By Kevin Huizenga
These are a few of the comics I bought and liked in 2001.
"Hey Wait" by Jason, published by Fantagraphics
Hey Wait is an extraordinary book. Its funny, sad, beautiful, and perfectly told. It tells the story of a childhood tragedy that follows the main character into adulthood. The cartooning is the hard not to read kind. Maybe the best comic I read all year.
"Catch as Catch Can" by Greg Cook, published by Highwater Books
Catch as Catch Can took me by surprise. Glancing through it at the store, I anticipated a tolerable, cutesy, screwball kind of thing, but after taking it home and reading it, I remembered why I like reading comics. The story is basically one big crazy chase after the Gingerbread Man by the cops. But along the way Cook gives us good jokes, beautifully clumsy drawing, and plenty of curveballs I didnt see coming. I got the sense reading that if you could have this much fun drawing a comic thats still this smart and funny, then its going to be all right.
Abe: Wrong for all the Right Reasons by Glenn Dakin, published by Top Shelf
Collected here are 20 years of short, poetic comics and allegorical satires that make up as strong a body of work as youre likely to find in comics. Some of Dakins short comics read like poems, with masterful, gracefully sloppy drawings punctuating the "lines." Comics-as-poetry is largely unexplored territory. These are some of the best examples of poem comics around. Running through Abe theres a kind of vision or philosophy of life related in such a gentle, wry, beautiful way (cf. "Abe inherits the Moon" ) that you cant help but see the world a little more Abe/Glenns way when you put the book downand thats great.
Golems Mighty Swing by James Sturm, published by Drawn and Quarterly
Really strong and excellent. A joy to read. When I picked it off the shelf at the store (Star Clipper in St. Louis, hi AJ) I turned right to the "dramatic" and funny page where the "golem" steps up to the plate, and I closed it immediately because I knew Id buy it. The nods to Ray Gotto and baseball manga are wonderful reminders of some of the hidden wonders in the comics world, and the storya 1920s Jewish baseball novelty act struggling to stay relatively true to themselvesis a beautiful reminder of the wonders of the larger world.
Eightball 22 by Dan Clowes, published by Fantagraphics
Clowes' playful mastery of comics looks effortless here, and his love for the form is obvious and infectious.
Acme Novelty 15 by Chris Ware, published by Fantagraphics
Palookaville by Seth, published by Drawn and Quarterly
the Akira reprints published by Dark Horse
Uzumaki, by Junjo Ito, published by Pulp
Jack Cole by Art Spiegleman and Chip Kidd, published by Chronicle Books
Im grateful for the material, and the clear photographs, but not so much for the loud presentation. Kidds design at least makes sense in the Cole bookthe manic energy of Coles Platic Man pages is mirrored by the except for the "finale," which didnt work for me. I would have thought Spiegelman and Kidd would be beyond that kind of blunt artlessness.
Peanuts: The Art of Charles Schulz, Chip Kidd, published by Pantheon
The Peanuts book is a mixed blessingbeautiful photographs of Schulzs originals and Sunday newsprints, dots and all, which are a joy to read, but are presented in a kind of "scrapbook" layout that made me seasick. My eyes scrambled for the calm and graceful drawing in the strips themselves, only to bang against the edge of the page because there are often no margins. Panel borders end millimeters from the edge of the page and the effect is claustrophobic and unpleasant. The design feels unkind, loud and even violent, (crop! crop CROP!) when softness and restraint would better fit the material.
Alec: The Three Piece Suit by Eddie Campbell
Tango with Death by Ulf K.
Reading both Alec and Ulf K. always makes me want to sit down and draw comics. They make it look easy and fun, which of course makes them liars, ha ha.
The Halloween Paper Rad thing, self-published, small distribution
This is an anthology of drawings, collages, and comics put together around Halloween by Ben Jones, Brian Chippendale, Mat Brinkman, and others. Its a casual display of perfect cartooning in the Gary Panter "tradition."
The BBQ flipbook thing, self-published, small distribution by Ben Jones and Keith Waters
You can read it here: http://www.paperrad.org/ben/bbq.html
The whole book has the feel of some of Crumbs non-satirical Zap pages. Both halves of the book stand out to me as inspiring works of "free-cartooning." Neither story is credited, and no address or price is to be found anywhere on the booklet.