Coming in second with four votes it was Rutu Modan’s The Property. (Modan tied for the top of the poll in 2008 for Exit Wounds.) It’s an unpredictable, slyly humorous tale of Mica, a young Jewish woman who returns to Poland with her grandmother to discover the fate of some property the grandmother was given at the close of World War II. Grandmother Regina rediscovers a romance from her youth while Mica falls for a rugged cartoonist; neither romance is what it seems, and neither are any of their expectations as a cast of sharply drawn characters explores the second World War, the Holocaust and the founding of Israel from a completely fresh angle.
Participating critics were also given a chance to mentions some of the year’s trends.
• Trend of the Year: Digital Comics Take Their Toddler Steps. “The wave of the future” continues apace as digital comics became even more ubiquitous. Most major comics publishers now offer date-of-release digital versions of their comic books, and backlist titles and runs are aggressively being filled in to provide an always-ready, everlasting digital library of the history of comics. DC has aggressively published a line of digital-first fan-favorite comics (including Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batman ’66, Smallville Season 11) that fall outside their pamphlet printed “New 52” line. By the end of the year indie comics publishers like Fantagraphics were announcing new digital-first books. Comixology has emerged as the industry leader in digital distribution, announcing a program for creators to submit comics directly to the company, and mega-sales that offered popular series like The Walking Dead for a buck an issue. Several 2013 controversies, however, highlighted the growing pains of the new format and industry. A March promotion for 700 free Marvel digital comics overwhelmed Comixology’s server. Accusations of censorship over issues of Saga and Sex Criminals flew against Apple and Comixology…or was it just Apple? Or was it just Comixology? It’s clearly still frontier days and the digital comics field is the Wild West. It’ll be fascinating to see how this West is won over the next few years.—John DiBello
• Two years ago, it was all about humor. Kate Beaton’s Hark a Vagrant ruled and so did a range of hilarious visual narratives, like Joe Ollman’s Mid-Life and Pascal Girard’s Reunion. Last year, it was Chris Ware’s Building Stories that came out on top, and we celebrated the power of the creative imagination in works like Olivier Schrauwen’s The Man Who Grew His Beard. This year’s crop, however, gave us genuine insight into the nature of the sublime, from the aesthetically gorgeous to the remarkably poignant to the beautiful and terrifying.—Glen Downey
• I have no idea. In the corporate world, the Hollywoodization of superhero comics is complete with DC being moved to the West Coast. Most of this year for me, though, was more of the same, and not in a bad way. Talented creators putting out good books. It’s a time of plenty, with more worthwhile graphic novels than any one person has time to read. —Johanna Draper Carlson
• The rise and rise of children’s comics as Adventure Time and My Little Pony take the world by storm. Children know what they like, and what they like is adventure and fun. And strangely enough, adults happen to like that too! Adventure Time is well on its way to being a cult success, while bronies no doubt keep the Pony sales high.
The rise and rise of literary graphic novels, shows the direction that the market is truly moving in. Superheroes may dominate the box office, but gems like Blue is the Warmest Color are what book readers are picking up. Image has obviously seen the way the winds are blowing as they continue to publish a range of intelligent, creative, and stylish books. But can DC and Marvel continue to compete in this new market?—Laura Sneddon
• It must be said that First Second had a great year; in addition to the winner Boxers and Saints, Relish and Battling Boy got support, and a wide range of their other books were mentioned. After six years, this imprint has really hit a sweet spot for letting talented cartoonists tell stories and getting them noticed. Of course, Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics also continued their stellar work, and Top Shelf had a hit with March.
A special mention for Gilbert Hernandez who hit a grand slam with Marble Season, Julio’s Day, Love and Rockets Vol. 5 and the late breaking Maria M.. He is a national treasure. —HM
Participating in this year’s poll: Lucas Adams, Chris Barsanti, Glen Downey, John Seven, John DiBello, Laura Sneddon, Matt White, Heidi MacDonald, Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons, Steve Bunche and Johanna Draper Carlson.
The Property, Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
One of the most accessible of graphic novelists, with a cinematic presentation and the ability to capture the complexity of larger human experience within smaller family dramas, all with good humor. —JS
The effects of the Holocaust still extend to survivors and their descendants in this tale of a woman traveling with her grandmother to reclaim Polish property lost during the War. However, it's Rutu Modan's use of humor and careful observation of human traits that provides a sense of hope for the characters and reader.—JDC
Marble Season, by Gilbert Hernandez (Drawn & Quarterly)
Hernandez perfectly captures the memory of childhood days in this beautifully rendered novel, bringing to life the days of carefree play and irrational but undeniable ritual. Hernandez’s artwork infuses seemingly simple and open panels with intense memory and meaning. A sublime and soulful portrait of childhood and a story that is so effectively told in comics form it’s hard to imagine it in any other medium. —JDB
Woman Rebel: the Margaret Sanger Story by Peter Bagge (D&Q)
Margaret Sanger's life story, told by Peter Bagge, is startling. Not only did she fight to make birth control and medical knowledge legal for all, she lived in outspoken and determined fashion to give women control of their lives through management of their own fertility.—JDC
Beautiful Darkness, Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët (Drawn and Quarterly)
Kitaro, Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
Rage of Poseidon, Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
Susceptible, Genevieve Castree (Drawn and Quarterly)
You're All Just Jealous of My Jet Pack, Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)