We’re getting there, I promise! Next up in our 2017 year in review we come to the top 10 vintage collections of the year, a list which comprises reprint collections released over the past 12 months of material originally published prior to the year 2000. Not much preamble apart from that necessary other than the standard reminder that these selections won’t be accompanied by anything like “reviews,” just quick summations of why you, dear reader, should buy them :
10. Belgian Lace From Hell : The Mythology Of S. Clay Wilson Vol. 3, edited by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics) – The final volume of Fantagraphics’ exhaustive half-biography, half-comics retrospective of the career of underground trailblazer S. Clay Wilson presents a terrific selection of strips that don’t just transgress, but utterly annihilate, any and all notions of good taste with recklessly gleeful abandon — but a handful of very noticeable production glitches (missing text paragraphs, etc.) hold this back from being ranked as highly as, frankly, it probably deserves to be.
9. Doom Patrol : The Silver Age Omnibus by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani (DC) – Who can argue with having the entire, and justly legendary, Drake/Premiani DP run collected between two covers? Not me, that’s for sure — and as a longtime fan, seeing the original “team of outcasts” finally getting their due in a deluxe volume such as this is cause for pure joy.
8. Soft City : The Lost Graphic Novel by Hariton Pushwagner (New York Review Comics) – Visionary Norwegian cartoonist Pushwagner’s dystopian sci-fi magnum opus, a labor of love undertaken from 1969 to 1975, was thought lost to the ages until its rediscovery in Oslo in 2002, and here finally receives the exhaustive and meticulous presentation so long overdue it. A visually and thematically insular world of its own, ready and waiting for you to get lost in.
7. The Complete Skizz by Alan Moore and Jim Baikie (2000 A.D.) – A largely-overlooked early entry in the Alan Moore canon that’s aged incredibly well, this decidedly Thatcherite take on E.T. is funny, fascinating, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and sharp as hell — and is here collected alongside its very worthy sequel that sees artist Jim Baikie (successfully, I might add) assume writing duties, as well.
6. Challengers Of The Unknown by Jack Kirby (DC) – 100 years after the birth of the undisputed King of Comics, fans were presented with an embarrassment of reprint riches in 2017 — and this list will, to no one’s surprise, reflect that fact. For too long the Challengers have largely been viewed as a historical curiosity above all else, given that they were an obvious Fantastic Four prototype, but now that their original run has finally been collected in a reasonably-priced trade paperback, a new generation of fans has the chance to appreciate the fact that these are well and truly outstanding adventure stories overflowing with heart and imagination. And where else are you going to get to see Jack Kirby inked by Wally Wood? The art in this book is flat-out gorgeous.
5. The Collected Neil The Horse by Katherine T. Collins (Conundrum Press) – The best thing to emerge from the 1980s black-and-white boom, having every issue of this smart, sprawling, richly-illustrated, witty musical comedy together in one volume feels like a little bit of a miracle, especially given the numerous starts and stops creator Collins’ career has taken over the years. Loaded with indispensable behind-the-scenes material, including a harrowing-but-ultimately-triumphant account of the author’s own life after she transitioned from her earlier identity as Arn Saba (resulting in a de facto blacklisting in the comics industry for decades), this book is more than everything the small-but-loyal legion of Neil fans could have ever asked for.
4. Street Fighting Men : Spain Vol. 1, edited by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics) – Collecting all the “Trashman” strips ever produced is reason enough to buy this book, but this opening salvo in the long-awaited Spain Rodriguez career retrospective offers a whole lot more than that — the police-corruption strip “Manning” is absolutely superb, and underground historian Patrick Rosenkranz’ text material is detailed and exhaustive. If future volumes are produced with as much care and consideration as this one, we’re in for something really special with this series.
3. The Demon by Jack Kirby (DC) – A personal favorite of yours truly, the saga of Jason Blood and his demonic alter-ego, Etrigan, is one of Kirby’s most powerful and imaginative, and is here presented in its entirety. The King didn’t delve into the realms of the mystical and supernatural all that often, but when he did — the results were spectacular.
2. The Green Hand And Other Stories by Nicole Claveloux (New York Review Comics) – This outstanding volume presents the pinnacle 1970s works of one of France’s most singular cartooning talents (most from the pages of Metal Hurlant) to English-speaking audiences for the first time, and if you’re looking for a visually unforgettable book for someone on your holiday gift list, then this is the way to go. Claveloux delineates worlds of unspeakable beauty and oddity, and whether her stories are in vibrant, hallucinatory color (as is the case with the title strip here) or black and white, they leave an indelible impression on your eyeballs and your mind. Talking shrubs, duplicitous genies, and morose birds are just some of the wonders to be found in the surreal, enchanted realms Claveloux guides us through in these exquisitely vivid pages.
1. The Fourth World Omnibus by Jack Kirby (DC) – Full disclosure : this book just came out and I don’t even have it yet — but I don’t need to in order to give its contents a full-throated endorsement. The Fourth World saga is arguably the greatest the comics medium has ever produced, and having all 1500-plus pages of it in your hands for under a hundred bucks (depending on where you get it)? Come on, you’re not gonna do any better than that.
Okay, one more list down — and only one more to go! Next up we’ll look at the top 10 original graphic novels of 2017 — and then, I think, a (short, I promise) holiday break is in order!