I don't really have "favorite" books. I read too much, and I read too widely, to believe that any one book can encompass the totality of my tastes and reading experiences. Similarly, I think best-of lists are absolute bullshit. The only reason anyone ever made a list was because they wanted to start a fight. But here we are in the last week of the year, and I do think that some reflection is worthwhile. This week, I'll highlight some of the books by local authors that made my year in reading so memorable. Today, the focus is on comics.
We can't talk about the greatness of Seattle's comics scene without acknowledging the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival. This year's Short Run was the best yet, packed with great cartoonists from all over the world and alive with the kind of crackling energy that used to fill mainstream comics conventions before corporate dullness took over. The fact is, most of these comics were found at Short Run, or they exist because of Short Run. In just a handful of years, it's become pivotal to the scene.
With that said, here are some favorites:
Lots of cartoonists think they're doing something new, but Mita Mahato's debut poetry comics collection In Between is something new. Mahato's paper-cut comics are a whole new vocabulary, evoking slightly different responses in readers than traditional cartooning. The work she's doing here is fascinating and invigorating, but not just because you feel that she's discovering new ground. What's most important is Mahato's poetic voice, which is shy but insistent, like someone who's learned a secret about you and is looking at you with whole new eyes.
The anthology Grab Back Comics was about six months ahead of its time. Earlier this year, before "Harvey Weinstein" became shorthand for "sexual harassment," this comics collection about surviving sexual harassment seemed like a good idea. Now, it seems absolutely essential.
Tatiana Gill's comics are always worth reading, but the strips in Wombgenda, particularly the article about getting birth control at the Country Doctor, feel like a new level in her work. From her body positivity propaganda to her feminist manifestoes, Gill is getting stronger all the time. Her comics are kicking ass in bold new ways.
It's been a couple months and I still can't stop thinking about the bloody climax of Marc Palm's sex-and-violence caper The Fang. Though it stars a Muppet-looking vampire hunter, The Fang is decidedly not for kids. The sex scenes are explicit, the violence is gory, and Palm has a lot to say about why we cover our eyes when the best part is just about to happen.
This year saw Thick as Thieves rise to take the place that the comics newspaper Intruder left in our hearts. In just a year or so, Thieves started as a paper that felt like an Intruder fanzine, but it has expanded and grown to become Intruder's peer. I can't wait to see what next issue brings.
While it's not nearly as brilliant as Peter Bagge's Margaret Sanger biography Woman Rebel, Bagge's biography of Zora Neale Hurston, Fire!!, is about as provocative as they come. Hurston is a great subject for a biography, and Bagge mostly serves her well. But the book can't quite overcome the awkwardness of a middle-aged white man trying to capture the essential spirit of a great Black woman. You might have some problems with Fire!!, but you won't be able to stop thinking about it. This book is a conversation between a writer and her fan, and there's room in this conversation for you.