The Montreal Gazette lists TUBBY, MAKE ME A WOMAN and PICTURE THIS as top comics of 2010!

Pictures help tell the story

The Montreal Gazette    |    Ian McGillis    |    December 11, 2010

When it's done right, graphic literature combines the best qualities of books and film to produce a reading experience of unique immediacy. Here are some of 2010's best titles, suitable for adepts and newcomers alike.


The comics scene is a culture aware of its history and respectful of its elders, with cutting-edge publishers often maintaining a parallel role as curators. A good case in point is The John Stanley Library: Tubby (Drawn & Quarterly, 144 pages, $34.95), a lovingly presented collection of 1954-55 Dell comics featuring the adventures of the rotund boy gourmand of the title. Today, political correctness would probably deep-six the mere idea of it -why, some tubby kids might feel hurt! -but collections like this serve as salient reminders of the roots of a culture, and of the undervalued art of telling a story in a simple sequence of panels. Elsewhere, Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross (Pantheon, 224 pages, $37) de-mystifies the work of one of the leading contemporary painters of superheroes -Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al -by showing the original pencil renderings.

Make Me a Woman, by Vanessa Davis (Drawn & Quarterly, 176 pages, $26.95) collects seven years worth of frankly autobiographical comics and drawings centring on the social rituals, private pleasures and identity struggles of a young, self-deprecating, middle-class Jewish American woman. Davis trains the keen eye of a comic anthropologist -a David Sedaris who can draw, you could say -on her friends, family and herself, in the process proving the maxim that the road to the universal runs through the specific.

It isn't exactly new (it came out last year), but Poof! by Line Gamache (Conundrum, 93 pages, $15), the tale of a young woman who loses her inspiration and goes on an epic journey with her talking dog to find it, is too good to miss. Gamache's use of flattened perspective and exuberant detail recall both cave painting and children's art; while not a children's book as such, Poof! is nonetheless one of the few books on this page suitable for even the youngest of readers, infused as it is with wonder, whimsy and a crucial edge of menace. A similar theme is approached from a very different angle in Picture This by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly, 225 pages, $31.95). Barry is a sui generis pioneer with a mission to unlock creativity through memoir; this time around, she explores the question of what causes us to start drawing and, just as pertinently, what causes us to stop. Even more than most graphic books, Picture This resists easy encapsulation; it demands to be seen.

Adolescence can be a drag at the best of times, never mind when you're stuck in a small Quebec town, your peers are ridiculing you over a viral YouTube video and your uncle is achieving dubious Internet stardom of his own. Bigfoot, by Pascal Girard, (Drawn & Quarterly, 48 pages, $20.95) uncannily evokes the sexual confusion and all-round queasiness of what someone once laughably called the wonder years. If you're a teenager
now, this is your life; otherwise, prepare yourself for an emotional time warp.

A new edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia (Harper-Collins/Collins Design, 160 pages, $19.99) provides a case study in literary conditioning. We're so accustomed to seeing Carroll's text alongside the iconic illustrations of John Tenniel that any other combination runs the risk of simply looking wrong. Surprisingly quickly, though, Garcia's psychedelia-tinged style insinuates its own charms, and we see a familiar work through refreshed eyes.

Anyone still feeling lost for a way into the comics
world is heartily steered toward The Best American Comics 2010 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 329 pages, $28.95). Editor Neil Gaiman presents a meritocracy where near-unknowns share the table with many of the form's biggest names. While a feast like, say, R. Crumb's vision of the Book of Genesis inevitably loses something in sample size, you couldn't ask for a better hors d'oeuvres tray.

Finally, from slightly outside the graphic lit purview comes Portfolio 24: The Year's Best Canadian Editorial Cartoons (McArthur & Co., 176 pages, $19.95), a showcase for our country's best practitioners of a discipline too often taken for granted.

Graphic novels and classic comics cover a wide range

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