Friday, September 25, 2009

SPX 2009: Yes.

Along with everybody else, I am planning on going to the Small Press Expo 2009. I'll be there Saturday.

And I think this is the panel that I am looking forward to the most:
Critics’ Roundtable, 3:30 | Brookside Conference Room
A murderers’ row of comics critics will address general issues facing comics criticism today and will candidly discuss several new and recent works in a lively, no-holds-barred, roundtable conversation. Rob Clough, Sean T. Collins, Gary Groth, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone and Douglas Wolk will share their acute critical insights with moderator Bill Kartalopoulos.
I saw the critics' panel last year and enjoyed it.

Here's my only suggestion to improve the panel: Model it after Tucker Stone's fantastic "Speed Round" reviews (see 6:39 minute mark) so that each critic is given a minute to review as many small press comic books as possible, with each comic being thrown at them by moderator Kartalopoulos. Would Jog blow our minds, but only get through one book because he wants to talk about the history behind it? Could Rob Clough catch all those teeny tiny mini-comics that he likes to review? Would non-blogger Gary Groth participate? Come on, you know you want to see this!

RELATED: Here are my posts about SPX 2008 and MoCCA 2009.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Best Comics of the Decade?

We're closing in on the final months of the Zeroes, and I thought it might be neat to construct a list of the best comics of 2000-2009.

So I made two lists: a big one with lots of titles on it, and a smaller one that might be a top ten of the decade. I should say that I haven't read many of these comics; for both lists I'm going by what I think are considered by critics and fans to be the best comics.

1) The Best Comics of the Decade:

100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Rizzo
20th Century Boys, Naoki Urasawa
A Drifting Life, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Achewood, Chris Onstad
Acme Novelty Library, Chris Ware
Age of Bronze, Eric Shanower
Alias, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot
All Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang
Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli
Astro City, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
B.P.R.D., Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Guy Davis
Batman: Year 100, Paul Pope
Black Hole, Charles Burns
Blankets, Craig Thompson
Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw
Captain America, Ed Brubaker and various
Chance in Hell, Gilbert Hernandez
Civil War, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
Criminal, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Daredevil, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Dark Knight Strikes Again, Frank Miller
DC: The New Frontier, Darwyn Cooke
DMZ, Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli
Epileptic, David B.
Ex Machina, Bryan K. Vaughan and Tony Harris
Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan
Fables, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and various
Final Crisis, Grant Morrison and various
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
Ganges, Kevin Huizenga
George Sprott, Seth
Gotham Central, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark
Green Lantern, Geoff Johns and various
Hellboy, Mike Mignola
I Kill Giants, Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura
I Killed Adolf Hitler, Jason
La Perdida, Jessica Abel
Love and Rockets, Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez
Monster, Naoki Urasawa
Nana, Ai Yazawa
New X-Men, Grant Morrison and various
Omega: The Unknown, Jonathan Lethem, Karl Rusnak, Farel Dalrymple
Parker: The Hunter, Darwyn Cooke
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
Planetary, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
Pluto, Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka
Pride of Baghdad, Bryan K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
Promethea, Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III
Punisher, Garth Ennis and various
Scalped, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O'Malley
Seaguy, Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart
Seven Soldiers, Grant Morrison and various
Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
Stitches, David Small
Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell
Tekkon Kinkreet, Taiyo Matsumoto
The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell
The Photographer, Emmanuel Guibert
The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman and various
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, Fumiyo Kuono
Travel, Yuichi Yokoyama
Ultimate Spider-Man, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, and Stuart Immonen
Ultimates, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
We3, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
What It Is, Lynda Barry
Y the Last Man, Bryan K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
You Can't Get There From Here, Jason

There are 70 titles on this list. 8 titles are manga. Only 1 webcomic.

This is a working list, which means that I'm going to continue to add and remove books over the next couple of months.

I was trying to be inclusive in this first go-round to encourage discussion. I'm also certain that there are some comics that I've forgotten about and belong on the list. Feel free to write a comment with your suggestions for comics to add and remove.

Also, are there any books that are coming out over the remainder of the year that have a shot at the list? I'd say Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis looks like a sure thing. Any others?

And now for the second list.

2) The Top Ten Comics of the Decade (in alphabetical order):

Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli
Black Hole, Charles Burns
Blankets, Craig Thompson
Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw
Epileptic, David B.
Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
What It Is, Lynda Barry

Yep - that's only nine. I'd say those nine are the most well-respected and critically-acclaimed comic books of this decade. What other book belongs in the top ten? A Drifting Life? Pluto? Parker: The Hunter? [Edit: Acme Novelty Library probably takes the spot.] Any books that don't belong there? And I'm sure a lot of superhero fans would be up in arms over this list. Any superhero books deserve a spot? All Star Superman?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Review: The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, by Joe Daly

The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, by Joe Daly, 2009, Fantagraphics, 112 pages, $22.99

Most comics fall into one of two categories:

(1) Not trying to be funny, and succeeding at this goal. Think Ed Brubaker's Daredevil. That sucker has no time for funny.

(2) Trying to be funny, but failing. The flat "jokes" in certain issues of Amazing Spider-man, for instance, or anything written by Stan Lee.

A few comics are in another category:

(3) Not trying to be funny, but failing, leading to unintentionally hilarious results. Brad Meltzer's DC Universe: Last Will & Testament, or any of Jeph Loeb's recent oeuvre probably qualifies here.

Finally, it's the fairly rare comic that makes it into the elusive last category:

(4) Trying to be funny, and succeeding. It's just tough to pull off humor in comic books. Timing is important for comedy, and timing is a difficult thing to master when the reader is the one controlling how fast he or she reads the book. Plus, many people either just aren't funny or are unable to write funny.

The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book is a category 4. It's a funny comic book, and that should be enough to make you want to check it out.

I'll tell you a little more about it, though. This book contains two stories, both set in Cape Town, South Africa, and both starring a guy named Dave and featuring his buddy Paul. Dave and Paul are the kind of lovable pot-smoking losers that would turn up in your typical stoner movie. And both stories are about Dave and Paul getting in over their heads as they confront minor mysteries. (Although I should point out that the first story was not my favorite. Make sure to hold off on deciding whether you like the book at least until you get into the second, longer story.)

(click to enlarge)

The whole thing has a nice laid-back vibe to it, as Dave and Paul wander into and out of adventures. It's kind of fun to just watch them drive around in Dave's sweet red convertible and look at the scenery. The art has a simple, clean look that retains enough detail to make the setting feel like a real place. And, as I said, it's pretty damn funny.

(click to enlarge)

I liked this book and recommend it.

DID YOU KNOW? Daly's 2006 comic book collection, Scrublands, was nominated for the 2007 Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Album.

READ MORE: Here is a ten-page excerpt. And here's Matt Groening buying the book at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con.

BUY IT: This book will be published on October 20, 2009. You can order it from Fantagraphics or from Amazon here: The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book

RELATED: My reviews of other books published by Fantagraphics:
Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Buy this Comic: The Secret Science Alliance

Sorry I haven't been around much recently -- vacation sandwiched between lots of work has meant less time for writing about comic books -- but I'm hoping to get back on the horse soon. In the meantime, here's this week's edition of Buy This Comic (a couple of days late):

Buy This Comic is an ongoing feature in which I recommend one comic book -- and one book only -- arriving on shelves that Wednesday.

There was a lot of very promising stuff out this week, like Strange Tales #1, Cat Burglar Black, and Stitches (which I have reviewed here), but I only get to pick one, so here's this week's pick:

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook, by Eleanor Davis, Bloomsbury USA, 160 pages, $10.99

Here's the description from the publisher's website:
Supersmart Julian Calendar thinks moving to a new school will mean he can shed his nerdy image — but then he meets Ben and Greta, two secret scientists like himself. The three form a covert club, complete with a high-tech lair. There, they can work to their hearts content on projects like the Stink-O-Meter, the Kablovsky Copter, and the Nightsneak Goggles. All that tinkering comes in handy when the trio discovers an evil scientist’s dastardly plan to rob a museum. Can three inventors, armed with their wacky creations, hope to defeat this criminal mastermind?

Illustrated in full color throughout, The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook is a treat for the eyes, with marvelous gadgetry rendered in elaborate detail. And stay on the lookout for more Secret Science Alliance adventures from comic supergenius Eleanor Davis!
Davis wrote Stinky, which is one of my favorite children's comic books (my kids like it too). I really like her art, and she definitely seems to have fun packing in little details and messing with the form.

Check out this drawing of the kids' hideout (click for a larger version):

Plus, the story sounds great -- who wouldn't want to read about whiz kids inventing nutty things in their high-tech lair? (Anybody remember the 80's movie The Explorers? With a young River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke? This sorta reminds me of that.) Anyway, go check it out -- whether or not you have kids, this looks like a winner.

Here's a nine-page preview.

I reviewed Stinky here.

You can read more about The Secret Science Alliance at its website or just go and buy it here: The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook