20 January 2012

Review: 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die

There's a new book on comics out, to which I have contributed. The title of the book really says it all: 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die: The Ultimate Guide to Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Comic Strips and Manga. This gigantic tome (960 pages!) was edited by friend and fellow comics historian Paul Gravett. Gravett did the impossible job of trying to include all comics cultures of the world, and not just the Anglosaxon ones - which is otherwise sadly often the norm in encyclopedical efforts of this kind (or only French comics, if it were written in France).

So far, the book is out in two different editions, one British and one American. As could be expected, the British one is fronted by Judge Dredd and the American one by Captain America. If there is a French edition I suspect it will sport Tintin on the cover...

All jokes aside, this is an interesting book, and not only because I was inloved in the making of it... The 1001 comics mentioned come from almost 40 different countries and are presented chronologically, with the oldest one from 1837 (The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck by Töpffer) and the newest one from 2011 (Habibi by Craig Thompson). This makes browsing the book feel like a quick guide to the evolution of the comics medium.

Gravett took the process of choosing the comics very seriously (see here for a description of the process) and had experts from all over the world help nominate comics for inclusion. My job was, of course, to nominate Swedish comics. This was an interesting but difficult task, as I wanted as broad a selection as possible at the same time as the slots for Swedish comics were limited. And the books also had to have been published in English... In the end, I managed to get seven books included:

Adamson’s Adventures by Oscar Jacobsson (1920)
Socker-Conny by Joakim Pirinen (1985)
Rocky by Martin Kellerman (1999)
Miss Remarkable & Her Career by Joanna Rubin Dranger (2001)
Bosnian Flat Dog by Max Andersson and Lars Sjunnesson (2004)
Frances by Joanna Hellgren (2008)

I also wrote the entries for these books and a few more scattered throughout the book.

All in all, this is a really solid book (both for its hefty volume and for its intent), a serious effort to create a canon of comics masterpeices. For someone like me, who have read vast amounts of comics from all over the world, it still contains comics I've never heard of. So, I'll keep this book around for browsing and getting inspired for a long time.