Analysis: Rob Clough’s Top 50 Comics Of 2009 Part Two (of Two)

Posted by on February 9th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Cont. from Part One.

26. The Aviatrix #1, by Eric Haven (Buenaventura Press). A mash-up of Kirby/Ditko monster comics, and a bone-dry, absurd sense of humor. It’s a genuine oddity of a comic that works both as straight adventure story and a parody of same, mixed in with elements of autobiography.

27. Ten Thousand Things To Do, by Jesse Reklaw (six self-published minicomics). Originally published daily on Reklaw’s flickr account, it’s the most compelling diary strip I’ve ever read. Reklaw’s fanatical work ethic itself became a topic of discussion as he slowly revealed why he took on so much work and the ways in which his mind and body both broke down and renewed themselves through activity.

28. Just So You Know #1, by Joey Sayers (self-published). Sayers is an outstanding humorist working mostly as an absurdist, so this mini detailing her struggles in accepting and revealing her identity as a transgendered person was an interesting surprise. Given that this was Sayers, the struggles were ameliorated for the reader with wicked punchlines.

29. The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972, by Charles Schulz (Fantagraphics). Twenty-two years into his run on this strip, Schulz was still at his peak even as Peanuts was moving into a new phase. His line solidified into what we understood as its mature incarnation, and this volume featured a star turn from Sally Brown and a sense of delight in mining the comedic and tragic possibilities of Peppermint Patty.

©2009 Lille Carre

30. Nine Ways To Disappear, by Lilli Carre’ (Little Otsu). Gorgeous design, clever punch lines and an impeccable sense of balance and rhythm marked yet another triumph for this young cartoonist who is quickly maturing into a brilliant talent. She was the MVP of Mome this year as well.

31. Mome #14, edited by Eric Reynolds & Gary Groth (Fantagraphics). The most consistently excellent anthology in comics, issue after issue. This issue featured top-notch work from Dash Shaw (the co-MVP of the anthology this year), Laura Park, Olivier Schwauren and a stunner from Lilli Carre’. Even when not every story is a winner, the anthology was skillfully edited so that lesser work provided a palate-cleanser of sorts for stronger stories.

32. The Mourning Star Vol. 2, by Kaz Strzepek (Bodega). Outstanding character design, complex plots leavened with humor, and a relentless propulsiveness marked this second volume in a series of graphic novels. What sets Kaz apart from his influences is the way he created an inner life for every character, no matter if they were “hero” or “villain” (terms that tended to disappear in the post-apocalyptic world the story’s set in).

33. The Gigantic Robot, by Tom Gauld (Buenaventura Press). A beautiful book about ugliness and garishness, as well as the folly and eventual futility of man’s ego. The contrast between Gauld’s trademark spare style and the over-sized page added a lot to the effect.

34. Injury Comics #3, by Ted May, et al. (Buenaventura Press). While the Jeff Wilson-written Heavy Metal high school saga was as hilarious as ever (especially in how our protagonist had to deal with the humiliation of in-school suspension), the revelation of this issue was the Mike Reddy-drawn “Beast Biplane” story. It’s May at his wackiest: an adventure story filled with weird characters, random events and elements more at home in an underground story than a genre yarn, but that still added up to a great story.

35. Likewise, by Ariel Schrag (Touchstone Books). The last book in Schrag’s autobiographical account of her high school days was compelling because of her sheer commitment to portraying the pain she felt and inflicted on others. Schrag’s ambition sometimes went down self-indulgent paths, but one couldn’t help but get swept up with it.

36. Ghost Comics, edited by Ed Choy Moorman. An outstanding anthology, mostly from Minnesotan and Midwestern-area cartoonists, compiled by a young editor with a sharp eye. This Xeric winner featured a brilliant new piece from Warren Craghead and fine work from Lucy Knisley, Allison Cole, Hob, John Hankiewicz and many others. Some of the bigger-name contributors had more substantial submissions than others, but this was a well-edited and attractively designed collection.

37. Department Of Art #1, by Dunja Jankovic (Sparkplug Comic Books). A workplace comic that’s a sort of suffocating Mobius strip of frustration, yearning, pain and aimlessness. The opacity of Jankovic’s comics came in part from the moody, scribbly style she employed, where the shadows didn’t depict ominousness so much as a sense that the light had simply faded away.

38. The Bun Field, by Amanda Vahamaki (Drawn & Quarterly). A dream comic (or more accurately, a subconscious comic) that demanded the reader take each image at face value, be it an absurd sequence of events or a sudden turn into grief or guilt.

39. Uptight #3, by Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics). Half of this comic was a scratchily drawn story about a woman cheating on her boyfriend, while the other was a clear-line story about a child and his talking cat finding themselves in danger. Both were perfectly suited for this lo-fi yet gorgeously designed comic printed on cheap paper.

40. Wizzywig Vol. 2, by Ed Piskor (self-published). A fictionalized account of the recent history of unauthorized information systems access, done in an episodic fashion through a composite character. This volume focused on the dawn of computer hacking, as Piskor always found a way to keep his book visually interesting despite the static nature of the activities depicted.

41. Rock That Never Sleeps, by Juliacks and Olga Volozova (Sparkplug Comic Books). Two separate but related stories that are both about the same place: a desert town where lost memories can be regained. Both artists, working in the Immersive style, crafted stories about how a loss of memory can be both painful and merciful, and both stories related the prices paid to regain memories.

©2009 Jeffrey Brown

42. Funny Misshapen Body, by Jeffrey Brown (Touchstone Books). A compellingly honest statement about the frustrations and joys of the artistic process, Brown filled in blanks about his life in a manner that was much warmer than his usual comics. He poked fun at his own journey as an artist, exposing insecurities and celebrating his own triumphs. As always, there’s an awareness that even the most intimate work of autobiography picked and chose what it related and how it related it.

43. Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, by Joe Daly (Fantagraphics). Daly didn’t create just a story or a set of characters, but an entire community for readers to wander around in and become comfortable with. Equal parts Tintin and The Big Lebowski, this was a stoner detective story, with all sorts of absurd events popping up in everyday life and eventually making a kind of sense.

44. Important Comics, by Dina Kelberman (self-published). A formally inventive yet minimalist collection of gags, observations, non sequiturs, autobiographical notes and other assorted strangeness. Kelberman is my favorite new cartoonist of the year.

45.Happy Hooligan Vol. I, by Frederick Opper (NBM). A reprint of one of the modern masters of gag cartooning, with a fluidity of line and movement not always seen in comics of the early 20th century. Opper’s influence resonated down not just with future cartoonists, but with nearly every part of the art of comedy.

46. Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me, by Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics). This is Bagge-as-Mencken, trenchantly tearing apart stupid ideas from both the left and the right and doing it while actually going out into the field, gathering facts, and talking to people. His hyper-expressive style was a perfect fit for his over-the-top political commentary.

47. Dungeon Zenith Vol. 3, by Lewis Trondheim, Johan Sfar & Boulet. The series started to take a bit of a grim turn here, but there were still plenty of hijinks, thrills and spills to be found. Trondheim and Sfar outdid each other with the assorted plot twists and character reversals, though Trondheim’s art was greatly missed. Perhaps the greatest genre series of all time.

48. Science Fiction Classics, edited by Tom Pomplun (Eureka Productions). A gorgeous, full-color presentation of various illustrators adapting classic works of sci-fi. The standouts included Roger Langridge illustrating an Arthur Conan Doyle story and Ellen Lindner adapting a rare sci-fi story from E.M. Forster.

49. Mineshaft #24, edited by Everett Rand & Gioia Palmieri (self-published). One of the last of the great comics zines, this labor of love featured new comics from underground and early-80s alt-comics favorites, articles about cultural ephemera and a remarkable set of correspondences from artists like R.Crumb.

50. Love And Rockets: New Stories #2, by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez. Jaime’s conclusion to “Ti-Girls Adventures” managed to combine rip-snorting action and compelling character work. Gilbert’s “Hypnotwist” was both a callback to his New Love-style weirdness and yet another entry in his “pulp movie” adaptations. While neither comic sees the creators at their peak, it didn’t matter much because it’s clear both brothers were having such a good time following their impulses.

Honorable Mentions:

Nurse Nurse #4, by Katie Skelly.? Ochre Ellipse #3, by Jonas Madden-Connor.? A Mess Of Everything, by Miss Lasko-Gross.? Ariadne Aux Naxos, by Julia Grfrorer?. Aya: The Secrets Come Out, by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.? Beauty Patrol, by Kubby?. Big Questions #12, by Anders Nilsen.? Cross Country, by MK Reed. ?Emberley Galaxy, edited by Joe Kuth.? End Of Eros, by Jose-Luis Olivares.? Gift Of The Magi, adapted by Joel Priddy. ?I Saw You, edited by Julia Wertz. ?Jam In The Band 2, by Robin Enrico. ?King-Cat #70, by John Porcellino. ?Natural World #2, by Damien Jay.? Sam ‘N Dan, by Jeff Lok?. Sausage Hand, by Andrew Smith. ?Sugar Cube, by Sam Gaskin.? Sleeper Car, by Theo Ellsworth.? The Deformitory, by Sophia Wiedeman.? The Fir Tree, adapted by Lilli Carre’.? Tales Designed To Thrizzle #5, by Michael Kupperman.? West Coast Blues, adapted by Jacques Tardi.? Windy Corner Magazine #3, edited by Austin English.? Woman King, by Colleen Frakes.

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3 Responses to “Analysis: Rob Clough’s Top 50 Comics Of 2009 Part Two (of Two)”

  1. […] Best of 2009 | Rob Clough concludes his list of the top 50 comics of the year. [The Comics Journal] […]

  2. […] happy Mr. Rob Clough gave my mini-comic, End of Eros, an honorable mention over at The Comic Journal’s 2009 Best-of list. His review of End of Eros was the first review I’d ever had, and I’m thankful he has […]