Friday, January 01, 2010

Best Comics of 2009. My List. The CBR list.

I devoted a "When Words Collide" column to my Best Comics of 2009, and I submitted that same list to CBR for their cumulative, democratically-determined "Best of" list. (Last year, the list I submitted was a bit different than the one I posted in my column, because of something to do with reprints being allowed or something -- I can't remember, but I know it was a slightly different list.)

The blurbs I submitted to the CBR list weren't all used, so here's what I sent in, for anyone interested:

1. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (Pantheon)
Elegant, overpowering, clean, and as messy as humanity. This is what graphic novels can be. This is what "Asterios Polyp" is.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe, by Brian Lee O'Malley (Oni)

One volume away from the finale, O'Malley lets his protagonist grow up a bit, but doesn't leave the genre-smashing fun behind.

3. Detective Comics, by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III (DC)

The best artist in comics working off a pulpy Greg Rucka script? Yeah, this is the stuff.

4. Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart (Vertigo)

This is a comic from the future sent back through time to make fun of the Disney buyout of Marvel before it was even announced. Also: it's gorgeous.

5. Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, by Naoki Urasawa (Viz)

Some have hyperbolically called this the "Watchmen" of manga, and that's not all that far off. But it's quieter than "Watchmen," and about a lot more than just comics.

6. Scalped, by Jason Aaron and Various (Vertigo)

Whether it's tight single-issue stories or expansive, series-long narrative threads, Jason Aaron is creating something special here. Frankly, it has ascended to become one of the best serial narratives ever.

7. Batman and Robin, by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Philip Tan (DC)

The first three issues are some of the best Batman comics ever. Frank Quitely is a master of comic-book-fu.

8. Punisher, by Rick Remender and Various (Marvel)

Giddily trashy, this would be the cult comic of the year if it weren't so unabashedly appealing to the mainstream. But this is still a subversive little gem of a superhero comic.

9. Wednesday Comics by Various (DC)
Pound for pound, penny for penny, you couldn't ask for a better weekly dose of comic book art. Worth the price just for the Karl Kerschl.

10. I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Nimura (Image)
A story unlike any other this year in a comic that didn't look like anything else this year. Engaging, powerful stuff from Kelly and Numura.

Overall, the CBR list was surprisingly diverse, and I think that's because of the lack of clear, consensus Marvel or DC picks -- "Detective Comics" and "Batman and Robin" were the only two superhero books in the Top 10. Last year, five superhero comics cracked the consensus Top 10. I also think the edition of the Robot 6 bloggers added some much-needed diversity, and "Driven By Lemons" wouldn't have made as much of an impact on this list without their votes, I suspect.

Basically, with each of us submitting our Ten Best, and with a lot of diversity of choices, it probably only took a few people to rank something in their personal Top 10 for it to rank in the Top 25 overall.

I've seen some criticism of the list already, and it's different than the criticism of last year's democratic picks. Last year, even I criticized the list for ranking mediocre superhero comics too high ("high" meaning "low," number-wise), while this year the criticism from the message boards is about the "obscure indie picks" in the Top 25, and the idea that these comics don't represent what was covered on the CBR main page throughout the year.

I wouldn't call most of the picks obscure -- some readers even named "Asterios Polyp" as obscure, which is just an ignorant statement -- but it is interesting to think about whether CBR has a responsibility to cover the best comics throughout the year, not just the popular ones. I'd love to see that, and with "Comics Should Be Good" and "Robot 6," plenty of non-Marvel and DC comics are discussed, but the reality is that the site is about mainstream, mostly superhero comics. That's the audience. When I write columns about "The Drifting Classroom" or reviews of "Powr Mastrs," that kind of stuff gets practically no hits. I write those things for myself, and to raise awareness. But they aren't the kind of profitable articles for CBR that something like my "Top 10 Geoff Johns" column was.

What do you think? Should CBR focus more on the "good" comics throughout the year and not just wait until the end of December to point out the best stuff? Is it a problem that the list doesn't reflect the bulk of CBR's mainstream emphasis? Is it a bad thing when a list makes you look up some new comics you may not have heard of? And in what universe is "Batgirl" even a Top 100 pick?!?


MarkAndrew said...

Yeah, I can see what your saying.

(A) This years list WAS a lot more diverse, and better. I don't wanna say that most of the CBR reviewers don't know much about comics...

Well, yeah, I do. But it's there JOB to focus on the mainstream, so I absolutely see the reasoning.

Maybe there should be a special olympics style list for the best Marvel/DC stuff, and another list of comics that are good?

Shecky Shabazz said...

Yeah, what is up with Batgirl getting in the top 30? And Irredeemable? Better than LoEG? Better than Seaguy? Better than Ganges? Really?

But while I do think it's nice to see a lot of non-superhero/non-mainstream books on the list, it doesn't really seem all that strange that CBR doesn't really cover a lot of this stuff on a year-round basis. As someone who visited the site back in the Jonah Weiland's Comic Book Resources days, it makes sense, because that's what the site has always been about: American superhero comic books. If I want to read about obscure minicomics or other stuff nobody cares about (i.e. manga, eurocomics, and other stuff that sells) - and I do - I'll read Jog or Tucker Stone or find something on Journalista!.

What I like about CBR is that, much thanks to yourself, there is a reasonably steady output of intelligent and interesting writings on mainstream comics. Not bad for a site whose contributors think that Batgirl is actually a better comic than Incognito, Final Crisis and Footnotes in Gaza.

Drew said...

It was nice to see the photographer get in the top 10.

As other genres of comics become popular, it's only right that CBR covers those comics as well. I'm glad that the Robot6 bloggers got to bring a different perspective to the list.

Vinay said...

I am surprised that Y the Last Man did not find a place in your list otherwise I guess most of the comics close to my heart find a place and I plan to read stuff in your list which I have not. Thanks for that

Konami Code said...

Batgirl really was the puzzling stand-out. There's no accounting for taste and everything but you can objectively prove that it's worse than everything ranked lower on the list. Do people just like it because it's about a spunky blond teenage girl?

Jon Burr said...

I'm curious as to why "Pluto" rated as high as it did on your "Best of Decade" list, as compared to your "Best of 09" list.

I enjoyed both lists, by the way.

Timothy Callahan said...

I suppose it's a question of balance -- it is the only manga on the Decade list. And, I suppose Pluto jumped over Seaguy and Detective Comics because I imagine that the legacy of Pluto will be a bit stronger, and that's what Best of Decade lists are about to me.

Mathew New! said...

Though it's nice to come across comics you like on Top lists, I actually enjoy coming across comics I haven't heard of.

I like when an end of the year list points out something good I may have missed.

Fanboy Wife said...

Asterios Polyp isn't that obscure. I don't like comics, and even I've heard of it.

Timothy Callahan said...

"I don't like comics"? What kind of statement is that?

It's like saying, "I don't like movies." Or "I don't like music."