It’s not quite the end of 2013 yet, but I’m jumping on this list thing because it’s list time. Here’s what I liked this year. Ten things from ten different publishers, and four of them are from self-publishers or very small presses whose books aren’t available through Diamond, the big comic distributor. But hey! I’m no snob: there’s a Marvel Comic on there too! Let’s do it:
COPRA by MICHEL FIFFE
Michel Fiffe wrote, drew, colored, self-published and distributed twelve issues of his own comic series over the course of a year, and they are great. They’re entertaining comics, full of violent insanity and almost incomprehensible character designs, and they’re beautiful objects, full of the most purposefully idiosyncratic linework and coloring you’ll see in a comic these days. Most of the individual self-published issues are sold out, but Bergen Street Comics has been collecting them in three-issue compendia, and those are just as cool. $12 each for the compendia.
HIP HOP FAMILY TREE by ED PISKOR
The first volume of Ed Piskor’s comprehensive history of hip hop culture is both educational and entertaining. The art, coloring, and design (down to the enormous size) are reminiscent of Marvel’s Treasury Editions from the seventies, which makes the style of the work contemporary to the subject matter. Brilliant. Whether you’re an old school head or a new jack, you’ll want to peep this. $24.95, and currently between printings at the distributor level, which means you should snatch a first print while we have them. And oh yeah: they’re signed too! Having Ed at the store this year was a lot of fun!
MY DIRTY DUMB EYES by LISA HANAWALT
Dirty jokes and lovely watercolor art are the way to my heart, and Lisa excels at both of those things. We also hosted Lisa at the store this year (Have you noticed the trend? I’m a big fan of a cartoonist, so I invite them to the store! Nepotism!), where she painted animal portraits of fans. Delightful. $22.95, and more than worth it. If you’re looking for a cheaper entry to Lisa’s work, we still have at the time of this writing a few copies of her self-published mini-comic SAVE A HORSE, RIDE A HANAWALT at seven bucks.
DISTRICT 14 by PIERRE GABUS & ROMUALD REUTIMANN
This comic is translated from the French. It features incredible black and white art with very strong cartoony lines and expert use of dot tone. The story is totally ridiculous noir, with a little bit of everything else thrown in: animals, people, aliens, and superheroes. It’s full of crazy-detailed world-building stuff. The whole thing makes me think of Brandon Graham’s KING CITY, in that the whole setting is so ridiculous it’s almost comedic, but the characters are involved in very serious situations. $39.95 for a great big hardcover. Volume two is scheduled for sometime early 2014.
IT WILL ALL HURT by FAREL DALRYMPLE
When I say that Farel Dalrymple’s comics are emotional fantasy, I’m not saying they’re about crying hobbits, I’m saying that the emotions he depicts are at least as important as the story. IT WILL ALL HURT is so far along the sliding scale between story and emotion that I usually don’t know what’s happening, but I definitely feel it. There’s one print comic of this so far. It has a two-color risograph cover and lovely full-color watercolor insides. It’s eight bucks. We just sold our last copy, so I’m about to order some more from Zack Soto, his publisher. Bonus trivia: I own the original art for the panels depicted here!
AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE by ROBERTO AGUIRRE-SACASA & FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA
This is such a great idea for a comic. Almost everyone in comics fandom knows who the Archie characters are, even if they’ve only read Archie comics covers. I learned to read on Archie comics, so I feel qualified to say that while the dialogue tends a bit toward the Buffyish, the characters are true to themselves, even as they are eaten alive and transformed into shambling ghouls. Plus, the art is perfect; Francesco Francavilla is killing it. $2.99 a comic. Two of them are out, and we have them both, but we’re out of that chessecakey Bettie cover of the first issue.
SAGA by BRIAN K VAUGHAN & FIONA STAPLES
All the great reviews you’ve read about Saga are true. It’s a great comic. The story is a lot of fun, the art is gorgeous, and the dialogue is really funny and dirty. The two paperback collections are our best selling books of the year, and with good reason. Paperbacks: $9.99-$14.99. Individual comic issues: $2.99.
HAWKEYE by MATT FRACTION, DAVID AJA, JAVIER PULIDO, ET AL
Like Saga, Hawkeye has gotten so many great reviews that I could really slack off here, but I’ll still say: Matt Fraction’s versions of these characters are full of heart and humor, David Aja’s art is like somebody strained Batman Year One era Mazzuchelli through Steranko and Chris Ware, without being a ripoff of any of that stuff, and the fill-in artists are better than the primary artists on any other superhero book being published. It’s not just “good for a superhero comic,” it’s one of the best comics being published right now, period. Comic issues are $2.99, paperback collections are $16.99, and the big hardcover collection is $34.99.
WHITE CARDS by ADAM MEUSE
Adam Meuse is the creator of our best-selling mini-comic of all time, SAD ANIMALS, as well as the designer of our t-shirts with the bear on them. And then you got this thing, which is a collection of throwaway jokes from his former day job, in which he mercilessly depicts his coworkers, forcing them into horrible, dirty situations. It’s a bunch of in-jokes to be sure, but I think I laughed harder at his dirty giraffe drawings than anything else I read this year. It’s $4.
FANTASY BASKETBALL by SAM BOSMA
I love Sam Bosma’s illustration, so I picked up a copy of this mini from him at SPX. It’s got a very nice screenprinted cover. The story inside is of some dungeon-crawling adventurers who get into a life-or-death pickup game with an undead basketball master. It’s funny, and fun, and for a guy who primarily produces single illustration work, he’s a really excellent storyteller! I don’t carry this thing because he only printed a few, but I think you can buy a digital version direct from him.
That’s certainly not all the comics I liked this year, but I think it’s a good representation of my very favorites! Thanks for reading!
Andrew Neal, Owner
Chapel Hill Comics