“Six Flowers, Onto Sixteen: this goofy year”
Por Matt Séneca
Publicado originalmente en mattseneca dot tumblr dot com el 28 de diciembre de 2015.
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I didn’t feel 2015 was a strong year for comics—to me it seemed like the weakest for the medium since I started documenting my thoughts about it online. Maybe that’s because so much great work was released right at the tail end of 2014, but just as likely it’s that the past 15 years in comics have been so amazing we’re just due for a little bit of a slowdown. Either way, it’s pretty remarkable that even a (to me) obvious down year still produced multiple works of incredible value, in both the form of freshly created books and reprints. Here’s the stuff you should have been paying attention to if you weren’t.
“Inner City Romance”, by Guy Colwell
Reprints the most political and visually interesting work the grand era of West Coast underground comics burped out. Colwell’s intense renderings read like top-flight contemporary figurative painting translated into comics form, and the stories still brace with the urgency and cogency of their socio-political message, making the best comic of 2015 about 2015 one that was originally published in the mid-’70s. A great and necessary addition to the picture of comics history presented by the US direct market.
“Crickets #4-5”, by Sammy Harkham
Then again, some of the best comics made in 2015 are about the ‘70s, so maybe it all evens out. The first significant chunk of work from Sammy Harkham in way too long shows a cartoonist who’s pureed a sprawling selection of gestures that show debt to a library of comics greats into a storytelling style all his own. It’s rare to find comics this well put together or this purely entertaining to read… or this sneakily meaningful.
“Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T.”, by Benjamin Marra
The most consistently interesting artist in comics’ first long form work is a genuinely shocking book, simultaneously deep and shallow, bone simple and incredibly complex, affectless yet swimming with style, strangely quite beautiful yet hideously ugly. It’s also got as much great pure action cartooning as a full year of any classic strip you care to name, and the best (but not only!) drawing of a hero ejaculating on his nemesis the year produced.
“Volcan”, ed. by Alexis Beauclair & Sammy Stein
Undoubtedly the finest piece of risograph printing in comics form that’s made it to these shores, Volcan is also a fantastic compendium of stories by artists coming at the process of making a comic book in different and surprising ways. Baptiste Virot, Antoine Cosse, Olivier Schrauwen, and the editors themselves shine especially brightly, but just as much fun to marvel over is work from the new Big Homies of art comics, CF and Yuichi Yokoyama. Essential and sadly now 100% impossible for you to purchase.
“Providence #1-6”, by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows
And speaking of Big Homies, Alan Moore is back and as good as ever. The last (only) time comics this literarily complex and purely entertaining were out was when Moore himself was doing Watchmen and From Hell, and now he certainly seems to have bottled that old lightning for one final go-round. But Providence is a different kind of beast, perhaps simply the work of an older man—more obsessive, more allusive, more hypnotic in its rhythms, and far, far scarier. Buy the issues monthly (!) so you can say you were there.
But finally, we come to…
“White Boy”, by Garrett Price
The latest treasure unearthed by the modern, obscurity-laden Golden Age of Reprints is a mother lode. Lovingly reprinted in its massive original size, the complete run of Price’s Native American-focused 1930s frontier strip is comics of the highest order, its best moments standing comfortably alongside the best of Krazy Kat, Prince Valiant, and Little Nemo while remaining fully its own thing. The vision of the form Price articulates with his magnificent pen-and-brush panels bursts from the page with so much life and charm and obvious joy in itself that it’s difficult not to come away from a reading feeling intoxicated. There are other comics as good as White Boy, but it’s difficult to think of more than a few that are better. This beautiful book also collects the complete “Skull Valley”, a contemporary western that “White Boy” abruptly morphed into after about a year and a half of its run. “Skull Valley” is a lovely display of master-class cartooning, but “White Boy” is a genuine treasure whose sudden disappearance reminds us that the vast majority of great comics pass the world by leaving barely a ripple. Even in a down year, it’s important to grab onto the special ones while you can.