Best of the Year? Already?

The latest PWCW has an early Best Graphic Novels of 2006 list (link no longer available). I’ve read two of them:

Lost Girls — exactly the kind of book made for these lists, but disappointing given its pedigree (and price!). Not bad, but not as wondrous as hoped.

Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness — great book, but didn’t hit me as powerfully as the first two. That’s the problem of a series by such a talent: how do you keep raising the bar?

I haven’t read these yet, but I’m looking forward to them, since they’re well-recommended. And I still have two months to get to them!
Fun Home
Making Comics
American Born Chinese

I haven’t read these yet, and I don’t plan to:
Ghost of Hoppers — I find Love and Rockets and their subsequent spinoffs some of the most overrated comics ever. I think you had to be there then, and grow along with the series, to truly appreciate it now, because for me, it’s like going to someone else’s never-ending high school reunion.

Curses — I like Kevin Huizenga’s work just fine, but there are many other things I want to get to first. And technically, it’s not even released yet.

Can’t Get No — Flipped through this a while back, and for all the hoopla about it saying important things about life post-9-11, I found it pretentious and, well, stupid.

The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation — If this was a movie, we’d be calling it “Oscar bait”. It’s designed to be important, just by the subject matter. I stay away from books (and films) like those, because I seek entertainment. If enlightenment comes along with the enjoyment, that’s a bonus.

Dragon Head Volume 1 — The only manga on the list, and apparently very gripping, only it’s horror, so not for me.

In short, this list is not very surprising. All of these books are important and significant (well, maybe except for Dragon Head) and done with great craft. It’s a wonderful thing for comics that we’ve reached the point where we can easily make such a list without someone snickering at the choices, but some of the excitement and goofiness seems gone from the process.

I wish the list said more about WHY these were the best books. The short descriptions seem to concentrate more on plot and content than quality, with only an adjective or two to indicate why they’re great. I’m also curious about who made the selections and how.

Update: A Wisconsin retailer has feedback on the list, saying:

some we don’t have, a few I’ve never even heard of, and many of the ones we do have in the store haven’t sold all that well. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re not good. I think it means that these types of books, because they are non-super hero based, probably sell better in regular book stores and on-line, to people who don’t ordinarily go into comic book stores.

She also questions why more manga aren’t on this list, citing Naruto‘s place on bestseller lists. I don’t think the two are related, though — a volume 10 can do quite well in sales, but why would it place on a best-of list? If it’s that much better than books 8 and 9, then that’s an argument for poor craft (in terms of the series).

When it comes to long runs, it’s likely that only the first and last will be considered for quality rankings. With translated manga series that started this year, I’d have thought about Naoki Urasawa’s Monster.

19 Responses to “Best of the Year? Already?”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Hmm one of these I’ve read is the Scott Pilgrim on, though I hope to get to Making Comics and American Born Chinese soon.

    BTW, the Amazon links opening up popup windows when my mouse pointer went over them scared the heck out of me.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Sorry about that. It’s all Web 2.0 glitz that I was trying.

  3. James Schee Says:

    That’s okay, I just got nervous for a second as the window just popped up. It is actually a nice way to see the covers and price, yet I just wasn’t expecting it.

  4. Dave Lartigue Says:

    I read Can’t Get No in the library. Well…I say “read” because after the first few pages I could not take the text anymore and realized it wasn’t necessary to the plot. It’s better if you ignore the horrible text. But still not very good.

  5. Chris Sims Says:

    American Born Chinese is totally awesome. As for Scott Pilgrim v.3, it was initially my least favorite of the series so far, but when I re-read it last week, I liked it a heck of a lot more.

  6. Chad Anderson Says:

    I find Love and Rockets and their subsequent spinoffs some of the most overrated comics ever. I think you had to be there then, and grow along with the series, to truly appreciate it now, because for me, it’s like going to someone else’s never-ending high school reunion.

    Up late waiting to see how the VA Senate race turns out…

    I feel exactly the opposite about Love and Rockets. Only started reading it with Volume Two, but I enjoyed it so much I went back and bought the trades of the old stuff, and I think it’s one of the best comics ever (I lean more toward Gilbert than Jaime, but it’s a slight edge).

    Different strokes for different folks and all that.

    I think you’re in for a real treat with Fun Home, though. A literary GN that really lived up to the advance praise, I thought. Of course, I like Love and Rockets. ;-)

  7. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Considering books like Ode to Kirihito just came out I think this list is premature and incomplete.

  8. Journalista » Blog Archive » Nov. 8, 2006: Morning in America Says:

    […] On the same topic, and because “Publishers Weekly” is apparently today’s secret phrase — use it during today’s program and the toy duck drops from the ceiling for a fifty-dollar bonus — Johanna Draper Carlson examines PW’s recent best graphic novels list for 2006. She also links to commentary from the owner of Neptune Comics in Wisconsin, who accurately notes that the vast majority of titles in this list are books that sell better in bookstores than in comics shops. […]

  9. Paul Sizer Says:

    “Fun Home” was a reluctant initial read for me, as I found Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For” too preachy and hammering home her points to read long excerpts from.

    I am happy to report that I was wrong on this book, and “Fun Home” proved to be a very level, objective look at Alison’s incredibly personal story. I was impressed at how well she told this story without resorting to her previously labored point making.

    This book deserves all the praise it is receiving.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Snarky supposition: Is Can’t Get No on the list partially so that DC won’t be left out entirely?

    Thanks to everyone for the recommendations. Chad, maybe Fun Home is the book that bridges our gap. :)

    Ed, I wish there was an easy way for me to see what’s still due this year, but I don’t have access to my ordering database right now.

  11. Robin Hermann Says:

    I most definitely was not with L&R from the beginning; I only read _Locas_ and _Palomar_ last summer and am now going through all the collected volumes– so I was not “there then” and didn’t “grow up with the series.”

    But I still love it. I give the edge to Jaime over Beto, but that’s just me. _Ghost of Hoppers_ deserves all the praise it’s getting, and more.


  12. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I need to learn how to do that Amazon pop-up stuff. NEAT!

    Totally agree about Can’t Get No. If Veitch had removed the captions, the book would be much better. His prose destroys the book. I get what he was trying to do, but it wasn’t worth it.

  13. Roger A Says:

    Considering all the praise it’s received, it’s kinda surprising that Pride of Baghdad isn’t on the list. After I read it, I found myself wishing it was longer. Lots of ideas in a fairly short story.
    But we’ve still got a month + of the year left, so it seems really early for a list like this.

  14. Dan Coyle Says:

    I couldn’t disagree more on Can’t Get No; I thought it was terrific.

    I’m dismayed to see the overrated emo-apocalypse blatherings of Dragon Head placed before Monster, Drifting Classroom, or even Golgo 13.

  15. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Even though best of the year lists are already appearing, there are a number of books I’m strongly anticipating still due before 2007: […]

  16. Bill Sherman Says:

    Thinking about Monster – though I liked the frist volume, it strikes me that the series doesn’t really start to announce just how complex and interesting it’s gonna be until the second book. That type of slow-build can be a problem for extended manga series when all that the list-makers are considering are the first and final entries in the series.

  17. Johanna Says:

    That’s a good point, Bill, and a big flaw in the guideline I mentioned. It may penalize a series doing something truly creative for not following the way things are “supposed” to happen. In the best of possible worlds, someone would draw attention to series that broke the mold that way, either publicity folks or critics.

  18. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    I very much recommend Fun House — I’ve passed it around to several of the other Lit teachers in the department and they’ve all been impressed by it, both as a solidly told story and as a literary work. I got bored with Bechdel’s other work a long time ago too, but this is worth reading.

    and why no love for GreaseMonkey? that’s a good work finally completed in one nicely priced and well designed volume.

  19. Johanna Says:

    Good question. I was thrilled to finally see much more of the story (after buying the original Kitchen Sink issues back when)… maybe its size is intimidating? Or maybe the publisher (which hasn’t done comics before, that I know of) isn’t hooked up with the usual suspects and promotional avenues?




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