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Special Feature


Extended Flashback: 2007 in Review
By Adam McGovern


(Continued from Page 2)


Best Newspaper Comic: “George Sprott (1894-1975)” by Seth, New York Times Magazine, Sept. 2006 — March 2007

Since the paper of record finally got a comics section, it hasn’t gotten finer than this collaged narrative of public lives and remote truths. The whimsy of George McManus and the ambition of Orson Welles make the kind of match that only comics are designed to achieve (and still only a few cartoonists do).

Best Webcomic: The Process by Joe Infurnari

From the magic-mirror landing page to the meaningful creative-process background notes to writer/artist Infurnari’s fluid, free-associative storytelling, this is everything that inventive online art and mind-opening comics are meant to be. []

Best Comic Outside of Comics: Ben Katchor in Metropolis Magazine

It’s not exactly that setting is character for Ben Katchor, but that cities of millions are one cacophonous, unknowably intricate, intimately familiar mind whose buildings and billboards are the canvas of its dreams. Katchor’s skylines and streetscapes are not concrete structures of shelter and commerce but catacombs of meaning and shifting ecosystems of desire, the street-signs and window-ads an incidental autobiography of immigrant neighborhoods’ collective family sagas; the skyscrapers, tenements and cultural landmarks unconscious memorials to their inhabitants’ enthusiasms and eccentricities. Katchor’s one-page strips for the architecture magazine Metropolis are treasure maps to places that don’t precisely exist, private divinings of public spaces we think we know. Signature work from perhaps the most underrecognized and surely most advanced writer-artist in comics today, and crying out for a collected edition, from rooftops real and imaginary. []

Best Adaptation of Comics Into Other Media: Men of Steel, March 15 — April 8, 2007 at Center Stage, New York City

Beowulf (co-written by comics scribe Neil Gaiman) was a grand, Kirbyesque vision of barbaric folklore reflected through the caffeinated culture of the barbarians’ contemporary mook counterparts; Ghost Rider was gourmet junk food, fun-packed and pretension-free; FF/Silver Surfer at least got its second title character very right (significantly, by subtly adapting him rather than literally transferring him from the paneled page); 30 Days of Night had humanity, heart, style, suspense and a botched rush ending; the strikingly designed, politically tampered-with 300 was, well, a great Lynn Varley movie. But the most satisfyingly pulpy and intriguingly literate transformation of comics to live-action was not on screen but on stage, with the New York-based Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company’s production of playwright Qui Nguyen’s Men of Steel. It was a Watchmen-level exploration of the compromises, contradictions, comedy and commitment of those who pursue the heroic ideal, covering the unquestioning loyalty of the lawful goodguy, the unexamined wrath of the vigilante avenger, the sacrifices and uncertain morals of those seeking human perfection and the courage and casualties of those craving common humanity. And lots of thrilling fights, sleek costumes and compelling melodrama, none of it not brilliantly belonging there. With affectionate craft and important questions, this was superheroes grown up but not outgrown. []

Men of Steel

Best Writing on Comics: Douglas Wolk, Reading Comics (How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean) [Da Capo Press]

When people wonder what comic it’s best to initiate new readers with, I’m temped to say this book of essays instead. Wolk is that rare critic who extends and complements the artistry of the work in question, a gifted reteller whose words give context, not get in the way of, this visual medium. From the perceptual puzzles of Grant Morrison to the compositional innovations of Will Eisner, Wolk is skillful and sometimes visionary in describing the intangible and making sense of what he’s seen. Wolk is out to found a debate, not fix a canon, but he provides a thoughtful and reliable guide to what’s worth remembering that should open the eyes and lower the eyebrows of geeks and snobs alike (Jimmy Corrigan and Adam Warlock haven’t shared space in many books, but that now may change). Wolk is capaciously well-read and it frees him to make novel yet unforced connections. One pitfall of critics who literally know and have seen it all is a forest-for-the-trees fallacy; especially in the chapter on Alan Moore, Wolk’s cerebral consciousness of the comics’ mechanics seems to interfere with his visceral appreciation of their effects. But a multiplicity of experiences of the work serves a fullness of perspective on the medium, and even when you disagree with Wolk he asks all the right questions to get you thinking about the artform and not just reacting to it. That’s a good balance for this textual/sensual medium whose words and pictures can’t do without each other, and fans serious about both their artform and their entertainment shouldn’t be without this book.


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