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08 January 2013

11 comics I liked in 2011: Parts 6 through 11

(Image stolen from Gabby Schulz.)

Hi friends.  Real talk time.  As you may have noticed, it is now the year 2013.  In the way back time of late 2011 and early 2012 I decided to post a series of eleven comics I liked from 2011.  I failed.  Now, I know you did not come here to read my excuses so I'll just be brief and say that 2012 was an awful year for me.  Some major life disrupting things happened which easily could have made me walk away from file under other and comics in general.  But, so far, I have stuck it out and clung to comics by my pinkie nails.  But I just could never get my 2011 series of posts together.  Largely because those awful things that happened have physically put me in a different location from where many of those 2011 comics are.  Not way far or anything.  I could go dig them up.  But my available time to reflect on those books just never matched up with my physical proximity to them.  Excuses, excuses.  

All that said, in the way back time of late 2011 and early 2012 I did pick out 11 comics that I liked and wanted to talk about.  But at this point, in the year 2013, I admit defeat and give up on my idea of long focused individual posts and now give you a list.  And I kinda hate lists.  But here we are.

These comics are presented in no particular order.  I don't really think the idea of "best" has a lot of place in art.  It's not a sport.  We don't have points or a playoff system.  It's all relative to the individual's tastes.  And also relative to the fact that comics are very expensive and there are certainly a lot of works out there that won't be on this list just because I never got to read them.

First off, let's start with  links to the five comics I did manage to talk about:


And now, comics 6 through 11: 

Old Timey Hockey Tales
By Robert Ullman and Jeffrey Brown.

I picked this up from Ullman at SPX in 2011 and I've kept it close at hand since then and re-read it several times.  First of all it is a WAP book and therefore looks great and is perfectly produced.  Great design.  Quality cover and paper stock.  Quality colors on the cover and end papers.  Exactly what I want and enjoy in a minicomic.  I've read minicomics long enough that I am no longer impressed by crazy screen print, crazy cut, silk screen wacky covers.  I like them to be tight and solid.  I like them to be exactly like this.  


I also like for my minicomics to have guys like Rob Ullman and Jeffrey Brown in them.  Two very different creators.  Very different in the way they draw and tell stories but it works well together creating nice tone shifts that break up the book in a positive way.  I'm only a casual hockey fan but each story works as its own thing and had me hungry for more.

The webcomics of Rich Tommaso.  Sam Hill, Dry Country, Vikings End and more. 

Back in 2009 ish Rich Tommaso started what he called a "one-man publishing house".  Basically, he started posting a lot of comics online and they were/are great.  In 2010 (I think) he started what would become the 2012 Sam Hill book.  That comic continued into 2011 which was when I actually read most of it.  In 2011 he also started Dry Country. (And a bunch of other things if I remember correctly.  Vikings End etc.)  The point is, Rich was really killing it with the webcomics in 2011.  More than I could keep up with and all of it exceptional.  Unfortunately, the nature of webcomics today is that they move around and get collected in different ways.  Well, unfortunate only in that it makes it harder for me to find old links.  Rich's website has changed from Web of Comics to Recoil.  Dry Country is currently over at Study Group.  Sam Hill can be purchased as a real hold it in your hands paper book over at Fantagraphics.

Animal Man by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and several other people.

I talked about the 1st issue 2011's New 52 Animal Man at length here.  I liked it well enough but Travel Foreman really blew me away in the following issues.  Easily some of the most exciting art I saw in 2011.  But sadly, Foreman did not keep up the pace and fill in artists came in during 2012.  The art remained strong but was inconsistent and lacked that magic of those first few Foreman issues.  Now the comic is mired in a crossover.  But for a few months, it was really something.


Not My Small Diary #16 edited by Delaine Green and featuring dozens of indie comics and zine wonders. 

Not My Small Diary is an ongoing themed diary anthology.  This sixteenth volume is made up of two thick minicomics filled with transportation themed stories.  Comics and stuff by Donna Barr, Robyn Jordan, Dave Kiersh, John Porcellino, Liz Prince, Noah Van Sciver, Julia Wertz and many more.  I like diary comics but I think I like them best in Not My Small Diary.  All those little bits from all those different voices.  Seeing the world through so many different eyes, pens and brushes all in one place.  More than worth the cover price.

Paying For It by Chester Brown.

Chester Brown is one of my favorite cartoonists and his previous full length book, Louis Riel, is my favorite book so I had a lot of anticipation built up for Paying For It.  A lot of people did.  There was a lot of controversy about Paying For Its subject matter and how Chester Brown handled it (and how he had a clear and heavy handed agenda) but it never bothered me.  To me, the book is a comedy about a man who has Blake Edwards movie awkwardness every time he tries to interact with living humans.  It's a drawn anthropology journal about having sex presented by a cartoon version of a man that does not seem like he'd be all that good at shaking hands.  (He rides a bicycle to go find prostitutes!  That is funny people.)  I thought it was riveting, fascinating and all those other words critics use for "I liked it lots". I particularly liked Brown's interactions with Seth, Joe Matt and Sook-Yin Lee.  At the 2011 SPX I had the pleasure of meeting Chester Brown and he was one of the nicest people I've ever met.  And totally capable of shaking hands.

Sick.  A webcomic by Gabby Schulz.

No other comic in 2011 was affective to me as Gabby Schulz's Sick.  The thing is brutal.  Almost every panel is a body blow and some of them rattled my jaw.  The story is about the horrors being sick without insurance in the good ol' US of A.  I actually have health insurance but my family has experienced a lot of illness over the past 5 or so years and I've spent way too many awful nights in hospitals.  Even with insurance, it is terrible.  Sick captures all of the worst thoughts and fears of sitting in  the hospital or lying in bed thinking that death would be better than what the next few minutes will hold.  And as brutal as the comic is, it is also enjoyable.  I know that sounds odd.  But Schulz is a very funny cartoonist.  He is attacking these horrors with scorn and cynicism but there is a layer of humor on most of it.  He is pointing out the absurdity of it.  Routine matter of fact things we have to go through in the US just to receive  purchase a moment of human decency and assistance.  You have to laugh at it or you'll probably just end it all.
I would tell you to check it out for yourself but Sick is not currently online. (It kinda is but not officially.)  The comic was successful enough that Schulz ended up with bandwidth issues and had to take it down.  But the good news is, at least as I understand it from reading one of his blog comments, that he is working on a print version.  Whenever that happens, it will be essential reading.

Well, that's 2011 for ya.  Sorry it took so long.  I'll try to get to 2012 sometime before we all die.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith

p.s.  Say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind.  I think you'd better close it and let me guide you to my twitter feed.
p.p.s. Let's pretend we went to high school together on facebook
p.p.p.s. Google + is another place you can read the same thing I posted here.
p.p.p.p.s. I'll tumblr for ya.
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