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The Best American Comics 2008

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Book Reviews 55

eldavojohn writes "The Best American Comics of 2008 was a book I purchased on impulse. Not being a graphic novel or even political cartoon fan, I read the introduction at a bookstore (which was, itself, a comic strip) and decided to give it a try. I expected to find humor. What I found was not only humor but sadness, anxiety, insight, happiness, remorse and a gamut of human emotions. I expected black ink on white paper. What I found was water color, wood cuts, cubism and even a comic about the start of cubism. In short, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Americana here that I had previously relegated only to historical novels." Read on for the rest of eldavojohn's review.The name of this book is going to be hard to digest as your best DC, Marvel and Image comics are nowhere to be found in this book. If you claim it's because there's no way the price of this book could cover these big name titles, you may be on to something. But I found this to be a refreshing and complex addition to what I knew comic books to be. Nowhere would I find the black and white world of Superman or the Gotham City of Batman but in their places stories more akin to Maus and Persepolis.

The book itself is a collection of clippings from comics released in 2008. Some are more complete than others. Prior to this book, I had never heard of any of these names. But several of these comics gave me reason to look up the authors and actually purchase more of their works.

Instead of reviewing each comic, I will relate what I recall a week after reading it and the permanent impressions it left on me. The first comic, Burden caught me off guard as it starts out as an endearing story about a brother making amends for his no-good dead-beat brother Charlie. Charlie seems to have led a less than desirable life dodging rent, stealing from loved ones and leaving his father to rot in a home. This beautiful story crumbles away to a horrific end in the final page as Charlie's brother says goodbye to him.

There were a few comics related to the war in Iraq. The first (David Axe's autobiographical War-Fix) being a reporter who seems to go to Iraq out of boredom or some strange driving force despite his clear inability to cope with the nature of war. Another comic dealt with the political debate here and the Left's political views.

Some of the comics had a more timeless folklore aspect to them. One was a reincarnation of an old Japanese proverb called The Crab and the Monkey but had a sobering ending that I did not recall from the original proverb. Another entitled Turtle Keep It Steady by Joseph Lambert had little to no text and retold the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare. It also explored the merits of consistency in friends and those around you in a very simple way. Seven Sacks left me confused and concerned that I had missed some myth or fable allusion through the whole story. The story is well illustrated and may cause one to wonder what responsibility this boatman has in delivering unsavory characters across a river to possibly carry out devious acts while holding bags that make noises.

Several comics were purely historical. The Saga of the Bloody Benders is one part homicide case and one part legend. The story takes a historical account of a family of settlers that brutally murdered and waylaid dozens of innocent people in 1870s Kansas. The story recalls a simpler time and notes how peculiar all the signs pointed to the Bender family yet no one implicated them. Another comic Berlin recalled a German viewpoint of the May Day Massacre of 1928 and the Reichstag elections of 1930. So rarely is a story told from the unpopular side of a historical conflict.

One of the comics took a look at Picasso's beginning as an artist discovering cubism. I do not know enough of the true to story to know if it is historically accurate but it certainly cast Picasso in a ... different light.

One of my least favorite parts of the books was a set of Matt Groening's "Life in Hell." Some of it is cute and childishly funny. Most of it is inane and a bit tedious to read. While this repetition may be humorous, it pales in comparison to the other emotions displayed in the book.

Eric Haven's Mammology is humorous on several different levels and is layered to include evolutionary commentary on mammals versus reptiles. Cathy Malkasian's Percy Gloom is an interesting commentary on a group of people called "Funnelheads" that clearly become an analogy for a cult of worshipers.

One of my favorite comics was a woodcut done in cubism by a Bronx art teacher named John Mejias. I showed this comic to a friend who teaches ESL in the Bronx and she laughed at several panes discussing the inside jokes of "what you should do" in each of the situations that Mejias was lampooning. Personally I found the clipping from Mejias The Teachers Edition to be heart touching asking in the end how he is to teach students art when every assignment is graded to a standard with no room for individuality or self expression.

I omitted more than a few comics that didn't strike me as that great. There are lengthy comics about the life an older TV show host, a few selections from The New Yorker, a comic about an ostracized Chinese student in America and I'm certain I'm missing many others in this 352 page hardcover book.

This comic spans so many different kinds and styles that it seems like it would be a great addition to any collection for the $15 it costs.

You can purchase The Best American Comics 2008 from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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I have this book too (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27849485)

I found the 6 chapters on Family Circus quite illuminating.

Re:I have this book too (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#27849981)

OK - I realize that this post was an off-topic attempt at humor. But I just grabbed this book at my local library (I love working close to the library - I had this book in my hands within 30 minutes of this review being posted 'cuz it sounded cool and I was bored.)

Family Circus actually makes up about half of the first three pages of the comic introduction (pages xi-xiii). I always considered Family Circus a stain on the comic page of our paper growing up but, although she acknowledges that Keane isn't actually very funny, she treats the strip with a nice kind of respect that reminded me that FC did actually leave an impression on me. Even if I thought it sucked...

Re:I have this book too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851257)

The title of 'the Family Circus' is the only bit of humor in the strip. Beyond that it is nether serious nor comical, and is devoid of entertainment value. Too bad it wasn't even originally called The Family Circus, the title is almost an accident and certainly the first and last attempt at humor it ever made.

I've read it... (-1, Troll)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27849501)

...and, just perhaps, it takes a little hubris to call a collection The "Best" American Comics, but it's hard to argue with a grouping this good. Sure, you can quibble here and there, but as a whole, The Best American Comics 2008 is about as good as the art form gets, showing the remarkable highs comics can--and regularly do--reach. And as a bonus, it's a wonderful entry for someone who is unfamiliar with comics but who wants to know more or read something in the format.

The stories are brief and varied and run the spectrum of themes and moods. Series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden (creators of the excellent Drawing Words and Writing Pictures) teamed up this year with editor Lynda Barry (the artist behind the wildly inventive What It Is), and their combined viewpoint yields a unique collection of some truly thought-provoking work here. Both Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and What It Is mined a similar territory--the forces of creativity, what makes the visionary mind bring forth clearly defined work, and how to turn thoughts into comic art--that informs the choices they've made in The Best American Comics 2008. It's not surprising, then, that most of the choices here are from single writer/artists rather than writer-artist teams, which shows how powerful the creative combination can be.

They've also passed over standard superhero fare (although a note at the beginning explains they would have liked to include an excerpt from Batman: Year 100 but couldn't, due to licensing issues). Instead, they offer up work from a varying swath of comics luminaries, some well-known and long-established in the industry (Matt Groening, Jaime Hernandez, Chris Ware) and others less known but equally provocative (Gene Luen Yang's stunning American Born Chinese is excerpted here; if you haven't fallen in love with this work yet, now's your chance).

Some comics benefit more than others from this presentation. Alison Bechdel's long-running comic series Dykes to Watch Out For is one of the best examples of how brilliant, funny, and poignant comics can be, and while it's wonderful to see it getting recognition here, the five one-page strips collected seem out of place and out of context. As a whole, though, most of the samples in the book come as sweet surprises, something new coming out of the blue (Kevin Pyle's The Forbidden Zone is a wonderfully pleasant surprise that pops out toward the end).

Barry and series editors Abel and Madden deserve credit for the fine pacing they've given The Best American Comics 2008. The mood flows naturally and smoothly from one work to the next, which is not an easy feat given the variety of works they've chosen to work with. It's a major pitfall of most anthology collections--the juxtaposition of voices can be a jarring reminder of how uncohesive the books can be--but the editors of The Best American Comics 2008 sagely avoid it. When you finish, you're aware you've read more than two dozen different creators' works, but they've all been selected so well, that the lingering effect is the seamlessness of the artful quality contained within.

You'll love it!

=Smidge=

Re:I've read it... (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850527)

Jessica Abel

For a second, I thought you said Jessica Alba...

Then I was disappointed. :(

Re:I've read it... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27851551)

Smidge207 didn't write the above review. It was copied directly from an Amazon review [amazon.com] that he had absolutely nothing to do with. He does this regularly and shouldn't be modded up for it.

Re:I've read it... (1)

rhathar (1247530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27852699)

So what you're really saying is...

[[Citation Needed]]

Re:I've read it... (3, Interesting)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#27853923)

Actually, I *did* write that review on Amazon.

=Smidge=

Re:I've read it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27854049)

Actually, I *did* write that review on Amazon.

On the contrary, GraphicNovelReporter.com wrote the Amazon review. You are not GraphicNovelReporter.com, you are Smidge207.

Even if the two of you are the same person in RL -- which is an assumption that I do not grant -- pretending that the two identities are the same is either arrogant (if you expect people to recognise both of you as representing the same RL physical body) or irresponsible (if you just don't care).
-- a different AC

Re:I've read it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27858489)

So you post each of your reviews on Amazon with a different account and pseudonym and then copy them all here as Smidge207?

Sure you do.

I read that comic about cubism (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27849641)

however it came off a little edgy.

Re:I read that comic about cubism (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#27849993)

+/-1 groaaan

I just wanna know (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#27849865)

Is it clobberin' time?

Re:I just wanna know (1)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27849895)

The greatest (Canadian) comic writer of all time... "A 4 hour video of you masturbating does not count as a master's thesis in film study." In fact, that may be my new signature :)

Re:I just wanna know (1)

Aitherion (1455605) | more than 5 years ago | (#27854019)

Jesus, four hours? My arm cramps up after about two.

What happened to all the comic books ??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27849881)

When I was a kid, I could buy comics at the grocery store, drug store, and just about anywhere. Now that I have kids, I wanted to go get them comics and I could not find comics anywhere though eventually, I found a small rack at Borders.

So where have all the comics gone?

Re:What happened to all the comic books ??? (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850049)

As I understand it, comics were popular, but not routinely bought. Kids would park themselves near the rack and read them, but little actually got purchased. Parents would buy them for their kids (thanks Mom!) but, increasingly in the late 80s, fewer and fewer would be sold. So stores did what stores do with something that takes up space, but doesn't produce adequate profit: they got rid of them.

I still like comics, but at $3.00 a shot and the monthly grind that I am no longer interested in dealing with (hello early 1990s!) I just wait for the trade to come out.

Re:What happened to all the comic books ??? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850409)

I doubt the retailers cared. Consider these scenarios:

- Mom needs to go shopping, but she also needs to watch the kids. That means she has to drag the kids to the supermarket, but the kids always make a big fuss. Aha, but wait! The supermarket has a rack of comic books. Plop the kids in front of the comics, et voila! They sit there quietly for the next hour. Net effect: Mom goes shopping, and she takes her time about it.

- Kids get off school, but mom doesn't get home from work for another hour or two. So the kids head down to the 7-Eleven near their school, where they have a rack of comic books and a videogame machine. Kids sit there reading the comics without paying for them. Net effect: Kids spend all their leftover lunch money on candy and Slurpees, which are higher margin items than comics anyway.

I'm sure it was the magazine distributors who got tired of carrying comics. For the retailer, who didn't pay for anything he didn't sell, it was out of sight, out of mind. But imagine having to deal with distributing 50 different titles per month, each of which brought in a couple cents' profit per copy sold and didn't sell one-fiftieth as well as People magazine.

Re:What happened to all the comic books ??? (4, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850293)

Two things happened:

1. The prices went up.
2. The old distribution system collapsed.

In the old days, comics were cheap. They were printed poorly on cheap newsprint and they cost less than a dollar. (When I started reading comics, a new issue cost a quarter.) Unfortunately, there were a number of paper shortages in the 1980s and 90s that sent the price of the type of pulp newsprint that comics were printed on up through the roof. Simply put, with the price of paper going up and the improvements in printing technology over the years, eventually you could print high-quality comics on good white paper for about the same price as you could print them on newsprint -- which is to say, about ten times more than they cost in the late 70s.

Meanwhile, as the prices went up, the audience for comics was steadily shrinking. Movies, TV, and videogames were all competing with comics for kids' attention. Even though the quality of the printing was getting better, comics sales just couldn't match the highs of the late 60s and 70s. And this was a problem, because magazine publishing can be a fairly risky business, and that was how comics were being distributed at the time -- like magazines.

Magazines, typically, are considered "returnable." A retailer orders a magazine, tells the publisher how many copies he thinks he might sell, and the publisher sends that many copies. But if the copies don't sell, the retailer is allowed to send the unsold copies back to the publisher. But because the cost of shipping back whole copies effectively means the retailer is paying for unsold goods, however, they compromise. Instead of sending back whole magazines, the retailer can tear the covers off the magazines and just send the covers back. The inside pages are supposed to be destroyed.

That was how comics worked when you bought them in the supermarket or a 7-11. Any unsold copies had the covers ripped off and the insides pulped. But because the cover price of a comic book was less than a dollar anyway, any comics that were returned really hit the publisher hard. Publishers needed to be sure they'd sell a certain number of copies to break even, and for a lot of titles, those numbers just weren't there anymore.

The 1980s, however, saw the rise of comics fandom. College students and folks in their 30s were reading comics, which led to two new phenomena. One, comic book conventions appeared in virtually every major city. And two, the first comic book stores appeared.

Initially, the main purpose of comic book stores was to buy nice, pristine copies of new issues that hadn't been pawed by kids on the spinning racks, and also to buy back issues. But the comics publishers saw a new opportunity in comic book stores. They realized that they could print up their comics on good quality paper, at a slightly higher price than was customary in the 7-11s, and sell them directly to the comic book stores for sale to the fan audience. More importantly, the comics they distributed to comic book stores would be non-returnable. In other words, a comic book ordered by a comic book store was a hard sale, where a comic book ordered for sale on a magazine rack was essentially being sold on consignment.

Sales continued to dwindle, and eventually the magazine distributors who used to carry comic books didn't see any profit in it anymore. The magazine-rack comics market effectively disappeared. In its place were a number of distributors that handled nothing but comics and related memorabilia, and they sold exclusively to comic book stores and other retailers who were willing to handle their merchandise on non-returnable terms.

That's the situation that you're left with today. So if you're surprised that Borders seems to be the only place that still racks comics, don't be -- Borders is probably one of the only chains big enough to be able to cut a deal that makes it feasible for it to deal in non-returnable magazines (which is, in essence, what comics are).

The moral of the story is: If you want comics, go to a comic book store.

Re:What happened to all the comic books ??? (2, Informative)

GamerCowboy (954246) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850563)

Interesting abridged history of comic book publishing there.

Just wanted to add though that for those in Asia where comics (not just mangas) have a small but dedicated cult following, there's another big bookstore that carries comics — Kinokuniya. Here in Dubai, Kinokuniya in the new Dubai Mall is the only place that stocks a healthy collection of graphic novels.

Re:What happened to all the comic books ??? (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850703)

Graphic Novels work rather differently than comic books here in the US. Most bookstores will carry those. Some of them carry a whole wall of them, both US comics and translated Japanese manga, like my local Barnes & Noble.

Re:What happened to all the comic books ??? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850811)

I highly recommend Comic Book Comics [eviltwincomics.com] for anyone wanting the inside dope on the history of comics. Twisted tales indeed!

Re:What happened to all the comic books ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27857797)

One of the other issues that happened is during the 1990's there was a tremendous amount of speculators buying comic books. A great example of that is the "Death of Superman" comic that came out in late 1992. People who normally didn't collect comics, would come in and buy the issue expecting it to be worth a lot of money. Combine that with the rise of Image Comics (Spawn, Youngblood) and special gimmick covers. There was a lot of garbage out there. (Please note I am not saying all of Image was garbage) There was massive amounts of poorly written and overprinted comics. It was so bad that Marvel Comics nearly went out of business in the mid 1990's. In a lot of ways the industry is still reeling from the mess of the 1990's.

Combine that with the fact that not many kids are reading comic books. Too many other distractions between video games, etc. The hobby is on very hard times.

On a much more positive note, this past Saturday was the 9th Annual Free Comic Book Day. It is a great event held the first Saturday of May. You can go to your local comic shop and get free comics. Many of which are geared for kids.

Matt Groening (1)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27849915)

You'd never heard of Matt Groening, yet you post stories on slashdot?

Re:Matt Groening (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850227)

He never said that he'd heard of Groening. The cartoons that have come from his work are a lot of fun, but Life in Hell was pretty brutal. Really, even the Tracey Ulman shorts were nothing to brag about. And I say that as a very committed and dedicated Simpsons fan.

I for one welcome our luke-warm Life in Hell introductees.

Re:Matt Groening (1)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850357)

Prior to this book, I had never heard of any of these names.

Matt Groening is one of "these names."

Re:Matt Groening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850571)

You got me. I guess that my thought retention is shorter than 6 paragraphs...

Re:Matt Groening (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850891)

I guess that my thought retention is shorter than 6 paragraphs...

Yep. Comes from reading too many comic books. Rots your brain. B-)

= = = =

At least that's what they used to tell ME when I was a kid. My place has a room half-buried in comic books now. The "kid stuff" got thrown out by the parents long ago. But there's some alternative press stuff from the 60s/70s and graphic novels I've been buying and reading since moving to Silicon Valley in the mid '80s and discovering Lee's Comics and Miller's adaptation of "The Dirty Pair". (Including TWO copies of an early run of "The Watchmen". My wife and I each brought one to the marriage. B-) )

Pity they didn't include any of Foglio's "Girl Genius" in that book. It's up for a Hugo and for a science-fiction themed strip it's hard to get more "best of the year" than that.

Re:Matt Groening (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850941)

Miller's adaptation of "The Dirty Pair"

Adam Warren's adaptation! (Argh! Guess my brain rot is showing, too.)

Re:Matt Groening (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850729)

Introducing people to Life In Hell would be a lot easier if Groening put them online. Still waiting! (http://www.mattgroening.com/) AUUUGH!

Same old, same old? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27849927)

Unlike the submitter, I've heard of at least half of the authors on the list: Jaime Hernandez, Rick Geary, Matt Groening, Alison Bechdel, Mark Kupperberg, Derf, Jason Lutes, Paul Pope, Kaz, Seth, Chris Ware ... anyone who has followed "indie" comics for any length of time will find these names all too familiar.

It makes me wonder: Are these really the "best" that American comics has to offer? The submitter hits on the fact that the bulk of the comics that reach U.S. readers are superhero stories from two or three big publishers. The list of authors represented in this book reads like a roster of the exceptions to the rule -- the people who have made names for themselves by getting their offbeat comics published, usually by one or two or three of the better-funded "indie" publishers (Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Last Gasp). What about the comics that simply aren't reaching an audience because they weren't created by a known "name"? Was any attempt made to hunt them down and represent them in this book? Or is this just the same old club, getting together and congratulating themselves yet again?

I've heard comics artists lament that every time someone writes an article in the newspaper about the "new comics," they choose a headline that's some variation on, "ZAP! POW! ZING! Comics aren't for kids anymore!" But when every single anthology of "outstanding new comics" contains work by the same two dozen people, aren't the artists in effect doing the same thing to themselves?

Why Don't You Suggest Them? (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850445)

Are these really the "best" that American comics has to offer? The submitter hits on the fact that the bulk of the comics that reach U.S. readers are superhero stories from two or three big publishers. The list of authors represented in this book reads like a roster of the exceptions to the rule -- the people who have made names for themselves by getting their offbeat comics published, usually by one or two or three of the better-funded "indie" publishers (Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Last Gasp). What about the comics that simply aren't reaching an audience because they weren't created by a known "name"? Was any attempt made to hunt them down and represent them in this book? Or is this just the same old club, getting together and congratulating themselves yet again?

Disclaimer: I'm the submitter.

I'm sorry you feel that way about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, perhaps it was made for me and not for you. But I will cherish it and probably look for 2006, 2007 and 2009 when it comes out.

If you know of such truly indie unheard of comics, the link on the summary has a submission page [bestamericancomics.com] for suggestions of Lynda Barry and Co. to consider.

  • The author must be North American (i.e., from Canada, the United States, or Mexico).
  • Work published between September 1, 2007, and August 31, 2008, is eligible for the 2009 volume.
  • The 2010 volume will cover work published from 9/1/08 through 8/31/09, and so on.
  • Individual issues, collections, original graphic novels, and self--published comics (including mini-comics) are eligible for consideration.
  • We must see your comics in order to consider them! Please send one copy of each book you publish to us at the address below.
  • Please label each book submitted with contact information and release date. If this information isn't clearly printed in the book, you must write it on a Post--it note and stick that on the cover.

Also for the people tagging this article XKCD and Sinfest, webcomics are eligible:

Are Web comics eligible?
Yes, Web comics are eligible, if they were first posted within the eligibility dates (September 1, 2007, through August 31, 2008, for this next edition). Send hard copy, carefully labeled as to date of first posting and URL, to us at the Houghton Mifflin address.

Nothing would make me happier than to see a mom and pop printing press featured in one of these books. I ordered two things from Paping on the cheap and their website gave me reason to believe they do all the woodcuts by hand.

I love that.

Re:Same old, same old? (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27852783)

You'll see that in a lot of art forms... the same few big names, popular enough that you've heard of them but indie enough to still have "cred", showing up in the big anthologies. You'll also notice that these circles aren't static, or impossible to break into for a talented newcomer, but there's rarely an enormous flood of new names getting into it because, frankly, it takes a lot of talent to get in.

I guess you can look at it as a bunch of big names patting each other on the back, but the truth is that yes, they most likely are the best in their art form.

Why is it in slashdot? (0, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850009)

I have nothing against comic books, and it is possible that I have been unfairly dismissing them as childish. But why is there a review of a comic book in slashdot?

Re:Why is it in slashdot? (3, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850161)

But why is there a review of a comic book in slashdot?

If this ain't "news for nerds," nothing is.

Re:Why is it in slashdot? (5, Informative)

escay (923320) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850177)

because it is news for nerds. comic book fandom has been intertwined with nerd/geek culture for as long as the culture existed - just because you dismiss them as childish doesn't mean they are unimportant for the rest of us.

Its worth flipping through (2, Insightful)

Macd275 (1447077) | more than 5 years ago | (#27850149)

I have seen this before at a local book store. I am not a big comic guy myself but I like some of the styles in some very odd comics. This book does have several strips that have very interesting styles and some of them are not too bad to read either. What is the harm in looking at something new? The worst thing that can happen is you kill some brain cells and you lose 15 minutes of your life. ;) Just my 2 pennies.

Welcome to the world of the modern geek! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850179)

Trial 1:

Action: Post a review of a book entitled "The Best American Comic Books 2008"

Result: Very few comments, lots of Slashdotters sitting at home with their fingers in their ears and their eyes closed really really tight, humming the theme to their favorite anime as hard as they possibly can to drown out the notion that their bias against American comic books may be flawed.

Trial 2:

Action: Post a review of a book entitled "The Best Manga 2008"

Result: Within a time scale generally reserved for particle physics discussions, Slashdot is DoSed by a deadly cocktail of squeeing otaku, rabid fans of the mangas (mangae?) mentioned within giving gigs upon gigs (if not teras) of background story text on each, and the rabid fans of mangae not listed giving teras upon teras (if not petas) of background story text on each to explain why the previous group are some pseudo-derogatory Japanese noun they probably don't really understand themselves but will keep using to describe them because it sounds cool.

Welcome to mainline nerdcadia!

why the surprise? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27850269)

I love the way the author seems surprised by his reactions. Comics ain't for kids no more, and they haven't been for years and years. I never understood why top-notch text was called "prose" and top-notch drawing were called "art", but putting the two together was always deemed "crap".

Trash talking the art form. (3, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851533)

I never understood why top-notch text was called "prose" and top-notch drawing were called "art", but putting the two together was always deemed "crap".

Because the people doing the namecalling had a vested interest in their own art establishment?

IMHO graphic novels have precisely the same relation to novels as stage plays and motion pictures have to oral storytelling. Sure there's a Sturgeon's Law fraction of junk out there. But that in no way diminishes the quality of the good stuff.

= = = =

Note that they talked the same trash about Science Fiction, too. But there you can find another reason:

Mainstream Fiction is an artform that serves as a platform for propagandizing the non-technical masses. The central message is "It may be going to hell all around you, but if you try to fix it you'll just make it worse. Let the officials handle it, leave it alone, and suffer in silence."

Science Fiction is an artform for the techies who design, build, operate, and improve the infrastructure, where such a mindset would be a disaster. SF's central message is generally "Your application of intelligence to virtually any problem may solve it, to the benefit of yourself and humanity." (Except for the dystopian variant, which amounts to "If you break it THIS way it will be too broken to fix, so watch it!").

The techies are an isolated part of the population - especially in the institutes of advanced learning - and the "art establishment" is in charge of much of the rest of it. They truly believe that SF is a form of "escapist porn". ("Escapism" being an alleged sin consisting of getting yourself out from under the thumbs of your rulers and the trouble they cause - and in the process no longer "contributing to society" as much as you are expected to do.) So they slam it to try to keep their own charges indoctrinated in their own mind set and away from that of the techies.

Superhero comics ("There is evil and there is virtue in fighting it. You can - at least temporarily - hold it at bay and prevent greater disasters than if it were allowed to run rampant."), graphic novels (which can examine and take virtually any viewpoint but often take empowering ones), and other comic forms have content that deviates from politically-correct conformism. So of course it's "not art" according to that pack of group-thinkers.

"Graphic Novel' My Ass..... (1, Troll)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 5 years ago | (#27853025)

A comic book IS NOT a graphic novel. I am sick and tired of people trying to 'shine up' what is essentially crap.

1. 'Illustrations' pass for washed-out commercial hackwork more suited for truck stop restrooms, and nothing else.
2. 'Illustrations' do not consist of POW!, BOOM! RATATATATT!, BLAM!, or any other such nonsense.
3. 'Storylines' are shallow, simplistic, cheap, generic, and recycled from comic book to comic book.
4. Sold with the intent to maximize profits and minimize costs.
5. So simple even a 2nd grader could read and follow it.....And they do.

All books are sold as a means of generating revenue. That's why authors bother to take the time to write them, but COMIC BOOKS are sold with the pure motive of gereating profit and are not written for the enlightenment of the reader.

A 'novel' has literary value, and was written to be an enlightnening read, a COMIC BOOK does not. Tru graphic novels are deep, intellectual, mentally stimulating, and complex. Foxtrot, Dilbert, Calvin And Hobbes, and "Bloom County"/"Billy And The Boingers Bootleg" would be good examples of true 'graphic novels'. Call it what you want, but they are complex enough to where you have to think about what you are reading, and characters develop their traits, rather than starting out with everything 'prefabricated'.

Novels are like fine wines, whereas comic books are the literary equivalent of bathtub gin.

Re:"Graphic Novel' My Ass..... (1)

readin (838620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27853969)

I always thought Scrooge McDuck was in comic books. Now I learn he was in graphic novels. Wow!

Re:"Graphic Novel' My Ass..... (3, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27855201)

This is a very strange kind of troll. It's either extremely well done or just downright bizarre. I have decided to respond.

1. 'Illustrations' pass for washed-out commercial hackwork more suited for truck stop restrooms, and nothing else.

I think you mean that the other way around. But without calling out the names of any particular artist whose work you find distasteful, it's kind of hard to respond to your comment.

2. 'Illustrations' do not consist of POW!, BOOM! RATATATATT!, BLAM!, or any other such nonsense.

Roy Lichtenstein thought they did. But it's strange that you should bring this up, since comparatively few modern comic books bother to put in the sound effects anymore. They don't often do thought balloons, either. It's a stylistic preference that I suspect comes from the influence of film on the medium. Anything labeled a "graphic novel" is even less likely to include sound effects than the common comic book. When's the last time you saw one of these things you claim to hate so much?

3. 'Storylines' are shallow, simplistic, cheap, generic, and recycled from comic book to comic book.

That's true. But not from graphic novel to graphic novel. Who was it who told you that nobody made a distinction between the two?

4. Sold with the intent to maximize profits and minimize costs.

This seems to be a goal of just about any business in existence. If you're claiming that comic book publishers do this more than anyone else, however, you seem to be arguing ad hominem. Got any evidence?

5. So simple even a 2nd grader could read and follow it.....And they do.

You mean like Anne of Green Gables? Then again, that's sold over 50 million copies. Talk about maximizing profit for minimal costs!

Overall your post seems very strange and disjointed. You claim that comic books are not graphic novels -- and most sensible people agree -- but then go on to claim that graphic novels are nothing like real novels and that real novels are more like episodic gag newspaper comics. I have to question what your experience of reading novels has been if you believe this to be the case. Calvin and Hobbes, for instance, while being a fine example of truly brilliant cartooning, has none of the characteristics of a novel. [wikipedia.org]

Novels are like fine wines, whereas comic books are the literary equivalent of bathtub gin, while good graphic novels compare favorably to prose novels.

But then, as I said earlier, I know you're just trolling.

BTW, if art that resembles more classical illustration is your cup o' tea, you should head to Europe sometime and check out the Franco-Belgian comics scene.

Re:"Graphic Novel' My Ass..... (1)

DesertFly (1362547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27855237)

You, sir, are a pretentious dumbass. It's hilarious that you seem to think that for a work to have value, it must have value to you personally. It's also funny that you hold an opinion of the difference between "graphic novels" and "comic books" that's not "one's longer than the other." Of course, the fact that you mention three boring and unimaginative comic strips as examples of graphic novels throws any credibility you had out the window. Might as well admit you like Garfield and get that out of the way.

Why is every review I read... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27853487)

...scored 7/10? I can't honestly recall one being scored otherwise.

Why doesn't /. just migrate to a 5 point system so all of the reviews will be 4/5? Then at least they'll be shaking things up a bit.

What about Scrooge? (1)

readin (838620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27853501)

Until I can get affordable reprints of Carl Barks's Scrooge McDuck [wikipedia.org] in the United States (or anywhere else), or until they start making something that rises to that level of quality, who cares about American comics?

Re:What about Scrooge? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27854823)

What about the reprints from Gemstone Publishing? [gemstonepub.com] Are they not affordable enough for you?

Re:What about Scrooge? (1)

readin (838620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27855789)

I believe Gemstone is the one I bought a $100 subscription from. Some of the Barks stories had been reworked and uglified. Most of the non-Barks stories were just trash that sullied a good duck's name. I bought the subscription in part to teach some values to my kids, but the European stories were about a different duck - a 2d caricature with no morals, and no sense of duty - a crass figure to be hated rather than respected.

Re:What about Scrooge? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27854863)

Also, Gladstone Publishing [brucehamilton.com] still has back-stock remaining of its cardboard-bound reprints in album format. They are more expensive but many are all-Barks. Really, this material is not difficult to find in the U.S. if you've ever tried to look. Ask at your local comic book store.

Re:What about Scrooge? (1)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27856953)

Until I can get affordable reprints of Carl Barks's Scrooge McDuck in the United States (or anywhere else), or until they start making something that rises to that level of quality, who cares about American comics?

Got that collection for xmas a few years back. Highly recommend it. There's also a supplement volume but those stories are not up to the quality of the originals. Another good one is the "gone by the wind" parody; sadly I've lost my copy and no longer recall the actual title.

Re:What about Scrooge? (1)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27856973)

Come to think of it I'm talking about Don Rosa. I got the Carl Barks's stories before I could read properly and I remember reading them over and over. My favorite was the story where they are shipwrecked on that island with a loony and a giant squid. I still have those books... must be 40-50 years old by now. Hmm, perhaps I should find some kid to give them to.

Re:What about Scrooge? (1)

readin (838620) | more than 5 years ago | (#27857577)

Don Rosa did a life and times series about Scrooge that was pretty good. It brought tears to my eyes. I haven't finished the second volume because I'll hate for it to be over.

I read some that were reprinted in the 1970s, and I read some of 10 cent dell comics that were printed in the 1950s. They were all good.

Wrong way round? (1)

Mister Spikey (1504693) | more than 5 years ago | (#27853665)

Maybe it's just me, but I'd have thought

Not being a graphic novel or even political cartoon fan

should have been

Not being a policital cartoon, or even a graphic novel fan

Since 2006 (1)

j-beda (85386) | more than 5 years ago | (#27860387)

I got a copy of the first BAC edition of 2006: http://bestamericancomics.com/2006 [bestamericancomics.com] for Christmas last year. It was pretty fun. They draw from Canada, the USA, and Mexico, so really it should be "North American" rather than "American".

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