Saturday, September 19, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Core Program 2010/2011

 Robert Boyd

This is the latest book report. It's the book published for the Core Program from the 2010/2011 class. I wrote about this group of Core fellow's art show in 2016 here. Here are some links to the artists mentioned here:

Kelly Sears

Gabriel Martinez

Steffani Jemison

Clarissa Tossin

Nick Barbee

Friday, September 18, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Kent State

 Robert Boyd

Today I'm discussing Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf. This graphic novel just came out and I recommend it highly, But I slightly resent it because he stopped working on his webcomic "The Baron of Prospect Avenue" top complete it. You can read this incomplete comic here. It's a sequel to his first book, Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. I've reviewed some of Derf's work in the past, including My Friend Dahmer and Trashed.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report: Ganzfeld 7

 Robert Boyd

Today, my book is an old one (published in 2008): Ganzfeld 7 edited and published by Dan Nadel. I've reviewed Nadel's books and exhibits in the past, including his work on Hairy Who, his exhibit at RISD, What Nerve!, The Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival, and reviews of various books published by Nadel's own publishing house, Picturebox.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Report 3: Evil Geniuses

 Robert Boyd

This week I'm talking about Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Anderson. There are a lot of awkward jump cuts where I edited the video. This is the first review in this series that has zilch to do with art, but it won't be the last. But no worries--I return to art in my next review.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Reports 2: The Mystery of Rio

 Robert Boyd

I read another book this week, and talk about it here. The book is The Mystery of Rio by Alberto Mussa.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Robert Boyd's Book Reports: 3 New York Dadas + The Blind Man

 by Robert Boyd

I decided to start using my free time (being an unemployed guy whose job was ended by COVID) creatively. I've been reading a lot, so I decided I would record brief reports of books as I read them. This is my first attempt (which I think will be obvious when you watch it). The book being discussed is 3 New York Dadas + The Blind Man.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Coronavirus Dream

Robert Boyd

“What is common in all these dreams is obvious. They completely satisfy wishes excited during the day which remain unrealized. They are simply and undisguisedly realizations of wishes.”
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

I had a dream last week that illustrates this theory.

I was at an art exhibit’s opening night. It was in a non-art space, a large room that seemed like a cheap banquet hall with wood paneling. It was a casual group show as opposed to a curated show. The vibe reminded me of Houston’s great defunct art space, the Joanna, but the space was much larger than the Joanna had been.

There were two huge stone and metal sculptures—they were roughly ovoid-shaped boulders wrapped with bands of a shiny yellowish metal. As I looked at them, I wondered how the organizers transported them into the space. They looked like the weighed tons. I was wondering if the floor was sturdy enough to support them. I walked over to one of them and it disappeared, turning into a energy bar in my hands. Somehow I didn’t question this remarkable transformation and instead unwrapped the energy bar and ate it. But almost instantly I felt guilty for eating the art. Hanging next to the remaining boulder were a couple of crudely made sculptures. One was a model of plane, like a really old Cessna. But it was not perfect—it was kind of rough and lumpy, as if it had been made of papier-mâché. It reminded me a little of Tom Sachs’ work. Brandon Zech was standing nearby and I asked him if he knew who the artist was. He shrugged his shoulders.

 Tom Sachs, Crawler, 2003, foamcore, thermal adhesive, wood

There was a table with a variety of artworks on it. It was a folding banquet table, the kind you might see at a zine festival. And like that kind of table, it was strewn with small objects for sale. Some were three-dimensional, and some were small drawings. One pile attracted my attention. They appeared to be watercolors of faces, mostly of well-known people. They had a savage quality without being out-and-out caricatures. There were several pictures of Ronald Reagan. I wondered who had made them. I looked on the back for a signature and saw only a penciled price. They were all really inexpensive: twenty six dollars and some cents. It was a weirdly specific price and well within my price range.

I decided to buy two Reagans, then I noticed another artist had also painted a Reagan on paper. It was different but also appealing. I decided to buy all three. I explained to someone there that I thought Reagan was worth memorializing because it was his presidency that had started the USA on a dystopian libertarian downward path. By the end of the dream, I had also picked up a video with a Reagan theme. Why was Reagan in my subconscious last night? I don’t know. Then I woke up.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Archive Art

Robert Boyd

Just before coronavirus shut everything down, I went to San Antonio for Novel Ideas, Blue Star Contemporary's art book fair. The keynote speaker was Julie Ault, who had been a member of the art collective Group Material from 1979 to 1996. Group Material is probably best known for the AIDS Timeline produced in 1990. They produced research-based artwork, usually very political. Listening to Ault speak got me thinking about this kind of art. I've seen examples of it many times over the years, but for whatever reason, Ault prompted me to think of it as a specific genre of art. A kind of art that doesn't, as far as I know, have a name. I've been calling it "archive art" in my mind, but if any of you know an already existing name, please let me know.

I stumbled across a workable definition while reading America Starts Here, a big art book about the work of Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler. It's been on my "to-read" shelf for a long time, and this quarantine moment seemed like a good moment to crack it open. The first essay is by Bill Arning, written before he moved to Houston to become director of the Contemporary Art Museum. In it, he wrote:
The list of strategies Ericson and Ziegler used to make artworks seemed very unusual at the time, though today's young artists regularly employ these methods, which include the following: 1) Researching arcane areas of knowledge and pursuing a passion for the aura of the archive; 2) Using mapping and other similar ways of schematizing life; 3) Creating a system that dictates all significant visual decisions about a work's presentation; 4) Employing found elements rather than causing something new to be made; 5) Viewing the entire country as a text to be read, engaged and decoded; 6) Using natural materials, like stone, leaves, and water, as they are inflected or coded by culture; 7) Critically engaging decoration and architecture for what they reveal about society; 8) Using Americana as topic, material, or motif; 9) Engaging cultural institutions, museums, and monuments, such as the Supreme Court, libraries, and universities; 10) Investigating governmental decisions about urban space and making them public; 11) Collecting and collating found language, which can subsequently function as a kind of found poetry; 12) Using the practical business decisions of others as a structuring device for works; 13) Designing projects that exist in multiple states, each of which creates meaning; from the first research to the final use of materials; 14) Insertting delays into a process that unnaturally extends the in-between period of a simple task such as landscaping or cleaning, rendering otherwise invisible processes conspicuous and examinable; 15) Allowing works to disappear through transformation, making them cease to be "art" and instead begin to fulfill a useful function; 16) Cooperating with people outside the specific disciplines of the art world in a way that gives them a non-artistic way to participate; 17) Choosing to work with each other as collaborators.
That is quite a list! And really, I think the totality of this list only applies to Ericson and Zeigler. But I think big portions of the list apply to many of the artists who create "archive art," like Group Material.

In 2012, artist Robert Gober produced a notable example of archive art for the Whitney Biennial. He created a mini-exhibit of work by Forrest Bess. The archive part of came in vitrines devoted to Betty Parsons (Bess's gallerist) and John Money, a researcher who studied sexuality and who corresponded with Bess. This doesn't exactly fit into the approach outlined by Arning, except maybe 1) and 4). But it did require original research on Gober's part. This micro-exhibition was expanded into a major solo exhibition by the Menil Museum. Gober is not typically an archive artist--he is best known as a maker of intriguing, enigmatic objects. But he totally stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park in this project.

Two years later, the Biennial had another notable piece of archive art, The Gregory Battcock Archive by Joseph Grigely. Grigely serendipitously discovered a bunch of Battcock's papers in the building where he had his studio in 1992. Battcock was an art critic who appeared in several Andy Warhol films over the years and was the subject of a notable Alice Neel painting. He was murdered in 1980; the murder remains unsolved. In his statement about the work, Grigely describes the archive as a kind of portrait of Battson: "A document is both a material artifact and a node within a network of human relations. We both draw and draw out Battcock from these relations--the artists he talked with, the critics he argued with, the meals he shared, the students he taught, and the tricks with whom he had sex--they are all here, some with names, some with pseudonyms." I remember being fascinated by The Gregory Battcock Archive when I saw it at the Biennial--it was perhaps where the idea of "archive art" first lodged itself in my mind as a distinct category. That said, the problem with such art is that it doesn't have much visual interest. I'd much rather see an Alice Neel painting.

Alice Neel, David Bourdan and Gregory Battcock, 1970

The lack of visual pleasure is the biggest failing with this genre of art. But Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler are exceptions to this airless approach. The work they did fits into Arning's schema while also being visually beautiful.

Carrie Schneider, installation at the CAMH, 2014

One local artist who has long engaged in this kind of artwork is Carrie Marie Schneider. Her exhibition, Incommensurate Mapping, at the CAMH in 2014 was a perfect example. She studied the CAMH's archives and used them to critique the CAMH in an amusingly subversive way. I wrote about this exhibit at length when it came out in two posts for this blog.

There have been other notable examples of this kind of art (loosely defined) in Houston. For example, City Council Meeting, a semi-theatrical piece of participatory artwork put on by Aaron Landsman, Mallory Catlett and Jim Findlay under the auspices of DiverseWorks at the El Dorado Ballroom in 2012, or Liz Magic Laser's Tell Me What You Want to Hear at DiverseWorks in 2012. Or Ericson and Zeigler's Red House (1979) and several other projects from the same time in Houston, as well as an installation at DiverseWorks in 1987. Obviously, DiverseWorks has been a major venue for this genre of art for several decades.

For me, this work sometimes is remarkably good. The idea of researching and presenting one's research has a natural appeal to a bookish person like me. It depends on how well the artwork is constructed and how much the artists' obsessions line up with my own. In the case of The Gregory Battcock Archive and Incommensurate Mapping, they worked for me very well indeed.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Go Read My Review of Patrick Renner's Current Exhibit

I wrote about Bounty, Patrick Renner's huge new installation up not at Redbud Gallery. The review is up at Glasstire.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

An Apocalyptic Dream

Robert Boyd

I dreamed I was living through a societal collapse. Things were breaking down and not getting repaired, and people were just dealing with it as well as they could. A slow-motion apocalypse. In this environment, I was trying to organize my various family members into a string quartet. Why this seemed like an important thing to do, I don't know. It was a bit of dream logic.

But when I thought about it, I was reminded of the story of Quatuor pour la fin du temps by Olivier Messiaen. He was interned in Stalag VIII-A after being captured at the beginning of World War II. He composed this startling music in the camp and premiered it there in the rain before an audience of prisoners and guards. It must have seemed to listeners like a tiny piece of culture in the face of the end of civilization. As the USA continues its slow motion collapse, we still need art to be created, even when is seems at times like a frivolous indulgence.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Man Without Talent

Robert Boyd

Yoshiharu Tsuge, The Man Without Talent (2019, New York Review of Books)

Yoshiharu Tsuge, "Red Flowers" published in RAW 7, drawn in 1966, published in English in 1985

Back in 1985, Yoshiharu Tsuge's "Red Flowers" was published in RAW number 7. It was published as an inset booklet inside RAW's oversized pages. It was for many art comics readers our first encounter with the work of this genius. RAW published another Tsuge story in 1990. I have been waiting over 30 years for a book of Tsuge's work to appear in English. When the flood of translated manga started being published in English in the 90s, I felt certain some publisher would step up. But for some reason, Tsuge was reluctant to allow it. (The story of that reluctance would be worth knowing. I had heard that he had given up comics to spend his life fishing, but reading Ryan Holmberg's essay in this volume suggests a psychological reason.)

In any case, he stopped drawing comics in 1987 and withdrew from public life until he drew this book in 1998. It may have felt a bit like Marcel Duchamp withdrawing from art making to play chess, only to return with one final work, "Étant donnés: 1° la chute d'eau / 2° le gaz d'éclairage" (1966). Tsuge returned with this book in 1998. But while Duchamp was officially involved with chess, Tsuge's withdrawal seems to have been fueled by depression.

This book is a first person novel that is quite autobiographical, although the primary activity of the main character, Sukezō Sukegawa, is selling stones, something that Tsuge apparently never did. (Tsuge's life is described in the introduction by Ryan Holmberg, who also translated the book.) Even though Sukezō had worked as a comics artist, for some reason he has given that up. He and his wife and son live a precarious existence of abject poverty as Sukezō comes up with various improbable schemes to support his family. He briefly has a little success buying and repairing old cameras he finds at flea markets (something Tsuge did), but when the fad for buying old cameras fades, so does this source of income. In the meantime, he encounters a variety of equally pathetic entrepreneurs scrapping together existences on the margins of one of the richest capitalist economies on Earth. 

 Yoshiharu Ysuge, The Man Without Talent p. 166

In this page, we can see that he has given up his old profession, dramatically demonstrated by the fact that his ink has become moldy. (Note that the pages are designed in a mirror image of how western comics pages are design--right to left.) You can see that his art is not flashy. It is simple and unadorned, without flash. It is basically realistic, but the figures are undeniably cartoons. This somewhat stripped-down approach typifies Tsuge's work, although he has a gift for drawing beautifully detailed scenes of nature. But his bitterness towards art comics--of which his work is a shining example--is understandable. There are few art forms as labor-intensive and unremunerative.

He meets a bookstall owner, Yamai, who is like himself. He, too, strives to vanish from society by being useless and invisible. He gives Sukezō a book of haiku by a 19th century poet Seigetsu Inoue, who appears to have been a real person. In reading about Seigetsu, Sukezō seems to have found an earlier avatar of people like himself and Yamai. Perhaps that is Tsuge's intent--to describe a class of people who by their very nature choose to become invisible, to fade out and vanish. Apparently Tsuge has done this frequently throughout his life. Though the book doesn't say overtly that this a result of mental illness, a reader could conclude it. The Man Without Talent is a profoundly sad book, but there is a kind of embedded hopefulness in it. Tsuge did, after all, write and draw it. He could have just vanished instead.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Pictures of Artists

Robert Boyd

Last weekend, Jack Massing hosted a one-day only exhibit dedicated his recently deceased partner Michael Galbreth. (They were the Art Guys.) The entire Houston art community showed up. I decided at some point to take phone photos of as many of the artists, collectors, etc., who were there. I missed a lot of people I wanted to photograph, but I got a few. And here they are.

Britt Thomas. Thomas has an exhibit up at the Galveston Arts Center through April 12, 2020.

Clint Willour

David Aylsworth

Dean Ruck. I've written about Havel + Ruck projects several times over the years.

Debra Barrera. Here is a post that Dean Liscum wrote about a Debra Barrera exhibit.

Dennis Nance.

Elaine Bradford. Here's a post I wrote about Elaine Bradford.

Emily Peacock. I've written about her several times over the years.

Emily Sloan. Emily Sloan was one of the first artists in Houston I ever wrote about.

Iva Kinnaird.

Jack Massing.

James Surls. I've written about this giant of Houston art several times.

Jim Pirtle. Jim Pirtle has appeared in this blog many times.

Joachim West.

Julon Pinkston. Julon Pinkston has had several appearances on this blog.

Neil Fauerso.

Paul Kremer (l) and Phillip Kremer. I wrote about Paul Kremer's former collective (maybe it would be better to be call it a club), I Love You Baby.

Paul Middendorf. Runs Space HL (formerly Gallery Homeland).

Peter Lucas.

Scott Gilbert.

Sharon Kopriva (center) and Brad Barber (right)

Susan Budge.

Travis Hanson.

Tudor Mitroi.

William Camfield.

Xandra Eden. Director of Diverse Works.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Revised Best Comics of the Decade Lists

Robert Boyd

At the beginning of the year, I conflated 6 best-of-the-decade lists into one list (two actually--one for publications, one for artists). I figured my work was done. Then this week, I heard about another list that intrigued me, so I wrote about it. At the risk of beating a dead horse, the site that published Kim Jooha's list also published best-of lists from its other contributors. So there were five best-comics-of-the-decade list on this site, a new comics news and criticism site called Solrad. The lists were by:
  • Ryan Carey
  • Rob Clough
  • Daniel Elkins
  • Alex Hoffman
  • Kim Jooha
I liked their lists because they were closer to my tastes. (I have since discovered other best-of lists that were pretty much all superheroes, which I have chosen to ignore.) So I decided to update my list taking into account the five Solrad lists.

Best publications

Titles author Number of times ranked
Daytripper Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon 4
Hawkeye Matt Fraction and David Aja 4
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Emil Ferris 4
Prince Of Cats Ron Wimberly 4
You & A Bike & A Road Eleanor Davis 4
Girl Town Carolyn Nowak 3
Hark! A Vagrant! Kate Beaton 3
Lumberjanes Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brooklyn A. Allen, Carolyn Nowak, Carey Pietsch, Ayme Sotuyo, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese 3
Mister Miracle Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles 3
Saga Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples 3
The Love Bunglers Jaime Hernandez 3
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Derek Charm 3
A Bride’s Story Kaoru Mori 2
Alienation  Inés Estrada 2
Batman Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo 2
Berlin Jason Lutes 2
Big Kids Michael DeForge 2
Black Hammer Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston 2
Copra Michel Fiffe 2
Everything Is Flammable Gabrielle Bell 2
Giant Days John Allison, Max Sarin, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell 2
Goodnight Punpun Inio Asano 2
Grip Lale Westvind 2
House Of X/Powers Of X Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller 2
Julio's Day Gilbert Hernandez 2
Last Look Charles Burns 2
Monstress Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooton 2
O Human Star Blue Delliquanti 2
The Immortal Hulk  Al Ewing, Joe Bennett 2
The Nib Mat Bors and a cast of thousands 2
The River At Night  Kevin Huizenga 2
The Wicked + The Divine Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie 2
This One Summer Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki 2
Thor Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman 2




As you can see, the top titles of this revised list are quite different than the previous list. As for the best-ranked artists, the new list looks like this:

author Number of times ranked
Eleanor Davis 7
Matt Fraction 7
Carolyn Nowak 6
Fábio Moon 5
Gabriel Bá 5
Jaime Hernandez 5
Jillian Tamaki 5
Brian K. Vaughan 4
David Aja 4
Emil Ferris 4
Emily Carroll 4
Noelle Stevenson 4
Ron Wimberly 4
Scott Snyder 4
Tom King 4
Alan Moore 3
Aubrey Aiese 3
Ayme Sotuyo 3
Blue Delliquanti 3
Brooklyn A. Allen 3
Carey Pietsch 3
Derek Charm 3
Erica Henderson 3
Fiona Staples 3
Gilbert Hernandez 3
Grace Ellis 3
Greg Capullo 3
Inio Asano 3
Jason Aaron 3
Kat Leyh 3
Kate Beaton 3
Lale Westvind 3
Maarta Laiho 3
Mariko Tamaki 3
Michael DeForge 3
Mitch Gerads 3
Ryan North 3
Shannon Watters 3
Tillie Walden 3
Tom Muller 3
Aidan Koch 2
Al Ewing 2
Ben Mendelewicz 2
Charles Burns 2
Chris Ware 2
David Hine 2
Dean Ormston 2
Francesco Francavilla 2
Gabrielle Bell 2
Gina Wynbrandt 2
Inés Estrada 2
Jamie McKelvie 2
Jason Latour 2
Jason Lutes 2
Jeff Lemire 2
Jim Campbell 2
Joe Bennett 2
Joe Caramagna 2
John Allison 2
John Porcellino 2
Jonathan Hickman 2
Kaoru Mori 2
Kevin Huizenga 2
Kieron Gillen 2
Kyoko Okazaki 2
Lissa Treiman 2
Marco Failla 2
Margot Ferrick 2
Marjorie Liu 2
Marte Gracia 2
Mat Bors 2
Max Sarin 2
Michel Fiffe 2
Olivier Schrauwen 2
Pepe Larraz 2
R.B. Silva 2
Raina Telgemeier 2
Rus Wooton 2
Russell Dauterman 2
Sam Alden 2
Sana Takeda 2
Sarah Glidden 2
Shaky Kane 2
Simon Hanselmann 2
Walden Wong 2
Whitney Cogar 2

The addition of the Solrad lists moves Carolyn Nowak way up on the lists, and adds a lot of artists not present on the previous list.

Solrad is brand new. Their first post was on January 1. Tom Spurgeon's sudden, unexpected death has ended his site, The Comics Reporter. I don't think Solrad will replace it--their focus is a lot more art comics, whereas Tom was kind of an open filter.  But art comics are my interest, so I am looking forward to what they publish. If they display a weakness in their first week of existence, it's that their 5 best-of lists were produced by four white guys and one woman (who I think is of Korean ancestry--at least Jooha seems to be a Korean name). Dudes--this is 2020!

Friday, January 10, 2020

One More List

Robert Boyd

This list comes from Kim Jooha, who was the associate publisher of 2dcloud and is a writer about comics. 2dcloud is one of the most adventurous publishers of comics today, which gives you an idea of where Jooha is coming from. (She's the kind of person who uses the adjective "Deleuzian.") She expresses an ambivalence about lists, quoting from Elena Gorfinkel's manifesto "Against Lists":
Lists aggregate the already known and consolidate power… 
Lists pretend to make a claim about the present and the past, but are anti-historical, obsessed with their own moment, with the narrow horizon and tyranny of contemporaneity. They consolidate and reaffirm the hidebound tastes of the already heard... 
Lists will always disappoint… 
Torch your list. If you must count, write as many words about any film not on your list. Read as many words about a woman filmmaker or filmmaker from the global south. Or convert those words and characters into units of time, watching a film never on your list…
What makes her list different than the ones I analyzed in my last post (and my own list that was included therein) is that she lists artists rather than works. Here are the artists she put on her "Best Comics of the Decade" list:

Lale Westvind. (Who was also on the Comic Books Are Burning in Hell list.)
Jillian Tamaki (highly ranked on many best-of lists)
Patrick Kyle (who I don't think featured on anyone's list that I have seen)
Ilan Manouach (ditto)
Francesc Ruiz (whose work is somewhat conceptual)
Mushbuh (not on anyone's list)
Char Esme (ditto)
Ben Mendelewicz (ditto)
Gina Wynbrandt (ditto, but her work has been widely discussed outside of "best comics" lists)
Aidan Koch (She didn't make any of this year's lists that I noticed, but she made my personal 2015 list.)
Margot Ferrick (as far as I can tell, she is not on any other lists)
Aurélie William Levaux (Her works are not what I'd call comics, but I welcome an expansive definition)
Rantan (A Korean artist whose work has not been published in English as far as I know)
Tillie Walden (as far as I can tell, she is not on any other lists)
Some of the reprint projects of Sunday Press Books (kind of a cheat, since all these comics are nearly 100 years old).
Reprints of women cartoonist. Also kind of a cheat, but surely there should be a "best of the decade" list for archival and translation projects of comics that are older than 10-years-old.
Super-Structure. A Franco-Belgian anthology.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Best Comics of The Decade

Robert Boyd

In 1990, I worked on one of my favorite publishing projects, a two-volume anthology called The Best Comics of the Decade, published by Fantagraphics Books and co-edited with Gary Groth and Kim Thompson. The thesis behind these volumes was that the 80s had seen an explosion of great comics in anthologies (like RAW and Weirdo), in newspapers (specifically in alternative newsweeklies), and in what at the time was called alternative comics (which included publishers like us, Fantagraphics Books). Another part of our thesis was that most of the greatest works had been in short stories. The age of the graphic novel hadn't yet arrived, although Maus volume 1 had been published in 1986.

Our volumes excluded superheroes from Marvel and DC, partly because we were snobs about mainstream comics, but partly because we didn't have access to that material. If we had, would we have included something? Maybe an excerpt from Watchmen? We did include an Alan Moore story which we loved, called "Pictopia," which is a weird story about how the innocent fun of old-time heroes in comics had been replaced by a grim and cynical type of superhero--one that Alan Moore himself is partly responsible for (along with Frank Miller).

The thing about assembling this volume was that we editors felt that knowing what comics actually were published in the 80s was a doable task. We had each read thousands of pages of comics and felt like we had a grasp of what had been published. (Because we thought that book buyers back then would never shell out for a 240-page book of comics, we published it in two volumes. That's another thing that has changes a lot in the past 30 years.)

Things have changed. Back then, "alternative comics" (i.e., anything that wasn't super-hero comics) were eking out an existence on the fringes. While superheroes now dominate our pop culture, in the world of comics, they are no longer utterly dominate comics mind-space as they once did. They still do to a certain extent--I know when I tell someone I am interested in comics, they usually ask about superheroes. As I have pointed out many times before, I am interested in comics as a category of art, like literature, theater, music, film, visual art. (To limit it to one genre or format is something I am not willing to do, especially a genre controlled by two large entertainment megacorporations, Warner Brothers--which owns DC Comics and all its properties--and Disney--which owns Marvel and all its properties.)

But in the 2010s, so many comics have been published that there is almost no way one person could have read them all. (I would fear for the sanity of anyone who tried.) Nonetheless, some brave souls have attempted to construct their own "best of the decade" lists. This decade has been dominated by book-sized publications, which is reflected in their lists. The lists I looked at were:
The best list in my opinion is Comic Books Are Burning in Hell's, and it is also the shortest. The Beat's is the longest. The total of all five lists is 130 titles (or 129, because there is some overlap on a Batman title). The lists are mostly unranked. (I'll put the whole list at the bottom of this post.)

It occurred to me that one way to rank the comics would be to look at which ones appeared on multiple lists. So with a long morning of Excel-ery, I have made a list of the most highly regarded comics of the decade by that criterion (appearing on multiple best-of lists).

Here are all the titles that appeared on at least two lists:
  • Hawkeye, Matt Fraction and David Aja, 4
  • Mister Miracle, Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles, 3
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Derek Charm, 3
  • Prince Of Cats, Ron Wimberly, 3
  • Hark! A Vagrant!, Kate Beaton, 3
  • Lumberjanes, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brooklyn A. Allen, Carolyn Nowak, Carey Pietsch, Ayme Sotuyo, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese, with Brittney Williams, Faith Erin Hicks, Aimee Fleck, Rebecca Tobin, Felicia Choo, and T. Zysk, 3
  • Daytripper, Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, 3
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Emil Ferris, 3
  • Saga, Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, 3
  • Batman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, 2
  • Copra, Michel Fiffe, 2
  • The Nib, Matt Bors and a cast of thousands, 2
  • Monstress, Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooton, 2
  • This One Summer, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, 2
  • The Wicked + The Divine, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, 2
  • The River At Night , Kevin Huizenga, 2
  • House Of X/Powers Of X, Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller, 2
  • Giant Days, John Allison, Max Sarin, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell, 2
  • Black Hammer, Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, 2
  • Thor, Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, 2
  • The Love Bunglers, Jaime Hernandez, 2
  • Goodnight Punpun, Inio Asano, 2
  • You & A Bike & A Road, Eleanor Davis, 2
  • Last Look, Charles Burns, 2
  • O Human Star, Blue Delliquanti, 2 
I have only read six of these in their entirety. The Nib would be difficult to read all of--it's a political comics site that one dives in in bits and pieces. But I've read a LOT of the comics there; I highly recommend it. I've read a bit of Lumberjanes and Copra, but didn't really connect with them. I haven't read any of the superhero titles because that's a genre I've outgrown in comics. And as for the rest, I've heard of most of them...

Perhaps a better way to look at it would be to see which authors and artists were referenced most frequently by appearing on multiple lists with multiple titles. Of course, I made a similar list.
The number refers to the number of times a person appeared anywhere on any of the lists. Several appeared in anthologies that made the list (Mould Map 3 and Smut Peddler 2012 Edition, specifically).

I'm willing to agree with the consensus in one small way: Eleanor Davis is the comics artist of the decade. What a privilege is has been to see her blossom as a cartoonist.

It is interesting to look at this list and see who among them were also in The Best Comics of the Decade in 1990. The only three who made both were Charles Burns, Jaime Hernandez and Alan Moore (three giants, to be sure).

OK, given that I have read only a small fraction of the comics that were published between 2010 and 2019 (and given that I have only read some on the master list that I will reproduce below), here are my favorites, selected by perusing my bookshelves 10 minutes ago:

  • Over Easy by Mimi Pond (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)

  • Berlin by Jason Lutes (Drawn & Quarterly, 2018)

I have personal connections with many of the artists here, and I've met all of them except for Julia Wertz and David B.

This is the most I've thought about comics in one sustained burst in a long time.  I wish I had insights about the past decade to share. I don't except to note how that book has become the dominant form and that female artists and artists of color are now the dominant figures in art of comics. They make up more than 50% of my personal list, at least. That's a big shift.

I want to dedicate this post to the memory of my friend Tom Spurgeon, who died in November.

Addendum: Some additional best-of lists made me want to revise these compiled lists, which I have done here.

Here is the combined best-of list mentioned above:
  • “Time” by Randall Munroe
  • 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa
  • A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Olma and Steven LeCroy
  • Afterlife With Archie by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla, and Jack Morelli
  • All-New Wolverine by Tom Taylor, David Lopez, David Navarrot, Marcio Takara, IG Guara, Bob Wiacek, Victor Olazaba, Walden Wong, Nik Virella, Scott Hanna, Djibril Morissette-Phan, Leonard Kirk, Cory Hamscher, Marc Deering, Terry Pallot, Juann Cabal, Marco Failla, Ramon Rosanas, Nathan Fairbairn, Jordan Boyd, Mat Lopes, John Rauch, Michael Garland, Jesus Aburtov, Erick Arciniega, Nolan Woodard, and Cory Petit
  • Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir and Christina “Steenz” Stewart
  • Arsène Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen
  • Basquiat by Julian Voloj and Søren Mosdal
  • Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
  • Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock, Francesco Francavilla, David Baron, Jared K. Fletcher, and Sal Cipriano
  • Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
  • Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët
  • Becoming Unbecoming by Una
  • Berlin by Jason Lutes
  • Big Kids by Michael DeForge
  • Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro, Cris Peters, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Clayton Cowles
  • Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston
  • Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang and Lark Pien
  • Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu
  • Building Stories by Chris Ware
  • Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
  • Clyde Fans by Seth
  • Copra by Michel Fiffe
  • Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
  • Daredevil by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez, Matt Wilson, and Joe Caramagna
  • Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon
  • Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
  • Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, Mark Morales, Sean Parsons, Howard Porter, Jose Marzan Jr., Paul Mounts, and Dave Sharpe
  • Fatherland: A Family History by Nina Bunjevac
  • FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred
  • Frontier #7 by Jillian Tamaki
  • Gawain’s Girlfriend and the Green Knight by Polly Guo
  • Generous Bosom by Conor Stechshulte
  • Giant Days by John Allison, Max Sarin, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell
  • Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak
  • Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano
  • Grip by Lale Westvind
  • Guts by Raina Telgemeier
  • Hark! A Vagrant! by Kate Beaton
  • Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja
  • Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola
  • Helter Skelter by Kyoko Okazaki
  • Here by Richard McGuire
  • Hilda & The Black Hound by Luke Pearson
  • Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor
  • Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers
  • House Of X/Powers Of X by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller
  • How To Be Happy by Eleanor Davis
  • How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Is This How You See Me? by Jaime Hernandez
  • It Never Happened Again by Sam Alden
  • Julio's Day by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
  • Last Look by Charles Burns
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valerio-O’Connell
  • Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
  • Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brooklyn A. Allen, Carolyn Nowak, Carey Pietsch, Ayme Sotuyo, Maarta Laiho, Aubrey Aiese, with Brittney Williams, Faith Erin Hicks, Aimee Fleck, Rebecca Tobin, Felicia Choo, and T. Zysk
  • March by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
  • Margot’s Room by Emily Carroll
  • Mister Miracle by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles
  • Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooton
  • Mould Map 3 by Aidan Koch, Amalia Ulman, Angie Wang, Ben Mendelewicz, Blaise Larmee, Brenna Murphy, CF, Cody Cobb, Daniel Swan, Dmitry Sergeev, Gabriel Corbera, GHXYK2, Hugh Frost, Jacob Ciocci, James Jarvis, Joseph Kelly, Jonas Delaborde, Jonathan Chandler, Jonny Negron, Julien Ceccaldi, Karn Piana, Kilian Eng, Lala Albert, Lando, Leon Sadler, Matthew Lock, Noel Freibert, Olivier Schrauwen, Robert Beatty, Sam Alden, Sammy Harkham, Simon Hanselmann, Stefan Sadler, Viktor Hachmang & Yuichi Yokoyama
  • Ms Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Jacob Wyatt, Elmo Bondoc, Takeshi Miyazawa, Nico Leon, Francesco Gaston, Marco Failla, Diego Olortegui, Ian Herring, Irma Knivila, and Joe Caramagna, with Saladin Ahmed, Rainbow Rowell, Hasan Minhaj, Devin Grayson, Eve L. Ewing, Jim Zub, Gustavo Duarte, Joey Vazquez, Kevin Libranda, Minkyu Jung, Juan Vlasco, and Bob Quinn
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris
  • My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
  • My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi, Caleb Cook, and John Hunt
  • My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Kabi Nagata
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  • O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti
  • Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran
  • On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
  • Patience by Daniel Clowes
  • Peplum by Blutch
  • Poochytown by Jim Woodring
  • Prince Of Cats by Ron Wimberly
  • Prison Pit by Johnny Ryan
  • Providence by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows
  • Rock Candy Mountain by Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer
  • Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
  • Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
  • Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster Dimino
  • Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and Michael Allred
  • Sir Alfred no. 3 by Tim Hensley
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Smut Peddler 2012 Edition by Rebecca Ruby, Megan Furesz, Trisha L. Sebastian, Erin Basie, M. Magdalene, Mr. Darcy, Betty Jean Doe, Nora Riley, Kel McDonald, Rennie Kingsley, Erika Moen, Leia Weathington, Algesiras, Dwam, Argets, Ursula Wood, Jennifer Doyle, E.K. Weaver, Magnolia Porter, Shari Hes, Steve Horton, Erica Leigh Currey, Alice Fox, B. White, Ambrosia, Alice Hunt, Dechanique, Carla Speed McNeil, Karate McDanger, Jess Fink, Blue Delliquanti, Nechama Frier, Pupcake Jones, Lee Blauersouth, Abby Lark, Theo Lorenz, C. Spike Trotman, Diana Nock, Amanda Lafrenais
  • Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron, Jason Latour
  • Spider-Gwen by Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez
  • Sunburning by Keiler Robert
  • Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto
  • Super Late Bloomer by Julia Kaye
  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew
  • The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
  • The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
  • The End of the F@(U$*#+g World by Charles Forsman
  • The Fifth Beatle by Vivek Tiwary, Andrew Robinson
  • The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis
  • The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino
  • The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett
  • The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez
  • The Multiversity by Grant Morrison, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Walden Wong, Ben Oliver, Frank Quitely
  • The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon
  • Nemo by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
  • The Nib by Matt Bors and a cast of thousands
  • The Oven by Sophie Goldstein
  • The Passion Of Gengoroh Tagame by Bruno Gmuender
  • The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin
  • The Property by Rutu Modan
  • The River At Night by Kevin Huizenga
  • The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman, JH Williams III and Dave Stewart
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Derek Charm
  • The Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Walta, Jordie Bellaire
  • The Walking Dead #193 by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard
  • The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
  • This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
  • Thor by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman