Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Six Best Comics of 2010?

As I did last year, I thought I would look ahead to the coming year and talk about what I am most looking forward to reading in 2010.  Here are six books coming out that I can't wait to read:

1) Kevin Huizenga, The Wild Kingdom (Drawn & Quarterly, due March 16)

The description states that this is going to be 108 pages about Glenn Ganges.  Huizenga is one of the best around, and this might be the book that puts him on top.

2) Darwyn Cooke, Parker: The Outfit (IDW, due in October)

I loved Parker: The Hunter, and the idea that there are three more Parker stories from Cooke on the way makes me happy.

3) Farel Dalrymple, The Wrenchies (First Second)

Omega: The Unknown is one of my favorite superhero comic books, and Dalrymple's art is just wonderful.  Here's an interview with Dalrymple, where he says "The Wrenchies is a post-apocalyptic, science fiction, fantasy, super-hero, secret agent coming-of-age epic with some existential bullshit thrown in. The Wrenchies are these children in a screwed up futuristic world who resurrect ancient heroes also called the Wrenchies. The whole thing was brought into being by a demon slayer named Sherwood, who opened a door to a secret world when he was a boy. The story is really about this kid Sherwood who has this crazy adventurous life but is now sort of a stoner asshole who causes the entire world to go to crap. It sounds really convoluted but hopefully it will be radical when I am finished with it."

Man I can't wait.

4) Tony Millionaire, Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird (Fantagraphics, June 22)

I enjoyed the first Billy Hazelnuts book, and this one looks like it is just as weird and fun.

5) Matt Fraction, Thor (Marvel)

I dug Fraction's earlier work on Thor (the four one-shots collected in Thor: Ages of Thunder).  I'm glad he's taking over as the writer of the ongoing series -- you can tell he loves telling stories about this guy.  John Romita Jr. did a cover image (above), but it's not clear whether he'll be the artist.  I certainly wouldn't mind that combination.  Here is an interview with Fraction.

6) Nate Simpson, Project Waldo

Nate Simpson's art is gorgeous.  Although he doesn't have a publisher yet, somebody's got to step up to the plate.  This thing looks so good.  Here's his blog, which includes more pages and lots of discussion of his process.  I'm putting this one last on the list, since there is a good chance it won't actually be published in 2010 because he is still working on it.

Finally, I'd like to point out that one of my "most anticipated comics of 2009" never actually came out in 2009:  Paul Pope's Battling Boy.  Here's hoping that it appears in 2010. (Also: more Multiple Warheads from Brandon Graham sure would be nice.)

So, what are you looking forward to reading?  Brian Chippendale's If 'n Oof?  Brendan McCarthy's Spider-Man and Dr. Strange: Fever?  Charles Burns' X'ed Out?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: McSweeney's Issue 33: The San Francisco Panorama

San Francisco Panorama, by various, 2009, McSweeney's, 320 pages, $16.00

The independent publisher McSweeney's recently released a new issue of its quarterly literary journal in the form of a newspaper called the San Francisco Panorama. It's huge, beautifully designed, and includes contributors like Michael Chabon and Steven King. It's a celebration of print newspapers, and the writers, editors, and publisher have clearly attempted to show off every facet of what makes newspapers unique and vital.

I'm struggling to come up with an appropriate metaphor for it: is it the last spark from a dying fire, or a brilliant torch lighting the way for others to follow? Either way, perhaps the smartest thing that they did was to not make the content available on the web. The only way for people to see this sucker is to pick up a hard copy and open it using their hands.

Here's one of the few samples that they've put online:

(click to enlarge)

Looks great, doesn't it? And as you can see, one of the pages in the spotlight is a comic by Adrian Tomine. McSweeney's has already shown it is pro-comics, having published a well-regarded comics anthology (McSweeney's Issue 13) and a new printing of a piece of graphic novel history, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary.

The San Francisco Panorama includes a entire section devoted to comics, with contributions from some of the most respected comic book creators around. Let's turn that sheet of newspaper and take a look at what's inside:

First are several short comic-strip style entries, from Keith Knight, Jon Adams, and Gabrielle Bell, and two from Michael Capozzola.  Perfectly fine stuff.  Capozzola's "Sorro, the Gloomy Bandito" is pretty funny, and Gabrielle Bell packs her panels with a eye-pleasing detail and color.  Jon Adams's stuff reminds me of Farel Dalrymple, but the strip doesn't really go anywhere, while Keith Knight turns in a classic-style comic strip, complete with a punch line.

Next is a full page from Dan Clowes, whose upcoming Wilson graphic novel is already being hailed as one of 2010's bright lights.  Here he gives us an episode in the lives of "The Christian Astronauts," who encounter a man from their past, now hideously deformed and harboring designs on the mother of the astronaut family.  I can't say that Clowes really takes advantage of having an entire broadsheet-size page to work with -- there are a lot of similar-sized rectangular panels and a lot of dialogue balloons, so that if you stand back and look at the page as a whole there doesn't appear to be any grand design going on.  The story is interesting, though, and raises some interesting morals dilemmas for our heroes.

The next page is split into thirds: one from Ivan Brunetti, one from Alison Bechdel, and one from Gene Luen Yang.  Brunetti shows off his nice, geometric cartooning, with a bright yellow background to make his story stand out.  I liked this one, which was about getting his tonsils out as a kid.  Bechdel's contribution might be my favorite one of the whole paper; it's a take-off on the game of Life.  It's funny, interesting, and thoughtful, and her personality shines through.  It reminded me why I liked Fun Home so much.  I didn't like Gene Luen Yang's story, on the other hand (I'm beginning to think I just don't like his work -- American Born Chinese was perfectly fine but didn't blow me away, and I really was not into The Eternal Smile).  The drawing looks cheap, as though he didn't spend much time on it, and the layout is dull.  The story is a simple joke that isn't all that funny.  Oh well, they can't all be winners.

Art Spiegelman gets the entire next page, and man, talk about a cartoonist's personality shining through in their work.  He delivers a wide-ranging screed on the intertwined history of comic books and childhood.  It's abrasive, demanding, funny, and unique.

Ian Huebert draws the next page, which looks like a Fletcher Hanks impersonation.  It's one piece of a supposedly longer story about a superhero with three heads defending a city from a dastardly scientist.  It's okay, I guess, but the "to be continued" bit kind of bothered me. We all know it's not going to be continued, so maybe try to give your readers a complete story, instead of copping out and pretending that you're just continuing that long tradition of serial newspaper stories.  There just wasn't enough to this one.

Tomine's page is next, about a superhero named Optic Nerve who is woefully in need of self-confidence.  It's funny, and sweet.  I liked it.

Then we get to the center spread, and the full two pages goes to . . . you guessed it, Chris Ware.  And he earns that two-page spread.  Good stuff.  At this point, I think you can all imagine in your head exactly what it looks like, so we'll just move on.

Kim Deitch gets the next page, and provides a biography of Paul Winchell, a 1950's entertainer who wewnt on to guy with a varied and interesting life.  Like most biographies, the story meanders and doesn't really have a point.  Kind of meh, for me.

Next is Seth's page, about a man who walks to a diner for lunch and then back, narrating as he goes. I liked this one.

And then we turn to the token superhero entry: two full pages for Erik Larsen and his Savage Dragon.  I approve of the choice to include Larsen, plugging away as he has been for so many years, and he does give us a nice huge shot of the Dragon reaching out as though he is going to grab the reader.  The rest of it is kind of simple and silly, but that's perfectly representative of many superhero comics at this point, so who am I to complain?  Ha ha, I kid. Or do I?

Next, Jessica Abel's True Tales of the Early Colonists is an old-school science fiction adventure about astronauts exploring Mars and encountering some aliens, but the strip is presented as though it is from a newspaper from Mars itself.  Clever.

That's it for the comics.  On the whole, I highly recommend grabbing this paper -- there is so much content that you are bound to find something of interest.

Oh, to have something this substantial show up on my doorstep once a week.

READ MORE: You can view a nine-page promo here. And here is a story about it by the San Francisco Chronicle.

BUY IT: From McSweeney's here or from Amazon here: McSweeney's No. 33: The San Francisco Panorama

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flashlight Worthy's Best Graphic Novels of 2009

Everyone should read the newest "Best Comics" list to appear on the internet over at Flashlight Worthy ("Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime").

They've assembled a murderer's row of comic book bloggers to recommend books from 2009, including Jog, Matthew Brady, Brigid Alverson, Johanna Draper Carlson, Greg McElhatton, and David Welsh.

I contributed something too, so check it out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Best Comics of 2006 Meta-List

2005 Meta-List | 2006 Meta-List | 2007 Meta-List
2008 Meta-List
| 2009 Meta-List

This meta-list aggregates twenty-seven different "best comics of 2006" lists from across the internet into a single list of the top 50 comic books of 2006.

Methodology: I gave each critic 550 points to distribute among the books on his or her list. Critics who wrote unnumbered lists distributed their points evenly among the books on their lists, while critics with numbered lists distributed their points according to a formula created by Chad Nevett. I only counted lists that had five or more books; for lists with more than 20 books, I only counted the top 20. I also only counted general "best of" lists, not lists limited to a certain genre or type of comic book.

Here is the Best Comics of 2006 Meta-List:

Rank Title (total points | number of lists)
1 Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (481 | 9)
2 DMZ, by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli (458 | 5)
3 X-Factor, by Peter David and various (443 | 6)
4 Lost Girls, by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie (334 | 5)
5 The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (310 | 4)
6 American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang (305 | 5)
7 All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (286 | 3)

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., by Warren Ellis and
Stuart Immonen (277 | 5)

(tie) Ultimate Spider-Man: Clone Saga, by Brian Michael Bendis
and Mark Bagley (258 | 3)
9 (tie) Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (258 | 4)
11 Invincible, by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley (257 | 2)
12 Ninja, by Brian Chippendale (230 | 3)
13 Seven Soldiers, by Grant Morrison and various (228 | 5)
14 Ghost of Hoppers, by Jaime Hernandez (217 | 3)
15 Civil War, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven (210 | 2)
16 Fell, by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith (202 | 2)
17 52, by various (190 | 3)
18 Pride of Baghdad, by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon (187 | 2)
19 Runaways, by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (181 | 3)
20 Abandon the Old in Tokyo, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (179 | 3)
21 The Ticking, by Renee French (172 | 3)
22 Or Else #4, by Kevin Huizenga (166 | 2)
23 (tie) Daredevil, by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark (165 | 2)
23 (tie) The Boys, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (165 | 2)
25 Cold Heat, by Ben Jones and Frank Santoro (159 | 2)
26 Absolute DC: The New Frontier, by Darwyn Cooke (158 | 3)
27 Shadowland, by Kim Deitch (155 | 2)
28 Ohikkoshi, by Kiroaki Samura (150 | 3)
29 La Perdida, by Jessica Abel (147 | 2)
30 Phonogram, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (145 | 2)
31 Kampung Boy, by Lat (144 | 2)

(tie) Desolation Jones: Made in England, by Warren Ellis,
J.H. Williams III, and Daniel Zezelj (140 | 2)
32 (tie) Marvel Zombies, by Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips (140 | 2)
32 (tie) Wasteland, by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten (140 | 2)
35 Dragon Head vol. 1, by Minetaro Mochizuki (136 | 4)
36 (tie) Stagger Lee, by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix (135 | 2)
36 (tie) The Left Bank Gang, by Jason (135 | 2)
36 (tie) Yakitate!! Japan, by Takashi Hashiguchi (135 | 2)
39 Finder: Five Crazy Women, by Carla Speed McNeil (130 | 2)
40 Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, by Anders Nilsen (126 | 2)
41 The Fate of the Artist, by Eddie Campbell (124 | 2)
42 (tie) Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness, by Bryan Lee O'Malley (120 | 3)
42 (tie) Skyscrapers of the Midwest, by Joshua Cotter (120 | 2)
42 (tie) Curses, by Kevin Huizenga (120 | 3)
45 Wings, by Shinsuke Tanaka (115 | 2)
46 Young Avengers vol. 2, by Allen Heinberg and Jim Cheung (110 | 1)
47 Detective Comics, by Paul Dini and various (107 | 1)
48 Ode to Kirihito, by Osamu Tezuka (106 | 3)
49 Can't Get No, by Rick Veitch (105 | 2)
50 Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley (102 | 3)

This meta-list aggregates the following lists:
Andrew Arnold
Bill Randall
Chris Arrant
Dan Nadel
Dave Ferraro
Dave Richards
David Welsh
Derik Badman
Emmett Furey
George Tramountanas
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Jim Martin
Joe McCulloch
Johanna Draper Carlson
Johnny Bacardi
Matt Price
Mike Lyon
Publisher's Weekly
Rich Watson
Splash Panel
Stephen Schleicher
Terry Morrow
The Edmonton Journal
Tom Spurgeon
University of Calgary Gauntlet

If you have a link to anyone else's 2006 list, please let me know.

This was based on an idea by Dick Hyacinth.

Other "Best Comics of the Year" Meta-Lists:
2005 Meta-List | 2006 Meta-List | 2007 Meta-List
2008 Meta-List
| 2009 Meta-List