Lest people think my attack on Bigfoot was because of it’s “cutesy” factor– and not what I found to be problems in the writing– I bring to you my second choice for best of 2010: Werewolves Of Montpellier by Jason.
So much has already been written about Jason’s simplistic yet elegant style of drawing and writing that it’s daunting to me to try to add anything to the subject. But I don’t have to: this was one of my favorites last year, and I just have to tell you why.
[Spoilers ahead, if thats the kind of thing you're worried about in a Jason comic.]
First, I don’t think it can be overstated what a tremendous impact Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison and Brian Bendis have on mainstream comics. Douglas Wolk points out that the 26 best-selling DC single issues were all written by Morrison or Johns, and if you look at the top of Marvel’s charts, Bendis rules the roost over there. In fact, taken as a group, Sean T. Collins points out that 65 of the top 75 best-selling comics of the year were written by one of three people.
I also don’t think it can be overstated how unhealthy this is, though I’m not sure who it says more about: the industry or the fan base. I’d like to believe that it isn’t the fault of the fans, that Marvel and DC are just shooting themselves in the foot here. Banking on three people for all of your output sounds like a bad creative decision and an even worse business model, and I don’t really believe that’s something fans want. Logic dictates that the more kinds of comics there are the better comics will be overall, and that the more people creating comics, collaborating with and challenging each other, the better the stories will be. If fans are that easy to please, that lazy, there’s nothing to stop companies from continuing that practice.
In my very first semester as a journalism student much of our focus was on working through the fundamentals of what makes a good journalist. We went through all kinds of drills: crime drills, courtroom drills, drills to help us make sense of statistics, drills that focused on education or politics. One of the drills that I really took to was the obituary drill. On the surface it seemed a little morbid– we were given a certain public figure, and told to write an obituary about this person, complete with fake quotes from real life people– but it ended up being really interesting. Good obituary writing is an art form: you have to hone in on that one element of a person’s life that was unique or interesting, something that defined that them, and you have to look at their life through the lens of that element.
A good obituary is powerful. It’s the last word on someone’s life. A great obit writer can make a tremendous career for himself, and the job of the obit writer involves a flourish of creativity that you don’t see in a lot of other reporting positions. I often turn to the obit section of the New York Times website just to see some of the worlds’ interesting stories and moments we often miss.
Daytripper focuses on those moments that make up the measure of a man’s life.
So, it’s my intention to write ten reviews in ten days for the end of the year best of list. Which is absolutely not daunting to any living soul other than myself. Mostly because I am lazy, but also, it was a terrible year for comics. 2010 had its moments, but they were few and far between. In fact, I think in other years it would be hard to narrow down to a best of ten. This year? I’m lucky I got ten. Lucky me.
But that’s no reason to disparage the comics made that were actually good. In fact, it almost makes it imperative that I write this best of: you need to know. And if not me, than who? You? Highly unlikely. First of all, you would have to have a command of the English language, that quite frankly, I don’t believe you possess. And secondly, how could you possibly know what my choices for the top ten are? You could speculate at best. But that’s not what you do. That isn’t what our relationship is like. I give, you take. I accept this.
Also, just for the record, I’m writing ten reviews in ten days, but they’re not in order of least to best. Nope– not what I do. These are just my ten favorite, period. Also, the more I think of it, it might be like the top six or seven. I told Paul my top ten list, and he pointed out that three of them came out the year before. I don’t feel like bumping up the honorable mentions to bonafide hits.
OK, let’s begin.
My favorites of 2010 are not to be confused with what might be the “best” of 2010. It’s just some of the stuff I really liked that I thought I’d be able to add something to. I don’t think I have more to say about King City, for example, that David Brothers hasn’t already covered in one of his 12 Days of King City pieces at 4thletter!.
While the dearth of superhero comics worth talking about that I mentioned last week in my cry-like-a-baby post is troubling, and the creative output by mainstream publishers downright offensive, it also helps bring to light some of the stuff that’s worth discussion.
Irredeemable started in 2009, a year I thought brought a lot of quality mainstream comics. Detective Comics, Scalped, Batman & Robin and Chew, all produced by mainstream publishers, each made it onto I Love Rob Liefeld’s Best of 2009 meta-list. Twelve others cracked the top 50. While that’s a crappy percentage compared to the amount of comics these companies produce, it’s a pretty impressive to see a book starring Batwoman placed among the ranks of David Mazzuchelli and Darwyn Cooke. Irredeemable didn’t make my top 10 last year, but I listed it as an honorable mention. In 2010 it makes my list in a heartbeat.
I remember starting Wednesday’s Child in the early hours of 2009, and the kind of content I imagined I would produce here.
Initially, I remember thinking that there needed to be more intelligent criticism of comics on the web. Music, film, literature, even television: all media with an extensive and impressive critical history, all featured prominently on arts and culture sites the web over. There is no dearth of thoughtful examination on the films of Hitchcock, or Kurosawa, or even Uwe Boll. People have intelligent opinions on everything from Faulkner to Palhaniuk. If I hear another LOST theory, I’m going to fucking shoot somebody. Why do I not get this kind of talk about comics? You know: that old argument.
I discovered soon after that there were a bunch of people worth reading. When Abhay Khosla or Tucker Stone talk about something you should probably listen, even if on the surface it doesn’t sound very serious. I found out that Tom Spurgeon was a person who existed. I read that Douglas Wolk book, and despite a few glaring problems I’m not going to get into here, it’s probably the best collection of comics analysis around. There’s very few people worth reading, mind you, but they’re there, and although it’s a crime that they aren’t read by more people, that probably says more about the squares of the world than the quality of critical comics analysis available. I always thought I could contribute to that, if not in sheer quality of content, then at least in approach. If I wanted more criticism, better criticism, it should start with me, probably.
I soon realized this was a stupid idea. Maybe it was true, I don’t know– maybe the lack of thoughtful comics criticism is a serious problem to some people, but not to me. Not really, because it’s not something I feel is necessary. And it’s part of the reason why I hated comics this year, why I got so sick of them. I know Serious Comics Journalism™ is probably a good thing in theory but I don’t know how it can work when the people making the comics– and I’m talking about mainstream, superhero comics here– when they don’t care about what they say or mean or look like.
I wrote a review of Wilson, and I liked it, and I even got into a little debate about it in the comment section of Tim Hodler’s post, which is cool because, hey, I sometimes like Tim Hodler’s writing as much as those other guys up there. What a fun time. That was really great. Books like Wilson get a lot of recognition from people, and a lot of thoughtfulness goes into making it, talking about it, and putting it on our super-duper top 10 lists. That is a comic a lot of people thought was great that I thought was only mediocre, and had specific analysis as to why I thought that was. The world is better for having talked about Wilson.
Do you know how difficult it is to do that with an issue of Superman? Or how pointless?
I’m taking President’s Day off to recover from an amazing weekend mixture of Murder City Devils and Valentine’s Day, but over at I Love Rob Liefeld Sandy has updated the Best Comics of 2009 Meta-List with fifteen additional lists, including mine from a few weeks ago. A few interesting changes, like The Incredible Hercules making a big jump from sixty-eight to thirty-three. Check out the rest of the list here.
Am I late with this? I’m late with this, right? I’m definitely not early. There’s already been about fifty or so lists, and some of them have manga and some of them don’t; and some of them have women and some of them don’t. Mine has neither, but that’s because I’m completely ignorant toward anything manga related and because I’m a horrible misogynist.
But I did have an opinion, damn it! And this is the internet, and I have a blog, so you get to read that opinion. Isn’t that great? Isn’t technology and the future great? You get to read yet another list praising Asterios Polyp (OOPS SPOILER ALERT.) But I mean there were more comics than just Asterios Polyp that were good this year. I’m sure of it. So after the jump: THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST COMICS TO COME OUT IN 2009 that I actually read and had an opinion on.
The X-Men– as a team, as a comic, as a very idea; they’re a difficult animal to approach. There’s so much history behind X-Men “the brand” that it’s almost intimidating to breach it’s continuity-laden walls. With good reason: Chris Claremont was a downright force to be reckoned with in the industry, outselling almost every comic ever, only to be outdone by Jim Lee and Chris Claremont himself on X-Men #1. Here was a name that X-fans knew and trusted.
After Claremont left the X-books were a shit show. Oh, they didn’t start that way; Lee stayed on X-Men for a bit, and X-Force, X-Factor, and Excalibur changed the game (for better or worse) in Mutant-related comics for years to come. But after that relatively high period, shit got weak. Shit got real weak. Like, “we consider Age of Apocalypse a high point” weak. That’s the equivalent of praising Zero Hour as being a game-changer. Fuck, the Magneto War doesn’t even have a fucking Wikipedia entry. FINAL FUCKING NIGHT has a Wikipeida entry. Christ on the cross, I think my college punk zine has a Wikipedia entry. Do you know what you need in order to have a Wikipedia entry? ONE PERSON’S INTEREST.
But there was about fifty or so issues in there that really invigorated the franchise. I’m talking, of course, about Grant Morrison’s New X-Men.