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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My books of the year

I had intended this posting to be a thorough review of at least half a dozen great books and graphic novels I enjoyed this year. Unfortunately the winter bug has hit me, hence this breezy look at just four of the best. Reviews of the others will follow soon.

My choices are in no particular order, except for this first one. Laika was simply the best book I've read all year. (Although I believe it was actually published at the end of 2007?) A good comic should entertain, and an excellent comic should inspire an emotional response, whether that be laughter, excitement, intrigue, etc. In the case of Nick Abadzis' Laika I'm not ashamed to admit that the story of the little dog who became the world's first Cosmonaut moved me to tears. All the more so because of course the story of Laika is true.

Admittedly Abadzis has embelleshed the story to create a more dramatic and involving narrative but the basics are still true, and he has researched the background thoroughly to include all the facts. I haven't seen Nick in years but when I knew him in the 1980s he was a cartoonist for Marvel UK. Since then his style has matured and his storytelling skills have developed significantly.

Those odd people who dislike dogs might be blaisé about such a story but for the rest of you, if you buy this book seek out the beautifully designed hardback because this is a graphic novel you'll be proud to own.

Visit Nick Abadzis' Laika website here:

The History of The Beano is a huge coffee table book that needs a coffee table with sturdy legs to support it. At 350 pages, covering the 70 year history of the comic plus an index to all the stories and the issues they appeared in, this really is the definitive book on The Beano. Wisely, it's written by DC Thomson insider and ex-Dandy editor Morris Heggie, who has been able to access the company's vaults for some long-unseen gems.

All the top creators are covered, such as Dudley Watkins and Ken Reid, and some old Beanos are reproduced in their entirety, including issue No.1 from 1938 and the top selling issue from 1950.

Derek the Sheep is a character that appeared in The Beano and, unusually, comic creator Gary Northfield got to keep the rights! A French edition of Derek's adventures was published earlier this year (see review here) and now a hardback British edition is available from all good stockists. Like his Beano predecessor Davy Law, Gary's artwork is deceptively simple but incredibly funny. The style of humour is completely different to what one might expect from a Beano strip and should appeal to all tastes. Really unique, very funny.

Girls with Slingshots is a web comic that's now been collected in book form and available from The first volume collects the first 200 strips, which is basically "two girls, a bar, and a talking cactus" and is very witty. Creator Danielle Corsetto has a sharp sense of humour and I can really see this developing into something big. The book has some nice bonus items too such as pencil versions and commissions, and even a photo of Danelle's ass, so go for it fanboys! Check out the Girls With Slingshots website here:

Right, I'm off to try and sort out this head cold before New Year's Eve! Happy New Year readers!


Scott said...

Finally got Laika at Christmas - Amazon wish lists do work - but it seems the Beano book will have to be a self-purchase.

A quick but heartfelt thank you for such a great blog. I discovered it a few months back and am now a daily visitor.

I can also thank (blame?) you for the link to Steve Holland's blog - my comic education has moved on dramatically thanks to you both.

All the best for 2009.


Gary Northfield said...

Cheers for that Lew. Happy New Year to you!

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