Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Best Comics of the Decade #20-1

This is a list of the best comics of the decade, and below is the top 20. The previous two installments can be found here: numbers 60-41 and 40-21.



20. THE FILTH/SEAGUY
by Grant Morrison, Chris Weston & Gary Erskine, 2002-2003
by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart, 2004

The Filth is the perfect expression of Grant Morrison's paranoid, conspiratorial view of the way the world works. It condenses, in its relatively compact twelve issues, the thrust of Morrison's sprawling series The Invisibles. It returns to familiar territory — the malevolent forces controlling the world, the suppression of individuality, the power of sexuality and transgression to overcome such oppression — and does so with Morrison's characteristic blunt humor and restless imagination. Because of its limited miniseries length and the sheer variety of ideas and images it encompasses, it is perhaps Morrison's densest and most tightly packed work. It is raw, undiluted Morrison, leaking wild ideas and constantly setting off on loony digressions and detours. It's about the Hand, a secret agency dedicated to maintaining the status quo by destroying anything that threatens to introduce new, destabilizing elements into the balance of world power, or new ideas into the popular discourse. The book posits a whole behind-the-scenes network dedicated to keeping the reins on sexual and scientific knowledge, even as perversity and mad science rage through the corridors of power. The art of Chris Weston (with inker Gary Erskine) lends a gritty plausibility even to Morrison's most out-there visions, and the book especially benefits from its unified creative team, since uneven artwork has often plagued the writer's longer projects.

The even more compact three-issue miniseries Seaguy offers up a similar, subtly disturbing nightmare vision of authoritarian control and conformity. On its surface, Seaguy looks and feels like a goofy superhero/adventure parody, with the clean, cartoony art of Cameron Stewart and some of Morrison's most pulpy, poppy dialogue. But as Morrison pulls back the layers of Seaguy's brightly colored, seemingly idyllic world, darker subtexts begin creeping in. Seaguy is a third-string superhero in a world that doesn't need heroes anymore, because the populace is uniformly happy and sedate, convinced by mass media marketing to be docile worker drones for the government and its corporate allies. Seaguy and his faithful fish pal Chubby stumble into a massive conspiracy centering around a new sentient foodstuff called Xoo, Egyptian structures on the moon, the clockwork wasps from the lost city of Atlantis, and sinister entertainment/Big Brother icon Mickey Eye. In other words, it's a typically imaginative work from Morrison, who tosses off inspired ideas left and right as his hapless hero has his eyes opened to the mysterious forces that control the world, only to realize that he didn't really want to know about any of this stuff in the first place. [buy] | [buy]

19. THE BLOT
by Tom Neely, 2007

Tom Neely's self-published long-form debut, after a string of minicomics and shorter pieces, is a real shocker, coming out of nowhere to introduce a wholly new and exciting sensibility. His cartoony characters and obtuse symbolism add up to a difficult work, slippery in its meanings and intent, that is nevertheless impossible to look away from. With few words and very little narrative, Neely traces the experiences of a cartoon everyman, with a bulbous, rounded head, comically big feet and Mickey Mouse-style gloves, as he is consumed and pursued by an amorphous black inkblot that sometimes appears as small splotches within his white world, and sometimes threatens to flow across the page, consuming everything in its path. Neely presents various encounters between the man, the blot and a woman who sometimes seems to be helping him and sometimes seems fixed on his destruction. The book deals with conformity, creativity, love and humiliation, all through these enigmatic, nearly silent strips where the blot's seeming meaning and purpose fluidly changes depending on context. [buy]

18. FINDER: DREAM SEQUENCE
by Carla Speed McNeil, 2003

Carla Speed McNeil's Finder is one of the great self-published niche series in comics. Billed as "aboriginal sci-fi," her work involves a richly detailed and complex fantasy world, populated with mythic creatures and humans coexisting within isolated and crumbling domed cities. Her style is utterly distinctive and fresh, with a slight sketchiness that belies the precision of her line and her compositions. She experiments restlessly with page design, and frequently comes up with innovative ways of depicting the unconventional concepts at the core of her work. Her artwork has also improved massively over the years; compare the early, scratchy Sin Eater to the sumptuousness of Dream Sequence, her best book so far, and the difference is obvious. McNeil has matured into one of modern comics' most overlooked stylists. Her expressive line delineates instantly recognizable characters who weave in and out of her storiesin unexpected ways. In Dream Sequence, her usual hero, the rugged wanderer Jaeger, steps out of the center, though he does crop up in the form of various doppelgangers and avatars. Instead, this dense, beautiful work tells the story of a man whose imagination is so powerful that he houses an entire elaborate, three-dimensional world inside his mind, allowing other people to plug in and experience this place like characters in a video game. On one level, McNeil's story is a sci-fi horror piece about a monster set loose within this imaginary Eden, but these genre touches only serve to accentuate the themes and emotions at the story's core: imagination versus reality, creativity, the perils of connecting and forming relationships with other people. This book boasts some of McNeil's most startling and gorgeous imagery, married to one of her best stories. And since her Finder books really have no set order, instead linking together in more oblique, non-linear ways, it's even a good introduction to her work or a standalone read in itself. [buy]

17. NINJA
by Brian Chippendale, 2006

It's often been said of Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale that he draws like he drums: fast and finicky, filling every inch of available space with the sheer overwhelming density of his creativity. Whether he's pounding on his skins or scratching out dense worlds in ink, Chippendale is a nearly terrifying force. Ninja is the culmination of his work in comics thus far, a massive volume in which the artist picks up where he left off with the crude ninja stories he drew as a young boy — actually included here as the first section of the book — by expanding this ninja's adventures into a grand epic about community and corporate greed. Like many of the artists associated with the loosely defined Fort Thunder scene, Chippendale is fascinated by world-building, by creating whole alternate societies with complex histories and tangled character relationships. This kind of stuff is merely suggested in the sprawling, elliptical Ninja, in which each oversized page is a new "episode" and often follows an entirely new character or set of characters. There's a lot going on here, both in terms of the twisty, tough-to-follow narrative and the dense texture of Chippendale's drawings. The book's all about corporate forces taking over a small town and transforming it; Chippendale, who with the rest of Fort Thunder often lived the lifestyle of a squatters' commune, is very sensitive to the issues involved in gentrification, in forming tight-knit local communities, and in the ways people can be broken apart by powerful outside forces. Ninja is often just a fun, funny action book, and sometimes verges into near-abstract flights of fancy, but it's also politically engaged in very deep ways, particularly in one stunning two-page sequence where Chippendale implicitly compares the passionate, communicative joys of sex to the anti-human evils of government-mandated torture. [buy]

16. THE LUTE STRING
by Jim Woodring, 2005

Jim Woodring has long been one of comics' most fascinating and idiosyncratic artists, mostly working, in recent years, within the self-contained universe of his Frank comics. The Lute String, originally published as a standalone book in Japan, is Woodring's most sustained Frank story of recent years, though Frank himself (the amorphously anthropomorphic hero of many Woodring sagas) is only a peripheral figure here. Instead, the focus is on Frank's friends, Pupshaw and Pushpaw, both of whom somehow look like a fusion between a puppy and a small cottage. Like all of Woodring's Frank comics, this one is wordless, and its meaning ambiguous: these stories are like abstract parables, teaching moral lessons through Woodring's selfish, curious, mystically oriented characters. In this case, the moral seems to be: no matter how important, how powerful, you think you are there's always something greater, always someone or some force beyond your control. It's about life as a hierarchy stretching up into some infinite unknowable place. Just as Frank playfully intervenes in the struggle (or mating rite?) between two miniature insect-like creatures, and Pupshaw and Pushpaw delight in terrifying a little morphing hippopotamus, an elephant-like deity eventually intervenes into their plane of reality, sending the two pups off into a strange, frightening alternate dimension: our own world. While there, the two "dogs" wind up mutually scaring and scared by a pair of human children and a songbird, before they're brought back to their own world, newly appreciative of its special wonders and pleasures. All of this is conveyed without words, with Woodring's stylish, detailed imagery and distinctive wiggly hatching. It's moving, funny, and as with all of Woodring's work it demands a close reading. [buy]

15. ACHEWOOD
by Chris Onstad, 2001-ongoing

Achewood is one of the greatest, funniest strips to emerge from the 00s boom in webcomics, as comic strip creators began turning to the Internet rather than the dwindling newspaper comic venue. The appeal of Onstad's work is difficult to explain: there's some kind of strange synergy that occurs from the intersection of Onstad's character-based humor, absurd surrealism, minimalist drawing and at times surprising pathos. Achewood started as a Dadaist gag-a-day strip involving a cast of stuffed animals (its first strip literally makes no sense and is somehow funny anyway), and over the years has developed into something much more complex. For one thing, Onstad introduced the characters of three talking cats, most notably the clinically depressive computer programmer Roast Beef and the self-absorbed entrepreneur Ray Smuckles, two characters who have come to occupy the strip's emotional and comedic center. Onstad's work over the years has ranged from surreal "magical realist" arcs, to comedic/dramatic character-based pieces, to parodies of data flow charts, to occasional returns to the strip's roots in one-off gags. [read free] | [buy] | [buy]

14. PROMETHEA
by Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III, Mick Gray et al, 1999-2005

Alan Moore's Promethea, the crown jewel in his America's Best Comics line, starts with an archetypal superhero origin story: an ordinary young girl named Sophie Bangs is forced to take on the mantle of the superheroine/deity Promethea, though she barely understands what's happening to her. It had the makings of another of Moore's lighter works, playfully toying with genre and clichés in the context of a conventionally satisfying narrative. Instead, Moore pulled the rug out from under reader expectations by transforming the book into a high-concept primer on his magical beliefs, a comprehensive illustrated text book on mysticism, magic and spirituality in all its forms. Over the course of an extended odyssey through a series of magical realms — where each issue was color-coded and drawn in a distinct style by the multitalented J.H. Williams III — Moore's heroine took on the role of Dante's Virgil, as a tour guide through the realms of the unknown and the unknowable. Along the way, the journey encompasses the Tarot, magical sexuality and tantra, and the search for the highest states of being. The book is dense and, ultimately, apocalyptic, though for Moore even the apocalypse is both spiritual and necessary, a way of wiping the slate clean and starting fresh in a new, more enlightened and aware world. Promethea is beautiful and exhausting in roughly equal measures, adding up to one of Moore's most challenging and multi-layered works. [buy] | [buy] | [buy] | [buy] | [buy]

13. ALIAS THE CAT
by Kim Deitch, 2002-2005

Alias the Cat, originally published as the three-issue miniseries The Stuff of Dreams, is Kim Deitch's best and most sustained treatment of the themes and characters that have fascinated him throughout his career. His work, seen as a whole, is a dense patchwork in which various animators, artists, imaginary/demonic cats, sexual deviants, psychotics, circus performers, midgets and collectors intersect and interact in various ways. For Deitch, the past and the present flow together to tell multi-generational stories that are utterly absurd and yet acquire a strange plausibility through Deitch's matter-of-fact way of combining the real history of art and ephemera with his outrageous tales. In this latest narrative, his eternal muse/antagonist Waldo the Cat returns as a plush doll, a malevolent island deity, and the possible inspiration for a caped crusader who dresses up like a cat. The story features a trip to Midgetville, the discovery of a hitherto unknown newspaper serial, and an exposé on the sexual antics of furries. It's funny, goofy, exciting and far-ranging in its imaginative nonsense accumulations, and throughout it all Deitch's fond sense of nostalgia for a world that never quite was lends emotional heft to the story's elaborate twists and turns. [buy]

12. BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON/MOME SHORT STORIES
by Dash Shaw, 2008-2009

Dash Shaw is an utterly brilliant young cartoonist who has, in a few short years, advanced from the academic experiments of his earlier work (like the promising Goddess Head) into a formalist genius whose skills encompass both a natural gift for color and a feel for subtle, indirect characterization. Bottomless Belly Button is a daring, daunting work, a 700+ page tome about a mildly dysfunctional family; the book captures the particular moment when the family's parents call together their three grown-up children to announce their divorce. Shaw applies a barrage of formal techniques and styles to documenting the disparate reactions of these characters to the situation, evoking emotions through the sheer force of his drawing rather than stating them outright. His effects are both nakedly symbolic and yet somehow supple, like the way he draws the family's youngest son with the head of a frog, only revealing the meaning of this otherwise unexplained device in a brief, elegant sequence and then continuing to use it to reveal the character's essence throughout the rest of the book.

Shaw's other great body of work during the 2000s, other than his recently completed and soon-to-be collected online strip Bodyworld, are the short stories he's written for the MOME anthology. These stories mostly utilize science fiction tropes and exploit Shaw's animation cel-inspired color overlays. In each story, color is intimately connected with form and narrative, so that the meaning of the story is communicated through the use of color. A recent piece strips down an episode of the TV show Blind Date by filtering the figures in a greenish haze, revealing unexpected depths of longing and sadness in this televised search for love. In "Satellite CMYK," the title refers to a four-color printing process, and Shaw color-codes four separate layers of reality in a story about spies attempting to move between levels in a strictly segregated society; when he integrates all four colors at last for the final image, it's appropriately stunning. Similarly, in "Look Forward, First Son of Terra Two," two reality streams, one running forwards and the other in reverse, intersect, as Shaw delineates the different timelines with different colors. [buy] | [buy]

11. ALEC/THE FATE OF THE ARTIST
by Eddie Campbell, 2000-2002/2006

Eddie Campbell's Alec MacGarry is his longtime autobiographical stand-in, created in the late 70s and subsequently worked into numerous graphic novels, short strips and comics over the years. Alec has evolved into a rambling autobiographical opus, composed from a patchwork of anecdotes, jokes, formalist diversions and stories about drinking, family life, artistic creation and everything else that passes through Campbell's witty, tirelessly active mind. The entirety of Campbell's Alec comics, recently collected into a massive tome (which includes several long-form stories, and parts of stories, written and assembled during the 00s) represents one of the great sustained efforts at autobiography, since Campbell's mix of in-the-moment diaristic scribblings and retrospective analysis lend themselves to a multi-faceted view of a life in all its complexity and contradictions. Campbell's sharp sense of humor and observation are also evident in the standalone volume The Fate of the Artist, which is closely related to his Alec MacGarry stories even if the protagonist isn't named as such. It's one of Campbell's most formally ambitious books, an imaginative look at the disappearance of an artist (namely Campbell himself) using a dazzling variety of formal techniques and styles. Campbell incorporates mock comic strips, fumetti (starring his own real-life daughter cracking wise about dear old dad), and numerous metafictional diversions, but the star of the show is the way he combines his familiar scratchy style with a gorgeous but equally ephemeral use of watery, hazy colors. [buy] | [buy]

10. MARY-LAND
by Mary Fleener, 2002-ongoing

Mary Fleener was an important part of the alternative comics scene of the 90s, publishing her series Slutburger and contributing to numerous anthologies. She was never the most famous name, but she was one of the best, with a distinctive Cubism-influenced style and a warm, slightly naughty sense of humor. One could be forgiven for thinking she has since forsaken comics, though in fact she's been steadily producing work throughout the 00s, mostly outside of the normal indie comics channels. Since 2002, she's been publishing her comic strip Mary-Land in the Surf City Times newspaper in her hometown of Encinitas, California. These strips represent an amazing body of work, marrying Fleener's distinctive style and sensibility to content that is provincial, local and domestic. She ruminates on mailbox art, on surfing, on local issues like the fight to preserve public parks, on bicycles, pets, garden pests, and more. Her work in these strips is almost always tied to the specific place she's writing about and the audience she's writing for. It is rare these days, outside of the generic "humor" of newspaper comics, to find comics written, not for a niche audience of comics fans, but for a general audience interested in a wide variety of issues and ideas. Fleener's work nods back to a time when comics weren't confined to a small core audience but were broadcast far and wide to everyone; within her particular geographic area, Fleener's comics aspire to that same generality, that intimate engagement with the everyday world. These comics are refreshingly direct and accessible without ever forsaking the stylistic adventurousness of Fleener's best work. They represent one of our finest cartoonists continuing to work outside of the usual formats and audiences, and producing some of her best, richest work in the process, mostly out of public view for those not living in Encinitas. Fortunately, for the rest of us she's collected a generous sampling of this work in two volumes, available from her website. [buy]

9. X-FORCE/X-STATIX
by Peter Milligan & Mike Allred, 2001-2004

There is perhaps no less likely place to find a great comic than under the banner of X-Force, traditionally the trashiest and stupidest title in Marvel's vast, incestuous X-universe; no mean feat, that. Maybe it was this very disposability, this lack of importance, that allowed writer Peter Milligan, in collaboration with Mike Allred of Madman, to completely re-envision the title, unceremoniously discarding all the familiar characters and crafting a new team, and a new aesthetic, from scratch. This new X-Force is a corporately sponsored superhero team who seem to exist mainly for the purpose of exploiting media and marketing possibilities, though they also have an alarmingly high mortality rate. In fact, in the very first issue of the Milligan/Allred series, the pair introduced a whole team of new heroes, developing their pasts, their powers, their personal issues... only to kill off all but two of them by the last page, including the character who had been primed to be the book's central hero. This destabilizing gesture established the groundwork for what was to come: superhero soap opera wrapped up in media critiques, off-the-wall satire, plenty of blood-and-guts action, and an irreverent approach to the storytelling rulebook. Allred's clean, expressive art, honed by his years of drawing Madman, is at its best here, especially in the infamous and boldly experimental silent issue, starring the group's green, blobby mainstay Doop. The Milligan/Allred X-Force — which eventually rebooted as X-Statix to reflect its distance from the conventional X-universe — is a masterpiece of superhero satire that, eventually, reached its absurdist peak in a battle of finger flicks between a butt-naked Iron Man and equally stripped-down X-Statix leader Mr. Sensitive. It doesn't get any better, or sillier, than that. [buy] | [buy] | [buy] | [buy]

8. ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #18-19
by Chris Ware, 2007-2008

There are few artists who have had as great an impact on modern comics as Chris Ware, whose name is virtually synonymous with the popular explosion of the "graphic novel" in recent years, thanks in large part to his lengthy Jimmy Corrigan tome. He is a formal genius of the first order, doing things with page layouts and the incorporation of text that place him at the forefront of formal experimentation within comics. In recent years, he's split his talent mostly between two new ongoing stories, Rusty Brown and Building Stories. The former promises to be another Jimmy Corrigan-esque time-spanning epic of losers and jerks, and in the nineteenth issue of his ongoing Acme Novelty Library, Ware continued Rusty's story in an unusual way, by weaving back and forth between "reality" and a fictional sci-fi story supposedly written by one of his characters. The flow between these two layers of reality is startlingly complex, in ways that may not be apparent at first blush: key details in the sci-fi story that might be initially puzzling are later revealed to have psychologically telling connections with the writer's own life. One particular throwaway detail even seems like an innocuous printing mistake at first, until Ware slowly unfolds an explanation that makes this small touch devastating.

Ware's other major post-Corrigan project is Building Stories, which has mostly been published as a series of Sunday-style single pages or double-page spreads in various newspapers and anthologies. A lot of this material, building up to another sprawling long-form narrative, has been collected in issue 18 of Acme Novelty Library. At its core is yet another of Ware's sadsack heroes — a lonely woman who's missing a leg — but this is some of the artist's most formally ambitious work. Each of these stories breaks down the page into a massive diagram, often presenting the titular apartment building with the rooms within it as panels, while mazes of arrows and text weave around the page, directing the reader's attention in a non-linear flow. It's daring and inventive work, forcing the reader to discover new ways of reading every time one approaches the page. [buy] | [buy]

7. SAFE AREA GORAZDE
by Joe Sacco, 2000

Joe Sacco is a unique figure in modern comics: there is no one else who combines sheer cartooning chops with a newspaper reporter's sensibility and instincts in quite the same way. His reportage from war-torn areas of Israel/Palestine and the Balkan region gets to the heart of these conflicts through the testimonies of witnesses and victims, privileging the stories people tell and the experiences of average people on the ground during historic tragedies. While always conscious of the big-picture story, Sacco is committed to a more intimate, personal form of journalism, rooted in oral anecdote and day-to-day life. Safe Area Gorazde is one of his finest works, an account of his time spent in a nominally stable UN-controlled area of Bosnia, where he speaks with survivors and refugees from the Serbian offensive. As in most of Sacco's work, this book weaves together past and present, juxtaposing excerpts from history against the present lives of these people, fenced in and surrounded by devastation on all sides. And yet the book's most poignant current is arguably the way in which normality keeps trying to reassert itself despite the horrors these people have experienced. Little things like music, clothes and cigarettes become loaded signifiers of stability and normality, of the possibility that life will be good again, no longer dictated by terror and death. Even as Sacco explores various horrifying anecdotes of survival and violence, he is also aware that his interviewees are just as concerned with more prosaic struggles: relationships troubled both by the war and more familiar obstacles, the desire for designer clothes from the West, the need to laugh, dance, drink and have fun with friends. This texture, this interplay between horror and normality, makes Safe Area Gorazde an especially powerful document of the effects of war. [buy]

6. ASTHMA
by John Hankiewicz, 2002-2006

The comics of John Hankiewicz, as collected in Asthma, his only full-length collection to date, are poetic and strange, using the language of comics not so much to tell stories as to create moods, to suggest ineffable, inexpressible ideas in the permutations of cartoon iconography and densely cross-hatched drawings. The comics in Asthma cover a wide range of styles and concerns, establishing the relatively broad territory that Hankiewicz explores. His "Amateur Comics" strips wordlessly rearrange a set of simple elements (man, chair, radio, book, picture frame) in ways that suggest abstract visual poetry, repeating motifs and "rhyming" the compositions from panel to panel. In "Martha Gregory," he uses a subtle disconnect between image and narration to explore the psychology of a dissatisfied woman and her male counterpart. Other strips, like the "Dance" series," simply explore the pure aesthetics of movement and form, as stylized, graceful dancers flow together and apart, creating abstract patterns as they move. Hankiewicz's work is frequently puzzling and inscrutable, suggesting slippery, half-formed ideas that are difficult to tease out from within his by turns surreal or mundane compositions. His comics are evasive, never adhering to a single interpretation but instead offering up many suggestive possibilities. [buy]

5. KRAMERS ERGOT
by Sammy Harkham (editor) & various, 2003-2008

The defining anthology of the 2000s has been Sammy Harkham's Kramers Ergot, which started as a small, self-published zine and, with its fourth volume, became the gathering point for everything avant-garde, experimental, unusual and inventive in early 21st Century comics. The fourth, fifth and sixth volumes of this groundbreaking anthology gathered together under one roof a virtual who's who of artists pushing the boundaries of what comics could be. Contributions ranged from the wayward children's book aesthetic of Souther Salazar, to the patient, straightforward storytelling of editor Harkham, to the media collage of Paper Rad, to the brightly colored dream comics of David Heatley, to John Hankiewicz's destabilizing newspaper strip parody, to the delicate minimalism of Anders Nilsen, to the arty innovations of Elvis Studio, and so much more. Along the way, Harkham's increasingly broad survey gathered in more conventional storytellers (including some of the best work done anywhere by either Gabrielle Bell or Kevin Huizenga), reprints of obscure older material from around the world, and excerpts of work in progress from familiar names like Gary Panter, Chris Ware and Jerry Moriarty. Then, with the massive Kramers Ergot 7, proportioned like giant-size classic newspaper strips such as Little Nemo in Slumberland, Harkham's anthology presented a compelling formal challenge to some of comics' best artists, asking them to work on a truly huge canvas. Taken as a whole body of work, these four issues of Kramers Ergot represent one of the most exciting collections of boundary-expanding comics available. [buy] | [buy] | [buy] | [buy]

4. GANGES/CURSES/OR ELSE
by Kevin Huizenga, 2007-ongoing/2002-2004/2004-2008

Kevin Huizenga is the best young artist in comics. It's as simple as that. With his recent Fantagraphics series Ganges (part of the Ignatz line of high-quality pamphlets) Huizenga has matured into one of comics' finest formalists. His work here, starring his everyman stand-in Glenn Ganges, is concerned with the minutiae of daily life, which is common enough in indie comics. What sets Huizenga apart is that he deals with such mundanities not only in terms of small external actions and observational details, but with a sensitivity to the complexities of the thought process, of the richness of mental processes and the insistent cycles of memory. His work is deeply introspective, constantly coming up with inventive and expressive ways of visualizing thought: the third issue of Ganges, in which the protagonist spends the better part of 20 pages simply lying in bed thinking, is the apex of this approach, as Ganges wanders through his own mind, interacting with his mental landscape and the words flowing through his head as he tries in vain to clear his mind and go to sleep. It's cerebral in the best sense, treating thought and ideas as visceral and sensory. The series' high point thus far, though, is actually its stunning second issue, which opens with a few pages of abstract permutations, an imaginary video game in which pixelated figures undergo intense transformations as they do battle. This leads into a story where Glenn's experience playing a video game causes him to free-associate to his time as an office drone during the dot-com boom, and the chain of memories unexpectedly creates poignancy and depth from something as simple as playing a shoot-em-up video game. By the end of the story, Huizenga has explored the intricacies of office culture, the economic realities of the Internet age, the sensual and communitarian pleasures of multiplayer online gaming, and the mingled nostalgia and regret implicit in this story about failure and loss. It's all lent extra impact by Huizenga's crisp style, which makes something virtually spiritual out of digital fighters careening across a computer screen.

Huizenga's work in the 2000s hasn't been limited to Ganges, by any means. He's been a prolific and diverse artist, also publishing five issues of the minicomic Or Else, which combined reprints of material from his previous Supermonster series with new stories. He also put together the book collection Curses, which gathered together Or Else #1 with various anthology appearances and short stories. Huizenga's work is best appreciated as a complete oeuvre, as his signature fascinations — the mind, nature, religion, domesticity, memory, philosophy, science — are treated in different ways and different aesthetic forms throughout his work. Glenn Ganges, the blank-faced, big-nosed cartoon who wanders through many of these stories, is Huizenga's neutral observer, his way of getting a handle on all the ideas and moments he wants to explore. His work, no matter where it is encountered, is refreshing, sophisticated and exciting. [buy] | [buy]

3. NEW ENGINEERING/TRAVEL
by Yuichi Yokoyama, 2004

If you have never seen the comics of Yuichi Yokoyama, you have never seen anything like them. The mostly silent, formally restless work of this Japanese innovator is in a category of its own. There have been two Picturebox books collecting his manga output thus far, and both are rewarding, idiosyncratic, and wildly entertaining. New Engineering collects two sets of stories, one of them detailing the construction of various structures of inscrutable purpose, the other examining, in equally dense detail, a series of fights between goofily-dressed warriors. Yokoyama is obsessed with process, with examining a series of actions through the lens of his time-stretched sequences and analytical images. The combat stories are particularly enlightening in this regard, as Yokoyama observes the way his absurdist weapons and fight scenarios — in one, there's a sword so big it requires several men to wield it — cause aesthetically appealing havoc and devastation. In one story, fighters throw books at one another, and Yokoyama precisely analyzes all of the ways in which sword thrusts might slice through and take apart the books. His "Public Works" stories are essentially the reverse of this, examining assembly rather than disassembly, but the observant, witty sensibility is more or less the same.

As good as this book is, it is in some ways dwarfed by the accomplishment of Yokoyama's other collection, Travel, which is quite simply stunning in the way it takes a simple set-up and single-mindedly examines every facet of the experience. The book silently follows several passengers — looking much like the silly heroes of the "Combats" stories — on a lengthy train trip. And that's it. A bunch of guys stride purposefully onto a train, wander through its corridors looking for a seat, gaze absentmindedly out the windows, perhaps plot conspiracies that are never enacted, then disembark at the end. It's all stylized and exaggerated so that every least little action is magnified, and Yokoyama nearly makes an action extravaganza out of the most prosaic material. It is also a book deeply attuned to sensual and sensory experiences, boasting one of the most beautiful sequences in all of comics, when the train passes through a storm and its aftermath, and the play of shadows, and of light reflecting off water, creates a few pages of near-abstract design that has to be seen to be believed. [buy] | [buy]

2. JIMBO IN PURGATORY
by Gary Panter, 2000

Gary Panter's magnum opus is his epic mash-up of the Purgatory section from Dante's Divine Comedy with Panter's own punk everyman character Jimbo and a wide array of cultural reference points, ranging from Boccaccio's Dante-inspired Decameron to Frank Zappa, John Lennon, 50s sci-fi movies, pin-up models, punk rock, and more. It's a dazzling pastiche, with every page laid out in a tight grid of nine panels, and each panel starting with a quote from Dante and relating it to all sorts of other cultural reference points, images and quotes. The panels don't just stand alone either, but instead form unified patterns and images at the level of the page, so that each page can be read both as a sequence of nine panels and as a single image in itself. The denseness of Panter's references and cross-references makes the experience of reading this book a truly overwhelming experience; every line, every image, spirals into multiple other references and ideas, pulling in the whole wide expanse of world culture as a stomping ground for Jimbo's wanderings through the Purgatory of modern existence towards enlightenment. [buy]

1. LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. II
by Jaime Hernandez, 2000-2008

Jaime Hernandez has, since 1981, when Love and Rockets first appeared, been one of the greatest of American cartoonists, and also one of the greatest storytellers in comics. While his brother Gilbert's contributions to the series they created together spanned all over the map — from surrealist gags to bizarre fantasy stories to the South American drama of Palomar — Jaime's work was increasingly focused, with singular intensity, on the characters of his Locas saga. The story of two young Chicana punks, Maggie and Hopey, this low-key epic has now been a work in progress for nearly 30 years. Jaime has made his characters age and change with time, introducing new characters in the process and constantly shuffling around his cast, exploring the ways in which people grow and develop, the way friendships break and repair, the way loves ebb and flow as time goes by. It's an affecting punk soap opera, and the more history accumulates behind these characters, the richer and deeper Jaime's stories get.

In the 2000s, after a brief experiment in telling stories in their own separate series, Jaime and Gilbert reunited under the familiar Love and Rockets banner for a second series. Gilbert's satiric wit and outlandish style are still intact, but somehow his work in recent years seems increasingly remote from the emotion and heft of his best stories, which is why he is sadly absent from this list. Jaime, however, just keeps getting better. The Locas-related stories in volume II of Love and Rockets are some of his best work, examining his heroines on the cusp of adulthood, feeling that they now have to mature but reluctant to leave behind the wildness and fun of their youths. These are moving, graceful stories, about growing old, about making new starts, about body image and nostalgia and having a sense of home.

The peak of Jaime's recent output can especially be found in a pair of books collecting his final contributions to Love and Rockets Vol. II. Ghost of Hoppers is one of his best standalone works, focusing on Maggie as she reappraises her life following a divorce. This book is infused with elements of horror and fantasy, but its emphasis is on this 30-something's nostalgia for a home she no longer feels any connection to. As she revisits the sites of her past, scenes from her punk glory days poignantly weave together with the vision of her as an older, chubbier, tired woman. As with all of Jaime's recent work, it draws much of its power from the rich history of this character, but at the same time the polished beauty of his cartooning, and his efficient storytelling, prevent this book from being one for the hardcore fans only. The same is true of the follow-up volume The Education of Hopey Glass, which turns to the artist's other central character, a wild girl who's realizing that, without even meaning to, she's taken the first few steps towards maturity. Jaime's storytelling, his sheer drawing chops, and his obvious love for these complex characters, make these books some of the most moving works in all of comics. There is no greater all-around artist in modern comics than Jaime Hernandez, and his recent work builds on his past successes so that his oeuvre as a whole is shaping up to be one of literature's best sustained stories about aging and the shifting of relationships over the course of a life. I will gladly follow Maggie and Hopey and the rest of these people wherever Jaime chooses to take them. [buy] | [buy]

32 comments:

Gavin said...

Ed,

I've really enjoyed reading this list over the past few days. I'm only just beginning to really get into comics and this list seems to be a great starting place to familiarize myself with some of the underground comics of the last decade. I look forward to digging into some of these.

I was happy to see Achewood make the list. Are there any other webcomics that you follow regularly?

And what are your thoughts on Jeff Smith's "Bone" series?

Ed Howard said...

Gavin, thanks for following along, I'm glad you've enjoyed the list.

Achewood is the only webcomic I really follow; that's not an area I'm really well-versed in. I check out a few of them from time to time and haven't yet found anything I love as much as Onstad's cats and stuffed animals.

Bone is a lot of fun. It probably should've made the list somewhere, I suppose, but I wasn't really thinking of it as a 2000s comic. But now that I think of it, it could've made it by the same logic that Black Hole did. Oh well, there's always going to be omissions.

Andrei said...

Hi Ed--

a couple of comments. Do you know Mat Brinkman's "Teratoid Heights"? I would rank it much higher than Multi-Force... And, I'm glad to see John Hankiewicz on your list, but I'd say his earlier work in Tepid is even better than much of Asthma. If you don't know Tepid, you should really get some of the later issues (2000-2003).

Ed Howard said...

Hey Andrei, thanks for the comments.

I went back and forth between choosing Teratoid Heights and Multiforce, both so different and yet both so great in their own ways. I probably should've just gone with both as I did for a few of the other artists I included with multiple great works. Ultimately, though, I went with the epic sprawl and jokey casualness of Multiforce over the more focused Teratoid Heights; that slight messiness seems to better represent Brinkman, somehow.

Tepid was fantastic, but I certainly don't think the issues I've seen are better than Asthma. It all seems like part of the same body of work, actually, including also the short pieces he's done for MOME and Kramers Ergot and other anthologies here and there. Anyway, he's an artist I feel so strongly about that pretty much anything he does is essential reading.

ledfloyd said...

lots of interesting stuff here, and much i'm not familiar with i'm now eager to check out. glad to see promethea show up, easily my favorite moore work of the decade. i was expecting to see ice haven as well.

Troy Olson said...

I'll just start by saying that this was absolutely fantastic. I know you had mentioned an "all-time" list in this manner several months back and I can only hope you follow through on that -- your writing is inspiring me to read all of these!

Of all the things on here, I'm so happy to see X-FORCE/X-STATIX as the highest rated superhero book. For that genre it would also be at the top of my list. For no other comic have I happily used the Doop "decrypting key" to be able to read his symbolic language.

The Ware and Sacco are likely essentials as well, I just haven't read those specific works by either of them. They are two of the best, though.

I've never read THE FILTH (or THE INVISIBLES) but should, as Morrison's DOOM PATROL and ANIMAL MAN are two of my favorites.

PROMETHEA was one I was sure had to make your list, as it really takes advantage of all the possibilities that the medium provides. Reading through it at times is a bit of a slog, but JH Williams' art is so outstanding and Moore just has such a love for the good things that comics offer, that can overlook Moore's didactics and enjoyed the show. That last issue was incredible. The whole line that Moore did with ABC was actually quite fun.

The rest of your top 20 just reminds me of how much is out there that I've yet to try. I've read tons about GANGES, ALEC, and KRAMERS ERGOT and yet I've never read a bit of them. Also, I've never read an issue of LOVE AND ROCKETS, always being intimidated by its 30-year history. You've convinced me to think otherwise with your stellar review of the brothers' work.

Three that didn't make your list that I'd be curious as to your opinion on -- BONE (which you already addressed), QUEEN AND COUNTRY (which I enjoyed as much as 100 BULLETS), and WE3 (which I like better than SEAGUY)

Ed Howard said...

Thanks, ledfloyd. Promethea is great. Ice Haven missed the cut b/c I think The Death Ray is much better — and honestly, I prefer some of Clowes' earlier books (esp. David Boring and Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron) to anything he's been doing recently.

Ed Howard said...

Troy, lots of great comments again. Thanks for reading along!

I figured you'd be psyched for X-Statix when you said you were an Allred fan. Superhero comics really don't get any better than that. And yes, I had and used a Doop translator guide as well; incredibly dorky, but there you go.

I love Morrison, and especially love his radical/conspiratorial series like The Invisibles (which is fantastic, if hampered by inconsistent art) and The Filth, which is like the longer series condensed into 12 issues.

I liked Moore's whole ABC line, too, though most of it was pretty slight in comparison to Promethea.

Of the ones you mention there, I read Queen and Country, and found it to be one of those series that I enjoyed at the time I was reading it, but forgot all about almost instantly afterwards. I do remember loving Carla Speed McNeil's artwork, of course, when she showed up for an arc; actually, I think the main reason I ever gave the book a try was because I loved Finder so much and wanted to see her art in a more mainstream context.

We3 is very good, of course, just a notch below the Morrisons I included, in my opinion anyway. That was one of those books I kept flirting with finding a spot for, or folding it into that entry, but finally just left off. Morrison's the best writer in mainstream comics these days, now that Moore has pretty much abandoned the mainstream to go do his own weird thing.

Ed Howard said...

Oh yea, and Troy, maybe I'll attempt an all-time comic list eventually, though that's even more daunting than this one, and I have another big list project in the works (this one about music) before I can even think about tackling something like that.

ledfloyd said...

i think ice haven and death ray are both fantastic. but this was definitely a less impressive decade for clowes than the last. velvet glove is still my favorite thing he's done.

some more mainstream comics i would include were i to do a list would be bendis's run on daredevil, ex machina, brubaker's criminal and brubaker's captain america. i'd be interested in hearing what you thought of those i've you've read them.

Ed Howard said...

I haven't read Brubaker's Captain America or Bendis' Daredevil, though I did read Bendis' New Avengers, The Pulse and some other Marvel Bendis stuff, and was really disappointed in almost all of it. Criminal seems pretty solid, but I've only read a bit of it.

Curiously enough, Ex Machina never really grabbed me despite how much I love Y. I thought the arcs seemed very disconnected from one another and Vaughan's political commentary, when placed at the center of the work the way it is in this book, comes across as fairly shallow. I got through about 4-5 books of that one before giving up on it.

Troy Olson said...

Another Morrison that was fun, a lot of it simply due to the metatextual side of it, was SEVEN SOLDIERS. I'm not sure it was fully successful, but I had a good time trying to piece the puzzle of a story together. Oh, and ALL-STAR SUPERMAN was typical Morrison brilliance as well. And his NEW X-MEN actually did something with the franchise. Really, beyond FINAL CRISIS, I can't find too much of his I didn't enjoy (and with CRISIS, it was more the fact that I felt I had read it already in his JLA run).

In my dismissal of Bendis' post-ALIAS work at Marvel, I completely forgot about DAREDEVIL. It's actually quite good (it was good enough for me to buy the HC editions of the whole run), although a lot of that credit should go to Alex Maleev's stunning artwork. All that said, the Brubaker/Lark series of issues may have actually been even better than the Bendis run.

I'm with you on EX MACHINA. I gave it four story arcs before giving up on being interested in it. I had high expectations after Y.

One other mainstream comic I also enjoyed was the Ennis PUNISHER, but more just because I get a chuckle out of Ennis' disdain for superhero comics. It wouldn't be worthy of cracking into anything in this top 60, though (nor would any of the aforementioned comics).

Troy Olson said...

Oh, and just curious...what are you currently reading on a consistent basis? I gave up on the whole monthly comic thing several years back and went to trades and then I actually stopped on recent trades about a year ago. Moore, Morrison, and Brubaker were the only three guys I was really interested in (and I may go back and get the CAPTAIN AMERICA trades at some point -- it was fun in the beginning), with a couple of ancillary series here and there.

Just wondering if I'm missing anything great out there right now.

Ed Howard said...

I liked All Star Superman a lot (especially the devilishly clever, funny Bizarro issues, the best use of the Bizarro concept I've seen), but I wasn't too into Seven Soldiers and thought New X-Men had some decent ideas that it never went anywhere with. I liked Morrison's fairly crazy Batman stuff, but I stayed well away from all the neverending Crisis buildup. I like Morrison much, MUCH better when he's not working with corporate characters, honestly, despite the strength of his early superhero rejuvenation series.

I liked Ennis' Punisher, too. His stuff is mostly very lightweight to me, and it all hits pretty much the same notes, but it's enjoyable action fluff.

I don't read too many ongoing series, but speaking of Ennis, I do read The Boys every month. See above: lightweight, silly, violent, kinda fun. I also read some Robert Kirkman stuff, Walking Dead and Invincible. Again, nothing earthshaking, just fun genre storytelling from month to month. The things I follow monthly tend to be disposable series like that; anything else I read in trades, pretty much.

Oh, I almost forgot the one thing I'm really, REALLY enjoying month to month right now: the Greg Rucka/J.H. Williams Batwoman stories in Detective Comics. It's been fantastic, mostly for Williams' art, which continues the artistic experimentation of Promethea and applies those formal tricks to a more emotional/internal story. I think there's a guest artist filling in for an arc now, but I'm really looking forward to Williams coming back and finishing up that story.

bill r. said...

ACHEWOOD. Indeed, yes.

bill r. said...

Oh, and ICE HAVEN. I thought that might make it, too, and that's another one I've read. It's also the ONLY Clowes I've read, but I thought it was fascinating.

Ed Howard said...

Bill, I know we've talked about Achewood before so I'll simply reiterate: it's awesome.

If you liked Ice Haven, I'd definitely recommend delving further into Clowes' work. It only gets better. David Boring is probably my personal favorite, followed closely by Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Those books, especially the latter, may come as a surprise to those who think of Clowes as a deadpan purveyor of prosaic life. There's a much more Lynchian/surrealist sensibility running through some of his earlier work.

Bruce Reid said...

An interesting and varied list, Ed. Following your countdown (hope this isn't too greedy):

#20: Did you miss Seaguy's second series or are you not as satisfied with "Slaves of Mickey Eye"?

#18: I prefer the heart-rending culture clash of The Rescuers myself. (That panel of the stairway from Lohena's perspective--draftsman accurate and an Escher nightmare all the same--stunningly illustrates how much McNeil has grown since she started the series.)

#15: Onstad has as great a control of voice and is as insistent upon constantly, deliriously topping himself as any cartoonist I know.

#14: I've come to think of Moore's ABC output as one giant project, and not just because he shut down the line with a mega-crossover crisis. The separate titles offer a vast set of variations on nostalgia for the simplicity and derring-do of pulp clashing and inevitably being ground down by the impossibility of maintaining such youthful chipperness as the world sneaks up on you and you find you're an adult. The strain of the contrast is made ironical and humorous in the Tomorrow Stories tales; placed, with charming, grumbling fondness, at the feet of the domestic ties that bind in Tom Strong; etched in acid throughout the puppet-mastery behind the League's boy's own adventures; part of the daily grind for the jaded crew of Top Ten; buried under bureaucratic formalities in Smax; and quite lovingly and (natch) magically embraced in Promethea, the rush of adventure abandoned for the magic of daily life. I can't separate them out in my head, though yes, J. H. Williams goes a long way to making Promethea the standout. (And he is making Detective a must-read, or must-see, I guess. Must-soak-in?)

But my favorite is probably Jack B. Quick.

#13: I've never warmed to Dietch, I admit, but I can't deny his miraculous technique. How his dense panels come off simultaneously cluttered and eminently legible is remarkable.

#8: These last few Acme Noveltys have tipped me away from Ware, unfortunately. 19's escapist-fantasy-versus-downbeat-reality was handled far more deftly and humanely in Huizenga's video game story you mentioned below. And frankly, Ware's lettering is getting just impossible to read.

#7: Agreed, an absolute, unique master. The Fixer probably grabs me more, less a postscript to Safe Area Gorazde than an acknowledgment that no work of art, even from as scrupulous and thorough a creator as Sacco, can ever fill in the whole picture.

#4: 28th Street, with its seamless merger of mystically-tinged reality and prosaic fantasy, might be the single greatest comic story I've ever read. Besides "The Glory Boat" of course.

Bruce Reid said...

Since you've considerately asked, my personal choices for such a list would have to include:

Langridge's zany, beautifully cartoonish odes to comic humiliation in Fred the Clown.

The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, since only Campbell can give us a talking bear and a somber consideration of mortality without the one overwhelming the other.

I'd be hard-pressed to chose between Baker's shattering mix of historical texts and almost sketch-like immediacy in Nat Turner or the no-holds-barred breathlessness of the satire in Special Forces, but one of them would make the cut.

Simone and Googe's underrated superhero series Welcome to Tranquility, the slower, tender exurbs to Moore and Morrison's bustling genre mash-ups.

Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey, as lovely and strange a thing as I've ever seen.

Save maybe Dalrymple's Pop Gun War.

One of Thomas Ott's volumes (I'd have to think about which one), which are hauntingly enough illustrated to overcome their Twilight-Zone-twist trappings.

Brendan McCarthy's issue of Solo, a deconstructive romp through the DC universe that makes other efforts seem like child's play.

Amazing Screw-On Head, Mignola's absurdist prank that brilliantly can't even sustain itself and has to close out on "three horrible old women and a monkey. Cheers!"

Speaking of Mignola, Corben's illustrations for Hellboy's "The Crooked Man" issues have a weight and presence to them that make the demonic contortions all the more horrible. Possibly the best thing I've seen from one of my favorite artists.

Finally (finally!) (seriously, sorry to have gone on so), do you have any thoughts on Tan's The Arrival? It's probably the largest omission I can think of given the fondness for wordless surreality suggested by some of your other choices. I thought it was marvelous, easily one of my favorites from the past few years, despite its arguably slight story.

Bruce Reid said...

One more on my personal list, quite near the top, is Shintaro Kago's
Abstraction
. Utterly, utterly NSFW, I must stress.

Ed Howard said...

Bruce, thanks for all the great comments. Of the comics you're talking about, I haven't read the second Seaguy series yet, and I hope it gets collected soon; there doesn't seem to be a trade on the horizon as of now. I also haven't read Pop Gun War, The Arrival (one I keep meaning to read and then forget about), much Mignola, Welcome to Tranquility (never even heard of that one!), any newer Kyle Baker (though I love Cowboy Wally and some others), or Fred the Clown. So I still have some catching up to do, obviously, and those are great suggestions.

I see your point about Moore's whole ABC line, which does hang together well and provides lots of delights scattered around its sprawling universe. I loved Jack B. Quick and also loved the Gebbie-illustrated Cobweb stories. None of the rest moves or thrills me quite like Promethea, but it's definitely worth checking it all out.

Pretty much anything from Sacco is worth a read. Have you read his latest, Footnotes in Gaza, yet? It's up there with his best work, and a worthy return to his reportage from Israel/Palestine.

Thomas Ott has never done much for me, exactly for the reasons you state: nice, evocative artwork, but the stories are so rote and familiar that it doesn't add up to anything.

Anything Campbell does is gold, including Leotard. He's such a funny writer and such a gifted artist. And, yes, there's no one else who quite has his sensibility.

Oh, and I totally agree about Shintaro Kago, incidentally. His short stories were probably THE closest thing to making the list that, finally, just missed it. But his stuff is just so utterly original and strange, mixing gross-out humor and, at times, fetishistic porn with a formal ingenuity the likes of which I've seen nowhere else in comics. It's such a weird blend of form and content, but somehow his stuff really works. "Abstraction" is his best story, but there are a lot of great ones, as well as some absolutely horrifying ones.

Rob Clough said...

Ed,

What a fine list. Here's a link to my article on tcj.com about my top 100 of the decade:

http://highlowcomics.blogspot.com/2010/02/my-top-100-comics-of-00s.html

My top 10 was:

1. Ice Haven (which I see as Clowes' peak as an artist as well as a way of working out his experience as a screenwriter)
2. ACME #19.
3. Safe Area Gorazde.
4. Snake 'n Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret.
5. NON #5 (edited by Jordan Crane; this was the book that influenced the rest of the decade's anthologies).
6. Epileptic.
7. Asthma.
8. Recidivist #3. Zak Sally's stunner from 2007.
9. Supermonster #14.
10. You'll Never Know.

I **totally** forgot about Mary-Land when I did my list! Fleener's one of my top five faves, too. She told me she's doing a new book for Fanta right now, by the way.

Ed Howard said...

Thanks, Rob. I definitely saw your list back when it was posted, and it's a great one. We have substantial areas of overlap, obviously. From your top 10, I haven't read You'll Never Know and have unfortunately never been able to get ahold of a copy of the now-elusive NON anthology. I like the rest of that stuff, although Ice Haven isn't nearly as satisfying to me as pretty much any of Clowes' other long-form works, and the Sally book I find decent rather than truly stunning, which is why it's absent here. I'm enjoying his Sammy the Mouse so far, though; he's obviously someone to watch.

Great news that Fleener's working on a new book. I think you were the one who told me about Mary-Land in the first place, after I expressed a love for Life of the Party. I'm always excited for more from her.

Rob Clough said...

What's interesting is that I was on the fence about Clowes until I read Ice Haven. I had read David Boring and Ghost World and liked them well enough, but there was the light of recognition as to what Clowes was doing, and then I was obsessed.

Fleener has substantial stories in the last two editions of Hotwire, by the way. The most recent one involves Mary's decision to buy a gun (!). She's also done a number of adaptations in the Graphic Classics series. She's in the most recent one, adapting the Louisa May Alcott story "Buzz". (and it's in color!)

Ed Howard said...

Yeah, I need to get the new Hotwire, but "Anacin," her story from the previous one, was also self-released as a mini-comic on colored paper. It's great stuff, as usual from her.

Bruce Reid said...

Ed, I haven't gotten to Footnotes in Gaza yet. Sort of the same thing you mention with The Arrival; every time I leave the comic store I slap my head and remember I still haven't snatched it up.

And now it's likely to be delayed even longer, given the many fine suggestions on your list. Yokoyama, a new name to me, sounds most up my alley. And like I need another encouragement to finally buy the Mazzucchelli.

I couldn't name the "greatest" living cartoonist--too many variables, too much that any one artist can't do that another favorite can. But put a gun to my temple and force me to choose, and I've no doubt the name I stammer out will be Eddie Campbell.

Thanks again for doing this.

David King said...

This is a nice list! I like seeing names like Tom Neely, Warren Craghead and John Hankiewicz on best-of lists...

(by the way, speaking of Hankiewicz, your "buy" link goes to amazon where copies of Asthma are $50, but it's still for sale from the publisher for cover price-- sparkplugcomicbooks.com )

Joel said...

These are a great series of lists, Ed, and I really enjoyed reading your write-ups for each series. I've missed a lot of the indie books because I'm no longer reading monthlies but I've kept up on some of the mainstream titles via the library.

I'm going to check out Promethea and Lost Girls now. I've neglected them so far but you've added to the consensus and I really just have to see for myself. I also need to read Burns' Black Hole and Sims' Cerebus. I've always been curious but never cracked either one.

If you're curious about Bendis, I would mirror the recommendation for his Daredevil run. He started to lose steam as his run was concluding, but he brought the character back to his Frank Miller roots. I think it's his best work.

Thanks for this amazing effort.

Ed Howard said...

Bruce, if I was picking "greatest living cartoonist" I'd go with Jaime Hernandez myself, but really Eddie Campbell is a great choice too. I'm currently re-reading Alec from the big, recently released hardcover collection, and it's such consistently funny, warm, complex and formally ambitious work.

Thanks, David, I'm obviously drawn to those kinds of formalist innovators like the artists you name. And thanks for pointing out the problem with my Amazon link, I'm going to go point that towards Spark Plug instead. I wouldn't want anyone thinking that great book is out of print.

Joel, I'm glad you enjoyed the list. It sounds like I'm going to have to give Bendis' run on Daredevil a shot, since that one slipped by me. Ditto Brubaker's run on that book, which was also highly acclaimed. I'm not always as up on the mainstream stuff as I probably should be; it's just frustrating at times digging through all the nonsense to get to the few gems that the Big Two produce these days.

MovieMan0283 said...

God, these look fantastic. I wish libraries lent comic books so one didn't have to buy them in order to read them... (maybe they do, and I just don't know about it?)

Ed Howard said...

Depends on where you go, MovieMan. An increasingly large number of libraries DO lend comic books these days, and from what I've heard some are quite well-stocked. I doubt some of the more obscure choices on these lists would be in any libraries, but certainly there would be plenty of libraries that would stock Joe Sacco, Chris Ware, the Hernandez brothers, a selection of superhero books, etc. Probably worth going to some of the bigger libraries around you and checking to see if they have graphic novel or comics sections.

MovieMan0283 said...

I was hoping you'd say this. I'll see if the Boston library system has any such lending possibilities...