Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

October 21, 2013

A Few Things I Found Interesting About Group-Making A List Of Underappreciated Comics For 2013

This site spent time yesterday facilitating the creation of a group-made list of under-appreciated comics for 2013. The initial idea arose from the fact the Best-Of Comics season is hurtling towards us. As so many of those lists look like a student UN of one representative from every major publisher and/or those books that are presented as the books of the year, I thought it might be cool to have a place comics reviewers could go to be reminded of stuff that CR readers at least thought under-appreciated or ignored.

imageIt ended up being a fun exercise in comics culture as well as a pretty good list. Some observations:

* I had five people write in and recommend work of their own. This was despite asking people not do this. Two of the five recognized that I asked this, and argued against this unfair constraint. Two other people admitted "This might qualify [as my own work]" and then named a work that super-clearly qualified as their own work by, you know, being their own work, with their name on it and stuff.

Truth be told, I expected about a half-dozen responses from people nominating their own work. The comics sub-culture and our culture more generally has this really ingrained idea that hustling is an unassailable positive, this despite many in comics having crippled egos and extreme self-loathing. You get people that buy into this, and other people that push it away so hard or feel at a disadvantage because of it they either don't think they're doing it or are doing it just an understandable little bit. So we're always going to see this, and in many ways it will be rewarded.

I didn't use any of these suggestions.

* I had two people write in with 10 choices, one person write in with 17, and one with over 30! This struck me as odd in a couple of ways. One was that with the exception of the first ten-part list all of them came in late in the day, after it was clear I was going to be listing these myself with jpegs. The one who sent in 30-plus even wrote that these were all "google-able" as if to assure me I wouldn't have to scan in all of their choices! That's a lot of work people thought I was going to do. Two was that I think we have a tendency in comics culture to go broad so as not to disappoint anyone -- that perhaps this kind of thing is an expression not of all of these books being equally awesome, but all of these works being arguably awesome. I do sometimes wonder that now that comics is a rich land of Pretty Good if the culture encourages us to make the distinctions between Pretty Good and Great, or if this important on any level at all to anyone. I didn't include any of those multiple-item works, just to save time, although a couple of times I snagged one from a list of three or four when there was a clear choice favored. Sorry, nice people! I did enjoy those lists.

* A lot of people wrote in to suggest a friend's work. A lot. Some recognized this fact and apologized; others didn't. While people involved in comics tend to make friends with other people involved in comics and many of them make fine works, I think there is something to the culture that can be cliquish and small.

* I didn't get any superhero comics. I thought I'd get at least one "People love Hawkeye, but this is equally good" or "I know this got a lot of press in mainstream comics but not in your world, alt-boy." There are tons of obvious explanations for this, starting with the fact that CR may not seem to a lot of people the place you go to recommend an under-appreciated superhero book.

* Some folks tweeted at me instead of e-mailed, and named people rather than works. Which is fine, but neither one is what I wanted or asked for. I love twitter, and twitter has been good to the site, but I am worried that people don't go to sites anymore so I try not to make site features available solely through the use of twitter -- even the gimmicky ones like Five For Friday or a list like we made yesterday.

* I didn't get any newspaper comics. I didn't expect any, for a number of reasons but also the fact that this doesn't seem the home of people that read that kind of work. I'm also not sure there's a feature out there that people love right now. That feels like a room dominated by handshakes rather than hugs.

Anyway, I greatly appreciate all of your help, even the ones I didn't use. I think it's a good list, and I hope you critics out there will give the list a look before you make a list of your own, just to see if there's something you might like that you may have missed. I know for instance I thought that Blain was more than a year old!

page from one of the recommended, under-appreciated works
posted 12:20 am PST | Permalink

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