This was the year I shed the last of my monthly, ongoing titles (Knights of the Dinner Table). Apart from the occasional miniseries, I’m now pretty much buying exclusively in trades. This means I’m behind on a lot of things (most notably, Hellboy and BPRD stories), but when I do get them, they’re built to last.
There were three other changes I made this year. First, I changed my approach to ordering books. It used to be that I ordered books based on what I thought I’d like to read. My tightening budget, disappointment in some of those choices, and discovery of how good a selection my local library has changed that to ordering books I think I’d like to read again. Second, I found myself ordering trades online more often. I love my comics shop and want to support it as much as I can, but I also can’t afford to ignore a huge discount when I see it. If the big savings are online, that’s where I go — I kind of have to — but otherwise I buy from Jim. I feel bad about this, but it’s the reality of my situation.
Third, this year I really severed what little of my mainstream superhero bonds were left and instead dove into mainstream art comix, discovering for myself a lot of the people that most comics fans already knew about. The more I heard people talk about things like Infinite Crisis, All Star Batman, and various iterations of The Warren Ellis Project, the better I felt about this decision.
Here are some notable (to me) titles for 2005:
Locas & Palomar (Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez) — It was an utter embarrassment to me that I was more familiar with the so-so band Love and Rockets than the comic they stole their name from. I got a good deal on these two hardbacks and started with Palomar, since it was the one I thought I’d enjoy less (that’s how I do). On the contrary, though I loved both of these volumes, it was Palomar that blew me away. The scope of it, the attention to detail, the emotion, the strongly-developed characters — it was all just breathtaking.
Best of The Spirit (Will Eisner) — While I had read some of Eisner’s later work, such as A Contract With God and The Dreamer, I had never tackled the work he’s arguably best-known for. It always seemed intimidating; there’s so much of it! This handy Greatest Hits book was just what the doctor ordered and served its purpose of both introducing me to a classic series and also demonstrating why Eisner is praised as a genius. A great entry point into this world, and the only downside is now I’m sizing up all my rich relatives to figure out whose demise will finance my purchasing the complete Spirit archives.
Vimanarama (Grant Morrison) — Me and Mr. Morrison haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. After The Filth, which I re-read this year in a vain attempt to find something redeeming about it, and his New X-Men which made me realize that my complete lack of interest in anything X-Men related trumped anyone’s attempt to make me give a damn about these characters, I was kind of disillusioned with the Master. The fact that so much of his time is now focused on superhero stuff is quite disheartening to me. But then he goes and does something like Vimanarama, a fun, furious Hindu-inspired action movie, and all is forgiven.
Ice Haven (Dan Clowes) — This is the sort of thing I’m talking about. What kind of anti-superhero comics snob can I be if I don’t even have much of a working knowledge of Dan Clowes? This year I schooled up on Clowes, and got this new work from him, which I really enjoyed.
Tricked (Alex Robinson) — I wrote more about this eagerly-awaited book from the writer of Box Office Poison here. One thing I’ll add to this is, it seems to be a good intro to graphic novels for people who don’t have much experience with the medium. I’ve loaned it to two such people and both returned it with “more, please!”
DC Showcase — Just to show I’m not completely above buying superhero books, I really am excited about this new series from DC. So far I only have and have read th Superman and Green Lantern volumes, but the amount of joy crammed into those pages at such a great price point means I will soon own the rest. This is a swell move on their part, and the world is richer for it.
The Stereos (Brandon Hanvey) — This was certainly a fun and delightful book on its own (see more here) but it’s also standing in for mini-comics in general, which I got a lot more of last year and seek to get more of this year. In addition to the Stereos books, I also really enjoyed Flytrap and Me and Edith Head from Sara Ryan. In preparation for the new year I’ve got Shawn Hoke’s Blog bookmarked and I’m getting ready to place an order with MetroKitty for some Geraniums and Bacon. I expect more for me on this front in 2006.
Eagle (Kaiji Kawaguchi) — My 2004 “discovery” of manga didn’t really take root in 2005. I tried out a few new titles, but none really grabbed me, and a few really irritated. The only regular manga title I’m getting is Hikaru No Go, though I’m always on the lookout for other ones. I guess the main problem is that I’m really not interested in the romantic dramas of teenagers of any nationality. However, this political drama offered something different, and even if it stretched credibility a few times, I found it a solid read. More here.
Summer Blonde (Adrian Tomine) — Another well-respected creator I finally caught up with. After reading praise for Tomine from a friend who doesn’t generally read comics (as well as others) I grabbed this book and fell in love with Tomine’s subtle writing and clean lines. I also checked out some other books of his and Optic Nerve is now on my pull list.
Complete Peanuts (Charles Schulz) — This was such an interesting book to me because if there’s any comic strip that everyone and his personal trainer knows everything about, it’s Peanuts, right? And yet it was delightful to go back and read these early strips and have all of my expectations and “knowledge” completely subverted. I don’t know how many total volumes of this series I’ll ever own, but I know I definitely want more of this early stuff. More detailed reactions here.
Pyongyang (Guy DeLisle) — I borrowed this from Jumbotron Jim at the ECB hook-up, and he’s never getting it back (that’s not true.) This is an amazing look at life on a completely different planet, North Korea, which has voluntarily removed itself from the planet we live on. I really don’t know how to describe the incredible combination of humor, shock, pathos, and freakiness in this collection. It’s a must-read, as far as I’m concerned.
Or Else (Kevin Huizenga) — Without a doubt, this is the find of 2005 for me. Wonderful art, wonderful writing, I devoured all three issues of this book and screamed for more (which, thankfully, we’re getting soon in for form of Ganges.) Simultaneously playful and thoughtful, I urge any fan of the medium who hasn’t read these yet to take a look at them, especially issue number two. I cannot thank Beaucoup Kevin enough for pimping Huizenga on his blog and getting my attention.
That’s 2005, kind ladies and gents. I’m already looking forward to 2006, too, since they’re bringing back Blue Beetle!