• 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
• 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
• 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: 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:David Wolkin names some memorable comics he read this year:
"It hurts to read [It Was the War of the Trenches], but Jacques Tardi’s renderings are still quite beautiful as far as I’m concerned, which makes the whole thing that much more painful."
"Blazing Combat blew my mind. [...] The only thing this book has to say is that war is always terrible and people always die... Most of the stories are written by Archie Goodwin, but are duties are handled by a whole mess of the greats, including John Severin, Gene Colan, Wally Wood and Alex Toth, Goddamn Alex Toth. This book is worth buying just for the 3-4 Toth stories."
• List/Review: "Notable shoujo mention: A Drunken Dream and Other Stories by Moto Hagio... There is fantastic imagery, and fantastic stories. [...] As a translation and publishing choice, I commend Fantagraphics. For anyone who wants to read what is considered to be a classic gem of shojo then this is it." – Anime Diet (see also their review)
• List: Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf names A Drunken Dream and Other Stories one of the two Best Classic Manga of 2010: "...Moto Hagio’s collection of short manga... focus[es] particularly on issues of family, delving deep into some of the ugliest impulses of our biological tribes and the damage they can do to their least valued members..."
• List: Patrick Markfort of Articulate Nerd counts down his top 10 Favorite Comics of 2010:
"7. The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976, The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978, by Charles M. Schulz... After the fascinating early years of the strip in the 50's and its evolution and refinement into one of the all-time great strips in the 60's, it was a delight to rediscover these wonderful 70's strips, which to my mind strike a perfect balance between the ever present serious and silly sensibilities of Peanuts. Schulz's life's work is all things to all people, with a cuteness and sweetness on the surface, a razor sharp wit just underneath, and depths of poetry and sadness at its heart. The Platonic ideal of a comic strip."
"5. A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, by Moto Hagio – I've been waiting years for someone to publish something by Moto Hagio, and I was not disappointed in the slightest by this book. In fact, I loved everything about it, from the drop-dead gorgeous design work by Adam Grano, to the fine selection of stories by editor Matt Thorn, to the reprint of Thorn's definitive interview with Moto Hagio... None of this would mean much if the stories weren't any good, of course. Fortunately, they're exceptional. These exquisitely drawn short narratives across a variety of genres spanning Hagio's decades-long career are terrific reads in and of themselves, and provide a fascinating glimpse into a tradition of comics-making we've still seen very little of. More like this, please."
"1. 'Browntown' and 'The Love Bunglers, Parts One and Two,' by Jaime Hernandez, from Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 - Jaime Hernandez is my favorite living cartoonist, and these short stories, which MUST be read in conjunction with each other, are my favorite thing he's ever done. What a thrill to witness first hand the publication of a certain All Time Great Comics Work from an artist whose place in the canon is secured ten times over. [...] Read my full review of Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 here."
• List: "Love and Rockets New Stories #3 – [...] Jaime has this wonderful gift to make his characters seem real and natural. It’s been almost 30 years that he’s been writing and drawing the stories of Maggie and Hopey but they feel more like old friends now than ever before." – Scott Cederlund, Wednesday's Haul, "The Best of 2010"
• List: "A giant, two volume hardcover edition with a solid slipcase, this excellent collection [Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition] features the first seven volumes of the series and a ton of extra content. Probably the most beautiful book on this list." – Aaron Colter, Fearing Americans, "The Best Comics of 2010"
• List: "Best Pop Culture Satire: [...] An award winning comic that made me laugh out loud a little too much while reading at the local cafe. [...] Full of shamans, reanimated pirate skeletons and hysterical pop culture nods, Dungeon Quest Book Oneis one of my favorite pieces of comic satire to come out in a long time." – Ian Gonzales, Unwinnable, "The Best Comic Books of 2010"
• List: At The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log, the contributor identified only as Michael places Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier on his top 3 Best of the Year: "...[A]s usual Jason’s art is beautiful in its very unusual style with super thick line work and flat and bright colouring. The story is more of a drama, which again is a change from the usual comedy route and the addition of a romance sub-plot makes this book one of Jason’s most complex and best."
• Review: "Jacques Tardi's Adèle Blanc-Sec is a longtime favorite French anti-heroine... The over-the-top parody of the monster-hunting adventurer, combined with a whiff of innate French superiority to the source material, ...may appeal to the extremely casual reader of comics, or one with deep knowledge and interest, but probably not to a reader who enjoys picking up the latest zombie comic." – Mike Rhode, Washington City Paper
• Survey:The Beat's year-end/looking-forward survey of comics pros (part three) includes incisive commentary from our own Eric Reynolds
• Coming Attractions: More reporting & commentary on our Carl Barks news from MTV Geek and Ambrosia (in Portuguese)
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
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