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February 16, 2005 1:05 PM   Subscribe

TIME Magazine's ten best comics of 2004. What did they miss?
posted by Fuzzy Monster (54 comments total)
They missed the comics that aren't tiresomely postmodern and hipster-than-thou.
posted by NickDouglas at 1:08 PM on February 16, 2005

"Bone" is none of those things. I loved it.
posted by Cyrano at 1:10 PM on February 16, 2005

They missed:
Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage
Craig Thompson and James Kochalka's Conversation #1
Charles Schulz's Li'l Beginnings
and the first two editions of The Complete Peanuts

(Best of 2004 lists are sooo December)
posted by Robot Johnny at 1:14 PM on February 16, 2005

On first look, I'd say anything by women.
posted by jokeefe at 1:17 PM on February 16, 2005

Have you read any of them Nick?
McSweeneys was not one of the best because so much of the material has already seen print.
Mother Come Home is emo crud.
Bighead was fun, but not top ten fun.
Other than that, I think it's an okay list.
Slamming Jimbo in Purgatory for being too dense misses the point.
posted by Luke Pski at 1:17 PM on February 16, 2005

The Craig Thompson/Kochalka comics was embarassingly bad.
Considering how few women cartoonists there are, I'm not surpirsed not to see one on the list. Persoplis could have easily taken the place of Bighead, or "Mommy play that elliot Smith CD again".
posted by Luke Pski at 1:20 PM on February 16, 2005

Ernie Pook's Comeek is always good for a laugh
posted by tsarfan at 1:20 PM on February 16, 2005

The Craig Thompson/Kochalka comic was embarassingly bad.
Considering how few women cartoonists there are, I'm not surpirsed not to see one on the list. Persoplis could have easily taken the place of Bighead, or "Mommy play that elliot Smith CD again".
posted by Luke Pski at 1:20 PM on February 16, 2005

Robot Johnny: Man, those Complete Peanuts books are beautiful.

On Preview: jokeefe, there's women in the McSweeney's collection, and I believe in Kramer's Ergot #5 (have to admit I haven't seen it yet).
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 1:23 PM on February 16, 2005

Gabrielle Bell is in Kramers, Linda Barry is in McSweeneys along with Debi Dreschler and Julie Doucet.
posted by Luke Pski at 1:26 PM on February 16, 2005

Loved to have seen Y: The Last Man in there. Also The Ultimates and Whedon's Astonishing Xmen. My picks seem a little mainstream for this list, however.
posted by the theory of revolution at 1:29 PM on February 16, 2005

What'd they miss? Anything by DC or Marvel?
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2005

that Kramer's Ergot sounds great, but why only books/collections/anthologies?

Boondocks definitely hit its stride this past year, i think (for a mainstream newspaper comic).
posted by amberglow at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2005

Kramer's Ergot is byooteeful... Dare I say you don't even need to read it to enjoy it... even just holding it in your hands and flipping through the pages is an experience.
posted by Robot Johnny at 1:32 PM on February 16, 2005

Flight Volume 1.
posted by scottq at 1:32 PM on February 16, 2005

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley’s WE3 gets my nomination for best comic of 2004.
posted by Tenuki at 1:35 PM on February 16, 2005

Er, perhaps Lucifer?

Some fine writing in that series
posted by MildlyDisturbed at 1:38 PM on February 16, 2005

oops, Frank Quitely
posted by Tenuki at 1:38 PM on February 16, 2005

what! no achewood?!

posted by chaz at 1:42 PM on February 16, 2005

They missed anything by the now deceased Highwater books (still being distributed by Bodega Distribution Comics and books)

James Kochalka will be familiar to most. My vote would have been for Teratoid Heights by Mat Brinkman (although it may have been from 2003)

At least 'Ultimate Awesomest Super-secret Spiderman with Radical Rocking Daredevil crossover tie in(featuring jennifer garner centerfold!) : A tribute to our troops!' didn't win.
posted by darkpony at 1:42 PM on February 16, 2005

shouldn't the list have been properly titled top 10 non mainstream comics? i know it's not cool to like anything that's mainstream, but, it looks like they weren't even considering any of the more traditional "superhero" comics; which is too bad, b/c there were some great ones.

that said, i will have to see about getting my grubby little paws on some of those comics, especially bone, about which i have yet to hear anything negative.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:42 PM on February 16, 2005

I certainly think that mcsweeney's book should be considered up with the best (while simultaneously thinking all "best of" lists are stupid). Sure much of the work had been printed elsewhere, but most of it was very recent work, and the print-run for this book (at least 60,000 copies + second printing) far exceeds the print run for most of the excerpted stories by massive amounts. Add in the fact that almost every piece in the book can only be found in "comic specialty shops" and not in a mainstream bookstore.

For many people this is the only exposure that they will get to 95% of the cartoonists represented.

Besides... that book is so good!

Oh, they did leave out Little Lulu vol. 1 from dark horse. Great great book.

(p.s. I too was very disappointed by the "conversations" mini.)
posted by JBennett at 1:42 PM on February 16, 2005

Agreed on the Peanuts books. And on Bone, though occasionally I wished that the story would move a bit faster. Maybe reading the whole thing in one sitting will change my mind.

Tenuki's Morrison and Quitely mention makes me realize that, when I went to read this piece, I was expecting a whole bunch of Love-and-Rockets hipster stuff with one superhero mention for the sake of geek street cred. Looks like I was wrong on the geek street cred aspect.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2005

They missed PVP, Liberty Meadows, Diesel Sweeties, SinFest, and Penny-Arcade. I also agree with the whole Peanuts and Bone comments, too. Good stuff.
posted by crankydoodle at 1:53 PM on February 16, 2005

Yeah, but just cause McSweeneys' will get comics into a lot of peoples hands doesn't make the content better.The content was great, but I've already got half the book scattered in a long box .

We do have to keep in mind that this is one guys' opinion and it's a guy who doesn't like Mainstream comics.Obviously his best of list is going to reflect his tastes ( which I think are pretty okay).
Teratoid Hieghts was 2003, but so was Mother Come Home, according to TCJ ( )
My top ten:

Kramers Ergot #5
The Filth collection
Promethea #30-32 ( I think that's right)
Anything by Kevin Huizenga
The Avengelist by David Sandlin
the Collected Bone
The Hino Horror collections
Jimbo In Purgatory
Mat Brinkman and Lief Goldbergs strips
posted by Luke Pski at 1:57 PM on February 16, 2005

Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's first four issues of Street Angel were among my favorite comic of 2004.
posted by njm at 1:58 PM on February 16, 2005

I've heard good things about Street Angel. They review it in the recent issue of TCJ.
posted by Luke Pski at 1:59 PM on February 16, 2005

A top ten list that does not include anything by DC's Vertigo line is obvious bullshit. This is from the school of thought basically enshrined in the McSweeney's collection -- comics are only good if they are quirky tales of mundane life rendered with naivete or a nostalgic longing. Ware's introduction to that volume is one of the most wretched pieces of cultural elitism I've read in quite some time . . .

The Eightball concerning Death Ray is a good vote tho, a fine piece.
posted by undule at 2:08 PM on February 16, 2005

Luke, that is my point, sort of. YOU (and I ) have much of that stuff in a long-box, but not many others do. It is sort of like criticizing the great smithsonian collections of Newspaper strips and comic books. (not the mega disappointing new one). Sure that stuff has been printed before, and read by millions, but collecting it together makes for the best book of whatever year it was released.

I see your point too. I just think it there is way more too it than just stuff a book full of stuff that's already out. The presentation was perfect for a collection of great work.

oh, and the McSweeney's collection was the work of one editor. I don't think many of the stories in that book quirky tales of life rendered with naivete or a nostalgic longing. Seth... sure. But who elses?
posted by JBennett at 2:14 PM on February 16, 2005

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley’s WE3 gets my nomination for best comic of 2004.

Definately one of my favourites of the year, but part 3 came out just a few weeks ago so I think maybe the series is better considered as a 2005 title. I liked how it borrowed the subtler aspects of manga. I'm a manga fan myself and I'll freely admit that it's mostly escapist fluff that shouldn't be on the list.
posted by bobo123 at 2:27 PM on February 16, 2005

Bennet -- right, the collection is the work of Chris Ware, who is a comic snob, to say the least. His value to the medium is vastly overrated. Easily 80 percent of the collection is workaday mundanity rendered naively -- take another look at it if you don't remember; sadly, I can't remember many specific names: the Seth piece was one of the better examples, actually -- about an obsession with masturbating to porn, yes?
posted by undule at 2:27 PM on February 16, 2005

No. That was Joe Matt's piece.

As for "rendered naively" . I disagree entirely.

We like to read different comics I guess.
posted by JBennett at 2:43 PM on February 16, 2005

I loved Bone and Locas, but these are getting votes more for "body of work" than for being specifically created in 2004. If we are going to acknowledge them, we need to acknowledge that Dave Sim completed Cerebus' 300 issue run this last year and that accomplishment dwarfs, IMO, everything else on the list.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:49 PM on February 16, 2005

1602. (link is to the consolidated book). The series began in 2003 and finished in 2004. Brilliant.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:51 PM on February 16, 2005

Is it really so pedestrian that I liked New Frontier, 1602 and all but the last issue of Identity Crisis? If so, should I really be all that concerned? Lists like this might bring focus to the alterna-kids working in comics publishing -- the kind that still get that warm '90s retro feel from calling them "comix" -- but it does nothing to honor the bright spots remaining in the mainstream.
posted by grabbingsand at 2:57 PM on February 16, 2005

You know, I'm really, really glad there's somebody at a place like Time magazine that's an advocate of stuff like this, scenesterness or lack of "geek street cred" or webcomics nonwithstanding... I wouldn't want a whole entire comics collection consisting exclusively of this kind of stuff but jesus fuck look at what we've got - serious, enthusiastic reviews of adult-oriented comics in a popular magazine - and quitcher bitchin.
posted by furiousthought at 3:00 PM on February 16, 2005

Don't ghettoize the list as Top Ten Nonmainstream. It's the Top Ten period. The 'mainstream' just doesn't compete when it comes to artistic merit. And that's not because I'm a snob towards superheroes, it's because there isn't the artistic freedom as far as the story and art go.

Kramer's Ergot rocks. I'm soooooo glad that Phoenix finally got a nod. It goes down in history as one of the greatest comics ever, along with the likes of Segar's Popeye (and only his), Krazy Kat, Little Nemo, Jack Cole's Plastic Man (and only his), Carl Barks' Scrooge McDuck (and only his), and about half of everything Harvey Kurtzmann ever did. This is Tezuka's crowning achievement. Sure it's mighty old, but this is the first time it's seen print in English. Get it!

I'm kind of disappointed so much of this list is collected older material, although I guess I understand that a lot of it is being put forth in 'complete' form for the first time. And I definitely agree with you, JBenenett, that the Smithsonian Collection analogy is in effect. I remember getting that book at age 6 on a trip to DC, and it rocking my world. I still have the same copy.

As much as I like Locas, I think brother Beto's Palomar from last year is the superior comic.

For those who think this list is snobbish... jesus. Take pleasure in reading your DC and Marvel and Image, and don't worry about Time's list. You've got Wizard Magazine to take care of you. I finally read We3. Loved it. Loved a lot of Morrison's and Quitely's work for an awful long time (I think Flex Mentallo is in the running for the best thing DC ever published), but I don't feel like We3 really competes with this selection. Have you even read all of these titles? If not, how do you justify complaining unless you have?
posted by the_savage_mind at 3:16 PM on February 16, 2005

Right on, furiousthought. Time Magazine (and the mainstream media in general) has come a long, long way from the way they treated comics in the 1980s. Anyone else remember the flood of articles in the popular press that greeted the release of the "darker" comics (Watchmen, Maus, Dark Knight)? All the headlines were variations of "BANG! POW! ZAP! COMICS AREN'T JUST FOR KIDS ANYMORE!"

I think my well-meaning parents and grandparents sent me every single one of those articles.

And now, 20-some years later, comics are gettin' some respect. Which is nice.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:21 PM on February 16, 2005

No. Wizard takes care of the louts that read the latest "Wolverine" mini-series or Image monthlies or whatever else ascribes to the Todd McFarlane / Rob Liefield mentality spawned in the mid-90s. Wizard is where you go when you have absolutely no sense of comics history beyond the latest variant cover of the latest #1. Wizard is ... not for me. I've been collecting comics of one kind or another since I was too small to read the dialogue.

Look. It's well and good to celebrate all of the titles on this list, but you have to admit that it reads like a college radio top 20 or the best of independent film. To not have a single entry in this top ten from any of the larger houses implies a purposeful ignorance of anything that isn't high-end or intellectual, more out of a distaste for the mainstream than an actual look at the year's "best."
posted by grabbingsand at 3:55 PM on February 16, 2005

I agree with furiousthought to some extent, it's good that comics are being recognized as "grown-up" -- despite the fact that they've been grown up for almost twenty years . . . Better late to the party than never, I suppose.

My problem, and it's minor, is that the titles Time selected are simply not the best examples of work in the field. They are "literary" comics in a vaguely Raymond Carver mode. The McSweeney collection, again, is a perfect example of this -- following on the Seth/ChesterBrown/JoeMatt biographical comic "revolution." As a genre, it's swank, but as representative of the entire medium its shallow and piss-poor.

The 'mainstream' just doesn't compete when it comes to artistic merit

It's that kind of comment I find so irritating because it's just incorrect and more than a little retarded. Browsing through DC's Vertigo line would be ample refutation -- very few of which (if any?) are super-hero books and certainly offer a wide array of artistic styles.

You've got Wizard Magazine to take care of you

Right, because if I don't like fatuous introspective pudgery, Wizard must be my shit, yes? Is that like saying that if you won't sex up that fat chick, you must prefer swallowing dongs? Get up, walk around a bit, dude.

For the record -- who cares --- the list is ok by inclusion, and suffers mostly by exclusion. It's a barrista's reading list really, and there's nothing wrong with that. But it's not very representative of the medium.

Comics are being accepted as literature in so much as they ape current trends in "real" literature -- which invalidates the acceptance and ultimately clamps the scope of the medium. Utlimately, it's reactionary, I realize that. But the indignant pendantry of it all - -again I must cite Ware's intro to the McSweeney bits -- is balderdash. And this from someone who is actually a kind of snoot about comics, as I don't generally go in for the men-in-tights scene.

RE: Morrisson, wasn't The Filth released as a collection in 2004? That certainly deserves a slot.
posted by undule at 4:00 PM on February 16, 2005

I believe I understand your point, grabbingsand, but I'm not sure I agree. If there was a title that I had read from DC, Vertigo, Dark Horse, Image, Top Cow or whichever other mainstream house you can think of that I though belonged in this top ten list, I'd put it there.

True, being out of the US the last year-plus, I had to do without reading a lot of stuff I would have browsed through at my friend's comic store. So I'm perfectly willing to admit I missed something. But I thought 1602 was basically crap when I finally got to read the collected hardcover. Seriously. Same for Identity Crisis. Neither rated even mediocre for me. And I went into both of them with a completely open mind. While I really enjoyed We3, and would say it was the best I'd read from the Big Two all year, I didn't think it was Top Ten good. Bone, as far as I'm concerned, is a mainstream comic. Just one aimed at kids. So i don't think the high-falutin' criticism applies.

I really enjoyed a chunk of Bendis' Daredevil, with Alex Maleev's wonderful art. Again, not Top Ten quality for me. Just a different class of enjoyment. Aside from that, I really didn't think much of Bendis work compare to, oh, say, Goldfish. Just not as inspiring. Brubaker I find completely overrated.

I see a fundamental difference (in general... there are always some exceptions) both on quality of concept (escapism really isn't in the same category as serious -- even seriously humorous/humorously serious -- explorations of life) and technical execution. As good as Dave Mazzuccelli was on Daredevil, that work just doesn't compare to his later, indie/alt stuff like Rubber Blanket where he was free to really go wild with his art.

There's nothing that I've seen that came out from DC or Marvel that has the kind of impact that Dave Cooper had the last few years, for example. And that comes from always having to play it somewhat safe... always having to deal with 'properties'.

I don't think it's fair to just assume that the Time editor's decision was based on pre-judged distaste. I grew up with the Kirby/Ditko/Kane/etc. love. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. Gaiman's Sandman. I still have it. When something really phenomenal comes out from one of those companies, I think they deserve high praise. I just didn't see that top rank this year, for my own tastes. Vertigo did nothing for me this year.
posted by the_savage_mind at 4:23 PM on February 16, 2005

I think it's unfair to equate indie comics with Chris Ware, or "introspective pudgery". There clearly is a lot of that stuff, but it is on the wane. Kramers Ergot is also on the list.
A huge chuck of the book is dedicated to comics that aren't at all literary in intent.
Much of McSweeneys isn't "literary" either; Kaz, Beyer and Panter for instance.
I think it'd be even more reactionary for the artists who do have literary aspirations to not follow it through.
Ultimately, creating literary comics is one more thing comics can do, so it's great, in my mind. I might not like a lot of it, but it's only because so few people make decent comics that we even notice the stuff that we don't like.

Why would they not be similar to contemporary literature? They are working at the same time, subject to the same influences, of the same generation. What should they be doing? To assume they are simply aping contemporary lit. is incredibly insulting. As though comics are a genre and not a form; if somebody steps outside comics-as-a-genre, they are willfuly putting on some pretense. Daniel Clowes writes stories that are right up there with the best stuff going on in any form.

I really like a lot of superhero material, but you have to recognize its limitations.It's a genre. I happen to like the genre.Why would I expect some critic from a magazine to like superheroes? -Don't say it's because he likes comics.The two are increasingly not synonymous. The form is not the genre people!

I think a critic, when writing a personal best-of list, should include material that moved him personally, not necessarily because it's good for the form, or might have some historical cache down the road.
posted by Luke Pski at 5:09 PM on February 16, 2005

My last post was in response to Undules' post.
posted by Luke Pski at 5:12 PM on February 16, 2005

I'm with Furious. I guess it's a small victory, but I'm just happy to see this kind of thing in Time. Both Time and Entertainment Weekly have been expanding some of their areas of reviews, much to the benefit of the average readers.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 5:38 PM on February 16, 2005

I like The Perry Bible Fellowship .

I don't like many comics. Read them from time to time in the bookstore, spurred on by recommendations like the ones above, but nothing has really made an impression yet.
posted by ishmael at 5:40 PM on February 16, 2005

Hmm... I noticed a few people mentioned comic strips when I believe the article was referring to comic books, though I do agree that there's lots of good examples of the former out there (Mutts is my current fave).

I too was glad to see Bone on the list, but since I typically don't read the really uber-trendy indies (okay, I read Hate once back in the day, but that was it!), much of that list was lost on me.

And yeah, the lack of Vertigo stuff was disturbing...
posted by May Kasahara at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2005

There is nothin hipper than hating hipsters...
posted by Luke Pski at 6:27 PM on February 16, 2005

Particularly if yer a hipster.
posted by undule at 6:55 PM on February 16, 2005

The best Marvel was easily Supreme Power. The best Vertigo was easily We3, although I'd say almost any Vertigo title is bound to be an entertaining and high quality read. I liked Bone a lot.

It is important to note that, as has been mentioned, Chris Ware is an elitist ass. I think it's incredibly hard for him to understand that the same shops that carry 15 different X-Men titles also carry his books. And even sell them.
posted by graventy at 7:29 PM on February 16, 2005

I actually was given the Jimbo in Purgatory book as a Christmas gift. The Time article describes it perfectly. The sheer size of the book- it's about 24" x 14"- makes it irritating to read. The artwork is interesting but you would never want to just sit down and read the whole thing at once. It's a coffee table book that won't fit on any coffee table.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:06 PM on February 16, 2005

Powers: Forever was pretty good too. For non-superhero, where was Spiegelman's Shadow of No Towers? Or is this list actually the "Time Top 10 Best Comics We Previously Reviewed In Time Reviews"?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:08 PM on February 16, 2005

The New Frontier gets my vote. So very pretty - a little weak on the story side, but when that comes out in HC, I'm all over it.
Identity Crisis was crap and here's why (see the 12/19 comments.)
posted by DonnieSticks at 8:33 PM on February 16, 2005

The Filth collection was good. It's a shame they left Persepolis off that list. Bighead was not very good (I say that as a fan of Brown's other works).
posted by drezdn at 10:08 PM on February 16, 2005

What drezdn said. Persepolis is my fave 2004 comic book. I also like some of the European-made Disney comics that Gemstone are publishing now. And Eric Powell's Goon! A good year for comics.
posted by Panfilo at 6:08 AM on February 17, 2005

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