Books

'The Best American Comics 2018' Beautifully Showcases the Diversity and Creativity of the Medium

This year's collection includes many independent and self-published artists; no mainstream or superhero comic in sight.

The Best American Comics 2018
Phoebe Gloeckner (Editor), Bill Kartalopoulos (Series Editor)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Oct 2018

"When it comes to art there is nothing more limiting than only valuing work that gives you more of what you already know you like." - Bill Kartalopoulos

"Looking toward the blurry future, I'll bet that comics as a medium will influence our changing definitions of literature and film, and we will start to see hybrid forms develop. Cartoonists, as masters of both words and pictures, are likely to be amongst the innovators and authors of future forms of storytelling." - Phoebe Gloeckner

The 13th installment of The Best American Comics series, this year's compendium brings together 33 comics to represent the medium. Comics must be first published in North America between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2017 to be eligible for inclusion, and as laid out by series editor Bill Kartalopoulos in the Foreword, he picked approximately 120 comics to send to this year's editor, Phoebe Gloeckner. Gloeckner also had the freedom to add any additional comics for consideration.

As any series of its kind, it can be a somewhat idiosyncratic collection as it attempts to bring together comics, often with seemingly little in common, as a snapshot of the year's best offerings. It can be an alternately jarring and refreshing experience to read in order or jump around, but that's part of what makes comics in general, and this series in particular, so exciting. This year's collection includes many independent and self-published artists; no mainstream or superhero comic in sight. For the uninitiated, it may seem too niche or offbeat, but it's an excellent example of how diverse comics can be, and really, have always been.

Each comic is introduced by a short artist biography and artist's statement. In some ways they're almost incidental to the piece, as many are short and fairly straightforward, offering little in explaining the comic itself. It's in engaging with the many and varied comics in the collection that's the most valuable experience for the reader. There are autobiographical artists' stories, journalistic retellings, fantastical tales, and love stories. Just as the themes take on so many different topics and viewpoints, the art does the same. From Jesse Jacobs' colorful psychedelic work to Geof Darrow's detailed cityscapes inhabited by a giant pig and his sidekick dog, to Tara Booth's autobiographical paintings, these stories all offer something different to the reader, yet they come together among other stories to ultimately create a cohesive collection.

There are certainly some standouts, such as Emil Ferris' excerpt from My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book 1 (Fantagraphics) that's part diary, part mystery, and a glimpse into the past. Ferris's work is immediately engrossing and the excerpt included here makes that case beautifully. There's also Guy Delisle's Hostage (Drawn & Quarterly) the true story of Christopher Andre, a kidnapped Doctors Without Borders administrator. The excerpt chosen here provides a small moment of joy in an otherwise impossibly joyless experience. Gabrielle Bell's "Ghost Cats" from Everything Is Flammable (Uncivilized), is a retelling of traumatic pet deaths from childhood, and it's as sad and terrible as the topic suggests. These stories offer a window into difficulties, real and imagined, and connect in unexpected ways, a particular strength of comics.

The Best American Comics 2018 is filled with stories that are painful, hopeful, grotesque, and humorous. They run the gamut and, in turn, they serve as an example of the diversity and creativity of the medium. The many backgrounds of the artists included (professional illustrators, animators, professors, etc.) also reinforce the many perspectives inherent in these stories. As the series makes room for excerpts of larger stories, this makes for not only a larger pool of comics to choose from, but also a stronger case for the job of editor and series editor. Gloeckner's own tastes, particularly her realization that most of the comics included here are solely created by one person (as opposed to many mainstream comics that are a collaboration between teams of writers and artists), comes through in a collection of singular viewpoints and wonderful artistic statements.

Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Music

Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.