the decade: graphic novels

Monday, January 11, 2010 by Chris

no joke, david mazzucchelli's asterios polyp might be the greatest graphic novel to come out in the past decade, and is on a very short list of all time great graphic novels. this is on some serious scott mccloud, understanding comics, epic boner sort of shit and i cannot hyperbolate emphatically enough about it.


this will so make you cry.


alex robinson really gets relationships. all of his work i've come across really presents unique and interesting human connections so completely (sadness and joy alike), and this is handily his peak, though check too cool to be forgotten for a condensed version of all of the abilities he has at his disposal.


this brick of a graphic novel clocks in at over 700 pages, but flies by in a couple hours tops, but i have yet to feel any buyers remorse. it's something of an inarguable fact that all families are fucked up in some small way or other (at best) and that they are wholly inescapable, and dash shaw pretty much nails a lot of the emotional nuances that go along with each of the characters in this family in turmoil.


truly terrific coming of age story from dan clowes that everyone who gives a shit about comics has to have read. excellent characters and pitch perfect in just about every detail. thank god the movie (directed by crumb documentarian terry zwigoff) ended up being such an awesome counterpart (i hesitate to call it an adaptation) and even ended up on my films of the year list, for those who are keeping track.

GEORGE SPROTT: (1894-1975)

seth does loneliness and malaise, two ubiquitous subjects in graphic novels, better than just about anyone else, and this is such a grand example of what he's capable of.


something about the graphic novel as a medium lends itself so easily to memoir storytelling, and this is one of the best. like a non fiction bottomless bellybutton in some ways. allison bechdel has an amazing grasp of how to tell a truly touching and personal visual narrative.


using the graphic novel format as journalism is such a contradictory thing to pursue since journalism demands extreme immediacy and joe sacco's ornate artworks require such investment, but since he's dealing with a conflict that i doubt even i will live to see the absolute end of, it remains very prescient. a truly passionate and humanistic and generally objective take on all things israel/palestine circa early 90s.


the cartooniness of chester brown's art combined with the semi-revisionist historical story of louis riel is really great while still maintaining the substance and historical value of the story itself.


there's something to be said for indy comics constantly dealing with truly depressing topics, and jimmy corrigan might be the absolute pinnacle of this wallowing in the deep well of sadness otherwise known as the human experience. while the story is sad it's ultimately beautifully told, but the real gift bestowed here is the insane amount of actual design work articulated by chris ware. for example, the original hardcover had a dust jacket that contained within its folds a fully functioning papercraftable jimmy corrigan for you to cut out and paste together.


for me, james kolchalka was a singer long before he became a comic artist. me and my friends listened to monkey versus robot throughout most of our high school freshman year, and then we discovered he had some crazy comics available. this is a collection of his one a day comic journals he's been keeping since the late 90s and veer from various degrees of hilarity, cuteness and sadness.


i'm a sucker for well crafted absurd and surreal humor, and michael kupperman is a master of it, perfectly melding zany premises (sex blimp!) with perfectly remembered pulp-americana. a mad genius masterpiece.


like a lot of people, i got into jason lutes when jar of fools got name checked to the stratosphere by scott mccloud in understanding comics. as good as jar of fools was (you should seriously read it up if you haven't yet) berlin turned everything on top of itself. in some ways, lutes is a bit of a cartoonists cartoonist given the extreme subtlety of much of his visual flairs, but it's all there if you're looking for it. can't wait for him to wrap this thing up.


underground comics legend kim deitch touches on a ton of my pleasure centers, not the least of which being my childhood obsession with mad magazine artists. trippy little story here that finds a place on this list due to sheer originality combined with a perfectly matched artistic style.


there were a bunch of anthologies that hit the market this decade, and for my money, this is one of first shots and still the best. chris ware edited it, and like all things mcsweeney's, it's a homerun. quality articles about george harriman and charles schultz pepper the book, and the whole thing's wrapped in a surprise filled unfoldable dustjacket. tons of fun but with a hint of the academic at the same time.


while the best american comics series does a great job with anthologizing graphic fiction, i'm pulling for brunetti's sets overall. like mcsweeney's, he provides such a perfectly well rounded collection of wide ranging visual and narative styles, from the most straight forward to the avantest of gardes, but in context they make up a wholistic look at graphic fiction of ther past decade while simultaneously giving a glimpse of what the future holds. top notch stuff.
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