By Darryl Ayo
I’m not interested in what the “top ten,” comics of the year 2011 were. You shouldn’t be interested in my opinion in this matter anyway. I have not even read all of the culturally-significant books in the first place, so the idea of my being qualified to assign rank and importance is easily dismissed. As with each year that passes, a number of comics were released, I purchased some of them, ignored others, liked some of what I read and disliked some of what I read. Most of what I read either originated in a different calendar year or was quickly absorbed and forgotten due to the sheer number of things that I have read. This is hopeless.
Perhaps I should adopt a bitter and wizened stance: nothing particularly memorable came across my desk this year. I simply read to be fed. Or I could play the sentimentalist: why stop at ten? There were so many wonderful creations in the field this year; adventure around every corner! From DC’s silent overthrow of themselves to Drawn & Quarterly’s continual surprise hits, everything was so grand! Which version of me should I be?
As is my way, my readings during the year 2011 were wildly unpredictable. there was no telling in January that I would end up where I am now, in December. Honestly, I don’t even know what I will end up reading on any given Wednesday when I walk into the comic shop’s door. Part of how I keep this from becoming drudgery and boring routine is to remain uncommitted. I work a very traditional kind of day job. Reading comics, my leisure activity, needs to have some elements of surprise and uncertainty or I would probably end up dying of boredom.
The downside of being unpredictable is that my memory is largely tied to what I’m preoccupied with at a given time. I remember having fairly strong impressions about certain books or comics projects, but then again, I’m probably forgetting a slew of other work that I would have sworn was the new One True Path at some point.
The biggest, most effecting comic that I’ve read in the past few months was a volume of The Complete Peanuts that (a) obviously didn’t come out in 2011 and (b) wasn’t even released in reprint form in 2011. I’m still much too close to that experience to process it in a reasonable “to-sum-up-the-year” context. Before that, minicomics from the terribly under-appreciated Liz Suburbia swept me off of my feet, as did work from Michael DeForge and Steve Wolfhard. I was also stunned by career-highlight performances by Duncan Fegredo (guided by Mike Mignola) on Hellboy The Fury and Frazer Irving (guided by John Rozum) on Xombi. Most recently, Melissa Mendes‘ Freddy Stories has found a warm home here.
But a year is a long time. Also, it’s a fairly arbitrary way of measuring artistic progress. A very accurate way of measuring agricultural progress. But arbitrary and counter-productive as a grouping mechanism for examining the arts. Or shorter version, who cares.