Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: The Year Drawn and Quarterly Won Comics

Damn, it's that time of the year again already, isn't it? I contributed a top-five comics of 2010 list to Las Vegas Weekly for their year-ender issue, which you can read here, so obviously I've been thinking a lot about the past 12 months worth of comics over the last few weeks here, but the end of the calendar year still seems to have gotten here awfully quickly.

Not that I mind the year 2010 ending or anything, it's simply that the arrival of the end of December always brings with it the pressure to compile a best-of list for the blog—I believe best-of list compilation is one of the requirements all comics bloggers must meet in order to keep from having their comics-blogging licenses revoked—and I've never really arrived at a way of making such lists that I'm 100-percent satisfied, that seems like the right way to do it to me.

Looking back through my archives, I see I addressed the changing of the years differently during each year I've been blogging (Holy God, has it been over four years now?! And I still haven't bought a URL name of my own?).

Last year, I wrote a list of "The ten comics that I happened to read in 2009 that I thought were better than the rest of the comics that I read in 2009," which was probably the best job I did of strictly defining a set of criteria. In 2008, I did probably my best job of keeping track of good comics I read throughout the year, and wrote a 700-word preface explaining the difficulty of list compilation before providing a top ten list (followed by a huge list of candidate comics I considered for spots in the top-ten list and a couple of more specialized lists). I did something similar if less-expansive in 2007, while in 2006 I merely listed "Thirty-Three Notable Graphic Novels," never committing myself to naming ten.

Soooo...what to do this year? What to do, what to do....

Well, maybe I'll just leave it at what I said in LVW: The five best comics of the year are Lynda Barry’s Picture This, Pablo Holmberg’s Eden, Cathy Malkasian’s Temperance (scroll down), Julia Gfrörer’s Flesh and Bone, and Jason’s Werewolves of Montpellier.

I was sufficiently bowled over by those first three books—which were not only really great comics, but also addressed subject matters rarely if ever addressed in comics in an extremely graceful fashion and managed to do things that other comics did not or could not do—that I had little trouble assigning them their respective spots. The next two were a bit more difficult on account of just how many good comic books were published this year, and it's always hard to pit comics against one another as if they were in competition.

I didn't keep as thoroughly organized records of potential best-of list candidates this year as I have in year's past, but one thing I noticed while putting together the short top-five list was how many of the books I found myself considering were published by Drawn and Quarterly this year.

In addition to the Eden and Picture This, which made the list, D+Q also published Hicksville (well, republished it, which gave me some pause about including it on a best-of-the-year-list), Market Day, Kevin Huizenga's The Wild Kingdom (another republication) and Brecht Evens' The Wrong Place, a must-read graphic novel that uses color, space and implied invisible panels created in the readers' minds to tell a story in a way I've yet to see another work from this wonderful medium of ours tell a story—If I compiled that list in another week or two, The Wrong Place would probably be on it, but I would want to reread it again and take the time to write a serious review of it before sticking it on a list. Oh, and Dungeon Quest Book One, which, at the time I read it, I thought might belong on such a list come December.

Whenever I'd think of one of the best comics I read during the past year then, I kept coming back to Drawn and Quarterly's offerings this year, and that's really only a random handful of what I personally thought were their better books—there was also Vanessa Davis' superb Make Me A Woman collection, Daniel Clowes' Wilson (which earned more ink than just about anything else published this year), some fascinating imports from Japan and their John Stanley Library.

It's not just me, is it? Drawn and Quarterly really did have a truly amazing year of great releases, right? And what really impresses me about their year is that it doesn't just seem good in a relative manner, because the other publisher's we tend to think of as the publisher of art or literary comics had bum years or anything. Fantagraphics and Top Shelf and First Second and AdHouse had pretty great years too. Picturebox published Brian Chippendale's If 'n Oof (one of the weirdest books I've read this year) and Sparkplug published The Heavy Hand (in addition to the aforementioned Flesh and Bone). Drawn and Quarterly just seemed to have a really, really great year in 2010, and I think one could put together a pretty reasonable top-five or even top-ten list with nothing but D+Q books on it and, while it would probably look a little funny, it could still be a pretty honest and defendable list.

At any rate, good job Comics—you sure kicked ass in 2010!


Since I didn't mention nearly as many comics this time as I usually do in these year-in-review post, let me see if I can think of some more categories to give me an excuse to throw out various forms of recommendations...

THE COMICS I HAD THE MOST FUN READING IN 2010: Dungeon Quest Book 1, Orc Stain #1-#5 (Now available in trade paperback collection, if you're not a fan of serially-published comics, although I recommend the singles experience in this case), King City (Love that over-sized format...! I think this was the first book since Neil Gaiman and company's Sandman that I've bought in more than one format, as I had read the Tokyopop-published digest but couldn't resist the huge Image-published singles), Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour (a large part of the fun was, admittedly, re-reading the first five volumes the night before the release of the sixth), Art Baltazar and Franco's Tiny Titans and Tiny Titans/Little Archie, James Kochalka's Johnny Boo and The Mean Little Boy and Dragonpuncher and American Elf (one of the few webcomics I read semi-regularly), Kate Beaton's online strips (another of those few), Mouse Guard: Legends of The Guard, Yotsuba&! Vols. 8-9

THE BEST SUPER-COMICS I READ IN 2010: Roger Langridge and Chis Samnee's The Mighty Thor Vol. 1, Sekihiko Inui's Ratman, Grant Morrison's Batman comics with the good artists drawing them (Particularly Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-#6 and Batman and Robin #7-#16) and, um...hmm. Either I've been reading far too few of 'em, or it was a pretty shitty year for super-comics this year. Let's, I've been enjoying Green Lantern, Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost, even if they're not always that good. You guys read a lot of super-comics, what did you think were among the best, and would I like any of 'em...?

THE COMICS I HAD LOOKED FORWARD TO READING THE MOST IN 2010: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, Lucky In Love Book One, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6, Blackest Night #7, Wilson, Ax Volume I: A Collection of Alternative Manga, Neko Ramen Vol. 1

THE 2010 COMICS THAT MOST PLEASANTLY SURPRISED ME BECAUSE I DIDN'T THINK THEY LOOKED VERY GOOD BUT THEY ACTUALLY WERE WHICH JUST GOES TO SHOW WHAT I KNOW: Boom's 28 Days Later (reads much better in trades than singles) and Soldier Zero #1-#2, Archaia's Fraggle Rock (paired with Boom's Langridge-cartooned Muppet book, it was a hell of a year for comics-based-on-Henson-creations!), Papercutz' Smurfs collections, Dark Rain, A God Somewhere, Radical's Time Bomb #1-#3, DC's Vertigo version of The Unknown Soldier and American Vampire Vol. 1

THE COMIC PUBLISHED IN YEARS PAST THAT I JUST GOT AROUND TO READING THIS YEAR THAT I LIKED THE MOST: Full Metal Alchemist (I was literally addicted to this once I started borrowing it from the library)

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