Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Graphic Lit: Best comics of 2008

Readers were rewarded with a wealth of stellar comics this year. There were so many good books, in fact, that attempting to group them in some sort of hierarchy could be a bit of a mug’s game.

Not that it’s going to stop me. As before, I thought I’d trot out what I hope will be my annual awards list, tentatively called “The Moxies.” (What? It was my nickname in college.)

Here then, organized into completely arbitrary categories in order for me to include as much good work as possible, are my picks for the best comics of 2008.

Best Original Graphic Novel: “What It Is” by Lynda Barry. This revealing and fearlessly original work deserves as much attention and accolades as it can get.

Runners-up: “Tamara Drewe” by Posey Simmonds, “The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard,” by Eddie Campbell, “Three Shadows” by Cyril Pedrosa, “Bottomless Belly Button” by Dash Shaw.

Best Debut: “Skyscrapers of the Midwest” by Josh Cotter. New cartoonists shouldn’t be able to create works so assured and emotionally devastating right out of the gate.

Runner-up: “Swallow Me Whole” by Nate Powell.

Best Collection of Previously Published Material: “Willie & Joe” by Bill Mauldin. Fantagraphics’ massive collection of Mauldin’s WWII work gives new generations the chance to experience it.

Runners-up: “The Explainers” by Jules Feiffer, “Breakdowns” by Art Spiegelman, “Where Demented Wented: The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes,” “Jamilti and Other Stories” by Rutu Modan.

Best memoir: “Little Nothings: the Curse of the Umbrella” by Lewis Trondheim. Master Trondheim once again shows how it’s done, this time providing a bit of navel-gazing that never becomes solipsistic.

Runners-up: “Paul Goes Fishing” by Michel Rabagliati, “Haunted” by Philippe Dupuy.

Best European Book: “Alan’s War” by Emmanuel Guibert. Guibert uses his friend’s ruminations to provide a unique look at WWII.

Runners-up: “The Rabbi’s Cat Vol. 2” by Joann Sfar, “Aya of Yop City” by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.

Best Manga: “Disappearance Diary” by Hideo Azuma. A chronicle of homelessness and alcoholism that refuses to be gloomy, “Diary” is perhaps the cutest story about despair you’ll ever read.

Runners-up: “Dororo” by Osamu Tezuka, “Cat-Eyed Boy” by Kazuo Umezu, “Red-Colored Elegy” by Seiichi Hayashi, “Good-Bye” by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

Best General Nonfiction Book: “Burma Chronicles” by Guy Delisle. Delisle chronicles his time spent in a far-off, oppressive country with enormous good humor and insight.

Best New Series: “Love and Rockets New Stories” by Jamie, Gilbert and Mario Hernandez. OK, it’s not a pamphlet and it’s not like the Hernandez brothers are new to the scene. I don’t care. I loved this comic.

Runners-up: “RASL” by Jeff Smith, “Glamourpuss” by Dave Sim.

Best Superhero Comic: “Omega the Unknown” by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple. Lethem and Dalrymple offer a decidedly off-kilter take on the traditional superhero tale.

Runners-up: “The Boys” by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

Best Kids Comic: “Optical Allusions” by Jay Hosler. Hosler drops science with visual aplomb and shows a knack for engaging small minds on tough subjects.

Runners-up: “Kaput & Zosky” by Lewis Trondheim, “Little Vampire” by Joann Sfar.

Best Comic Strip: “Cul de Sac” by Richard Thompson. I don’t care what y’all say. This is one of the funniest strips to come down the pike in years.

Runner-up: “Lio” by Mark Tatulli.

Best Book About Comics: “Most Outrageous: The Trials and Trespasses of Dwaine Tinsley and Chester the Molester” by Bob Levin. I didn’t get around to reviewing this in my column, but I’m recommending it now anyway. It’s a harrowing look at family, art and the legal system via the life of Tinsley, a Hustler cartoonist who found his envelope-pushing work used against him when he was accused of abusing his daughter.

Runners-up: “The Ten-Cent Plague” by David Hajdu, “Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front” by Todd DePastino, “Gary Panter,” edited by Dan Nadel.

Best Comic I Didn’t Get Around to Reviewing in this Column: “Travel” by Yuichi Yokoyama. Obsessed with motion to the point of abstraction, Yokoyama’s comics are unlike anything produced either in Japan or here in the U.S.

Runners-up: “Ganges #2” by Kevin Huizenga, “The Education of Hopey Glass” by Jamie Hernandez.

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