People tend to reminisce about long gone eras, arguing that things were always better way back when. But when it comes to comics, there’s no denying that the 21st century has seen the medium explode in unprecedented and unpredictable ways. For many people, that has come primarily in the form of the advent of the superhero blockbuster, and it’s certainly true that comic book adaptations are enjoying a dominance at the box office. Yet for those willing to look beyond Marvel and DC, there’s an even more exciting revolution taking part, as pop and art comics alike are undergoing a renaissance.
At Loser City, we feel that the 2010’s have been an especially exciting time to be into comics, thanks to the wealth of incredible material being produced as well as the emergence of more and more new perspectives from creators and fans who have historically been underserved in the medium. We wanted to take this opportunity here in the middle of the decade to look back at the phenomenal material that has already emerged and anticipate where comics are going next. Comics continues to have growing pains and a number of major issues hold the medium back from its true potential, but we have chosen this time to focus on the positive and hopefully introduce you to the works we believe are currently making up the modern canon. We already wrapped up part one, which you can check out here. Or if you’re already caught up, jump right in…
80. Fury MAX: My War Gone By
Written by Garth Ennis, Art by Goran Parlov, Colors by Lee Loughridge, Letters by Rob Steen
Published by Marvel Comics
Nobody writes war comics like Garth Ennis and his best work came this decade in the form of Fury MAX. Completely ignoring the infinity serum, super spy elements, and Marvel Universe at large, Ennis and Goran Parlov transformed Fury’s story into that of an accomplished World War II veteran aging throughout the Cold War. The series continually leaps forward in time, slowly taking its characters and American foreign policy apart as it goes. Each step ahead reveals new horrors, from the inevitable quagmire found in French Indochina to the corruption behind funding Nicaraguan contra rebels. Those that survive these tales are slowly worn down by their own actions and complicit guilt.
War is a brutal, terrible thing in Fury MAX and Parlov brings the pain and scars to life on each page. The action sequences are filled with well-researched details that accompany an unglorified look at combat. Weariness seeps into his characters and transform the tough guy, Clint Eastwood mystique of the series leading man into something we all ought to be frightened by, not admire. In an age where war comics are increasingly rare, there are few as good as those written by Garth Ennis, and none better than Fury MAX. – Chase Magnett
79. Fullmetal Alchemist
by Hiromu Arakawa
Published by Viz Media
I’ve wondered several times whether Hiromu Arakawa knows that she’s fucked up an entire generation of youth. Because honestly? This comic will fuck you up. I don’t mean in a Junji Ito kind of way, where you’re lying awake at night wondering if you’ll ever be able to sleep again. I mean in the special Fullmetal kind of way where Arakawa rips your heart out of your chest, tells you everything is going to be fine, hands it back to you, and then does it again. I only have to say the name of certain characters to friends and immediately they get upset. Hell, I’m getting emotional just writing this description.
Edward and Alphonse Elric live and die by the first law of alchemy: Equivalent Exchange. “To obtain, something of equal value must be lost.” In Amestris, where the comic is set, alchemy is a respected science and only the most talented can join the military to become State Alchemists. Using gorgeous transmutation circles, they can do amazing things–but only in exchange for something of equal value. After losing parts of their bodies in a transmutation gone wrong, Ed and Al decide to join the military in order to get access to research that will help them get those parts back. And in the process, they learn more than they wanted to about the military, about alchemy, and about themselves too.
On a larger scale, Fullmetal is the same. Fullmetal Alchemist lives and dies by the The Law of Equivalent Exchange and so will you, when you read it. Because “equivalent exchange” is just another phrase for sacrifice. What will Edward and Alphonse Elric give to see themselves restored to their former bodies? What will it take from you, the reader, to watch them meet roadblock after roadblock, to watch them uncover some of the ugliest secrets about each other and the world they live in?
To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. And what this comic gives you, it will take in return. – J.A. Micheline
78. Cul de Sac
by Richard Thompson
Published by Andrews McMeel
Cul de Sac was the white rhino. The double eagle coin. The five-leaf clover. The most rare and singular outlier. Cul de Sac was the last great American comic strip.
Seemingly born to draw, Richard Thompson, with his scraggy lines and lush watercolors, is pure cartooning personified. This strip, running daily from 2007 to 2012, is both an irony-free study on suburban ennui and an absurdist love letter to childhood. What sets Cul de Sac apart from other “funny kid” comedies is that it doesn’t deal in fond reminiscence (Calvin and Hobbes) or resort to stale laughs by having a child mouthing-off or saying something too cute (virtually every other example). The silly and the tender are both embraced by Thompson. In one sequence, key character Petey Otterloop, with his scratchy light bulb head, buys a keychain for his first crush. Not being able to build the courage to give her the gift, it sits on his bedroom shelf, a totem of his fleeting moment of intrepidity. Other strips account for the outlaw older brothers of Dill and the trebuchet they built in the driveway. Both of these examples show Thompson’s range of storytelling, refreshingly without a hint of cynicism.
There’s a huge cast, each with their own eccentric backstory: Alice Otterloop’s propensity to dance on manhole covers, Ms. Bliss’ unsteady engagement to Timmy Fretwork, the Banjo Man, and Grandma spitefully throwing deviled eggs at passing cars. These aren’t plot points, but personality traits. Genuineness in Thompson’s narrative and line work, all rough spindles and loose curls, creates anything but generic stand-ins. Cul de Sac is full of real children, parents, teachers and high comedy, equal parts bizarre and beguiling. – RJ Casey
by Oskars Pavlovskis
Published by Kushkomikss
Never mind what Mark said about Thor. THIS comic fucks. Lucky is one of those perfect cruelties, that sink their lions’ claws deep into your scaly hide and rip, rip, tear down to the dark meat below. That meat is your soul, and now you’re looking at it and it’s gross and beautiful, but you wake up. And that soul was somebody else’s all along. You have recognised the quivering sameness of all basic human individuality, and seen your fears reflected in a window you were sneering though. Spring-fresh colours and plenty of nightmare pink, this is a comic I’d put into an education capsule for the aliens, to represent our earth-bound cause. – Claire Napier
by Jaako and Lauri Ahonen
Published by Dark Horse
Alongside popular licensed titles and a flair for unique horror comics, Dark Horse also have a neat line in translated comics, most notably with the famous Blacksad. But it was another anthropomorphic animal tale that topped my list of comics in 2014, the quietly unassuming Jaybird. Finnish siblings Jaako and Lauri Ahonen first published Pikku Närhi in their homeland in 2012, winning the prestigious Sarjakuva-Finlandia (Comic Finlandia) prize the following year. After a successful crowdfunding campaign to publish the book in English, Dark Horse scooped up the graphic novel and unleashed the little Jay on our souls.
Living in a grand but dilapidated house with only their ailing mother for company, the Jaybird walks the empty corridors imagining the horrors that lie outwith the only sanctuary they’ve ever known. With mother preying upon the fears and paranoia, the windows are boarded up, doors locked, to better hide from the “bad birds” that lay in wait. This is a slow story, with tone and atmosphere pulling the narrative along, peeking through fingers with dread. Each page and panel is like one of the many portraits upon the houses walls, loaded with dark meaning and ill portents. The result is a story that will stay with you long after bedtime, and so confident are the Ahonens at hooking the reader, you can read the first 60 pages for free. – Laura Sneddon
by Joe Sacco
Published by Metropolitan Books
The greatest works of historical research don’t just illuminate a historical story. They also illuminate important aspects of the human experience. They force the reader to imagine him or herself in a moment in history, to imagine how they might react to the moments around them. They force us to confront ourselves in a way that profoundly changes us. Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza is transcendent.
Nominally the story of a horrific massacre in Israel in the 1950s, Footnotes is so much more. It’s the story of the beginnings of one of the most terrible struggles of the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s the story of families being split apart and destroyed by war. And most of all, for me, it’s the story of the sliding nature of memory, of how events that seem fixated in a person’s mind can change, shift and become unreal over time. Footnotes in Gaza isn’t merely an exploration of one historical event. Using the power of comics crated by one of the finest cartoonists in the world, it questions the nature of history itself. It triggers existential questions about the nature of memory. And through the nature of memory, it questions the fragility of human perception in a way that profoundly illuminates the human experience and leaves the reader changed. – Jason Sacks
74. Frontier #7: Sex Coven
by Jillian Tamaki
Published by Youth in Decline
This isn’t a sex comic. It’s a comic with nudity, teenage fumbling, and ritual sex, but it’s not a sex comic. Rather, it’s a comic about teenage subcultures– how they grow, spread, transform and fizzle out, with even the most devoted members ageing out and others policing themselves into irrelevance.
Jillian Tamaki’s Sex Coven takes place in the Napster era of discovering music via “download all,” of new-to-the-internet naifs sharing their entire hard drive and gifting young Megan with the entire back catalog of the British Invasion. What happens is this: a high school student downloads an untitled mp3 file, which turns out to be a six hour tone. He renames it Sex Coven and shares it. It spreads. The tone is– something. It affects teens and young adults but adults don’t understand it and can’t even hear what teens do, let alone what’s so special about it. Teens though, they’re transported. Soon there are covenheads, coven crawls, casualties and parental panic. And then, in a matter of years, it’s over. Save for the most devoted covenheads, who’ve built lives around analyzing the tone and call themselves The Tech. This is where the orgies come in.
Sex Coven is framed by an anthropological report by a young student, years after the fact, and it’s all in a muted blue-green and black. The linework is tactile, dreamy or crisp as necessary, but that framing device adds distance– it works. Hey, how do you experience Sex Coven? Are you drawn in by the experience, or are you straight edge, and keeping your distance? So, it may sound a bit on the nose, right? But Sex Coven is a short comic that doesn’t feel short, and an unsubtle comic that doesn’t feel obvious. How it feels, is special, like you’re being invited to experience, acknowledge, remember what Sex Coven is. – Megan Purdy
73. Beta Testing the Apocalypse
by Tom Kaczynski
Published by Fantagraphics
Anxiety has been one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century, plaguing us through fears of surveillance, natural disasters, the decay of capitalism and any number of other panic inducing concepts. Those anxieties all get played out in the art we create and consume but it isn’t very often that a work of art is able to approach modern anxieties in a completely novel way. Somehow Tom Kaczynski offered a number of unique approaches in his collection Beta Testing the Apocalypse, ranging from stories that explore the anxieties of a morning commute from the perspective of a car to Hollywood actors ditching the chaos and clutter of modern life to go full caveman to start ups that reject capitalism in favor of bio-organic assimilation.
Beta Testing the Apocalypse’s myriad interpretations of modern struggles led me to call it “Singles Going Steady for the art comix crowd” when I first reviewed it and it also shares a spry efficiency with that Buzzcocks classic, the stories expressing clever, unexpected angles and profound themes in only a handful of pages. But it’s also a divine piece of craftsmanship, with Kaczynski’s past as an architect showing in his stark, beautiful linework and overarching design philosophy. Fun, thoughtful and more than a little weird, Beta Testing the Apocalypse won’t cure modern anxiety but it certainly makes you feel a little less alone in experiencing it. – Nick Hanover
by Daniel Clowes
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
“Some of us have to act like grown-ups occasionally,” spouts the eponymous Wilson, Daniel Clowes’ delusionary mouthpiece for the curmudgeon condition. But how do you act like a grown-up when you’ve got no family, no friends, and nothing to fall back on except for your own lack of awareness? This book is less of a narrative and more of a character study of a middle-aged schlub — part George Costanza, part Charlie Brown — who fails at any personal progress, but is wildly successful at alienating himself from contemporary culture.
In inferior hands, Wilson, both the book and the character, would be exhausting, but Clowes masterfully see-saws with your emotions. On some pages he hints at Wilson’s big heart and genuine geniality just scenes from some seething ridicule. You never know what side of Wilson you’re going to get and the varying art styles reinforce that uncertainty. Each page is a separate vignette, set up in six or seven panels, featuring artwork ranging from hyper-realistic to the exaggerated “bigfoot” style of classic comic strips. The short chapters push the story along nicely and always end with a pitch-black punch line. From the café he plagues to his stint in prison, Wilson desperately grasps for any human interaction, and then violently shoves it away.
Thankfully the book treats you the same way. At a time when many comic readers naively demand their characters to take a clear-cut side, Wilson puddle stomps in the grey area. No one is good or attractive in this book and the author is without agenda, other than to force you to contemplate your relationships, existence, and the ambiguous nature of kinship. Long live Daniel Clowes! – RJC
by Takehiko Inoue
Published by Viz Media
Takehiko Inoue is a worker of miracles. My first encounter with him was also his first big hit, Slam Dunk. Sports manga are a hard sell for me (which is why you should be impressed that Cross Game appeared earlier on this list) and while it was fun and the art was expressive, it didn’t change my life. But then there was Vagabond.
The art is the easiest sell. There is not a single character who appears on the pages of this comic, however brief, that isn’t drawn to amazing detail and with incredible care. Inoue captures the struggle of the protagonist, Takezo, to contain his skill and explosively raw energy with the same near-flawless technique as when capturing Takezo’s rival, Sasaki Kojiro’s immense beauty. They are two equally dangerous edges of the same sword and Inoue wields his own artistic ability with the same beauty and the same rawness in the same measure. It’s a gorgeous comic with life breathing from every page.
And that’s just the start why Vagabond is on this list.
Vagabond is an adaptation of Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi, a fictionalized account of the life of Miyamoto Musashi. For those who don’t know, Miyamoto Musashi was arguably the best swordsman the world has ever seen and author of The Book of the Five Rings. But Vagabond doesn’t start with Musashi. To be honest, Vagabond isn’t even really about Musashi or his legend. Instead, it’s about Shinmen Takezo, a young man from a small village with more gift, more fire than anyone else can stand–Musashi before he was Musashi. It’s also about Kojiro–the gorgeous, deaf swordsman who will ultimately become Musashi’s greatest rival. It’s a personal story, one that fully embodies the journey-over-destination.
In fact, to be perfectly honest: it’s a comic that says “fuck you” to every work of historical fiction, every fictionalized life account that’s just an exercise in edging. You read so many biographical accounts that are more interested in blowing their load on the moment when the protagonist becomes “who they were born to be”, and I’ll tell you right now–Vagabond is not that. You read the comic and you get the sense Takehiko Inoue does not give a fuck about Miyamoto Musashi but he gives everything he’s got to Shinmen Takezo. And that’s how it should be.
Vagabond exemplifies its genre. Vagabond exemplifies its form. Vagabond exemplifies almost everything I want art to be.
Vagabond is a masterpiece. And the best thing about it is that it’s not over yet. – JAM
by Kyle Starks
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then there’s a long list of movies that get the thumbs up in Kyle Starks’ Sexcastle. As an affectionate parody of the violent action movies of the ‘80s, this is a comic that challenges the notion of whether or not a derivative work can be something great in its own right. I agonized for a hot minute over whether Sexcastle belonged on this list before reading it again and realizing that it sure as shit belonged here. Kyle Starks is coming from a place of love that enables him to dial in on what makes absurd movies like Road House so entertainingly watchable and dials it up for the transition onto the page.
There might be comics with more technical skill and intricate plotting but any comic would be lucky to have half the love poured into it as this one. The dialogue is frequently hysterical with plenty of “put the book down and catch your breath” lines that would put a Dril tweet to shame and the action is choreographed to new heights of violent absurdity. Without a doubt, this is the funniest comic you’re going to find on this list. If the difference between playing something straight and parody can be considered how far one goes then this comic goes far enough to be considered art. – Mark O. Stack
by Dash Shaw
Published by Pantheon
Bodyworld is an oddly difficult comic for me to write about. I took mushrooms for the first time this year, and I’m not being in the least hyperbolic when I say that a psychedelic trip in my early 20’s was not especially unlike reading Dash Shaw’s magnum opus when I was in my last year of high school, still trying to understand Comics, still getting used to the idea of Art. A psychedelic, cyberpunk pastoral that unfolds like a wall scroll, Bodyworld adheres to a rigid layout of grids that shudder and bend under the comic’s wild inner cosmogony. Colors warp and bleed; characters see things that aren’t there; you see things that aren’t there. The inanity of adolescence bends effortlessly into the magnificent terror of heavy drug use in this story, every shriek heard, every pick of the skin felt. If I’m not doing a great job describing what this comic is actually about, that’s because I just want you to understand that you need to experience it for yourself. More than any other comic that has come out this decade, Bodyworld must be inhaled to be believed. – Chris M. Jones
by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas
Published by Dark Horse
I’m generally not a fan of stories that can easily be pitched as X MEETS Y, and while Gamma certainly feels like the aftermath of a Pokemon meets Power Rangers mashup, Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas make the comic worth it. Since Freitas and Farinas co-wrote the book, I can’t know which of them to credit for “hero” Dusty Keztchemal, but I love how he has gone the way of the stereotypical child star, spiraling into depression and alcoholism, only able to make money by selling his body…to get beaten up by the folks who hate him (or just need to punch a dude; sometimes you just gotta punch a dude).
Farinas is one of the most underappreciated artists in the business, and Gamma lets him flex all of his muscles with massive scenes that evoke a near-Stokoe level of detail, an endless list of monsters to let his imagination run wild, plenty of excellent sight gags, and some really fun layouts. His colors on Gamma have a flatness to them that evokes ’80s and ’90s cartoons in a way that makes the book feel like a nostalgia trip despite also being very much a story of the dangers of looking back too fondly. Gamma was serialized in Dark Horse Presents, which I had no knowledge of until writing this, because there’s also a one-shot of it. It’s a couple bucks. Go buy it on Comixology or something. – David Fairbanks
67. Infinite Kung Fu
by Kagan McLeod
Published by Top Shelf
The best martial arts work of the decade didn’t come out in theatres or get reissued by Criterion. Instead, it came from a Canadian artist mostly known for his commercial art in magazines like Entertainment Weekly. Infinite Kung Fu was created by Kagan McLeod basically over the span of his entire adult life and it shows, mixing expert level references to classic kung fu works with absurd wit and McLeod’s signature elastic style. Though it follows a number of kung fu narrative tropes, starring Lei Kung as a former soldier who has to destroy a number of bad dudes to bring peace to the land, it deviates from the formula in a number of interesting ways, like the abundant undead kung fu hordes and secret star of the work, Moog Joogular, a funk star martial arts master with the ability to separate his limbs from his body at will.
Infinite Kung Fu works because McLeod’s artistic talent is matched by his passion for the subject, enabling him to creatively express the imaginative behind-the-scenes stories he likely dreamed up as a kid haunting Toronto’s old cinemas. The medium of comics allows McLeod to let that imagination run rampant in a way film can’t, meaning that where the limits of technology forced the Shaw Brothers and their peers to make do with wires and harnesses to let their characters soar, McLeod is under no such obligation. Infinite Kung Fu is more than a martial arts masterpiece, it’s a testament to the potential of the comics medium that refuses to view cinema as anything other than an inspirational peer. – NH
66. This One Summer
by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
Published by First Second
For as many stories marketed as “coming of age” as there are, very few actually hit the mark. The fleeting moments between childhood and adolescence when the world shifts from being plainly understandable to impossibly complex are difficult to capture. That is exactly what Jillian and Mariko Tamaki accomplish in This One Summer though. It is the story of two young women forging a friendship while staying at their parent’s vacation homes. Together they witness both their parents and the teenagers around them struggle with things they are only beginning to comprehend.
The Tamaki’s reproduce the language, joy, and angst of this brief period beautifully. Intense conversations in bathing suits move as gracefully as spreads of care-free dancing. Everything from the characters outfits to the houses they occupy are carefully designed and feel lived in with minor details revealing relatable, but unique lives. Many of the most important details are hidden just out of sight or buried in subtext though, returning readers to the obfuscation and frustration experienced in youth. That sense of connection and unwillingness to provide clean resolutions makes this a story that is every bit as revealing, and occasionally heartbreaking, as the end of childhood itself. – CM
65. Lazarus: Family
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Michael Lark, Colors by Santiago Arcas
Published by Image Comics
Set in a world split up into different holdings by family-run corporations, we follow Forever, the Carlyle Family’s genetically engineered warrior, who is fast, strong, and has come back from the dead numerous times. Forever is only a pawn, however, in the compelling struggles between Carlyle and the other families in their corruption, greed, and fascistic control over the rest of the human population.
Through writer Rucka’s deep research, the Lazarus universe has many eerie resemblances to the direction our world is heading in today and through artist Lark’s pencils and colorist Arcas’s shades, readers receive a dark, action-filled tale that is hard to put down and even harder to forget. – Ray Sonne
64. Private Eye
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art by Marcos Martin, Colors by Muntsa Vicente
Published by Panel Syndicate
Bursting onto the scene in 2013 with teaser images that invoked the power of social media– Follow, Like, Share– nobody quite knew what to expect from this pioneering pay-what-you-want digital comic from Saga co-creator Brian K Vaughan. Combining the intrigue of a post-internet future with Eisner award winning artist Marcos Martín and the incredible day-glo colouring of Muntsa Vicente proved to be an overwhelming success with a deluxe collected print edition out in time for Christmas.
At a time when privacy is being invaded like never before, or at least not within the last century of reckoning, Vaughan writes of a world in which the internet exploded, showering information both public and private down upon the people. With the concept of privacy obliterated and knowledge no longer holding any power, people hide in plain sight beneath hi-tech masks and our hero claims the title of paparazzo, an unlicensed journalist. The dynamic urban landscape is a dream to navigate with widescreen layouts making the most of the digital page, and backlighting gives Vicente’s palettes an even greater height of vibrancy. Quite how the DRM-free, radical pay-what-you-want digital comic will translate to a fixed price block of paper– a transition inspired by demand and accessibility in a world still bridging the physical-digital gap– will be interesting to see. – LS
Published by Fantagraphics
In the back of a stuffy minivan, two hours into a five hour drive from Montreal to Toronto, I read Wuvable Oaf in one sitting and found that it was good. It’s a formerly self-published, Bay Area gem– now given top shelf treatment by Fantagraphics with a meaty first volume. Oaf is a socially awkward gay dollmaker and cat whisperer; a sweet-hearted but sweaty bear, seeking a tiny, toppy, rage-filled boyfriend. Between bar fights and bathhouse misadventures, underground punk and metal shows, Oaf does find the man of his dreams, but as all things in Wuvable Oaf it’s complicated and a little weird.
It’s the cover that sold me on it, initially– this cat-loving wild man with hot pink murder eyes– and it’s frequently Ed Luce’s artwork that makes it all come together. Wuvable Oaf is a very silly comic and Luce’s characters are simply drawn but incredibly expressive. Luce lays strange on strange on absurd– weird orphanage! evil cats! a serial killing cannibal chef!– until it begins to seem unsustainably zany. But listen, it’s fucking funny and at times unbearably cute. The cats are a perfect cartoon distillation of pure evil and pure cute. Oaf himself is a master work of adorably scary.
But even more than the cute, it’s the substance of Wuvable Oaf that makes it so special. It’s a queer comic about metal, wrestling, odd obsessions, cats, and never quite belonging or meeting expectations. Every scene has its rules– Wuvable Oaf is a comedy about breaking all of them. Let me put it like this: Luce has received requests from fans to Oafize them in commissions. It’s delightful and I’m disappointed in those of you who haven’t read it yet. – MP
Written by Curt Pires, Art by Ramon Villalobos
Published by MonkeyBrain
LP feels like a great swindle, a cigarette for an anarchist, a fuck up, one of those “how-come-nobody-told-me-about-this-comic” comics. Curt Pires constructs a shaggy-dog story that dogs a junkie rocker, F., in his search to recover a supernatural 33 that was stolen from him. F.’s journey is inconsequential, a kind of 4/4 back-beat of genre tropes hung on a pedestrian plot. The thrills of LP are in its dissonances and angular melodies: Pires’ ideas (that other-worldly LP, henchmen in S&M dog masks and vision quests) in concert with Villalobos’s execution.
The rawness of Villalobos’s cartooning plays as dirty, punk– an R. Crumb squishy kind of bulbous quality that wants to be looked at, leered at, free from shame. Defiant. From F.’s red jacket and the wrinkles on fabrics and faces and to to the LP itself as it changes, transforms, kills, Villalobos’s skill is in interpreting interstitial processes, his calling card is transformation. The power of comics is in the reports (those marks), those transmissions, received from an artist’s imagination, Villalobos succeeds as such a sage.
LP is a pure and uncut comic. Pires and Ramon Villalobos create a story that aspires to only be a comic and nothing else and (nowadays) those satisfactions are rare … permanent. – Keith Silva
61. Assassination Classroom
by Yūsei Matsui
Published by Viz Media
In creating this list, we allowed translated works as long as they were fairly recent and their publication in English was in line with the rest of our series. Assassination Classroom was a breakout hit in Japan in 2012, and right now the series has over 10 million copies in print across over 20 volumes. It’s been in English for about a year now, and Yūsei Matsui’s high school action comedy about a group of delinquent students tasked with assassinating their teacher is one of the funniest and most touching comics I’ve read in recent memory.
Assassination Classroom starts from a rather ridiculous premise: a superpowered alien (nicknamed “Koro-sensei”) destroyed 70% of the moon, leaving it a permanent crescent and is planning a similar fate for Earth, but he wants to teach high school for a year. Humanity has that year to kill him and save the Earth. The thing about Koro-sensei is that he is 100% genuine in his love for his students, going so far as teaching them how to better attempt to assassinate him and exacting vengeance on those who would wrong his kids. While Assassination Classroom is fun and funny, it also has a dark side to it, addressing serious issues with the hierarchical society that can be created by the Japanese high school system as well as the militarization of youth and its frequent connection to education. – DF
For the rest of the 100 Best Comics of the First Half of the 2010’s:
Torsten Adair says
So… the first half of the decade? 2010-2014?
Just wondering, as you have some books on the list from 2015.
We’re not really that pedantic of a crew here at Loser City.
David Fairbanks says
Okay, but how pedantic are we, boss?
Chris Eckert says
There are also books from 1970-2009 on the list, so getting caught up over what five years constitute half a decade really seems to be pushing things.
We included translations, because it is only relatively recently that a lot of comics material has been published in English and the recent translations of Japanese material have been especially influential with current creators and fans (newer or currently running manga that began before 2010 but had volumes published after that date were also considered fair game). And yes, Footnotes in Gaza came out at the tail end of 2009, but the case was made that it really had its impact in 2010, when it received several awards.
Chris Eckert says
I wasn’t trying to be pedantic or attacking, and I’m pretty far out of the list-making game loop. I know Footnotes in Gaza came out in 2009, but a whole bunch of good stuff came out in 2009 and due to the nature of awards probably didn’t win any awards until 2010. I thought that particular Tatsumi translation came out in the early 2000s, but turns out it was September 2006, which still seems early for inclusion on a list like this. I admit I’m not as familiar with some of the other manga on the list, which in several cases have been running for well over a decade. Was the portion of those books published and/or translated in 2010-2015 the basis for their inclusion? I mean, while I would never question their overall worth or influence, would Doonesbury or Peanuts make the list of greatest comics 2000-2015 since they both had new content published since 2000? Would a late 1999 film like Fight Club be considered for a Best Film of the 21st Century list considering that it gained popularity post-theatrical release and Fincher’s influence has only grown since it came out?
Questions like these are why I don’t make lists, but you are braver than me.
No worries, I didn’t think you were attacking, I was just trying to clarify. For Footnotes, it was that it came out at the end of the year, not simply that awards are generally given a little after publication. On the Tatsumi front, it looks like the person who nominated that one had their dates mixed up and incorrectly though that the 2012 publication was the first North American publication and then I didn’t catch it in the editorial process. Whoops.
Doonesbury and Peanuts would not have been eligible because they have been widely available in English for a number of years and/or have been widely known and had generational influence. The manga selections and reissues were included because in most cases (Tatsumi mix up aside), these are works that are new to North American audiences even if they have been available elsewhere (or illegally) for some time. We felt it was worthwhile to branch out and include international work because in the past half a decade, comics audiences have been able to have more international palettes than ever before. Comics audiences and creators have had plenty of time to process and draw from established, long running Marvel or DC or comic strip works but they haven’t had as much time to draw from Asian and even European material.