Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Third roundup of best of 2008 lists

Lots of new stuff this time. A conundrum as well: NPR has now made a separate list for the best superhero comics of 2008. Huh? Is there a reason this wasn't integrated into the best graphic novels of 2008 list? This isn't affirmative action for superhero comics--it's separate-but-equal. Look, I can understand multiple lists in different categories, and I usually included lists like that last year if I could discern some sense of logic in them. For instance: Matthew Brady made different lists based on method of delivery; it's not a distinction I would make, but I can understand the reasoning. A bit closer to the NPR situation was Sean Collins, who made two lists broadly defined as "artsy" and "genre-ish." But the latter wasn't just superhero comics; in fact, it included Daybreak by Brian Ralph, a cartoonist usually lumped in with the "artsy" crowd.

Maybe I'm wrong; maybe there's not such a big difference between Sean's lists and this one. I guess I'm willing to give Sean the benefit of the doubt because I read his blog, and I know that he has his own approach to appreciating genre works and more literary/artistic/whatever works. I don't think I've quite figured out his tastes yet (I don't think I'll ever understand the appeal of Green Lantern), but I respect where he's coming from. This NPR thing, though, it's weird. Is the implication that superhero comics can't compare to the serious stuff, but somehow deserves mention for unclear reasons (maybe the popularity of the Batman and Iron Man movies)? Was there a limit of five titles per list imposed from above, thus tying Laurel Maury's hands and somehow necessitating a second list? Is there another list to come, maybe one that will consider manga or webcomics? If not, do I include the superhero list, ignore it, or do I just disqualify Maury's vote altogether?

I'm not just asking rhetorical questions here; I really would appreciate some feedback. For now, I'm not including the superhero list, and I'm not removing the points for the graphic novels list.

All right, what else do we have? There's a really solid new list from the Village Voice, one of the best one I've read from a general interest source this year (the Daily Vanguard list is also very much to my tastes). Jeff Smith (perhaps you've heard of him?) checks in with the first list from a comics professional which meets the minimum length requirements. The venerable Johnny Bacardi has posted his list. There's also a list from the equally venerable Robert Boyd. Plus lots of other lists worth your time.

Remember, if you know of a list not included below, please email me or leave a comment pointing me in the right direction. And please, don't rush getting your lists in on my account. I wouldn't want anyone to do this in this in the first place, but it's totally unneccesary besides. The Comics Journal won't publish their best of 2008 issue until February (I think), and I won't be doing one anytime soon either. I've got about 8-10 books I want to consider that haven't come in the mail yet. Among them: Kramers Ergot 7. Anyone know what's going on with Amazon's distribution of this book?

Criteria for inclusion in the Meta-List:

-list must contain no fewer than five items and no more than fifty
-list must be a general best-of list, not a series of categorical awards like "best superhero book," "best children's book," etc.
-list must not be limited to superhero comics, manga, major publishers, etc.
-I don't include votes for things like "everything Warren Ellis wrote in 2008"
-when a list includes a vote for a title which came out in a year prior to 2008, I usually tally everything like I normally would; it's rare that there are enough votes for an out-of-date item for it to crack the top 100
-no overt sleaziness (like voting for your own work; will be determined on a case-by-case basis)

New lists are in green.



Daily Vanguard (Portland State University)

New York Magazine


Publishers Weekly

Village Voice

Washington Post


Bacardi, Johnny

Doane, Alan David

Harbin, Dustin

Hickey, Andrew

Hipster Dad

Lockefeer, Wim

Tomio, Jay


Smith, Jeff


Amazon.jp (The Japanese branch of Amazon's best comics and "light novels." Interesting, but I'm not sure what to do with it since much (most?) of this is not available in English yet, and the light novels are definitely not comics. On the other hand, those aren't necessarily good reasons to exclude this list. Any thoughts?)

Associated Content (Written by Russell Burlingame of the new Blogorama crew. Framed as "the best and worst of 2008," I took this to be more of a year in review kind of list. Plus it might be too narrow (Echo is the only not-at-the-front-of-Diamond title listed). We'll see if Burlingame posts a best of 2008 list at Blogorama.)

Boyd, Robert (Boyd admits this is a "best of things I read this year, but which were not necessarily published in 2008." But most of this list does consist of 2008 releases, so I'll almost certainly count it when the time comes.)

Callahan, Timothy (It's a list of the top 20 collected editions of 2008. Callahan has promised a separate list of the top 10 original comics of 2008, and I'll combine and tally the two lists once he publishes that list.)

Drawn!, part one (Matt Forsythe) (This contains one comic which is definitely not 2008 (Tekkon Kinkreet) and one which is either a 2007 entry if you consider it a book or a 2008 entry if you consider it a webcomic (Fart Party). My Brain is Hanging Upside Down and Cul de Sac are definite 2008 comic releases. I'm not sure what you would consider the Nicholas series. The rest are things which not everyone would agree are comics. My inclination is to count this list anyway, since (a) the non-comics stuff won't accumulate enough other votes to place, and (b) I'll disqualify any non-2008 titles when I finalize the meta-list. Do note that I'm not trying to denigrate the list because it doesn't fit into this project; I like seeing unconventional lists, and it's not like Drawn! is a comics-only blog. UPDATE: I have included this list.)

Drawn, part two (John Martz) (See comments above, except that this list a greater number of 2008 titles that most would classify as unambiguously comics. UPDATE: I have included this list.)

The Independent (Seems to have an awful lot of books from before 2008--Sleepwalk? Embroideries?--which might reflect new British editions, but I'm skeptical. Comics and Sequential Art seriously never came out in the UK before 2008? Just seems like a lazy list.)

Nicholson, Brian (I don't have any problem with it, but Brian suggests he doesn't "read enough to be considered a serious critic." I'm inclined to include it, unless Brian asks me not to.)

(Their all-superhero list. See above.)

Some dude on Amazon (Do I really want to include Amazon lists? I mean, it's not a bad list, aside from being a little long, but really...)

St. Louis Today (Includes one from 2007, which reduces the list down to a total of four, below the minimum threshold. I'll probably include it in the final tally, and ignore the votes for Laika. UPDATE: I've included it.)

Douglas Wolk (I think this is a gift guide, not a best-of list?)

Various message board posters (Most of these fail to meet my minimal criteria (ie, they're all Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image). And I haven't decided whether or not to include a bunch of hastily compiled message board lists. I mean, if this were Abhay Khosla or something, I would reconsider, but these are a bunch of basically anonymous dudes on a Hellblazer forum.)


Brownfield, Troy and Lucas Siegel
(Delimited to superhero comics)

Caleb Monroe (UPDATED: I had this among the regular comics-focused lists until I realized that its author had voted for a book he co-wrote, thus prompting the newest criterion for inclusion listed above.)

Comics Should Be Good/Danielle Leigh Readers' Choice (too short, categorical, and delimited to manga)

IGN (Categorical awards. If you think Wizard's gotten too snooty, this is the list for you.)

Kethylia (delimited to manga)

Maxwell, Matt (Doesn't include the minimum number of comics, mostly because apparently Maxwell agrees with Steven Grant re: the quality of comics in 2008. Much pontification along those lines, if you're looking for more of that.)

Pop Culture Shock (delimited to manga)

Sequential Tart (Two lists, but neither meets the minimum number of entries for inclusion.)

Smith, Shannon (specifically delimited to mini-comics and web comics; well worth your time, though)

Various cartoonists at Forbidden Planet (Forbidden Planet is conducting a series of interviews with cartoonists, asking for a top three list from each. This is below the minimum threshold for this project, but you should check out this link, which should take you to all of the interviews conducted so far. Bryan Talbot is the most prominent interviewee to date.)

Wizard (Not the official list, at least not yet. This is a categorical awards list, and thus ineligible. What a strange list--a bunch of superhero comics, plus Kramers Ergot 7.)


Sandy said...

As far as the split superhero/other lists go, I say include them both. It'll all shake out in the end.
Also, for the lists written by people who include their own comics, why not just remove that entery from the list and include the others? That way you can avoid penalizing books that aren't linked to the list-maker.

Marc Sobel said...

That NPR superhero list is kind of a joke. First, they think Planetary was published by Marvel. And how could any best of superhero list not include All Star Superman?

Robert Boyd said...

What are you using all these lists for? I ask because my list has to be one of the least complete, least well-thought-out lists there is. I only included books that I felt like buying, had the money in my pocket that week to buy, and had enough time to type up a little review on Visual Bookshelf. This list hardly can be counted as any kind of serious look at the year's comics. For instance, there are no comic books on the list--because I only was including things that I commented on in Visual Bookshelf, which is all about books. (Not that I read many comic books this year--I can't really keep track of continuing stories anymore--i'm too impatient. I liked RASL though.) I guess what I'm saying is that it's a highly personal and idiosyncratic list, for which the inclusion criteria have something to do with a personal notion of quality, but also include lots of other things that have nothing to do with quality... That said, probably many of the lists you have are similarly idosyncratic.

In any case, thanks for linking to my blog!

Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said...

Robert, the project is a compilation of all the halfway intelligent-looking year's best lists into a single list, weighted according to a not-really-complex-but-too-long-to-get-into-here system. Here's last year's , in case you want to see how it turns out.

Your list may be idiosyncratic, but most of these lists are. You may not have read everything from 2008, but that's generally true for those who make these lists. And I'm guessing (from the looks of your list) you read more things from a wider range of comics than a lot of the people making lists for major publications.

I can remove your list from the project, if you'd like. But I really wanted to include your list in the link dump at least, since it strikes me as a good list, plus I remember reading your work in the Spurgeon-era TCJ of my youth. If it's any consolation, one list of 20+ titles doesn't really make an enormous difference.

Robert Boyd said...

Oh, I'm happy to be input into your own personal BCS computer ranking of best comics--these lists help me see what I might have missed. I was just curious about what it was for (and now I know) and slightly chagrined to be considered next to more serious listers (but happy to be included, too).

Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said...

I guess the meta-list will have to suffice until we get a real playoff system like the other major art forms have.

Robert Boyd said...

Obama promised he'd change that!

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