitely wrought piece of melancholy fantasy, and a high point in the blossoming career of Lilli Carré, the most poetic of contemporary North American cartoonists. [...] Lilli Carré’s cartooning has reached the point where she makes everything feel integral; one can’t treasure any of a piece without treasuring all of it. And 'The Carnival' is a rare treasure indeed." – Robert Stanley Martin, Pol Culture
• Review: "...[I]f you’re looking for something awesome to read and start the new year off with, pick up Locas and Locas II. You can even check them out from the library but they’re nice to have around, so when you and your friends are having some funny or interesting conversation and you’re like wait, this seems familiar, and then be like, oh yeah Maggie said the same thing." – Chimatli
• Coming Attractions: At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon has thoughtful commentary regarding our upcoming Carl Barks books
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions from Publishers Weekly, John Porcellino and other sources:
• List:Publishers Weekly Comics Week posts the results of their Fifth Annual Critics Poll, with 5 of our titles placing with 2 votes each (and a bunch of honorable mentions):
"Castle Waiting Volume 2by Linda Medley... The simplest actions — moving into another room, raising a child — are enlivened by being placed in an exceptionally illustrated fantasy environment, full of unusual outcasts who've formed a family. The cast is immensely appealing, both visually and through well-written dialogue. [...] Always a pleasurable read underlined by a genius level of artistic skill." – Johanna Draper Carlson
"A Drunken Dream, Moto Hagio [...] Beautiful, gripping and delightfully weird, reading this book you can see her fingerprints all over shojo manga as we know it. At the same time it works as a solid refutation of the old canard that shojo is nothing but sparkly 14 year-olds with love-angst and magical powers." – Kate Fitzsimons
"High Soft Lisp, Gilbert Hernandez... Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez is one of the loopier characters from Hernandez's expansive Love and Rockets universe, but her ditzy, oversexed antics are peppered with poignant moments of loneliness and longing. As always, Hernandez sticks a beating heart at the center of his raunchy pulp adventures." – Jason Persse
"Love and Rockets: New Stories #3, The Hernandez Brothers... Los Bros. Hernandez show they are still at the peak of their cartooning form. In 'Browntown' Jaime mines family history, cruelty and the hinted-at pasts of his well known cast for an unforgettable story of innocence lost." – Heidi MacDonald
"Weathercraft, Jim Woodring... Jim Woodring first hit his bullseye so long ago, and has been splitting his own arrow right down the middle so many times, that he's easy to take for granted. Don't. Weathercraft is a magnificent and slightly wicked little book: a whimsical farce about some of the nastiest, darkest metaphysical stuff there is, a banquet for the eyes that starts growing tendrils once it's inside you." – Douglas Wolk
• List: Also at Publishers Weekly, Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories is selected by Kai-Ming Cha for Critic's Picks: Manga in 2010: "Most of shojo manga today are derivative of Hagio and her contemporaries — and pale in comparison. This collection of stories takes from the oeuvre of Hagio, one of the first in a pioneering generation of manga to be created by women."
• List:John Porcellino's Favorite Comics of 2010 include some of our older books:
"Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1939-41 ... What happens when you throw a bunch of sometimes-talented, always-desperate cartoonists in a room and force them to churn out page after page after page of comics at a deviously inhuman rate? [...] Oh my Lord. This sooper-fun and enjoyably bizarre collection of early 'Pre-Code' superhero comics features work by Jack Kirby, Basil Wolverton, Will Eisner, Fletcher Hanks, and Jack Cole, among many more lesser-known artists..."
"Abandoned Cars by Tim Lane... [Lane's] excellent, down and out, Beat-inspired tales of post-war/modern day America are unique to the form, and his grappling with what he calls the 'Great American Mythological Drama' yields some of the most literate, stark, and surreal comics I've ever read. [...] Great book."
"Where Demented Wented: the Art and Comics of Rory Hayes... The comics themselves, though undeniably crude in the early years, have a rock solid EC-inspired prose style, which when combined with the brutal/cute drawings makes for some compelling reading. As time goes on, Hayes' imagery becomes more and more refined, and there are pages in here that are just simply beautiful. A real surprise, and a book that kept me thinking for days afterward."
"Caricature by Dan Clowes... Reading [these stories], I was immediately taken back to the good old glory days of Alternative American Comics. I remember reading stories like 'Immortal, Invisible' and 'Blue Italian Shit' with my jaw hanging open... you could feel the boundaries of comics expanding with each panel. These particular comics remain some of my favorites of all time."
• Review: "The story itself is absolutely insane. [...] There's no real rhyme or reason to the proceedings, and that's a big part of the fun. You don't know what outrageous scenario will greet you at the end of the next page. [...] Millionaire keeps his foot on the gas and writes with the spirit of Chuck Jones and the rest of Termite Terrace lurking in his pen. [...] If you're looking for madcap action, Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird should be right up your alley. It certainly was for me." – Rob McMonigal, Panel Patter
• Plug: Illustrator Eric Orchard shares his love for the work of Jaime Hernandez: "There's an unbelievable charm to his characters and an intoxicating rhythm to his panels. They are some of the best, most enjoyable comics to come out in the last thirty years."
• Anecdote: At Gapers Block, Ruthie Kott presents a funny story told to her by Paul Hornschemeier: "On two separate occasions I've had people argue with me that I am not me. There is apparently some existential comedian writing the script of my life for moments like these..." (Via Robot 6)
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part two) includes input from Megan Kelso and Shaenon Garrity calling our publication of Moto Hagio "the biggest story in comics in 2010"
• Coming Attractions: More reporting & commentary on our Carl Barks news from ICv2, Augie De Blieck Jr. at Comic Book Resources, and Graeme McMillan at Robot 6
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
• List: At Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker names The 10 Best Graphic Novels and Comics of 2010, including:
"Ostensibly Japanese comics aimed at the adolescent-girl market, these so-called Ten Stories of the Human Heart are lush mixtures of dreamlike imagery and realistic depictions of young people’s yearnings, hopes, reveries, and fears. Gathering representative work from four decades of publication, A Drunken Dream [and Other Stories]exerts a hypnotic pull on the reader, Moto Hagio knows both her commercial audience and her ideal audience — which is to say, the world."
"A long-form narrative about the decline of her parents’ health, Special Exits avoids cheap pity and piousness by doing what any good art should: focusing on specifics — the ways in which Farmer’s parents slide into old age and ill health; the care they require and receive. That this is also a portrait of a strong marriage is an added benefit. Frank, never shying away from the awkward indignities of aging, Special Exits illuminates two lives, as well as that of the author’s."
"The best volume since Los Bros went with this yearly anthology, New Stories #3 has exemplary work from both, but Jamie's story of the young Hoppers is one of his best comics ever." – Timothy Callahan
"Love and Rockets properly hits its stride and the two brothers use their unique approach to do something quite insane. Surrealism and realism in equal doses." – Sonia Harris
"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; what they find inside is ugly; what they do with it is beautiful. I'll never forget that panel." – Sean T. Collins
• Review: "Is there a comic that's run longer than Love and Rockets and maintained the same level of quality? ...[T]his year's annual is as good or better than anything Los Bros. have yet produced. It starts off with a strange sci-fi story — fans will recognize this as one of Rosalba 'Fritz' Martinez's many B-movies, but you don't have to be in on the gag to find Gilbert's story weird and funny and disturbing. Jaime's contribution to the volume is a story about would-be couple Maggie and Ray having a first date, with an interstitial tale about Maggie's childhood that sheds heartbreaking light on her relationship with her brother. ...Los Bros. are plain-spoken and sympathetic, finding pathos in even the grimiest character." – Sam Thielman, Newsday
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, part 2 of Chris Mautner's Q&A with Mome editor Eric Reynolds (part 1): "I’m not a real ballbuster when it comes to deadlines from issue to issue, so I’ll invite people to contribute and they’ll take their time, whether they hit the next issue or the following issue. They’re just juggling all these things, and it happens to come together every issue."
• Analysis: At Cinematical, John Gholson examines the role of Dash Shaw's comic artwork in John Cameron Mitchell's new film Rabbit Hole
Today's Online Commentary & Diversions gets crazy with the Best-Of lists:
• List: At comiXology, Tucker Stone counts down the top 20 Best Comics of 2010:
#19: Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley: "In a more unstable world, Wally Gropius would end up shelved alongside the Harvey/Dell comics it's so visually reminiscent of, working like a diabolical physical delivery device for absurdism: Dick and Jane couldn't ask for better."
#8: Prison Pit Book 2 by Johnny Ryan: "...Ryan's nasty tech-mammal beatdown looked like baby's first cyberpunk Kamandi, and it ably maintained the promise of this comic's initial volume. This, as they should say, is what we all should be getting down with: pure comics."
#5: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "Trenches was the angriest comic released this year, and while the specifics of its subject matter may be historical, its philosophy hasn't aged a day. War is a brutal, ugly thing, and while some may excel at depicting its horrors with excited doses of adrenaline, Tardi's tale never allows for a moment of escape. For him, political extermination destroys us all, and there's no reason why the bystander should be permitted to participate merely as casual audience."
#3: Weathercraft by Jim Woodring: "It's a comic that stays behind when it's closed, twisting in memory until you're not sure you caught what it said, a demanding experience that's unusual and unique. There's no other medium that could tell the kinds of stories that Woodring prefers; luckily, he's come back to stay."
#2: Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 by the Hernandez Bros.: "An incomparable installment in their storied career, New Stories 3 saw Gilbert attacking his oldest obsessions with more humor than ever before, while Jaimie shocked a legion of fans with the most refined (and masterful) chapter in his Locas saga to date..."
• List:NPR's Glen Weldon lists "The Most Memorable Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010," including (with links to his past reviews):
Werewolves of Montpelier by Jason: "The deadest of deadpan cartoonists returns with a meditation on relationships, burglary and lycanthropy. In France."
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "Tardi constructs a series of vignettes around World War I, inspired by battlefield photographs. Finally available in English, the work is harrowing and ruthlessly affecting."
#36: 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
#29: Special Exits byJoyce Farmer: "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
#28: Set to Sea by Drew Weing: "Weing strapped the heart-rending quest of a simple poet onto a book sporting the energy of a Popeye cartoon and the beastly human proportions of an R. Crumb comic. It's a book that manages to read with the lightness of a feather while simultaneously keeping its audience keenly aware of mortality and the fickle nature of fate on the high seas." – Brian Warmoth
#26: 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
• Review: "The Littlest Pirate King is easily one of the best comics of 2010. [...] What sells it — what sells the whole tale, really — is David B’s superb art. These are overwhelmingly colorful pages, with scenes from strange angles in compressed perspective." – Joshua Malbin
• List/Review: "A brutal guts-and-all look at the short life of the average French soldier in the trenches, with gritty artwork that straddles the fence between cartooning and illustration perfectly, It Was the War of the Trenches ranks up there with All Quiet on the Western Front in the ranks of WWI literature." – ranked #3 on The Best Comics of 2010 by Brad Manfully at Memories Fade
• List:Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 tops The Institute of Idle Time's Top 5 Comics of 2010 list: "Thank god for the Hernandez brothers. Anytime I need to convert someone to the medium, I pull out a volume from the longest-running and most successful alternative comic series of all time. [...] These two cartoonists embody everything comics fans love about the medium. They are master storytellers first and foremost, and the language of comics is never more beautiful." – Mike DiGino
• List: Alicia K. of Wordnerdy includes Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley ("...Castle Waiting is a great look at... I don't know, the lighter side of fairy tales? It's very character based...") and Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("Jaime Hernandez's stories in this are his best work ever, and since he's one of my top-two all-time-favorite comics dudes, that is saying a lot") on her Best Comics of 2010 list
• Review: "The chief reason to recommend [The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec] is Tardi’s art. ...[H]is photorealistic vistas of early 20th Century Paris are lovely, especially in the pastels and autumnual hues used here, and his cartoonish characters with their bulbous noses and waxed moustaches are a treat. Best yet is the design of Adele, with her period pulled-up hair, slit eyes and only top lip visible, which makes her appear more business-like and asexual, yet somehow more alluring because of the barriers presented." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "Created as a light-hearted and wittily arch tribute to Jack Kirby’s majestic pantheon of cosmic comic deities Young GODS and Friends... slowly builds and spreads into a mythico-graphic Waiting for Godot... On a purely artistic level this collection and extrapolation is a sheer delight; with superb art, splendid writing and all sorts of added extras, but the story-consumer in me can’t help but yearn for what might have been and how much has been lost. Beautiful wry, witty and completely enchanting — and tragically disappointing because of that." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: In the intro to Alex Dueben's talk with Joyce Farmer about Special Exits at Comic Book Resources, he says of the book "It’s a story told without the fake, heartwarming nonsense that colors so many stories about this topic. The book is both funny and heartbreaking, sometimes on the same page, dealing with the quiet hopeful moments and the nerve-wracking agony that come from a situation that is all too common and spoken of far too little." Joyce goes in depth about the process of the book: "I had wanted to do a big project for a long time. A few months before, I had realized that maybe my parents’ story was a worthwhile project. I was on vacation and I decided to write out the various stories that I remembered. This was three years after they died, so I’d had some time for some stories to die away and other stories to stick in my mind. I had one hundred stories, approximately, and I thought well, this is a book."
• List: "For giving us context, for showing us beautiful stories, and for delving into the work of a woman that changed girls comics forever, A Drunken Dream reaches #2 on my list." – Alexander Hoffman, Manga Widget "Top 10 of 2010"
• Plug: "The Prettiest, Shiniest Thing You Can Buy For That Special Someone Who Likes Pretty, Shiny Things: [...] It makes a fantastic read and an excellent coffee table book for someone who loves manga." – Daniella Orihuela-Gruber, All About Manga
• Plug: "This collection of short stories spanning the career of shoujo pioneer Moto Hagio offers a poignant look into the author’s mind, both as a young artist and an established creator, focusing especially on themes of family and personal identity." – Melinda Beasi, Manga Bookshelf
#71: Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason: "Every time Jason dives into an age-old genre he finds a way to make it seem alien. His cast of animal characters feel like an emotionally suppressed oven full of loaded guns. His expedition into werewolf tales brings all of these elements together throughout its rooftop chases and playful approach to the supernatural." – Brian Warmoth
#67: It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi: "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
• List: Comics writer/commentator Kevin Church selects Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 for his "Not A Best Of: Comics in 2010" list: "I’ll just add my voice to the chorus: 'Browntown' is likely the best comic that Jaime Hernandez has done, period. The fact that it’s bookended by Gilbert’s masterfully bleak sociosexual sci-fi story of first contact, 'The Love Bunglers' makes this possibly the highest-potency dosage of quality comics that came out this year. Like the Coen Brothers are for film, I am pretty convinced that I could read just comics by Los Bros Hernandez and feel immensely satisfied."
• List: In MTV Geek's poll "Comic Book Creators Pick Their Favorite Top 3 Comic Stories of 2010," Michael Fiffe chooses Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 2 ("This may be one of the most romantic stories I've ever read. The entire world should read this book") and the Hernandez Bros.' Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 ("I'll never get tired of saying that if you don't like this comic, then you hate comics and thus, you hate life")
• List: Matthew Rosenberg of Ashcan Press ranks Prison Pit Book 2 at #15 on his Best of 2010 list: "Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit may be everything a 12 year old me liked about comics boiled down to its essence and then pumped full of crystal meth. The book reads like hitting someone in the face… in a good way."
• Review: "Written with impressive empathy and obviously heartfelt, angry frustration even years later, this memoir confronts issues that will affect every single one of us whether or not we have the guts to face it, and the light airy art and terrific supporting cast — especially Ching the cat — keeps the tone hopeful and ultimately upbeat even through the worst of all times. This is a book you must read. Like Robert Crumb, I too found tears in my eyes at the book’s end — and so will you. [...] Unsentimental, educational and inspirational Special Exits is a tale no rational mortal can afford to miss." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Coming Attractions/Commentary: At Robot 6, Graeme McMillan uses the occasion of our forthcoming Summer 2011 publication of "what might be, for me, the most eagerly-anticipated book of 2011, Dave McKean’s Celluloid" to ruminate on the subject of pornographic comics