Best of the 2000s
How did you spend your New Year’s holiday weekend? Gorging on football? Partying with family and friends? Sleeping off a wicked hangover? We here at Robot 6 celebrated in our own special way. You see, while January 1st marked the start of a new year and a new decade, January 2nd was our first anniversary. And thanks to all our friends in the comics industry — not to mention Comic Book Resources head honcho Jonah Weiland, who handed us the reins to the CBR homepage on Saturday — we rang it in in style.
Just in case you were out gallivanting for the last few days, here’s a round-up of all the fresh content we posted during the long holiday weekend. Consider it our way of saying thank you to you, the Robot 6 readers, without whom none of this would be possible!
* In a two-part series, we crowned The 30 Most Important Comics of the Decade. Here’s part one; here’s part two. The list includes superheroes, manga, webcomics, classics, alternative comics, Eurocomics, autobio, political cartoons — the whole gamut of our art form in this momentous decade. And judging from our Robot-to-Robot transmissions, these are the R6 crew’s favorite posts in a long long time. Click to see what made the cut and why.
As 2009 draws to a close we’re practically awash in Best Comics of the Year and/or Decade lists. But when it comes to breaking down the books that made a difference this decade, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and a pair of sites have developed novel approaches to the traditional decade-ender.
First up is Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter. This year he’s aiming his annual Holiday Interview Series squarely at “emblematic” books from 2000-2009 — “by which we mean favorite, representative or just plain great” — by hosting discussions with a series of critics, each one focusing on one particular book. So far he’s tackled Mat Brinkman’s monster-mash Multiforce with writer/artist/critic/bon vivant Frank Santoro, and Craig Thompson’s rapturous romance ‘n’ religion memoir Blankets with me. Further installments will roll out on (I believe) a daily basis until the New Year. If you’re the sort of person who loves to really dig into what makes a great graphic novel tick, these are for you.
Next we have Marvel’s Ben Morse, DC’s Rickey Purdin, and CBR’s own Kiel Phegley, who collectively park their online presence at The Cool Kids Table. In their ongoing look back entitled “Our Comics Decade,” the trio take a look at one comic per year that impacted their view of the medium. So far they’ve covered 2000, 2001, and 2002, and recounted their experiences with books ranging from Scott Lobdell’s Uncanny X-Men to Jeffrey Brown’s Clumsy. Personal and aesthetic history have a tendency to mix and match in unexpected and interesting ways, and it’s fascinating to watch these guys spill the beans on how it happened in their lives in such a methodical way.
So go, click the links and curl up with (a good post on) a good book…
We’ve already linked to Tucker Stone’s decade-in-review piece for ComiXology. But I’m happy to do so again because of this elegantly simple three-graf summary of what the ’00s meant for the various strands of North American comics. Seriously, top this, pundits:
Although it would be hard to look at the last ten years of comics and see much of the decade’s woes frankly expressed, it’s not hard to see the seams of conflict that float beneath them. Marvel spent its time messing around with the same sort of surface-y relevance that used to be the purview of the 70′s clunky DC Comics about race relations and drug abuse comics, with stories like Civil War that could be seen as an exaggerated version of Red Staters versus Blue Staters. (Or Secret Invasion‘s religious nuts are a-coming. Or Dark Reign, which was probably planned by a group who assumed America wasn’t gonna Choose Hopefully.)
DC went in a different direction, embracing the public’s love for nostalgia mixed with Will Ferrell’s adult man-child films, and started telling various kids’ Crisis stories with hard R plot twists. Manga publishers underestimated their audience, then overestimated it, and are now currently in the throes of figuring out how big, exactly, it is. Companies like Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly kept their toes in the new, but found that the market for high-priced reprints of classic comics was strong enough to make a Comics Criterion Collection viable.
And down at the bottom, abandoned by a distribution center that didn’t care, tiny publishing houses carved out a business carrying unedited works of self-expression, depending on the Ignored Masterpiece rating doled out by the blogosphere to sell off their 200-count print-run. Webcomics became an actual opportunity for creators to make a living outside of the direct market.
Now, the meat of the piece ends up being, more or less, that critical discourse is irrelevant (this is a theme of Tucker’s), and that the real movers and shakers of comics in the ’00s were the readers who suddenly made a wide variety of modes of expression in this medium viable simply by buying and reading what they enjoyed. But if you ask me, Tucker’s deadly accurate encapsulations of Marvel, DC, manga, alternative comics, reprints, artcomix, and webcomics sorta invalidate the argument that arguments are invalid. (The Criterion Collection comparison is a killer.) Read the whole thing — including the rather glorious concluding list of good ol’ fashioned good comics — and see what you think.
Earlier 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.
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.