Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Best Original Graphic Novels Of The Past 12 Months?

If the last days of August now mark the first appearance of Christmas novelty chocolate in the nation's supermarkets, then November's become the month in which the reviews of the year begin to appear. Well, I'm of a mind to hope that the remaining six or so weeks may yet throw up a wonder or two, but there's no harm in starting to brainstorm together a list or two as the season of best-ofs and mustn't-buys hurtles ever closer. As a mind-clearing starting point, what follows are the ten original graphic novels which have meant the most to me over the past twelve months or so.  (They haven't, I do assure you, been ranked in any order of preference. As for reviews of them, they've all been discussed in Q Comics apart from Nelson, which was published before the column existed.)

Do consider telling me what I really ought to have mentioned. I'd be grateful for the help in ensuring that there's no masterpieces overlooked when the shiny, end-of-December TooBusyThinking review of 2012 finally appears.

It has been a good year, hasn't it?And it's not over yet ....

"The Nao Of Brown", by Glyn Dillon, SelfMadeHero, 2012
"Building Stories", by Chris Ware, Jonathan Cape, 2012
"Love And Rockets New Stories 5", by the Hernandez Brothers, Fantagraphics, 2012
"August Moon", by Diana Thung, Top Shelf, 2012
"Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt", by Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco, Nation Books, 2012
"Nelson", various, edited by Ron Davis & Woodrow Phoenix, Blank Slate, 2011
"Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City", Guy Delisle, Jonathan Cape, 2012
"Goliath" by Tom Gauld, Drawn And Quarterly, 2012
"The Hypo", by Noah Van Selver, Fantagraphics, 2012
"Playing Out", by Jim Medway, Blank Slate, 2013 (I was lucky enough to get to see a PDF of 'Playing Out' this summer when the book was scheduled for an autumn release. It's been pushed back since then, but it'll always be tied up with 2012 for me. When it arrived, the Splendid Wife and I sat on the setee - with the windows open and the cricket commentary burbling in the next room - and read Medway's gentle and charming work together from start to finish. It may well be in your best of 2013, but, if you'll forgive me, it's very much part of my 2012.)


  1. Hi Colin

    Great list with some really good comics on it. Good to see Nelson there with a wealth of British talent between the covers, and a bloody good cause. I'd just mention The Re(a)d Diary by Steven Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen as something you may enjoy if you've not seen it yet. In fact if I may be so bold couldI recommend checking out the Comic Book of the Month list over at Page 45. They tend to come up with some cracking reads every month, a lot of which coincide with the ones on your list.

    In terms of original graphic novels, I don't think there's every been a healthier time for the art form. The sheer number of good books being released each year is just staggering.

    Thanks for listening


    1. Hello Marcus:- "In terms of original graphic novels, I don't think there's every been a healthier time for the art form". Absolutely. Hear hear. The form is flourishing to a degree which it's actually hard to process. There's so much excellence out there and there's no sign at all of this process slowing down. Though TooBusyThinking tends to focus on fantastical strips which are often produced in serial form, the vast bulk of my reading is from beyond that niche and every year feels like a very good year indeed out there.

      Thank you for the recommendations. I've not come across the The Re(a)d Diary, I'll go check it out when I've posted this. And I'll investigate the Page 45 resource too. Far more of my month than might be imagined is spent researching the Q Comics Column. It's an absurdly sisyphean business, to try to keep track of EVERYTHING - yes, EVERYTHING!!! - that's going on, and it's inevitably something which I fall entirely short of achieving. As such, all useful resources are very much appreciated.

  2. The Nao of Brown is an incredible piece of work, touching and haunting and hilarious and frustrating (in a good way), and those excerpts from a manga in the middle of them which I don't quite get but are almost certainly key to the story. The craft is stunning and one of those things you could only do in comics: that opening, the photo of young Nao and the strategically worded captions, that would not be so effective in another medium (we make the very judgement Nao talks about and then have to look at the photo again after her words sink in). Creators who aren't Dillon should be jealous (unless that creator is D'Israeli or something).

    - Charles RB

    1. Hello Charles:- I'd line up behind everything you've said about Mr Dillon's work on The Nao Of Brown. I would say that every book here has moments, and sometimes a great many moments, to make everyone one impressed and perhaps somewhat jealous. It's not my intention to rank the books here, but I will say that 4 or 5 of what's above stands comparison with the best things I've EVER read, while they're ALL inspiring, entertaining and moving to a great or, er, even greater degree.

      I said in Q that one of the triumphs of TNOB was that it succeeded in representing OCD in a way that was entirely free of worthiness, pity or soap melodrama. It's only one of its achievements, but in a world where we tend to either present such challenges as ISSUES OF THE DAY!!!! or not at all, it's a terrific success. In doing so, all the other aspects of the book - the gentle humour, the romance, the meta - get to shine too. It's strange to recall that there quite literally weren't any English language "graphic novels" when I was a nipper. Now ... well, look at all of THIS :-) !!!

  3. Great list. Have you written about all of these anywhere on your blog? Can't find anything!

    1. Hello There:- Thank you! I have written about all of them with the exception of Nelson, although 8 of those reviews appeared in the comics column of Q Magazine. They're not available anywhere else. I did review Goliath here at TooBusyThinking, however;

  4. Glad to see you've read Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which I was actually thinking of recommending to you. Great book. I'd also suggest War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Empire of Illusion, and Death of the Liberal Class (as well as Hedges' others!)

    1. Hello Nikolai:- Glad to hear you're a fan of DODDOR too. I think I gave it a full five stars in Q when reviewing it. That sounds fair. I'll keep my eyes open for your recommended reading ... :)