VICE's Top Ten Comics of 2015
VICE art editor Nick Gazin's objectively correct and completely truthful list of the best comics published last year.
From 'Only What's Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts,' by Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear, published by Abrams Comicarts. All photos by Nick Gazin
2015 was a garbage year and we all know it, but at least there were some good comics. Being able to tell which comics were good and which were bad isn't something just anyone can do. Only I, Nicholas Gazin, have the sophistication and comic book knowledge to truly judge the good from the bad, the right from the wrong, the important from the distracting. It is my sacred gift in the war against mediocrity that I be honest and tell you the comic book truth.
Here are the best ten comics of 2015, in order from least best to most best. Although I provide links for where to purchase the books online I encourage anyone interested in these books to go see if a local comic store has them first.
#10: 'Punks Git Cut'
By Jay Howell, published by Last Gasp
This book collects all of Jay Howell's zines and booklings. It's all in here. There's his Punks Git Cut zines, which are little visual gags like David Shrigley might make. There's his comic Dark Wave, about a black metal singer who has a panic attack and ends up surfing on a coffin. Best of all there are his pretty little drawings done on the title pages of old paperbacks.
Jay Howell is known by many as the designer of the TV shows Bob's Burgers and Sanjay and Craig. An animated TV show takes a long time to make and many collaborators, underlings, and overlords. It's cool to see what Jay makes on his own and it's great to see his style evolve and mature over the course of the book. It starts out just OK, but by the end he's mastered his craft. If you need inspiration to get your next zine together, take a look.
Buy it from Last Gasp.
#9: 'Bright-Eyed at Midnight'
By Leslie Stein, published by Fantagraphics Books
Leslie Stein has been doing comics for VICE for a couple years now so it should be no surprise that her latest book of watercolor diary comics is on this list. Some of the comics in this book originally appeared on this site. If you haven't already seen them, her stuff deals with loneliness and walking around and trying to find some sense of peace and satisfaction. Leslie primarily draws Leslie. She'll be walking, drawing, working at a bar, lying in bed full of dread, or remembering her childhood but all the while the comic is primarily about Leslie trying to understand herself. It's a good book.
Buy it from Fantagraphics Books.
#8: 'The Sandman: Overture'
By Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III, and Dave Stewart, published by Vertigo
Neil Gaiman made a new Sandman book! This was published originally as single issues, but Sandman is a comic that's best read in collected volumes. If anyone reading this comic is unaware of Sandman that would surprise me a lot, but I don't want to be exclusive.
Sandman is a comic that was published monthly starting in 1989 by DC Comics and ran for 75 issues. It tells the story of Dream, who is the god of dreams, and his siblings who are the gods of death, despair, desire, destiny, and other things that start with D. The comic tells stories set at different points in history that involved Dream as well as stories set in the present day, which is the early 90s in the comic. It's very gothy, literate, and was very progressive when it came out in its having gay and trans characters decades before any other mainstream comic did.
In the original series Dream was captured, and it was mentioned without explanation that he'd been off on another planet fighting aliens or something. This book shows what that was like. We also see Dream's parents, which is surprising and fun. Dream goes off with a giant cat meandering through the cosmos and different layers of reality. The art by J. H. Williams is beautiful and inventive. Almost every page is laid out differently, and Williams does more experimental comics-making than has ever taken place in Sandman before. It's the dreamiest Sandman book yet.
After leaving Sandman 20 years ago, Neil Gaiman wrote a bunch of entertaining fantasy novels that are a little like Stephen King's stuff and a couple children's books. He did a movie too. It's neat to see him back writing Sandman, even if it's just for one book. Maybe in 20 years, he'll do another.
Buy it from Vertigo.
#7: 'Real Deal #7'
By Lawrence Hubbard, published by Real Deal Production
Lawrence Hubbard is a true artist whose work is crude while also being sophisticated. The first issue of Real Deal came out almost 30 years ago and it took him this long to get to issue seven, but it was worth it. If you want graphic, over-the-top, unfiltered violence, violent sex, and zero justice in your comics, Real Deal is the comic to read.
Buy it from Real Deal Productions.
#6: 'Dream Fossil: The Complete Stories of Satoshi Kon'
By Satoshi Kon, published by Vertical Comics
Before Satoshi Kon made some of the greatest anime works ever, including Perfect Blue and Paranoia Agent, he drew manga stories and that's what this book is. The stories range in subject and genre. The first story is about people with telekinetic abilities being treated like second-class citizens. The second is about two friends having a summertime vacation adventure. The next is about young fuck-ups who make it to the Japanese high-school baseball championship. There's a ghost story, there's a samurai story. They're all good comics, and it's always interesting to see the early work of a creative dynamo like Satoshi Kon.
Buy it from Penguin Random House.
#5: '750 Years in Paris'
By Vincent Mahe, published by Nobrow
This is a beautiful book by Vincent Mahe. On the left page of each spread is a year and on the right page is a drawing of the same corner in Paris at different stages from 1265 to 2015. There's no real text except for graffiti, signs and advertisements, and a timeline at the back of the book. Not every drawing documents a historical moment; some just show the evolution of the structure or people repairing damage. The book shows this one spot during the Crusades, the Black Death, the French Revolution, the German occupation, and finally the Charlie Hebdo demonstrations in 2015. It seems to be about the tenacity of people or maybe Paris specifically... It's the best thing Nobrow has published.
Buy it from No Brow.