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Every year I publish my list of favourites, and every year I always realize I’ve forgotten a few due to absent-mindedness or, more likely, my cluttered office. So here are a few more, which I’ll append to the original list:
There’s something quite special about the unadorned, simple black-and-white mini-minicomics that show up every few weeks from Chuck Forsman’s subscription series, which offers comics from a number of cartoonists like Melissa Mendes, Michael DeForge, Max de Radiguès, and more. They’re small things, and short to read, so unlike the growing pile of unread books by my bedside, they are actually inviting rather than intimidating when it comes to reading them. And they’re cheap and disposable enough that they don’t feel like precious objects. They feel like little gifts when they come in the mail. It appears that subscription memberships are currently closed, but at the very least you can head over to the Oily Boutique and order the books a la carte for a buck a pop.
Patrick Kyle released the collected book of his comic series Black Mass this year, but for my money I’m much more excited by his latest series Distance Mover, which like Oily Comics, I’ve been getting in the mail every month as a subscription. Each little book is a risographed art object, and I enjoy seeing Patrick’s work grow more abstract and even further from the traditional norm than Black Mass which already eschewed panels in favour of a freeform fill-the-page-with-drawings method. Each issue in the mail comes with goodies like extra prints or zines. Subscriptions are likely closed as the series nears its end, but you can order books directly from Patrick’s site, and read the first three issues (in black and white) online.
Dustin’s Diary Comics made the list in previous years when they weren’t even this good — the great thing with a project like this is being able to literally see the artist improve over time. This fourth issue comprises more of Dustin’s just-like-the-title-says diary comics, and his drawing chops remain as honed as ever, but it’s the multi-page story Boxes that is the real zinger here. In it Dustin reflects on the diary comics themselves, and how comics have affected his day-to-day perception of the world around him, for better or for worse. Yes, meta journal comics about drawing said comics aren’t anything new, but Dustin’s gifts for thoughtfulness and introspection make it a special thing, and a powerful unexpected product of having distilled his life into four panels, a page at a time, for the past few years. You can read Boxes online for free (full disclosure: I am featured in the story), and buy all of Dustin’s books and prints at his online store (which currently offers 35% off orders of $50 or more with the code DHARBMAS).
I knew my list didn’t feel right without any reprints of classic comic strips. Nancy seems to be a love-it-or-leave-it strip, and I am firmly in the Love It camp. Nancy is the granddaddy of the gag strip. Often surreal, and always impeccably drawn, there is nothing quite like it. D&Q got a head start in publishing John Stanley’s Nancy comic books, which are certainly fun, but these Bushmiller strips are the real deal — perfectly constructed comic strips with not a line or word wasted. It’s been said it’s harder to not read a Nancy strip than it is to read one, and for that alone these books are a virtual masterclass in cartooning.
In a list of Great Cartoonists Who Weren’t Cartoonists, Jim Henson would top the list. Is there a better example of simple, contrasting character design than Bert and Ernie? Jim Henson famously kept a journal with simple one-line entries. It was a proto-Twitter account that, of course, is now a Twitter account. This book, Imagination Illustrated, compiles the most notable entries in chronological order and fills the pages with sketches, drawings, photographs, storyboards, and ephemera to create a scrapbook of the Muppet creator’s professional life, and is the perfect piece of nostalgia for a Muppet-loving child of the 80s like myself.
Hi Drawn readers!
Please join me in welcoming the site’s newest contributors:
Mr. Dustin Harbin
Mr. Jake Parker
Dustin and Jake are both wonderful cartoonists and illustrators, and I think their unique sensibilities and the passion they have for their craft make them valuable members of this little bloggy crew of ours. I look forward to seeing the kinds of treasures and insights they’ll share, and I think you should too.
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.