1.) Adventures In Cartooning (First Second) By James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost In addition to its being brilliantly written and drawn, this book was just plain more fun to read than just about anything else I read this year (save for some of the other entries on this list) and, upon finishing, was immediately seized with the desire to give it to everyone I know, up to and including my own seven-year-old self through some kind of time travel. It’s a fun, funny how-to cartoon book that is, all on its own, a pleasant reading experience whether you care to learn what the creators are trying to teach or not.(Originally reviewed here).
2.) The Bun Field (Drawn and Quarterly) by Amanda Vähämäki I can’t think of anything more valuable and pleasurable than dreaming—which I don’t mean in a metaphorical, Reach for the stars, kids! kind of way, but the literal what-happens-when-you-sleep kind of way. Remarkably, Vähämäki was able to recreate the experience of a dream, and put it on paper. (Originally reviewed here).
3.) Far Arden (Top Shelf) by Kevin Cannon One of the zanier, sillier, more fun-for-fun’s-sake books I read this year, this arctic adventure comedy was deceptively well structured, and managed to slyly be about stuff beyond simply having a good time. Cannon’s artwork also made me enthusiastic about drawing in a way the work of no other comics artist really has since I was in my early twenties or so. Something about the way he draws human limbs and figures in action just made me want to pick up a pencil and draw people running around and punching each other. (Originally reviewed here).
4.) Jin & Jam No. 1 (Sparkplug Books) by Hellen Jo This was probably the coolest book I read this year which, as I pointed out in my original, extremely gushy review, that’s even better than being good. Although it is good too. You guys should all totally read this if you haven’t already. (Originally reviewed here).
5.) Johnny Hiro Vol 1 (AdHouse Books) by Fred Chao This slice-of-life/slice-of-fantasy story about a young couple in love trying to make it New York City despite problems ranging from being able to make rent to staving off kaiju attacks is charming in just about every way a comic book can be charming, and it works just as well in this hardcover collection as it did in the original serialization as comic books. (Originally reviewed here).
6.) Larry Marder’s Beanworld Book 1: Wahoolazuma! (Dark Horse Comics) by Larry Marder There is nothing like Marder’s Beanworld, and I don’t just mean in comics. There is seriously nothing like Marder’s Beanworld. (Originally reviewed here).
7.) The Muppet Show #1 (Boom Studios) by Roger Langridge Honestly, I’m just as surprised as you are to see licensed TV show adaptation on this list as you are, and, perhaps if I got to Asterios Polyp or Footnotes in Gaza or something before today it wouldn’t be. But there are two things I look for in a comic book when I’m trying to evaluate how great it is: Whether or not it is the sort of story and/or experience that could only be told/experienced as a comic, and whether or not it does something new and unique. And Langridge’s Muppet Show met those criteria, the fact that it managed to do so while being a licensed TV show adaptation is a little like doing, I don’t know, playing a perfect game of golf with one hand tied behind your back (That would be hard, right? I suck at golf and haven’t tried it in like 15 years). I listed the first issue only, because that was where Langridge’s accomplishment was really first revealed, but the other Muppet comics he’s done have been just as strong…the end of the third, Gonzo-focused issue? I swear to God I almost cried. (Originally reviewed here).
8.) The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book (Fantagraphics) by Joe Daly Despite his rather cartoony character designs, there is an incredibly precise, machine-like quality to Daly’s panels, making for a deceptively realistic milieu and perfectly deadpan delivery. And what he delivers in the two stories collected in this book are unlike anything else I’ve seen in popular comics. They’re slightly surreal mystery stories featuring two stoner characters who find themselves in ever-escalatingly odd circumstances. (I gave this book perhaps too short shrift in my original review, as the clock was winding down on ’09 as I was reviewing it, but there’s a few paragraphs on it near the bottom of this post).
9.) Remake (AdHouse Books) by Lamar Abrams Almost 150 pages of the adventures of Max Guy, an Astro Boy-like hero with a the coolest weapon ever (a gun that turns things into other things) as he navigates silly, random gags and character humor drawn in fast-paced, panel-packed pages. (Originally reviewed here…after the Johnny Hiro bit).
10.) Wednesday Comics (DC Comics) by Various No, not every strip in this rather radical experiment was a good one—in fact, at least one of them was actively, aggressively terrible—but this was by far the biggest, best and most exciting project either of the direct market’s “Big Two” publishers put into comics shops this year, and the experimental nature of it lent it a rather thrilling aura. It was full of great art, some strong writing here and there, and a neat format we’ve never really scene before and I wouldn’t be surprised if we never saw again. Wednesday Comics proved to be much greater than the sum of its parts.
The Best Comics of 2008
The Best Graphic Novels of 2007
Thirty-Three Notable Graphic Novels of 2006