I’ve already written, over on Comics Daily, about what I’d call my absolute number one comic of the decade (although it was something of a tight choice), but I wanted to go into a bit more detail with a list of the 20 comics that have, for me, defined these ten years – my first full decade of properly reading/buying comics on a regular basis – more than any other. It’s perhaps not as “worthy” a list as a lot that you’ll find online around this time – I do read a fair amount of indie books and webcomics, but it’s fair to say that the bulk of my reading remains in the mainstream, superhero genre. Which I don’t think there’s anything wrong with, frankly, since – as is evident from my list – I reckon the best examples of those books easily hold their own against anything else from the decade you’d care to mention. With that in mind, then, here’s my list:
1. All Star Superman (Morrison/Quitely)
Quite simply a masterpiece, the most wonderful superhero comic since Moore stopped doing them.
2. Scott Pilgrim (O’Malley)
As perfect a fusion of the aesthetics of videogames and comics as you’ll find; plus, a funny, smart, apt and moving character piece.
3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Moore/O’Neill)
The greatest writer in the industry at almost the best he’s ever been. And still an utterly unbeatable high concept.
4. Formerly Known as the Justice League (Giffen/deMatteis/Maguire)
The funniest comic of the decade, a nostalgia-fest that manages to be even better than the series it calls back to.
5. Alias (Bendis/Gaydos)
Sorely underrated failed-superhero-turned-detective series, home to Jessica Jones, the best original character comics came up with this decade.
6. Casanova (Fraction/Ba/Moon)
I’m joining the chorus of people saying that this dazzling, freewheeling, bonkers spy saga will have more influence on 2010s comics than any other.
7. Powers (Bendis/Oeming)
Lost its way after a hiatus and relaunch, but at its peak, no series this decade was a more gripping piece of superhero deconstruction.
8. We3 (Morrison/Quitely)
Beautiful, tragic, unique, groundbreaking, brilliant.
9. Phonogram (Gillen/McKelvie)
Hip (and not-so-hip) music references are merely the tool with which Gillen expertly peels away at human emotions and interactions.
10. Ultimate Spider-Man (Bendis/Bagley/Immonen/Lafuente)
Everything a modern-day Spidey book should be – inventive, fun, exciting, fresh. Puts the “proper” version to shame on a monthly basis.
11. Superman: Secret Identity (Busiek/Immonen)
Charming little series with a terrific hook, and as good an examination of the myth of Superman as just about any featuring the “real” character.
12. The Ultimates (Millar/Hitch)
Took the template laid out by The Authority and turned it into the best superhero movie never seen – before becoming a huge influence on the real thing.
13. Ex Machina (Vaughan/Harris)
Far superior to the much-lauded Y: The Last Man, the closing page of issue #1 is still the most gut-punchingly brilliant comics trick in years.
14. Blue Beetle (Giffen/Rogers/Hamner/various)
Surprisingly excellent, unpretentious, funny, character-driven superheroics.
15. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Ware)
A little heavy-going, but somewhat touching, and the sheer level craft on display is indisputable.
16. The Umbrella Academy (Way/Ba)
Owes a lot to the likes of Morrison and Fraction, but still a superbly fun and inventive series.
17. New X-Men (Morrison/Various)
Probably the best sustained creator run on an existing title (in a decade that was light on good examples of such things), and almost as influential on the decade as The Authority.
18. Captain Britain and MI:13 (Cornell/Kirk)
The Brits take on the world (well, the Marvel Universe) and almost win, getting in 15 issues of marvellous, witty superhero team book action before the sadly inevitable cancellation.
19. 52 (Morrison/Rucka/Waid/Johns/Giffen/various)
A huge gamble, but the experiment paid off handsomely, resulting in a truly gripping weekly-serialised experience. A shame every attempt to replicate it has so far failed.
20. Batman (Morrison run)
A run that hasn’t been without its flaws, but still a compelling and intriguing jaunt into the Dark Knight’s psyche, with some truly brilliant moments.
Oh, and #21, obviously, would have been The Amazing Spider-Boy.
It hadn’t really occurred to me to do this, as it seemed like something of a mammoth task, until I chanced upon some message board discussion of the infamous just-published NME list. More out of curiosity than anything, I then decided to see if I could put one together – and it turned out to be rather simple, going through every album in my iTunes (since surely any record that would make a favourites list, I’d have in my collection already) and listing the ones I felt would make the cut. Conveniently, the number listed ended up being almost exactly 50 – so, rounding to that number, I then used my tried-and-tested system of going through the list alphabetically, taking each entry and moving it up the rankings until I found one above it that I felt I liked more than it, and stopping it there. Does this create unfair bias towards my #1 entry, considering it essentially sat at the top waiting for something to challenge it? I’m not sure, I don’t know how scientific the process is, but it seems as good a way as any. Elsewhere in the list the placings are somewhat arbitrary, and might be different on a different day – but I tried to be fair, and also consider albums’ relative worth (and my enjoyment of them) at the time of release as well as what I might think of them now. So here we are…
1. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (2007)
2. Islands – Return to the Sea (2006)
3. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup (2007)
4. Ooberman – Hey Petrunko (2003)
5. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
6. The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (2003)
7. Half Man Half Biscuit – CSI:Ambleside (2008)
8. of Montreal – Aldhils Arboretum (2002)
9. Nada Surf – Let Go (2002)
10. Elliott Smith – From a Basement on the Hill (2004)
11. The Strokes – Room on Fire (2003)
12. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster… (2007)
13. Rilo Kiley – Take Offs and Landings (2001)
14. Los Campesinos! – We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (2008)
15. Ozma – Rock and Roll Part Three (2001)
16. of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (2007)
17. The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)
18. Elliott Smith – Figure 8 (2000)
19. Clinic – Internal Wrangler (2000)
20. Muse – Origin of Symmetry (2001)
21. Rilo Kiley – The Execution of All Things (2002)
22. Half Man Half Biscuit – Achtung Bono (2005)
23. Islands – Arm’s Way (2008)
24. Ozma – Spending Time on the Borderline (2003)
25. The Elected – Sun, Sun, Sun (2006)
26. Ben Kweller – Sha Sha (2002)
27. British Sea Power – The Decline of British Sea Power (2003)
28. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
29. of Montreal – Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004)
30. Weezer – The Green Album (2001)
31. The Libertines – Up the Bracket (2002)
32. Camera Obscura – Let’s Get Out Of This Country (2006)
33. Mates of State – Team Boo (2003)
34. The Thermals – The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006)
35. Green Day – American Idiot (2004)
36. Half Man Half Biscuit – Cammell Laird Social Club (2002)
37. Ed Harcourt – The Beautiful Lie (2006)
38. The Elected – Me First (2004)
39. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (2001)
40. Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
41. Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown (2002)
42. Graham Coxon – Happiness In Magazines (2004)
43. Apples in Stereo – The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone (2000)
44. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)
45. Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of Bewilderbeast (2000)
46. Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart (2001)
47. The Get Up Kids – On a Wire (2002)
48. Superstar – Phat Dat (2000)
49. The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes (2006)
50. Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer (2008)
The “noughties”, then. Better than the nineties? Looking at the list, there’s no absolutely huge album that jumps out in the way that, say, OK Computer and Different Class and Pinkerton manage to do for me – Neon Bible almost feels slightly like a “default” choice (and it could just as easily be anything in the top five or even ten, depending on my mood at the time of choosing), which I know wouldn’t be the case if I thought long and hard about the previous decade. On the other hand, I probably like a wider range of 2000s music (to give an idea, I have 3055 tracks marked as 2000s on my iPod, and only 1929 from the 1990s), and I’m not sure I would necessarily have been able to get a decent list of 50 (certainly not with some quality albums left off, as there were here) from the ’90s. The 2000s are the first decade that I’ve spent the entirety of as someone with an active interest in buying, discovering and enjoying music, so there’ll naturally be more that I experienced contemporaneously. So, swings and roundabouts.
After compiling the list, I also thought it’d be interesting to see if any year stood out as a clear “favourite” from the decade. As it happens, though, it’s fairly close on the whole – 2002 edges it with 8 entries, while 2003/04 both have 7, and 2000, 2001 and 2006 each have 6. The notable exception (considering that I didn’t include anything from 2009 – not through deliberate choice, but it does make sense when you can consider that it can take longer for records to grow, or even be discovered in the first place – plus, it simply hasn’t been a vintage year by any stretch) is 2005, with just a single entry – Achtung Bono. I actually went back to check my LJ “review of the year” (as I know it’s one of the few times I did one) to see what I might have missed, and sure enough, barely anything on it was stuff I’d really want to listen to now (I had Funeral at the top, but that’s cheating – it may have come out in Europe in early 2005, but it’s really a 2004 album). Strange, really, considering 2004 and 2006 were both fairly strong.
It’s actually quite fun/exciting looking back over a whole decade, isn’t it? Given that none of us (unless we were fantastically nerdy) had blogs ten years ago, this is all rather new and interesting – a far bigger scale of challenge than the end-of-year lists we know and love so well. I suppose I’ll have to do films next, then.