The world of books evens the playing field-- delivering truth, connectedness, and beauty across miles and generations. These are a few of my favorite reads that have inspired, shaped, and motivated me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Best American Comics 2009 (edited by Charles Burns)

"The Best American Comics" series has been producing annual
volumes since 2006 for the "Best of" in the comics field for each
year. It's an excellent series that highlights predominantly Indy
and alternative/small press comics, as selected by the rotating
editor and series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, and gives
readers the opportunity to sample a wide array of lesser-known
(or less-widely-distributed) talents.

Included in this stellar volume are hundreds of pages of various
styles, insights, and viewpoints, including;

*Tim Hensley's oddly disjointed cross-generational Sixties-send ups,
(featuring 'Gropius',) placing sharply-colored cartoonish Archies/Bingo/
Scooter style kids comics with politically incorrect/incoherent asides.

*Daniel Clowes brilliant as always with a scathing review of a
fictional film critic (Justin M. Damiano.)

*A riveting tale of tape dispensers by R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-
Crumb. (below)
*Michael Kupperman contributes a hilarious and retro copper buddy
story with beautifully muted colors and crazy 'ads' running alongside the
feature, Twain and Einstein!

*Dan Zettwoch gives flashbacks to some intricate and bizarre old
church bulletins he drew!

*Matt Broersma's "The Company" is a mysterious tale with a noir
quality and a great eye for simplified layouts (think Rizzo from "100
Bullets" or Sale.)

*Adrian Tomine provides one of my favorite (and linear) lengthy
stories about obsession, real life, friends, and reminiscence. (below)
*Mimi Pond details an artist's search for a place to draw from in
 'Over Easy.' (below)
*Art Spiegelman does a brilliant job showcasing the abilities of the
comic as a morphing, living creation, in short order.

*Gabrielle Bell gives a fantastic autobiographical aside with a nice piece
called "When I was Eleven" (Think 'Alison Bechdel.')

*Gary Panter's "Daltokyo" gave my mind a workout!

*Jerry Moriarty's grotesques laid over 1950s imagery (no words) were
extremely powerful and evocative

*Dash Shaw's "The Galactic Funnels" tells a weird story of Dan Dak and
Stan Smart with romance, competition, intellectual property theft,
and science fiction as a few of the cool themes employed.

*Jason Lutes' Berlin is excerpted with its devastatingly realistic slice
of domestic violence in the midst of war-torn Germany. Survival isn't pretty.

*Tony Millionare's quirky monkeys and birds never fail to satisfy.

*Chapter Two of Sammy Harkham's "Black Death" is a two-tone treat
of whimsical art that belies a darker story nature. Some gorgeous work
(think Herve', Peyo, and other masters.)

*Chris Ware's "Jordan W. Lint" is a massive (seemingly) autobio-
graphical journey through some key points of the man's life, with
extraordinary layouts and structure as we have come to expect from Ware.

*A warm and nicely developed story of some latchkey kids, "Freaks" by
Laura Park is a great piece. (below)
*An excerpt from the awesome graphic novel "Skim" (previewed by me
here:"Skim" ) by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki is also included.

*Appropriately titled (har har!) 'Antoinette' by Koren Shadmi is a hoot.

*Al Columbia gives a shocking and subtle insight into a dark side of the
American dream, with a scant few panels and no words, merely intricate,
spookily-detailed art that paints a picture that draws you in.

*A disturbing journey from Gilbert Hernandez called 'Papa' details a
man's difficult trip filled with hardships and maladies surreal and scary.

*Anders Nilsen does a beautiful job of creating a macabre and mysterious
scene with a style reminiscent of Moebius.

*"Glenn Ganges in 'Pulverize'" by Kevin Huizenga is a wonderful tale of
the appeal of video games to grown men, a sliver of the dot com bubble's
impact, an indictment of bosses who want to be your friends, and other
joys of auto-biographical comics. (below)
Best to read one at a time, so the taste savors. Reading through causes the
bleed and every tale has such a distinctly different feel it's not as satisfying.

I do love crazy and discombobulated flotsam and jetsam, and art for
art's sake, but I'm still predominantly a fan of actual stories, points of
views, tales. This has plenty...but it also has anthropomorphic hi jinks
and acid-tripping wing nuts depicting chaos-filled minds, too!

A splendid collection showcasing the diversity of sequential art story-tellers
and a great introduction for someone who still doesn't realize the depth that
'mere comics' can have.

Order "Best American Comics 2009" online