In which I engage in troubling levels of narcissism by arbitrarily listing things that brought me some measure of enjoyment in 2011.
COMICS: I finally read Dan Mes Yeux and Polina by Bastien Vives after following his blog for years. They were both very good in different ways, though neither struck me as great. Vives is still pretty young, and from what I can tell his work is getting better and better. I’m especially impressed by his range both thematically and stylistically. I also just really like his approach to digital drawing — the way he embraces the artificially of the lines he is making, I guess. He doesn’t try to make drawings done in Photoshop look like anything other than drawings done in Photoshop.
Some other greatest hits for me were Stigmata, the work of Dave Kiersch, the work of Ryan Cecil Smith, S., Lupus, and other things I’m forgetting. A lot of people liked Winschluss’ Pinocchino…it’s been a while since I read it but when I did I liked it too. I did a terrible job of keeping up with manga this year. Cross Game is really good, Bakuman is consistently entertaining, and at this point Urasawa is clearly one of the all-time greats.
WEBCOMICS: I barely know how to work the Internet, as evidenced by the 1995 html coding of my website, so maybe take these recommendations with a grain of salt. I mean, the relative regularity with which I discover really good cartoonists online makes me think that there is lots of great stuff out there to which I am completely oblivious. Anyways, Forming continues to move along excellently. A few parts of Jason Overby’s 2101 faltered for me but it was great overall. Warren Craghead did two great comics for the Hooded Utilitarian. I really love the way he draws. I was really enjoying Connor Willumsen’s Everett and I wish he would get back to that, though the two Moebius inspired stories he posted recently were also good. Joe Decie’s online comics are idiosyncratic in the best way. Ruppert and Mulot posted a great story about Elvis early in the year.
BOOKS: I don’t really read non-fiction books for pleasure because I have to plow through so much of that stuff for school, so we’re all about novels here. I got into Haruki Murakami in a big way this year. I’m still working my way through as much Italo Calvino as I can find, and enjoying it immensely. Read a few Cormac McCarthy books in there as well and listened to A Song of Fire and Ice. It’s good light entertainment for drawing, but not sure it would be worth my time as a book. My book of the year was probably Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami, but the unexpected success award undoubtedly goes to Cockfighter by Charles Willeford. Just an incredibly solid , well-told story without any frills or misplaced literary aspirations. I really loved it.
MUSIC: I am the worst at music. I like Los Campesinos. I like the Barenaked Ladies. I like rap sometimes. I don’t know.
MOVIES: Don’t really do these either. Sorry. I don’t think I even saw ten movies this year. Ghost Protocol was the best possible version of what it was supposed to be, excluding the times when they tried too hard to do the having-a-real-plot thing. Nothing else notable that I can think of. Zzzzz.
TV: I think the Sherlock miniseries on BBC is the best Sherlock Holmes adaptation I have seen. Actually, nevermind, because that is a terrible yardstick. It is just a great show that makes you feel smart, which is exactly what a show about a genius detective should do. It might have come out in 2010, I think? Oh well. A second season is on the way. Community is funny some of the time. Parks and Rec is funny most of the time. I would probably watch The Office at this point even if it was terrible, although I’m pretty sure that it is not.
PODCASTS: I think the extent to which you find this funny is an indication of how regularly you listen to the usual suspects on NPR. I found it very funny. I also like On the Media, Radiolab, and the Ink Panthers Show, among others. Inkstuds, Comix Claptrap and all the other comics things are good if they have interesting guests. For my money, best audio interviews of the year go to Al Columbia and Sammy Harkham. Joe McCulloch’s two podcast appearances late in the year were hits as well.
WRITING: Man, I don’t even know. There were lots of good things. I could link you to all the politics blogs that I read, but who cares about that stuff? We’re here to talk about comic books. I am as thrilled with Tom Spurgeon’s Holiday Interview Series this year as I have been for as long as I have followed it. Every day of that has been essential reading, as was Spurgeon’s All of These Things That Have Made Us. I miss the days when Frank Santoro wrote his own column. Brandon Graham’s blog posts remain consistently outstanding and there is at least one gem in each of the many interviews he has done over the course of the year. Abhay Khosla can make me laugh out loud even when he writes about comics that I haven’t read and don’t really care about. Other favorites are: Joe McCulloch on Cross Game although mostly on manga production, actually; Sean Witzke on Airtight Garage; Sean Michael Robinson on Gasoline Alley; James Romberger on Sammy Harkham; HARVEYJAMES on the homicidal tendencies of Dan Clowes; Ryan Holmberg on Alternative Manga; and Matt Seneca interviewing J-Shasta. There you go. That’s enough for at least one sleepless night of reading. Happy New Year, everybody.