This hasn't been a great year for comics. In fact, I wasn't even able to find ten good comics for this top ten list.
A panel from Jay Disbrow's Monster Invasion
Making a list of the top ten comics of 2017 was difficult since ten good comics didn’t get published this year. Even the AV Club, which is almost always right, made a top ten list that was mostly worthless garbage. To some the purpose of a list like this is to serve as a gift guide but that’s shameful to me. The reason for these lists is to discuss creative works that were made this year that have some lasting value, not to be a distraction or an advertisement.
Anyway here’s VICE’s list of the top ten comics of 2017.
#1 One More Year by Simon Hanselmann
If Dan Clowes is the Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson of comics then Simon Hanselmann is the The Simpsons of comics. His comics read fast because he uses more panels to create story beats so it captures the speed and humor of The Simpsons more than The Simpsons comics ever did. I use his work to turn non-comics readers into comics readers.
This book tells more stories of a bunch of depressed, mentally unbalanced, and drug-addicted characters as they try to cope with life, boredom, depression, the law, and themselves. It’s hilarious and deals with issues of mental health, addiction, and gender stuff in a fun and inclusive way.
Buy One More Year here.
#2 Crickets No. 6 by Sammy Harkham
Sammy Harkham continues his story about a B-movie director in the early 70s struggling and failing to maintain any sort of control over his movie, his family, and himself. As alternative cartoonists move further and further away from being able to tell a story, it’s refreshing to have a new comic from Harkham to read and enjoy. Every part of the comic is a joy and feels like it’s as important as the next part. The cover isn’t just an advertisement for the inside pages, it’s a part of the whole object and story. Harkham puts a level of care and thought into his comics that's rare these days.
Buy Crickets No. 6 here.
#3 Love and Rockets #2 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez
The Hernandez brothers started publishing Love and Rockets in 1981, and almost four decades later they’re still making comics together, with the same title and the same characters. Their work inspired most of the good cartoonists who came after them, and they never quit the medium to try something more glamorous. Each brother, Jaime and Gilbert, tell their own completely separate stories, and the comic goes back and forth between their material. With each issue they switch who does the front and back cover art.
In this issue, Fritzi is in the middle of a divorce from her wife, Pipo, and connects with her long lost daughter who is an adult film star. Maggie and Hopey go to a reunion show with a lot of their other middle-aged friends and relive their youths. The highlight of this issue is a Jaime story where Vivian and Tonta go to a magical forest where Vivian sees various strange things. It can’t be explained in a review. Just go read it.
Buy Love and Rockets #2 here.
#4 Love and Rockets #4 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez
Whereas Love and Rockets' second issue was largely about aging, the fourth issue is about looking back. Pipo finalizes her divorce and then thinks back to when she was a 14-year-old in the small Mexican village of Palomar. We revisit some of the characters that were regulars in the comic in the early 1980s. We also see a very young Maggie when she was first befriending Hopey at an LA punk house.
To try to describe Love and Rockets too hard in a short review is pointless. I guess imagine if something as easily read and appealing as Archie was written for an adult mindset and could make you feel a complex mixtures of feelings.
Buy Love and Rockets #4 here.
#5 The Million Year Picnic and Other Stories by Will Elder
Will Elder was EC’s goofiest artist and the king of including as many sight gags as possible in his comics. His cluttering of panels with extra jokes was referred to as “chicken fat.” This book reproduces his horror and sci-fi comics as well as the humor comics he drew for MAD’s sister humor publication, Panic. It’s great. The sci-fi comics are sad and lonesome. The horror comics are scary and funny. The funny comics are fun and funny.
Buy The Million Year War here.
#6 The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 by Stan Lee, John Romita, John Buscema, and Gil Kane Marvel
This book is so big and heavy that I'm fairly certain that if you snuck up behind someone and swung it with enough force, you could kill them with it. It’s probably better to just use for entertainment, though. This $100, 900-page behemoth collects Amazing Spider-Man #68-#104. What makes it so great is that at issue #89 Gil Kane took over drawing the comic. Gil Kane’s Spider-Man is so fun to look at. Did you know Gil Kane’s real name was Eli Katz? This book contains a lot of memorable Spider-Man stories and some that are easily forgotten, too. Watching Spider-Man grow four extra arms and fight a vampire is about as fun and ridiculous as Spider-Man gets.
Buy The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 here.
#7 Sex Crime 4 by Johnny Ryan
Johnny Ryan used to draw a lot of comics for VICE. Then he created a cartoon show for Nickelodeon. Then that got cancelled, and now he’s back to making the most offensive shit you can imagine. This zine of offensive doodles will make you laugh and provide a window into one of the most disturbed minds to ever turn his sights on the comics medium. Johnny Ryan is an insane genius who is somehow more depressed and more prolific than almost anyone I could ever imagine.
Buy Sex Crime 4 here.
#8 Jay Disbrow’s Monster Invasion edited by Craig Yoe
IDW & Yoe Books
This is the comics equivalent of huffing paint. Raw, unbridled teenage hate and obsessive textures. Half of the comics in this book have titles that end in the words “...of Death.” The vintage horror comics inside this volume make Tales from the Crypt look like Archie. Demons, dripping mutant heads that fill up a whole room, drippy skinned freaks, and tentacled monsters that writhe around the floor.
As usual Craig Yoe’s hacky/tack book design does the content a disservice but the comics inside are good enough that you can overlook that.
Buy Monster Invasion here.
And that’s it. There were eight good comics this year. Maybe there’ll be better comics in 2018, but it’s more likely that there will be less.
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