Mutts by Patrick McDonnell (Newspaper Strip)
2012 was another solid year of beautiful Sunday strips (I only get the Sunday paper) from Patrick McDonnell. Mutts is one of the last bastions of gorgeous drawing and formal inventiveness in the newspaper comics realm and for some reason you almost never hear people talking about the strip.
Strips archived here.
Thunderpaw by Jen Lee (Webcomic)
Haters are gonna hate on the limited animation in this webcomic, but Thunderpaw is one of the few examples of animated comics that I really dig. Warning: don’t let the little animal characters fool you; this strip gets pretty grim.
Read it here.
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Blog (Blog)
I’m not sure how long the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library (which is part of The University of Ohio) has had a blog, but it seems like it’s really ramped up activity since the arrival of Caitlin McGurk. Several times a week you can expect an interesting, well-written article about some bit of amazing comics arcana and/or original art from the collection.
Find it here.
The Editorial Cartoons of Matt Bors (Political/Editorial Cartoons)
2012 was a heck of a year for Matt Bors. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and won the Herblock prize. Bors’ cartoons are biting but funny–and they’re thankfully not drawn in that annoying “stock” editorial cartoon style with heavy hatching, conte crayon, etc.
Megg, Mogg, and Owl by Simon Hanselmann (Webcomic)
Megg, Mogg, and Owl is full of foul language, rampant drug use, and crude sexual humor. Also, you have to dig through a cluttered tumblr to find the actual strips. But, if you enjoy the former and don’t mind the latter, you may become a convert.
Read it here.
Box Brown (Cartoonist)
OK, I know it’s “cheating” to pick a person rather than a particular work. but honestly, Box Brown is cranking out good comics at such a blinding pace–and via so many different delivery methods–that it’s hard to nail down just one. He’s running Retrofit Comics, helming the Garo anthology, doing a regular strip for MAD Magazine, publishing minis, running comics on his tumblr, and working on a graphic novel for First Second. Just typing that makes me tired.
John J. Boulet’s English Blog (Blog)
Here’s yet another amazing French cartoonist who has nothing yet printed in North America. Don’t despair, though, Boulet publishes many of his short comics simultaneously in French and English at his blog. I can’t help but think that his unique Moebius-meets-Eiichiro Oda drawing style will eventually find it’s way into a big release in North America some time soon.
Comic Rocket (Website/Webcomics Reader)
Comic Rocket is a web-based webcomics reader that makes it really, really easy to keep track of what comics you’re reading, where you are in the story, when/what comics have been updated, etc. I started using Comics Rocket to read webcomics this year, and my webcomics-reading has really picked up as a result. You don’t even need to set up an account; just log in via Twitter.
Pope Hats #2 & #3 by Ethan Rilly- Adhouse Books (Serialized Comics)
These two issues were a great late-year surprise for me. Admittedly, the 90s alt-comix vibe of Pope Hats makes me the perfect target for this series. The main story arc here is a brilliantly-crafted “everyday people” story a la the Hernandez Brothers, drawn in an expert almost Clowes-esque style. (One issue features a back-up story that could have been right out of the pages of Eightball.) Pope Hats is its own animal, though, and one well worth checking out.
Buy it here.
Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature by Philip Nel – University Press of Mississippi (Non-Fiction/Biography)
OK, I admit: I’m only half-way through this as of this writing. But I’m pretty confident this thorough and straightforward biography of Barnaby cartoonist and children’s book illustrator Crockett Johnson and his wife, children’s book writer Ruth Kraus, is one of the year’s best. Johnson didn’t have nearly the story-ready rough and tumble life of Bill Mauldin, but tone-wise, Nel’s book reminds me a lot of that great DePastino bio from a few years back.
Buy it here.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist by Alvin Buenaventura – Abrams ComicArts (Cartoonist Retrospective/Art Book)
If you’re a Dan Clowes obsessive like me, this beautiful volume of sketches, process information, and hard-to-find older strips was an early 2012 must-have.
Buy it here.
BONUS! My Least Favorite Things of 2012:
The End of Richard Thompson’s Cul De Sac (Newspaper Strip)
Cartoonist Richard Thompson’s Cul De Sac may prove to be the last great newspaper comic. It ended in 2012 when Thompson, struggling with Parkinson’s Disease, decided he would no longer be able to keep up with the gruelling demands of a daily strip.
Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space goes on Hiatus (Webcomic)
Late in 2012 Mike Maihack announced that he simply didn’t have enough available time to continue to work on his wonderful webcomic, Cleopatra in Space. On the positive side, though, he says he hasn’t completely abandoned it; he’s going to continue to work on it as he can and then resume posting when he’s got a significant enough backlog of material. Also: he’s spending most of his time working on a full-length graphic novel–so there’s that to look forward to!
The Comics Tools Blog Peters Out (Art/Comics Tutorial Blog)
The Comics Tools blog had been regularly posting lots of great drawing tutorials and reviews of art supplies, but in early 2012 it started to fade. The tutorials stopped, replaced by intermittent interviews.,.. and then nothing. Maybe it’ll return, I hope so!