Best of the Decade in Comics

January 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm (Uncategorized)

What are your favorite comics from 2000-2009?

Jeff Smith (“Bone”, “RASL”) writes on his Website, “Best of the Decade lists are not easy to make. Choosing ten seems arbitrary when you have to start knocking good books off, but you have to stop somewhere, so below I give you my dirty dozen.”

There are many more books worthy of top ten consideration, including Smith’s own epic tale, Bone, begun in 1991 and completed in 2004, about a hero’s journey, except the hero is a small creature, shaped like an old telephone handset or a meatless bone. 

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli.    His publisher (Random House) writes, “Meet Asterios Polyp: middle-aged, meagerly successful architect and teacher, aesthete and womanizer, whose life is wholly upended when his New York City apartment goes up in flames.”

Percy Gloom by Cathy Malkasian.  Percy Gloom, a dour fellow with a head shaped like a balloon, doesn’t want anyone to get hurt, so he writes cautionary literature to warn of dangers of everyday objects, e.g., the modern hairbrush is lethal.  Do not insert in ear.  Chris Barsanti of Publishers Weekly writes, “Gloom is an unsettling mixture of whimsy and evil, like a Kafka tale retold in the spirit of Dr. Seuss’s The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.”

Skyscrapers of the Midwest by Joshua W. Cotter.  Skyscrapers illustrates the pathos of being a young boy in 1980s America, in which that boy is a cat-like being who must endure the one long insult that is adolescence.  Some of the book’s best moments arrive in its fake-ads such as one for the “Holy Shit” pocket knife, which is advertised to be capable of cutting a bear open, and for its letters column, in which young boys write to a sarcastic cowboy, Skinny Kenny. 

Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware.  Ware’s book moves between 1890s Chicago and its World’s Fair and 1980’s small town Michigan, following the life and fantasies of Jimmy Corrigan, a nebbish Everyman.   The book should be read before or after Skyscrapers as both books deal with themes of isolation, Mitty-ish fantasy, and the humiliation of being a young boy (as in Skyscrapers) or a lonely, nearly-middle-aged man (Corrigan).

Julius Knipl: The Beauty Supply District by Ben Katchor.   Katchor assembled most of the comics featured in “Julius Knipl” from 1994 to 1997 and Random House published them in this collected volume in 2000.    Edward Sorel, writing in the New York Times Book Review, says “Ben Katchor, is the most poetic, deeply layered artist ever to draw a comic strip.”   Knipl and other characters in this book, such as Harold Dourmat, mud importer and Abraham Cuzor, de facto president of the Metropolitan Tap-Water Runners’ Association, are almost always caught in mid-stride, wandering  through a decaying urban center, always talking, often hawking something of little use or appeal, such as a postcard of a sad view of the Heating Pad Institute taken on overcast Sunday in February.

The past decade also brought wonderful anthologies of sequential art, such as the Best American Comics series, Ivan Brunetti’s Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories books and McSweeney’s 13.  It also included books that cannot be considered graphic novels but still combined text and art or illustration in captivating ways: Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of  T.S. Spivet.

More to follow.


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