After a few years on the wagon during school, I came back to comics in 2000 and returned to my long-boxes just in time to witness a tipping point in the industry. In the 1990s, the top billing generally went to artists working with mainstream superheroes (and occasionally moonlighting as spokesmen for button-fly jeans), but in the past ten years, the industry made a marked shift in its spotlight on talent. This isn't to say that comics artistry has declined in importance--of course, where would comics be without pencils and inks?--but a balance has returned, and writers are once again held in as high of esteem. And this leveling of talent and emphasis allowed for the advancement of more personal storytelling both in and outside of DC and Marvel, producing some of the most literary projects yet in the medium. Add to these works the box office domination of capes and cowls, and all of sudden comics are reviewed on NPR, and no one bats an eye when the medium has a New York Times Bestseller List devoted to it.
For our picks for Comics of the Decade, we tried to find a similar balance between indie and mainstream, superheroes and comics lit--and a few cases where it all blended together. We narrowed this list by naming titles that set the bar for the next decade.
- Black Hole by Charles Burns
- Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware
- Promethea by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III
- David Boring by Daniel Clowes
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
- Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
- Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw
- Y: the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Jose Marzan, et al.
- New X-Men by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, et al.
- What It Is by Lynda Barry
But not all that is great about comics is necessarily new, and there's no doubt that this decade saw a vast improvement in archival and collected editions. There was so much material that we had to break these objets d'art into their own separate category. Below are our picks for Comics Archives and Anthologies of the Decade:
- Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics)
- Love and Rockets Library (Fantagraphics)
- DC Comics's Absolute Editions (Sandman, Watchmen, Crisis on Infinite Earths)
- The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (Andrews McMeel)
- An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. (Yale University Press)
- Creepy and Eerie Archives (Dark Horse)
- The Best American Comics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume (Cartoon Books)
- McSweeney's Issue 13 (McSweeney's)
- MOME (Fantagraphics)
And just so I can sleep tonight, here's what the rest of the comics list would have looked like if this were a Top 25:
- All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
- Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
- Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
- Blankets by Craig Thompson
- Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown
- Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
- Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
- Eightball #23 by Daniel Clowes
- Fables by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina, et al.
- George Sprott: (1894-1975) by Seth
- Hellboy by Mike Mignola, et al.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley
- Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
- The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
- The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá
Ok, that's more like a Top 26, but we had to cut the list somewhere. Here's to another ten years of remarkable comics. Up, up, and away.
P.S. You can find many more favorites in our Books of the Decade store.