by Roger Ash
It’s that time again where people look back at the past year and make lists of things; best concerts, best movies, best albums, and, of course, best comics. As usual, I’m going to join in the fun with My Favorite Comics of 2013. I decided to do a “My Favorite” list instead of a “Best of” list because I haven’t even read close to all the comics that came out last year so I have no idea if these comics are the best, but I do know that I liked them. So here are my top 10 divided into Top 5 Comics and Top 5 Graphic Novels. Hold tight and keep your hands inside the car at all times.
My Favorite Comics of 2013
5 Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios) – Terry Moore has created a fascinating and an incredibly disturbing comic and I’m enjoying watching him peel back the layers of the story like an onion. Moore has always presented readers with complex characters and Rachel Rising is no exception. I love that the story is about the characters as opposed to telling a story and plugging in characters to make it work. That may sound strange, but to me, having the story be about the characters means that I become invested in the characters and care about what happens to them. That makes for a much more satisfying reading experience. And Moore’s art, as usual, is fantastic.
4 Popeye Classics (IDW) – This series reprints Bud Sagendorf’s classic Popeye comic books from Dell from the late 40s to early 60s and it is just plain fun. If you complain about how comics are no longer for all ages and you wish there was something good for any reader, you really need to check this out. Popeye, Olive, Swee’Pea, Wimpy, and all the rest of the crew are classic, timeless characters and this series shows why.
3 Suicide Risk (BOOM! Studios) – Mike Carey and Elena Casagrande have created an intriguing series that is part superhero comic and part mystery. I reviewed the first five issues of the series starring cop turned superhero Leo Winters here, and it has only gotten better. The introduction of the team Nightmare Scenario has really ramped up the tension and something strange is going on with Leo’s daughter.
2 Hellboy in Hell (Dark Horse) – Mike Mignola both writes and draws Hellboy for the first time in years. For Hellboy fans, you don’t need more than that to pick up this series. For others, I’ll say that this is some really creepy stuff with major revelations about who and what Hellboy is. Toss in Mignola’s wonderfully stylized and moody art and you’ve got one hell of a book.
1 47 Ronin (Dark Horse) – The classic Japanese tale, not the Keanu Reeves movie. Adapted by writer Mike Richardson and artist Stan Sakai with input from Lone Wolf & Cub’s Kazuo Koike, this is a rousing samurai tale of loyalty, deception, revenge, and honor. If you’ve ever wondered how Sakai would handle a series starring humans instead of the anthropomorphic animals of Usagi Yojimbo, wonder no more. The result is stunning. I had so much fun reading this series. I really can’t give a book higher praise than that.
Honorable mention: Hypernaturals (BOOM! -A satisfying conclusion to Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning’s story. I’m hoping for more), Batman ’66 (DC Comics – A fun series inspired by the classic 60s TV show), and Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Comics – I just love this mix of characters).
My Favorite Graphic Novels of 2013
5 Fairy Tale Comics (First Second) – The one non-collection on my list. It features adaptations of fairy tales, both well-known and unfamiliar, by creators including Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Bobby London, Karl Kerschl, David Mazzucchelli, and more. It’s a very fun book for all ages. If you want to know more about it, I reviewed it here.
4 Best of Milligan & McCarthy (Dark Horse) – I’ve been a long-time fan of the work Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy have done together, so much so that I was thrilled to get the opportunity to interview them about it for Back Issue magazine. Now, Dark Horse has released a beautiful oversized collection of their mind-blowing collaborations including Paradax!, Freakwave, Rogan Gosh, and Skin. There are some great surprises in the book including Summer of Love and The Electrick Hoax, two of their collaborations I’ve never read before, plus a peek at their work on DC/Vertigo’s Shade, The Changing Man. My one disappointment was that they did not reprint Sooner or Later in full (I believe The Electrick Hoax isn’t complete either, though I could be wrong). Aside from that, I think this is a marvelous collection and shows two great talents having fun with comics.
3 Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Color Sundays Vol. 1 & 2 (Fantagraphics) – These two volumes collect all the Mickey Mouse Sunday pages drawn by the great Floyd Gottfredson. On top of that, the second volume includes all the non-Mickey Sunday pages he worked on making these two volumes a complete collection of all of his Sunday pages! As with the daily strip volumes, both books include lots of commentary and background information that expands reader’s knowledge of Gottfredson and his work. His Sunday pages are quite a bit different than his daily strips. They are often gag strips and when there are continuing stories, since there is a week between each installment, they are usually fairly basic plots and don’t go on for too long. These are great fun and a welcome addition to Fantagraphics’ wonderful collections of Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic strips.
2 Genius, Illustrated: The Life & Art of Alex Toth (IDW/The Library of American Comics) – The second of three volumes by Bruce Canwell and Dean Mullaney looking at the life and career of legendary artist, Alex Toth. As with the first volume, Genius, Isolated, Canwell’s biographical essay, which covers from 1960 to Toth’s death, is fascinating and well researched. Of particular interest to me as an animation fan is the discussion of Toth’s years at Hanna-Barbera where he created Space Ghost and worked on a number of other series. Canwell presents a balanced look at Toth, both good and bad. Of course, being a book about Toth, the real star is the art which is stunningly and lovingly reproduced. This is a beautiful book and a fitting tribute to an amazing talent.
1 Barnaby Vol. 1 (Fantagraphics) – Crockett Johnson has always been known to me as the guy who wrote and drew the classic children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. I really didn’t know much about him beyond that. Now, “Creator of Barnaby” has happily been added to the list. This is without question the most fun I had reading a book this past year. The art may look “simple,” but I’ve known enough artists to know that drawing things simply is hard as hell, and Johnson is a master at it. The adventures of Barnaby; his Fairy Godfather, Mr. O’Malley; his parents; and the assorted ghosts, ogres, leprechauns, and talking dogs they meet are simply charming. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
So, what did I miss? What’s on your list? Comment below and let me know!
Now, go read a comic!