Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List

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

[EDIT: An updated version of this list is here.]

This meta-list combines 130 different "best comics of 2009" lists, written by reviewers and critics across the internet, into a single list of the top 100 comic books of 2009.  My personal list is here.

This is a long post, so let me lay out how it is structured.  First, I'll describe the methodology used to create the list.  Second is the list.  Third, I'll give some of my thoughts about the list.  Finally, I've included links to all 130 lists that I used to create the Meta-List.


The purpose of this list is to sum up the critical consensus of the best comics of the year.  I gave each individual "best of 2009" list 550 points to distribute among the comics named on the list. For unranked lists, the 550 points get evenly distributed among all the books.  Thus, if a critic named ten books but didn't rank his or her choices, each book gets 55 points.  If a critic named 20 books, each book gets 27.5 points. If the list is ranked, the points get distributed according to a formula that gives more points for higher rankings and less points for lower rankings.  So, for a top 10 list, the #1 book gets 100 points, the #2 ranked gets 90, all the way down to 10 points for #10. For a top 20 list, the #1 book gets 52.4 points, the #2 gets 49.8 points, on down to 2.6 points for the #20 book.  After distributing the points, I totaled up the number of points given to each book to produce this "meta-list" of the top 100 books of the year.

I only counted lists that had five or more books; for ranked 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 such as like "Best Children's Comics" or "Best Manga"; I also did not count lists that used categories like "Best New Series" and "Best Mini-Series," because there's no way to determine how the points should be allotted.

This was based on an idea by Dick Hyacinth, and Chad Nevett devised the formula for distributing points.

Here is the Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List:

Rank Title Points
1 Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli 4973.04
2 Parker: The Hunter, by Darwyn Cooke 1660.87
3 George Sprott: 1894-1975, by Seth 1585.89
4 Pluto, by Naoki Urasawa 1425.23
5 A Drifting Life, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi 1361.06
6 Monsters, by Ken Dahl 1350.18
7 Detective Comics, by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III 1290.44
8 Stitches, by David Small 1043.35
9 Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe, by Bryan Lee O'Malley 1021.88
10 The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by Robert Crumb 953.52
11 The Photographer, by Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefevre 832.38
12 Scalped, by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera 831.31
13 A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, by Josh Neufeld 801.11
14 You'll Never Know: A Good and Decent Man, by Carol Tyler 769.07
15 Batman and Robin, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely 761.05
16 Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory 719.27
17 Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days, by Al Columbia 713.6
18 Johnny Hiro, by Fred Chao 662.87
19 The Mourning Star vol. 2, by Kazmir Strzepek 628.63
20 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa 571.02
21 Driven by Lemons, by Joshua Cotter 500.67
22 The Complete Jack Survives, by Jerry Moriarty 491.95
23 I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura 479.06
24 All Star Superman vol. 2, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely 468.75
25 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man, by Matt Kindt 467.72
26 Tales Designed to Thrizzle, by Michael Kupperman 458.98
27 Wednesday Comics, by various 453.25
28 Masterpiece Comics, by R. Sikoryak 448.5
29 Footnotes in Gaza, by Joe Sacco 448.28
30 The Squirrel Machine, by Hans Rickheit 437.06
31 Far Arden, by Kevin Cannon 436.74
32 The Unwritten, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross 432.7
33 The Complete Essex County, by Jeff Lemire 422.69
34 Ex Machina, by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris 382.46
35 The Muppet Show, by Roger Langridge 368.26
36 Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories, by Gabrielle Bell 367.35
37 The Umbrella Academy vol. 2: Dallas, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba 366.28
38 The Unknown Soldier, by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli 365.34
39 Incognito, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 361.22
40 The Eternal Smile, by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim 351.27
41 Ochre Ellipse #3, by Jonas Madden-Connor 348.35
42 The Act-I-Vate Primer, by various 347.51
43 Daredevil, by various 338.83
44 Little Nothings vol. 2, by Lewis Trondheim 335
45 Blackest Night, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis 334.98
46 Gogo Monster, by Taiyo Matsumoto 334.11
47 Ganges #3, by Kevin Huizenga 320.63
48 Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 319.6
49 Luba, by Gilbert Hernandez 318.9
50 Irredeemable, by Mark Waid and Peter Krause 313.34
51 Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart 305.88
52 Oishinbo, by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki 305.27
53 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young 298.16
54 Invincible Iron Man, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca 295.4
55 Jonah Hex, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and others 291.02
56 Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, by David Peterson 288.61
57 Planetary #27, by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday 285.37
58 The Color of Earth/Water/Heaven, by Dong Hwa Kim 274.6
59 Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou, Alecos Papdatos, and Annie Di Donna 274.57
60 League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Century: 1910, by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill 273.85
61 King City, by Brandon Graham 273.03
62 Amazing Spider-Man, by various 270.67
63 B.P.R.D., by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, Fabio Moon, and Gabriel Ba 270.19
64 Green Lantern, by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke 270
65 Phonogram: The Singles Club, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie 265.35
66 Bodyworld, by Dash Shaw 263.35
67 The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, by various 261.94
68 Incredible Hercules, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and others 252.83
69 Prison Pit, by Johnny Ryan 252.4
70 Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me, by Peter Bagge 240.97
71 The Winter Men, by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon 240.53
72 Northlanders, by Brian Wood and Leandro Fernandez 238.35
72 Sugarcube, by Sam Gaskin 238.35
74 Just So You Know #1, by Joey Sayers 238.34
75 The Bun Field, by Amanda Vahamaki 236.68
76 I Want You, by Lisa Hanawalt 225
77 Locas II: Maggie, Hopey, & Ray, by Jaime Hernandez 222.22
78 Sweet Tooth, by Jeff Lemire 216.47
79 Another Glorious Day at the Nothing Factory, by Eroyn Franklin 210.84
80 Adventures in Cartooning, by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold 210
81 Funny Misshapen Body, by Jeffrey Brown 209.54
82 The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard 206.93
83 Kramers Ergot #7, by various 206.27
84 Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, by Justin Green 203.55
85 Ball Peen Hammer, by Adam Rapp and George O'Connor 203.35
86 The Natural World, by Damien Jay 201.68
87 Popeye vol. 4: Plunder Island, by E.C. Segar 201.23
88 The John Stanley Library: Melvin the Monster, by John Stanley 201.05
89 Nine Ways to Disappear, by Lilli Carre 199.58
90 Grandville, by Bryan Talbot 190.26
91 Captain Britain and MI-13, by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk 189.79
92 PR3: James Jean Sketchbook, by James Jean 188.61
93 You Are There, by Jean-Claude Forest and Jacques Tardi 187.22
94 Alec: The Years Have Pants, by Eddie Campbell 185.98
95 Low Moon, by Jason 185.97
96 Superman: Secret Origin, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank 185
97 Double Fine Action Comics, by Scott Campbell 183.35
97 Humbug, by Harvey Kurtzman, Bill Elder, Jack Davis, Arnold Roth, and Al Jaffee 183.35
97 Mister Wonderful, by Dan Clowes 183.35
97 OMAC: One Man Army Corps, by Jack Kirby 183.35

Notes on the Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List:
  • The Heavy Hitter: David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp takes first place by a large margin.  I don't think it should surprise anyone that this book was ranked first overall, but what is surprising is its complete dominance over all other books, coming in several thousand points ahead of the second-ranked book.
  • Manga: Naoki Urasawa's Pluto (#4) and Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life (#5) are the first manga to crack the top ten of any Meta-List over the past five years (I haven't created meta-lists for any years prior to 2005) and the only manga to rank in the top twenty other than Tatsumi's Abandon the Old in Tokyo, which hit #20 on the 2006 list.  Further down the 2009 list is Urasawa's 20th Century Boys (#20), Taiyo Matsumoto's Gogo Monster (#46), Tetsu Kariya and Akria Hanasaki's Oishinbo (#52), and the manhwa trilogy The Color of Earth/The Color of Water/The Color of Heaven, by Dong Hwa Kim (#58).  This development might be a sign that manga in general is becoming more accepted among critics and reviewers (as opposed to just being popular) or it might just be that certain authors are particularly beloved (Tatsumi, Urasawa, and Matsumoto all have shown up on previous lists).
  • Superheroes: DC published the only two superhero comics to break into the top 20: Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III's Detective Comics (#7) and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's Batman and Robin (#15).  And let's hear a round of applause for Morrison and Quitely's All Star Superman: one of the few books to show up on multiple Meta-Lists, here are its rankings from the past four years: #7 in 2006, #3 in 2007, #3 in 2008, and #24 in 2009.  A fine run for something that was only 12 issues long.
  • Scott Pilgrim is Good: Another marvel of the Meta-List is Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series.  Ranked #16 in 2005, #42 in 2006, and #5 on 2007, it shows up on this year's list at #9.  The final volume arrives this year, along with a movie adaptation.
  • Top Ongoing Series: Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's Scalped (#12) might be considered the highest-ranking ongoing comic book on the list (since Rucka and Williams' stint together on Detective Comics was fairly short and Scott Pilgrim is a finite series).  Scalped is another Meta-List perennial, showing up at #12 last year and at #76 in 2007.
  • Non-Fiction: David Small's Stitches (#8) heads up quite an array of non-fiction and autobiographical work, including Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefevre's The Photographer (#11), Josh Neufeld's A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (#13), Carol Tyler's You'll Never Know: A Good and Decent Man (#14), Joe Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza (#29), Lewis Trondheim's Little Nothings (#44), Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and others (#59), Jeffrey Brown's Funny Misshapen Body (#81), Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (#84), Eddie Campbell's Alec: The Years Have Pants (#94), and Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit (#69).  Just kidding about Prison Pit, everyone except for Jog knows that's not real.
  • Anthologies: Four anthologies show up on this year's list: Wednesday Comics, edited by Mark Chiarello (#27), The Act-I-Vate Primer (#42), The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman (#67), and Kramers Ergot #7, edited by Sammy Harkham and actually published in 2008 (but who's counting?) (#83).  This surely means something, but I just don't know what.
  • Whoops? Two big projects, Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza (#29) and Campbell's Alec (#94), both arrived in the final days of 2009.  I can't help but think that their very late release dates hurt their chances at showing up in many critics' lists and thus pushed their total score down.
  • The World Wide Web: Dash Shaw's Bodyworld (#66) is the only web comic on this year's list, with previous web-representative Achewood (#22 in 2007 and #28 in 2008) dropping off the list.  Bodyworld finds its way into bookstores this year. Scott Campbell's Double Fine Action Comics (#97) also is published on the web, but I believe the critics that picked it were talking about the book version published this year.
  • Classic Comics: A number of collections of "classic" material show up to remind us that we are living in The Golden Age of Reprints (TM), including the previously-mentioned TOON Treasury (#67), E.C. Segar's Popeye (#87), John Stanley's Melvin the Monster (#88), Humbug (#97), by Harvey Kurtzman et al., and Jack Kirby's OMAC: One Man Army Corps (#97).  Throw in the reprint of Green's Binky Brown (#84) and you've got yourself quite a collection of classic work.
  • Where's Marvel? Two of Marvel's top three comic books are creator-owned: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips's Incognito (#39) and Brubaker and Phillips's Criminal (#48).  Not until Daredevil (#43) do you see a Marvel-owned property, and that too was written by Brubaker for the majority of the year.  Note to Marvel: don't fire Ed Brubaker.

This meta-list is based on the following lists:

Alert Nerd (Sarah Kuhn)
Alex Zalben
Andrew Farago
Arizona Daily Wildcat (Steven Kwan)
Articulate Nerd (Patrick Markfort)
Athena Currier
Attentiondeficitdisorderly Too Flat (Sean T. Collins)
Austin American-Statesman (Joe Gross)
Austin English
Barnes & Noble (Douglas Wolk)
Beaucoup Kevin (Kevin Church)
Bob Fingerman
Boing Boing (Cory Doctorow)
Box Brown
Brad Meltzer
Brian Garside
Cat Garza
Charlito LaGreca
Chuck Forsman
Collected Comics Library (Chris Marshall)
Comic Book Resources
Comic Book Resources (Brian Cronin)
Comic Book Resources (Timothy Callahan)
Comics Alliance
Comics Waiting Room (Marc Mason)
Comics Worth Reading (Johanna Draper Carlson)
Comics-and-More (Dave Ferraro)
Comiks Debris (Marc-Oliver Frisch)
David Press
Dean Haspiel
Drawn! (John Martz)
Drawn! (Matt Forsythe)
Dustin Harbin
Dylan Williams
Ellen Abramowitz
Exquisite Things
Forbidden Planet (Richard Bruton)
Forbidden Planet (Wim Lockefeer)
Geek to Me (Marissa Meli)
Going to New Mexico (Bram Meehan)
GraphiContent (Chad Nevett)
Greensboro News& Record (J. Brian Ewing)
Heat Vision at the Hollywood Reporter
Heeb (Jeff Newelt)
Hypergeek (Edward Kaye)
I Love Rob Liefeld
Jackie Tam
James Bucky Carter
James Sturm
Jeff Lemire
Jeff Newelt
Jeffrey Brown
Jim Hanley's Universe (Jeffrey O. Gustafson)
Joe Keatinge
Jog the Blog (Joe McCulloch)
John Isaacson
John Kerschbaum
John Porcellino
Johnny Bacardi
Jonas Madden-Connor
Joseph Remnant
Josh Neufeld
Joshua Cotter
Julia Wertz
Ken Dahl
Kid Beowulf (Alexis E. Fajardo)
Largehearted Boy (David Gutowski)
Lilli Carre
MadInkBeard (Derik Badman)
Mania (Chad Derdowski)
Mechanistic Moth
Michel Fiffe
Mike Garley
Minty Lewis
Montreal Gazette (Ian McGillis)
Neil Kleid
Never Not A Nerd (Dillon St. Jean)
New York Magazine (Dan Kois)
New York Times (George Gene Gustines)
Newsarama (J. Caleb Mozzocco)
Newsarama (Michael C. Lorah)
NPR (Glen Weldon)
Patrick Willems
Paul Buhle
Peter Gutierrez
Politics and Prose
PopSyndicate (Jason Urbanciz)
Publisher's Weekly
Re:Generator Magazine
Robin McConnell
Robot 6 (Brigid Alverson)
Robot 6 (JK Parkin)
Robot 6 (Kevin Melrose)
Robot 6 (Michael May)
Robot 6 (Tim O'Shea)
Robot 6 (Tom Bondurant)
San Francisco Chronicle (John McMurtrie)
Sarah Morean
Seth Kushner
Shaenon Garrity
Shazhmmm . . . (Garrett Martin)
Shazhmmm . . . (Hillary Brown)
Susie Cagle
Suvudu (Dallas Middaugh)
The Coast
The Cultural Gutter (Carol Borden)
The Daily Cross Hatch (Brian Heater)
The Flick Cast (Sal Loria)
The Great God Pan Is Dead (Robert Boyd)
The Inkwell Bookstore
The Lightning's Bad But At Least It's Not Loud (Dan Morris)
The Oklahoman #2 (Matthew Price)
The Oklahoman (Matthew Price)
The Oregonian (Steve Duin)
The Skeleton Without Bones
This Ship Is Totally Sinking (Tucker Stone)
Thomas Baehr
Those We Left Behind
Tom Neely
Tony Isabella
Trosper and Ignatz Meet Gentle Giant (Diana Green)
Trouble with Comics (Christopher Allen)
Trouble with Comics (Marc Sobel)
USA Today Pop Candy (Whitney Matheson)
Village Voice (R.C. Baker)
Wednesday's Haul (Scott Cederlund)

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


  1. Wow, amazing work! I made my 2009 list acknowledging that there were many good comics that I hadn't read. I've been hoping for a list like this specifically as a guide to check out some of the things I missed. Very useful.

  2. God love ya for working on this. Tremendous work. Thank you.

  3. Impressive as ever!

    Of course, the obsessive completionist in me wants you to include books in ranked lists with more than 20 books that aren't in the top 20.

  4. Also, will you be doing a Meta-List of the Best of the Decade Lists?

  5. Thanks Corey. I thought about including books outside the top 20 on ranked lists, but it would dilute those lists's points to such an extent that those lists wouldn't be making much of a difference to the meta-list. With only 550 points to go around, the longer the list, the fewer points each book gets. (That said, there aren't many ranked lists that went past 20 -- Tucker Stone's (very good) list is the one I can think of off the top of my head.)

    As for a meta-list of the Best of the Decade lists, I've thought about it. It would take a lot of time, though, and I'm just not sure I can do it.

  6. It's a real shame there aren't more web-comics on the list. I think it points to a continuing dearth of web-comic coverage, and possibly a lingering sentiment that if you "have" to post your comic on the web, then it's not a *real* comic (at least, until it gets into print as well). Shame.

    Still, it's hard to beat ASTERIOS POLYP on any front...

  7. That's an interesting point, Chris. It will be interesting to see if that changes in future years as the internet becomes more and more important in comics publishing. Personally, I only have so much time for comics reading (and reviewing), and I tend to stick to print comics (with several exceptions). This might be because those are the comics that have been vetted and chosen by companies and so have some kind of seal of approval on them, or it might be because I often choose comics based on what has been favorably reviewed by the critics that I respect, and those people review print comics for the most part.

  8. Nice. Here is mine:

  9. Thanks WebHobbit -- if and when I do an updated version of the meta-list, I'll be sure to add in your list.

  10. Wow, this must have taken FOREVER to count up all those points and organise it. I have to admit that I haven't read many new comics this year but now I know where to start as far as customer/reviewer satisfaction.

  11. As much as I like seeing the OMAC reprint collection here... that sumbitch came out in 2008.

  12. Wow! Awesome list!
    It's also kinda nice to have a one-stop reference for perspectives that aren't just the top DC/Marvel books. Good stuff!

  13. Thanks everybody. And Bill, you are correct that OMAC came out in 2008, but I didn't disqualify lists that included older books. Somebody really liked it and ranked it #1 on a five book list, giving it enough points to get into the top 100 overall.

  14. Great list! Great blog. I love Rob too. Here is a painting I did (in his honor) of Deadpool.

    I hope you diehard fans like me enjoy it.

    the lonik is on my name/id as blogspot won't let me paste a URL.

  15. Thanks for including me in the project!

    -Mechanistic Moth