Better late than never! These are some of the best comics I read in 2007. Warning: this list is not definitive, nor is it objective. It’s like Fox News that way.
Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson. One of the best comic strips since Calvin & Hobbes left the scene. This debuted last year, but Thompson has been drawing another strip, Richard’s Poor Almanack, for quite a few years in the Washington Post. The secret to his meteoric rise to the top of the syndicated heap? A unique, sketchy drawing style, likable characters, and witty dialog. The jokes never seem forced; the humor comes from funny conversation. Instead of waiting for the last panel to “bring the funny”, each exchange is loaded with humor. I find myself laughing at the setup just as much as the so-called punchline.
Lio, by Mark Tatulli. Although Lio was syndicated in 2006, the first book collection, Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod, came out last year. Lio is a pantomime strip influenced by Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, and maybe a little Charles Burns. Since I find it difficult to impossible drawing a comic strip without dialog, I admire Lio all the more.
James Kochalka’s diary comic. I’ve followed “American Elf” since his first strips were collected in book form. There is a calming rhythm to this daily strip. You can track where James’ interests change over the years. You can go to his website and read today’s strip for free! Kochalka has a warm, flowing drawing style that is immediately recognizable. I love his use of light and dark space. He is one cartoonist who knows how to use the entire panel as a work of art. Each panel looks good, and each page looks good.
Perry Bible Fellowship, by Nicholas Gurewitch. You just have to read it. He’s been drawing the strip for a while now, but the book just came out last year. I’m sad to hear that he’s decided to retire the PBF, and can only hope he doesn’t pull a Watterson on us and disappear forever.
Incredible Change Bots, by Jeffrey Brown. A parody of the Transformers, everybody’s favorite robots who change into cars. Actually, this is part parody and part homage, because the story is as stand-alone as any episode of the original animated TV show. Better by far than the Michael Bay movie that also came out last year. This was made by a person who loves the Transformers and wants their robotic legacy to live on in our hearts and minds.
The Comic Strip Art of Lyonel Feininger (reprint of earlier work). Lyonel Feininger was only briefly a cartoonist, but the comics he made are like none I had ever seen before. His full-page strips made use of the space by plunging his characters into epic stories that spanned continents.
King Cat (reprint of earlier work), by John Porcellino. King Cat is a self-published zine John has been making for many years. The book reprints quite a bit of King Cat’s run, excepting the parts John deemed too embarrassing for anyone to see ever again. I got into King Cat when I moved to Portland, so it was fascinating to see the huge change in tone and style that King Cat went through. I have to admit, the two reasons I picked up King Cat in the first place were: the title and picture of a cat with a crown and scepter and John’s frequent mentions of the Beatles. I felt like I had found a good friend.
Phase 7, by Alec Longstreth. My friend Alec makes a great comic which he writes, draws, markets, and distributes all by the sweat of his brow. This is the closest a man can come to having a baby.
Big Plans, by Aron Nels Steinke. Another Portland-based cartoonist (along with myself). Big Plans is a combination of longer stories and one-page strips. His drawing style is somewhat like James Kochalka in that there is a great use of light/dark space and a thick, brushlike line quality.