Thursday, 10 March 2011

21/111 - Best American Comics 2010 ed. Neil Gaiman

This is going to be a strange one to review, because it doesn’t include many complete works, so I guess the best thing for me to do will be to read, as normal, and highlight some of my favourite extracts and see which ones I might like to pursue further in the future.

But first: how I came to own this book: this title was released when I was living in New York last year, and I knew that both Bryan Lee O’Malley and Neil Gaiman would be there. I decided to go to the signing in the hope that Bryan Lee O’Malley would sign a copy of Scott Pilgrim 6 so that I could send it back home to Pete. I didn’t count on having to buy of a copy of the book they were promoting, which I guess was pretty asshole-ish of me.

It’s not that I didn’t want a copy: I did. And I would also have ideally liked a signed one. It’s just that by that point in my stay in New York I had already accumulated an alarming amount of books, and I did not look forward to carrying home this one, too. But, for better or worse, I have it: it’s a gorgeous hardback filled with some great snippets of comics, and even better, I got it signed ALONG with a copy of Scott Pilgrim 6.

Here are my favourite pieces:

  • Fly-Trap from Drop-In by Dave Lapp

Based on the author’s experiences working as an art teacher at a drop-in centre for inner-city kids. I loved the simple bold art, and there was something really uncomfortable about the extract. Pulling the legs off the spider was horribly creepy, but the underlying issues were also sad and squirmy.

  • The Lagoon (Hiding in the Water) from The Lagoon by Lilli Carre

I found this kind of funny and haunting. A woman welcomes a creature from the lagoon into her bedroom and offers it a cigarette. Then she follows it out and becomes seduced by its song as her husband watches. Kind of spooky. I really liked the artwork in this, and there were lots of silent panels which I also thought worked really well.

  • Asterios Polyp extract by David Mazzucchelli

I’ve seen this graphic novel in bookshops before, and always kind of liked the look of it. It’s laid out kind of strangely, but still very easy to read and it flows really well. I like that there is pretty much no black used in this (not even for lines), which is unusual. There is also this narrative voice which flows around the action and dialogue which I found really effective.

Ghastly photo of Neil Gaiman and Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • The War on Fornication from Everyone is Stupid Except for Me by Peter Bagge

I was delighted to read this comic, and also a little surprised to find that it had been written by a man, but hey – go men! It’s a short non-fiction comic strip which has appeared in a magazine before, rather than being an extract from a longer story. It deals with the issues surrounding the morning after pill (Plan B) in the US, and how American policies on birth control are harmful to women and seek to control their sexuality and reproductive choices. For example pharmacists refusing to fill out prescriptions for birth control or the morning after pill based on ‘moral’ reservations, but freely handing out drugs for men like Viagra.

This is an issue close to my heart, because as a woman I am indescribably grateful to live in a country where I have control over my reproductive life. America does too, to a certain extent, but there is this undercurrent in politics in the US that women’s reproductive rights are one of the most important things people are fighting to restrict (unlike focusing on ACTUAL important things like reducing poverty or providing healthcare for everyone). Ugh. So I keep half an eye on what’s going on in the US, because if they backslide, I’m afraid of what the repercussions would be in the rest of the world.

  • The Alcoholic excerpt by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel

Again, some non-fiction which was very well done. I liked the artwork and the story. Set in the days following the September 11th attacks, this story looks to be quite promising.

  • Tianic Urination, Hooker Cookies, Duck Mom, Carrot Romance, Pumpkin Drummer and Sleep Multiplication from The Night of Your Life by Jesse Reklaw

These were a series of 4-panel mini-comics that are based on dreams. All are quirky, funny more than a little absurd. According to his bio in the back of this book, he runs a website where people can submit their dreams, and he turns the top-rated ones into little comics.

  • The Flood from A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufield

Again, more non-fiction, which I like. Before I started reading comics I would not really have associated it with being a medium for non-fiction, but as it turns out, it is excellent for this. The first full-length graphic novel I read was Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which I came across after studying an excerpt at University, and it blew my mind.

I also like Chris Ware’s artwork, but I can sometimes find his stuff frustrating to read. I like to way he uses colour, and that his art is all very geometric, but it’s so damn small! Strains my poor eyes to read. I’ll just have to get a magnifying glass or something.

Overall, a cool collection. There's definitely some things in there that I'll check out next time I'm browsing the shelves. I'm glad I've finally read it, as sooner or later it would be totally out of date and I'd look like a total fool, but I managed to avoid that embarrassing blunder. 

Next: Darkness Visible by William Styron

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