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The Best American Comics (2014)

by Scott McCloud(Favorite Author)
3.67 of 5 Votes: 4
0544104269 (ISBN13: 9780544104266)
Houghton Mifflin
review 1: Of all of the Best American Comics volumes to come out over the past several years, this is the one I was most looking forward to...and for two reasons. First, Jaime Hernandez did the cover illustration, which is absolutely a wonderful piece of work that really says it all. But more importantly, I was excited by the fact that Scott McCloud was the guest editor. It makes sense that McCloud finally tries his hand at compiling this collection, in that he has a broad sense of the medium, and he brings more of a studious and contemplative approach than about all of the other past guest editors. I respect McCloud's assessment, even if I don't necessarily agree with him all of the time, and I've often taken his comments as a cue to seek out certain titles with which I was unfamil... moreiar. This year's BAC is no exception, as McCloud does a good job at presenting a fairly representative overview of the current state of comics -- or at least comics published between September 2012 and August 2013, the focus of this volume. There's always the temptation to be the armchair quarterback, to take issue with the choices the editor made or feel that he left out other things that you would have included. That's always going to be the case with a project such as this. But if you keep in mind that each Best of American Comics volume isn't any sort of objective "best of" volume, but instead is prone to the same tastes, predilections, and agendas (intended or unconscious) as any other creative endeavor, then you can get a lot out of these books. (I have issues with the "best" part of the title in this series, but that's another story.) And one of the best things about the BAC series is that it introduces readers to comics that they weren't familiar with previously, or didn't even know existed. That's been the case with me, although one thing that struck me this year was how many of the entries I was already familiar with, either having read or being on my to-read list already. If I had one criticism here, it wouldn't be for this this particular volume -- although I would have liked a different webcomic to stand in as the one reproduced representative in that particular section (there, I did something I said I wouldn't do) -- but for the idea of the series as a whole. If you take a look at all of the guest editors through the years, from Harvey Pekar on down to this year's project, you see a trend and a particular kind of editor/creator. Sure, both McCloud and Neil Gaiman stand out as a little different from the other past editors -- e.g., Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Alison Bechdel, Chris Ware -- but they're not that different, when you think about it. One could argue that Gaiman is part of the mainstream, but even then, you'd need to qualify your definition of "mainstream" and admit that, really, Gaiman was a relatively "safe" choice in having such broad multi-media appeal. I'd be interested in seeing the BAC series choose a guest editor more enmeshed in the mainstream of comics culture -- and by "mainstream," I mean more than just superhero comics -- and see what they're able to come up with. I actually addressed this issue with the new series editor, Bill Kartalopoulos, when we interviewed him recently on The Comics Alternative, and he said that that's something he didn't think would happen. He made a comment about how HMH in-house editing has a say in the selection process, and that lead me to believe that maybe any "radical" shift from the series' tried-and-true guest editor selection process would have roots internally. Might this underscore something we've discussed many times on the podcast, a bifurcation of a comics-readling public? Are those who make decisions on choosing or approving guest editors the kind of readers who get their list of creators from The New Yorker and the New York Times bestseller lists? Perhaps I'm being to facile in assuming this kind of alternative/indie bias, but it would be a nice exercise -- and a welcomed change of pace -- to find someone more anchored in mainstream (i.e., comics-shop comics, those distributed primarily through the direct market) as a guest editor. What kind of choices would this person make for the year's "best"? What about a Rick Remender? What about a John Byrne? What about a Mike Mignola? What about an Ed Brubaker? What about Scott Snyder? Or damn, what about a Grant Morrison (I was tempted to say Alan Moore, but that would be a choice closer to that of Gaiman)? Morrison would definitely be fun to see. These are just some thoughts or speculations...although I don't assume we'll see this anytime soon.Still, this kind of speculation doesn't take away from the fact that this is a wonderful anthology, one of the best the BAC series has produced so far. Kudos to both Kartalopoulos and McCloud!
review 2: McCloud couldn't have been a better editor! I hope HMH/The Best American series brings him back again and again. Each introduction is a gem, and McCloud got me appreciating certain artists (Chris Ware: "...the burden of memories") in a whole new way. I especially appreciate his attempts at articulating webcomics - which is terribly hard for me to maneuver; and I laughed out loud at his hyperbolic reference to seppuku in regards to understanding this particular art form! At the beginning of the book, McCloud warns readers to honor the planning of this book; I issue the same warning: read the book in sequence! The sequencing of the collection is a work of art itself! less
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I wonder why 'K.' gave it two stars?
One of the best in the series.
Interesting as always.
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