I am blessed with slight insomnia, so whilst I'm awake, I'm going to republish a shockingly long coment I left on this blog, requesting everyone's top tens. Mine is an almost cliched 'alt' list, as it turns out, but I care not, for I heart good graphic novels. It kills me that such a wonderful art form is subjected to the kind of total lack of curiosity from the average reader that would usually be confined to books about particle physics.
So anyway, here's the list. No links I'm afraid because it's late and I want to go to bed now, I've used up my allowance of sleeplessness for today at least. I'll put the links in when I can in the next few days:
My pretty much top ten all time list, in no particular order, and desperate to contain minimal spoilers in the hope that you'll pick some of these up and have a read:
- From Hell. Mind blowing, psychedelic Victorian serial killer yarn, with added London psychogeography! Who could ask for more?
- Berlin, Jason Lutes. My God, I'm so jealous of Jason Lutes. Not only is he a great storyteller, but his art work is brilliant, subtle and humane. Berlin volume 2 is just as wonderful, but Vol 1 is something else.
- Goodbye Chunky Rice, Craig Thompson. What I really like about this is that it's a universal story. A reasonably young child could pick it up, and get a lot out of it. It touches something very deep and yes, fairly sentimental, about the human condition, but it's genuinely moving. Really well worth reading.
- The Invisibles (all volumes) by Grant Morrison. A swaggeringly brilliant masterpiece of mentalist storytelling. I sorely wish that Morrison would concentrate on alt.comics but I guess he loves his Xmen and superhereoes too much. There's something gloriously over ripe about The Invisibles. It's a crazy trip! The art work is superb too from several brilliant artists.
- Safe Area Gorazde. Joe Sacco. Sacco tones down the Woody Allen-ish shambolic 'self' in this, as he interviews people from the town where horrendous events took place during the Bosnian war. It's truly appalling reading, and the reason is because he's such a great artist, and a great listener too.
- Space Dog. Now, bear with me. You will never have heard of this. I got it in a second hand bookshop, completely by accident. It's by a guy called Henrik Dorgathen, and you can't get it for love nor money - I know, I've tried, many times so friends can share in it. Luckily, Henrik has a website! here's a link to this truly wonderful story, which could be read to children - I say read, there are no words in it. Well. 1 word. It's brilliant. Take a look: http://www.dorgathen.org/cont/comix/spacedog.htm
- The Idea. Frans Masereel. Frans Masereel's art and ideas are so strong they make me swoon. No words, only pictures and a brilliant, first half of the 20th century Kafka-like quality to the work. Also, a bawdy and rather lewd sense of humour which is a joy. I love all his stuff, but there's something about this one which just blows you away every time.
- "Hate" comics, by Pete Bagge. Or in other words, the complete story of Buddy Bradley. There's so much painful and embarrassing truth in Bagge's work, and it's carried along by a sharp, wisecracking sense of humour. I really think he's weirdly underrated, despite loads of people knowing of him!
- Love and Rockets - the Hernandez brothers. What can I say. A stunning, extraordinary, even feminist (or humanist) body of work primarily about the strongest people, all with loose ties to one another within an Hispanic community over time in Mexico and the US. And those people all happen to be women. It's always a joy, and I'm so glad they're still writing these stories.
- Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis. Very much of its time, it is broad satire and it's speedy, adrenalin fuelled science fiction. There's something bizarrely "Hitch Hiker's Guide"ish about it at times in the crazy ideas soup within, and if you've never read it, I challenge you to get up after reading two or three volumes without wanting to listen to extremely loud punk music and pogo round the room shouting. It's that kind of an experience. That Warren, he's a bit crazy. There's a ton of stuff from Warren Ellis worth checking out. Particularly the rambling mess that is Planetary. It's visionary, mystical and at times, truly glorious. Global Frequency and the current Freakangels have within them a core of hopeful humanity which transcend the sometimes apocalyptic plotlines.
...an honourary 11: God only knows how I forgot this. "Ethel and Ernest" by Raymond Briggs. He doesn't draw books for adults very often, but when he does, they tend to be stunning. This beautiful, heart breaking book about the passage though life of these two very ordinary exemplars of people building their lives in the first half of the twentieth century in London is so very, very good, I remember buying about 7 copies to give to people and would gladly give it away to more if I could. this is no disrespect to someone like Chris Ware, whose works are lauded, but it makes me think of the way that 'traditional' storytellers are often underrated by those taking stock of the modern novel. It's close to home, it doesn't seek to explain the wider human condition... it merely describes the lives of Briggs' parents. With loving honesty.
If I were to say to you Ok, you're skint, then just get 1 or 2 from this list, then it would have to be "Ethel and Ernest" and... pffftttt. Blimey. Now you're asking. I think probably "The Idea", because if that failed to get you excited about the storytelling possibilities of graphic novels then I don't think anything would.
Honourable mentions go to: "Blood Song" by Eric Drooker, and "Suckle: The Status of Basil" by Dave Cooper which is *insane*. I don't like Cooper's paintings of women, I really don't but this story has brilliant Freudian and none too subtle imagery thrown in to a science fiction planet somewhere... it's frankly, slightly disturbing. But great!
Why are there no women in my list? That is bloody annoying.
I wonder if I've actually done this before, and how much has changed? I'll have to dig back in the archives.