Best. Best! or Best?
This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics take their annual look at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s The Best American Comics collection (including material published between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012), this year edited by Jeff Smith. They begin by noting that this volume is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that this is the last to be overseen by series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Andy and Derek marvel at the work the two have been doing since they began with the 2008 volume, and they wish Abel and Madden well in their future endeavors…and they look forward to seeing what the new series editor, Bill Kartalopoulos, will bring to the table.
The guys highlight what they consider to be their favorite contributions to the 2013 volume, specifically commenting on the sheer number of entries that originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents. They also discuss the need for a book such as this to introduce readers to new material, the pros and cons of excerpting from longer works — Derek noted the potential pitfalls of the practice, although Andy was more accepting — how the 2013 volume differs from previous years’ collections, the kind of trends they see in this year’s volume, the fact that Evan Dorkin has two different kinds of contributions in the book, the growing representation of webcomics in these yearly volumes, and the dominance of comics anthologies in Smith’s collection as well as the relatively little attention this year given to serialized titles. (Were there just not that many “good” serialized comics between September 2011 and August 2012?) The Two Guys also get into a larger discussion of the very idea of publishing a “best of” anthology of this type. The “best” according to whom? Might there be certain biases involved? What’s the role of editorial predilection? Who is included as part of the “best,” who is excluded, and why? They don’t attempt to second guess this year’s volume editor, Jeff Smith, but they do think it’s important to keep these questions in mind. Well…Derek does. He had a problem with the “Best” part of the title and would feel more comfortable with a different name. Andy thought that Derek was being too critical in addressing the series name. Derek said that maybe Andy should change his name, as well.
But once again, the Two Guys with PhDs hearty recommendation the annual Best American Comics collection, marvel at the gargantuan task undertaken by the editor, and thoroughly enjoy the many contributions collected between the covers!