The Onion A.V. Club’s Best Comics of the Decade

The A.V. Club’s Onion’s month-long series of looks back gets to comics with 25 Best Comics and 5 Best Archival editions. As the first official, thought out “Best of” for the Aughts of Comics, it’s a solid list, if genre heavy…NO SCOTT PILGRIM? Really???? The book that summed up the decade’s mishmash of media and influences in comics form? And… NO MANGA? That’s seriously F’d…unless there is a separate manga list.

BTW, anyone who gets all math pedant and says “The decade ends in 2011!” can not only kiss my Indian Pocahontas, but stand in line for the lonely life they have earned. Math and sociology are two different topics, yo.

Comments

  1. Just to be clear, that’s the AV Club, not The Onion proper. Just in case some people were thinking that they put together a parody list. :)

  2. >> BTW, anyone who gets all math pedant and says “The decade ends in 2011!” can not only kiss my Indian Pocahontas, but stand in line for the lonely life they have earned.>>

    Math pedants would tell you the decade ends in 2010, and the next one begins in 2011.

    The argument is between those who believe decades end in years ending with 9 (meaning they started counting with zero) and those who believe decades end in years ending in zero (meaning they started counting with one).

    I’m not going to say where I stand, though, because my life’s not lonely and I wouldn’t want to earn a sudden change…

    kdb

  3. Eh. I think here’s one of the easier arguments: when you put together a list of, say, the best movies, music, and comics of the 80′s, do you count 1980? Or do you count 1990? I think most people would do the former.

  4. I say: What? No R. Sikoryak?

  5. Mark Clegg says:

    It all depends on if you believe there was a year 0 or not. I have no problem if someone wants to do a best of the `80s, `90s, whatever; but if they say the best of the decade or century then I sort of care what years they are including, though of course people may act as they please in this regard (just don’t expect me to take you seriously).

  6. There’s no manga largely because most of us only dabble in manga (at best), and if we even tried to acknowledge it we’d likely come off underinformed. (I did consider DRIFTING LIFE, though.)

    A decade is any ten-year period. The “decade” in this case is “the ’00s.”

  7. Oh and Mr. Busiek, apologies for not getting anything written by you onto the list. Upon reflection, we should’ve made room for SECRET IDENTITY. If THE DARK AGE were complete, that would be a definite contender too.

  8. Alan Coil says:

    I blame Prince.

    “Party like it’s 1999.”

    Before that song, many more people understood that a Decade ends on December 31 of the year ending in a zero. As does a Century. And a Millenium.

    However, one can name any period of 10 years as a decade (notice no capitalization), or any 100 years as a century. As in, “In the century after the end of the Civil War, little progress was made in civil rights in the United States.”

    But, as with many things in this age of the internet, once a faux interpretation of a word occurs often enough, it becomes readily adapted by the semi-literate hordes. Examples: alright instead of all right; should of instead of should’ve.

  9. michael says:

    haha! The Beat just got all gangsta in our faces!!! :D

  10. majorjoe23 says:

    “I blame Prince.”

    I don’t think you can blame Prince for this. The New Year’s Eve of Dec. 31, 1999 was always going to be a bigger NYE than Dec. 31, 2000. Having all the numbers change just seemed like a bigger deal.

  11. Personally, I was hoping that the world would have ended on December 31, 2000, just so I could laugh at all the stupid people who had panicked over Y2K. Yeah, 2000 is a nice round number, but the Millennium didn’t start then.

    (I wasn’t worried about Y2K… I figured if anything would happen, it would happen in New Zealand first, around 7 AM Eastern time, giving me enough time to hit the ATM, rent a car, and head to the Great Midwest.)

    As for Mr. Busiek, I’d place “Astro City: Local Heroes” on the list.

  12. I think that if one believes that there was a year 0, then there had to have been 2 years 0, one BCE and one CE. Doesn’t make sense to only have one year 0.

  13. Bob Hughes says:

    Isn’t that sort of like having two Midnights?

  14. El Santo Says:
    >> Eh. I think here’s one of the easier arguments: when you put together a list of, say, the best movies, music, and comics of the 80’s, do you count 1980? Or do you count 1990? I think most people would do the former.>>

    Trouble is, it seems easy and obvious to both sides. The people who wouldn’t include 1980 find it just as natural, and would point out that by your logic, the 20th century doesn’t include the year 2000, even though it’s the only year in the 20th century to start with a 20–.

    I ran into this kind of counting-confusion last night, while rereading Susan Cooper’s THE DARK IS RISING. Will Stanton, born on Midwinter Day, is told on his 11th birthday that it’s his eleventh Midwinter Day, after his tenth Midwinter Eve. But his eleventh birthday is actually his twelfth Midwinter Day, after his eleventh Midwinter Eve — Cooper started counting from one, but age, unlike a calendar, starts at zero.

    But to “most people,” Cooper’s math sounds right, so what most people would think ain’t necessarily so.

    Noel Murray Says:
    >> Oh and Mr. Busiek, apologies for not getting anything written by you onto the list. Upon reflection, we should’ve made room for SECRET IDENTITY. If THE DARK AGE were complete, that would be a definite contender too.>>

    No sweat. I’m happy to be listed on such lists, but never offended if I’m not — there’s lotsa good stuff out there!

    Besides, I can take comfort in being on Spurgeon’s list-in-progress three times!

    kdb

  15. Scratchie says:

    Why should the existence (or lack thereof) of a year zero have anything to do with it? If you’re talking about “the eighties”, you’re talking about the years that have the word “eighty” in their names. Stop me if I’m going too fast. This is completely different than talking about when the “twentieth century” ended (2000, obviously), because we don’t call it “the eighth decade” (or even “the ninth decade”); we call it “the eighties”.

    As for the funnybook list in question, I found it heavy on obvious conventional wisdom and short on insight. It says something about the extreme paucity of high-quality “literary” writing in comics that “Blankets” is considered a masterpiece instead of an entertaining melodrama, and I find it hard to justify including “Golem”, “Thrizzle” or anything by Jason on a “best of decade” list.

  16. Time doesn’t exist. So spoke the river to Siddhartha.

  17. >> I think that if one believes that there was a year 0, then there had to have been 2 years 0, one BCE and one CE. Doesn’t make sense to only have one year 0.>>

    Only if you count the beginning of the Current Era as happening between years. If it happens during a year, then that year could be counted as neither before or after, but the zero year in which it changed.

    There is no year zero in the Gregorian calendar (the one we use) or the Julian calendar that preceded it. There is one in Buddhist and Hindu calendars. And in astronomical year numbering and ISO numbering (though since year zero in those coincides with Gregorian or Julian 1 BC, they still count “the first century” as 1-100, not 0-99, and thus follow the pattern of units ending in zero-ending years rather than beginning in them).

    The way to split the two conventions apart is to say that the “Eighties” are 1980-1989, but “the ninth decade of the twentieth century” is 1981-1990.

    And despite the bigger celebrations happening in 1999, the twentieth century did end in 2000. What people were celebrating was the odometer tick-over. Understandably so, but insisting it was the end of the 20th century was just bad math. Still worth a party, though.

    kdb

  18. >> Why should the existence (or lack thereof) of a year zero have anything to do with it? If you’re talking about “the eighties”, you’re talking about the years that have the word “eighty” in their names. Stop me if I’m going too fast.>>

    You’re not “going too fast,” you’re just making an assumption not everyone makes, and then assuming anyone who isn’t making it is somehow stupid, rather than merely disagreeing with you.

    As it happens, popular labels have only a passing connection to calendar years. The Sixties, as a cultural unit, are closer to 1964-1972 than to 1960-1969. But people who want to nail it down to a specific ten years will fall into two camps, and neither of them is right or wrong.

    kdb

  19. The Beat says:

    Oh Kurt no, you are NOT winning this time! You have met your Waterloo, your Golgotha, your Wounded Knee. As I said before, math is not the same as psychology/custom/culture. Eras may be vague and ill-defined, but when someone says “The 90s” they mean colloquially, and BY CUSTOM a year that had a 9 in the tens spot! Not, “2000, the final decade of the 90s!”

    This argument is not about some mathematical period of ten years. It is about what people as a group have decided a word should mean. What is so difficult about this idea?

  20. >> This argument is not about some mathematical period of ten years. It is about what people as a group have decided a word should mean. What is so difficult about this idea? >>

    Nothing. I was pointing out that no one particularly thinks the decade ends in 2011, so I do think I win that one. Check the post.

    As to what “people as a group” have decided, I’m not arguing for either side, just noting that there are at least two groups, who’ve decided different things, and neither of them is wrong or right. When people say “the Nineties,” they generally mean one of two things, depending on their approach.

    kdb

  21. And the fact that you saw fit to preemptively wave off the other group is pretty strong evidence that you recognize that there are two groups, and that the other group is widespread enough for you to expect them to turn up. If “what people as a group have decided” was as universal as you’re saying, you wouldn’t have elt any need to do that.

    So, basically, you acknowledged my point before I even made it.

    kdb

  22. Nate Horn says:

    You guys have *way* too much time on your hands. All I can think is, “What? No Urasawa??? This list is useless….”

  23. Nate Horn says:

    All kidding aside, it’s actually a pretty good list. Props for including Achewood, the best serialized comic of the past 25 years.

  24. Scratchie says:

    >>You’re not “going too fast,” you’re just making an assumption not
    >>everyone makes,

    At the risk of being accused of having too much time on my hands, please point me to a single example of anyone who seriously argues that the decade called “the eighties” includes 1990. (Chronologically, not culturally.)

    As for the list in question, I can only hope that they’re going to do a separate manga list (although, why? They didn’t do a separate list for Norwegian cartoonists) since Urasawa, as Nate points out, is painfully missing.

    Otherwise, several of the examples they cite — Walking Dead, Astro City, Scott Pilgrim — deserve a spot ahead of numerous examples that did make the list, and I think a few of the following might deserve inclusion as well:

    Fables
    Pop Gun War
    Omega the Unknown
    La Perdida
    Hard Time
    Gerber’s Doctor Fate
    Superman: Last Son of Earth
    Skyscrapers of the Midwest
    Batman: Year 100

    That’s just off the top of my head.

    As for archives, as much as we all adore classic newspaper strips (don’t we? Bueller?), what about:

    Fourth World Omnibus
    Batman Chronicles & Superman Chronicles
    The hardcover American Flagg collection
    Lots more if manga is considered (e.g. Vertical’s Tezuka and D&Q’s Tatsumi).

  25. A Newton says:

    I like the comment to the AVC article regarding a comparison of Scott Pilgrim and Twilight.

    And by “like” I mean “enjoyably perplexed by the existence of a mind which would even think to make such a comparison.”

  26. >> At the risk of being accused of having too much time on my hands, please point me to a single example of anyone who seriously argues that the decade called “the eighties” includes 1990.>>

    Start any discussion asking for “the best of the Eighties,” and they will appear, first asking for clarification of what the term means and then arguing the point.

    kdb

  27. Jake Saint says:

    E. E. “Doc” Smith examined the “odometer” effect of time measurement in his classic “Occam’s Wristwatch”.*

    *no, no he didn’t. It just seemed like too much fun not to make up.

    As someone who went to high school starting in the fall of ’86, I can duly attest that the ’80′s ended sometime in early June of 1990, and that the ’90′s began when people started talking about Nirvana.

  28. Synsidar says:

    FWIW, a Google search on “defining decade” brings up a lot of references to the last ten years. Starting with “n0″ or “n1″ isn’t obligatory.

    SRS

  29. >> As someone who went to high school starting in the fall of ‘86, I can duly attest that the ’80’s ended sometime in early June of 1990, and that the ’90’s began when people started talking about Nirvana.>>

    Heh. As someone who started college in 1978, I always had the impression that the ’80s started in 1982 or 1983, but can’t pinpoint as concrete a moment why.

    kdb

  30. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Political/Arts Starts of Decade

    1940s: Pearl Harbor/Sinatra Hits Billboard-Downbeat Two-Fer
    1950s: Alger Hiss conviction/A Streetcare Named Desire
    1960s: JFK takes office/Beatles On Sullivan
    1970s: RMN leaves office/David Mancuso Opens The Loft
    1980s: Reagan shot/MTV Launches
    1990s: Baghdad Bombed On CNN/Teen Spirit Video Debuts
    2000s: 9-11/The Wire

  31. We comic bookers love specificity.

  32. The Beat says:

    DEAR GOD I HAVE CREATED THE VERY THING I TRIED TO DESTROY.

  33. Rob Jensen (aka ShutUpRob) says:

    I dare someone to try to point out when the Silver Age (of comics, let’s be On-Topic here) ended and when the “Whatever We’re Going To Call It Eventually, We’re Still In It Age” began.

    — Rob

  34. >> I dare someone to try to point out when the Silver Age (of comics, let’s be On-Topic here) ended and when the “Whatever We’re Going To Call It Eventually, We’re Still In It Age” began.>>

    Heck, you could dare someone to make a case that there hasn’t been an Age in-between, and get plenty of argument as well.

    In my case, I think “Ages” ramp up and down, rather than starting all at once or stopping all at once. So to my mind, the Silver Age ramps up from 1956-1964, and ramps down from 1968-1973 or so. The Bronze Age ramps up from 1970-1975 and ramps down from 1980-1985 or so. Whether there’ve been one, two or more periods since then is easier to figure out from a greater distance, but it seems to be the late Eighties Boom to the early Nineties Bust is a different period than what’s come since the Bust. Whether any of it is distinctive enough to be called an Age, beats me.

    >> DEAR GOD I HAVE CREATED THE VERY THING I TRIED TO DESTROY. >>

    That’s probably because you presented your point aggressively; had you simply said, “and for the purposes of this list, the AV Club is defining the decade as 2000-2009,” nobody much would have quibbled, I’d guess. Declaring that those who wouldn’t assume so are lonely math dweebs is just asking for trouble. More fun that way, though.

    kdb

  35. Man, 33 comments and most of those are concerning how to interpret a calendar! Imagine how exciting things will be when we get back around to comics :p

    Kidding aside, it somewhat bothered me that there were few (if any) works listed that were *inspired* by the decade. Looking back, no one will doubt that the medium truly expanded and offered up some great works, but the vast majority of these books have been on every single list published since the decade began. We get it. Blankets and ACME are great. The fact that they keep popping up must say something, but at the same time, if the same book released in 2003 hasn’t been… (neither “challenged nor “dethroned” are the words I’m looking for, yet they’re the sentiment I wish to express) by now, then something is seriously wrong here.

    Every comic blogger/reporter has published this exact list, except there are a few surprises here (The Goon? Really?). Even so, nothing listed expresses the “spirit of the aughts”. What about DMZ, and its take on embedded journalism? Surely that has parallels to what’s going on in the real world. One of those presidential campaign trail graphic novels had to be good, right? Sadly a lot of the 9/11 and Obama variants were big on meaning, but low on substance, but it would have been nice if something of that ilk had made the list, if only for the time capsule aspect of things.

    I guess I just have trouble with the verbiage of the list. Are these “The Best Comics of the Aughts”, or are they simply “The Best Comics Released Over The Past 10 Years”? I feel there is an important difference there.

  36. The Beat says:

    Will West, that is a VERY VERY good point. I think some kind of social/cultural subtext gives works some staying power — although the danger is also in becoming dated. That’s why I really question the omission of Scott Pilgrim — it is an absolute zeitgiest comics about coming of age in the Aughts. And the lack of manga is very troubling, as well.

    As for you Busiek — your day is coming, oh yes. I didn’t say what you suggested because…well, no one in the media, old or new, is going to do a “best of decade or century” at the end of a year ending in a 0. Call it a media convention then, if nothing else. And yes I was being purposely untolerant, because the whole “coutning time” debate is as fruitless and predictable as whether Amazing Spiderman sells more now than it did when Peter Parker was married. But yes, Comic Bookers do love specificity, god love them.

  37. >> As for you Busiek — your day is coming, oh yes.>>

    I get a day?!

    Cool!

    kdb

  38. That is a fair point, though I’d argue that “The Death Ray,” PERSEPOLIS, PYONGYANG and Y THE LAST MAN all fit your criteria. Anyway, in this case we were assessing quality combined with significance to the medium as a whole, not so much how the books commented on the times. Outside of DMZ and Scott Pilgrim, I’m curious to hear what else you think qualifies in that regard.

  39. Yes, Kurt, you get a day. Don’t ask Heidi which one, though; her calendar is obviously all bollixed up.

    –Nat (who has been kicking himself because he realized just last week that he should’ve talked McCloud into publishing a Zot! 1965 calendar, because the days of the week for 2010 match those for 1965, so it would be usable on that level.)

  40. Now that that ‘decade’ discussion has wound down…

    2010: “Two thousand ten” or “Twenty ten”???

  41. >> 2010: “Two thousand ten” or “Twenty ten”??? >>

    Yes.

    You’re just trying to start trouble, aren’t you?

    It’ll wind up being “twenty ten” for the same reasons 1910 is “nineteen ten,” not “nineteen hundred ten.” But either one works fine.

    kdb

  42. Tim O'Neil says:

    I think the reason Scott Pilgrim was omitted is that it’s not very good at all.

  43. Scratchie says:

    K. Busiek wrote:

    >“and for the purposes of reality, the AV Club is defining the decade of ‘the
    >00s’ as the years that have a zero in the tens place, in keeping with
    >long-standing cultural standards.”

    Fixed that for you.

  44. >> Fixed that for you.

    Wow. So did you just earn a lonely life for aggressive pedantry?

    kdb

  45. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Scott Pilgrim isn’t good? Oh no! I thought it was good!

  46. Heidi, you are absolutely right in questioning the absence of both Scott Pilgrim and manga from the list, but you’re wrong about determining when the decade started and ended. Dates aren’t meant to be understood colloquially. They are a standardized measurement of time. The decade we’re in began Jan 1, 2001 and will end Dec 31, 2010.

  47. >> Dates aren’t meant to be understood colloquially.>>

    That’s a new one on me.

    “When’s New Year’s Eve?”

    “Beats me! Dates aren’t meant to be understood colloquially!”

    But I’m glad you showed up, David, so I can be back in the middle where my actual position is, rather than representing one of the extremes by default. You, Heidi and Scratchie can beat each other about the head and shoulders with semi-inflated bladders now.

    kdb

  48. Disappointed that everybody is more upset about where the aughts ought to end!

  49. bad wolf says:

    I’m more curious about the cultural ending of the decade… will it be last year’s economic meltdown? Troop pullout from Iraq or Afghanistan? Obama election? Probably we just won’t even be able to tell for another few years. The 9/11 start is pretty definitive by comparison.

  50. Tom Spurgeon says:

    At some point during Thanksgiving I’m going to be convinced my family is the most annoying group of people in the world and then I’m going to remember this thread and know that’s simply not true. So thank you, Heidi.

  51. Frank Rook says:

    Sirius-XM’s “80s on 8″ doesn’t play anything from 1990, but does from 1980.

    That settles the debate, right there.

  52. Kurt Busiek: “In my case, I think “Ages” ramp up and down, rather than starting all at once or stopping all at once. So to my mind, the Silver Age ramps up from 1956-1964, and ramps down from 1968-1973 or so. The Bronze Age ramps up from 1970-1975 and ramps down from 1980-1985 or so.”

    I’ve kinda thought the same thing. I use the first appearance of the Flash in Showcase as the first concrete example of the Silver Age. The DC folks may have been warming the engine, but this is where the Silver Age roadtrip leaves the driveway. FANTASTIC FOUR #1 is the first billboard declaring “Welcome to the Silver Age!”

    Many people argue over the end of the Silver Age … the cancelation of TALES TO ASTONISH, TALES OF SUSPENSE, and the other Marvel two-fer titles? Death of Gwen Stacey? That’s a great end of the silver age, but I was only 6 years old when that issue came out, and had only been reading comics for two years. My personal Silver Age probably extends well into 1980 — lots of great memories, although in hindsight, there were several comics that I wouldn’t care to revisit.

  53. Scratchie says:

    LOL@Spurgeon

  54. Our comic book history is defined by whatever DC superhero comic made an impact with collectors.
    Action Comics #1
    Showcase Comics #4
    Green Lantern/Green Arrow #74
    Crisis of Infinite Earths #1
    They’ll probably designate Identity Crisis #1 as one down the road.

  55. I think we should all go to the Spurgeons’ for Thanksgiving, just so the comparison can be made more precisely.

  56. Okay, new list next year. Nothing from 2000 allowed and Busiek’s completed THE DARK AGE is number one. Everyone cool with that?

    Nothing was fought over more than SCOTT PILGRIM and in the end the anti-PILGRIM forces won. (Hand tip: I was on the pro side.)

  57. Wayne Beamer says:

    Having great fun scanning this list of comments, particularly Tom S’s “annoyingly” true view of funnybook folks. Top 25 lists are meant to generate this kind of “fantasy football” discussion, nothing more.

    It’s cool that the AV Club even published a list, and that more people are contributing to the comics conversation. Comic book wisdom — three words that shouldn’t sit side-by-side in any sentence, but there they are — isn’t confined to the Big Apple.

  58. >> >> Dates aren’t meant to be understood colloquially.>>

    That’s a new one on me.

  59. Okay, for some reason I only got have the post up.

    I was replying that perhaps I should have put the word colloquially in quotations. I was quoting another post.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Pick five Some people are surprised by the complete exclusion of comics from Japan from the A.V. Club’s list of the best comics of the ’00s. In the midst of all of the semantic discussion of when decades begin and end in the comments over at The Beat, the Club’s Noel Murray explains: “There’s no manga largely because most of us only dabble in manga (at best), and if we even tried to acknowledge it we’d likely come off underinformed. (I did consider DRIFTING LIFE, though.)” [...]

  2. [...] With all that said, Heidi MacDonald, Sean Collins and David Pepose are totally correct about the absence of manga. That’s a pretty glaring omission. I’m embarrased to admit that I couldn’t put manga on my list either. Why? Because I don’t read manga, which is the one part of the comics universe that I know almost nothing about. I’ve heard Pluto is brilliant, and plan to start picking up volumes over the winter holiday. Any other suggestions? [...]

  3. [...] 61 The Onion A.V. Club’s Best Comics of the Decade [...]

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