Craig Thompson

Best Comics of 2011 – A List of Lists for the Listophiles

Whether published as comic books, graphic novels, manga, web comics, digital comics, or some other form of sequential art, comics published this year continues a fantastic renaissance in the art form that brings more creativity and innovation. Barely able to contain their excitement, several outlets have already released their lists for the year’s best. And since we’re now knee deep in the holiday shopping season, let’s see what has won the attention of critics and reviewers in 2011.

I’ll add to the list as more are released. Check out the artists own webpages and check out the publisher links for more info on each book. Select quotes are taken from the site/publication, visit each for more.

First, here are some Black Friday shopping guides that are still worth consulting and will no doubt influence those site’s final Best Of lists:

Also of note is the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs blog sending out an open call for nominations for this year’s Best Webcomics. Let me know if I’ve missed a Best Of list worth reading. OK, on with the lists!

Amazon.ca – Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels (published November 28, 2011) [mostly the same as Amazon.com’s list below except for 4 items]

Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil

Publishers Weekly – Best Books 2011: Comics (published November 7, 2011)

“An Iranian blogger goes missing and his family enters a hellish twilight zone of obfuscation in a story that captures the uncertainty of living under religious dogma.”

Host of NPR’s On the Media, Gladstone uses a cartoon persona to take the reader on a thoughtful and entertaining excursion through the history of the media from ancient Rome to the rise of digital technology.

“In this epic work of science fiction, Rachel Grosvenor, an outcast in a world ruled by a complex network of clans, looks to find a place for herself by attempting to join a very exclusive clan.”

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Amazon.com – Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels (published November 8, 2011)

Habibi, Craig Thompson’s intricate and moving fairy tale about familial and romantic love, one’s relationship to their environment, the shared roots of Christianity and Islam, and the effects of industrial modernization, tops our list of the best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2011.”

The New York Times – Holiday Gift Guide: 100 Notable Books of 2011 (published November 21, 2011)

“In this capacious, metaphysically inclined graphic novel, a flock of finches act out Nilsen’s unsettling comic vision about the food chain, fate and death.”

Graphic Novel gets reviewed in comics form

Michael Cavna reviews Habibi using comics (click to read)

Michael Cavna of The Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs blog posted a wonderfully illustrated review of the new graphic novel Habibi by Craig Thompson. I really wish this would happen more often.

I’ve said this before in the past. I love when people in comics use the language of comics to talk about the world of comics. What better way to express oneself. And Cavna presents fantastic evidence to support my case. As he puts it, “it seemed only right to respond with pictures to one of the year’s best comic projects”.

Cavna runs an excellent blog, so it’s easy to forget he’s also an amazing artist. His syndicated comic strip Warped ran in major newspapers across the country, including our own Los Angeles Times, from 1996 to 2003. It’s clear from this that he needs to do more illustrated content for Comic Riffs.

In his review, Cavna weaves together the various threads that led to Habibi. From Craig Thompson’s health problems with his hands following the release of the acclaimed break-out graphic novel Blankets, to his mid-west fundamentalist background. From Thompson’s personal response to 9/11 and religious anxieties that followed, which led to an interest in studying the Qur’an. Arabic writing in turn fed into Thompson’s interest in calligraphy, which informed much of the design of Habibi. Drawing from Arabian NightsHabibi is, as Cavna puts it, “a story of wounded love between a eunuch and a prostitute”. But more than that, it is about Thompson learning to embrace and embody being a man, about sexual trauma, and ultimately about healing. Cavna ends his review intertwining visual motifs of Blankets and Habibi, and calls the latter “a visual masterwork”.

The Comic Archive shows comic book creators creating

The Comic Archive has been putting up video interviews with comic book creators looking at how they create comic books and graphic novels.

Interested in how technology was changing the way comics are being made, comics inker Michael Furth started interviewing comic creators on camera and putting the results up on YouTube. About a year later, he’s still going strong. What makes these particularly unique is that most of them show the artists actually working in their studios instead of just talking heads talking about it.

He recently posted an interview with graphic novelist Craig Thompson, creator of the mega-hit autobiography Blankets. His long-awated follow-up Habibi was just released by Pantheon Books. (Unfortunately this is a talking head interview, but fortunately Thompson gives some good answers.)

To give an example of seeing an artist in their work environment, this next one is cartoonist Anna-Maria Jung showing how she uses Photoshop. She also discusses how she learned composition techniques in designing a scene from animation.

The Comic Archive’s website and YouTube channel have more interviews totaling over 100 videos. Most creators have multiple videos which make for more digestible installments. Other featured creators: Khary Randolph, Wes Craig, Dean Haspiel, Chip Kidd, Steve Rude, JM Ken Niimura, Phil Jiminez, Paola Rivera, Rick Geary, Denny O’Neil, Yanick Paquette, Art Thibert, Zander Cannon, Tim Bradstreet, Steve Niles, Marc Deering, Joe Sinnott, Joe Kubert, Dexter Vines, Cliff Chiang, Cameron Stewart, and Brian Bolland.