1. Jaime Hernandez: Love and Rockets Vol. 11 "Wigwam Bam"
Saved by the Beagle
One year ago, Seattle's Fantagraphics was on the brink of bankruptcy. Now it's in the black, thanks to good ol' Charlie Brown—and a pair of dogged believers who turned a cranky fanzine into the most widely respected comics publisher in America. By Michaelangelo Matos MORE
The mammoth Locas hardcover (which includes this) will be out later this fall, but if you can't wait, this is the smoother Hernandez brother's masterwork: a big, sprawling, exquisitely bittersweet ensemble comedy about biracial ex-punks in Southern California, lost friends' pictures on milk cartons, and very, very bad parties.
2. David B.: Epileptic Vol. 1
French cartoonist B.'s memoir about growing up in the late '60s and early '70s with a family that dragged them through the alternative-medicine underground in search of anything that could help his epileptic older brother, while he himself was gradually, crazily, beginning to see the world in elaborate visual metaphors—which eventually became his art. Astonishing.
3. Jim Woodring: The Frank Book
Half Kenneth Anger, half Chuck Jones. Woodring's short, mostly wordless fables about a catlike creature's adventures in a colorful landscape of minarets and whirling conditioned souls are adorable, charming, resonant, and mind- shreddingly disturbing: like children's stories, except concerned with the depths of psychic and psychedelic torment.
4. Gilbert Hernandez: Palomar
A hardcover collecting the bulk of Gilbert's work from Love and Rockets: semi-magic-realist stories about a tiny Central American town, the woman who runs it with an iron hammer, and her extended family. The art is an acquired taste—rough, bold, and rubbery—but Gilbert's a master of drawing body language, and he's got spectacular psychological insight into his characters.
5. Chris Ware: Quimby the Mouse
Ware's the Samuel Beckett of comics, obsessed with grinding despair but perfectly aware of its funny side. These early, oversized cartoons from his Acme Novelty Library series are blacker-than-black existential horror in the trappings of whimsical vintage newspaper comic strips—except that nobody else has ever done a strip this labor-intensive.
6. Daniel Clowes: Ghost World
Yes, the movie was based on this taut, perfectly muted graphic novel (originally serialized in Clowes' Eightball) about a teenage girl's creation of her own identity through trash culture as her closest friendship slowly disintegrates. But note that the protagonist, Enid Coleslaw, is an anagram of Daniel Clowes. Also try the recent Eightball #23, a terrific experimental piece called "The Death Ray."
7. Joe Sacco: Safe Area Gorazde
The master of comics reportage (his books Palestine and The Fixer are also superb) went to the former Yugoslavia in 1995 and spent four months living in a Muslim town under attack, talking to everyone he could. Then he came home, explained the small and large disasters he'd seen, and tried to make sense of how they'd come about.
8. George Herriman: Krazy & Ignatz 1931–1932 "A Kat a'Lilt With Song"
Most cartoonists—Charles Schulz reportedly included— consider Herriman's Krazy Kat the greatest newspaper strip of all time: a love-hate-violence-justice triangle among a cat, a mouse, and a dog, played out in freely mutated language against a surreal Southwestern desert landscape. This is the latest volume of Fantagraphics' complete reprint and an arbitrary choice—dive in anywhere.
9. Gary Panter: Jimbo in Purgatory
Insanely involuted and dense: Dante's Purgatorio, by way of Bocaccio's Decameron, by way of shreds and fragments of the whole of the English and classical literary canon, by way of a set of formal schema that puts it all in the mouths of a primitive cartoon character, a boxy robot, and the other inhabitants of a purgatorial academic testing center.
10. Various artists: Blood Orange #1
The first issue of a new anthology series devoted to the younger generation of alternative cartoonists is very, very promising—especially Kevin Huizenga's loopy, wildly original experimental piece "Fight or Run?" and contributions by Alison Cole and John Hankiewicz. The next generation of amazing comics starts here.