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2010 was a great year for books — beautiful, printed, made-of-paper books. If you’re struggling with last-minute gift ideas for the cartoonist or illustrator in your life (or anyone for that matter), here are my favourite books of the year.
Probably my favourite book of the year. From my original review:
Printed with a restrained three colours, the short book is a gentle, unassuming reflection on time, place, and sound. It’s not so much a story as it is a snapshot of suburban life. The sights and sounds of a sleepy, mundane evening become the beats and rhythms in the poetry of a neighbourhood.
This collection of drawings and sketchbook comics is a successor of sorts to Jillian’s equally inspiring Gilded Lilies. Both books act as companions to her sketchblog, which itself is home to one of my favourite things on the Internet, SuperMutant Magic Academy.
A chilling parable for the modern commercial artist, Market Day is a timeless tale of artisan vs. economy. From my original review:
It’s a heartbreaking tale, made even more heartbreaking by its relevance to today’s shrinking markets for craftspeople, artists, illustrators, and of course, cartoonists. The dying newspaper and magazine industries that once made celebrities out of cartoonists, are certainly represented here as the stores and marketplace sellers who can no longer afford to buy and sell handmade goods. To be sure, the book is dedicated in part “to all my fellow cartoonists”.
A best-of collection of some of Graham’s favourite comics work. If you’ve seen Graham’s Grickle cartoons on YouTube, or have played this year’s Puzzle Agent game, you know what kind of Lynchian goods to expect in the book. Read my interview with Graham.
A close runner-up as my favourite book of the year, it’s the ultimate reference book for lettering and type nerds who want to capture some retro magic. This fat book comprises thousands of lettering samples culled from advertising, logos, posters, and ephemera of the era — all of it organized by style, from psychedelia to brush script to spooky horror to modern geometric.
It’s most certainly the graphic novel of the year. Wilson is the story of a misanthropic antihero told through a sequence of individual one-page comic strips, each drawn in a different cartooning style. It’s a graphic novel that reads like the Sunday funnies, but one with the bitter soul of Daniel Clowes.
It’s the only kids’ book on my list this year, but only because I didn’t read too many. Spork has an identity crisis — he’s not quite a spoon, like his mother, nor is he quite a fork, like his father. He’s a little bit of both.
It’s the perfect kids book for for children of multicultural—or multi-cutlery—families, or for any kid who feels like he or she doesn’t quite fit in. Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations are a fitting hybrid of mixed media and collage, and help make Spork one of the most beautiful books of the year.
Seth Godin gets to the heart of how to not only set yourself apart in the workforce, but to position yourself as a linchpin — that indispensable, innovative mind that everyone wants to work with. The good news for us creative types, is that the secret is in art and creativity. And for cartoonists who are still afraid to put their work online for free, Linchpin will help explain why the culture and economy of gifts is integral to success on the Internet. And most importantly, Godin helps to conquer your lizard brain — the primal part of your inner workings responsible for your crippling fear of failure. Linchpin helped me better understand my role as a freelancer and a creative mind in a constantly shrinking marketplace in which the most valuable currency is attention.
A funny and often touching collection of diary comics (first published online at Dharbin.com) that not only chronicles the artist’s life, but also the evolution of his craft. From my original review:
It can be difficult to make every day seem interesting, and minutae can only take one so far. But when you read all of them together as a whole, suddenly you’ve got something far greater — like puzzle pieces coming together to form a larger picture. And in the case of Dustin, you can also see how his rhythms and even the art improve over time as he settles into the practice.
Bent is the latest coffee-table art book from Canadian cartoonist-turned-painter Dave Cooper. We get to drill further into Cooper’s psyche in this book, which continues the celebration of his singular, artistic vision — an alien landscape of writhing, female figures and strange vegetation. Guillermo del Toro describes Cooper’s work perfectly in his introduction: “At play here are both the innocence and wholesomeness of childhood plastic toys and the sweaty, adult realities of desire.”
What Charles Addams is to the New Yorker, Gahan Wilson is to Playboy. And here we have three gorgeous hardcover volumes of his work - page after page of full-colour cartoons celebrating the macabre and the twisted. Perfect for the creep or the creepy in your life.
Jim Woodring’s masterful cartooning is showcased in this latest graphic novel featuring his familiar cast of characters including Frank, Manhog, Pupshaw, and Pushpaw. It’s never easy to discern what Woodring’s comics are about, but there is never any question as to what is happening in each panel. Such is the control and understanding he has of both the medium and his tools. Weathercraft is a silent movie governed by dream logic and the id.