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January 14, 2009

Looking Backwards 2008: Comics

I've never done a 'Best of…' list on this blog, so I decided to do one. I'm not going to limit myself to comics (though this post is about comics) and I'm not necessarily going to limit myself to stuff that came out in 2008. This list will be a little more personal and will include older items that I became aware of in 2008 as well. Hopefully this will create some interesting resonances and juxtapositions.

bodyworld_panel.jpgDash Shaw. He was one of the big stories of the year with the expansive and amazing Bottomless Belly Button book. For me, much more revelatory were the short stories that ran in Mome and Bodyworld the web comic. They were bursting with experiment, invention and idiosyncratic-and-brilliant use of color. The amount of great work that Dash was able to produce last year was breathtaking. It's really fun seeing an an artist in the moment and 2008 was definitely his moment. I fully expected to read an interview with Dash where he explains his creative process thus: "I sit in my studio. My head is on fire with ideas. I explosively materialize amazing comics ex-nihilio directly with the power of my mind."

Acme Novelty Library #19 by Chris Ware. I've definitely started taking Chris Ware for granted over the last few volumes of Acme Novelty Library. They were all of such high quality and consistency that sometimes it was hard to get excited about the next Acme installment (oh what charmed lives we lead!). "What? Another great comic by Chris Ware? Sure, whatever." Acme 19 wasn't really that different, but the fact that the first half was a visceral science-fiction horror story makes you kind of stand up and take notice.

Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes. It's hard for me to be objective about Dan Clowes comics so I won't even try. His serial in the New York Times was brilliant from the start. Nail-biting cliff-hanger every week! In what was essentially a romance comic!

Powr Mastrs Vol. 2 by C.F. I could say a lot of similar things about C.F. that I said above about Dash Shaw. But to me his work doesn't have the same kind of frantic energy that Dash's does. In fact his comics seem to have a kind of languid pace, as if C.F. has a different, slower conception of time… at least for me.

omac_1_cover.jpgDC Kirby Reprints. Fourth World. Omac. The Demon. I'm a huge Jack Kirby fan and DC has finally done something right with these reprints. I recommend these mostly on the strength of the packaging. Gone is the super glossy paper & inattentive re-coloring of the DC Archives brand of volumes. The pleasingly uncoated paper makes these books feel like a bunch of original comics were bound between a hard cover. Remove the dust jackets for maximum effect. If you're a Kirby fan these are great books.

Thorgal by Rosinski & Van Hamme. I'm really happy that Cinebook is putting out these comics in English. I think these are some of the best Erich Von Daniken influenced "Ancient Gods from Space" sci-fi comics out there. Polish-born Rosinski is one of my favorite comics euro-realists and he will be the focus of one of my Comics in Poland posts in the future. This material is mostly older (70's & 80's) but is still crackles with that Heavy-Metal-like energy.

Travel & The Garden by Yuichi Yokoyama. Yokoyama's work was a revelation in 2007. It's no different this year. I will have more to say about his books in an upcoming post.

american-flagg-1-cover.jpgAmerican Flagg! By Howard Chaykin. I wasn't as happy with the production of this collection. Though from what I understand Howard's originals from that time period are very difficult to to work with in the digital age. Still it made me appreciate American Flagg! again! This was inventive sci-fi from the Soviet era and one of the first comics to get me to read something other than Marvel or DC. Chaykin's art is at it's peak. This book prompted me to dig into the piles of comics I still have lying around my parent's basement to see what other Chaykin stuff I still have. I read his mid-80's re-vamp of The Shadow which was ok, but it reminded me of the follow-up Shadow series created by Andrew Helfer, Bill Sienkiewicz and Kyle Baker. It was a great black comedy series with exceptional art. Bill Sienkiewicz was at or close to his peak and I think this may have been the series that introduced Kyle Baker to the world. One of the very best comics series of 1986-87. The last issue has a heartbreakingly amazing never-fulfilled cliff-hanger. I hope the never published subsequent issues exist somewhere in the legendary comics library in Hicksville. It's worth seeking out 'cause it'll probably never get reprinted.

Good-Bye by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Impeccably produced by Adrian Tomine this is the third volume of short Tatsumi short stories. I think it's the best volume so far. This is really revelatory work. Tatsumi really shows off the possibilities of the comics short story. It really makes me excited to see the next volume to come out this year.

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Posted by tomk at January 14, 2009 11:38 PM

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