The Best American Comics 2010

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Overview

The Best American Comics showcases the work of both established and up-and-coming contributors. Editor Neil Gaiman—one of the top writers in modern comics and the award-winning author of novels and children’s bookshas culled the best stories from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Internet to create this cutting-edge collection. With entries from luminaries such as Tim Hensley, Michael Kupperman, and Dash Shaw, “it’s hard to flip through this book ...

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Overview

The Best American Comics showcases the work of both established and up-and-coming contributors. Editor Neil Gaiman—one of the top writers in modern comics and the award-winning author of novels and children’s bookshas culled the best stories from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Internet to create this cutting-edge collection. With entries from luminaries such as Tim Hensley, Michael Kupperman, and Dash Shaw, “it’s hard to flip through this book without finding a lot worth reading (and rereading)” (The Onion, A.V. Club).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This yearly anthology is always something to look forward to, with its impressive editors, juicy forewords, and superabundance of comics genius between its two covers. Series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden start off with a brief history of the burst in comics' popularity and readership over the past decade; luckily for us, they include an extensive list of "Notable Comics" that didn't make the final cut. Gaiman, in turn, agonizes entertainingly over the accuracy of the title Best American Comics and finally suggests that the volume instead be called A Sampler: Some Really Good Comics, Including Extracts from Longer Stories We Thought Could Stand on Their Own. It's a wealth of fine storytelling: extracts from Lagoon, the gorgeously strange fairy tale by Lili Carré; Carol Tyler's great You'll Never Know; Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe; and Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro. Some stand-alone gems include Todd Brower and Steve MacIsaac's "Ex Communication," in which two bearish men meet for a drink and chat uncomfortably about what they've been up to since their split; Peter Kuper's two-page takedown of the Bush legacy in "Ceci n'est pas un comic"; and Gabrielle Bell's "Mixed Up Files." A thrilling and varied journey from start to finish. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews

Another star-studded anthology grapples with the challenge of whether comics can survive respectability.

Perhaps inevitably, with each annual edition, the balance shifts more from fresh (even raw) discoveries to luminaries already enshrined in the cultural canon. As series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden write in their foreword, "Everyone seems to be pushing to outdo themselves and to live up to comics' new status as a Medium That Matters." Thus, this year's guest editor Gaiman (renowned for his Sandman series)couldn't think of omitting at least a taste of Robert Crumb's illustrated Genesis(which Gaiman calls "the most fascinating comic of 2009"). Or a couple of excerpts from David Mazzucchelli's rapturously reviewed graphic novel debut,Asterios Polyp(2009).Or narratives from literary interlopers Jonathan Lethem and Jonathan Ames. Or the obligatory offerings from Chris Ware, whose entry "Fiction versus Nonfiction" serves as a sort of afterword (and opens with a quotation from John Cheever). Yet the range of possibility under the comic umbrella continues to astonish, with "The Bank" by Derf underscoring the connection between graphic narrative and punk rock, selections from Peter Kuper and Peter Bagge employing the comic strip as a political broadside, Josh Neufeld using the form for journalism (in the wake of Katrina) and Michael Cho for history (of the development of the atomic bomb). There are love stories as well as robots and superheroes, dream journals and family memoirs as well as fantasies. If there's a problem with the pieces, it is, as Gaiman addresses, "Any extract from a longer work, no matter how well-chosen, is simply that: an extract from a longer work, and the real art is the longer work, with a beginning and a middle and an end, often in that order." Yet readers who don't follow the field as closely as the series editors do will discover new favorites and will probably be inspired to buy a few books.

Every year seems to raise the bar.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547241777
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Series: Best American Comics Series
  • Pages: 329
  • Sales rank: 1,056,481
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Neil Gaiman

NEIL GAIMAN is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of the novels American Gods, Anansi Boys , and Neverwhere. Gaiman was the creator/writer of cult DC Comics horror-weird series The Sandman, which won twenty-four Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, including the award for best writer four times, and three Harvey Awards. He is also the author of several children's books, including The Graveyard Book, winner of the 2009 Newbery Medal, and Coraline, an international bestseller that was turned into an animated film and released in 2009. Among his many awards are the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Bram Stoker Award.

JESSICA ABEL is the author of the graphic novel La Perdida . MATT MADDEN is a cartoonist best known for his book 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style . Together, Abel and Madden are the authors of Mastering Comics and Drawing Words and Writing Pictures .


MATT MADDEN is a cartoonist and the author of 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. Together, they are the authors of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures.

Biography

Neil Gaiman thought he wrote comic books. But a newspaper editor, of course, set him straight.

Back when he was riding the diabolical headwinds of his popular series of graphic novels, The Sandman, the author attended a party where he introduced himself as a comic-book writer to a newspaper's literary editor. But when the editor quickly realized who this actually was -- and the glaze melted from his eyes -- he offered Gaiman a correction tinged with astonishment: "My God, man, you don't write comics, you write graphic novels." Relating the story to theLos Angeles Times in 1995, Gaiman said, "I suddenly felt like someone who had been informed that she wasn't a hooker, that in fact she was a lady of the evening."

Gaiman's done much more, of course, than simply write graphic novels, having coauthored, with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, a comic novel about the Apocalypse; adapted into hardcover the BBC miniseries Neverwhere about the dark underworld beneath the streets of London; and, inspired by his young daughter, put a horrifying spin on C.S. Lewis' wardrobe doors for Coraline, a children's book about a passageway into a magical, yet malevolent, land.

But it is The Sandman that is Gaiman's magnum opus.

Though he had told a career counselor in high school that he wanted to pen comic books, he had a career as a freelance journalist before his first graphic novel, Violent Cases, was published in England in 1987. DC Comics discovered him and The Sandman was born. Or reborn, actually. The comic debuted back in 1939 with a regular-Joe crime fighter in the lead. But in Gaiman's hands the tale had a more otherworldly spin, slowing introducing readers to the seven siblings Endless: Dream, Death, Desire, Destiny, Destruction, Despair and Delirium (once Delight). They all have their roles in shaping the fates of man. In fact, when Death was imprisoned for decades, the results were devastating. Richard Nixon reached The White House and Michael Jackson the Billboard charts.

Direction from newspaper editors notwithstanding, to Gaiman, these stories are still comic books. The man who shuttled back and forth between comics and classics in his formative years and can pepper his writing with references to Norse mythology as well as the vaudevillian rock group Queen, never cottoned to such highbrow/lowbrow distinctions. Comparing notes on a yachting excursion with members of the Irish rock band U2, the writer who looks like a rock star and Delirium and the rock stars who gave themselves comic-worthy names such as Bono and The Edge came to a realization: Whether the medium is pop music or comic books, not being taken seriously can be a plus. "It's safer to be in the gutter," he told The Washington Post in 1995.

In 1995, Gaiman brought The Sandman to a close and began spending more time on his nongraphic fiction, including a couple of short-story collections. A few years later he released Stardust, an adult fairy tale that has young Tristan Thorn searching for a fallen star to woo the lovely but cold Victoria Forester. In 2001, he placed an ex-con named Shadow in the middle of a war between the ancient and modern dieties in American Gods. Coming in October 2002 is another departure: an audio recording of Two Plays for Voices, which stars Bebe Neuwirth as a wise queen doing battle with a bloodthirsty child and Brian Dennehy as the Angel of Vengeance investigating the first crime in history in heaven's City of Angels.

Gaiman need not worry about defining his artistic relevance, since so many other seem to do it for him. Stephen King, Roger Zelazny and Harlan Ellison are among those who have contributed introductions to his works. William Gibson, the man who coined the term "cyberspace," called him a "a writer of rare perception and endless imagination" as well as "an American treasure." (Even though he's, technically, a British treasure transplanted to the American Midwest.) Even Norman Mailer has weighed in: "Along with all else, Sandman is a comic strip for intellectuals, and I say it's about time."

The gushiest praise, however, may come from Frank McConnell, who barely contained himself in the pages of the political and artistic journal Commonweal. Saying Gaiman "may just be the most gifted and important storyteller in English," McConnell crowned Sandman as the most important act of fiction of the day. "And that, not just because of the brilliance and intricacy of its storytelling -- and I know few stories, outside the best of Joyce, Faulkner, and Pynchon, that are more intricate," he wrote in October 1995, " but also because it tells its wonderful and humanizing tale in a medium, comic books, still largely considered demimonde by the tenured zombies of the academic establishment."

"If Sandman is a 'comic,'" he concluded, "then The Magic Flute is a 'musical' and A Midsummer Night's Dream is a skit. Read the damn thing: it's important."

Good To Know

Some fascinating factoids from our interview with Gaiman:

"One of the most enjoyable bits of writing Sandman was getting authors whose work I love to write the introductions for the collected graphic novels -- people like Steve Erickson, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Mikal Gilmore, and Samuel R. Delany."

"I have a big old Addams Family house, with -- in the summertime -- a vegetable garden, and I love growing exotic pumpkins. As a boy in England I used to dream about Ray Bradbury Hallowe'ens, and am thrilled that I get them these days. Unless I'm on the road signing people's books, of course."

"According to my daughters, my most irritating habit is asking for cups of tea."

"I love radio -- and love the availability of things like the Jack Benny radio shows in MP3 format. I'm addicted to BBC radio 7, and keep buying boxed CD sets of old UK radio programs, things like Round the Horne and Hancock's Half Hour. Every now and again I'll write a radio play."

"I love thunderstorms, old houses, and dreams."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 10, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portchester, England
    1. Education:
      Attended Ardingly College Junior School, 1970-74, and Whitgift School, 1974-77
    2. Website:

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Eclectic Collection of Comics

    I've been a fan of the "Best American" writing series, and I stumbled upon this particular category by mistake. I was a huge fan of comic books in my early teens. I followed a lot of comic artists, mostly from Mad Magazine and Marvel Comics. Comics have a special quality of telling stories that books alone can't achieve. With books, you make the pictures in your mind. With comics, however, I could see what was inside the mind of the artists. I was also very intrigued by how each artist has his/her own unique style. There was no mistaking Don Martin or Al Jaffee in Mad Magazine or Barry Windsor-Smith in Marvel Comics. The five-star rating I gave this book is really meant for the entire series, but this particular volume stands on its own just as well.

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