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Best comics and graphics books of 2008

Posted by Dan Wasserman December 11, 2008 01:35 PM

It's the "Best Of" season, and several lists of graphics and comic books have popped up in the last week. On Sunday (12/7), the New York Times Book Review weighed in with its picks. Reviewer Douglas Wolk chose eleven notables, including Jason Lute's "BERLIN: City of Smoke", the second volume in his Berlin trilogy set in Weimar Germany (sample below).
Drawn! has a list in two parts that features a couple of books that I've enjoyed recently, Lynda Barry's "What It Is" and Richard Thompson's "Cul de Sac".

Comic Book Galaxy
declares Jaime Hernandez's the "Education of Hopey Glass" the best graphic novel of the year and picks standouts in nine other categories.

No one mentions the recently released collection of Bill Mauldin's collected cartoons, "Willie & Joe: The WWII Years" or the terrific biography of Mauldin, "Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front ", written by Todd DePastino and published earlier this year. I also recommend Pat Oliphant's collection of cartoons covering the Bush years, "Leadership".
For New Englanders looking for local flavor, there is Peter Wallace's "Cartoon Boston", a collection of the best of his Harry Fig cartoons, published weekly in the Sunday Globe.

Comics Reporter has an exchange between Tom Spurgeon and Steven Grant on the the 2008 comics landscape and the criteria for making up annual lists.

Happy holiday reading.

Can comics combat scientific ignorance?

Posted by Dan Wasserman November 24, 2008 09:00 PM

After eight long years of the anti-science Bush crowd and an ongoing science crisis in the nation's schools, could comics begin to turn the tide? Yes, suggests Wired magazine in a posting about a new comic book, "The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA", due to be pubished next month.


"The author," reports Wired, "is Mark Schultz, a DC Comics veteran and creator of the postapocalyptic classic Xenozoic Tales. The 160-page work, illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (improbably, no genetic relation), covers the regenerative processes of DNA, human migratory patterns, cloned apples, and stem cells. In a rapidly changing field, it's as up-to-date and accurate as possible."

The authors and collaborators have put together a wonderful animated promo - "What's in a Nucleus?" - that is viewable here.

Kevin Garnett's spine illustrated

Posted by Dan Wasserman November 22, 2008 07:48 AM

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the basketball fanatic who appreciates both quirky prose and knockout graphics? Look no further. “The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac” (Bloomsbury, $23) is your pick and roll. Written by the bloggers from FreeDarko, and designed and illustrated by Jacob Weinstein, the offbeat almanac runs, jumps and shoots through the modern NBA with abandon.

The graphics are sharp, innovative and powerful. The caricatures are dead-on. The authors have put up a rich website with slideshow, including a graphic analyzing the makeup of Kevin Garnett's spinal column (Backbone of a True Soul, slide #9).

Reviewing the book for the New York Times Tommy Craggs writes, " is likely the only sports almanac in existence that features a manifesto (“In rejecting the old N.B.A., we seek not to spite our forebears but to silence those who proclaim the league’s decrepitude”); cooks up winkingly abstruse statistics like “cancer effect” (e.g. Stephon Marbury and the Knicks); provides an etymology of the hoop slang “swag” (it derives from “swagger” and was popularized by Arenas when, after sinking a game-winner, he declared, “My swag was phenomenal!”); and name-drops Amiri Baraka, Martin Buber and Chris “Birdman” Andersen." (Thanks to Drawn! for the tipoff.)

Oliphant looks back on W.

Posted by Dan Wasserman November 14, 2008 02:52 PM

If you want a viscerally gripping and hilarious summary of the eight years of W, there is probably no better place to look than Pat Oliphant's cartoon collection, "Leadership". Designed as the catalog for a traveling exhibition of Oliphant's drawings, it came out some months ago, but I only recently sat down with a copy. It's terrific and reminded me why Oliphant has been the premier political cartoonist in the US for over 40 years.


The satire is biting, and the drawing is distinctive, forceful and innovative. Among the nicest features of the collection is the inclusion of preliminary sketches for certain cartoons, so the reader can appreciate the development of Oliphant's thinking and drawing. The book also has photos of some of the cartoonist's Daumier-like sculptures of political figures. I've seen them in person, and the photos don't do them justice. Andrews McMeel is the publisher; P.J. O'Rourke wrote the funny intro. (And to see the passions that Oliphant can stir, check out this earlier post where Pat draws Palin.)

Election cartoon books

Posted by Dan Wasserman September 19, 2008 04:19 PM

Can't get enough politics? Yearn for the hydra-headed, hyped-up heyday of the primary campaigns? Eric Appleman may have just the fix you need. He's compiled two collections of editorial cartoons, one for each major party, chronicling the battle for each party's nomination.


The two volumes, in large paperback form, are "The Race for the 2008 Republican Nomination" and "The Race for the 2008 Democratic Nomination," both published by Pelican. They include cartoons from around the country, including the drawings of Ted Rall, incoming president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

When he's not compiling cartoons, Appleman is the force behind Democracy in Action, a citizens guide to the election.

Dan Wasserman has been cartooning for the Globe editorial page since 1985. He has published two collections of drawings, "We've Been Framed" (Faber & Faber, 1987) and "Paper Cuts" (Ivan R. Dee, 1995). His cartoons are widely reprinted and are syndicated internationally by Tribune Media Services. He draws more quickly than he types.