December 31st, 2009

the sensitive poet

Rest in Peace, David Levine

One of the greatest caricaturists of our time, David Levine, has passed away.  When I was in college, I was greatly inspired by his book 'The Arts of David Levine', which I stumbled across in the library.  Besides caricatures of writers and presidents, he made haunting watercolor paintings -- using very little water to dilute his paint, according to a friend of mine. 

the comics nerd

The Best Graphic Novels of the Decade (2000-2009)

I've been asked by 4_eyez  to list my top 10 graphics novels of the decade.  Well, it's been a great decade for comics and graphic novels, so there's a lot to choose from!  I'm going to post 10 titles that I remember enjoying quite a bit -- but this is not a definitive list. There are plenty of books I will not remember, and plenty I don't know about yet, not to mention the books I haven't had a chance to read yet (Asterios Polyp, Pim and Francie, et al).  I am also not mentioning the great reprint collections of the last 10 years (Walt and Skeezix, Complete Peanuts, et al) because that could be a whole list on its own.  So anyway, in no special order...

1. A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
I read this recently so it's still fresh in my mind.  An artist's memoir that details his struggles to become a professional comics artist, as well as a portrait of Japan in its post-war struggle to reinvent itself. 

2. Wimbledon Green by Seth
The chronicles of the title character, the world's greatest comic book collector, is one of the funniest graphic novels I've ever read. 

3. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
A family history about a closeted gay father; one of the most poignant memoirs ever written in comics form.

4. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
A young girl comes of age in Iran as a fundamentalist revolution takes hold of the country.  Personal and political insights combined with Satrapi's simple yet bold artwork make this a book to remember.

5. The Book of Genesis by Robert Crumb
Long anticipated, Crumb's literal adaptation of the first book of the Bible debuted just weeks ago.  I am still digesting the tome which I found odd, sometimes overwhelming, and visually lush. 

6. Black Hole by Charles Burns
Odd, sometimes overwhelming, and visually lush. 

7. The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
Originally a column for the New York Times online, Kalman's painted visual essays combine in book form to present the reader (in a roundabout, quirky way) with Kalman's life and point of view.  It's too unique to describe - just read it.

8. Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995  by Joe Sacco
Sacco travelled to Bosnia after the war and recorded the personal experiences of ordinary people in wartime.  He then spent a few years drawing their stories in agonizing detail.  More haunting and harrowing than any TV news report on the subject.

9. Louis Riel by Chester Brown
Chester Brown channels Harold Gray ("Little Orphan Annie") to tell the story of a Canadian revolutionary.  The results are a one-man revolution in storytelling.

10. The Frank Book by Jim Woodring
Jim Woodring's cartoon animal, Frank, learns about life (the hard way) in an odd, visually lush, surreal world.

Some honorable mentions: Blankets, Berlin: City of Stones, Isaac the Pirate, Pluto, The Salon, 100 Demons, David Boring, Paul Goes Fishing, Disillusioned Illusions, Acme Novelty Datebook, Y: The Last Man, The Golem's Mighty Swing, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, etc etc...