Earlier this year, my son was watching me put comic books in protective bags and file them in a long box and he said, “Do you actually read comics or do you just collect them?” First of all, how dare you. Second . . . I’m working on it. I did spend more time on comics this year than some past years: I finally got them all in one place (some had been at my parents’ house since I graduated from high school) and put them in bags and boxes instead of random piles. The next step is to organize them and get series together so I know what I have and what holes I have to fill, a process already partially started as I attended a few comics conventions this year and found some new comics shops in town whose dollar bins I had to check out. Eventually, I would like to cull duplicate copies and other unwanted books and get my collection down to a manageable size (I don’t have an exact count, but I filled up twelve long boxes).
That, and just being busier, undoubtedly skewed my reading this year: I don’t keep track of every single issue I read, but even the list below includes a greater number of graphic novels and comics collections than previous years (marked with an asterisk). I actually prefer bound books for their convenience of access and storage, so my single-issue collecting has shifted toward series that are unlikely to be reprinted due to licensing issues (a large number of movie and toy tie-ins are in that situation).
Beyond comics, the books I read this year were mostly fiction, and a good portion of that was genre reading, continuing the “pulp” theme from last year. However, in addition to the usual science fiction and horror, I read more crime/mystery and romance (including an unusual sci-fi romance); concentrating on those areas led to me reading more female authors than I have in the past as well. A few longer novels were in the mix as well, but without much theme or connection; there were few series guiding my reading this year, and I guess it shows in my list.
The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun (for Vintage Science Fiction Month)
*Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Volume 3, Jiro Kuwata
Space, Time and Nathaniel, Brian Aldiss
The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes, Lawrence Block
Get Shorty, Elmore Leonard
The Tetris Effect: The Game That Hypnotized the World, Dan Ackerman
The Starlight Barking, Dodie Smith (the bizarre sequel to Smith’s better-known The Hundred and One Dalmations)
*Howard the Duck Vol. 2: Good Night, and Good Duck, Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones, et al
I Know What I Saw: Modern-Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore, Linda S. Godfrey
*Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
The Nice Guys, Charles Ardai, based on a screenplay by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi
It’s in His Kiss, Julia Quinn
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Lew Wallace
*Archie Volume One, Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, et al
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
*Jughead Volume One, Chip Zdarsky, Erica Henderson, et al
Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
*Kaiju No. 8 Volume 1, Naoya Matsumoto
Sweet Starfire, Jayne Ann Krentz
This is the sci-fi romance mentioned above. It’s a credible example of both genres, with a real Han-and-Leia dynamic between its rough-edged space pilot and disciplined aristocrat.
The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington, Joanna Moorhead
*Galaxy Angel Vol. 2, Kanan
The Galaxy Angel TV series was a pleasant discovery for me this year, but the show exists in a separate, looser continuity from the video games or manga that launched the property. I can’t say the manga blew me away.
Your Body Is Not Your Body, ed. Alex Woodroe with Matt Blairstone
Subtitled “A New Weird Horror Anthology to Benefit Trans Youth in Texas,” this includes work by non-gender-conforming authors and features themes of transformation, identity, and body horror.
The Beguiled, Thomas Cullinan
*Super Mario Adventures, Kentaro Takekuma and Charlie Nozawa
*Mr. Boop, Alec Robbins et al (the hardback collection of the biographical webcomic, ripping the veil from Robbins’ controversial marriage in real life to cartoon icon Betty Boop)
Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, Roy & Lesley Adkins
Raiders of the Lost Ark, Campbell Black, Adapted from the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, Based on a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
*Star Wars: A Long Time Ago . . . Volume 1: Doomworld, Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, et al
*Star Wars: A Long Time Ago . . . Volume 2: Dark Encounters, Archie Goodwin, Carmine Infantino, et al
*Star Wars: A Long Time Ago . . . Volume 3: Resurrection of Evil, Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson, et al
I’ve written before about how formative Marvel’s Star Wars series was for my love of comics, so most of this was a reread. It still holds up.
The Gutter and the Grave, Ed McBain
Leave It to Cleavage, Wendy Wax
Cold Nose, Warm Heart, Mara Wells
The Dain Curse, Dashiell Hammett
Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton, Magdalen King-Hall
Brain Rose, Nancy Kress
A very interesting science fiction novel, published in 1990 but set in the far-off year 2022. The premise is a surgical procedure that unlocks memories of past lives in those who undergo it, and all the complications that arise from that, but there are a number of other predictions around the edges that make it interesting to look at from this vantage in time.
*Archie Volume Two, Mark Waid, Veronica Fish, et al
Han Solo at Stars’ End, Brian Daley
Han Solo’s Revenge, Brian Daley
Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, Brian Daley
*Under 17: 20 Cineful Comix, Gary Smith
I don’t know that Smith thinks of Under 17 as a webcomic, but I did read most of it on Facebook before ordering one of his occasional print editions. Under 17—as in “No one under 17 admitted without an adult”—focuses on Smith’s childhood and adolescent fascination with movies, and his attempts to see, by any means necessary, the forbidden films that fired his imagination. Through the hindsight of adulthood, these vignettes are by turns hilarious, wry, and poignant.
*In a Glass Grotesquely, Richard Sala
Sala passed away in 2020; this is a book from later in his career, ostensibly about the Fantomas-like master criminal Super-Enigmatix, but also something of a jeremiad, skewering the government, social media, modern superhero franchises, self-dramatizing narcissists, and (of course) phonies like you and me. It’s an unusually personal statement from the artist best known for his arch, artful remixes of pulp and noir imagery.
Bimbos of the Death Sun, Sharyn McCrumb
Zombies of the Gene Pool, Sharyn McCrumb
Both of these murder mysteries feature Jay Omega, engineering professor-turned science fiction author, and take place within the world of sci-fi fandom. They’re also both critical of the fan impulse and lives wasted in fantasy—apparently Bimbos caused a stir in the 1980s, but it’s even more jarring in the face of the current “poptimistic” celebration of fandom in popular culture—but Zombies was the stronger of the two, with characters who are at least deeper than cartoon “nerd” stereotypes.
Nightmare Alley, William Lindsay Gresham
I loved the 1947 movie version last year and caught up with Guillermo Del Toro’s adaptation at the beginning of this year—both versions have points to recommend—so it was inevitable that I would also read the original novel, and whadya know, it was great.
Bird Box, Josh Malerman
I haven’t seen the movie, but this was a pretty good read.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver
*Jughead Volume Two, Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North, Derek Charm, et al
The Black Moth, Georgette Heyer
*graphic novel or comics collection
And that’s it! I’ve fallen behind on blogging, so my end-of-year movie wrap-up will arrive some time next week (I hope!). In the mean time, Happy New Year and have a great 2023! Thanks for reading!