1. Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, by Joe Lambert. This was published last year but I read it for the first time in 2013. This is a beautiful book with a great mix of really simple storytelling and very exciting, new visual vocabulary. Lambert explains the “water” breakthrough of Helen Keller more clearly than I’ve ever heard or seen before. It’s great.
2. Cyborg 009, by Shotaro Ishinomori. An oldie but goodie. 12-panel grid, old fashioned bubble characters (like early Disney), and some surprising fun choices throughout. I love the dance sequence inspired by West Side Story (I’m not kidding), and the giant hulking demon robot whose scale blows apart the grid. This is the very first volume (although I have a reprint with a weird painted cover), and it’s in Japanese, so I don’t know every word of the story. I don’t need to! Don’t let me undersell this book. It’s very indebted to Tezuka but it’s also imbued with its own special style and humor. Oh, one thing - there are kinda unfortunately racist cartoons of black people and native Americans here? Well, it’s an old book, and Japanese are dumb about that stuff.
3. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, vol 1, by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. This is really not in my “visual language.” It’s hard to read…. The pen’s touch is light and the storytelling is a little.. jumpy. But I liked it. It was fun. Cool big robots. Feels like the start of a good story. I’ll get Volume 2.
4. Fantasy Basketball, by Sam Bosma: My favorite book from SPX? A short story inspired by RPGs. The “boss” of the “dungeon” is a demon who slays challengers by beating them at basketball. It’s super fun. Thick screenprinted cover. Really good!
5. Patrick Kyle’s blue book from SPX - untitled, and sold out. A frog creature finds a magic rock and brings it home. There’s something real great about the way Patrick makes his own storytelling rules and discards others. No panel borders… weird spaces… weird interpretations of human actions when you have a creature with no arms. Reading this book is like being lulled into a dream. I loved it.
6. The Dormitory, by Conor Stechschulte. Weird CMYK screenprinting. A short story that reminds of the good old stuff by Ray Bradbury. He gives you enough of this weird future dystopia to tell a story, but he doesn’t define the whole world. You fill in the blanks. The sex in this story is a bit like “Brave New World.” Visually inventive. I wish the story were 100 pages longer! But it’s as long as it needs to be.
7. Trap 2, by Matt Seneca. A full color self-published book, for $3!? Kinda similar to Patrick Kyle’s book above, you learn how the world of this book works as you go. It’s a slow story where you know something bad is coming, and when it finally comes, it’s maybe worse than you guessed… but you also don’t know. Why don’t more comics transmit these kinds of feelings?
8. Blobby Boys, by Alex Schubert. Super funny, short, and sharp. All the crap is cut out. The Blobby Boys are unexpectedly scary sometimes and I like that. Are they aliens? Are they made of slime? I don’t need answers to these questions. I bought a small one but you should get the full one from Koyama Press. I loved what Alex himself told me, “I wanted to make it like a magazine, so you could just open it and read whatever, or you could read it cover to cover, however you like.” Yeah, it’s like that. It’s a magazine I really like!
9: Donald Duck: The Old Castle’s Secret, by Carl Barks. This stuff is great. Great production value.
10. Rav 9, by Mickey Z. This is the first time I’ve read one of her books! Wow! She’s really onto something. Do I have the guts to approach my work this way? What am I grasping onto here when I read this book? It must be the character design and the good flow of gestural motion. No - its the very realistic, antagonistic relationships between characters. Why is Ben such a prick? What happened to Mothball? Why is Sally trying to kill that bug? I have questions but it’s gratifying anyway.