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Best American Comics: the Notable Comics of 2011

Among the numerous hats Matt and I wear, we are the series editors for the Best American Comics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). That means that, every year, we try to get our hands on every comic published by a North American cartoonist (which is the USA, Canada, and Mexico), or anyone who makes his or her home here, and then read them all to sort out the best 100 or so comics of the year. Of course, we can’t possibly see everything, but we try. These best 100-120, we then hand on to the year’s guest editor, who picks his or her favorite 25-30, which go into that year’s volume. Then, Matt and I get to make our list of everything else we think comics readers should have read that year. It’s called the Notable Comics list, and it comprises virtually all the comics we sent to the guest editor that weren’t picked, as well as a number of others that we think are noteworthy for various reasons, but that we didn’t send to the guest editor.

Over the now-four volumes we’ve been involved with (we’ve just wrapped selections for the fifth, but they’re still top-secret), we’ve tried to shine a spotlight on this list. As most guest editors point out in their introductions, the selection process, when it gets down to which stories make the cutoff for the volume and which don’t, can be alarmingly arbitrary. Often, we and the guest editors would love to include 50 stories, but there just isn’t room. But when you combine the notable list with the stories in the volume, it might be a little more possible to talk about representing what’s we actually think is best in a given year. Also, when looking for good comics to read, why limit yourself? We’ve always hoped readers will delve a bit into the list to find more great stories once they finish reading BAC.

Below, we’ve reprinted the full list of the Notables from the 2011 volume, which was edited by Alison Bechdel. We’ve also added extensive links and images of the covers to intrigue you and  to help you track the works down. And for a lucky reader: a head start on collecting all 100!

WE WILL GIVE AWAY a set of  about 25 mincomics and self-published books from this list. Which ones they are will be a surprise! Comment on this post between now and Friday December 9 at 5 pm, and you will be entered in a drawing to win the pile. This prize is available only to US readers (sorry!). Watch for a second giveaway this coming Monday, Dec 12.

Note: we do moderate comments, so if you haven’t commented here before, your comment won’t show up immediately, but it is in the queue!

Edit: just to be extra clear, this is not a set of every book on the list, it’s a sub-set of a number of the minis and self-pubbed books. Still, it’s a lot of great!

–Jessica and Matt

Jason AaronR.M. GuéraDavide Furno, and Francesco FrancavillaScalped: High Lonesome 

To Teach: The Journey, in Comics

William Ayers and Ryan Alexander-TannerTo Teach: The Journey, in Comcs 

anyanyway1cover

Darryl Ayo, “Enemies with Benefits,” anyANYway #1

whirlwindwonderlandcover

Rina Ayuyang, “Arroz Caldo,” Whirlwind Wonderland

Derik Badman, 20 out of 30 days (from the 30 day project)

Liz BaillieFreewheel vol. 1

Alison Bechdel, “A Story About Life”, McSweeney’s Issue 33

Nick BertozziPersimmon CupThe Act-i-vate Primer

Joe BoruchowStuffed Animals: A Story in Paper Cutouts

Adam BourretI’m Crazy 

Nicholas Breutzman, You Can’t Be Here

Box Brown, Everything Dies #1 & #2, “Alpha” and “Omega”

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Criminal: The Sinners

Mike Carey and Peter Gross, The Unwritten vols. 1 & 2


Martin Cendreda, “Copy”, Stories vol. 2

Sean Christensen and Amy Kuttab, Labanotation: The Center of Weight

Marian Churchland, Beast

Seymour Chwast, Dante’s Divine Comedy

Daniel Clowes, Wilson

C.C. Colbert and Tanitoc, Booth

Al Columbia, Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days {Artifacts and Bone Fragments}


Josh Cotter, “Migraneur”, Driven by Lemons

Evan Dahm, Rice Boy (buy)

Mike Dawson, Troop 142, nos. 1-3

Michael Deforge, Peter’s Muscle

Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites


Joshua Dysart , Alberto Ponticelli, and Pat Masioni, Unknown Soldier: Easy Kill


Glenn Eichler and Nick Bertozzi, Stuffed!


Chuck Forsman, Wolf


Alexis Frederick-Frost, Courtship of Ms. Smith


Alexis Frederick-Frost, Voyage


Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell, The Sandman: The Dream Hunters


Rick Geary, The Terrible Axe-man of New Orleans

Robert Goodin, “The Spiritual Crisis of Carl Jung”, Mome Volume 19


Brandon Graham, King City, vol. 2


C. Geoff Grogan, Fandancer


Gilbert Hernandez, The Troublemakers


James Hindle, Unsettled


James Hindle, Little Wolves (buy)

 

Ursula Murray Husted, Drawing on Yourself

Christopher Hutsul, A Very Kraftwerk Summer

Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen, Moving Pictures


Alex Jansen, Jason Gilmore, and Nick MarinkovichKenk

 

Mat Johnson and Simon Gane, Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story

Ben Jones, “Chocolate Gun”, Mome, vol. 16

 

Tom Kaczynski and Dash Shaw, “Resolution”, Mome, vol. 17

 

Megan Kelso, Artichoke Tales

Victor Kerlow, “This is the Story of a Man Who Could Not Die”, Rabid Rabbit’s Tall Tales and Magnanimous Myths

 

Victor Kerlow, Big Empty Space

Matt Kindt, 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man

 

Matt Kindt, Revolver

Michael Kupperman, “All About Drainage” and “Books Are Stupid,” Tales Designed to Thrizzle #6

Joseph Lambert, “Tantrum”

 

Tim Lane, “Spike”, Hotwire Comics, vol. 3

 

Hope Larson, Mercury 

Brendan Leach, “Summer Internship”, Four Comics

Bryan Lee O’MalleyScott Pilgrim, vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour

Jason Little“Bee in… the Ramble”, MySpace DarkHorse Presents #36

 

Stuart Livingston, “7:42 a.m.”, Popgun vol. 4

 

Jesse LonerganJoe and Azat 

Cathy MalkasianTemperance

 

James McShane, Archaeology

Lane MilburnDeath Trap 

Tony MillionaireBilly Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird

Corinne Mucha, “Future Dreams”, Is It the Future Yet?

Pranas T. Naujokaitis, Beard


Sarah OleksykIvy (chapters 5 and 6)

Onsmith, “Dispossession by Tornado”, Hotwire Comics, vol. 3

Jason Overby, “Untitled”, Shitbeams on the Loose #2

Jesse Reklaw, “Toys I Loved”, Dope Flounder

Grant Reynolds, “Where the River Meets the Sea”, Comic Diorama


Hans Rickheit, The Squirrel Machine

Sean Micheal Robinson, “Much of What We Said Wasn’t Anything at All”, The Art of Lying


Jim Rugg, Rambo 3.5


Johnny Ryan, Prison Pit, Book One

Joe Sacco, “The Unwanted” parts 1-2, VQR


Sam Sharpe, “Change Your Name”, Pinstriped Bloodbath

Dash Shaw, “Blind Date”, Mome, vol. 16


Jason Shiga, Meanwhile


Anuj Shrestha, “True Tales of Kitchkanni” vol. 1, Rabid Rabbit’s Tall Tales and Magnanimous Myths


David Small, Stitches

Andrew Smith, Sausage Hand

Nick St. John, How I Came to Work at the Wendy’s


Conor Stechschulte, The Spirit World

Conor Stechschulte, Held Sinister

Aron Nels Steinke, Neptune

James Sturm, Market Day

Sully (Sherwin Tjia), The Hipless Boy

Raina Telgemeier, Smile

C. Tyler, You’ll Never Know, Book 2: Collateral Damage

Chris Ware, “Putty Gray”, McSweeney’s Issue 33

Tracy White, How I Made It to Eighteen

Mack White, “Roadside Hell”, Hotwire Comics, vol. 3

Chadwick Whitehead, “The Myth of Ice Cream and Race Cars”, Rabid Rabbit’s Tall Tales and Magnanimous Myths


Matt Wiegle, “The Orphan Baiter”, Papercutter #13

Jim Woodring, Weathercraft: A Frank Comic

Belle Yang, Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale

J.T. Yost, Losers Weepers

Jeff Zwirek, “The Chicago Typewriter”, Pinstriped Bloodbath

Comments

85 Comments to Best American Comics: the Notable Comics of 2011

  • by Michelle Kondrich

    On December 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I can only hope that you either moderate comments or that someone else is writing a new comment right now. Number one seems less likely to win!

    What a great giveaway. The book was great – you do a great job every year.

  • by christopher tupa

    On December 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I have quite a collection of mini-comics and indy comics. Love the stories and creativity. As a comic artist myself reading others work is very inspiring!

  • by Matthew J. Brady

    On December 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    There are a lot of good comics in that long scroll.

  • by Ed Choy Moorman

    On December 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    My hand’s up!

  • by Steven Stwalley

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Boy, what a beautiful and eclectic bunch of covers. Please enter me in the drawing.

  • by Kenn Minter

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Those are great books!

  • by Qwil man

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    If you think I won’t leave a comment on a well-written article to win free comic books then you don’t know shit about me and I don’t think this relationship is going to work out.

  • by Tara Abbamondi

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Yes, yes, a million times YES! All these comics. Thumbs up!

  • by Scott Kroll

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Oh oh! Pick me!

  • by Don Garvey

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    What a great list. Nothing would be better than making the time to buckle down and consume them all.

  • by Shannon Smith

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I like teh comics. Congrats all you listy folks.

  • by Scott Ziolko

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I’m just glad that more than a few of these are books I’ve actually had a chance to read, although not as many as I would like.

  • by Sean Schönherr

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Wow, this is an incredible giveaway! I’ve got a few of these already, but not many. Man, what a reminder of all the other great stuff I haven’t gotten to yet!

  • by Mark Braun

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Recently, I found a copy of the 2006 edition given to me by my mother who, at 78, got “it”. I grew up, like most comic fans, reading the Sunday funnies, then comic books, and the inevitable migration to Marvel and so on, but it was Gary Groth who, along with the under grounders of the 60s and forward, made the best impact. In the 70s, Lynda Barry knocked me out with her strip in the Reader; a decade nd then some later, artbabe was the find of the decade when the owner of Haley’s comics pointed to minis and said to see THAT one.

    No artist is truly an artist to a corporate master. nobody ever wanted to drop dead saying, “I’m so glad that I drew spider-Man all of my goddamn life.” That worked for Harold Grey who plopped over on his final Little Orphan Annie sunday strip in a hospital bed; the rest of us reading indies want the whole message and imagination that is an indie.

    I look forward to getting or buying every edition of BEST. It is a mixed bag, often eye-opening and always an introduction to raw, real talent. I personally stopped drawing a long time ago, instead, enjoying the talent that is here.

  • by Joshua Bihun

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    What a great list! I can imagine you had a difficult time winnowing this down. I’d be delighted to win any of these.

  • by Chris Thorne

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I will love to get a chance to read some of these comics!

  • by Anna Bongiovanni

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Yes! This list is amazing!

  • by DerikB

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I probably don’t need a bunch of free comics, but I did want to say thanks for putting me on the list. It looks like a great range of styles/genres.

  • by Matt Graupman

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I just bought “Stitches” for $3.oo at my local library… but I’m dying to get my hands on all the rest of that comick-y goodness. Please enter me for the giveaway, too. Thank you!

  • by Bernie Crowsheet

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    That’s a lot of words to read! Hope whoever wins can read! Words are hard stuff! P.S. I hope i win I’ll donate the scalped book to a library and probably just keep all the others.
    P.P.S. I can read.

  • by KellyP

    On December 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I am also raising my hand!

  • by Shelley Savor

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Yippee! Thanks for your generosity. ;-)

  • by Lisa

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    What a neat giveaway. Please put my name in the pot.

  • by Dustin Harbin

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    Dustin Harbin, reporting for duty! *crisp salute*

  • by Matt Bernier

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Ooh, I’d love some minis!

  • by Brett J. Hopkins

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    A cavalcade of greatness!

  • by Rusty Rowley

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Yay comics!

  • by Joe Mochove

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    This is a crazy good list of books. I haven’t read nearly enough of them!

  • by John Platt

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    So much great stuff to explore on this list!

  • by Charlie Hancock

    On December 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Great eclectic list, with lots of artists I haven’t heard of. Please enter me in the drawing.

  • by aaron

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    i have a handful of those, but i’d really love to win darryl ayo’s book, and… well, most of the list really.

  • by jworby

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    whoa, yes please. what a great list.

  • by Rich

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    WOW!! What an incredible list. In my part of the country (Aaska) it is hard to come by great comics, so having a list like this helps me determine what to start looking for. Kudos to you! You have the coolest gig on earth, what with having to read all of these great works!!

  • by Rich

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Oops!! I meant Alaska!! It is really cold here……

  • by mack pauly

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Let me win!

  • by Jahhdog

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Ack! I’m a Canucklehead! Still some great stuffs up ^ there!

    ArrrOOoo!

  • by Michael Ruspantini

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Nice to see some of my comics pals made it on the Notables list!!

  • by Kevin M.

    On December 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Wow, this is a really nice thing you guys have been doing. Every time I read a volume of BAC I feel inspired to do my own independent comic… and then I start to draw and remember why I haven’t already.
    I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t commenting only for free comics, sometimes being mercenary has its own rewards. Although it would be great to be a winner – of something ANYthing – for once, it is just enough to be able to comment here. That there is a “here” to comment on I mean.

    Thanks!

    -VR

  • by Andrew White

    On December 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    oh hey neat i would like some comics

  • by Justin S.

    On December 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Wow, quite the list! Glad to see You Can’t Be Here made it on, it’s in some very heady company indeed…

  • by robert kirby

    On December 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Very happy to see certain titles on this list. BAC 2011 was easily my fave of the 6 volumes produced thus far, and look forward to the 2012 edition.

  • by jonathon dalton

    On December 7, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Yes please comics please!

  • by td ward

    On December 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    woah dang that’s a lot of great comics. peeps got taste.

  • by Stina

    On December 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I love the Best American Comics series. I’ve found many a favorite new comic artist/writer through combing through the past anthologies. And am looking forward to this year’s bc of guest editor Alison Bechdel, who I first took notice of in the 2007 edition. In some ways, comics are still a small world, and it’s fun exploring. Anyway, great work, and I can’t believe you do this + teach + work on own projects + raise a family! inspirational.

  • by Brandon

    On December 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I just got into mini-comics. One of the mini-comic creators, whose work I own, I follow on twitter notified me of this. Fantastic!
    Even if I don’t win, I’ll be adding a bunch of these on my “to read” list.

  • by Dimetri

    On December 7, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    What a loverly list!

  • by Mel Dale

    On December 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    This sounds great. Thanks for all the effort to shine some light on independent creators. Now that I know about them, I’ll be looking for your collected volumes.

  • by Lala

    On December 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Yay minis!

  • by bp

    On December 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    this is a fantastic list.

  • by Donnie Sticksel

    On December 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Lots of great things here – it’s like the Brooklyn Comics Fest all over again.

  • by Nate

    On December 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Damn … lots of stuff for this year, including stuff I hadn’t heard about. Hard to believe all that fit into one year!

  • by Greg Farrell

    On December 7, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Please include me in the drawing. (pun intended)

  • by Mike Smith

    On December 7, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    What a great year for comics. Every comic I recognize I love, which tells me I should go out and pick up some of the ones I don’t. I’ve picked up the Best Comics for the past few years and I’m looking forward to this one.

  • by Vinny Ferris

    On December 8, 2011 at 12:14 am

    YEEEEHAWWWWW!!

  • by Marta

    On December 8, 2011 at 1:11 am

    There have been so many great works this year. 2012 better not be the end of the world because I’ll need time to get through this all.

  • by Angela Becerra Vidergar

    On December 8, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Wonderful! I can’t wait to delve into some of these beautiful works over the next few months. Please enter me in the contest!

  • by J.Tabon

    On December 8, 2011 at 2:03 am

    The amount of goodness on this list is staggering.

  • by William J. Rivera

    On December 8, 2011 at 9:00 am

    great list, will turn it into my reading list now, please enter me in drawing

  • by Ryan

    On December 8, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I would love some minis. Didn’t get a chance to hit a con this year.

  • by kenan

    On December 8, 2011 at 9:29 am

    I included a copy of the 2008 volume among the books I donated to “The People’s Library.” (My contribution was otherwise more explicitly political, but comics always help me sleep, and I had the impression that falling asleep on the Zuccotti granite was no easy task.) I don’t know whether it survived the eviction, but I don’t suppose the odds are very good.

  • by AJ Michel

    On December 8, 2011 at 9:30 am

    So many great comics… I appreciate all the work both of you put in on this project, and please enter me in the contest!

  • by Doc Redbat

    On December 8, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Oooh, the Axman book & Beasts of Burden both look mighty tasty!

  • by Santiago

    On December 8, 2011 at 9:59 am

    How does a self-publisher give you their comics to be considered on the list?

  • by Amy Frederick

    On December 8, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Wow! Thank you for this post. I may never finish my dissertation, though. How happy I would be with a stack of 25 of these babies in my hands. Thanks for the drawing!

  • by Lisa Anchin

    On December 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

    So many good comics all in one place!! Can’t wait to pick up a copy!

  • by Simon Fraser

    On December 8, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I’m very happy to see Nick Bertozzi get his due here, both for the underappreciated ‘Stuffed’ and the wonderful’Persimmon Cup’. Persimmon Cup debuted on Activatecomix.com as did Mike Dawson’s excellent ‘Troop 142′. Jason Little’s Bee character appeared in ‘Motel Art Improvement Service’ which was also an Act-i-vate comic.

    With a bit of luck this will persuade Bertozzi to get back on to making more Persimmon Cup, which will be good for everybody.

  • by Michael

    On December 8, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Thanks for the list. I know what to read now for the next four months. Please enter me in the drawing — it’ll give me a good head start.

  • by Nick

    On December 8, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Great list! As a librarian and comics reader I am always looking for new titles. The list gave me some new titles to seek out. Thanks!

  • by Natalie T.

    On December 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    So much to explore, thanks for sharing your recommendations.

  • by DavidRY

    On December 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Awesome list! I know every year I fall more and more behind on my reading list. Hopefully the holidays can help with that!

  • by Maclaine Diemer

    On December 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    This is such an incredible list. It would take me all of 2012 to explore the whole thing. Thanks for having such a great contest.

  • by AndrewC

    On December 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the chance to win an excellent list of comics.

  • by jeff

    On December 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Incredible list. Generous giveaway.
    Sincere thanks.

  • by terri

    On December 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    hi. want.

  • by saman

    On December 9, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Okay, I am entering this drawing. Good list, lots of stuff I’ve never heard of before.

  • by Pat McCuen

    On December 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Nice work. I actually own a couple of these. Indie comics are where its at. I lament the fact that soooooooooo many comic shops have unimaginative purchasers (employed by the shop, not customers).

  • by Josh Blair

    On December 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    This is me entering the drawing.

  • by Abraham Something

    On December 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Alexis Frederick-Frost’s Voyage, Sturm’s Market Day and, Woodring’s WeatherCraft were my three favorite comics this year.

  • by Brian Hagen

    On December 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I love being reminded of how big the world of mini-comics is. Intriguing choices here, between the brand-new names (to me), creators I love, and those I ask, “Hey, whatever happened to…?”.

  • by Thales

    On December 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    i’m so wanting this

  • by Matt Brown

    On December 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Love it! This anthology is something I *always* look forward to.

    Now gimme comics!!!

  • by Dee Horton

    On December 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Awesome Art…
    We need more bright spots like this in this gray scale world

  • by Jarod Rosello

    On December 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    This is a great Notables list. As much time I spend looking for new comics, I’m always amazed at how much great stuff there is out there that I miss.

  • by Isaac

    On December 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Sign me up for the raffle! Did I win?

  • by Laura A James

    On December 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I’m glad I visited Alison B’s facebook page in time to view this link, share the publication info with my 700+ fb friends and sign up for the raffle. Peace. laurajame22