Robot 6

What’s wrong with The A.V. Club’s Best Comics of the ’00s list?

avclub_logoEarlier today, The A.V. Club, The Onion’s for-serious arts and criticism auxiliary unit, released its list of the Best Comics of the ’00s, featuring 25 comics/graphic novels and (separately) five reprint collections, ordered alphabetically. Now, it’s just one of many media outlets producing lists of this sort as the decade draws to a close — pretty soon, we’ll be able to come up with a “Best ‘Best Comics of the ’00s’ Lists” list — and disagreement with such exercises is to be expected. Indeed, it’s sort of the point. But I found The A.V. Club’s list problematic in ways that go beyond the usual “That book?No way!” and “Hey, you forgot about …” complaints.

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1

So let’s start by getting those complaints out of the way, since they’re the most subjective. The list’s own introduction cites a quartet of comics that just missed the cut — Scott Pilgrim, Astro City, The Walking Dead and the work of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez — and I could see reasonable cases being made for three of the four, not that I’d necessarily agree with them. Given the mainstream-accessible tenor of the list, I also think you can get enough of a sense of the standards being applied to argue for several obvious oversights: David B.’s Epileptic, Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde, for example. Moreover, the titles selected for particular creators can leave you scratching your head: One! Hundred! Demons! instead of What It Is, the gag/parody-centric Acme Novelty Library oversized hardcover rather than Jimmy Corrigan, Rick Geary’s The Mystery of Mary Rogers instead of, well, any of Geary’s other old-time crime books. Finally, in some cases, I think the selected books are bettered by other, similar efforts: I’d have picked B.P.R.D. over The Goon for quirky horror-action, for example, or The Walking Dead over Y: The Last Man for lengthy post-apocalyptic serials, or Shortcomings over Box Office Poison for slice-of-life drama.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life

Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life

But the list has far more fundamental problems than its individual selections. The one that’s getting the most attention around the comics Internet, of course, is the complete absence of manga. I’ll be the first to apologize if a separate, all-manga list is forthcoming. But as it stands now, the lack of a single Japanese comic on a best-of list for a decade during which such comics reached unprecedented popularity in the North American market — and during which an equally unprecedented number of acclaimed titles from nearly every time period and genre have finally seen the light of English translation and publication — is utterly egregious. Even if you put aside the treasure trove of reprints of classic titles that have reached our shores, recent work by Naoki Urasawa, Yuichi Yokoyama, Ai Yazawa, Makoto Yukimura, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Junji Ito, Jiro Taniguchi, Taiyo Matsumoto and countless other creators surely merits at least one slot on the list. And that’s to say nothing of the rock-solid entertainment provided by mainstream hits from Naruto to Death Note — would they look all that out of place on a list that includes All-Star Superman, DC: The New Frontier and the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil run?

Kramers Ergot 4 cover by Mat Brinkman

Kramers Ergot 4 cover by Mat Brinkman

Equally notable, to me at least, is the conservative nature of the list’s “alternative” picks. Yes, there are a couple of left-field choices — Geary’s inclusion was a surprise, as was Michael Kupperman’s weird, wonderful Tales Designed to Thrizzle. But in the main, the books and authors selected from the world of alt / art / indie / underground / whatever comics are a tastefully literary bunch, focusing on New Yorker-friendly storytelling modes like memoir, current events, biography, bildungsroman, and slice-of-life. By my count, Chris Ware, David Mazzucchelli, Charles Burns, Craig Thompson, Daniel Clowes, Alison Bechdel, Seth, James Sturm, Marjane Satrapi, Jason, Alex Robinson and even Kupperman have all either been published by a major New York book publisher or appeared in the pages of The New York Times. Meanwhile, just to name one example, the entire underground tradition emanating from Providence, Rhode Island, centered on the Fort Thunder collective, and spawning a lineage published at various times through Highwater, Paper Rodeo, Red Ink, Bodega, Buenaventura and PictureBox is totally missing; not even its representative landmark anthologies Kramers Ergot 4 and Kramers Ergot 7 made the cut. Plus, the Burns and Clowes books excepted, you’re also not seeing the wave of altcomix reclamations of genre fiction, from Paul Pope to Powr Mastrs to Prison Pit. From minicomics to markmaking, sequential art’s avant garde — not to mention its generational vanguard — is pretty much persona non grata here.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1

This makes the list’s one attempt to spotlight a publishing subgenre, reprints, all the more frustrating. The A.V. Club’s separate Best Reprints list cites five noteworthy projects, none of which I’m about to quibble with — the one-volume Bone cemented Jeff Smith’s place in kids’-comics history, and Fantagraphics’ exquisitely designed Peanuts and Krazy & Ignatz collections put the two greatest comic strips of all time (your ranking may vary) at the forefront of the publishing agenda of the decade’s most important publisher, after all. But the ’00s were a true Golden Age of Reprints, during which reprinted material had an ongoing and active role in the here-and-now development of comics. I, for one, can still feel the breeze from all the eyes opened by Dan Nadel’s Art Out of Time anthology, Nadel and Glenn Bray’s Rory Hayes collection Where Demented Wented, and Paul Karasik’s two surprise-hit Fletcher Hanks books. DC did a sensational job with its Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus series, re-releasing arguably the great comics work by arguably the great comics creator at the precise time that its currency in comics was reaching an all-time peak. Manga’s sales-chart dominance was complemented beautifully by Drawn & Quarterly’s Adrian Tomine-overseen reprints of Tatsumi’s landmark short stories, and by the jaw-droppingly wide-ranging run of reprints starring the god of manga himself, Osamu Tezuka, from publishers like Vertical and Viz. with the unlimited real estate of the Internet at your disposal, capping your Best Reprints list at a mere five in the face of such an embarrassment of riches raises more questions than it answers.

Chester Brown's Louis Riel

Chester Brown's Louis Riel

So does a refusal to rank your selections. Look, I go back and forth on the utility and desirability of year- and decade-end list making — it can devolve into a parlor game, a pageant, and/or an easy way to throw all the publishers you work with a bone pretty easily, and frequently the arguments it engenders shed more heat than light. On the other hand, it’s the most direct avenue available for systematically separating the good from the great, and explaining the difference. That’s why, unless you intend your list to be a mere shopping guide — or unless you’re writing it in a far more idiosyncratic fashion than The A.V. Club’s traditional list-by-committee — ordinal rankings are a must. By simply listing 25 books in alphabetical order, this list avoids making difficult and absolutely crucial distinctions regarding quality, dodging the hard work necessary to back those distinctions up with considered criticism. I don’t know what good a Best of the ’00s list that sits The Goon right next to Louis Riel does anybody under any circumstances, but at least a countdown would provide context; juxtaposing two books like that through sheer alphabetical accident provides us with no window into its authors’ critical worldview(s), and actually may do more harm than good in terms of articulating what matters. Frankly, I feel like it’s a cop-out.

David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp

David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp

This will get a little picayune, but that lackadaisical feel appears to have infected the writing itself, which is riddled with dubious factual claims. Superhero-comics sales went up this decade, not declined. Daniel Clowes contributed a substantial strip to The New York Times in addition to his two Eightball issues. Though Asterios Polyp was David Mazzucchelli’s first proper solo graphic novel, he’s been doing extremely personal work since the debut of Rubber Blanket in 1991 and can hardly be said to only now have “take[n] possession of his own voice.” And this could just be a typo and unclear wording respectively, but Persepolis did not come out in 2000, nor did it share a publisher with Fun Home. I can’t help but feel that an overall sharpening of the thinking behind the list might have whittled these errors away in the process.

The Onion and The A.V. Club have been covering comics for years, and not in the bang-pow sense, either. It’s clearly an art form they take as seriously as film, music, television, and prose literature. That’s what makes their list such a let-down. The first decade of the 21st century has been nothing more or less than the greatest creative flowering in comics’ history — the decade during which the concept of comics-as-art reached levels of public acceptance and internal confidence of which even the medium’s great visionaries could previously have only dreamed. The game was raised. Those of us who purport to crown the best of comics’ best-ever era need to raise our game as well.

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47 Comments

Wow, very nice write-up. I too am fairly surprised that they seemed to drop the ball in quite a few areas, since their team does regularly cover and critique a wide assortment of comics. But on that same note, sometimes I feel like their biweekly reviews are a little too soft on certain books, usually the mainstream superheroes.

And I really think the exclusion of manga is too specific and arbitrary to be an oversight, maybe this list is only American-based? Or that they are saving manga for another list?

My guess on the Persepolis error is that someone glanced at a page that mentioned L’Association first publishing it (in French) in 2000 and didn’t realize that Pantheon’s editions started showing up three years later.

(The lack of any sort of manga is still really mind-boggling to me, more than anything else.)

Your points about manga and a sad lacking in the number of reprint projects are both things I wholeheartedly agree with.

I don’t agree that the list should be numbered, and particularly not as a way of “systematically separating the good from the great.” I feel that if something listed as one of their top 25 picks of the last decade is merely good, then it should not be on the list. Besides, is there a good way to compare, say, All-Star Superman, Persepolis, and Tales Designed to Thrizzle in a way where they can be objectively ranked? If not, what’s the point?

And re: Persepolis – it was indeed originally published in French 2000, and was translated to English in 2003. The 2000/Pantheon combination the Onion currently listsis needlessly confusing; it would probably have been better to list both the publisher and date of both the original and the translation. (Sharing a publisher with Fun Home has been corrected as of the time of this comment)

@Preston: If you went with an “only North American creators” theory, the problem is that Persepolis and Pyongyang don’t qualify either.

What about the Return of NEXUS? The Moth? Oh thats right no one cares about good storytelling and art in a comic anymore.

As great as the content is, and as decent as the omnibus editions are, the DC Jack Kirby library don’t deserve to be the on this list because they were printed on such terrible paper that we are all going to be purchasing these things again when they do a better edition and the paper rots.

The lack of manga could simply be because they don’t read manga. Not everyone who reads comics, or even enjoys and appreciates the medium, is necessarily going to be interested in manga.

I agree with the no-manga thing myself.

To leave out 100 Bullets, a series that brilliantly explores all facets of desperate lives on the edge, in these desperate times, is criminal, pun intended. Not to mention the fact that it featured arguably the decades best art. I can only assume they did not read the series.

Also, We3, Hellboy, Dark Knight Strikes Again

I don’t care for the many “personal” stories on the list, I read stories of the fantastic to get away from the shit of “normal” life.

@Greg McElhatton:

Yeah I realized that after I posted it. I can’t even say “only Western creators” either. I guess the most accurate term would be non-Asian creators, but only the ones who are actually living in Asia? Again, I find it very odd that manga is completely excluded, to the point where I’m sure that it wasn’t like they accidentally ignored it but purposely left it off for whatever reason, maybe the classic “manga =/= comics” belief.

Manga should rightfully be in a seperate list. It’d be like sticking TV and film together. Similar medium, massively different contexts :D

Completely agree with all the substantial points made here but for one.

The Goon quite clearly knocks B.P.R.D. into a cocked hat.

As for the ‘maybe they don’t read manga’ suggestion made above, re: lack of manga on the list. This may sound like a fair comment, but given the nature of the list, if that statement was true, then they should’ve made sure to seek out the advice and assistance of someone (or someones) who does read manga. It does not, I’m afraid, excuse the gaping lacuna in the list.

I’m not that surprised. Has anyone seen their top 30 tv series of the decade? While there are things that I wholeheartedly agree with (The Wire as number 1), placing shows like The Venture Brothers and Wonder Showzen ranked ahead of The West Wing makes the list come across as bizarre, and not to be taken seriously. I’m a huge Venture Bros fan, but it does not belong on a best of decade list.

Their best of decade lists do nothing but show the AV Clubs bizarre tastes, requiring the reader to take a large grain of salt to make sense of them.

One of the list’s writers, Noel Murray, has been pretty active in the piece’s comments section on his thinking behind the lack of Kramers Ergot (basically that it fosters an “art-school” aesthetic which discounts the value of narrative storytelling and in-panel clarity to an unappealing degree) and manga (he doesn’t feel he’s familiar enough to speak with authority) and lots of other things… it seems there was an effort made to avoid choosing works that would prove ‘esoteric’…? Don’t just go by my summaries, though…

Katherine Farmar

November 24, 2009 at 4:06 pm

The lack of manga could simply be because they don’t read manga. Not everyone who reads comics, or even enjoys and appreciates the medium, is necessarily going to be interested in manga.

And not everyone who likes cake can digest gluten. Now, here’s a thought experiment: make a list of the Best Cakes Ever that only includes wheat-free cakes, but that treats wheat-free cakes as if they were the only cakes that mattered. Do you think that would be considered acceptable? Do you think people would be right to complain about that?

I don’t recall the wording, but didn’t the AV Club’s original review of Drifting LIfe refer to at as being one of the most important comics of all time? At the time, it came across as being intensely hyperbolic, even for a site that consistently overpraises the comics they review.

Yeah, I can totally see how they left some wiggle room in that statement to explain ignoring it now.

Wow–reading the staff posts in the list’s comment thread, per Jog’s suggestion, makes me feel like the problems run a lot deeper than anything I address above.

Tucker, here’s what Noel Murray says of manga and its absence from the list in the AV Club comments:

Speaking personally, I feel like manga is one of those subjects that you either give yourself over to completely or you don’t even try to speak about in public. I’ve read just enough to know that I’d sound ridiculously underinformed if I tried to select the best of it.

I encourage manga fans to post their favorites here though.

Perhaps it was under the rubric of that final bit that the original Drifting Life review was posted.

Possibly. The Drifting Life is the only example that stands out in memory right now, but the site’s comic coverage has consistently gone for “most important” phrasing when they seem only to mean “we liked this, it’s good.” What makes it odd is that these same writers don’t pull out that type of hyperbole when they’re reviewing film or music. They’re capable of being even-handed with the praise there, but it escapes them with comics reviews.

At the same time, they’ve consistently mentioned in previous comment sections that they’re more reliant on review copies than I’d expect most websites are–which is their right, since the film/games/music review train is handled much differently. That’s one aspect that probably has as much to do with the nature of the composition of the list as any particular genre-bias.

Katherine Farmar – I don’t think anybody is making any sort of argument like. I’m definitely not. I’m just trying to point that just because someone reads comics doesn’t mean they will read manga. I like both but I have no expectations that other should as well.

Plus, it’s just a list. The lack of manga is an oversight but it’s not the end of the world.

Well, if someone made a “Best Music of the ’00s, Except Hip Hop, Because Not Everyone Listens to Hip Hop, And That’s Totally Fine” list, I think people would be calling bullroar on that too.

Are you seriously complaining that they didn’t rank the books in numerical order? That kind of “countdown” is the critical and intellectual equivalent of babbling incoherently and shitting in the neighbor’s driveway. It makes you look like an idiot. Art and literature are not a freaking race. Nobody finishes “first”, and sure as hell no one finishes “17th” instead of “16th”. Sure, some works of art are better than others, which is the point of critics identifying an arbitrary number of items that they consider the best. But the notion that one could put The Goon right *above* Louis Riel on the grounds that it is a marginally but measurably better work would demonstrate that the person producing the list is not a literary critic, but a retarded artcomics fanboy playing out juvenile “hoo’d win?” scenarios while he plays with his Umbrella Academy PVC figures. Some of your other criticisms are valid, but whining that they didn’t indulge in the stupidest convention of year-end “best of” lists undermines them as a mere shit-throwing exercise. It isn’t a “cop-out”; it’s a glimmer of hope that they actually understand the nature of literary and artistic criticism.

“Well, if someone made a “Best Music of the ’00s, Except Hip Hop, Because Not Everyone Listens to Hip Hop, And That’s Totally Fine” list, I think people would be calling bullroar on that too.”

What if you released a list of Best Music Of The ’00s and included no classical? Because that’s actually fairly common.

I’ve responded in the comments section on our piece and on The Beat to a lot of these criticisms, so I won’t repeat myself when it comes to manga or esoterica. I do think these points are valid and I appreciate you all taking the time to make them. I will say that the what people are looking for when they read these lists can be highly subjective. If you peruse our comments section, you’ll see a lot of readers arguing that our choices are too obscure; others that they’re too obvious. Myself, I find the complaint that we went with too many of the big names kind of odd. If we released a movie list with no Coen brothers or a music list with no Radiohead, that would be equally strange (and kind of perverse). When I was first learning more about movies and music, best-of-the-year and best-of-the-decade lists were incredibly helpful to me — I also have fond memories of Mikal Gilmore’s early ’90s Rolling Stone article about comics, which introduced me to Chester Brown, among others — and I hope that at the least you’ll grant that nobody who’s unfamiliar with the books on our list will be ill-served by reading them.

But I recognize that there are always three audiences for pieces like these: people who know a great deal about the subject, people who are coming in fresh and looking for guidance, and people whose interest in the subject competes with their interest in a lot of other subjects. I’d say that generally speaking, we’re writing for the latter group, because that’s who we are ourselves. We cover movies, music, TV, books and comics (myself I cover all five), and try to treat them all as part of a balanced pop culture diet. The advantage to that approach is that (I hope) it helps us see some media in a different light than a dedicated TV critic or movie critic might. The disadvantage is that we’re sometimes going to disappoint people who focus more on one subject than another.

Two more quick points:

1. Todd, while I appreciate you defending us on the alphabetical thing, we did rank most of our other Best Of The Decade lists, so we’re not entirely virtuous there. Though I’ve urged readers in the comments section not to obsess too much over what got placed over what. WIth a small voting pool, the difference between #3 and #30 is never all that high.

2. Speaking of the small voting pool, that also had an affect on the composition of the list. I stand by my original review of A Drifting Life, and it was on our shortlist, but I was the only one who voted for it, and when we considered one-vote items for inclusion, I left that one off on purpose, not wanting to feign an expertise in manga that I simply do not have. If you were to look at our individual ballots, you’d see a lot more variety. It’s in the overlaps that such lists are made. I daresay that if you polled five comics bloggers, asked for their 20 favorite titles of the decade, then published the results straight-up, you’d see a lot of the same names appear that ended up on our list. Not all. But a lot.

There are still people who adhere to the “comics and manga are two completely different things” philosophy. Amongst this group you have the New York Times and most comic book stores, not to mention every outlet bookstore in North America.

You’re essentially taking The Onion to task for a disagreement about semantics.

Looking forward to CBR’s “Best Sequential Art of 2009″ article later this year. Yeah, right….

Todd: I’ll admit to overselling the ranking thing to make a point about this specific list. I’ve read plenty of valid year-enders that didn’t do that–I’ve also written a few! Like I said in the piece, if you’re doing something genuinely personal and idiosyncratic, go with god. But in this case it’s your basic “let’s pool our critics and take a vote and hash it out and post the results” group list, and I feel that not ranking the books is, in this case, reflective of other dodges they commit, like ignoring an entire nation’s output because you’re not a manga specialist or writing off huge swathes of alternative comics as art-school gibberish.

Noel: I see what you’re saying with “classical,” but manga is not the equivalent of classical music, or contemporary choral music, or things of that nature. It’s pop.

Also, yeah, I’m definitely holding you guys to the same standard I’d hold a dedicated comics-blogger to, same as I’d do with your music or TV or film or book lists. If I disagree with your music selections, for example, I’m not gonna go, “Well, they also write about Lost, so that’s okay.”

Thanks for weighing in!

Milo, how is manga not comics? Music stores, when there still were music stores, filed rock and R&B separately. Which one isn’t music?

Noel, the “we don’t read it so we’re not going to talk about it” defense is kind of ridiculous. If you think you’ll embarrass yourself, pick up the keyboard and your checkbook and pay somebody who knows something a few bucks to help you out. Hell, you could probably even get somebody to do it for free if you wanted to be skinflints about it. Freelancers tend to be eager to be exploited like that.

Basically when you say “we don’t know” what you mean is “we don’t care.”

And, yeah, you don’t have to care. But just admit it up front. The bobbing and weaving is silly.

Also…your point about overlaps and individual idiosyncracies — that’s why doing this stuff by committee is such a poor idea. I know that everyone does it that way — but it produces blandness and ends up claiming an authority that doesn’t help anybody.

Maybe a lot of manga isn’t as good as people in this country think? Kind of like a lot of people think most superhero comics stink. I’m sure a couple of people here hold that sentiment.

Our comics coverage has always been manga-lite, but I’m not sure “don’t care” is the right word. We dabble; we just don’t delve. But again, your criticism is fair, and perhaps we should look into finding someone more manga-literate to supplement our future coverage.

I do take issue with the idea that lists like this don’t “help anybody” though. I go back to my earlier comment: It depends on who you think lists like this are designed for. If you’re deeply into comics, you’re right, our list probably just confirms what you already know. If you read comics casually, you’re likely to find some new things to check out. And if you’re a complete novice… well, I offer a variation on what I asked Sean earlier: Do you not feel that the books on this list are, generally speaking, well-worth a reader’s time?

AWB (Average White Band, I hope?): Sure, a lot of manga isn’t as good as people in this country, or any country think. But some of it is, and some of that should be on a list of the best comics of the decade. I mean, that argument doesn’t really affect this one way or the other. Most of everything stinks, but this isn’t the “Most of Everything List,” it’s a best-of list.

Noel: A lot of them are great or really good comics, definitely. I think I was pretty fair about that. But to echo what I just said, it’s not the “well-worth a reader’s time” list, it’s the best of the decade list.

And to the five of us who assembled this list, these are the 25 best comics, based on a merging of our individual choices. Your mileage may (and clearly does) vary.

At the least, the list has sparked some good discussions, especially at our site, where we’re almost to 600 comments. And if it’s revealed that we tend to range too narrow in our scope, that’s valuable criticism to hear.

You cant really call for manga to be included if you don’t champion manhwa (Korean) or any other Asian or European comics markets. It’s similar to how other industries cover domestic markets, such as how movies only focus on North American movies for their lists with the extremely rare exceptions.

For example, Sky Doll, while not technically complete, was first released in 2000, and would make a good candidate for a ‘best of decade’ title, but, as its from Europe, is excluded in most cases, despite a recent translation by Marvel (and earlier Heavy Metal imports).

If manga were included on the list, there would be a good chance you could find 25 manga better than every comic released in the past decade if we go with the numerous non-Narutos and Bleaches that dont get translations in North America. Manga is a huge market that dwarfs the North American one.

Hell, the European market, ignoring Marvel and DC imports, is sizeable in its own right. Restricting, intentional or not, a best of decade list to mostly the standard American comic is not a bad idea in my opinion, though there was probably room for the odd mention of a manga or other titles.

Whats particularly noteworthy about the AV Club list is that, while I don’t agree with every book as the top 25, they were all at least of an acceptable quality level to warrant a mention or recommendation (though there are a few I haven’t personally read).

I don’t imagine anyone championing the inclusion of manga would say to do so at the expense of comics from Korea, China, France, Belgium, Italy or anywhere else. It’s just that, given the rise of manga in the North American market over the past decade, its absence from the list is especially glaring.

However, it’s certainly reasonable, and necessary given the sheer volume of work, to limit consideration to comics released in North America during a specified time — manga, manhwa, BD, what have you.

I found the list deeply frustrating at first, because it’s not very good. I love a lot of the stuff Picturebox publishes that’s represented in the Kramer’s Ergot anthologies, I think Kevin Huizenga is a great cartoonist to come to prominence this decade and should be represented.

But then I thought about that interview Tom Spurgeon did with Abhay Khosla where Abhay compared people that are really into these types of art comics to foodies. And I thought about being further down the rabbit hole than the AV Club reviewers. Their best music list is fine with me, even though I am more of a dork and can think of all sorts of great records that were not as high-profile as what they’re discussing. I bemoan the lack of Home Movies in their best tv of the decade list.

It’s this sort of general interest list that reaffirms the canon they spent the decade building. It’s a victory lap, not looking at anything new or obscure. Part of this is due to the way it compiles the taste of multiple people. Tom Spurgeon’s list will be a lot cooler.

But I think what you or I want out of a list is things that we missed. The same way that the Comics Comics blog is exciting because of references to Slash Maraud from 1987, or Jog’s My Life Is Choked With Comics column makes me want to buy Igor Kordey issues of Soldier X. In an age of Netflix, if I go to an honest-to-God video store, I want to get things that are only available on VHS, that I can’t find. This is like wanting an overview of David Lynch’s career that talks about On The Air as much as it talks about Mulholland Drive. Sure, Mulholland Drive is better, but it’s also well-known for being good, and we’re just further down the path of wanting obscurities than that. We want a best-of-the-decade list that finds things from 2002 and says they were ahead of their time, even if no one noticed them when they were initially published. We don’t want a list with Persepolis and Blankets on it. But that’s what a best-of list, for a general interest magazine, compiled by a group of writers is going to include.

As far as Kramers Ergot stuff goes, think about how Jimbo In Purgatory- an insanely ambitious comic that’s not really a lot of fun to deal with- got dissed by Andrew Arnold in Time back when it was first published.

As for manga, you know, I loved Phoenix and Tekkon Kinkreet, but these are a very specific type of critics pick.

I dunno, you make some good and bad poiints, but this whole article just sounds like a rant.

I mean, instead of complaining, it seems like the best way to respond would be to make your own list as, well, it’s all just a matter of opinion anyways.

I don’t think not including rankings is detrimental at all to the list. This isn’t separating the good from the best; this is listing the best of the best. Ranking the comics that come out in a single week makes sense because there is a wide range of quality. How do you rank a list that is purely the cream of the crop, though?

I agree that alphabetical doesn’t do much, however. It’d be a better list if the books were listed so that they thematically flow together (or show contrast between two books).

Q: Are we not men?

November 25, 2009 at 3:24 pm


awb
November 25, 2009 at 8:12 am

Maybe a lot of manga isn’t as good as people in this country think? Kind of like a lot of people think most superhero comics stink. I’m sure a couple of people here hold that sentiment.

A lot of manga IS shit.

So is a lot of superhero comics and so are a lot of alt comics. Sturgeons Law and all that.

But the topic is the best comics. The ones not covered by that law. This non American works being mostly ignored is a problem.

I really cannot understand why this is such an issue. This is a list published in the back page of an independent magazine, not the goddamned Eisner Awards. When I hear about the Eisner Awards, that’s when I expect a comprehensive summary of all the best that comic books have to offer; when I read the A.V. Club’s list of the decade’s best comics, I expect to read about comics that the small comic-reading staff of the A.V. Club happened to like. Really, the list’s harmless; it’s not like “The Onion” of all things is this major influence on the world of comics. No one considers it to be the ultimate comics authority, and I don’t think it’s trying to be that. It’s essentially a blurb, written by people who like comics to other people who might like the comics they like.

And either way, that list has some pretty decent comics! Sure, you might debate some selections, bring up your own selections, or say how some segments of comics are “underrepresented,” but I do not think that’s important here. I doubt that any non-comic reader would be offended by reading any of these books, given the oft chance that they were to use this list as a reading guide. There are books here that even I hadn’t heard of, and I appreciate that they went to the trouble of mentioning them. (That James Sturm book? And the Lynda Barry one? Those sound pretty interesting!)

The objection to this list seems to be that it doesn’t take itself seriously enough. Can I just put it out there, that maybe we’re the ones taking this list too seriously?

(None of this is to discredit the A.V. Club or their writers’ opinions; I just think it’s unfair to place all this responsibility on their relatively low-profile list.)

Do the words “best of” have any more meaning than “satisfaction guaranteed” on a dry cleaner’s window? Frankly, I’m glad the Onion staffer came out and said bluntly that manga was not his field of expertise. That’s honest. I prefer this to any misguided, under-informed attempt at inclusiveness that would result in, say, Witchblade Takeru being included on a list of top manga. (No offense, Image.) All that list says about manga is that the author doesn’t read it. Making this an issue would be giving way too much authority to every “Best Of” list, every “Best of the Year” anthology, every self-anointed internet Ebert.

Fellow Team Manga members, I implore you to let this one slide.

What Brian Nicholson said, really, although I’d add that the absence of manga on the list at least points to a bit of editorial laziness on The A.V. Club’s part – not just with regards to this list, but with their comics coverage in general. Six people reviewing comics, and not one of them manga savvy? If nothing else, it’s a missed opportunity.

Get over yourself, torture boy.

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