best of 2010
Awards | The National Cartoonists Society initiated a webcomics award last year, and this year the organization is splitting it in two, one for short-form works and one for long-form. The challenge with including webcomics, says NCS President Tom Richardson, is that to be eligible, creators must make the majority of their money from cartooning. “That isn’t an easy thing to quantify anymore. With online comics, we need to take into account site traffic, professionalism in consistent and regular publication, online community activity and other factors that are the hallmark of professional online work,” he says. “In some cases, it’s pretty obvious the creator is making a career out of cartooning. In some, it’s not so obvious.” [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Thursday’s news that DC Comics will replace the nearly 60-year-old Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval with its own rating system was followed on Friday by an announcement by Archie Comics that it, too, will drop the Code. The two were the last publishers to abandon the CCA — Marvel withdrew in 2001, Bongo just last year — which means that as of next month, the once-influential self-regulatory body created by the comics industry in the wake of the 1954 Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency will cease to exist. Before a series of revisions in 1971, the Code prohibited even the depictions of political corruption, or vampires and werewolves, and the use of the words “horror” or “terror” in titles.
Christopher Butcher wonders whether DC’s decision to drop the Code was made with an eye toward the bottom line, while Johanna Draper Carlson offers an overview of the CCA’s history. Elsewhere, Mike Sterling asks whether any retailers ever “experienced any kind of real-world impact of the Comics Code Authority?” And Tom Mason makes some tongue-in-cheek recommendations for DC’s new rating system, including “G – GREYING MAN-BOYS” and “R – REFRIGERATOR.” [Newsarama]
The latest episode of Robin McConnell’s indispensable comics podcast Inkstuds is a fun one: It’s a critics’ roundtable on the best comics of 2010, featuring Chris Butcher, Bill Kartalopoulos, and Tucker Stone. It’s a rare treat to hear any of these guys talk at length about great comics: Tucker is the busy manager of Brooklyn’s Bergen Street Comics and divides most of his writing time these days between film, music, and kicking the crap out of the latest Wednesday shipment; old-school comics blogospherian Chris has mostly moved away from criticism in favor of running Toronto’s beloved Beguiling comics shop and organizing TCAF; and Bill’s thoughts on comics are generally reserved for the lucky few who take his classes at Parsons, sit in on the panels he organizes and moderates for SPX and BCGF, or visit the comic art exhibitions he curates. To hear the three of them bat around the likes of Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza, Brecht Evens’s The Wrong Place, Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld, Blaise Larmee’s Young Lions, the comics of Michael DeForge, Charles Burns’s X’ed Out, and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’s Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 is to hear three great comics minds pull apart what worked — and what didn’t — in some of the year’s most notable and forward-looking releases. Standout moments include Bill’s point on how improved color reproduction has given artists the freedom to do more with color than simply filling in the lines, Chris’s admission that he’s just never been in the right place to read Footnotes, and Tucker’s arguments for why both of Los Bros Hernandez handed in some of their best-ever work in the latest L&R.
The third annual rundown of the best covers of the year features 50 images — oh, okay, 51 — representing the work of some 46 different artists (plus inkers, colorists and designers) from nine publishers.
Returning artists like Chris Bachalo, Dave Johnson, Sean Phillips and Yuko Shimizu are joined on this year’s list by “new” names like Kody Chamberlain, Camilla D’Errico, Amy Reeder and Drew Weing. (You can peruse the previous years’ lists here and here.)
As in the past, I’ve tried to explain the appeal of each entry; some covers get just a sentence, while others receive entire paragraphs. That doesn’t reflect the quality of the image, but merely what I have to say about it.
Note: While last year’s list included five manga covers, this year features none. I’m not sure whether that’s a byproduct of the contraction of the manga market, a sign of a shift in cover quality — among manga or Western comics — or a shortcoming on my part (if it’s the latter, I’ll own up to it; however, after several excursions in search of manga candidates, I found none that I felt qualified as among the 50 best.)
With that out of the way, I present, in alphabetical order, the 50 best covers of 2010:
Publishing | Sales of comics, graphic novels and magazines to comic stores declined slightly in 2010, slipping 3.5 percent from 2009, according to a year-end report released Thursday by Diamond Comic Distributors. John Jackson Miller’s estimate places the North American market at between $410 million and $420 million, down from the 2008 peak of $437 million.
Marvel again emerged as the top publisher, leading the market in both dollar and unit sales. May’s Avengers #1 was the top-selling periodical, followed by X-Men #1, Blackest Night #8, Siege #1 and Blackest Night #7. As expected, The Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim dominated the graphic novel and trade paperback list, taking eight of the Top 10 spots (the remaining two went to the Kick-Ass premium hardcover and Superman: Earth One). [Diamond Comic Distributors]
Retailing | As the financially troubled Borders Group met Tuesday with publishers in hopes of converting delayed payments into interest-bearing debt, the bookseller’s larger rival Barnes & Noble expressed concerns that could complicate negotiations. “We think the playing field should be even,” B&N spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said in a statement. “We expect publishers to offer same terms to all other booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers. We fully expect publisher’s will require Borders to pay their bills on the same basis upon which all other booksellers pay theirs. Any changes in publishers terms should be made available to all.” Meanwhile, Reuters considers what the closing of Borders’ 600 stores would mean to the book industry. [The New York Times, Publishers Weekly]
Conventions | Comiket 79, the winter installment of the self-published comic book fair held twice a year in Tokyo, set a turnstile attendance record last week with 520,000 people over three days. That’s just 20,000 less than the summer record — and the equivalent of about four Comic-Cons. [Anime News Network]
Legal | Archie Comics reportedly has threatened legal action against the in-production Indian film Boys Toh Boys Hain, which, according to this description, is “based on the lines of the celebrated [Archie] comic book but set in Delhi instead of Riverdale.” However, the director now claims that, “We never made any statement which suggested that the film is inspired from Archie comics. One of my actors may have said in an interview that the film has a feel similar to Archie, but never that the film is based on it.” The publisher was dealt a blow in an unrelated legal matter in September when India’s Delhi High Court refused to hear a complaint challenging the use of the name “Archies” by a Mumbai company. The court said it had no jurisdiction in the matter because Archie Comics doesn’t have an office in India. [Hindustan Times]
As I said in my intro for our big birthday bash, it’s been a great year for kick ass comics, from Grant Morrison’s tales of various Batmen to the all-ages joy of Thor the Mighty Avenger to the physically stunning Acme Novelty Library.
Here, then, are the best comics of 2010, as chosen by the Robot 6 team.
10. All My Darling Daughters: Fumi Yoshinaga’s collection of short stories about families and relationships is quirky, funny, and filled with rich detail and gesture. She can say more in three panels than some writers say in three pages of prose. This is a mature work by a supremely gifted creator.
9. Twin Spica: A lovely manga about a young girl who wants to be an astronaut, Twin Spica stretches outside the usual boundaries of children’s stories and has moments of true poetry and grace. Kou Yaginuma’s art goes far beyond the usual standards of manga, creating unforgettable characters and settings that really draw the reader in.
8. Drinking at the Movies: With a sharp eye and plenty of self-deprecating humor, Julia Wertz chronicles her first year in New York, a year of crappy jobs, terrible apartments, and good friends. Wertz is a great raconteur who manages to be entertaining and a bit deep at the same time.
7. Set to Sea: The story of a would-be poet who is shanghaied and learns about life at sea the hard way, Set to Sea is drawn in a series of single panels, each of which is a miniature masterpiece on its own. It’s a singularly economical way of telling a story, and Drew Weing makes each of his panels into a tight little world of its own.
On this, the final day of 2010, we have one more roundup of best-of — and one worst-of — list from across the comics Internet:
• Johanna Draper Carlson names the 10 best graphic novels of 2010 — Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, and Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden, among them — plus eight runners-up.
• Robot 6 contributor Sean T. Collins’ list of the 20 best comics of the year includes Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches, Grant Morrison’s Batman comics, and Chris Wares’ Acme Novelty Library #20.
• Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Outfit and Jason’s Werewolves of Montpellier make The Casual Optimist’s list of favorite new books of 2010.
• Jim Rugg and Brian Marcua’s Afrodisiac and Neal Adams’ Batman: Odyssey are among Matt Seneca’s Top 10 comics.
• Dave Ferraro picks the Top 20 comics of the year, including Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica, Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground, and Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting, Vol. 2.
• Comics Alliance names the five worst comics of 2010.
• At Inside Pulse, Grey Scherl looks at the Top 10 things DC Comics did right in 2010.
At least that’s my takeaway from Alex Dueben’s excellent interview with Farmer for Comic Book Resources — and given the book’s extremely intimate subject matter of the cartoonist caring for her aging parents as their health declined leading up to their deaths, I’m not surprised.
CBR News: What was it like putting together a graphic novel for the first time? You’ve made many comics in the past, but a project this large is something else.
Joyce Farmer: First of all, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Second, I didn’t really know how to write something like this. I don’t consider myself a writer. It was overwhelming, and because it was overwhelming, it took me thirteen years. I would work and get to a certain point and then get overwhelmed both by the problem of putting my parents on paper and by the problem of a book. Then I wouldn’t work for as much as a year and then I’d beat myself up that I’d figured out this wonderful book and should get going before somebody else thought of it or it wouldn’t be of interest. Because the book is set in a certain number of years, named years in the book, I couldn’t let it go on forever, although I nearly did.
It was overwhelming. I think these younger people who do graphic memoirs seem to use a lot of paper and ink to say very little and it takes them quite awhile [to say it]. I’m not saying what they say is not worthwhile, I’m just saying that they’re not as condensed as I intended to be. It was way more work than I ever thought. Every time I’d get the book to a certain point, like the first drawing, somebody would suggest something that would be so obviously needed, I would have to go through the whole book and fix it. Then later when I’m inking, the same type of thing happened.
The first thirty-five pages I threw away after they were inked. I started completely over.
Dang. Special Exits ranked #29 on CBR’s countdown of the Top 100 Comics of 2010, and as I said in my write-up, it made me cry. Please do check it out, and read the whole interview, too.
Another day closer to 2011, another volley of best-of-2010 lists:
• Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker includes Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Outfit, Joyce Farmer’s Special Exits and Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams’ Batwoman: Elegy on his list of the 10 best graphic novels and comics of 2010.
• MTV Geek rounds up a cross-section of comics creators, from Camilla d’Errico and Michel Fiffe to Paul Grist and Joe Eisma, to name their top three comics of the year.
• In The Oklahoman, writer and retailer Matt Price names the 10 best graphic novels of the year, a list topped by Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Oufit and Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 6.
• Writing for Las Vegas Weekly, J. Caleb Mozzocco selects his top five comics of 2010: Lynda Barry’s Picture This, Pablo Holmberg’s Eden, Cathy Malkasian’s Temperance, Julia Gfrörer’s Flesh and Bone, and Jason’s Werewolves of Montpellier.
• At Savage Critics, Graeme McMillan names Justice League of America as his 2010 guilty pleasure.
• At Inside Pulse, Grey Scherl lists the Top 10 this Marvel did right in 2010.
With just a few days remaining in 2010, the best-of-the-year lists are springing up like mushrooms after the rain. Here’s just a selection of what’s appeared this week:
• NPR’s Glen Weldon recalls the comics “that got their hooks into me this year,” including James Sturm’s Market Day, Drew Weing’s Set to Sea, Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger, and Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream.
• Deb Aoki surveys more than two dozen year-end lists to arrive at the critics’ choice for the best manga of 2010.
• At comiXology, Tucker Stone names the 20 best comics of the year, including Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s Afrodisiac, Grant Morrison and Frazier Irving’s Batman and Robin #13, and Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto, Vol. 7.
• Johanna Draper Carlson selects the best manga of 2010, divided into categories like best new manga, best continuing manga and best completed manga.
• Writing for Wired’s Underwire blog, Lore Sjöberg spotlights the year’s best new webcomics.
• Writing for Jezebel, Kelly Thompson concludes her countdown of the 20 best female creators of 2010, with the Top 10 occupied by the likes of Amanda Conner, Faith Erin Hicks, Becky Cloonan and Kate Beaton.
• At Topless Robot, Jay Barish names the five best and five worst comics of the year.
Legal | Two Los Angeles men accused of selling counterfeit passes to this year’s Comic-Con International have pleaded guilty to theft and were placed on probation for three years. Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, both 24, were each ordered to pay a $750 fine, complete 10 days of community service and pay restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors say the two photocopied Comic-Con badges and sold them on Craigslist to people looking for last-minute memberships. They were arrested in July after two of their victims attempted to enter the convention using the counterfeit badges, which the women bought for $120 each. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Technology | Tech blog Chip Chick names DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as one of its “Top 13 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010.” [Chip Chick]
Publishing | DC Comics will roll out a marketing campaign next month in support of its new $2.99 price initiative. The campaign, apparently revealed in a communique to retailers, will include online banners, ads in January issues of Comics Buyer’s Guide, Comic Shop News and Wizard, in-book ads, and in-store posters, shelf talkers and cards. [Crimson Monkey]
Libraries | The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation has pledged $250,000 over five years to the new Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum facility, part of the Sullivant Hall renovation at The Ohio State University. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Broadway | The father of Christopher Tierney, the 31-year-old aerialist who fell a week ago during a performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, offers a full account of his son’s injuries: a hairline fracture in his skull, a broken scapula, a broken bone close to his elbow, four broken ribs, a bruised lung and three fractured vertebrae. Timothy Tierney said his son underwent back surgery on Wednesday, and took his first steps on Friday with the aid of a brace and walker. Doctors are “cautiously optimistic” that Christopher Tierney will eventually resume his performing career. [Arts Beat]
Broadway | The Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark canceled both Wednesday performances to test new safety measures following the Monday-night fall that left a stuntman hospitalized with broken ribs and internal bleeding. The cancellation of the sold-out evening show was announced just three hours before showtime at the Foxwoods Theatre. Tonight’s performance is expected to go on as planned.
Producers and creators met privately on Tuesday with the entire company to address safety concerns about the $65-million musical, the most expensive and technically complex in Broadway history. Although accidents in theater productions aren’t uncommon, it’s unusual for there to be four injuries before a show has officially opened. MTV offers some context. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]