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The Best American Comics 2006 (Best American) Hardcover – October 11, 2006

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The idea of Houghton Mifflin's distinguished Best American series turning to the comics would once have seemed unlikely, but the powerful narratives in this collection prove why it's a good idea. Editors Pekar (American Splendor) and Moore (Punk Planet magazine) concentrate on the graphic equivalents of literary fiction and essays, and the best results are haunting. The contents range from the fantastic (Rebecca Dart's "Rabbithead," which channels Topo Gigio and Clint Eastwood) through fiction (an excerpt from Alex Robinson's graphic novel Tricked) to serious nonfiction (Joe Sacco's account of a Marine unit in Haditha). The longer chunks of story tend to be the most effective, like Justin Hall's "La Rubia Loca," an engrossing story about a bunch of hippie slackers stuck on a bus tour through Mexico with a crazy woman. Although there are strong offerings from established comics greats like Crumb, Jaime Hernandez and Lynda Barry, the editors also showcase newcomers like Jesse Reklaw (his touching "13 Cats" is the story of a fractured childhood told through the author's attachment to a series of doomed kittens. A few of the shorter pieces are almost amateurish by comparison, but in general this volume shows the Best American Comics concept to be a showcase for thought-provoking and evocative work. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For the inaugural volume in Houghton's newest Best American Series annual, American Splendor auteur Pekar made the final selection of 30 pieces from 150 that comics maven Moore, who shows an impressive grasp of the current scene, culled from graphic novels, alternative newspapers, self-published minicomics, and the Web. The choices expectedly include the medium's most prominent names, all near the top of their form, but Moore also unearthed first-rate contributions from artists likely to be known only to the most dedicated comics mavens. There's nary a dud in the bunch, although Justin Hall's account of adventure travelers in Mexico, David Heatley's powerful portrait of his father, and Rebecca Dart's formally accomplished, wordless fantasy tale are especially outstanding. The tyros may be raw in spots, but they sit comfortably alongside their more accomplished colleagues, and the high standard this edition sets heightens expectations for future series installments and the talent they may introduce. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (October 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618718745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618718740
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"One of the sharpest thinkers and cultural critics bouncing around the globe today" -- Razorcake.

Anne Elizabeth Moore is a Fulbright scholar, Truthout columnist, and the multiple award-winning author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007) and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People (Soft Skull, 2004). Co-editor and publisher of now-defunct Punk Planet, founding editor of the Best American Comics series from Houghton Mifflin, Moore teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and works with young women in Cambodia on independent media projects. Moore exhibits her work frequently as conceptual art, has been the subject of two documentary films, and her work appeared on the radio program Snap Judgment and in the Progressive, Bitch, and on Truthout. She has written for The Onion, Feministing, The Stranger, In These Times, The Boston Phoenix, and Tin House. She has twice been noted in the Best American Non-Required Reading series. Her work with young women in Southeast Asia has been featured in Time Out Chicago, Make/Shift, Today's Chicago Woman, and Print magazines, and on GritTV and NPR's Worldview. She recently mounted a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Her latest book for Cantankerous Titles, Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh, recently received a Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism.

She was born in Winner, South Dakota. Seriously.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
With at least two other comics anthologies out this past year, this one is good but certainly not the 'best' as its title claims. Pekar's choices seem very unstructured. Some of his selections have already appeared in (the legendary) "McSweeney's 13" two years ago which was edited by Chris Ware. Ware's selections though seemed to weave a narrative of their own with a bit of comics history thrown in. A direct follow-up to McSweeney's is "An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories" edited by (Ware colleague) Ivan Brunetti who continues in the idea of providing a historical context (or at least background) for today's comics. Equal to all of these is the well-designed, daring "Kramer's Ergot 6" (though "Kramer's Ergot 5" is better, if you can find it) which was created by Sammy Harkham who has an editing style like a curator of a contemporary art exhibit.

It's not that Pekar's selections are bad, it just seems repetitive if you've been paying attention to "alt-comics" (or "art comics" or "comix" or whatever you want to call them) for the past 5 or so years. The challenge that a comics anthology has over an anthology of short stories or poetry is that a range of narrative styles is not necessarily a good thing. Without a theme of sorts (at least within the editor's head), the stories seem to swim around in this book and certainly don't hold well together as they do in the aforementioned ones. Not bad, but certainly not the best as Houghton-Mifflin is jumping in late on the game.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to say, this is an uneven bunch of stories. Pekar's bias toward autobiography and slice-of-life, and against anything mainstream is palpable. Many of the comics are also poorly written non-linear claptrap that use random acts of violence in order to negotiate their "plots." Just about all of the one-two page stories he picked out were boring in the extreme - how Peter Kuper's SPY VS. SPY or Sergio Aragones's work in Mad, didn't make it in against such obviously poor competition is beyond me.

Worst off, Pekar makes a point, in his intro, to disparage superhero comics, then starts the collection off with a poorly drawn satire of superhero comics - the satire being obvious and blunt - making fun of the fact that deadly radiation, which will kill you in the real world, will somehow give you super powers in the comic world - wow! that's an original observation! The artist, in his bio in the back of the book, admits that he used stick figures in his drawing, because he was caught in a deadline crunch, and essentially cheated on the job he was getting peanuts for, to free up time for the job he was getting paid well for. He was embarrassed to admit that he had become the much sought after "stick figure artist," when he was actually a realistic artist who was just phoning one in. You'd think Pekar, and the rest of the alternative comics world, would be embarrassed to think that the cheaply done work of an artist was considered "the best."

Many of the comics suffer from a dearth of camera angles. Comic story after comic story mainly uses the strait on camera angle to the viewer. Alternative comics are far far behind the mainstream artists in their ability to tell a story with their art, using angles, silhouette, perspective, shading, panel and page layout, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
The Best American Comics 2006, edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore, is something of a mixed bag. The physical components are top notch, so this collection will look very nice on the bookshelf. Also, there is a nice variety of techniques and styles in the offering. In this respect, it is probably a good representation of the state of American comics today. On the downside, I feel that there is a bit too much filler in this volume.

Make no mistake, Pekar and Moore deserve a good deal of credit for this work. Several of the stories are extremely good. Among these, I would include Complacency Kills by Joe Sacco, La Rubia Loca by Justin Hall, Dance with the Ventures by Jonathan Bennett, Portait of my Dad by David Heatley, Thirteen Cats of my Childhood by Jesse Reklaw, and Walkin' the Streets by Robert Crumb. These stories are well drawn, emotionally moving, and very well written. Some of the other work, however, is simply average, or just didn't appeal to me. A small portion of the book is not very good at all, in either story or art.

One of the more questionnable offerings, in my opinion is Rabbithead by Rebecca Dart. This story is highly innovative, but it comes across as more bizarre than enjoyable. Chemical Plant/Another World by John Porcellino is another one that I found objectionable. It falls in that "slice of life" category without much meaning or substance. Fortunately, these weaker stories are in the minority.

One very admirable aspect of this work is the price. The hardbound book is an exceptional value at $22.00. When compared to the usual price of graphic novels, you get quite a lot of bang for your buck. If a reader doesn't mind some inconsistency in the quality, it's probably a good buy.
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Format: Hardcover
This collection of comics is uneven: the stories alternate between flashes of brilliance and mediocrity. These may not be the "Best" comics written in 2006, but there are some gems here.

Some of the comics are highly personal masterpieces, such as Jesse Reklaw's "Thirteen Cats of My Childhood" in which he traces the tragicomic situations of his home life with a running narrative of the various cats his family owned.

Robert Crumb's "Walkin' the Streets" is a fascinating account of the "everyman" nerd that feels out of place no matter where his is.

Lynda Barry's "Two Questions" is a simple, yet amazingly deep comic, dealing with the insecurities every comic artist faces. In a subtle, masterful way, she even broaches the subject of censorship of comics and how society as a whole represses those that challenge convention.

"La Rubia Loca," is the story of how a woman deals with a woman going crazy on a bus trip through Mexico. It is compelling and draws the reader into an awkward situation. The artwork is excellent and the drama is palpable.

"Ready to Die" is "Dead Man Walking" meets the comic form, Kim Deitch's musing on the lethal injection of a killer. Deitch humanizes the character even more the film "Dead Man Walking" humanizes its killer. This is an example of the power of the medium - it is impossible to read this strip without some emotions welling up within the reader - anger, confusion, sadness.

Unfortunately, most of the rest of the comics here are not extraordinary. Some of them suffer from poor artwork or uninteresting storylines - or lack of a narrative altogether. Some of them feel self-indulgent and self-pitying.
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