The Return of the Best Damn Comics of the Year -- Boing Boing Edition

I realized that I promised you some stocking stockers for December, but then it occurred to me: why not just approach the whole thing Tom Sawyer-style, and get a few tastemakers from around the industry to help paint this year end fence by picking their top five books for 2012. We've got a couple of dozen folks, including cartoonists, writers, critics, educators, publishers, librarians and podcasters singling out some of the best pieces of sequential art the past 12 months had to offer.

No surprise that Building Stories, the latest masterwork from Chris Ware rated at the top of the top of the list. Tied for second place are Brandon Graham's Prophet and two Fantagraphics titles, Barack Hussein Obama and Heads or Tails, by Steven Weissman and Lilli Carre, respectively. Directly below, you'll find a list of those titles that scored multiple picks and further down, reviews from the panel members themselves, featuring more than enough comics to help you survive the holidays in mostly one piece.

Eight votes:

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

Four votes:

Prophet, by Brandon Graham, et al.

Barack Hussein Obama, by Steven Weissman

Heads or Tails, by Lilli Carre

Three votes:

Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel

The Nao of Brown, by Glyn Dillon

Zegas #2, by Michel Fiffe

My Friend Dahmer, by Derf

By This Shall You Know Him, by Jesse Jacobs

The Hypo, by Noah Van Sciver

Two votes:

No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: a Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney

Suspect Device #2, edited by Josh Bayer

Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Cleveland by Harvey Pekar, Joseph Remnant

The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell

Goliath by Tom Gauld

Nick Abadzis, Cartoonist

Koma, by Pierre Wazem and Frederik Peeters

Sublime, fantastical tale of identity, loss and rebirth that for me recalls the atmosphere of Moebius and Jodorowksy's better stuff, or films like A Matter of Life and Death and most of Miyazaki's output. It is just in a world of its own in a thoroughly excellent way.

Kolor Klimax, edited by Matthias Wivel

Subtitled 'Nordic Comics Now', this collection of strips by various Scandinavian cartoonists feels startling and vital to me and features a wide variety of styles, each as absorbing as all the others contained within these pages. I don't think I've enjoyed an anthology as much as this one in years.

The Sky In Stereo, by Mardou

There's a sensibility of the universal experience in this book: I love the way Mardou draws people with all their flaws and everyday wit, with all the grit and gray of the landscapes of their lives pierced by occasional shafts of yellow sunlight. Her stories are animated by real, raw souls and their hopes, self-made traps and impractical dreams. My favorite mini-comic of the year.

Zegas #2, by Michel Fiffe

Fiffe is a phenomenal artist who uses color like a character in its own right. He uses it like no-one else in comics and he's just as adept with black-and-white -- this book sports both and he invents new grammar in each area. Stunning.

Hilda and the Bird Parade, by Luke Pearson

As phenomenons go, Luke Pearson's shaping up pretty well. There's kind of a theme here as I'll liken him to Miyazaki too with a good bit Of Tove Jansson and some British whimsy thrown in but I've been banging on about Pearson's work for at least a couple of years now so if you haven't discovered him yet check out this beautiful book, produced to NoBrow's impeccable usual standards.

Jimmy Aquino, Podcaster

The Nao of Brown, by Glyn Dillon

Nao Brown returns home to figure out her life all while still dealing with an extreme form of OCD (that I now think I possibly could have). Stunning art (mixing several styles) that conveys the journey of a troubled young woman trying to find balance.

Sailor Twain or The Mermaid in the Hudson, by Mark Siegel

A beautifully charcoal-drawn love story about a steamboat Captain and a mermaid, the lives they affect, curses and myths while paddling along the Hudson River during the late 1800s.

The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, by Julia Wertz

Wertz has shown us her drunken side, but has never talked about her battle with Systemic Lupus like she does here in both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming way. While one of her more serious works, it's still told with that great sense of humor we've all come to love. She just gets better and better!

Batman: Death by Design, by Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor

While Kidd weaves a suspenseful tale of Bruce Wayne helping to usher in an architectural Golden Age in Gotham, it's Taylor's pencils that are the star here. As it's told in a very "Elseworlds" style with no specific era mentioned, Taylor blends it all into one beautiful piece.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me: A Graphic Memoir, by Ellen Forney

Forney is brutal in her honesty as she covers her diagnosis with bipolar disorder, the subsequent struggle to balance medication with creativity, and eventually rediscovering her groove. It's frenzied, funny and touching. She had me wanting to reach out and hug her at some places, and in other spots wanting to have drinks with her and laugh it up all night!

Ryan Alexander-Tanner, Cartoonist

The Making Of, by Brecht Evans

Using deftly layered transparent color washes, Evans masterfully crafts the engaging story of an artistic collaboration gone awry.

King City, Prophet, Multiple Warheads, by Brandon Graham

If this year belonged to anyone in comics, it was Brandon Graham. King City is a definitive, modestly-priced collection of a sprawling, ambitious work. Prophet is a standard-setting European-flavored sci-fi epic that features an outstanding collection of visual collaborators. Multiple Warheads is a new ongoing series that showcases Graham's snappy dialogue and brilliant world building, all in full color!

Daredevil, by Mark Waid, et al.

The cure for the common superhero comic, Daredevil is pure fun that features the best roster of artists in the genre.

Zegas #2, by Michel Fiffe

Zegas exists in a genre all its own, with each page featuring impressive, unique line work and innovative layouts. A true visual triumph that makes a very character-based story feel grandiose.

White Clay, by Thomas Herpich

Sometimes more like visual poems than traditional comics narratives, Herpich's latest collection of short stories is a challenging exploration into complex, idiosyncratic mythologies.

Box Brown, Cartoonist / Publisher

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

How do you not include this work in a best of list of 2012? Read it in any order you want? It's like unpacking The Game of Life. You're not allowed to open it until you get home.

Barack Hussein Obama, by Steven Weissman

Steven Weissman does stuff with actual analog comic materials that most dudes can't even do with photoshop. The story of our fictional president is pretty footloose. Who's to say the real Obama didn't turn into a bird at some point?

Thickness #3, edited by Michael Deforge and Ryan Sands

Comic about a dude making love to a video game. Comic about two women making love. Pin-up of two men making love. Splash page of fist making love to dude's butt. Need I say more? Long live Riso-printing.

Suspect Device #2, edited by Josh Bayer

"Appropriation itself is a suspect device." Josh Bayer encourages artists to sample comic art the way a hip-hop artist samples music and uses it to create something new. Full disclosure I did a comic in this anthology but don't hold that against it.

Pope Hats #3, by Ethan Rilly

After reading Pope Hats #3 I remember thinking that Ethan Rilly might actually be moonlighting as a high powered lawyer, for real. Further, Ethan Rilly's line is something to be reckoned with.

Jeffrey Brown, Cartoonist

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

Ware's latest is really a box of books from which one could fill a top ten list of comics for the year. Conceptually complex, emotionally resonant, funny, sad, thoughtful, brilliant.

The Voyeurs, by Gabrielle Bell

At face value Gabrielle Bell's autobiographical comics appear to be typical diary comics, but reading them reveals a richly textured inner life punctuated by moments of humor.

The Hive, by Charles Burns

As always, Burns is great at using surreal stories to express angst and psychological disturbances, and in full-color, his artwork is better than ever.

Barack Hussein Obama, by Steven Weissman

Strange, funny and beautiful. Weissman reinvents his comics with the kind of book I wish I would make.

The Furry Trap, by Josh Simmons

Funny, even as it makes your hair stand on end and your skin start to crawl... Horror comics that gash their way below the surface.

Will Dinski, Cartoonist

Heads or Tails, by Lilli Carre

Beautiful artwork. Thoughtfully paced. "Of The Essence" is one of the best comic book short stories I've ever read.

The Guardian Review strips, by Tom Gauld

In my book, Tom Gauld can do no wrong. Fun and smart.

The Hypo, by Noah Van Sciver

Van Sciver is pretty prolific, but this is his best work to date. The line art just drips with anguish.

The Realist, by Asaf Hanuka

I'm addicted to Hanuka's autobiographical comics. They're so very honest and direct.

Barack Hussein Obama, by Steven Weissman Barack Hussein Obama is pretty much my favorite book of the year. I'd read much of it originally online, but I get a better appreciation for Weissman's craft in the printed collection where it can feel like you're actually looking at the finished artwork.

Joe Keatinge, Comics Writer

Saga of a Doomed Universe, by Scott Reed

What If Alan Moore Wrote Secret Wars? That's a bit of a misnomer (and a little bit of a lazy description), but fully explaining Scott Reed's Saga of a Doomed Universe requires one to sit down and read it themselves. The bronze age masterpiece that never was. Highest possible recommendation.

Zaya: Tome 1, by Wei Huang Jia & Jean-David Morvan

The best European album I've seen in years, bringing a strange tale of ...well, I can't exactly say what. International gangsters. Impossible machines. All wrapped in the most breathtaking new artistic voice since Little Thunder.

Casanova: Avaritia, by Gabriel Ba and Matt Fraction

My favorite ongoing series of mini-series finally returned at the tail end of 2011 and came to an astonishing conclusion in 2012. There was a lot of pressure for this super-spy-fi series to deliver and it definitely did, above and beyond.

Prophet, by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milogiannis & Farel Dalrymple

Despite my bias considering how this ties in with my own book, Glory, Prophet is easily the best sci-fi comic produced in years, going back to a tradition of sci-fi not seen since the grander days of Metal Hurlant. Each issue is absolutely beautiful in their own way.

Study Group, curated by Zack Soto

Hands down the best anthology being produced today, featuring stories by Soto himself, the aforementioned Farel Dalyrmple, Francois Vigneault, Sam Alden, Patrick Keck, Ian MacEwan, Jason Leivian, Jonny Negron, Kazmir Strzepek, Malachi Ward, Michael DeForge and so many others. Every single day brings another amazing comic of a completely different style of a completely different genre, united by a level of quality I haven't seen from an anthology in a long, long time.

Shaenon K. Garrity, Cartoonist

Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel, bechdel followed her blockbuster memoir Fun Home, about her father, with this unpacking of her relationship with her mother, a relationship as fraught as any mother-daughter relationship. Whereas the narrative of Fun Home was structured around classic literature, Are You My Mother? builds on a schema of psychological texts, as the eternally left-brained Bechdel tries to find an intellectual framework to explain her childhood. Meanwhile, her mother comments skeptically on the whole project. Are You My Mother? is quieter than Fun Home, but also denser and ultimately more ambitious.

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot

Literary scholar Mary Talbot, herself the daughter of a famed Joycean scholar (among people who are really into Joyce, anyway), intertwines her own fraught childhood with that of James Joyce's gifted, unstable, doomed daughter Lucia. Bryan Talbot strips back his usual ornate art style to illustrate his wife's story in simple, organic lines; it's some of his very best artwork. I'm a big fan of Bryan Talbot and an even bigger James Joyce nerd, so this book was made for me.

Popeye, by Roger Langridge, Ken Wheaton, Tom Neely, et al.

I don't often read pamphlet-style comic books, but when I do, I read IDW's Popeye. Written by the great Roger Langridge and drawn by Ken Wheaton and other artists (including Langridge himself in the latest issue) who understand the scratchy brilliance of the original strip, it succeeds in capturing the offbeat rhythms of E.C. Segar's work while being fresh, original, and funny.

The Heart of Thomas, by Moto Hagio

Both the best manga and the best reprint project of the year (and this is a year of some damn good reprint projects), this gorgeous hardcover from Fantagraphics, overseen by preeminent shojo manga scholar Matt Thorn, is a book I've been awaiting for over ten years, and it exceeds my expectations. Hagio's 1970s graphic novel about a German boys' school shaken by the mysterious death of a student is often cited as one of the progenitors of the "boys' love" genre, but it's a magnificent, moving story in its own right.

Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson

This year, Cul de Sac, the best newspaper comic strip of the last decade at least, came to an end, as creator Richard Thompson's ongoing battle with Parkinson's made it too difficult for him to keep up with the daily pace of strip cartooning. Along the way, Cul de Sac produced several brilliant book collections, won Thompson an Ignatz and the Reuben of the Year, and inspired Bill Watterson to paint a poignant portrait of protagonist Petey. So it's been a good run.

Karen Green, Librarian

My Friend Dahmer, by Derf

Derf, Jeffrey Dahmer's high-school classmate, offers a complex and nuanced narrative of the serial killer's early years. A masterful example of a story only comics could tell without falling into verbosity or luridness.

Abelard, by Regis Hautiere and Renaud Dillies

A poignant, droll, and heartbreaking "funny animals" tale for grown-ups, with breathtaking art.

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

A no-brainer for this list! Ware continues to push the boundaries of the medium and challenge the reader.

The Graphic Canon, edited by Russ Kick

Comics adaptations of literature had already been elevated to respectability, with Peter Kuper, Gareth Hinds, Rob Berry, and more, but The graphic canon turns the process up to 11 (and includes Peter Kuper, Gareth Hinds, Rob Berry, and so many, many more).

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: a Graphic Memoir, by Ellen Forney

More than the usual memoir, a searingly honest account of learning of and dealing with Forney's bipolar disorder, with the bonus of the Seattle art scene and the legend of the crazy artist.

Brian Heater, Journalist

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

As much a graphic novel as it is a deadly weapon, Ware's collection of interwoven stories continues to make strange and mesmerizing use of the physical comic space in a digital word, while allowing each to live separately from one another and ultimately not cumbersome. The artist also eschews the comment complaints of speedy readers by offering up full, heartbreaking pages that demand lengthy study.

The Voyeurs, by Gabrielle Bell

I can't remember the last time I read a story by Bell with which I wasn't completely enamored. This collection of some of her recent best continues that trend, gingerly walking the line between autobiography and magic realism.

Heads or Tails, by Lilli Carre

Ditto most of those sentiments here. I'm actually happy that I missed most of these short stories when first printed in their respective anthologies, so I could experience them all for a first time here. Carre showcases an aesthestic diversity I'd not seen from here in a collection of tightly crafted tales.

The Hypo, by Noah Van Sciver

Van Sciver's Blammo is one of those few comics capable of making me laugh out loud on a crowded train. The Hypo puts the cartoonist's brimming angst to a different use entirely, in a book that does precisely what a good piece of historical non-fiction should: finding a fascinating way to tell a story we were convinced we already knew.

Goliath, by Tom Gauld

I can't think of a cartoonist who can make me laugh in fewer lines.

Tom Kaczynski, Cartoonist, Publisher

Nancy is Happy, by Ernie Bushmiller

This was one of the first books I read this year and still easily one of the most enjoyable. The minimalism of the art, the quirky humor, the amazing consistency, it all started with these strips.

By This Shall You Know Him, by Jesse Jacobs

The Book of Genesis re-imagined as an art project. Complete with competing Cosmic Entities (each with its own aesthetic preferences) and The Advisor.

Are You My Mother, by Alison Bechdel

One of the few comics of the year that was challenging, intelligent, literate, and ultimately very rewarding. We need more comics like this.

Cartoon Utopia, by Ron Rege

The first esoteric text of the new century. The harbinger of the New Aeon. This book will be a staple of Esoteric Lore for millennia to come.

Showcase Presents: Young Love Vol. 1, by Various

The stand out here (and the reason I got this book) is The Private Diary of Mary Robin, R.N. which is brilliantly written by 'Unknown' and exquisitely drawn by John Romita. It's an ultra-concentrated dose of pulpy, comic-book Romance. Not for the faint of heart.

Bill Kartalopoulos, Educator / Critic

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

Ware's stunning Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth inaugurated the age of the graphic novel twelve years ago. Since then, corporate publishing has done everything in its power to make the graphic novel generic, bland and tasteless. Just in time, Ware returns with an immensely moving major work that deconstructs not just the form of the graphic novel, but the very concept of a book.

The Blonde Woman, by Aidan Koch

Comics are enjoying a peak of stylistic diversity, as artists engage a full range of drawing media, printmaking solutions, and the possibilities of full color reproduction and digital imaging. Aidan Koch's pencil and gouache comics are some of the most beautiful comics being produced anywhere, and this sustained, full color, poetic graphic novella may be her strongest statement to date.

Heads or Tails, by Lilli Carre

This assured and wholly satisfying full-color collection of short stories by Lilli Carre is among the loveliest books of contemporary comics published this year. The book's short stories demonstrate Carre's ability to experiment confidently with diverse drawing media while maintaining a consistent and distinct authorial point of view. Carre's fable-like tales offer thumbnail sketches of people who learn how to carry on after losing their heads.

Arsene Schrauwen #1, by Olivier Schrauwen

Belgian cartoonist Schrauwen's short story collection "The Man Who Grew His Beard" was one of last year's best books. In the first issue of this self-published follow-up series, his art becomes sparer and surer as he commences a fictionalized tale of his grandfather's adventures in colonialism and Modern architecture. Line, color and form maintain a fluid relationship as Schrauwen experiments with the possibilities of two-color risograph printing, continuing his own investigation into the physiognomy of style., edited by Blaise Larmee

A source of constant inspiration, Larmee's Tumblr offers a wide-ranging firehose of visual ideas about comics. Unbound by the stylistic conventions or the culture of comics, altcomics tracks the most cutting edge contemporary work and looks further into comics' possible future than anything else on the planet.

Robert Kirby, Cartoonist

The Magic Hedge #2, by Marian Runk

A beautifully cohesive chapbook-style collection of stories about dreams and memories, loss and heartbreak. And birdwatching. Marian Runk just keeps getting better and better.

Pansy Boy #1 & #2, by Jose-Luis Olivares

Simply told, these short mini-comics have an arresting immediacy and poignancy, rendered in Olivares's unique expressionistic style. Can't wait to see where he takes this series next.

Gorilla World #1, by Cara Bean

Cara Bean, the Dian Fossey of cartoonists.

Them's the Breaks, Kid, by Cassie J. Snieder, Mari Naomi, Ric Carasqillo, Tessa Brunton

Four creators, four alternately hilarious, tragic, weird, or heartbreaking stories of misfortune, bad luck, and totally major bummers.

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, edited by Justin Hall

Long overdue, this beautifully-produced, sharply edited retrospective may usher in a new era of respect and recognition for a long-neglected realm of the alt-comics world. Or perhaps not. Either way, very glad this book exists.

Jeff Lemire, Cartoonist

The Nao of Brown, by Glyn Dillon

Far and away my favourite book if the year. I can barely articulate how much I loved this book. It's the kind of comic that makes me totally rethink the way I approach my own work and makes me want to to be better. A beautiful comic in every sense if the word.

Batman, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

And on the total opposite end of the spectrum is Scott Snyder's Batman. Big bombastic superhero comics don't get any better than this. It will sound like I'm just heaping praise on one if my best friends here, but this book deserves it. It lives up to the hype and totally delivers.

Mind MGMT, by Matt Kindt

This is how to make a monthly comic indispensable. Matt packs even issue with so many layers. It's a dense, mysterious and riveting mythology told by a master cartoonist. Brilliant.

he Manhattan Projects, by Johnathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

Mad science gone very wrong. Over-the-top pulp fun with Hickman's signature blend of smarts, huge concepts and great storytelling

Scalped, by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera

Scalped came to an end this year and solidified itself as in of the best comics ever published.

Jordan Morris, Comedian

Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn, et al.

Every rave you've heard about this sci-fi/fantasy/action book is true. If these things were done correctly, Brian K. Vaughn would be writing every Star Wars movie from here on out, based on the strength of Saga.

Batman, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Batman stories can tend to get a so grim that they become joyless, but Snyder cuts the darkness with a little humor and heart. A new villain outside Batman's usual rogues gallery makes it extra compelling.

Pantalones TX, by Yehudi Mercado

An all ages comic that's "all ages" in the same way Adventure Time is. Hilarious and weird with a great lesson. Read it with the coolest kid you know.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, by Chris Hastings

Like soft serve ice cream from a Dinosaur fountain. Chris Hastings is a gosh darn genius and this web comic just keeps getting more goofily awesome. Try the "Cumberland Ninja in King Radical's Court" story.

Let's Play God, by Zane and Brea Grant

A horror story set in the world of Portland indie rock. Funny, cool and REALLY creepy. It's like an old EC comics story, but with more Riot Grrls.

Mari Naomi, Cartoonist

Diary Comics #4, by Dustin Harbin

With this zine, I was blown away by Dustin Harbin's honesty and the depth of his self-reflection. I don't know if it appealed to me as an autobio cartoonist, as a general human, or both, but it very much scratched an itch.

Three #3, edited by Rob Kirby

This is a great series. Carrie McNinch shows off her storytelling chops in this issue.

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever, by Igloo Tornado

I liked this even better than the first book, and I freakin' LOVED the first book. Oh Glenn, what kind of trouble will you get into next?

Eat More Bikes, by Nathan Bulmer

When I came across Nathan Bulmer's webcomic, I was glued to his website for about two days. Two unproductive, side-splitting days.

No Straight Lines, edited by Justin Hall

This book is simply gorgeous, and Justin Hall did an amazing job at representing the history of LGBTQ comics. I hope there will be more like this in the future.

Chris Pitzer, Publisher Ad House Books

The Nao of Brown, by Glyn Dillon

I love the art and presentation of this work. Added bonus was that Glyn was at SPX this year. But the real enjoyment comes from the multi-media aspect of world building.

A Zine, by Jim Rugg and Jasen Lex

You could love this for the content. You could love this for the paper. You could love this for the patinaed bag with tape residue. Or you could just love it.

In Our Garden, by Claus Daniel Herrmann

Found via a random tweet. A nice little comic that utilizes the web as any good web comic might. Touching and beautifully designed.

Barack Hussein Obama, by Steven Weissman

I mean come on... it's an ELECTION YEAR. Not that it has anything to do with this. I just love what this book is. If I didn't know better, I wouldn't even recognize this as Weismann. And I like that.

To Get Her, by Bernie Mireault

New Bernie Mireault. Nuff said.

Jeff Newelt, Editor

Billy Dogma: The Last Romantic Antihero, by Dean Haspiel

The best installment yet of Dean Haspiel's sassy sexy rootintootin' Billy Dogma webcomic series. Kirby oomph, Miller sass, Eisner panache!

Zegas #2, by Michel Fiffe, exquisitely psychedelic one-man anthology reminiscent of early Love & Rockets, Steve Ditko and Brendan McCarthy surealiciousness.

My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf

You'll read this in one sitting. Derf was a highschool classmate of serial killer Dahmer's. Chilling. Literally.

Raw Power, by Josh Bayer

It's a superhero love/hate letter slap upside yer head. Beware the Cat Man -- you wouldn't wanna do his wash!

Cleveland, by Harvey Pekar and Joseph Remnant

(Disclosure: I edited this book) Harvey Pekar (RIP) mined the mundane for magic since the 70's in his American Splendor comics. This final graphic novel combines his usual poignant autobiography with a history of Cleveland through his lovably curmudgeonesque lens. Joseph Remnant's art is at once subtle and sumptuous.

Nate Powell, Cartoonist

Interiorae, by Gabriella Giandelli

I've been on a crusade to spread the word about this incredible (and deeply underrated)

story for years. Interiorae is my second favorite graphic of the last decade, and just what I look for in a narrative: patient, dreamy, full of seemingly endless layers of shadow, slowly revealing the sweetness inside the rotten, all within the confines of a single high-rise apartment building, surrounded by snow and static. So happy it's finally seen the light of day as a single tome!

By This Shall You Know Him, by Jesse Jacobs

A great cosmic creation myth using Abrahamic and Vedic traditions as a springboard -- Jesse has allowed plenty of room to move and play within the creation framework.

Though it's mostly populated by balls of slime, ancient spaghetti-tentacled beasts, and, emotionally bruised cosmic titans, it remains believable and resonant, working through fundamental human tendencies and flaws. A perfect application of color to boot.

Prophet: Remission, by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple and Giannis Milonogiannis

I had heard amazing things about Brandon's Prophet run so far, but didn't get a

chance to dive in until a few weeks ago. Holy shit -- the script is a so successful at subtly describing complex relationships amongst various races of creature with a minimum of voiceover text, all as it unfolds, just beyond John Prophet's realm of immediate knowledge. Each artist is perfectly paired with Brandon's narrative, and the swapping of art chores further compliments the multiple-Prophet space-time setup. I was surprised at just how good this title proved to be--descriptive, immersive, demanding.

Nurse Nurse, by Katie Skelly

Nurse Nurse stands as a perfect example of why serialized mini-comics deserve to be collected and bound. It's a fast-paced, deeply human, sexy sci-fi adventure, a truly entertaining one with room for just enough psychedelia and spirituality within Katie's relatively simple and iconic linework. She employs graphic white spaces and lovely curves, carefully paying attention to the kinetic energy behind her figures. I felt, especially drawn to and protective of the main character, not despite her shortcomings, but specifically because of them. It's campy while remaining genuinely invested in its own world-building -- truly B movie gold.

The Underwater Welder, by Jeff Lemire

Definitely Jeff's best work to date, and I must admit that, as a new dad, I was a sucker for this story from the get-go. This book showcases his visuals at their best, without the hasty shorthand occasionally evident in Sweet Tooth or Essex County. Underwater Welder has a captivating Bradbury-scripted Twilight Zone framework, sentimental without being sappy, raw without being overhanded. Made me immediately energized towrite and draw from the gut, unhindered.

Sean Pryor, Cartoonist

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, by Kevin Eastman, et al.

I grew up on the Turtles, so to see them back in comic form with a solid & refreshing story rules. I also am pleased that Kevin Eastman is involved with planning the layouts/character designs of this new series.

Cleveland, by Harvey Peter, Joseph Remnant

I know that my opinion on this may be a bit biased, but this is a damn good bookend to Harvey's chronicling of his hometown and his experiences in it. Joseph's art is truly incredible and captures Harvey in such a way that it reminds me of hanging out with him every time I flip to a page.

Saint Cole, by Noah Van Sciver

I think Noah is the purest form of the angsty underground cartoonist avatar that exists in contemporary 'comix' (don't get me wrong, he is a very nice and funny guy when you talk to him), and no story says it better so far than Saint Cole. I am particularly a fan of his Time Tunnel-esque panel layouts when the main character delves deeper into the misery that he calls his life.

History of Hip-Hop, by Ed Piskor

Ed's encyclopedic knowledge of Hip-Hop and it's culture along with his panel layout and old school comic look make this not only enjoyable to read but very satisfying to the eyes. Very excited to see it go to print.

Notebook Sketches, by Jim Rugg

I've seen several artists do amazing things with ballpoint pens, but nothing beats what Jim has compiled in this series of drawings. It makes me wish I had saved all my notebook drawings from high school so I could revisit them now, even though I'd still be jealous of Rugg's ability while looking at my old doodles.

Jess Smart Smiley, Cartoonist

Hilda and the Midnight Giant, by Luke Pearson

This book is the first in a new album-style series from Nobrow, and elaborates on the creatures and world I fell in love with in 2010's Hildafolk. Hilda is an engaging story filled with fantasy and dark humor, and makes beautiful use of the comics medium. (Bonus: the next book in the Hilda series, Hilda and the Bird Parade, is available now!)

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, by Joseph Lambert

Joseph Lambert has put out some amazing work over the years, and I bought this book at first glance, without knowing anything about it. While we know about the indefatigable blind and deaf Helen Keller, there is little information on Annie Sullivan, Helen's partly blind teacher. This is both a fascinating and informative biography, as well as one of the most visually rewarding reads I've had the pleasure of experiencing.

Mastering Comics: Drawing Words and Writing Pictures Continued, by Jessica Abel & Matt Madden

The follow-up to 2008's Drawing Words and Writing Pictures comics textbook from comics experts Abel and Madden is a detailed look at (and exercise in) the comics medium. A great study for writers, artists and comics-makers of all kinds.

Prophet, by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy,

Okay, I haven't actually read any of the Prophet series, but I've had more people recommend this series to me in the last month than I can count (and I can count pretty high!). I'm buying this today.

Around the World, by Matt Phelan

Great book, featuring three different stories of world-travelers in the late 1800s. (Bonus: if you like a little history in your comics, you might also like Matt Phelan's The Storm in the Barn!)

Jeremy Tinder, Cartoonist / Educator

Goliath, by Tom Gauld

A concise, beautiful, re-imagining of a Bible story I'm only vaguely familiar with. Gauld knows exactly how much information to dish out, both in his words and pictures. My favorite book of the year.

By This You Shall Know Him, by Jesse Jacobs

I went in expecting a psychedelic vision quest, and I came out having experienced a stunning new creation myth. Intricate, upsetting, and fun.

My Friend Dahmer, by Derf

Derf's comics are so well told and so smoothly paced that I am insanely jealous of him. My Friend Dahmer made me think of all the weirdos I knew in high school, and made me thankful none of them have killed anyone. That I know of.

Heads or Tails,, by Lilli Carre

Holy moly, what a pretty book. A nice encapsulation of many of the ways Lilli has been pushing herself both narratively and stylistically over the last few years. If only there was a way to squeeze her animation in there too.

Building Stories, by Chris Ware. While I feel like a bit of a dope re-buying stories I own in other formats, this box is really the ultimate version of this story. Is there anyway to read this in the right order? I don't think so. And that's what makes it so great. Every reader will experience this story in a slightly different way.

Douglas Wolk, Critic

2000 AD, by Various

I got more joy this year out of this weekly British institution than anything else in comics, in part because it's at least as interested in trying things that might fail (and sometimes do) as it is in relying on its strengths. The Judge Dredd sequences "The Cold Deck" and "Day of Chaos" both pulled off genuinely surprising feats of long-form serial narrative derring-do; D'Israeli and I.N.J. Culbard's artwork on "Low Life" and "Brass Sun," respectively, was extraordinary. And then there was Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing's off-the-map "The Zaucer of Zilk..."

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

Ware is so far ahead of the game, especially as a formalist, that everyone's going to be eating this project's dust at least until he's done with Rusty Brown.

Snarked!, by Roger Langridge

This 12-issue miniseries was a marvelous piece of craftsmanship -- witty, exquisitely drawn, thrilling in different ways to different audiences. And the only other person I know who read it was my 7-year-old.

Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel

A companion to Fun Home that couldn't have been much more different in some ways, this was Bechdel diving into deep, muddy waters, and emerging with a sense of how deep and how muddy they were. Her fascination with her own psychological processes is infectious, which I mean as a not-at-all-backhanded compliment.

Journey Into Mystery, by Kieron Gillen

A consistently enjoyable shared-superhero-universe comic--a sort of riposte to Neil Gaiman's Sandman, about a trickster archetype trying to redeem himself (or so he claims)--that became a great one with writer Gillen's final issue, in which he knocked down what turned out to be a gigantic chain of dominoes he'd been setting up since the beginning.

JT Yost, Cartoonist / Publisher

Building Stories, by Chris Ware

Do I even need to go into this? Ware is consistently awe-inspiring and seemingly never takes a shortcut. If I put out even one book that was of his caliber, I'd probably pat myself on the back and retire immediately.

RL, by Tom Hart

I sincerely hope that drawing a comic about the loss of his daughter proves cathartic. Perhaps the first chapter (released as a mini) hit me especially hard because I have a daughter almost exactly the same age as Rosalie, but I would imagine it will have a devastating impact on anyone who reads it.

Suspect Device #2, edited by Josh Bayer

Some people are wary of both anthologies and "gimmicks", both of which apply to Suspect Device. I happen to love anthologies, and I think the premise is brilliant. Contributors were asked to use a panel from two popular newspaper comic strips (Garfield and "Nancy for this issue) to construct their own comic. The results are varied but very entertaining across the board.

Digestate: A Food & Eating Themed Anthology, edited by JT Yost

How gauche to include an anthology that I edited & published, right? Oh well, deal with it. This anthology includes a ton of great cartoonists (Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Renee French, Alex Robinson, Marc Bell, Noah Van Sciver, etc.) and a wide variety of approaches to the theme. At 288 pages, it will keep those suffering from pica busy for many months to come.

The Hypo, by Noah Van Sciver

I've loved Noah's work since picking up one of his very early minis (The Work of a Young, Unfed and Unknown Cartoonist), but I've been waiting in anticipation for him to break out of his repetitive theme of self-deprecation (although I do find it amusing). The Hypo plays to his strengths as an artist and as a story teller while not abandoning the darkness and depression that suffuses everything he draws.


  1. I gotta second Jordan Morris’s comments on Saga. Soooooooo Good!

    Prophet, on the other hand, bored me to tears with the first six issues and I dropped it. Although the artwork was nothing to sneeze at.

    Also, Hickman’s Manhattan Projects is pretty dern good.

  2. I can only hope the reason Carol Lay’s “Illiterature” has not yet gotten its due is because it only came out last month. For it to remain forever overlooked would be sad.

  3. They didn’t include my disclaimer that I hadn’t yet (at the time of this survey) read Carol Tyler’s new book, You’ll Never Know, Vol. 3, which, after I read it, was not only my #1 favorite comic this year, but also of all time. COMICS!

  4. You should probably look into formatting long posts with a cut so RSS readers of bb don’t have to scroll through TWENTY FIVE PAGES of a single article. C’mon, article formatting is nothing new, work it out.

    1. And have everyone complain about how it’s a slideshow and they’d rather have it on one page?

  5. Hi, Brian (and all the contributors). Thanks for this amazing list. I really appreciate seeing all this in one place. 

    I clicked on every comic listed here that I haven’t heard of and it occurred to me how few have a good free preview available. I live in Hong Kong and will not see many (if any) of these on a bookshelf, and so will need to buy any I like here online. But even the links that took me to publisher’s sites rarely had a preview. 

    The only two I saw with a decent preview were “My Friend Dahmer” (which I bought immediately because I liked what I saw) and “Are You My Mother?” But the others…? I’m not really willing to shell out $15 or more (and say $150-200 in total) for a bunch of comics based on some cover art. 

    Am I the only person that thinks like this? Do other comic fans want to see a chunk of art and story before they make a purchase? I mean, some of these comics are retailing for $20+. I want more than an Amazon review and small pic of the cover. 

    So, any comic authors out there… I’d really like to see more previews. What about others? 

  6. Hey Ping,

    Thanks for the nice words. Best I can tell you is to hunt for the authors’ own sites or social network accounts. Sometimes they’ll post their own pages to promote their books — occasionally review sites do as well. Not sure how accessible is outside of the States, but they often feature decent previews of some of the larger titles.  

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