I find the flurry of year-end best-of lists a little oppressive. In the first place, they remind me that, for a self-proclaimed cultural critic, I really don’t keep up with anything. And for the second — there’s just a kind of tyranny of news that seems crystallized in those lists. This moment you must think about All Star Superman! Jeez, ma…do I have to?

So anyway, I thought it would be fun instead of a typical best of list to maybe talk about some comics-related things that I discovered in 2008 that I’d never known about before. This has the added bonus of making my general ignorance of everything an advantage, since the more I don’t know, the more I have to write about. (The rest of the Hooded U bloggers thought it was an entertaining idea as well, so they’ll be providing their own lists as the week goes on.)

So to start:

–in mainstream comics, the creator I stumbled upon who made me happiest was probably Jeff Parker. As regular blog readers know, Parker writes a bunch of all-ages titles for Marvel. I just got his Marvel Adventures: Avengers vol. 4 collection and he was totally in the zone. The first issue has the Avengers fighting MODOC, and they all get turned into giant-headed MODOC’s themselves. The best part is when they (inevitably) fight the Leader, and they all make fun of him for having such a small head. And how do they make fun of him? By suggesting he become a teacher! And then they suggest that he can’t even get tenure. Then the Abomination, who is the Leader’s ally, gets really ticked and starts shouting “He does too have a big head!”

Macrocephalic jokes combined with sneers at the educational establishment. That’s all I really want from my super-hero books. Is it wrong?

–in manga,the thing I read that I didn’t know about that kicked my ass was the Korean mahwa yaoi series Let Dai, which is fantastic. I wrote a forthcoming review of it, so I probably shouldn’t enthuse too much here, but it’s brutal and preposterously romantic at the same time, and it literally made me cry.

–for art comics…well, this is probably a definitional stretch, but the thing that springs to mind is Hokusai’s manga. I’d known about Hokusai of course, but I’d never heard of his series of drawing books until this year when (I think) R.C. Harvey wrote about them in the Comics Journal. Beautiful, energetic line-work, filled with character and wit and…actually, heaping praise on them is just kind of silly. It’s just about the best drawing anyone has ever done; if you care about illustration at all, it’s the holy grail. You can check out some amazing images here. Or I’ve put a couple below if you’re too lazy to link:

Hokusai is hard to beat. Still, the vaguely-comics-related-thing I discovered this year, though, that most thoroughly rocked my world was the amazing Sur La Lune fairy tale website. Specifically, I’m talking about the massive collection of fairy tale illustrations available on the site. It was through Sur La Lune that I found out about Arthur Rackham’s unbelievable silhouette work for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. That’s only the beginning of it though. The site introduced me to

Kay Nielsen

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Margaret Evans Price

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Elenore Abbott

Harry Clarke (who is a God)

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And a bunch of others. It’s a fantastic place to get lost in.

So there you have it. Check back on Monday for Tom’s favorite comics discovery of 2008; Miriam and Bill will post later in the week.

Update: Minor edits for consistency.

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