Best of 2008

As I sent them to Publishers weekly at the end of last year. I know this is terribly late to post, but on the other hand, it’s never too late to talk about good comics.

This was supposed to be a graphic novel list, but I couldn’t resist including manga (because I think separating the two is a kind of protectionism, due to manga outselling American graphic novels in most cases, and I enjoy reading both) and Sinfest, a webcomic that’s simply outstanding (and has just been collected by Dark Horse, so look for it on next year’s list as well).

In building this list, I tried to consider both new works and reprints. Of course, my taste features as well — I wanted to include books that I enjoyed fully and would want to reread in future years, books that showed me something new about people or art or both. While I’ve described them briefly, I’ve also linked to my reviews for more in-depth information.

NanaAi Yazawa’s addictive manga series had six volumes, 8-13, released in English in 2008. It’s a briliant blend of character development — as the two young women who are its title characters learn about love and what they want from life — masquerading as a rock’n’roll soap opera.

SinfestBeautiful cartooning by Tatsuya Ishida that comments directly on the foibles of modern life, including beliefs, politics, and gender, available daily at (plus full-color longer Sunday strips!). Takes my breath away both with the stunning art and the deep-reaching insight and perspective. So right and yet so unexpected.

Zot! The complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991We live in a wonderful time, with so many superlative works from all eras becoming available again in book form. I’ve anticipated having Scott McCloud’s series in more permanent form for years, and now that it’s here, it still makes me cry. only this time, it’s as much his new story notes on the trials of the struggling cartoonist he was then, and the conflict between aspirations and abilities, as it is the touching “Earth Stories” exploring teen struggles with coming out, alcoholic parents, and realizing you’re not going to make your dreams come true.

Love and Capes: Do You want to know a Secret?Who would have thought you could turn a new twist on the superhero romantic comedy, inspired by Superman and Lois Lane? Thom Zahler did so by concentrating first on two adults in love, and the realistic struggles with family and career that result from joining two lives. Plus, very funny in creative ways, with new jokes about this favorite topic!

AriaTokyopop picked up this gorgeous, pastoral manga by Kozue Amano from ADV, republishing the first three volumes and finally continuing the series. It’s a reflective meditation on the joys of simple living, as told through the daily work of an aspiring gondola pilot on a flooded Mars. It takes me to another place and refreshes my mood whenever I read it.

Essential Dykes to watch Out ForThe best of 25 years of Alison Bechdel’s lesbian soap opera in a handsome single hardcover volume. It also, not so coincidentally, serves as a modern history of liberal aggravation and cultural wars.

Drawing Words & writing PicturesWIth graphic novels finally achieving a permanent place of recognition, next was needed a complete textbook on how to be a cartoonist. This is it, by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.

Magic TrixieJill Thompson’s painted fantasy for children captures magic for all ages. The message, that the aggravation of family life is ultimately rewarding, is predictable but still worth getting, and the artwork sings.

Tamara DreweIt’s Posy Simmonds’ delicate illustrations that make her complicated tales of modern manners, inspired by classic novels, so attractive.

Black JackThe legendary series by manga master Osamu Tezuka, about an unlicensed doctor and his amazingly inventive operations, comes to America. It’s as crazy as you’ve heard, but well-suited for a culture obsessed with the autopsy porn of CSI.

I’ve archived my past lists on my page of must-read comic classics.

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