Analysis: Rob Clough’s Top 100 Comics of the ’00s Part Two (of Two)

Posted by on February 11th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Cont. from Part One.

26. Spaniel Rage, by Vanessa Davis (Buenaventura Press). Davis is the best young memoirist in comics, with her free-flowing page design, expressionist character design and sharp wit creating not just an account of Davis’ life, but painting a vivid picture of a particular time and place.

27. Eiland #4, by Tobias Tycho Schalken & Stefan JH Van Dinther (Bries). A stunningly beautiful two-man anthology, with Schalken’s “Balthazar” and Van Dinther’s “CHRZ” taking opposite but complementary approaches. Both serialized these stories in this anthology, and both are wordless, but Van Dinther uses a Ware-like, comics-as-map approach while Schalken employs a more painterly style while still using unusual points of view. The packaging and presentation of this issue (with each story unfolding on opposite sides of accordioned pieces of cardboard) was remarkably intricate and aesthetically pleasing.

28. Bookhunter, by Jason Shiga (Sparkplug Comic Books). Shiga’s library-police procedural was an affectionate nod to a certain kind of ‘70s cop show, with the key difference being that it took place in a world where there was a division of the police that dealt solely with book-related crimes. The book works both as a genuine genre thriller and a hilarious send-up of same.

29. The Mother’s Mouth, by Dash Shaw (Alternative). Still my favorite of Shaw’s comics, it’s a fascinating bit of character work, dealing with the ways in which two people dealt with lives in regression. It’s a key work for Shaw in that it was still jam-packed with unusual and experimental images and techniques, but they were all used in the service of its characters.

30. The Complete Peanuts Vol.1, by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics). This strip is the reason why I started loving comics, and unlike most of the things I enjoyed as a child, Peanuts has lost none of its appeal upon reevaluating it as an adult. I chose the first volume of the series not because these were the best strips, but because it was such a revelatory experience to see Schulz play around with the form of his strip so much, and with so many strips that had never been reprinted up until that point.

31. Kampung Boy, by Lat (First Second). A work of sheer cartooning delight from one of the greatest masters of the medium, this affectionate look back at Lat’s youth living in a riverside village is bursting with moments of humor, pathos and lives in motion. There’s a wistfulness at work here, as Lat knows that his life will never quite be the same away from his kampung, but that makes it no less joyful an experience for him to relate or us to read.

32. Dungeon: Zenith Vol. 1, by Lewis Trondheim & Joann Sfar (NBM): My favorite genre comic of all time. Trondheim & Sfar cook up a story whose overarching complexity makes sagas like Lord of the Rings look straightforward, yet also do it in a way that affectionately spoofs fantasy epics and their bombastic nature. Trondheim’s artwork and character design, using anthropomorphic animals, adds to both the humor and action.

33. Hey, Wait… , by Jason (Fantagraphics). Jason’s U.S. debut is never quite what the reader thinks. It starts as a series of quotidian experiences of two teenaged boys during the lazy days of summer, becomes something bleaker in the middle, and then resolves itself with some unusual, symbolic imagery toward the end. It’s solemn and shattering but entirely restrained in its approach; Jason’s deadpan storytelling and anthropomorphic characters make it easy for him to never go over-the-top.

©2002 Dan Zettwoch

34. Ironclad, by Dan Zettwoch (self-published). My favorite minicomic of the decade, Zettwoch’s comics-as-diagram approach is used to astonishing effect in this account of the sea battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac during the American Civil War. From the silkscreened cover design to the multiple fold-out pages, this comic is a rollicking tour-de-force from beginning to end.

35. Get A Life, by Philippe Dupuy & Charles Berberian (Drawn & Quarterly). My favorite slice-of-life stories from this decade involve an author negotiating various travails regarding relationships, friendships and creative fulfillment. With a bit of a big-foot style on display here, there’s also page after page of beautiful cartooning.

36. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, by Phoebe Gloeckner (Frog Press). This is a sort of prose/comics remix of A Child’s Life, only with a more structured plot and emotional through-line. This digs into the heart of darkness as a girl experiences a range of horrors inflicted most often by those close to her.

37. The Squirrel Mother: Stories, by Megan Kelso (Fantagraphics). With a lovely clear line, Kelso brings us stories of pain, betrayal, family and Founding Fathers. Restraint and subtlety are her watchwords as an artist, allowing the reader to engage each work more directly.

38. Eightball #23: The Death Ray, by Dan Clowes (Fantagraphics). Given that this story was never collected or reformatted for the book market, it’s sort of fallen out of the critical eye over the years. This is unfortunate, because this comic picks up from Ice Haven in terms of creating a story that could only be told in comics form, and consciously addresses genre tropes in the frankest manner possible. The first-person narrative at first blunts the reader’s understanding of the main character as a psychopath, but things eventually become clearer as the story proceeds and the prototypical Clowes loner is revealed in his rawest state.

39. The Three Paradoxes, by Paul Hornschemeier (Fantagraphics). Hornschemeier’s best-realized work, combining his flair for formal pyrotechnics, interest in philosophy and personal reflections into a work that managed to bounce these interests off of each other, creating an internal meta-commentary that was both fascinating to read and deeply affecting.

40. An Anthology Of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons And True Stories Vol. 1, edited by Ivan Brunetti (Yale). Brunetti took the model laid down by Ware for McSweeney’s (see below) and took it to another level, editing a book in a way that was deeply personal and scrupulously arranged. Reading this book is very much a course in both the history of comics and the history of theory behind creating comics.

41. Drawn And Quarterly Vol. 4, edited by Chris Oliveros (Drawn & Quarterly). This anthology was the gold standard for craft, design and care for a number of years. The series also dug up work from underappreciated cartoonists and exposed European, Asian and other artists to English-speaking audiences for the first time. I chose Volume 4 because it would turn out to be D&Q’s publishing plans in microcosm for the rest of the decade: Sunday strips from Frank King, short stories from Miriam Katin, Ron Rege’& Nicolas Robel, a strip from Blutch and the remarkable “The Advenutres of Herge.”

42. Inkweed, by Chris Wright (Sparkplug Comic Books). This collection of scratchy strips by Wright explores lust, creation, destruction and obsession. His eccentric character design and the sheer density of his images draws the reader into his turbulent and frequently raunchy world.

43. Late Bloomer, by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics): A beautiful collection of the artist’s shorter pieces. Her stories take on a sort of collective weight when read one after the other, with each story informing the next. Part of its power comes in its depiction of what it is like to be an artist and to be forced to have any number of people depend on you–especially a baby.

44. Louis Riel, by Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly). The hardcover collection of this is quite handsome, and quite fitting for Brown’s sprawling story of the Canadian liberationist and revolutionary. Filled with mystical trappings, the Harold Gray-inspired art adds both restraint and a sense of animation to what was an epic tragedy.

45. Mcsweeney’s Quarterly Concern #13, edited by Chris Ware (McSweeney’s) is the first true alt-comics anthology meant for a general (but literate) audience. Ware’s intuitive sense of how to sequence and edit key works from the history of comics (past and present) is absolutely spot-on. The additional minicomics tucked in the back were a nice touch, as is Ware’s usual impeccable design. This was the template for many anthologies that would follow.

46. Mome Vol. 12, edited by Eric Reynolds & Gary Groth (Fantagraphics). This issue completed Mome‘s transformation from young cartoonist’s spotlight to eclectic assortment of first-rank work, both new and translated. This issue features a tremendous one-two-three punch from David B, Killoffer and Oliver Schrauwen, the usual great work from Dash Shaw and Tom Kaczynski, and exciting newcomers like Jon Vermilyea. None of the original lineup of Mome has a new comic in this issue as editors Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds are finding a balance between printing rare work by big-time cartoonists, along with nurturing newer talents.

47. Six Hundred Seventy-Six Apparitions Of Killoffer, by Killoffer (Typocrat): A harrowing journey into one man’s nightmare of multiple versions of himself indulging in raw, hideous and hateful expressions of their id. The fluidity of Killoffer’s line is key to the way he depicts his dopplegangers doing horrible things — until he finds a way to deal with them.

48. The Rabbi’s Cat, by Joann Sfar (Pantheon). This is Sfar’s exploration of the more intellectual side of his Jewish roots, focusing on an Algerian rabbi, his daughter and his cat — who somehow acquires the power of speech and uses it to vex his master. The looseness and spontaneity of Sfar’s line meshes well with his expressive use of color. He isn’t a tight storyteller like Trondheim, but rather indulges in extended ramblings that lead the reader in some very pleasant directions.

49. We All Die Alone, by Mark Newgarden (Fantagraphics). Cartoony to the point of near-abstraction, Newgarden’s bleak comics are existential howls with big noses. His fascination with weird cultural ephemera dovetails with his gags about the lost, the unwanted and the unappreciated. This book is crucial just for his Nancy & Sluggo mash-up, “Love’s Savage Fury”.

50. Wimbledon Green, by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly). What started as a whimsical sketchbook project turned into an inspired (and inspiring) ode to the thrill and agony of collecting. Throwing in the sort of adventure tropes one might expect in the forgotten comics that Seth cooked up, the book is part mystery-thriller, part faux-oral history, part gag book and part fetishization of the rare and singular.

©2008 Rory Hayes Estate

51. Where Demented Wented, by Rory Hayes (Fantagraphics). Hayes’ singular voice is often mistaken as being “outsider art”; nothing could be further from the truth for a cartoonist who was strongly influenced by the style and content of contemporary underground cartoonists. However, Hayes filtered that influence through his own unique view of the world, resulting in strips more unsettling, unrestrained and more personally revealing of his own inner demons than those of his peers. This book may never have a large audience, but those it does speak to will draw much inspiration from it.

52. Wish You Were Here #2, by Gipi (Fantagraphics/Coconino Press). The story entitled “They Found The Car” told the reader nothing about why the car was important, only that it being found triggered a series of brutal events, betrayals and reversals. A masterfully paced and gorgeously drawn bit of suspense from one of the masters of this decade.

53. Tamara Drewe, by Posy Simmonds (Jonathan Cape). Originally a weekly comic strip, this sprawling mediation on the intersection between creativity and carnal desire as mediated by social mores is Simmonds’ masterwork. The way she integrated text and image on her pages, her rich use of color and the vividness of her characters turns what could have been a soap-operatic clunker into a rich, complex meditation on class, marriage and the lies we tell ourselves.

54. Love And Rockets: New Stories #1, by Gilbert, Jaime & Mario Hernandez (Fantagraphics). Jaime, Gilbert and Mario return and veer off in a completely different direction. Jaime crafts a straight-up superhero story that captured all the thrills and ridiculousness of the genre (using many of the familiar Locas and several new characters), Beto returns to the sort of experimental comics he did in New Love (including Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis stand-ins in outer space), and Mario & Beto team up for a pagan sitcom of sorts. Jaime and Gilbert continue to reinvent themselves, innovate and stay at the forefront of the comics world.

55. Map Of My Heart, by John Porcellino (Drawn & Quarterly). I could have listed King-Cat Classics or Diary Of A Mosquito Abatement Man as easily as this collection, but I chose Map Of My Heart for the through line of Porcellino’s battle with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, obliquely told in his usual spare and poetic style. One can also see the final evolution and refinement of Porcellino’s line as the volume proceeds.

56. The Book Of Genesis Illustrated, by Robert Crumb (WW Norton). Crumb is in a position in his career to do whatever he feels like, and his genuine interest in depicting the subject shines through the pages of this book. His control over pacing and remarkable character design make what was sometimes a tedious text into a breezy read. Crumb’s side interest of exploring the role of women in the Bible is a fascinating bonus.

57. Masterpiece Comics, by R.Sikoryak (Drawn & Quarterly). A long-awaited collection of Sikoryak’s many comics/literary mash-ups, it draws interesting connections between the literary source and the comics parody. His ability to mimic any cartoonist’s style is astounding, and the results range from hilarious to strangely profound.

58. Tales Designed To Thrizzle Vol. 1, by Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics). The first collection from Kupperman’s surprising hit really helped spread the word about his unique and delightfully warped genius as a gagsmith and artist. It’s interesting to see how his line evolved from Snake & Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret, especially in terms of its decorative qualities.

59. Fred The Clown, by Roger Langridge (Fantagraphics). At once an obviously personal work and a homage to a century’s worth of cartooning and animation, Langridge’s Candide-like Fred is constantly at the mercy of a vicious world and suffers it without understanding why. Langridge’s skills as a draftsman are outrageous, crafting a look out of the golden age of animation and cartooning without slavishly aping anyone in particular. Fred is versatile enough to make a given strip absurd, tragic, exciting or some combination thereof.

60. The Magic Whistle #9, by Sam Henderson (Alternative). Like the best of humorists, Henderson thinks through his gags to such an extent that his meta-analysis becomes a comedy routine unto itself, like in his classic dissection of his own “pimp plays Scrabble with a little girl” gag. At the same time, his jokes can be vulgar and visceral. That tension is at the heart of Henderson’s mission to tell a gag, dissect the gag, and then somehow put it back together funnier than it was in the first place. It also must be noted that making one’s drawings funny makes for a good humor comic, and Henderson’s deliberately crude style is a perfect launching point for his purposes. This issue’s “Hamburger Joe” saga is a perfect example of these various tensions coming together into one hilarious story, layering concept on top of concept.

61. Paul Goes Fishing, by Michel Rabagliatti (Drawn & Quarterly). This is the greatest entry in the low-key, playful and sometimes sentimental Paul series. Rabagliati weaves crackerjack anecdotes in and out of a tranquil plotline then takes a dramatic left turn before ending on one of the most emotionally affecting scenes in any comic I read this year.

62. The Pain: When Will It End?, by Tim Kreider (Fantagraphics). Kreider’s first collection of cartoons is less political than his later work, but no less caustic or hilarious. His line manages to be scratchy and fluid, with a remarkable gift for caricature and exaggeration. Kreider is equally adept at gags that indict himself as he is the government or the culture at large.

63. Garage Band, by Gipi (First Second). A compelling account of the way hopes and dreams merge with the kind of camaraderie that can be found in playing music together. With great subtlety and restraint, Gipi tells us all we need to know about the four bandmates, their families and their life stories. Gipi’s loose and even scribbly line, combined with his expressive color palette, makes this a story that lingers long after one finishes it.

64. Low-Jinx #3, edited by Kurt Wolfgang (self-published). “The Big Rip-Off” issue was the funniest of this anthology, containing scathingly hilarious parodies of cartoonists from Ware to Jeff Smith to Charles Addams to James Kochalka. My favorite was probably Jesse Reklaw appropriating Art Spiegelman’s iconographic mouse/cat imagery from Maus to relate his father’s account of a huge drug deal gone awry.

65. Against Pain, by Ron Rege’ (Drawn & Quarterly). Rege’ is an idiosyncratic and groundbreaking artist who has had a huge influence on a number of post-Fort Thunder artists. This book collects many years worth of minicomics and anthology entries (including his classic “High School Metaphor,” a very different take on Spider-Man). It’s easy for one’s eye to fall off of Rege’s pages, but making the commitment to engage his work is well worth the effort.

66. Big Questions, by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly). This is the best of many great projects from Nilsen this decade, including his various Monologues books, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow and his anthology work. Big Questions puts Nilsen’s wandering philosophical eye and sense of the absurd in a grounded context with its tale of a crashed plane, a bomb, a wrecked house and various animals (but mostly birds) reacting to a series of disturbing events. Nilsen employs the thinnest of lines here but augments it with an intensive stippling style, locking the reader in to every image. It’s coming close to its conclusion soon.

67. Bottomless Belly Button, by Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics). This is the book that took the lessons Shaw learned during his years of doing experimental comics and applied it to the genre of “family drama”. It’s full of strange connections and disconnections as the members of the Loony family all live in their own little realities. Shaw mines a lot of humor from the awkwardness of their relationships and lives.

68. Breakdowns: Portrait Of The Artist As A Young %@&*!, by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon). Among other things, this book is an illustration of the sheer willpower needed to sustain a career as a cartoonist, much less one trying to push the envelope as much as Spiegelman. This is a beautiful art object in addition to being a reprint of a groundbreaking collection of strips. The new series of autobiographical strips is every bit as fascinating as the old material, as Spiegelman tries to figure himself, and cartooning, out.

69. Acme Novelty Datebook Vol. 2, by Chris Ware (Drawn & Quarterly). This is an intimate look not only into Ware’s creative process, but also into his day-to-day struggles as a human being. The rawness of some of his drawings and the realism of some of his drawn-from-life sketches are a startling contrast from the orderly arrangement of his published work: essential for any fan of Ware.

70. Orchid, edited by Dylan Williams (Sparkplug Comic Books). This early effort from Sparkplug features a number of artists who would go on to have higher-profile success (like Kevin Huizenga, Gabrielle Bell, Jesse Reklaw and others), as they took on works of Victorian-era horror. Orchid is a superb example of artists both appreciating and transcending genre. Dylan Williams and Ben Catmull clearly have a firm hand as editors, with the book possessing a consistent look even as the style and tone changed from story to story.

71. Teratoid Heights, by Mat Brinkman (Highwater Books). Brinkman is a hugely influential artist who was another progenitor of the Fort Thunder aesthetic. This collection of short stories originally published as minicomics is a brick-like art object of its own, filled with blobby characters trying to negotiate their environments to varying degrees of success. It’s perhaps the most successful evocation of the “mark-making” school of comics in that it very much looks like something that’s been drawn in a spontaneous fashion, yet coheres nicely into a narrative.

72. Explainers, by Jules Feiffer (Fantagraphics). In its own way, this collection of the artist’s Village Voice strips was every bit as important an archival work as Willie And Joe or Breakdowns. Feiffer (along with R. Crumb, Harvey Kurtzman, Charles Schulz and Chris Ware) ranks as one of the five most important and influential cartoonists in the latter half of the 20th century. That influence extends beyond comics and into the greater culture itself. Feiffer’s takes on gender and relationships in particular, along with his acidic and cynical view of politics, was an enormous influence on modern comedy and cultural commentary.

73. Notes On A War Story, by Gipi (First Second). This book is both a fascinating commentary on how feral human beings can become when the rules of society break down as well as the ways reporting on this breakdown is a form of exploitation. As always with Gipi, the emotional narrative of his characters is what the reader holds on to as the story proceeds, and his loose line is the perfect way to capture such an elusive and fractured set of experiences.

74. Dork #11, by Evan Dorkin (Slave Labor Graphics). The sheer, manic energy behind Dorkin’s work ethic comes through in every gag on every page in this incredibly dense comic. The all-gag issue special, there’s strip after strip of meticulously-assembled jokes with layer upon layer of humor, selling jokes with concepts, funny drawings and x-factors (silly pop-cultural references, biting dialogue, meta-commentary). In the best gags, all three are at play.

75. Errand Service, by Will Dinski (self-published). The story starts with a clever premise (the narrative of a person who performs unusual tasks like checking whether doors are locked for someone with OCD) and quickly turns into a story of regret and multiple betrayals. Every comic Will Dinski makes is elegantly and cleverly designed, and Errand Service is the perfect confluence of design and idea.

76. SPX 2000, edited by Tom Devlin, Chris Oarr, Christian Panas, Jeff Alexander, Karon Flage, Greg McElhatton and Charles Brownstein (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). This is the book that introduced me to the work of Lewis Trondheim, David B, Mat Brinkman, Zak Sally, Dupuy & Berberian, Killoffer, and John Porcellino—and that’s just for starters. While there’s plenty of junk in here (a reflection of having seven editors and a perceived need for more mainstream comics) it certainly served as an invaluable primer for me as a reader for this decade.

77. The Collected Hutch Owen, by Tom Hart (Top Shelf). One of the most significant alt-comics figures of the 1990s is under-discussed these days, which is a shame since his masterwork (Hutch Owen) is in print in two nice volumes from Top Shelf. Hart is one of the few alt-cartoonists who didn’t specifically engage in editorial page work but who explicitly addressed political concerns. His blocky line is a perfect complement to the theatrics and rants of Hutch, a homeless intellectual and activist.

78. The Salon, by Nick Bertozzi (St. Martin’s Griffin). This Left Bank murder-mystery was mostly an excuse to write a story about Picasso and Bracque creating cubism together, and the sheer joy on the page that Bertozzi depicts during this process is palpable. It doesn’t hurt that the main plotline, involving a number of historical figures from that era, has a number of exciting twists and turns involving absinthe, porn and killer paintings.

79. The Book Of Leviathan, by Peter Blegvad (Overlook). It’s unfortunate that just one volume of this amazingly oddball strip has been published in the U.S., because Blegvad’s stories about baby Eli and his pet Cat are remarkably funny, strange and (at times) solemn. Ranging from pun-y gags to historical explorations to inner monologues, the most remarkable thing about the strip is its own sense of internal logic.

80. In The Studio, edited by Todd Hignite (Yale): An invaluable series of interviews, photos and art from a murderer’s row of alt-comics cartoonists, including R. Crumb, Gary Panter, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware and more. Giving the cartoonists so much room to talk not only about their own work, but the comics that inspired them, adds a great deal of context to what was already more an oral history than a stiff series of interviews. The Panter section in particular is a revelation.

81. The Ride Together, by Judy & Paul Karasik (Washington Square Press). The Karasik siblings alternate between text and prose to tell the story of their autistic older brother, David. It’s an unsparing and unsentimental account of a family trying to cope with something they don’t understand and how everyone involved came to terms with it. Paul’s comics chapters are a perfect complement to Judy’s prose, especially when he relates his brother’s obsession with the 1950s Superman TV show and what happened at a Three Stooges film festival.

82. Eye Of The Majestic Creature #3, by Leslie Stein (self-published). Stein combines misanthropy and the longing for human connection with an absurd, biting wit and plenty of self-effacement. She also combines a fluid line with a dense stippling style to create memorable image after memorable image. Stein is on my short list of artists who deserve much wider recognition.

83. Super Spy, by Matt Kindt (Top Shelf). A fascinating, fractured, looping narrative that concerns the lives of spies during World War II. Kindt’s expressive style and out-of-order sequencing of strips is clever both in the way it tells each story and the way it reveals the inner lives of those affected by espionage. The climactic battle between assassins was a particular highlight.

84. Inside Vineyland, by Lauren Weinstein (Alternative): A hilarious, weird and sometimes grotesque collection of gags, short stories and other weirdness. Weinstein’s absurd sense of humor is on full display here, as is her ability to relate crazed melodrama as in “Robot Takes A Walk.” This was the opening salvo for an artist whom I expect will have several significant works in this decade.

©2007 Andy Hartzell

85. Fox Bunny Funny, by Andy Hartzell (Top Shelf). The original minicomics form of this was even more attractive than the eventual Top Shelf edition, with three separate volumes as part of an intricately designed cardboard set. This story of rabbits and foxes unfolds to become a complicated tale of identity and identity politics. With an intricate and starkly beautiful line, Hartzell creates a world that simultaneously evokes the funny animal milieu and a naturalistic setting.

86. Alan’s War, by Emmanuel Guibert (First Second). This is an artist’s interpretation of one man’s need to discuss his life in terms of anecdote and personal encounters. The restraint of both narrator and artist masks the lurking tensions within. It’s a fascinating companion piece to Willie & Joe.

87. Berlin: City Of Smoke, by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly). The middle portion of Lutes’ epic work of historical fiction finds whatever optimism and idealism left in its characters starting to crumble. At its heart, Berlin speaks to the meeting-point of dogma and desperation and how the former appeals to those afflicted by the latter. For others, it was a time to attempt to escape that public discourse by retreating into nightspots and a lifestyle that would soon be declared decadent by the new state. Lutes’ ability to mix dread with the excitement that life in the city brings, along with his remarkably clear but lively line is what makes this series one to follow, years after its first issue.

88. Mineshaft #24, edited by Everett Rand & Gioia Palmieri (Fantagraphics/self-published). The last of the great comics fanzines, I picked the latest issue as an example of the fascinating melange of new comics from underground and early alternative-comics greats, sketchbook material, weird correspondence (especially from R. Crumb) and oddball articles on cultural ephemera.

89. Injury Comics #1, by Ted May, Jeff Wilson, et al (Buenaventura Press). This series is part-throwback to 80s alternative comics and part homage to Kirbyesque kineticism. May throws absurdist gags, romance sagas (by way of stoner, Heavy Metal youth) and a cyborg slugfest with animal-themed thugs into this stew of a comic book. The comic works because May and his collaborators tell over-the-top stories with a straight face, despite many laugh-out-loud moments

90. The Blot, by Tom Neely (self-published). Neely achieves a level of immediacy on each page of his stunning debut graphic novel, creating a powerful emotional shorthand with his ink splotches designed to get across the intensity of a feeling, be it dread, joy, fear, desperation or longing. His iconic imagery acts as dense bundles of emotional information that, when unpacked by the reader, provide a powerful experience and insight into the creative process.

91. Little Things, by Jeffrey Brown (Touchstone). This may be Brown’s best book, a definitive collection of the sort of quotidian details and obsessions that make up a life. What’s interesting about this book is that his romantic relationships, which formed the bulk of emphasis for much of his prior autobiographical work, are relegated to the background as Brown explores his other passions. As always, Brown’s wobbly and scratchy line invites a certain kind of intimacy and brings a sense of immediacy to the reader.

©2007 Adrian Tomine
92. Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly). What makes this book more than just a nuanced look at the end of a relationship is Tomine’s fearless handling of race. He zeroes in on stereotypes, forbidden fantasies and desires publicly denied. Tomine plays these for awkward, uncomfortable laughs in brilliant scene after brilliant scene. His control both over his line and over character dialogue & interaction gives his comics a powerful tension between restraint and boiling-over passions.

93. Same Difference And Other Stories, by Derek Kirk Kim (Alternative). Kim has an uncanny sense of knowing how and when to balance hilarious, scathing dialogue with sensitive character interaction. His understanding of gesture and winning character design is a big key as to how he’s able to do this. He was one of the first artists known for his work on the web who published a book collection of his comics.

94. The Golem’s Mighty Swing, by James Sturm (Drawn & Quarterly). The best of Sturm’s explorations of early 20th century Americana, this exploration of baseball’s barnstorming era and anti-Semitism was fascinating in the way it conflated said hatred with Jewish myth. Sturm’s understated, brushy line contributes to the book’s atmosphere.

95. The Hot Breath Of War, by Trevor Alixopolous (Sparkplug Comic Books): A thoughtful, provocative book about the intersection between the personal and political, focusing on the relationship between war and sex. He approaches the subject in a number of different ways (literal, lyrical, metaphorical), all with a lively, loose line.

96. I Want You, by Lisa Hanawalt (Buenaventura Press). Hanawalt is one of the most exciting new humorists to recently emerge. She combines the absurdism of a Kupperman with a no-holds-barred, profane and visceral discussion of assorted bodily functions. All this and a powerfully expressive line, too.

97. Lumakick #1, by Richard Hahn (self-published). A mixture of off-kilter gags, haunted and lonely cityscape journeys, and near-abstractions. It reminds me a bit in terms of emotional and philosophical intent of the paintings of DeChirico and the sculptures of Giaccometti.

98. La Perdida, by Jessica Abel (Pantheon): A complex and rich work by an artist known mostly for her short stories. Abel makes the risky move of making her protagonists entirely unlikeable and confused and extends their narrative over an entire book. Abel’s characters are usually disaffected and lost, and it was interesting to see this sort of person encounter real consequences for their actions.

99. Cave-In, by Brian Ralph (Highwater Books): The template for a decade’s worth of comics about movement and immersion in one’s environment. Ralph creates an underground world navigated by a small, ape-like creature who is simply trying to get from point a to point b. The reader is never told what those two points are, and the result is a tale of a journey through a dense landscape, one that both absorbs and propels the eye on the page.

100. Badly-Drawn Comics #8, by Martha Keavney (self-published). A screamingly funny conceptualist whose grasp of the comics page is far more advanced than the title of her series would suggest, Keavney is a master of layered meta-humor. “The Secret Life of Martha Keavney,” which found Keavney going from one nightmare to a worse one, over and over … only to wind up in the most banal yet horrifying fate yet, was funny in every step of its conception and execution.

Honorable Mentions: Apocalypse Nerd by Peter Bagge, Baobab #1 by Igort, Bluefuzz the Hero by Jesse Reklaw, Bourbon Island 1730 by Lewis Trondheim & Appollo, Capacity by Theo Ellsworth, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice by Ivan Brunetti, Crickets #2 by Sammy Harkham, Girl Stories by Lauren Weinstein, Gongwanadon by Thomas Herpich, Grotesque #1 by Sergio Ponchione, Gus And His Gang by Christophe Blain, Hotwire Comics Vo. 1 edited by Glenn Head, Klezmer by Joann Sfar, Meathaus SOS edited by Chris McD, Mister O by Lewis Trondheim, Musical Legends by Justin Green, Promethea by Alan Moore & JH Williams III, Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison and various artists, Sleeper by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, WE3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely, Will Elder: The Mad Playboy Of Art by Gary Groth & Greg Sadowski, Ten Thousand Things To Do by Jesse Reklaw, The Bakers by Kyle Baker, The Fun Never Stops! by Drew Friedman, Timberdoodle by John Kerschbaum, Top Ten by Alan Moore, Gene Ha & Zander Cannon, Walt & Skeezix Vol. 1, by Frank King, Windy Corner Magazine #1 edited by Austin English, Service Industry, by T. Edward Bak.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

One Response to “Analysis: Rob Clough’s Top 100 Comics of the ’00s Part Two (of Two)”

  1. […] of the decade | Rob Clough wraps up his look at the best comics of the '00s. [The Comics Journal] Northlanders, Vol. […]