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The popularity of the graphic genre continues to rage, and The Best American Comics is a diverse, exciting annual selection for fans and newcomers alike. The inaugural volume includes stories culled from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Web. Contributors include Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Kim Deitch, Jaime Hernandez, Alison Bechdel The popularity of the graphic genre continues to rage, and The Best American Comics is a diverse, exciting annual selection for fans and newcomers alike. The inaugural volume includes stories culled from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Web. Contributors include Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Kim Deitch, Jaime Hernandez, Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco, and Lynda Barry—and unique discoveries such as Justin Hall, Esther Pearl Watson, and Lilli Carré.


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The popularity of the graphic genre continues to rage, and The Best American Comics is a diverse, exciting annual selection for fans and newcomers alike. The inaugural volume includes stories culled from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Web. Contributors include Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Kim Deitch, Jaime Hernandez, Alison Bechdel The popularity of the graphic genre continues to rage, and The Best American Comics is a diverse, exciting annual selection for fans and newcomers alike. The inaugural volume includes stories culled from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Web. Contributors include Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Kim Deitch, Jaime Hernandez, Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco, and Lynda Barry—and unique discoveries such as Justin Hall, Esther Pearl Watson, and Lilli Carré.

30 review for The Best American Comics 2006

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    As a collection, I give this an even lower rating. Because of its heavy emphasis on the dreary, the depressing, and the angry hippies, I think it's a pretty terrible sampling of all of the wonderful things we call "comics." Then again editor Pekar as much as admits that he's really into dreary, depressing, and angry hippie comics. As a collection, I must protest the placement of the artist bios and comments at the back of the book. While the comics themselves are presented in random (?) order in As a collection, I give this an even lower rating. Because of its heavy emphasis on the dreary, the depressing, and the angry hippies, I think it's a pretty terrible sampling of all of the wonderful things we call "comics." Then again editor Pekar as much as admits that he's really into dreary, depressing, and angry hippie comics. As a collection, I must protest the placement of the artist bios and comments at the back of the book. While the comics themselves are presented in random (?) order in the book, the bios and comments by the artists which accompany them are in alphabetical order at the very end. Clearly these should have been placed either before or after each piece (my vote is for after so that I could make up my own mind about each comic before reading about it. As comics, I give this collection a 3/5 star rating because I loved some of it and I hated some of it. Since I have no problem enjoying the stuff I loved and ignoring the stuff I hated, I 'liked' the lot of 'em. I really enjoyed a lot of the art. I also really enjoyed (more than I expected) a lot of the stories. Brief rundown of each for an idea of what I thought while reading this: 1. Onion Jack by Joel Priddy - clean, simple, funny. I liked it. 2. Ready to Die by Kim Deitch - thankfully not preachy and therefore effective. 3. Dogs and Water by Anders Nilsen - sparse and bleak like Edward Gorey but without the humor. Meh. 4. Adventures of Paul Bunyan(...) by Lilli Carre - I liked the art. 5. Diary of a Bread Delivery Guy by David Lasky - one page, entertaining. 6. Goner Pillow Company by Ben Katchor - short with interesting art and interesting theme. 7. Only Disconnect by Alison Bechdel - slice of lesbian life. 8. Complacency Kills by Joe Sacco - great illustrations and good reporting/storytelling. 9. La Rubia Loca by Justin Hall - a rather long story, but engrossing. Art okay, but a little sloppy for my tastes. 10. Comics: A History by Chris Ware - I'll admit, I'm not sure I get Chris Ware. I love his style, but this pair of dense panels left me cold. 11. RabbitHead by Rebecca Dart - damned hard to follow wordless story in an experimental timeline format. Absolutely loved the art and all of the inventive creatures and such! 12. Untitled by Ivan Brunetti - absolutely amazing single page shows how much you can tell with so little. Loved it. 13. Dance with the Ventures by Jonathan Bennett - quirky hipster story. Really enjoyed the humor and art. 14. Day by Day with Hopey by Jaime Hernandez - I've only seen bits and pieces of Love and Rockets but I don't think this short snippet does the series much favor because this feels very incomplete. 15. Busted by Esther Pearl Watson - Okay, seriously. What the hell? Worst comic ever made. Including my own vomit and farting comics I made when I was eight years old. 16. Chemical Plant by John Porcellino - kinda fun little vignette with the art of an exceptionally neat sixth grade girl. 17. Portrait of my Dad by David Heatley - probably the highlight of the book for me. I really enjoyed the hell out of this. Packed with funny little mini-comics. 18. Street-Level View...Republican...Convention by Lloyd Dangle - so childish. Shitty art. Can anybody defend this piece as adult thinking on any level? Fuck this uninsightful drivel. I'm not a Republican, nor am I defending them. Trust me, I would say the same about a conservative comic that was just as bad. 19. The Supervisor by Hob - funny little thingy. 20. Wonder Warthog by Gilbert Shelton - what year is this again? I can't imagine anyone enjoying this except out of a sense of nostalgia. Did like some of the art, though. 21. Solidarity Forever by Olivia Schanzer - crudely drawn nonsense. 22. Thirty-Three by Alex Robinson - one of those little slice-of-life relationship type stories. Love the clean line-work and solid blacks and whites (think Bone). 23. Missing by Jessica Abel - I assume this is part of a greater whole. Good storytelling, but not much of a story, if that makes sense. 24. Nakedness and Power by Seth Tobocman et al - after a while, you just kinda get numb to the hippie nonsense in this collection. Interesting bold art style reminds me of wood block printing. 25. Recollection of Seduction by Rick Geary - I love Geary. This is a hilarious little one-pager. 26. The Executive Hour by Tom Hart - hippie nonsense, but it's all in good fun and the art style doesn't make it seem like its taking itself too seriously. 27. Passing Before Life's Very Eyes by Kurt Wolfgang - funny and interesting, love the bold yellow, white, and orange art. 28. Thirteen Cats of my Childhood by Jesse Reklaw - good art and an interesting way to tell a story about a childhood, but it's still hard to like if you pause to think about all of the stray/dead animals this family produced. 29. Two Questions by Lynda Barry - sloppy/shitty art that still manages to pack in some clever visuals and has a tale with which any creative person can identify. 30. Walkin' the Streets by Robert Crumb - ah, Crumb. I love ya, man. The art alone is worth it, but I also felt this was a pretty good short autobiography. There's not much of a conclusion, but oh well, right? That's it. Call this thing Best American Hippie Comics.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scott Longo

    Picked up all the books in the "Best American Comics" series over the weekend. $4 on the ultra-clearance rack for all of them! Well, also, an ex co-worker hooked it up pretty hard. So, that was cool. But yeah, this series... I've always felt a little underwhelmed with these books when I run across 'em. There's usually some really good stuff, some decent stuff, but all totally jumbled. When I look at the list of 100 comics that they narrowed down to arrive at the final...25(?) I can't help but fe Picked up all the books in the "Best American Comics" series over the weekend. $4 on the ultra-clearance rack for all of them! Well, also, an ex co-worker hooked it up pretty hard. So, that was cool. But yeah, this series... I've always felt a little underwhelmed with these books when I run across 'em. There's usually some really good stuff, some decent stuff, but all totally jumbled. When I look at the list of 100 comics that they narrowed down to arrive at the final...25(?) I can't help but feel like there's been some crucial missteps. But that all comes with making a book of this nature and it's nice to see Harvey Pekar, in his introduction, acknowledge the kind of inherent flaw in most broadly defined anthologies, of any sort. So, I figured I might as well read through all of these cover to cover and just see what's up. I feel like they came about at a weird time where comics were trying to make this big crossover to a literary audience and a lot of this book's aims seem to obviously be designed around that principal. I dunno, I found the choices kinda interesting, but not particularly enjoyable. Uh, I'm not going to go crazy into this but... maybe I'll just list the highlights. Anne Elizabeth Moore's introduction is kind of depressingly inspired. Basically, she kinda says cartooning, by virtue of of it's undervalued and underrepresented status can operate as a form of defiance. But like, not really. I mean, I think she's using that idea as a kind of springboard to.. inspire in a general sense? Offering up "The Air Pirates"/Disney lawsuit as a kind of premiere standard? I dunno, whatever. It seemed like a kind of.. defeat, or something, to me. Or, I think she's trying to say, or show, if cartooning is truly inspired, it's on a weird personal level. An idea that ultimately gets reflected in Pekar's choices for the comics that make the final cut. Like, he picks a lot of strips that touch on America's irresponsibility abroad, and the vague frustrations and loneliness of home... but the stories represented here are always very small scale at heart, which I think fits. A good thing. So, I dunno, I guess the strips that worked best for me touch on that kind of helplessness in the face of our insane world... but through an intensely personal lens. Haha, or something. Yeeeeeeah. This ^^ was jumbled. Maybe I'll define these ideas as I review the rest of this series. These were my favorite strips: Jesse Reklaw's "Thirteen Cats of My Childhood" might be good enough to make the whole book worth buying. So good... but I'm a biased California boy. Crumb's "Walkin' the Streets", very similar. Moving. John Porcellino has one of my favorite strips from his "Mosquito Abatement Man" book, "Chemical Plant/Another World". Joe Sacco's strip, "Complacency Kills" felt really appropriate for the themes the anthology adopts. I guess I also like the short-burst reportage nature of it, standing alongside the fictional comics, instead of in a fatty standalone graphic novel. In a weird way it felt even more connected to a "reality" when seen like that, at least for me. Also, the very first comic, "The Amazing Life of Onion Jack", from Joel Priddy (one of the only artists whose name I didn't recognize), was cute and a good opener.

  3. 5 out of 5

    ~Knoctise00~Lookout 4 gems

    An interesting collection that recopilates the best comics that have ever existed in the human kind.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie (aka WW)

    (3.5 stars) A solid collection of comics from 2006. Not sure why some artists get just one page while others get 20-30 pages, but I enjoyed all.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Josephus FromPlacitas

    Houghton Mifflin don't know comics almost like Bo don't know diddley. There are a ton of great artists and neat little vignettes in here, but there are also some really token-ized appearances by The Great Ones that don't make a whole lot of sense outside of their broader storylines. For example, there's an excerpt from Jessica Abel's La Perdida, from maybe one-half or two-thirds of the way through the story. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't imagine that a collection of great fiction writing w Houghton Mifflin don't know comics almost like Bo don't know diddley. There are a ton of great artists and neat little vignettes in here, but there are also some really token-ized appearances by The Great Ones that don't make a whole lot of sense outside of their broader storylines. For example, there's an excerpt from Jessica Abel's La Perdida, from maybe one-half or two-thirds of the way through the story. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't imagine that a collection of great fiction writing would reprint, say, Chapter 13 of Jonathan Franzen's latest novel. What kind of sense would it make to include a snippet of a novel with stretches of dialogue about characters you could have only met in previous chapters, with references to major plot points that have already taken place, and with tense discussions over incidents that have already occurred, but that the reader of the collection could not have read yet BECAUSE IT'S AN EXCERPT FROM THE MIDDLE OF A LONG STORY? Same thing goes for the mid-story chapters taken from Dogs and Water by Anders Nilsen, and Tricked by Alex Robinson. Even the Alison Bechdel one-pager is a page from a long serial saga that has no context in which to place it! You can almost hear a condescending editor looking at those and saying, "Oh well, that doesn't make much sense out of context, but who really cares? They're just comics. Only the feeling of the thing really matters." Naturally, I could be guilty of pretentious hipsterism here, pontificating from on high: "This collection is not up to the standard of the true connoisseur of the almighty art form of graphic narrative. Also, I hated Pearl Jam long before it was cool to hate Pearl Jam, man." Maybe I'm wrong, maybe the entire The Best American Series is just a hodge-podge of opportunistically slapped-together chunks of stories, essays, mystery, fiction, spiritual, or travel writing and "nonrequired reading," whatever the hell that means. Maybe they don't only butcher comics, but also every genre they think they can make a quick publishing buck off of. That said, Rebecca Dart's "Rabbithead" is amazing and creepy, Kim Deitch has a nice little piece of death row journalism, "La Rubia Loca" by Justin Hall was a really strong, complete story, and I thought Joel Priddy's "The Amazing Life of Onion Jack" was a lot of fun. But then I'd also seen a lot of these pieces before in the publications they first published in: Joe Sacco's Iraq occupation piece from The Guardian, the pieces by Chris Ware and Tom Hart and Jaime Hernandez, and of course I'd already read La Perdida. So I'm glad I got this from the library, it'd be kind of stupid to pay money for it. Of course, if it means that the artists got paid twice for the same comic, I'm always in favor of that. (If they didn't pay the artists, then fuck Houghton Mifflin in the ass with a red-hot iron spike.) Also, reading the introduction by Harvey Pekar-- who co-edited and co-compiled the thing -- reminded me of a question that frequently comes up in my mind when I read many (but not all) of the things he writes: how is it that this guy is regarded as a writer? Sweet God, his earlessness can be painful and his boring, utilitarian descriptions of what he does really don't work for me about, let's say, half of the time. Maybe there was something attractive about a no-frills, nearly artless description of mundane Cleveland existence, but adding a little poetic phrasing once in a while can really make your writing worth reading, Harv.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    There is a lot that can be said about "the best American comics". Some words that come to mind are humorous, ironic, weird, sad, angry, painfully truthful, informational and above all, creative. Let me repeat myself, these comics were exceptionally creative from their stories to their artwork. For a long time I have wanted to experience some of Robert Crumb's work and this book gave me a small taste and I do want to read more. This is the perfect venue for someone who hasn't read many comics or There is a lot that can be said about "the best American comics". Some words that come to mind are humorous, ironic, weird, sad, angry, painfully truthful, informational and above all, creative. Let me repeat myself, these comics were exceptionally creative from their stories to their artwork. For a long time I have wanted to experience some of Robert Crumb's work and this book gave me a small taste and I do want to read more. This is the perfect venue for someone who hasn't read many comics or graphic novels. My biggest complaint is the writing was too small for me to read on some of them. Does this mean I am too old for this kind of reading? I sure hope not, lol.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris - Quarter Press Editor

    Like all collections, this one has its moments. Overall, I liked it, but there were few comics that really blew me away. However, those nuggets o' gold would be worth the read--as long as you can pick it up from a library or a friend, or buy it used, for cheap. Mayhap I'm just not too savvy on the the indie comic scene or perhaps I'm an elitist, but I felt like I've read many better comics online in past few years. Regardless, I think it's awesome that comics are starting to get the cred they've Like all collections, this one has its moments. Overall, I liked it, but there were few comics that really blew me away. However, those nuggets o' gold would be worth the read--as long as you can pick it up from a library or a friend, or buy it used, for cheap. Mayhap I'm just not too savvy on the the indie comic scene or perhaps I'm an elitist, but I felt like I've read many better comics online in past few years. Regardless, I think it's awesome that comics are starting to get the cred they've deserved for a long, long time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Garrett

    This book is specifically for readers like me. Like many other literary-minded people, I've already read Maus and Persepolis. But other than the random time I discovered one of my favorite books, Asterios Polyp, on a friend's recommendation, and the time I read an issue of Mome, I don't have much comic book experience. Well, I also read the "funnies" in the newspaper, but I'm digressing too far. In the forward, the editors mention the hope that this collection will be part of ground swell of long This book is specifically for readers like me. Like many other literary-minded people, I've already read Maus and Persepolis. But other than the random time I discovered one of my favorite books, Asterios Polyp, on a friend's recommendation, and the time I read an issue of Mome, I don't have much comic book experience. Well, I also read the "funnies" in the newspaper, but I'm digressing too far. In the forward, the editors mention the hope that this collection will be part of ground swell of long overdue recognition from literary folks, and, at least for my personal experience, this definitely succeeds. The featured artists and stories are wide-ranging: in length, tone, experience, and style. I've already lent this book to a friend, so I don't have a list of stories in front of me. but I'll never forget the incredible, experimental, non-verbal story Rabbithead. Post-modern in its approach, the story emphatically illustrates how a comic can be a superior storytelling medium to any other by showing, in real time, several storylines interwoven simultaneously. I read it, and then immediately read it again, and then showed it immediately to a companion. In any case, I don't think it's necessary to detail every story. I suspect there is something here for everyone's personal tastes, even if not all of them will be suitable for everyone. So why 5 stars? Not only did I read the comics, I read the artist declarations and explanations in the back. I've sought out works by my favorites. I did deep dives on the works of some of the lesser artists. In other words, this book did exactly what it set out to do: grab a literary reader like me and draw me into this immersive medium. P.S. Reading many of the other reviews of this book has reinforced my preexisting prejudice that comic book enthusiasts confuse being negative with being discerning. I understand this impulse as a metalhead, another subculture with a lot of gatekeeping on what is good enough to be "legit". Maybe I too will become yet another curmudgeon as I expand my exposure to comics. I hope not.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    I love this series, although I lean towards the fiction side, I've read nearly all the Best American Fiction for the past 15+ years. I've also done Best American Non-Essential Reading and Lance has read the Best American Essays and I think also the Science one. So. I was REALLY thrilled when I saw that they were doing a comics version. I got my hands on 2007 first and enjoyed that, so I found a copy of 2006. It was good. These samplers always remind me that I need to explore more comics. I just c I love this series, although I lean towards the fiction side, I've read nearly all the Best American Fiction for the past 15+ years. I've also done Best American Non-Essential Reading and Lance has read the Best American Essays and I think also the Science one. So. I was REALLY thrilled when I saw that they were doing a comics version. I got my hands on 2007 first and enjoyed that, so I found a copy of 2006. It was good. These samplers always remind me that I need to explore more comics. I just checked on amazon.com and the 2008 version is out. I'm looking forward to reading it asap! These are a great way to test the waters of comics without committing to a full graphic novel or series. Not EVERYONE is included, obviously, and sometimes there's a bias to certain authors, but it's still a nice cross section and way to taste many before you choose your next main course, ya know?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Uh..., the content definitely doesn't live up to the title. You can see guest editor Harvey Pekar's preference for autobio material stamped all over the book, but few stories that capture the wit or the humanity of his work. The standards - Bob Crumb, Jamie Hernandez, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, and Kim Deitch turn in pretty enjoyable work, but there are too many "here's something that happened to me, which is neither funny nor enlightening" indulgences. Some winners, but not enough to make it pay off.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Seth

    There's a copy of this laying around in the cafe connected to the Russian embassy in Guyana. I read it whenever I eat there and have made my way through most of it. I'm not a connoisseur of this type of literature so can't really comment on the quality of the anthology. But I did like a lot of it and the Robert Crumb selection is my favorite.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Johnson

    I smiled a few times while reading this but most of the comics included were very depressing and dark. I guess I like my comics with talking animals, little kids, and superheroes, exactly what the intro to this book said wasn't good.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    This one was especially good. Some favorites: La Rubia Loca by Justin Hall Portraits of My Dad by David Heatley Nakedness and Power by Seth Tobocman, Terisa Turner, and Leigh Brownhill Thirteen Cats of my Childhood by Jesse Reklaw Walkin' the Streets by Robert Crumb

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    This whole series is so well done. Love the presentation, the scope of contributors, and guest editor forwards. Now to hunt down all the years ;)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    DISCARDED R Crumb piece herein is worth the price of the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Arevalo F diez Alonso T10

    This content brings back many memories.

  17. 4 out of 5

    R Del Mar

    My book number one. This book is excellent.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lord Beardsley

    As I'm recently rekindling my desire to make graphic/sequential narratives again (or 'bd' = bande desinee, as they're referred to in the Francophone sphere of the world that I live in), I thought the first thing I needed to do was to get caught up to speed with what's going on right now in the world of sequential narrative graphics. I don't like using the term "comics" because to me comic = funny, which is a limiting description of what bd's are, it's condescending, and doesn't accurately stand- As I'm recently rekindling my desire to make graphic/sequential narratives again (or 'bd' = bande desinee, as they're referred to in the Francophone sphere of the world that I live in), I thought the first thing I needed to do was to get caught up to speed with what's going on right now in the world of sequential narrative graphics. I don't like using the term "comics" because to me comic = funny, which is a limiting description of what bd's are, it's condescending, and doesn't accurately stand-up as a word to be used to define this art form. I don't want to be all up on my high horse about it, and many comic book creators probably have no problem as modestly referring to what they do as "making comics". Fair enough, but I just get itchy when that is the only word these refer to. Maybe I'm just being a pretentious ass, I dunno. It's the coffee talking perhaps... What I'd really like to see is the medium of the graphic novel/graphic narrative moved up a notch in the same way it has in places like Japan, Belgium, and France (to name a few) to stand alone as its own valid, celebrated, and recognized form of literature and fine art. In fact, it's a high-bred of both! Canada and America have really stood up in recent years to allow this medium to be more profoundly recognized, and this series of books has done an excellent job of doing just that. This is the first in this series I've read (I have 2007 and 2008 happily sitting on my book-shelf just calling my name), and even the segments I wasn't that crazy about still drew me in and forced me to look at this, offering up interesting visual narrative soul food to consider in terms that everyone has a story to tell, and everyone tells it differently. Particular stand-outs include: "Only Discontent by Alison Bechdel (from Dykes to Watch Out For, a comic I'm not really that into, but this vignette is quite cleverly done and she is a brilliant talent), "Complacency Kills" by Joe Sacco (wonderful 'man-on-the-scene' glimpse into soldiers in Iraq), "La Rubia Loca" by Justin Hall (my favorite, a story I beg everyone to try to check out. This in particular reminded me of a story my friend Jess would have told me involving: hippies, Green Tortoise bus line, fear & loathing in Mexico, and insane Swiss women going ape-shit), "Portrait of My Dad" by David Heatley (this is as good as "shit my dad says" only with a father who resembles my friends Pam & Annie's dad...and probably a lot of other dads also), "Nakedness & Power" by Seth Tobocman (incredible true story of how female activists in Nigeria stood up to face persecution in the most amazing way possible = by taking off their clothes...this being a sign of extreme female power in Nigeria...this gave me goose-bumps), Terisa Turner, and Leigh Brownhill, "13 Cats of My Childhood" by Jesse Reklaw (this made me want to cry more than I've ever wanted to cry since seeing 'Old Yeller' for the first time, but the grumpy hippie dad made up for it), "Two Questions" by Lynda Barry (one of the most inspiring things I've read in years and something I want to xerox and post above my work-space as a daily confirmation...anyone feeling stuck and hearing those words of doubt in their heads ((esp. anyone who survived some kind of art school training)) should check this out), and "Walkin' the Streets" by Robert Crumb (hilarious and fascinating as always). On a side note: one thing that seems to be an on-going pattern in the lives of graphic artists is that they list their family as: "living in ____usually the West Coast or Europe_____ with their _______wife/husband/spouse/partner___________ and their _________insert number of felines here_____________. Word. Even if you think you're not into "comics"...ok...see, I got off my snobby hobby horse, you should check these out. You may even find this book worth owning. It's beautiful (as are all of the other editions). If you are a fellow misanthropic funny pic'T-uhrs drawrer, you need to own this. It will be something you'll return to over and over again. So, if you're like me and seeing it up on the shelves, deliberating if it's worth spending the money on purchasing, the answer is yes. Happy Curmudgeonin'!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Glen Engel-Cox

    It's true that the graphic story medium remains a ghetto, even though successes in the last couple of decades such as Alan Moore's Watchmen and Art Spiegelman's Maus I did a lot to renovate it. The majority of American comics, and the graphic novels collected from them, are filled with what Cory Doctorow calls underwear perverts, otherwise known as superheroes. Japanese comics, while exhibiting a wider variety, have a similar issue in that much manga simply repeats what has been successful in th It's true that the graphic story medium remains a ghetto, even though successes in the last couple of decades such as Alan Moore's Watchmen and Art Spiegelman's Maus I did a lot to renovate it. The majority of American comics, and the graphic novels collected from them, are filled with what Cory Doctorow calls underwear perverts, otherwise known as superheroes. Japanese comics, while exhibiting a wider variety, have a similar issue in that much manga simply repeats what has been successful in the past, and a lot of what is now being brought to our shores reflects only the lowest-common-demoninator. Which means that a collection such as this new one from The Best American series should be able to highlight the exciting and important work that is being overshadowed by the claptrap. Unfortunately, it falls victim of a different problem: pushing graphic work as the best simply because of its level of being outre, rather than being good. There's some interesting comics in this collection, but a lot of it just leaves me with a feeling of "bleah," even those comics from creators I had previously enjoyed such as Chris Ware and Lynda Barry. The best of this best of collection are the longer pieces, such as the Joe Sacco embedded reporter in Iraq, the autobiographical piece by Robert Crumb (although does he ever not do autobiographical?), the stranded in the dessert short by Anders Nilson, and the fascinating story of the bus trip in Mexico with the crazy lady by Justin Hall. I also was intrigued, although still confused, by the non-verbal piece from Rebecca Dart that lived by its own rules and was probably the most successful of the experimental work collected here. In page count, that was probably half of the book, and made the price worthwhile, but I still felt slighted somehow, because of the stuff I didn't like, I really didn't like it. This is in contrast to my experience with other Best American collections, which usually have enough variety that you're not going to be "wowed" by everything, but rarely contain stuff that is just dreadful. One of the most glaring omissions, which unlike the superhero comics isn't even mentioned by Harvey Pekar in his mea culpa of an introduction, is no material published in mainstream newspapers such as examples of daily humor strips or editorial cartoons. You could make a case against the latter, I suppose, as they are more "set pieces" than short stories, but many daily strips have a storyline that would lead to excerpted collection. Even the restriction against editorial cartoons seems fragile compared to some of the inclusions herein. While I do not fault the editors (Harvey Pekar is the guest editor for this inaugural volume) for not selecting anything from a mainstream publisher, given the selections that they did make I wonder about the criteria that they used. The collection was interesting, but I'm not sure I'll pick up the 2007 edition based on my experience with this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Evans

    The Best American Comics 2006 is a great combination of 30 well drawn comics, sharp writing, and political awareness.The book manages to have a good balance of color an d black and white comics and well as traditional versus more modern styles. My favorite comic in the collection was "Nakedness and Power" which is a political comic discussing the oppression of Africans as well as the current oppression of Americans in reference to oil prices.The pictures in this comic are compelling as well as t The Best American Comics 2006 is a great combination of 30 well drawn comics, sharp writing, and political awareness.The book manages to have a good balance of color an d black and white comics and well as traditional versus more modern styles. My favorite comic in the collection was "Nakedness and Power" which is a political comic discussing the oppression of Africans as well as the current oppression of Americans in reference to oil prices.The pictures in this comic are compelling as well as the simplicity of the text make this comic a must read. Some comics are based on real life events while others comics are completely fictional;however both types of stories leave the reader feeling different than they did before they read the comic strip. I also enjoyed the contrasting relationships between father and child in the stories "Portrait of My Dad" and "Thirty-three". In "Portrait of My Dad," the comic is actually a collection of several comics which all focus of interactions between the author and his father. As I read the strip, I was able to see pieces of myself within the comic in how my father and I relate to each other. The main thing I took away from this comic was that in life, especially when it comes to parent and child relationships, while some children spend their whole lives trying to gain acceptance from their parents, in actuality, some parents are seeking that same type of acceptance from their children as well. "Thirty-three" is a story of an unlikely father and daughter reunion. The comic is again about a father and child however in this case, the child (Phoebe) has come to find her father (Richard). The conversation they share is an awkward one yet both characters try to make the best of the situation they find themselves in. At the end of the strip, Richard makes a choice in regards to Phoebe and he is positive his choice is the right one. I was able to identify myself in this strip in the when you are close to your parent, sometimes you have to have awkward conversations to get to know each other again. The only thing that annoyed me was that the comics that was shown on the cover of the book was not included in the collection. I feel like it would have been better to have just not had a comic on the cover at all or showcased one actually in the collection. Overall, this book is a great read for anyone who hasn't read comics in a while or would like something unlike the type of comic strips you usually find in the newspaper.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Guest editor Harvey Pekar does a good job of culling a consistent group of comics from the 100 that Moore presented him, but fails to show the full spectrum of what comics can tackle, which according to his introduction was a goal of this anthology. Not surprisingly Pekar's picks deal predominantly with either the mundane, the ultra-real, or the political. Now there are certainly a few exceptions to this - most notably Rebecca Dart's magical "Rabbithead", but for the most part the best of these Guest editor Harvey Pekar does a good job of culling a consistent group of comics from the 100 that Moore presented him, but fails to show the full spectrum of what comics can tackle, which according to his introduction was a goal of this anthology. Not surprisingly Pekar's picks deal predominantly with either the mundane, the ultra-real, or the political. Now there are certainly a few exceptions to this - most notably Rebecca Dart's magical "Rabbithead", but for the most part the best of these stories, and what would assume the best of contemporary comics, are those intimate vignettes of real life. For some reason the medium really lends itself to slice-of-life memoir style shorts. Pekar did it best, if not first, but many of the stories in this collection do it cleaner. I'll briefly discuss only two of my favorites. Jesse Reklaw in his "Thirteen Cats of My Childhood" deftly frames the story of his childhood around a string of cats his family adopted throughout his boyhood. He really gets to the heart of the way that people tend to attach memories of certain periods of life to one particular aspect of that period. When the last cat of my childhood died, at my father's house, even though I'd been away from home for years, I certainly felt a phase of life ending. Now, that may sound over-sentimental and simplistic, but a writer can get away with these real and embarrassing ideas in a comic much more affectively and believably than in straight prose. Along a similar line, David Heatley's "Portrait of My Dad" presents the reader with a man whose words are always ill-chosen and actions always awkward. The beauty of the story is that the reader is brought along with Heatley on his quest to understand his father as a real human being. We are embarrassed with him. We are scared with him. We are confused and lost with him. Or maybe it's just me. Anyway, Heatley's art is simple, colorful and evocative of his jaded but joyous view of the world. He did a great New Yorker cover a few years back of a New York subway scene where every passenger's thoughts were bubbled above their heads. Good stuff. My favorite panels are when he wonders what it looks like to wipe his ass and positions himself in front of the mirror. "This is weird." Only a few of these pieces fall flat - namely Jessica Abel's "Missing" and maybe I'm just a square straight guy but lesbian writers seem to be overrepresented in this pages. This was a great read and a wonderful introduction to contemporary comics.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Krystl Louwagie

    As I mentioned earlier, I don't appreciate the disdain for superhero comics evident in the introduction and forward to this book. Moving on past that, this is a wonderful idea to collect different comics together in one spot for people that aren't exposed to many different comics in their daily lives but still want to be! Mostly, this book is getting a high star rating just because of that for me. It wasn't that I was completely in love with hardly any of the comics-it's just that I support the As I mentioned earlier, I don't appreciate the disdain for superhero comics evident in the introduction and forward to this book. Moving on past that, this is a wonderful idea to collect different comics together in one spot for people that aren't exposed to many different comics in their daily lives but still want to be! Mostly, this book is getting a high star rating just because of that for me. It wasn't that I was completely in love with hardly any of the comics-it's just that I support the idea so much and was happy to read it and broaden my horizons (because admittedly, I do limit my graphic novel reading and comic reading to superhero stuff and well known stuff for the most part-not that that's how I want it exactly, that's just whats easiest). My favorite in this book was "La Rubia Loca" which was a story about a woman who was traveling with others on a bus in Mexico-it eventually became evident that the woman was mentally ill and the other travelers and bus driver had to figure out how to best get her help. As far as art goes, there is some of that disgusting looking kind that make me feel gross just to look at. Stick figures and simple images are fine with me, but that Red and Stimpy-esque drawings really bother me. One of the things that occasionally bothers me about shorter comics is how open ended they are. Half the time, I'm not even really sure I got the point, and that doesn't happen very often with movies, novels, and graphic novels. But, it does with short stories as well, so. I'll mention a story which oddly disturbed me the most of all of them called, "Thirteen Cats of my Childhood". A boy looks at his life growing up measuring by the cats he had throughout. It disturbed me because I related-I think a lot of people do-in my life time, I've gone through many cats, too. The reason that disturbed me was how sad it is that that many animals die in such short amounts of time. How little the life of all of them is valued. It's so normal to have this long list of cats that died of distemper, not having the proper shots, being ran over, malnutrition from an abandoned mother, unwanted kittens, etc. It angers me that it's not a big deal how many are lost over the years, how that's "normal", even with "good" people. Imagine if they were people. Bleh. There was also a comic in here that I had read before, but I can't remember where or why. I have no idea. Lastly, I'd love to submit some of my Independent Newspaper pieces to this someday, since they seem to especially like "real life" shorter comics.

  23. 4 out of 5

    D'Anne

    As are all of the Best American series, this book is a mixed bag. There are some comics that are amazing and others that I can't help thinking, "This? This is the BEST?" Thus my three star rating. However, there are individual selections that I easily would give five stars to, starting with David Heatley's "Portrait of my Father." There was a excerpt from this in Issue #13 of McSweeney's and I loved it then (if you're interested in contemporary comics, picking up this Best American collection an As are all of the Best American series, this book is a mixed bag. There are some comics that are amazing and others that I can't help thinking, "This? This is the BEST?" Thus my three star rating. However, there are individual selections that I easily would give five stars to, starting with David Heatley's "Portrait of my Father." There was a excerpt from this in Issue #13 of McSweeney's and I loved it then (if you're interested in contemporary comics, picking up this Best American collection and McSweeney's 13 is a great way to start, though if you had to choose one, I think McSweeney's is better). Kim Deitch's "Ready To Die" is a true-account of his encounter with a death-row inmate. His colorful cartoonish images, at first glance, might seem an odd fit for such a serious subject, but the result is quite captivating. This is in stark contrast to the images in "Nakedness and Power" by Seth Tobocman, Terisa Turner and Leigh Brownhill, an account of the politics of oil and the uprising of women against it in Kenya. Tobocman's images are black and white and very geometric. The result is startling and iconic. It furthered my belief that history classes should use graphic narratives to teach. Lynda Barry, who is my favorite graphic artist ever, explores the ability of over thinking to cripple her creativity in "Two Questions," which I plan to use when I teach creative writing. Other comics I'd give four stars to. Joe Sacco's reportage of his experience as an embedded journalist in Iraq is perhaps the best depiction of the daily routine of a platoon I've yet to see. "Thirteen Cats of My Childhood" tells the story of the Jesse Reklaw's dysfunctional family through its pets. Justin Hall's "La Rubia Loca," a story from his True Travel Tales series about a woman losing her mind during a bus trip to Mexico, is immensely compelling. I literally could not put it down, though I found the ending to be a bit of a let down. Still a worthy read. R. Crumb's autobiographical "Walkin' The Streets" is another story too good to put down. His drawing style is distinctive and intricate and this comic illustrates (pun intended) why he is considered one of the best. Rebecca Dart's "Rabbithead" is surreal and disturbing. There are no words, only a series of interwoven images that you can't tear your eyes off of. It's the comic equivalent of being on an acid trip. Not that I would know. But still.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Although the whole "Best" designation comes across as quite arbitrary (perhaps inevitably so), I enjoyed most of the stories collected here by guest editor, Harvey Pekar. Some artists are ill-served with presentations of excerpts from longer works - the Jessica Abel and Alex Robinson pieces aren't particularly so compelling that I wanted to read the rest of each respective story; and though both had excellent visuals, neither one seemed to be a strong enough chapter to stand well enough on its o Although the whole "Best" designation comes across as quite arbitrary (perhaps inevitably so), I enjoyed most of the stories collected here by guest editor, Harvey Pekar. Some artists are ill-served with presentations of excerpts from longer works - the Jessica Abel and Alex Robinson pieces aren't particularly so compelling that I wanted to read the rest of each respective story; and though both had excellent visuals, neither one seemed to be a strong enough chapter to stand well enough on its own - Abel's piece feels particularly presented out of context. I also wonder what makes the single episode of "Dykes to Watch Out For" chosen for publication distinctive enough to be printed out of context (wouldn't a sequence of episodes have made more sense? What in particular makes this segment more outstanding than any other that year?). Also, as is usual in most anthologies, there are a few pieces that I found personally lacking: The Olivia Schanzer 2 pager was somehow really hard to follow; the long, surreal Rebecca Dart fantasia was beautifully drawn but completely uninteresting as a story to me and the intricate visuals were printed so small that I gave up after about the 10th page and merely skimmed through the rest; also, I've read far too many geeky straight white boy hipster record collector comics in my lifetime to have much interest in Jonathan Bennett's "Dance with the Ventures." On the plus side, I enjoyed all the political strips from Lloyd Dangle, Joe Sacco and Tobocman, et. al, because they each taught me something; Ben Katchor's 2 pager was slyly humorous and oddly poetic; Joel Priddy's stick figure superhero parody was sublimely funny; Lilli Carre, Kurt Wolfgang, Lynda Barry, Tom Hart, Kim Deitch and Jesse Reklaw are each represented here with top-notch comics; my pal Justin Hall is featured with an early piece of his, a long, harrowing true travel tale called "La Rubia Loca"; and David Heatley's "Portrait of My Dad" is lovely, one of my fave things here. All in all, this a well-integrated, far ranging anthology that launches this series with panache. It also avoids the cronyism of too many of these alternative comics anthologies, giving space to some fresh new faces along with the usual suspects. I'll be curious to check out future editions.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jon Hewelt

    Re-Read 9/29/2018 A fine-enough collection. Not as invigorating the second time around. --- ***** This is an excellent collection, excellently curated. I'm glad graphic novels--as a medium--are receiving the recognition they deserve. It's been a while since I finished reading this, so I can't speak to any of my absolute favorites, except that most of the names I already recognized and respected--Alison Bechdel, R. Crumb, Kim Deitch, Chris Ware--had great contributions. And I discovered a few new name Re-Read 9/29/2018 A fine-enough collection. Not as invigorating the second time around. --- ***** This is an excellent collection, excellently curated. I'm glad graphic novels--as a medium--are receiving the recognition they deserve. It's been a while since I finished reading this, so I can't speak to any of my absolute favorites, except that most of the names I already recognized and respected--Alison Bechdel, R. Crumb, Kim Deitch, Chris Ware--had great contributions. And I discovered a few new names that I want to further investigate: Joel Priddy, Lilli Carre, Rebecca Dart, Gilbert Shelton, Tom Hart and Kurt Wolfgang. As with any anthology, there's going to be duds, and those duds are going to vary depending on your personal taste. But for me, at least, there weren't any selections I outright disliked. A few did not keep my interest, but I'm open to a different perspective on future reads (and with a collection like this, there will be many future reads). The only part of this anthology I didn't like was the author section at the back of the book. The bios were fine, but most of the author commentaries just reiterated what was already told in their graphic work. Majorly redundant, though I appreciated that a few of my favorite authors questioned the value of authorial input, believing that the work spoke for itself. Again: your mileage will vary depending on your personal opinion. This collection also solidified a certain ethos that seems to exist among most graphic novelists. Not all of them, mind you, but a lot of graphic novelists I've read seem possessed of an introspective and melancholic disposition. A dour view of the world and of the people in it. It's a disposition I share, which may explain why I like the medium so much. But of course, that's not all that graphic novels have to offer. The interplay of text and pictures, the variety of storytelling in this anthology, is astounding. No matter their worldview, these are talented creators and their work should be appreciated. ABSOLUTELY check this out.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maurice Ruffin

    All the Pleasures of the Comic Form are in this Anthology The sheer variety of this collection is what makes it so enthralling. There are representatives from every corner of the independent comics world: non-fiction, avant-garde, cheeky pop-art, flower-power-era stuff from old schoolers like R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton, one-pagers, and many super-affecting, but not-at-all sentimental pieces. There are too many excellent comics in this 270+ page anthology to mention them all, but my favorite ten All the Pleasures of the Comic Form are in this Anthology The sheer variety of this collection is what makes it so enthralling. There are representatives from every corner of the independent comics world: non-fiction, avant-garde, cheeky pop-art, flower-power-era stuff from old schoolers like R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton, one-pagers, and many super-affecting, but not-at-all sentimental pieces. There are too many excellent comics in this 270+ page anthology to mention them all, but my favorite ten are by Joel Priddy, Anders Nilsen, Justin Hall, Rebecca Dart, Jonathan Bennett, Tom Hart, Kurt Wolfgang, David Heatley, Jesse Reklaw, and Lynda Barry. Priddy's send-up of the archtypical superhero, "The Amazing Life of Onion Jack," like many of the pieces here, has much more heart than it has any right to. Bennett's "Dance with the Ventures" is mundane. The story arc is flat. There's no big theme or metaphor. Yet, this comic charms by showing a weird slice of the main character's life that's groan-inducing, funny, and completely humane. Rebecca Dart's fantasy piece "Rabbithead" is the darkest and most disturbing in the whole anthology. But it's also the most beautiful. It's also hard to read this comic without a sense of hopelessness. Still, there's power in the protagonist's fatalistic journey. Both Reklaw and Heatley give hyper-real portraits of family life that practically define "bittersweet." Possibly the most complete story is "La Rubia Loca" by Justin Hall. It's the tale of a woman at the end of her rope, who finds something that forces her to examine her view of her life. In the opening to the collection, Harvey Pekar reminds us that comics aren't just kids's stuff. He's right. This is a fun, thought-provoking book. I can't wait to get the next issue.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Yew

    The only review of this that you *need* to read is by Harvey Pekar, and it happens to be the Introduction. He is clearly a lifelong fan and champion of the medium. His enthusiasm can colour any hesitation you have about the value of his selections. But if you don't have a copy on hand to read, or you're not looking at a digital copy, this is what I thought of this first edition. Strong first effort with some dated strips that read out of place in the narrative structure of the edit ("Nakedness an The only review of this that you *need* to read is by Harvey Pekar, and it happens to be the Introduction. He is clearly a lifelong fan and champion of the medium. His enthusiasm can colour any hesitation you have about the value of his selections. But if you don't have a copy on hand to read, or you're not looking at a digital copy, this is what I thought of this first edition. Strong first effort with some dated strips that read out of place in the narrative structure of the edit ("Nakedness and Power," "A Street Level View of the Republican National Convention"). It all made more sense to Anne Elizabeth Moore, whose Preface is a must read, but as pages turn you can't help but see your own narrative in the selections. Perhaps those I thought didn't fit just deserve their own place, in a collection that is more politically specific. Personal preferences hardly matter though. These works all have the power to transform the reader, even if they don't seem to be remarkable at the time. There are stories in here that you can't put down, stories to remind you of childhood and warn of the darkness of adulthood, and stories that make you realize you're not alone in the world. Lynda Barry's messy "Two Questions" even has the power to alter your creative life, and I was pleasantly surprised by the essential "Comics: A History" by Chris Ware. As always these collections are worth picking up and reading front to back. It's thanks to them that I gave many of these authors a chance. Before them I felt rudderless in the world of comics, largely attached to the work of Robert Crumb and authors working for DC/Marvel etc (Morrison, Moore). Thanks to the editors we can all increase our knowledge of the wide range of experiences and statements comics have the unique power to touch on.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dave-O

    With at least two other comics anthologies out this past year, this one is good but certainly not the 'best' as its title claims. Pekar's choices seem very unstructured. Some of his selections have already appeared in (the legendary) "McSweeney's 13" two years ago which was edited by Chris Ware. Ware's selections though seemed to weave a narrative of their own with a bit of comics history thrown in. A direct follow-up to McSweeney's is "An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories With at least two other comics anthologies out this past year, this one is good but certainly not the 'best' as its title claims. Pekar's choices seem very unstructured. Some of his selections have already appeared in (the legendary) "McSweeney's 13" two years ago which was edited by Chris Ware. Ware's selections though seemed to weave a narrative of their own with a bit of comics history thrown in. A direct follow-up to McSweeney's is "An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories" edited by (Ware colleague) Ivan Brunetti who continues in the idea of providing a historical context (or at least background) for today's comics. Equal to all of these is the well-designed, daring "Kramer's Ergot 6" (though "Kramer's Ergot 5" is better, if you can find it) which was created by Sammy Harkham who has an editing style like a curator of a contemporary art exhibit. It's not that Pekar's selections are bad, it just seems repetitive if you've been paying attention to "alt-comics" (or "art comics" or "comix" or whatever you want to call them) for the past 5 or so years. The challenge that a comics anthology has over an anthology of short stories or poetry is that a range of narrative styles is not necessarily a good thing. Without a theme of sorts (at least within the editor's head), the stories seem to swim around in this book and certainly don't hold well together as they do in the aforementioned ones. Not bad, but certainly not the best as Houghton-Mifflin is jumping in late on the game.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    This was a neat collection. I picked it up in a bargain bin ages ago and finally got around to reading it. I'd say I REALLY LIKED about 25% of the comics here (enough to seek out fuller works by the authors) and liked another 25-35% (enough to read them a few times over). The rest were not my taste but I was happy to be exposed to lots of different writing and drawing styles. There was a lot of diversity in style and theme so chances are you'll have a similar hit ratio in terms of what resonates This was a neat collection. I picked it up in a bargain bin ages ago and finally got around to reading it. I'd say I REALLY LIKED about 25% of the comics here (enough to seek out fuller works by the authors) and liked another 25-35% (enough to read them a few times over). The rest were not my taste but I was happy to be exposed to lots of different writing and drawing styles. There was a lot of diversity in style and theme so chances are you'll have a similar hit ratio in terms of what resonates with you. For that reason, even though I bought it (back when I bought any book that vaguely caught my eye), I recommend getting it from the library (or borrowing from me, if you're local). Then you can focus your book money on getting more of the work you like best. The R. Crumb piece in here is particularly good even if you've already read a lot of his work. Other authors whose work I particularly enjoyed: Lille Carre, Chris Ware, David Lasky, Justin Hall, Esther Pearl Watson, Jesse Reklaw and the excerpt from World War 3 Illustrated. A few pieces came from McSweeny's #13 (2003) which was a first, all-comic edition (edited by Chris Ware) for them and I'm eager to check that out, too. This was the first installment of a comics addition to the Best American line and I look forward to seeking out the other volumes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adele

    Three bucks at Borders, hell yes. I love comics, especially new-wave indie "graphic novel" comics. Actually this is the only kind I like (besides Calvin and Hobbes)but the term "graphic novel" just seems really snobby. My favorite comic author/drawers are Adrian Tomine, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware, though only the last has work featured in the 2006 edition. The comics I liked in the book really deserve five stars-- some were just fantastic. The rating is brought down by mediocre and downright Three bucks at Borders, hell yes. I love comics, especially new-wave indie "graphic novel" comics. Actually this is the only kind I like (besides Calvin and Hobbes)but the term "graphic novel" just seems really snobby. My favorite comic author/drawers are Adrian Tomine, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware, though only the last has work featured in the 2006 edition. The comics I liked in the book really deserve five stars-- some were just fantastic. The rating is brought down by mediocre and downright bad comics. It's a very mixed bag. R Crumb's piece is great (he usually is) Kim Deitch, Lilli Carre, Justin Hall, and Jessica Abel were responsible for my favorites. The best of these was Justin Hall's comic, La Rubia Loca. In the strip, a San Francisco based tour bus company is driving through Mexico with hippie tourist types from all over. The narrator, Sarah, is a suicidal San Francisco lesbian, and bonds with Helena, a Swiss-German woman who hasn't slept in days, and quickly reveals herself as pretty fucking psycho. La Rubia Loca is compelling and haunting. Great subject matter, really well drawn, convincing dialogue. I will be seeking out Mr. Hall's work in the future!

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