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The Best American Comics [Hardcover]

Harvey Pekar , Anne Elizabeth Moore
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1 edition (11 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618718745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618718740
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 18.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 802,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

The popularity of the graphic genre continues to rage, and The Best American Comics is a diverse, exciting annual selection for fans and newcomers alike. The inaugural volume includes stories culled from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics, and the Web. Contributors include Robert Crumb, Chris Ware, Kim Deitch, Jaime Hernandez, Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco, and Lynda Barry-and unique discoveries such as Justin Hall, Esther Pearl Watson, and Lilli Carré.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Having Despite Pekar 21 Jun 2007
I'm a big fan of comics, graphic storytelling, sequential art, whatever you want to call it, so I was psyched to see the form added to the "Best American" series. This inaugural edition is beautifully produced, with lovely printing, paper, binding, etc. -- equal to the top notch stuff put out by Drawn & Quarterly and other high end indie comics publishers. The contents follow the regular "Best American" series guidelines (published in North America between 1/1/04 and 8/15/05), and its shortlist of 150 candidates was assembled by Punk Planet coeditor Anne Moore. From that list, celebrated comics auteur Harvey Pekar selected his thirty favorite.

With that in mind, the book's true title should probably be "Best American Indie Comics" or "Best American Alternative Comics", since not a single piece from a mainstream comics publishing house is represented. Granted, indie comics need all the help they can get, but this narrow vision is a major flaw. Pekar is very up front about his bias: "...superhero comics still form a division of the science fiction genre, which should not dominate comics any more than they do pose books, film, or television, all versatile forms of expression. While there is no realistic movement in straight [ie. "superhero"] comics, there is one in alternative comics. Realism has been so important in the novel, theater, film, and visual arts. How can mainstream [ie. "superhero"] comics ignore it and other movements that flourish in other art forms? Mainstream comics greatly ignore the medium's potential." While I'm not personally a fan of most superhero comics (give me Joe Sacco or Adrian Tomine any day), this is stunningly ill-informed statement, and especially disappointing coming from someone who ought to know better.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as strong as other comics anthologies currently out 28 Oct 2006
By dave-o - Published on Amazon.com
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.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, redeemed by a handful of very strong contributions 16 Nov 2006
By J. Butler - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Anthology is hardly a "best of..." and suffers from exclusionary practices 12 July 2009
By Andromeda - Published on Amazon.com
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.

To be fair, there are good stories in here as well. This whole series, tho, suffers from a narrow point of view. It is as if, if it's an alternative comic, it is automatically on par with literature. This anthology gives that point of view the lie. Good literature requires literate writing. Good sequential art, requires good story telling technique. Just being non-corporate doesn't make it good.
4.0 out of 5 stars I've read most of this series and '2006' still holds up as the best 10 April 2013
By Sibelius - Published on Amazon.com
Harvey Pekar did a great job curating this volume as the majority of the inclusions are carefully inserted to maintain a coherent narrative which would sometimes become an issue with subsequent volumes.

Pekar being Pekar you get a good deal of quirky and nervous character-centric pieces which in my books is a good thing.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good general anthology with quite a few strong selections 25 Jan 2013
By Josh H-G - Published on Amazon.com
I don't know that I'd say I'm a fan of The Best American Comics series, but I like to read them. I am not a die-hard, so for me, being able to get exposure to a bunch of different things in one place is a fine starting point.

I think this book is a good mix. Some selections did not interest me at all, but I didn't find many to be what I would consider outright bad choices. There is a fair amount of retread here if you are reading other sources, but if you are not, there's a good mix of style and content.

The thing that makes this book on of the better in the series for me, was that most of the selections really stood up well on their own. They are often well excerpted, and really convey a lot with the amount of space given to them. Not everything makes that conversion smoothly, and in this edition, I think the editors chose well.

If you are reading lots of comics that mainstream readers may not be, this edition probably won't impress you as much. If you don't really know why someone would make an anthology about comics like this, I think you're more likely going to be persuaded by this book that there is a lot of cool varied stuff out there being published. If you're somewhere in-between like I am, this 2006 edition collects a lot of good stuff to help you discover and enjoy even more.
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