Media I’ve Consumed for the week of January 11-17

People of Earth:

I’ve decided I’m not blogging enough. That might not be true, but it’s what I’ve decided. And so in regards to my endless ‘Favourite Comics” series, I decided I’m going to try to write one post a week, just talking about the different comics, books, movies, and music that I loved that week. Could be older stuff, could be brand new, whatevs.

I said WHATEVS.

And so of course I’m already a few days late. Let’s begin.

Selma directed by Ava Marie DuVernay

Lots of heat today due to Duvernay not getting a best director’s nod. I’m ok with it either way. It’s an important film, and one that really spoke to me. But I’m not sure that her fingerprints are all over this as much as the original story is, or as the wonderful perfomances by David Oyelowo and company are. The real shame here is no nomination for Oyelowo, as he may have had the strongest performance out of all the men nominated in the best actor category this year.

The Woods by James Tynion & Michael Dialynas

the-woods-boom-tynion-dialynasThere’s a school with gifted kids, and one day the school is on another planet. That’s the premise of this wonderful comic, and it’s a nice spin on the “Kids have to figure stuff out by themselves” trope. Think Lord of the Flies, but in outer space, and there’s some adults around. This is a really good comic, but I’m worried that it’s impact will diminish as we learn more about where the kids really are. Some really strong characterization by Tynion, as some well-placed flashbacks go a long way to informing what we know of their present.

A Most Violent Year directed by JC Chandor

Someone online described this as the “Anti-Godfather”, and that’s pretty apt. There definitely late 70’s gangster movie vibe here, mostly as because it’s a gangster movie set in the 1970’s. Oscar Isaac pulls off a performance that’s heavily indebted to early Pacino & De Niro, but not hamstrung by that influence at all. Might be a little slow for some, but I loved this character study.

Like, 20 albums by Sun Ra

If Sun Ra hadn’t moved on to Jupiter, or Saturn, or wherever the fuck batshit crazy jazz musicians go when they die, he would have been 100 last year. And so his catalogue, which is in sore need of a clean up, is getting a clean up. It’s not an easy job. Sun Ra, and his Arkestra (AKA Myth-Science Arkestra. AKA Solar Arkestra. AKA Astro Infinity Arkestra. AKA Afro Infinity Arkestra. AKA Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra. AKA Intergalactic Research Arkestra), released dozens of albums over the decades, through a myriad of record labels.

They would then reissue these albums, sometimes with different names, and with different covers. And often, the only place you could buy them were from the band itself, as they travelled the cosmos. And so just cataloguing the various releases is next to impossible, not to mention how bad the sound quality sometimes is. But the Sun Ra Music Archive seems to be up to the task, and has rereleased over 30 albums in the last several months. So far, so great, and I’ll be writing more about these as I explore them.

 

Best non-superhero comics of all time: 31-40

From steampunk, to educational comics, to crime noir, this batch of comics is all over the map. Continue to let me you know what you think, and I’ll continue to tell you why you’re wrong.

40. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan O’Malley (2004, Oni Press)

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A hugely influential comic, and one of the great Canadian graphic novels. Bryan O’Malley’s hugely influential series works on numerous levels. It has kinetic martial arts action for some, twee-hipster slacker comedy for others, and a real heart and soul for everyone. One of those comics you lend to your friend who thinks they don’t like comic books.

39. Sin City by Frank Miller (1991, Dark Horse)

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It’s getting more difficult to remember just why we all thought Frank Miller was so great in the first place, with all of the terrible Batman comics, and the being batshit crazy. Sin City is a fine refresher, though Ronin is definitely more impressive from an art perspective.

38. Granville by Brian Talbot (2009, Dark Horse)

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One of the more impressive comics of recent years, Talbot’s steampunk/talking animal/geopolitical mash-up, covers a lot ground. Talbot’s impressive draftsmanship, as well as his complex subject matter, make this an always entertaining epic.

37. A Treasury Of Victorian Murder by Rick Geary (1985, NBM)

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Rick Geary deserves more than one slot on this list. In fact, if I made a “Best 100 comics by Rick Geary” blog post, it still wouldn’t be enough. His Treasury graphic novels area a great place to start, especially for true-crime aficionados.

36. Musical Legends by Justin Green (1992, Last Gasp)

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Earlier, underground work like Binky Brown  cemented Green’s status as a legend. But it was his decade-long stint as the cartoonist for Tower Record’s Pulse magazine, that I love the most. Some issues would feature one-page musical autobiographies, while some would feature the story of his daughter’s various concert exploits. But it was all about one thing: Green’s overwhelming passion for music. Not quite as well known as it should be, I’d say.

35. Cartoon History of the Universe/Modern World by Larry Gonick (1990, Doubleday/Collins)

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Another series that rarely gets discussed on lists like this, though fans of more recent work like Van Lente & Dunlavey’s Action Philosophers will find much to love here. It’s also the most aptly named series on this entire list. Quite literally, it’s the history of the universe, as told to us by a cartoon professor. Gonick delivers a humanistic, objective, approach to history that’s refreshing, and best of all, hilarious. Immaculately researched, and painstakingly drawn, the chapters on India & China are particularly impressive.

34. The Goon by Eric Powell (1999, Dark Horse)

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This started as a comedic monster of the week goof, and has evolved into one of the great character pieces in modern comics. Even more so than it’s lead character, Powell’s artwork is the real star here, delivering a post-modern interpretation of a wide range of influences.

33. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson (1985, Andrews McNeel Publishing)

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I’ve heard a lot of disagreements regarding where I’ve  placed certain titles on this list. Everyone has their favourites, and you can’t make everyone happy. But I doubt there’s a single person on the planet that would have a problem with C&H being on this list. Very few comics have made such a huge dent on popular culture, and for good reason.

32. Criminal by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (2006, Icon)

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Almost 10 years on, and it’s hard to fathom that there are still comic lovers who haven’t read Criminal. Although there may be “better” comics on this list…I’d argue that there are few that show just how good comic book writing can be, as well as this one does. More than any other comic book writer, Brubaker’s work constantly makes me stop and wonder just how he got this good. Phillips is the perfect collaborator for Brubaker’s sprawling crime epics, and they’ve gone on to do dozens of entertaining books of all genres together.

31. Little Nemo by Winsor McCay (1905, New York Herald)

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The earliest comic on this list, and arguably the granddaddy of them all. It’s not a big leap to say that comics as we know it would not exist without Winsor McCay. And it’s startling to realize just how much these strips hold up today. Each page is a design masterpiece, with a dozen little stories crammed into each panel. Probably the most influential comic on this list, even if most creators today don’t realize it.

The 40 Best Movies of 2014

Why 40? Why not. This has been an interesting (and to my mind, excellent) year for. There are a lot of truly great films being made these days, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  What is in doubt, is whether or not this level of quality can be maintained considering that more and more people are only going to see big tentpole releases. The big tentpole action movie market is fairly strong, with Hunger Games, and Disney doing boffo box office. And new advances in technology and funding models are allowing independent film makers to make inroads they’ve never been able to make before. But while both of those scenes have built in audiences that aren’t really going anywhere, the mid-level budget Hollywood film seems to be a dying breed. Do you know how many movies in the US top 20 cost less than $50 million to make?

Exactly two.

Folks, there are a lot of great movies being made every day, that cater to every type of taste. You just have to look for them.

A few notes about this year’s list:

This isn’t comprehensive. It’s just not possible to see every highly rated film, and still have a job. Plus, the fact that some of the higher profile buzz movies don’t make it out until the end of the year, and some don’t even get released where I live until 2015, make it even more difficult. So things like Selma, and Inherent Vice, just couldn’t be considered.

Here we go.

40. A Most Wanted Man directed by Anton Corbjin

39. Finding Fela/Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown directed by Alex Gibney

38. Faith Connections directed by Pan Nalin

37. Obvious Child directed by Gillian Robespierre

36. The Master Builder directed by Jonathan Demme

35. The Grand Piano directed by Euginio Miro

34. X-Men: Days Of Future Past directed by Brian Singer

33. Only Lovers Left Alive directed by Jim Jarmusch

32. Locke directed by Steven Knight

31. Life Itself directed by Steve James

30. The Double directed by Richard Ayoade

29. Jodorowsky’s Dune directed by Frank Pavich

28. Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho

27. Tim’s Vermeer directed by Teller

26. The Babadook directed by Jennifer Kent

25. The One I Love directed by Charlie McDowell

24. Mommy directed by Xavier Dolan

23. Winter Sleep directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

22. Two Days, One Night directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

21. John Wick directed by David Leitch & Chad Stahelski

20. Cheap Thrills directed by E.L. Katz

19. Guardians of the Galaxy directed by James Gunn

18. Blue Ruin directed by Jeremy Saulnier

17. It Follows directed by David Robert Mitchell

16. Gone Girl directed by David Fincher

15. Captain America: The Winter Soldier directed by Joe Russo & Anthony Russo

14. Starred Up directed David Mackenzie

13. Force Majeure directed by Ruben Östlund

12. Under The Skin directed by Jonathan Glazer

11. Boyhood directed by Richard Linklater

10. Grand Budapest Hotel directed by Wes Anderson

9. Frank directed by Lenny Abrahamson

8. Citizenfour directed by Laura Poitras

7. The Raid 2 directed by Gareth Evans

6. Wild Tales directed by Damián Szifrón

5. Whiplash directed by Damien Chazelle

4. Venus In Fur directed by Roman Polanski

3. Enemy directed by Denis Vileneuve

2. Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy

1. Birdman directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Best non-Superhero Comics of all time: 41-50

 

We seem to be in the nerd part of the list, as 6 of the 10 books I’m talking about today are planted firmly within the science fiction genre.

Strike that, I just realized that this entire list is the nerd part of the list. Let’s get back into it, shall we?

50. Finder by Carla McNeil (Dark Horse, 1996)

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I could write a hundred pages just about Finder, and it still wouldn’t be enough. One of the most detailed, comprehensively planned comics of all time, Finder isn’t so much a comic book, as it is a world. A worldmight I add, that we’ve only seen a tiny portion of. McNeil’s comics take me forever to read, as they’re not something you can skim through. Ever word has a purpose, and every panel has layers of thematic subtext.

49. Revolver by Matt Kindt (Vertigo, 2010)

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Matt Kindt seems to have hit the sweet spot between indie credibility & mainstream success. Super Spy got him mainstream attention, but it’s Revolver that really was his first great work. We’re in pure sci-fi territory here, with our hero jumping between two different realities, with a new jump each time he wakes up. While Kindt has now written dozens of franchise books for Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse, it’s only on books where also does the art, that I feel that his storytelling really opens up.

48. The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowski & Moebius (Humanoids, 1981)

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The greatest incomprehensible mess in the history of comics. The Incal by pretty much any definition, is a terrible comic book. The plot makes no sense, the characters are one dimensional, and I couldn’t tell you what it’s about, even though I’ve read it numerous times. So why is The Incal considered such a great book? Because of Moebius, my friend.Because of Moebius. Now, I could have picked literally dozens of other Moebius comics that quite frankly are “better” comics than The Incal. But none of them really showcase his formidable chops as well as Jodorowski’s white whale does. One of the great “art” comics of all time.

47. Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton & D’Israeli (Dark Horse, 2002)

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Do you love War of The Worlds, but thought the wrong team won? Then Scarlet Traces is the comic for you. It’s essentially Edginton & D’Israeli’s sequel to one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time. And it is absolutely fantastic. I’m a huge fan of D’Israeli’s work, but Scarlet Traces might be the very best example of his steampunky brilliance. Check out the the prequel, and sequel, as well.

46. Hark A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Fantagraphics, 2008)

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More of an ongoing anthology of comic strips than an actual comic book, Beaton’s witty & charming approach to history & literary criticism is a perfect pick for that friend of yours that just can’t get into comic books.

45. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, 2007)

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Tomine’s Optic Nerve has produced some great dramatic short stories over the years, but this 3 issue run may be his magnum opus. Tomine’s sharp, tight lines are a perfect complement to this tense exploration on relationships, race, and cultural identity. Although Ben Tanaka is a loathsome protagonist, our desire to see him “learn his lesson” keeps us engaged, and keeps cheering him on. Wonderful example of how comics can be used as effective character studies.

44. Casanova by Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon (Image, 2006)

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Fans of the twists & turns of Sex Criminals might be surprised to find that Matt Fraction has written something even more more complicated and obtuse. So much so, that it makes Sex Criminals feel as accessible as the Smurfs, in comparison. Part science fiction epic, part action thriller, Casanova wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve: Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius novels, Thomas Pynchon’s work, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and dozens of others. Ba & Moon’s frenetic density showcase the unlimited storytelling possibilities capable by modern comic creators, like few comics ever have.

43. Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly, 2004)

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Delisle has done 4 graphic travelogues of variable quality, but it’s his in depth adaptation of his 2 month stay in North Korea that has stuck with me the most over the years. The sheer lunacy of a government that teaches it’s citizens that it’s leaders have superpowers is perfect fodder for a draftsman of Delisle’s talent.

42. King City by Brandon Graham (Tokyopop, 2008)

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Even more than Casanova, no other comic on this list defies description quite as much as King City does. Technically it’s sexy, funny science fiction, but that really doesn’t do justice to just how whackadoodle King City really is. There’s a plot, kind of. And there’s characters, some times. But what it’s really about, is simply being a wildly inventive comic. What King City is, who the characters are, are fluid, and simply cogs in the mechanics of Brandon Graham’s brilliance.

41. Berlin by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly, 1996)

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This work of historical fiction is set in pre-WW2 Berlin, during the decline of the Weimar Republic. Although Jason Lutes has been working on this for almost 20 years, Berlin still has 6 issues to go before it wraps up. With Berlin, Lutes sets up a diverse cast of characters and puts them against the backdrop of one of the most important settings of the 20th century. There aren’t nearly enough comics like this on the stands these days, and every issue is a masterclass on how to tell small stories, in a big way.

Best Non-Superhero comic books of all time: 51-60

It’s been a while since I could get back to this project, mostly because summer. I haven’t gotten a lot of reaction to it, but what little I have gotten has been interesting,  so I’ll definitely continue. I’m sure once I get to the superhero list, that more people will share and comment. In the meantime, let me know what I got wrong:

60. Age Of Bronze by Eric Shanhower (Image, 1998)

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Shanhower seems to have all but abandoned this minute-by-minute retelling of the Trojan War,  considering that it’s taken him 16 years to finish 32 issues. Even if he never actually completes it, he’ll have left behind an immaculately researched, wholly engrossing piece of historical epic storytelling. Shanhower is a stunning draftsman, with a level of detail to his artwork that seems to be rare these days. Combine that with the amount of research that must go into each page, and you can (almost) forgive him the time between issues.

59. Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson (Top Shelf, 1997)

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I like to think that I’m fairly objective about the subject matter of the comics I read. I don’t have to drink blood to like a good vampire comic, and I don’t have to be a 14 year old girl to appreciate a good romance comics. But Box Office Poison was a book that spoke to me specifically BECAUSE of the subject matter. As someone who spent most of the 90s and 2000s working in various music and movie retail stores, the bookstore microcosm that is the setting for BOP, was particularly appealing. That High Fidelity-like backdrop, and the 90s angsty melodrama, makes this a nice snapshot of the era.

58. Scalped by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera (Vertigo, 2007)

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Scalped was possibly the last great Vertigo epic that we’ll ever see (though fans of Unwritten & Fables might disagree). A South  Dakotan crime opera set on an Indian reservation, this deftly written masterpiece was largely inspired by the real story of Leonard Pelletier. I wouldn’t argue too much against someone that wanted to position Scalped as the greatest crime comic book of all time, and I’m sure this will make it’s way to our TV screens sooner rather than later.

57. Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2012)

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I was originally going to use Piskor’s Wizzywig for this list, but as I’m a sucker for well made comic books about music, and as HHFT is an exceptional comic book about music, it gets the nod. Essentially an oral history of the early days of hip hop, in comic form, HHFT shows the highs and lows of everyone from Grandmaster Flash, to Sylvia Robinson, to Debbie Harry, to KRS 1. Originally published as one-pagers on BoingBoing.net, Drawn & Quarterly has been collecting these in handsome, oversized volumes that are a must for all music lovers.

56. Xenozoic Tales by Mark Schultz (Flesk Publications, 1986)

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XT (often known by it’s other handle, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs) is a post-apocalyptic pulp that marries the episodic melodrama of old Tarzan & Flash Gordon serials with a modern ecological mission statement. How Mark Schultz isn’t considered one of the greatest artists of all time is beyond me, but he keeps himself busy as the writer of Prince Valiant and other modern strips. Fans of Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer, or Dark Horse’s Indiana Jones comic books,  will probably find lots to love here.

55. Torpedo by Enrique Sánchez Aulí and drawn by Jordi Bernet (IDW, 1981)

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Originally published in Spanish horror comics in the early 1980s, Torpedo has become internationally known as one of the all-time great crime comic books. Every story stars Luca, an Italian American hitman in 1920’s mob controlled Manhattan. He’s a douche, and does douchie things. Sometimes he’s just a dick to women, and sometimes he’s a vicious killer. But he’s always entertaining, with levels and levels of subtext hidden deep.  There’s lots of other Jordi Benet books good enough for a list like this, but it’s this particular pairing of craftsmen that makes this one special. With Torpedo, these two masters show how to tell short, concise stories that still pack a whallop.

54. Black Hole by Charles Burns (Pantheon, 1995)

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Fresh from a cameo in Dawn of the Planet Of The Apes, it’s the weirdest comic you’ve never read. You’ll see this as the lone graphic novel on the bookshelf of many a grad student circa 2005, but it’s essentially timeless, and still engenders a visceral reaction in new readers that’s almost physical. The concept? An STD that triggers mutations in 1970’s Seattle. That’s it, but it’s a juicy one. Burns’ unflinching gaze at the realities of teenage adolescence is widely considered one of the great graphic novels of the last 20 years.

53. Queen & Country by Greg Rucka & various artists (Oni Press, 2001)

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Soon to be a major motion picture! Soonish, at least? Greg Rucka’s espionage magnum opus still holds up well decades after publication. The geopolitical situations may have changed, but dumb people still do dumb stuff all over the world, so it’s fairly easy to imagine Tara Chase in a more contemporary setting. Tara Chase is one of the great female characters in adventure comic history, with flaws so big you could drive a truck through them.

52. Lucifer by Mike Carey & various artists (Vertigo, 2000)

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I have a secret. It’s one that very few people know. People usually get mad when I tell them, so you have to keep it a secret. Ok?

Here goes: I like Lucifer more than Sandman.

Phew. That was hard. Especially considering that Sandman is actually higher on this list than Lucifer. Why? Because although I personally think Lucifer is a better read, it literally wouldn’t exist without Sandman. So much of the narrative, pacing, and conceptual approach to story that Lucifer comes from Neil Gaiman’s work on Sandman, that to rank it higher seems disrespectful, in a way. But Carey is doing some great work here, with wonderful character development set in front of a cosmologically epic backdrop. This is premium dark fantasy.

51. Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba (Vertigo, 2008)

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This Brazillian team of brothers has been producing A+ work since pretty much the day they started in the business. Daytripper remains the crown jewel in their creative resume, at least for now. Each issue features the same character, or at least a version of the same character: Bras de Oliva Demingo. In some issues he’s married. In some, he’s single. In some, he’s old. And in others he’s young. The only thing all of these different Bras have in common, is that they die at the end of their story. The art is really stunning here, and is the perfect compliment to this beautiful exploration of alternate realities.

 

 

 

The Best Non-Superhero comic books of all-time: 61-70

70. Kane by Paul Grist (Dancing Elephant Press, 1996)

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Not sure how this happened, but these 10 additions to my list seem packed with excellent crime comics like Kane. Paul Grist is woefully under appreciated on this side of the pond, but his work hits the sweet spot between mainstream & indie, and no artist outside of Mike Mignola uses shadow & lighting as effectively as he does.

69. Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch (Dark Horse, 2001)

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I don’t think anyone has ever crammed so much story into 3 panels as Nicolas Gurewitch. Each strip feels like just a 3 panel peak into a 350 page epic that we’re just getting a taste of. Quite possibly the funniest comic strip ever made.

68. Phonogram by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (Image, 2006)

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It’s easy to label this as the best comic about music ever made, but in reality, it’s the best comic about passion ever made. Because that’s what Gillen is working with here: Love. Love of music, to be sure, but love nonetheless. Gillen & McKelvie have evolved into one of the strongest creative teams in the business right now.

67. Battlefields by Garth Ennis & various artists (Dynamite, 2008)

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Garth Ennis gets way more attention for works like Preacher, or more recently, Crossed. But Battlefields really showcases that combination of action & character that makes Ennis such an important writer, and tones down the dumb attempts at toilet humour that he seems convinced needs to be part of much of his work. War & Comics have always been a well matched pair, and Battlefields is one of the better recent examples of that.

66. Fell by Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith (Image, 2005)

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While Ellis & Templesmith continue to be harassed as to when the next issue is coming out, I’m content with what we’ve got: 9 issues of detective comic weirdness. In some ways Fell is a great companion piece to Kane, at least tonally, though Templesmith’s moody collages couldn’t be more different than Grist’s cartoony expressionism.

65. Mister X by Dean Motter & various creators (Vortex, Dark Horse, 1983)

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Impossibly dense, impeccably stylish, and perfectly crafted, Mister X is a truly timeless comic book. Motter’s art deco illustration combined with his twisty noir approach to storytelling, make Mister X one of those rare comics that you can learn new things from, every time you revisit it. Motter drew inspiration from Bauhaus art & Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and Mister X’s influence can be felt on everything from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, to everything that was influenced by Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

64. 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso (Vertigo, 1999)

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Yep, another crime comic. But 100 Bullets isn’t just any other crime comic. In fact, more than a few people consider this to be the best crime comic ever made. I’ll beg to differ, but there’s no arguing that Azzarello & Risso are a phenomenal creative team, who seem to produce their best work when creating together. 100 Bullets is one of the great epics of modern comics.

63. Petrograd by Phillip Gelatt & Tyler Crook (Oni Press, 2011)

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Historical fiction is an overly used genre in comics, but it’s usually used as an excuse to add fantastical elements to familiar stories (What if JRR Tolkien fought dragons? What if Napoleon was a zombie?). Petrograd resists that temptation, and grounds it’s speculation firmly in fact; Namely, the fact that British spys were in Russia at the time of Rasputin’s death during WW1, and may have been responsible for said death. Phillip Gelatt deftly plots this supposition to it’s logical conclusion, and Tyler Crook became a comics art superstar immediately upon publication due to his incredibly confident pencil work. A real gem.

62. The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple (First Second, 2014)

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The only book on this list that hasn’t actually been released yet. I’m hesitant to talk about this one too much, but if this doesn’t end up being my favourite graphic novel of the year, I’m going to eat my hat.

61. The Creep by John Arcudi & Jonathan Case (Dark Horse, 2011)

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A modern noir classic, that didn’t get nearly enough attention when it came out a few years back. Our hero is Oxel Karnhus, a private detective with advanced Acromegaly. It’s a debilitating condition in which excess growth hormone causes sometimes deforming growth. Oxel’s college sweetheart calls him to help solve her son’s suicide, and so John Arcudi spins up 4 issues of some of the best noir ever put to page in modern comic books. Jonathan Case is a superstar in the making. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best non-superhero comics of all time: 71-80

80. Y The Last Man by Brian Vaughan & Pia Guerra (Vertigo, 2002)

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This was an unabashedly loved series during it’s run, frequently being hailed as one of the greatest adventure serials in the medium’s history. While still enjoyable, (How Pia Guerra hasn’t landed a major series since this is beyond me), this series about the last man alive on a planet full of women loses some impact when read in one big fell swoop. That being said, it’s entertainment factor still holds up extremely well.

79. Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (Pirahna Press, 1995)

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A groundbreaking work, on a lot of levels. A major landmark in the graphic bio genre, this ended up also being an important mainstream look into aspects of gay culture.  Cruse gives us a peek into growing up in 1960’s Birmingham, not exactly a hotbed for the gay folks at the time. His brutal honesty, in addition to the brilliant density of his cross hatching technique, makes this one of my favourite autobiographical comics.

78. The Nao Of Brown by Glyn Dillon (Harry N. Abrams, 2012)

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Part romantic comedy, part meditation on Buddhism, and all stunningly beautiful painting. That’s The Nao Of Brown, a deceptively deep look at the life of a half-Japanese woman struggling to find success in her career, in romance, and in life in general.

77. The Cowboy Wally Show by Kyle Baker (Marlowe & Company, 1996)

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Choosing just one of Kyle Baker’s graphic novels to include here might have been one of the more difficult tasks I set myself when putting together this list. One thing gave Cowboy Wally the nod over more well known works like King David, or Why I Hate Saturn: Laughs. Big time laughs. While the media landscape that this book savagely lampoons has drastically changed, the North American love affair with being famous at all costs is eternal. Cowboy Wally’s trappings may be a little dated, but it still holds up admirably well.

76. Doonesbury by Gary Trudeau (1968)

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You’re not going to find many strips on this list that have had the cultural or political footprint that Doonesbury has had. While it’s ability to influence public discourse has obviously diminished, it’s overall impact is still felt, and still significant.  Through wars & social unrest, through political scandals & cultural change, Doonesbury has been providing witty commentary to it all. And best of all? Still funny as hell.

75. Duncan The Wonder Dog by Adam Hines (AdHouse, 2010)

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A huge, sprawling graphic novel, ambitious in scope, but extremely detailed in approach. It’s the story of a world similar to our own, with one major exception: Animals have learned to talk. And so an already complicated discussion regarding our relationship to the food that we eat and the environment we live in, becomes even more complicated.  Hines is there every step of the way, providing arguments, counterarguments, and setting the stage for a series that hopefully matches the extremely high quality of this book.

74. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, 2004)

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Persepolis is arguably one of the two most important biographical graphic novels of this still new century, and probably the most influential. It’s  the story of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, as seen through the eyes of one teenaged girl and her family.  Heartbreaking & poignant, silly & sensitive, Persepolis is one of those rare graphic novels that broke through to mainstream audiences, spawning both a sequel, and a critically acclaimed film. Another one of those books to recommend to your friend that “doesn’t read comics”.

73. Human Target by Peter Milligan & various artists (Vertigo, 1999)

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This was a perfect blend of character & concept, and one of the best action comics ever created. This may seem like a strange Peter Milligan comic to pick considering how prolific he’s been as a creator, but so much of his work crosses over into the superhero world, in varying degrees.  An updated take on an obscure 1970’s DC Comics character, Milligan’s Christopher Chance is a tragic hero at heart. He’s so used to pretending to be the people that he’s trying to protect, that he’s lost all of his own sense of self. Considering their recent output, it’s hard to remember that DC comics ever made comics this good.

72. Afrodisiac by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg (Adhouse, 2009)

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On the surface, Afrodisiac is pure blaxploitation, fitting nicely on the shelf alongside your Pam Grier & Rudy Ray Moore DVDs. But what it really is, is a love letter to comics of all types: superheroes, kung-fu, romance, you name it.  It’s all fair game for Maruca & Rugg. Our hero is a pheromone-laden pimp, complete with a myriad of origin stories that changes from chapter to chapter. He fights a motley cure of villains, including Hercules, God, Death, giant cockroaches, and worst of all: Richard Nixon. This comic is a tribute to style over substance, but it’s that very style that makes me go back to this comic again and again.

71. Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson (Dark Horse, 2009)

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I’m going to go out on a limb here, but this is the best comic book about a group of dogs (and one cat) that solves supernatural mysteries, ever made. Both Dorkin & Thompson have impressive back catalogues ripe for the picking for a list like this, but BoB has the perfect blend of heart & adventure for me. Thompson is one of the finest painters in the history of the medium, and Dorkin’s decades of experience spearheading seminal books like Milk & Cheese, give this series an emotional heft not often seen in modern comics.