Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and the folks at The Comics Alternative all gather around the virtual table to share what they are thankful for in terms of comics and comics culture. Pulling up a seat this year are Gwen, Paul, Sean, Gene, Edward, and Derek. Among the many things that they’re thankful for are
01:43:22 – Wrapping up our favorites, and honorable mentions
01:48:55 – Contact us
This is the last regular review episode of 2016, and as the Two Guys with PhDs do annually, they use their final show of the year to share their favorite comics from the past twelve months. Both Andy and Derek have each chosen what he considers the 10 best of 2016 — and in no particular order — but neither has shared his list with the other until the recording of this episode. So there are some surprises along the way. There is not much overlap between the guys’ lists, and only two titles are mentioned by both. Taken together, this is a wide-ranging selection that includes everything from mainstream superhero comics to small-press selections, from webcomics to manga, from comics in translation to works that are sure to become part of many readers’ canon.
However, before they plunge into their lists the guys share some year-end statistics. By the end of 2016 The Comics Alternative will have produced 162 episodes (including this episode and the December manga review). Among those shows, 278 print titles will have been discussed along with 36 webcomics. Derek also crunched the numbers in terms of the most reviewed publishers. The one whose titles were discussed most frequently was Image Comics, with the guys focusing on 25 of their titles. Next is Fantagraphics and Dark Horse Comics with 21 reviewed titles each. After that it’s IDW with 19, DC/Vertigo with 17, First Second with 13, and BOOM! Studios with 11. Other publishers whose titles have been reviewed at least 5 times over the past year include Kilgore Books (9), Kodansha Comics (8), Alternative Comics (7), Aftershock (7), Floating World (6), Drawn and Quarterly (5), Retrofit/Big Planet (5), and Avery Hill Publishing (5).
After that numerical rundown, the Two Guys get into their 10 favorite titles of 2016:
For the March episode of The Comics Alternative‘s manga series, Shea and Derek discuss two recent releases, both by Inio Asano: A Girl on the Shore (Vertical Comics) and Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 (VIZ Media). Before they plunge into those titles, though, they provide a bit of context about Asano’s style and briefly discuss his other works that have been translated into English. The guys primarily reference Solanin and Nijigahara Holographas key Asano texts, but they also mention the two-volume series of short stories, What a Wonderful World. In many ways, Derek feels that A Girl on the Shore is a cross between Solanin‘s emphasis on relationships and Nijigahara Holograph‘s fractured or more experimental narration. The guys also spend a good amount of time talking about the sexually explicit nature of the recent book. Most of A Girl on the Shore centers on its protagonists, Kuome and Isobe, slowly exploring one another, and much of that exploration is sexual in nature. However, neither Shea nor Derek feel that the visualizations are gratuitous in any way, and that Asano even complicates his explicitness through certain intriguing artistic choices. Next, the guys turn to a completely different kind of story, and one that’s a little more challenging to wrap your brain around. Goodnight Punpun originallyran for thirteen volumes in Japan, and this monthVIZ Media began releasing the English translation in larger, two-in-one editions. In this first volume, we’re introduced to Punpun Punyama, a weird, largely silent bird-like creature who is supposedly a young human boy as are all of the other characters in the story. (Only the Punyama family is depicted as abstracted birds…although for all we know, this is a world where abstracted birds living with humans has been normalized.) While the storyline of this first volume is fairly straightforward — primarily a quest narrative for Punpun and his friends, and mostly involving Punpun’s love interest, Aiko — the manner of storytelling isn’t. At times Asano’s art is surreal or even psychedelic, and the events that occur can be downright trippy. Derek is fascinated by the hipster figure of god that keeps popping up throughout the book, and Shea likens Asano’s style to something approximating magical realism. All in all, this first installment of Goodnight Punpun is a fun punch in the gut that has the guys eagerly anticipating the next volumes to be released later this year. But then again, as far as Shea and Derek are concerned, any Inio Asano is worth eagerly anticipating.