As is our annual tradition, we invited a number of our friends who are also cartoonists, comics publishers and editors to tell us what their favorite comics of 2013 were. We'll be publishing them all over the next few weeks.
Mark Burrier has self-published a number of excellent comics, including Show Off and Chosen. Visit his website.
In full disclosure, I read very view comics that were released in 2013. I spent most of the year reading work from the 1960s through 1980s in various genres.
1. Barack Hussein Obama by Steven Weissman (Fantagraphics Books)
This continuing strip runs on whatthingsdo.com and has been collected by Fantagraphics a year or two ago. Near the end of that collection, Weissman began using more color and screen patterns in his work. The strips in 2013 are full of experimentation. I corresponded with Weissman a few months ago to find out more because this strip just knocks me out. There's something about this obtuse style of cartooning, succinct dialogue, and cast of well-known characters that aren't who we expect that really appeals to me. You will also feel completely surprised from one week to the next on the topic of his strip. The recent "Finding America's Dog" comics is the closest equivalent to a story arc in the strip.
2. Amazing Facts and Beyond by Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch (Uncivilized Books)
Kevin and Dan have been producing these strips for a few years and self-publishing small collections along the way. This volume brings them together in one place. Through the voice of Leon Beyond, their odd little protagonist, they draw strips about science, nature, mechanics, physics... topics they have interest in. A brilliant project (and probably really fun to draw) that gives the artists freedom to create and experiment. Each strip has a different layout, number of panels, and overall form that fits the content, not a constraint they placed onto the project.
3. David Mazzucchelli's Daredevil Born Again: Artist's Edition (IDW)
These Artist Editions from IDW are rosetta stones for those who care about comic book original artwork and take joy in seeing yellow rubber cement, paste-ups, and pencil notes in margins. Mazzucchelli is a talented illustrator and this book showcases the highlight of his stint in mainstream comics. For a young artist without too many issues to his resume, he was given an unusual amount of freedom from Marvel's editors. He was able to ink his own pencils for one. From the first issues to the last, you can see improvement as well as using negative space and a brush more loosely. Artwork aside, you get to read the entirety of this Frank Miller script and get a better idea of their working relationship and how this story came about.
4. Goddamn This War! by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Pierre Verney (Fantagraphics Books)
This is a cheat. The work isn't from 2013, but the English language edition is. Fantagraphics did a good job packaging this up into one book (originally released in two volumes as "Putain de Guerre"). Besides the meticulously-referenced artwork, Tardi painted these panels using inks and they are gorgeous. This YouTube video shows him penciling, inking, and painting one of the panels.
Kim Thompson did a bang up job translating this. The narrator is recounting what it was like during WWI and the tone holds up well to translation.
5. Out of Skin by Emily Carroll
I am late to the Emily Carroll parade based on the reaction I saw with the recent announcement of her upcoming book collection. Carroll is making comics formatted for the web (not "webcomics"). That means, orienting your layouts to be better consumed on digital devices. I applaud her for that restraint. Her subject matter is dark, but the artwork is delicate. I'll be looking forward to seeing more from her.