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It’s time once again for our annual look at six books that were, for whatever reason, unjustly ignored by the public and critical cognoscenti at large. With all the titles that are published lately, it’s no real surprise that some books fall through the cracks, though in certain cases it seems grossly unwarranted.
After the jump are six books that, while they may not have made my “best of 2011″ list, I think got nowhere near the amount of attention they deserved. There are lots more that I could include if I had the time. I’m sure there are books you read this year that you don’t think got enough praise either. Be sure to let me know what they are in the comments section.
The news spread rather rapidly over the comics blogs this week that Dylan Williams, cartoonist and publisher of Sparkplug Comic Books, is seriously ill and in need of financial aid (i.e. please purchase some Sparkplug books).
Though they arguably haven’t always gotten as much attention as PictureBox or Drawn & Quarterly, Sparkplug has been one of the most interesting small press publishers in recent years, releasing challenging, striking work from many new and up and coming cartoonists.
Lots of people are making recommendations on what to get, but if you’re on the fence about purchasing something from the Sparkplug shop, or just plain don’t know what book to buy, I thought I’d add my own two cents with a short run down of some of my own personal favorites.
Since 1992, the Xeric Foundation, founded by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, has awarded grants to comic creators that allowed them bring their comics to the world. Late last week Laird announced that the foundation would stop providing grants to amateur creators, noting that “the advent of essentially free web publishing has forever altered the way aspiring comic book creators can get their work out into the public eye.” The foundation will instead devote its grant funds to charitable organizations.
The barriers to entry for getting your comic work out in front of people may have changed, but as Sean Kleefeld points out, the Xeric Foundation provided another benefit to comic fans. “…here’s why I’ll miss the Xerics: they have been an incredibly powerful shorthand for identifying great comics,” he wrote on his blog. “Oh, there’s other comic awards out there, of course, but those always come across as hit or miss for me. Just because a comic won a Harvey or an Eisner or whatever doesn’t mean I’ll really enjoy or appreciate it. But the Xerics, I’ve found, are consistently high quality and enjoyable. I have yet to read a Xeric-winning book that I didn’t enjoy, a claim I can’t make regarding the Eisners.”
So when I threw out the idea to do a Six by 6 list highlighting some of our favorite Xeric Foundation recipients over the years, I didn’t realize what I was asking; it didn’t register just how many completely awesome creators out there have benefited from the grant. So, when I say “Six Xeric Foundation grant recipients we love,” that’s not to say that they are the only ones we love. Hell, just throw all the names in a hat and pick out six, and you’ll have a list just as legitimate as this one.
Also, it was interesting to see how my fellow bloggers interpreted my request for entries for this list; while some, like Chris Mautner, did what I was expecting and talked about what one of their favorites went on to do after receiving the grant, others reached out to some of them to get their thoughts on the discontinuation of the grants. So the content of the list is … varied.
As always feel free to share thoughts on some of your favorites in the comments section. You can find a list of all the recipients here.
As we noted a week ago, Sam Humphries and Steven Sanders self-published a science fiction comic called Our Love Is Real, which subsequently sold out in print in nine hours. A second print is on the way (that’s the cover you see to the right) and it’s still available digitally through their website or comiXology.
Humphries, a former Robot 6 guest contributor and my fellow panel member in San Diego next week, agreed to share a list of what he considers to be some of the great science fiction comics. Note that he chose not to use the words “best” or “favorite” to describe the list. “‘Favorite’ or ‘best’ implies more commitment than I’m ready to give,” he said.
So without further ado …
Six great science fiction comics, by Sam Humphries
1. AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo
A giant of science fiction, often imitated, never surpassed. At its heart is a tale of a bromance gone wrong, two best friends who carve their years of brotherhood and resentment across Tokyo, Japan, and the Moon. The anime adaptation is superlative, but the manga, sprawled across six thick volumes of meticulously drawn, hi-octane pages, is a true monumental achievement. I’ll be gunning for this No. 1 spot ’til I die. G.O.A.T.
Cartoonists rarely produce great work right out of the starting gate. It usually it takes lots of time and lots of effort for an artist to hone their style and storytelling abilities. Debut comics — even those made by the greats — rarely offer any indication of what type of treasures lie ahead. Even Chris Ware had to make Floyd Farland before he could produce Jimmy Corrigan.
Still, sometimes a cartoonist seems to spring out of the sea foam fully formed, producing a work that not only draws attention and great buzz, but also indicates exactly where they’re headed — what direction they plan to take as an artist and what you as a reader can expect from them.
Here then, are six debut comics that made people go “Who the heck is this guy? And why haven’t I heard of him before?” I’m sure I missed someone. I always do. Be a dear and let me know who I forgot in the comments section, won’t you?
Less discussed is their vast array manga publications and the aesthetic qualities that may or may not lie therein. Having offered a memorial of sorts to the Mome anthology last week, it seemed only fitting to do something similar for the house that Sailor Moon built today.
But first an apology/explanation of sorts. The honest truth is I came a bit late to the manga revolution and didn’t immerse myself much in Tokyopop’s oeuvre, not because of a dislike towards shojo or manga in general as much as a general feeling that most of their offerings were heavily contrived and derivative, whether aimed at a male audience or a female one.
Also, my budget being what it is, there were plenty of titles I missed that I probably would have included on this list had I had the resources to track them down, like Aria and Happy Mania. Consider this more of a starting point for an ongoing conversation then, and feel free in the comments section me know what an idiot I am and what books I missed.
So taking all that into consideration, here are the six titles that I feel justified Tokyopop’s existence:
One of the more notable news stories of the week was the announcement by Mome editor (and Fantagraphics co-publisher) Eric Reynolds that the quarterly anthology would come to an end with the release of the 22nd volume later this year.
The series has had a rather remarkable and distinguished run since its inception in 2005. In addition to featuring work by such notable cartoonists like Jim Woodring and Gilbert Hernandez, it’s served as a publishing venue to highlight the work of up and coming artists like Laura Park, Tom Kaczynski and Sara Edward-Corbett, as well as introduce American readers to work by notable European creators like Emile Bravo and Sergio Ponchione.
As a memorial of sorts for the anthology’s oncoming demise, I thought I’d attempt to put together a quick list of my own favorite stories from Mome. This was a tough list to put together actually, and there are a number of names I feel a bit guilty for leaving off, but I’m sure you all can duly chastise me for my omissions in the comments section.
MTV Geek recently ran a list of their 7 Best Superheroes of the Seven Seas and it got me thinking, as these things are designed to do. I love ocean-adventure comics and appreciate the topic, but on a list of superheroes, I think we can do better than One Piece and Last Airbender. Those are great characters; they’re just not superheroes. Superhero comics are full of fantastic, undersea heroes, so this is my list. To open up spots for some lesser-known (if not exactly obscure) characters, I decided to leave off the obvious Sub-Mariner and Aquaman. We can agree that they deserve to be here; I’m just not confident that I have anything new to say about them.
I worried at first about picking seven characters for a Six by 6 column, but since the precedent has been set…here they are in reverse order:
The Inhumans are a weird, mixed bag of characters. Medusa and Lockjaw are awesome, but Gorgon and Karnak? Not so much. Others – like Black Bolt and Crystal – are entirely dependent on who’s writing them. Triton’s one of the great ones though. An outsider amongst outsiders, Triton wears his strangeness right out there where it counts: on his skin. There’s something awesomely underdoggy about characters who can’t blend in with “normal” people and Triton gets props for not only being a fish-man, but looking like one too.
It’s the end of an era. B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: Gods #3 hits stores today, the final issue of the long-running Hellboy spinoff’s latest miniseries — and with it, the tenure of Guy Davis as the series’ regular artist draws to a close. Davis will be returning for the occasional project in Mike Mignola’s unique horror-adventure universe, and everyone involved gives his replacement, near-overnight success story Tyler Crook, their vote of confidence; given Mignola and company’s track record in selecting artists, from Davis to Duncan Fegredo to Richard Corben, I’m inclined to take them at their word. Even so, as I wrote at length the other day, Davis’ work on B.P.R.D with Mignola, lead writer John Arcudi, and colorist Dave Stewart (not to mention letterer Clem Robins and editor Scott Allie) has been one of the past decade’s absolute high-water marks for superhero (or supernatural action, if you prefer) comics. From sadness to spectacle, horror to humor, stunning creature designs to quiet character moments, there was pretty much nothing the guy couldn’t do.
In honor of Davis, Arcudi, Mignola, and Stewart’s remarkable achievement, I’ve selected a suite of my favorite moments from the Guy Davis era of B.P.R.D.. And in honor of the Ogdru Jahad, the Seven-Who-Are-One dark gods whose rise the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is battling (perhaps in vain) to stop, I’ve expanded the list past our usual “Six by 6″ format to include seven stunning scenes. My hope is that they showcase the range, subtlety, sophistication, and power of one of the best artists working in genre comics — arguably in all of comics — today, and highlight just how well he and his collaborators worked together. Just be warned: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Today’s Six by 6 sprang out of a recent post Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon did on five of his favorite superhero fights. It’s a pretty excellent list and made me want to come up with my own, though I thought I might see if I could expand it a bit by staying away from the superhero genre and moving into other realms. What great fights could I find in the world of manga or alt-comix, I wondered?
Turns out I didn’t have to look too far. I should note though that this list is by no means definitive — it’s simply a list of six comic book battles that I like a whole lot. I’ve probably forgotten some. Actually I’ve probably forgotten plenty. Feel free to let me know what I’ve overlooked in the comments section.
Like you, I’m all a-twitter about the release of those Carl Barks books from Fantagraphics later this year. (you are a-twitter, aren’t you?) Not to mention Craig Thompson’s Habibi, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, Chester Brown’s Paying for It and that Grant Morrison Multiversity mini-series. And, hey, maybe we’ll even see the first volume of Pogo! Yep, by any yardstick, it seems like 2011 promises to be another year of really great releases.
But, even beyond the big-name titles and huge company crossovers, there are a number of comics and graphic novels arriving in stores this year that warrant further attention. They may have not have garnered much of your notice, since they’re not attached to a well-known creator or license or come from overseas. Here then, are six such books, all due this year, all of which I’m willing to bet good money aren’t on your radar, but should be. As usual, be sure to note any books you’re excited about but haven’t generated much buzz yet in the comments section.
1) The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics). If you’ve had the lucky opportunity to read Schrauwen’s My Boy, or perused his work in the anthology Mome, then you’ll know this Belgian artist is the real deal — a true, utterly unique and frequently inspired cartoonist who draws upon century-old cartooning styles (McCay, Outcault) to create something contemporary and frequently bizarre. This is the first American collection of Schrauwen’s work and I’m really excited to see him reach a potentially wider audience. Actually, I’m just excited to read more of an artist I’ve only been able to catch in dribs and drabs.
It happens every year. Amidst all the hullaballoo of the big-name releases and show-stopping events and sleeper hits there are those titles that, for whatever reason, fail to generate any reviews, discussion or sales (or in some cases all three) whatsoever. 2010 was no exception. In fact, the wealth of stellar material that was released this year made it seem like there were an extraordinary number of great comics that garnered not even a peep from the blogosphere and press.
After the jump are six books that I think got nowhere near the amount of attention they deserved. There are lots more that I could include if I had the time. And I’m sure there are books that you read that you don’t think got enough praise as well. Be sure to let me know what they are in the comments section.
Dirty comics have been around almost as long as the medium itself. No doubt a few years after the Yellow Kid first appeared, some wiseacre created a Tijuana Bible of him getting busy with Buster Brown’s mom.
Sadly, most of the sex comics produced over the years are awful, dreary affairs — works that either feature abysmal art and writing or indulge in such ugly stereotypes (or both), so that you feel ashamed for all the people involved, including yourself for having read the thing.
But there are a few gems amidst the x-rated dross. Below are six smut-laden books that, while you may not want to be caught reading them on the bus, can proudly display on your bookshelf without embarrassment.
I had a couple of self-imposed rules with this one. First of all, the comic had to be sexually explicit. Second, it had to be primarily designed to titillate the reader, thus nixing darker, serious work like Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life.
Also, I’m sure there are plenty of books I’m forgetting about (catering to my own tastes, there’s a focus on heterosexual fare here), so feel free to mention your own particular favorites in the comments section. You naughty thing you.
Finally, while I’ve tried to keep everything below the jump relatively safe for work, I can’t promise that all the links will be PG-rated, so caveat emptor.
Horror comics fans have plenty of material to choose from when looking for a good, scary read this Halloween. Even if we just confine ourselves to manga (since, as we all know, the Japanese cartoonists excel at scaring the pants off their readers), there are plenty of options, from grand guginol pieces like MDP-Psycho or Ultra Gash Inferno, to more traditional, semi-bloody, spooky fare like Presents or Mail. Still, there are plenty of great, terrifying, mind-blowing manga that would delight the hardcore American horrorist if only some enterprising publisher would make an attempt at publishing them. Here are just six titles that I’d like to see translated and released in book form some time in the near future:
(Note: A potentially NSFW image lurks beneath the jump)
Editor’s note: As a part of Robot 666 Week, we welcome guest contributor Van Jensen, writer of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and its upcoming sequel.
by Van Jensen
I was on a panel with Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson to discuss horror comics earlier this year, and I admitted that I didn’t really like horror as a genre. I can’t even see a trailer for Saw MCXVII (or whatever number they’re up to) without feeling repulsed. But Steve and Bernie talked me down from the ledge. The problem isn’t so much with the horror genre, it’s with the trend of comics and movies that use gore as a substitute for real fright. So here’s my list of favorite horror comics and films, and they’re all projects that rely heavily on atmosphere and thrills (the real hallmarks of horror) rather than buckets of blood.
1. House, by Josh Simmons.
Simmons’ debut graphic novel is a relatively simple story, with three teenagers exploring a giant old house in the woods. Things go wrong, which is predictable, but in an unpredictable way. Simmons uses no words through the entire story, but his real accomplishment is utilizing the design of the pages to deliver an increasingly claustrophobic, disorienting and terrifying story.