Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A game you can play in the comfort of your own home

-Those best-of lists keep rolling in. Today, ADD joins Publisher's Weekly and Amazon, and there will surely be more to come in the weeks ahead. This is making me feel woefully behind on my reading, even though I've thought ahead for once and have been keeping a running list of my favorite books of 2007. There's still so much I haven't gotten around to reading--Alias the Cat, the new Scott Pilgrim, The Black Dossier, Exit Wounds, all of Gilbert Hernandez' recent work, The Salon, Parasyte, and god knows what else. I was worried that I would be forced to leave I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets off my list, cause I was lame and waited and waited. And nobody else did, apparently, since the first printing sold out. But now there's a new printing, so I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to read it soon. I am a little shocked that it didn't show up on the PW list, especially considering some of the other stuff that did. I'm sure we'll see it on plenty of lists soon enough.

Anyway, what's kind of amazing about these lists is how little they overlap with my preliminary list. Which is weird, cause I figured my list would be a fairly conventional, middle-of-the-road kind of thing; there aren't too many curve balls on it. But that's not the case. In fact, in my working list, there's only one book in common with any of the three lists above.* I think part of this incongruity might be a question of format. As one would expect, Amazon is sticking to things which one can purchase from their website. PW seems to be sticking to graphic novels (by which I mean squarebound things you can buy at a chain store), which also makes sense. Looking over my list, there aren't a lot of comics in that format--only about half of them. Maybe there's something to be said about the continued viability of pamphlet-style comics or the rising quality of webcomics, but I'm not the one who's going to say it. My other thought is that there sure are a lot of quality books to choose from this year and it's getting harder and harder to make best of lists and gee, that's a great problem to have and that I sure hope you kids appreciate how good comics are these days compared to a few years ago. But I go on about that stuff all the time, and the actual books say it better than I ever could anyway.

I'll have more to say whenever I get around to publishing my actual best of list. Which might be sometime in 2008. (EDIT: I accidentally published it a few minutes ago, so if it got through to the RSS feeds, you might get a sneak peak.)

*It's not Alice In Sunderland, it's not Shortcomings, and it's probably going to get bumped by one of the books I have yet to read.

-Here's a goofy exercise. Most people have much nicer collections of comics than me, spanning multiple bookshelves (which themselves are nicer than the stark white/black ones I have). I have one ramshackle bookshelf holding most of my larger comics, and a smaller, even more ramshackle one for my digest-sized books. I'm talking books laying on their sides, stacked two deep, etc., etc. So no, I'm never going to post a picture of my bookshelves, unless maybe one of my cats does something amusing in one.

What I am going to do, however, is try a rather clumsy game. I'm going to look at each of the shelves and decide what my five favorite books from each one is. I'm going only on immediate, gut reaction: no re-reading, no equivocating. Just a harsh, summary judgment. Here we go:

BOTTOM SHELF: Mostly oversized and/or heavy comics. Lots of thick hardcovers.

1. Robert Crumb-The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book
2. Harvey Kurtzman, et. al.-The Complete First Six Issues of Mad (I know it sound stupid, but that's the name on the spine)
3. Jim Woodring-Frank, volume 1
4. Bill Blackbeard and Dale Crain, editors-The Comic Strip Century (technically a two volume set; consider this cheating if you must)
5. Jaime Hernandez-Wig Wam Bam

SECOND LOWEST SHELF: Lots of those cheap B&W reprints

1. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko-The Essential Amazing Spider-Man, volume 1
2. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby-The Essential Fantastic Four, volume 3
3. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko-The Essential Amazing Spider-Man, volume 2
4. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby-The Essential Fantastic Four, volume 4
5. Dan Nadel, editor-Art Out of Time

MIDDLE SHELF: Various 80s/90s alternative/underground comics, most of my landscape formatted comic strips collections, several really, really tall books

1. Peter Bagge-The Buddy Chronicles (a book club edition reprinting the first two Hate collections, plus the Bradleys collection, which I bought for like $2 about 10 years ago)
2. Richard Sala-The Chuckling Whatsit
3. Larry Marder-Beanworld, volume 1
4. Walt Kelly-Pogo, volume 6 (from the original Fantagraphics reprint series)
5. Matt Groening-Love is Hell (expanded edition)
(This, I might add, was the hardest of all the shelves. I left out all kinds of great stuff, like Watchmen, Popeye reprints, Krazy Kat reprints, Palestine, all the Bone collections, and the oversized Drawn and Quarterly anthologies. I might also add that this is the shelf where Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde normally resides. If it were on hand, I'd probably have it about fourth on the above list.)

SECOND HIGHEST SHELF: Most of my color superhero books, plus some other things that wouldn't fit anywhere else.

1. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell-From Hell
2. Jack Kirby, et. al.-Jack Kirby's New Gods (this is from the grey-toned reprint series of the 90s; I haven't bought any of the recent color omnibuses, as I am a man of modest means)
3. Jack Cole-Jack Cole and Plastic Man (the biography/collection edited by Art Spiegelman)
4. Kevin Huizenga-Curses
5. David B.-Epileptic

HIGHEST SHELF: My smallest books which are still too big to fit on the digest-size bookcase. This is also where I've put everything from the Ignatz line, as well as some pamphlet-format comics that I want to have handy. I have included none of these, however, since I don't want to try to guess which issue of The Nimrod or Hate was my favorite.

1. Seth-It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken
2. Dylan Horrocks-Hicksville
3. Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb-Bob and Harv's Comics
4. Alison Bechdel-Fun Home
5. Gipi-Notes For a War Story

I'm not going to do the digest shelves, since I also don't want to try to figure out where individual volumes of Dr. Slump rank compared to individual volumes of Cromartie High School.

Anyway, there sure were a whole lot of good comics published last year, huh? I count three, and Dupuy and Berberian's Get a Life barely missed the list for the top shelf. Truly this is a golden age we live in, etc., etc.


Matthew J. Brady said...

Wow, now I'm really curious about your list, especially knowing what you seem to like (at least judging by the reviews and comments you've left here). I'll be anticipating it greatly.

You know, I do enjoy the top-ten-list period of every year, when magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. publish their picks, but it seems to start earlier every year. We've still got over a month to go, people!

Alan David Doane said...

But thanks to Previews, we have a pretty good picture of what that month will look like, Matt.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Oh yeah, I didn't think of that. But just looking at stuff that I noticed in online solicitations from a few months ago, there's still a good amount of stuff coming out, including The Goon: Chinatown (if it actually appears this year), Darwyn Cooke's last issue on The Spirit, the Popgun anthology, The Next Issue Project, Flink (new Doug TenNapel), Pax Romana, Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons (maybe), Northlanders, Red Mass For Mars, the new Acme Novelty Library, and surely some other stuff of some sort. And that's just what's on my radar. It certainly won't all be best-of-the-year material, but there might still be some pretty cool stuff there. I just hesitate to declare the year over when there's still a good tenth of it remaining.

And really, I didn't specify it, but I was also talking about other mediums as well; some newspapers or critical groups put out a top movies list before December is over, and that always bothers me.

Dick Hyacinth said...

I don't want to act like my list is something worthy of extra attention or anything. It's still early; as more people release their best of- lists, my list will look more conventional. I'm just kind of surprised that it's so different so far. Not quite as shocked as seeing MW on the PW best of- list--surely the two volumes of Phoenix published this year would be better choices? (Note to self: read those volumes of Phoenix before releasing your own list.)

BTW, I'm hoping that MarkAndrew will publish a best of- roundup again. I liked that feature.