It’s come time for Fantagraphics Bookstore curator Larry Reid to select my favorite comix of 2016. A tough task this year with so many wonderful new books – a little like choosing which of my children I love the most. The choices are so close this list could easily be reversed.
10. Hey Lady. With a button affixed to the cover of each issue, I was immediately attracted to Regina Schilling’s zines. When I was able to fully absorb the contents, it became clear there was more to these creations than a clever premise and seductive artwork. Schilling selects a female subject for each book and invites women artists worldwide to contribute portraits. The results are remarkably revealing. DIY publishing and contemporary feminist art at its finest.
9. The Gaze of Drifting Skies: A Treasury of Bird’s Eye View Cartoons. This exquisitely designed book collects panoramic aerial view illustrations that were popular after turn of the last century. Created by obscure artists – (with the possible exception of Johnny Gruelle) – these idealized renderings are a largely forgotten component of early twentieth century Americana.
8. What is Obscenity? The Story of a Good-for-Nothing Artist and Her Pussy. Japanese artist Rokudenashiko’s work is a refreshing departure from that country’s precocious “kawaii” style. She creates empowering art about her body. Nearly 40 years after Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party explored similar themes, Rokudenashiko has been jailed in Japan on obscenity charges. A fascinating episode in J-Pop culture chronicled in comix form. Koyama Press continues to impress.
7. The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood. This generously illustrated volume examines the illustrious career of one of midcentury America’s most influential and accomplished cartoonists. A captivating portrait that will be the focus of an exhibition at the bookstore opening January 14, 2017.
6. Visual Abuse: Jim Blanchard’s Graphic Art, 1982 – 2002. Blanchard is a gifted cartoonist, illustrator, painter, and graphic designer. This beautiful new book focuses on the latter. These posters, zines, record covers, and related graphics document two decades of his stellar career as well as a pivotal period of American counterculture. Truly inspired work by an artist closely associated with the Fantagraphics family.
5. The Complete Neat Stuff. This deluxe two-volume set collects Peter Bagge’s iconic comic book series from 1985 to 1989, which set the standard for the alternative comix movement of the 90s. We’re introduced to Bagge’s signature characters, The Bradleys, who formed the foundation of the dysfunctional American family that remains a staple of pop culture to this day. A triumph of contemporary cartooning.
4. Coin-Op No. 6. The latest offering from bi-coastal siblings Peter and Maria Hoey continues their postmodern approach to comix and graphic art. Combining elements of Art Deco, Dada, and Pop Art with current indie sensibilities, the Hoeys have developed a singular style with universal appeal. Their Coin-Op periodicals will be featured at the bookstore’s third annual Hot Off the Press book fair on July 8, 2017.
3. Scorched Earth and Other Stories. Tom Van Deusen is the most compelling cartoonist to emerge from the lively new comix community in the Pacific Northwest. In the words of R. Crumb, “Scorched Earth was hilarious. Maybe the most self-deprecating comic of all time.” High praise from the master of self-deprecation. Scorched Earth is, indeed, a revelation.
2. Love & Rockets Volume IV, No. 1. Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez reboot their visionary series in the original format. We’re reintroduced to their familiar characters as they gracefully mature. At once funny, intimate, outrageous, and realistic, these comix remain as relevant and alluring today as when we first discovered them in our youth. Essential.
1. Patience. Daniel Clowes returns with what might be his greatest achievement yet. Words fail me. A modern masterpiece!
Publications that could be included anywhere on the list above include Frank in the 3rd Dimension by Jim Woodring, R. Crumb’s Art & Beauty No. 3, Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam by Simon Hanselmann, Eroyn Franklin’s Bikram Addict, In Fox’s Forest by the criminally unheralded Guy Colwell, LOVF by Jesse Reklaw, and Drinky Crow Drinks Again by Tony Millionaire, among many others. Special mention must be made of the completion of the 20-issue run of the brilliant Intruder comix tabloid edited by Marc Palm.
These amazing books and countless others can be found at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, located at 1201 S. Vale Street, in the heart of Seattle’s colorful Georgetown art community. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone 206-658-0110.