Editor Gloeckner (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, 2002, etc.) and series editor Kartalopoulos curate the 13th annual collection of North American sequential art.
As Gloeckner states in her wonderful introduction, these are auteur comics—works birthed from a single creator (with the exception of one father-son team)—rather than the ensemble approach (writer, artist, inker, letterer) often seen in commercial comics, not to mention the by-committee production employed in TV and movies. While independent comics stalwarts such as Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly published many of these stories, self-published books make up a good chunk of the collection. The low-to-no budget required to produce comics allows for the indulgence of outsider visions, like the compellingly bizarre “Untitled” from Michael Ridge (guy and girl cruising in an old car, thick black lines inexplicably spilling from their eyes and mouths, closing with the repeated refrain “Buy Fuckin Pickels”) or Max Clotfelter’s “The Warlock Story,” an autobiographical tale of the artist’s shy, unpopular early days in school drawing outrageously violent and sexually explicit comics on notebook pages, which simultaneously earned him interest from cool kids and deep concern from school officials and his mother. Many of the works tackle contemporary issues such as gender identity, global terrorism, and class warfare. Others explore timeless concepts like artists struggling against the strictures of art school. The most effective have a sense of humor (Aaron Lange’s “Selections from Art School” or Keiler Roberts’ “Sunburning”). Sometimes the more refined and impressive the art, the less resonant the stories (Ted Stearn’s “The Moolah Tree”). But each story excels on some level, from intimate confessions to surreal mythologies.
An excellent encapsulation of what makes sequential art such a compelling, singular art form.