11 December 2008

A few of my favorite things 2008. Comics, cartoons, TV etc.



It's that time of year when bloggy people start trotting out their "best of" lists. As I've said before, I don't think the word "best" has any place in art criticism but I do have favorites so I'll share some of them with you. I always resist the idea of doing this kind of thing before the year is actually over but I'll go ahead and do it now in the hopes that some of you might buy some some of the minicomics I'll mention.

I won't waste your time with my thoughts on movies. Even though that is what I studied in college I don't tend to see new movies. I think I went to the theater twice in 2008. I saw Wall-E (Boring.) and The Dark Knight (Terrifying. I had a nightmare just the other night about the Ledger Joker holding me and a hundred or so people hostage and making us play weird parlor games.)

Music?  Aw man, do they even make CDs anymore?  The music industry is dead to me.  If I can't download it for free I can't be bothered.

I don't have any thoughts on this year's books and novels. I don't remember reading any books this year by anyone that was not dead other than textbooks and reference books and I really, really. really hated all of those textbooks.

As far as graphic novels go, I used to have access to most of them but in 2008 the only new graphic novel I read was Steve Lafler's book Tranny. I liked it a lot. Since I don't have disposable income or work in a bookstore anymore, it might be a long time before I read another graphic novel. It's very sad but that's the way it is.

As far as floppy comics go, I think I bought five in 2008.  I bought the first issue of Fraction and Larroca's Invincible Iron Man.  Fraction seems to be pretty sharp but Larocca bores my retinas off.  I bought Dave Sim's glamourpuss (trainwreck) and blabbed about it here.  I got the first two issues of Jeff Smith's Rasl and liked them a lot.  It's like Smith's impersonation of Paul Pope.  Speaking of Paul Pope, I bought his last THB comic and loved it.  I landed a couple of Students of the Unusual books and they were pretty awesome in both production and content especially for their price.  I've picked up several Archie digests this year and enjoyed them.  The Archie digest books are one of the few comics investments I can make where I don't reel like I've wasted my money.  They are packed with pages and I can share them with my daughter.  

I do have a television and I occasionally watch it. My 2008 viewing was mostly dominated by political stuff on CNN with some Daily Show and Colbert Report to take the edge off. My favorite show with humans is probably Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. I love that show. The simple fact that Harvey Pekar and Toby Radloff were on it makes it better than most any other human based shows.  I like the Office and was glad to see it recover from the whole writer's strike thing.  I like My Name is Earl and am very glad they got away from all that jail and coma nonsense.  Honestly, I'm not a big fan of shows with humans on them.  Well, I do watch football and auto racing but those are sans actors.  I prefer cartoons and it was a pretty good year for cartoons.  My favorites are Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Secret Saturdays.  I also like Ben 10, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Johnny Test, SpongeBob, Phineas and Ferb and I absolutely loved the Legion of Superheroes but they cancelled it.  The new Batpants show ain't bad but it pales in comparison to the Legion show, Teen Titans or the previous Batpants.  Yeah, I like the Adult Swim stuff too but not enough to stay up late on a regular basis.  

The only form of entertainment I am at all qualified to comment on is minicomics.  I've read a lot of minicomics in 2008. 

My absolute favorite minicomic of 2008?  The one that stands above the rest for me is Josh Latta's Rashy Rabbit #4.  Yeah, this may all sound biased because Josh is my pal but it is the comic I read and re-read the most in 2008.  I think the drawing, the inking, tones, cover, writing, story, characters, jokes etc. are all just about seamless.  I can't think of a more consistent minicomic from cover to cover.  You can read my review of it here and you can read the thing yourself here but more importantly you should go buy a copy here.  If you can think of a better minicomic from 2008 then by all means, email me and I'll email you back my address and you can send me a free copy of that awesome book.  

There were a lot of other great books I have to mention.  2008 delivered a lot of strong anthology books.  I think Candy or Medicine is important because of the wide range of creators in each issue but also because Josh Blair is doing just a good job keeping the thing on schedule and getting it into people's hands.  Mallard out of the UK is important for similar reasons.  The Good Minnesotan books are amazing looking.  Vol. 3 is more of a graphic novel format (I'll review it soon) but 1 and 2 are two of the "best" designed minicomics I saw all year.  Especially 2.  Shitbeams on the Loose is another anthology with brilliant design but it's format is more graphic novel than traditional minicomic.  Good content too.  All that said, my favorite anthology of the year is Not My Small Diary 14.  It is a great looking two volume set but it's the creators that make it my favorite.  Alec Longstreth, John Porcellino and many more awesome talents in one package.  I think I said in my review that it is probably the best dollar for dollar comics investment you can make.  And, you can make that investment here.  You won't regret it.

I saw some good sketchbook minis in 2008.  I think my favorite  might be J. Chris Campbell's 26 Robots.  Just a perfect little robot book.  Full color.  Full of robots.  Good fun.  Brad McGinty's Bird Doggin' is right up there with it just with less robots and more girls.  It's a great little pin up book with some nice color pages.  Rob Ullman's latest Atom Bomb Bikini would probably be on the list too but I managed to leave HeroesCon without a copy.  From what I saw at the show it is a good looking pin up book.  

I was really impressed by work I saw from Ed Moorman and Sarah Olesky in various books and anthologies this year.  I really liked Jeremy Massie's The Deadbeat minis and look forward to the graphic novel next year.  Jeff Zwirek's Burning Building Comix are great looking and a lot of fun to lay out and assemble like Leggos.  (Review coming soon Jeff.)  

I also read a pretty good amount of webcomics.  American Elf continues to be a favorite even after having read ten years worth of the things.  I think it's getting better and better.  Maybe it's because Kochalka is going through this fatherhood thing with two kids about he same age as mine but I think it is neat to watch it grow.  American Elf has been around so long now that it is easy to take for granted.  It is a part of my morning Internet log-on just like checking my email or looking at CNN.com but still it is a favorite.  I'm a big fan of Rene Engstrom's Anders Loves Maria.  I dislike that "best" word but it's the "best" ongoing fiction/drama/comedy/romance webcomic that I'm aware of.  The drawing is great, the characters are great and the story really moves from page to page.  Engstrom covers a lot of narrative and emotional space in a page of comics.  Engstrom's scanner apparently died at some point this year but even with the pages being posted via digital camera it still looks good.  It's the only ongoing web comic I can think of where I really care about finding out what happens next.  
It feels more like a print comic on the web than a true webcomic but I really enjoyed Robert Tinnell and Bo Hampton's Demons of Sherwood at ComicMix.  A Robin Hood horror story done in the Toth style?  I'm sold.   Brad McGinty's Paper Pusher and Dustin Harbin's comics at THE DHARBLOG are new and don't have a lot of pages up yet but seem to be on track to make my 2009 favorites list.  

I could go on and on and there is a lot of great stuff I've left out but everything can't be my favorite.  I also have a large amount of minicomics I have yet to review at file under other.  Those books will be eligible for next year's list (since the eligibility judge is me).  

Looking forward to 2009 with no idea what to expect.
Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith

UPDATE 12/12/2008:
Last night I remembered a couple of things I had forgotten.  I did see at least on other movie in the theater.  I saw The Clone Wars cartoon movie with my daughter and we loved it.

My biggest snafu is that I forgot to mention All-Star Superman.  Maybe it's because it took so long for the thing to come out but I still can't believe I forgot it.  The thing was genius and the art was beautiful.  My only problem with it is that it came to an end.  If I looked through all of my comics and picked out my forty favorite issues I think the Morrison/Quitely team would be responsible for at least twenty of them.  (All-Star Superman, Flex Mentalo, the final issue of The Invisibles and a couple of the better issues of their X-Men run.)  I think the UN should pass some sort of resolution that Morrison and Quitley be forced to produce a new comic ever month until I'm dead.  How did I forget comics I like so very much?  I am very dumb.

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