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Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2020

2020 definitely felt like a year where I embraced comics in all their different formats and genres from the convenient, satisfying graphic novella to the series of loosely connected and curated one shots and even the door stopper of an omnibus/hardcover or that charming webcomic that comes out one or twice a week on Instagram. This was partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down comics’ traditional direct market for a bit so I started reviewing webcomics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels and nonfiction even after this supply chain re-opened. I also co-hosted and edited two seasons of a podcast about indie comics where we basically read either a trade every week for discussion, and that definitely meant spending more time with that format. However, floppy fans should still be happy because I do have a traditional ongoing series on my list as well as some minis.

Without further ado, here are my favorite comics of 2020.

Marvels Snapshots: X-Men #1 – But Why Tho? A Geek Community

10. Marvels Snapshots (Marvel)

Curated by original Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and with cover art by original Marvels artist Alex Ross, Marvels Snapshots collects seven perspectives on on the “major” events of the Marvel Universe from the perspectives of ordinary people from The Golden Age of the 1940s to 2006’s Civil War. It’s cool to get a more character-driven and human POV on the ol’ corporate IP toy box from Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway exploring Namor the Submariner’s PTSD to Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Benjamin Dewey showing the real reason behind Johnny Storm’s airhead celebrity act. There’s also Mark Russell and Ramon Perez’s take on the classic Captain America “Madbomb” storyline, Barbara Kesel’s and Staz Johnson’s sweet, Bronze Age-era romance between two first responders as the Avengers battle a threat against the city, and Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly add nuance to the superhuman Civil War by showing how the Registration Act affects a Cape-Killer agent as well as a young elemental protector of Toledo, Ohio, who just wants to help his community and do things like purify water. However, the main reason Marvels Snapshots made my “favorite” list was Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly‘s character-defining work showing the pre-X-Men life of Cyclops as he struggles with orphan life, is inspired by heroes like Reed Richards, and lays the groundwork for the strategist, leader, and even revolutionary that appears in later comics.

9. Fangs (Tapas)

Fangs is cartoonist Sarah Andersen’s entry into the Gothic romance genre and was a light, funny, and occasionally sexy series that got me through a difficult year. Simply put, it follows the relationship of a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, both how they met and their life together. Andersen plays with vampire and werewolf fiction tropes and sets up humorous situations like a date night featuring a bloody rare steak and a glass of blood instead of wine, Jimmy having an unspoken animosity against mail carriers, and just generally working around things like lycanthropy every 28 days and an aversion to sunlight. As well as being hilarious and cute, Fangs shows Sarah Andersen leveling up as an artist as she works with deep blacks, different eye shapes and textures, and more detailed backgrounds to match the tone of her story while not skimping on the relatable content that made Sarah’s Scribbles an online phenomenon.

8. Heavy #1-3 (Vault)

I really got into Vault Comics this year. (I retroactively make These Savage Shores my favorite comic of 2019.) As far as prose, I mainly read SF, and Vault nicely fills that niche in the comics landscape and features talented, idiosyncratic creative teams. Heavy is no exception as Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter tell the story of Bill, who was gunned down by some mobsters, and now is separated from his wife in a place called “The Wait” where he has to set right enough multiversal wrongs via violence to be reunited with her in Heaven. This series is a glorious grab bag of hyperviolence, psychological examinations of toxic masculinity, and moral philosophy. Heavy also has a filthy and non-heteronormative sense of humor. Donovan and Peter bring a high level of chaotic energy to the book’s visuals and are game for both tenderhearted flashbacks as well as brawls with literal cum monsters. In addition to all this, Bemis and Donovan aren’t afraid to play with and deconstruct their series’ premise, which is what makes Heavy my ongoing monthly comic.

Amazon.com: Maids eBook: Skelly, Katie, Skelly, Katie: Kindle Store

7. Maids (Fantagraphics)

Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre in Maids, a highly stylized account of Christine and Lea Papin murdering their employers in France during the 1930s. Skelly’s linework and eye popping colors expertly convey the trauma and isolation that the Papins go through as they are at the beck and call of the family they work almost 24/7. Flashbacks add depth and context to Christine and Lea’s characters and provide fuel to the fire of the class warfare that they end up engaging in. Skelly’s simple, yet iconic approach character design really allowed me to connect with the Papins and empathize with them during the build-up from a new job to murder and mayhem. Maids is truly a showcase for a gifted cartoonist and not just a summary of historical events.

6. Grind Like A Girl (Gumroad/Instagram)

In her webcomic Grind Like A Girl, cartoonist Veronica Casson tells the story of growing up trans in 1990s New Jersey. The memoir recently came to a beautiful conclusion with Casson showing her first forays into New York, meeting other trans women, and finding a sense of community with them that was almost the polar opposite of her experiences in high school. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Veronica Casson’s art style during different periods of her life from an almost Peanuts vibe for her childhood to using more flowing lines, bright colors, and ambitious panel layouts as an older teen and finally an adult. She also does a good job using the Instagram platform to give readers a true “guided view” experience and point out certain details before putting it all together in a single page so one can appreciate the comic at both a macro/micro levels. All in all, Grind Like A Girl is a personal and stylish coming of age memoir from Veronica Casson, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

5. Papaya Salad (Dark Horse)

Thai/Italian cartoonist Elisa Macellari tells an unconventional World War II story in Papaya Salad, a recently translated history comic about her great uncle Sompong, who just wanted to see the world. However, he ended up serving with the Thai diplomatic corps in Italy, Germany, and Austria during World War II. Macellari uses a recipe for her great uncle’s favorite dish, papaya salad, to structure the comic, and her work has a warm, dreamlike quality to go with the reality of the places that Sampong visits and works at. Also, it’s very refreshing to get a non-American or British perspective on this time in history as Sampong grapples with the shifting status of Thailand during the war as well as the racism of American soldiers, who celebrate the atomic bomb and lump him and his colleagues with the Japanese officers, and are not shown in a very positive light. However, deep down, Papaya Salad is a love story filled with small human moments that make life worth living, like appetizing meals, jokes during dark times, and faith in something beyond ourselves. It’s a real showcase of the comics medium’s ability to tell stories from a unique point of view.

4. Pulp (Image)

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with colorist Jacob Phillips) are two creators whose work has graced my “favorite comics” list many times. And this time they really outdid themselves with the graphic novella Pulp about the final days of Max Winters, a gunslinger-turned-Western dime novelist. It’s a character study peppered with flashbacks as Phillips and Phillips use changes in body posture and color palette to show Max getting older while his passion for resisting those who would exploit others is still intact. Basically, he can shoot and rob fascists just like he shot and robbed cattle barons back in the day. Brubaker and Phillips understand that genre fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is informed by the historical context around it, which is what makes Pulp such a compelling read. If you like your explorations of the banality of evil and creeping specter of fascism with heists, gun battles, and plenty of introspection, then this is the comic for you.

3. My Riot (Oni Press)

Music is my next favorite interest after comics so My Riot was an easy pick for my favorite comics list. The book is a coming of age story filtered through 1990s riot girl music from writer Rick Spears and artist Emmett Helen. It follows the life of Valerie, who goes from doing ballet and living a fairly conservative suburban life to being the frontwoman and songwriter for a cult riot girl band. Much of this transformation happens through Helen’s art and colors as his palette comes to life just as Valerie does when she successfully calls out some audience members/her boyfriend for being sexist and patronizing. The comic itself also takes on a much more DIY quality with its layouts and storytelling design as well as how the characters look and act. My Riot is about the power of music to find one’s identify and true self and build a community like The Proper Ladies do throughout the book. Valerie’s arc is definitely empowering and relatable for any queer kid, who was forced to conform to way of life and thinking that wasn’t their own.

2. Getting It Together #1-3 (Image)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: slice of life is my all-time favorite comic book genre. So, I was overjoyed when writers Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, artist Jenny D. Fine, and colorist Mx. Struble announced that they were doing a monthly slice of life comic about a brother, sister, and their best friend/ex-boyfriend (respectively) set in San Francisco that also touched on the gay and indie music scene. And Getting It Together definitely has lifted up to my pre-release hype as Grace and Spahi have fleshed out a complex web of relationships and drama with gorgeous and occasionally hilarious art by Fine and Struble. There are gay and bisexual characters all over the book with different personalities and approaches to life, dating, and relationships, which is refreshing too. Grace, Spahi, and Fine also take some time away from the drama to let us know about the ensemble cast’s passions and struggles like indie musician Lauren’s lifelong love for songwriting even if her band has a joke name (Nipslip), or her ex-boyfriend Sam’s issues with mental health. I would definitely love to spend more than four issues with these folks.

1. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott (Avery Hill)

My favorite comic of 2020 was The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott , a debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zoe Thorogood. The premise of the comic is that Billie is an artist who is going blind in two weeks, and she must come up with some paintings for her debut gallery show during that time period. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott boasts an adorably idiosyncratic cast of characters that Thorogood lovingly brings to life with warm visuals and naturalistic dialogue as Billie goes from making art alone in her room to making connections with the people around her, especially Rachel, a passionate folk punk musician. The book also acts as a powerful advocate for the inspirational quality of art and the act of creation. Zoe Thorogood even creates “art within the art” and concludes the story with the different portraits that Billie painted throughout her travels. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott was the hopeful comic that I needed in a dark year and one I will cherish for quite some time as I ooh and aah over Thorogood’s skill with everything from drawing different hair styles to crafting horrific dream sequences featuring eyeballs.

Webcomic Review: Grind Like A Girl

Grind Like A Girl is an autobiographical webcomic (Available on Gumroad) from cartoonist Veronica Casson about growing up as a transgender girl in the 1990s. I saw some pages from the most recent chapter on Casson’s Instagram, immediately saw that she had an eye-catching art style and an incredibly personal narrative and decided to go back and read the story from the beginning. This review covers the first four chapters of Grind Like A Girl available on Gumroad. However, chapter five and parts of chapter six are available on Sasson’s Instagram.

Nearly every page of Grind Like A Girl tells a complete story and illustrates a pivotal step of Veronica Casson’s coming of age. From the first page where the protagonist tries on dresses in an elementary school class and is scolded for it by her teacher, Casson plays with different styles to get her point across. In this case, Chapter 1/Page 1 is almost an homage to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts in the way that Casson draws eyes and also how the teacher immediately doesn’t consider the protagonist’s point of view and drones on like the teacher in Peanuts. However, as the story progresses, Casson goes from the dot eyes to more expressive ones to mirror the protagonist growing up and coming into her identity as a woman.

Veronica Casson also varies her color palettes to give each page and chapter a distinct mood. There’s the dark lighting and flat pinks and blues of the punk rock show that our now high schoole age protagonist goes to escape her life, the baby blue freedom of the K-Mart dressing room, and finally a muted palette when she shows up to a family dinner with makeup smudged on her face. Color is a weapon in Casson’s storytelling arsenal and can create raw energy like during the punk shows, when the protagonist is talking with a cute alternative boy about the new Elastica album, or is going out with her female friends.

Color can also be used for tension like deep blues when the protagonist comes out as trans to her friend Jason and speaks openly about how she feels and her gender identity when in previous issues they would just drink booze and shoot the shit about Dungeons and Dragons and X-Men comics. To expand on this, the protagonist’s appreciation of and the escape she finds through comics and manga is great recurring detail and connects to Veronica Casson’s virtuosic storytelling in Grind Like A Girl. When she was bullied or feeling dysphoric, she would escape to the world of fantasy novels, video games, indie music, and yes, comics. Having these and her friends’ interests pop up in the story add texture to its world and ground it very much in a time and place.

Grind Like A Girl definitely has its share of empowering and even adorable moments like any time the protagonist articulates to her friends that she’s a woman and wants to live her truth. However, Veronica Casson also shows the terrible transphobia she had to deal with, especially going to a Catholic high school. For example, in chapter one, one of the protagonists’s “friends” in grade school says that she “grinds like a girl”, which leads to her saying that she is, in fact, a girl complete with a powerful facial expression and bright lighting. But this is undercut by the boy using slurs and beating her up that leads to a montage of bullying to wrap up the chapter while she just counts down the days to high school in a new district.

However, high school leads to new complications as the protagonist must present as male to her parents and at school while she can be her true self around her friends. Veronica Casson shows this visually in chapter four through a double page spread/cut out diagram of the protagonist’s car where she stashes clothes and makeup showing the lengths she has to go to be herself. It’s great that the protagonist gets to be femme before graduating high school, but this leads to some issues like the aforementioned incident with her family. Also, some romantic elements start to show up in this chapter All of this shows that Casson isn’t just doing a blow by blow autobiography, but can also create stakes and tension too.

Veronica Casson’s Grind Like A Girl is a stylish and poignant look at growing up as a trans teenager in New Jersey in the 1990s. I admire its storytelling techniques, layouts, and color palettes as well as feel empathy for our protagonist and look forward to following the rest of the series on Instagram and Gumroad.

Story/Art: Veronica Casson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

VIZ Media To Release Art For Hope Digital Art Anthology In December

Official Press Release

Innovative Art Book Created In Partnership With Autodesk To Benefit Japanese Disaster Recovery; Exhibit Of Artwork Also Takes Place In Las Vegas At Autodesk University

VIZ Media has announced the upcoming debut of ART FOR HOPE, a limited edition digital art book anthology created in partnership with Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) to benefit Architecture for Humanity. The anthology will be available for a limited time, from December 1, 2011 to May 31, 2012, for $4.99 through VIZManga.com and the VIZ Manga App for iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch. 100% of VIZ Media’s net proceeds will support Architecture for Humanity’s ongoing disaster reconstruction efforts in Japan. To learn more about these rebuilding projects, please visit: www.ArchitectureForHumanity.org.

Each of the 40 artists participating in the ART FOR HOPE anthology used Autodesk® SketchBook® digital paint and drawing software applications in some way to create original pieces for the anthology. The artists, both professional and amateur, hail from around the world and from diverse fields, and range in style from the realistic to the fantastic, each illustrating the theme of “Hope.” Notable contributors include Eisner Award and Harvey Award winner Rob Guillory, Harvey Award winner Lark Pien, muralist Sirron Norris, and MAMESHIBA artists Jorge Monlongo and Gemma Correll.

Selections from ART FOR HOPE will also be exhibited at the Autodesk annual user conference, Autodesk University, taking place at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, NV from November 29th to December 1st. Access to the exhibit is free to the public within the Creative Studio a unique hands-on space to celebrate the creative spirit and showcasing a variety of Autodesk software and products. More information on the exhibit and conference is available at:

http://www.sketchbooknews.com/news/creative-studio-art-exhibit.html.

VIZ Media and Autodesk are very proud of and grateful to the following artists for their contributions to the ART FOR HOPE digital art anthology:

Janet Alvarado                                   Don’t Lose Hope

Asuka 111 (Patipat Asavasena)          Hope

Azure                                                 Untitled

Greg Baldwin of CreatureBox              Sheltered

Alan Bay                                            A Little Piece of Hope

Drew Blom                                         Calvin Hedge and the Iron Golem

Steve Boura                                       Bright Future

Carsten Bradley                                 A Wish for You

Matthew Britton                                 Regrowth

Veronica Casson                                 The Guest Room

Geikou Chen                                      Rainbow Bridge to Tomorrow

Gemma Correll                                   Pierre, le Chat Français

Kalii Delarosa                                     The Rainbow in the Rain

Conrado Hernan Villa Gil                     Untitled

Dave Guertin                                     First Flight

Rob Guillory                                       Hope

Rodolpho Langhi                                A New Sunrise

C. Lijewski                                          Light Side of Dark

Chris Lui                                            Birds of a Feather

Holly Mongi                                        Good Morning, Friend

Jorge Monlongo                                  The Sprout and the Bean

Brian Muelhaupt                                 Ojizo-sama

Shaun Mullen                                     Kodama (Tree Spirits)

Susan Murtaugh                                Enduring Beauty

Ray N.                                                Deliverance

Joe Ng                                               Rise Above the Storm

Sirron Norris                             Kibou

Jacques Pena                                     Love

Luis Peso                                            Gathering Hope

Lark Pien                                            Wishes, Dreams

Kyle Runciman                                   Ready to Roll

Francesco Salvati                               DEAR HOPE

Janet Shaw                                        The Hope of Japan

Brad Silverman                                   Dancing Dragon

Joseph Strachan                                 Flight of the Phoenix

James Turner                                     Never Give Up

Colie Wertz                                        Sea Turtle

Pinar Yalcin                                        Beam of Light

John Yandall                                                One Little Sign

Jim Zub                                              Seed Starter

For more information on the ART FOR HOPE project, please visit www.VIZ.com/artforhope.

For more information on VIZ Media digital initiatives, please visit VIZManga.com or www.VIZ.com/apps/.

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