The Best American Comics collection for 2016 is here, and acclaimed New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is this year's guest editor. That means that Roz Chast has sifted through all the funniest, most heartfelt, strangest comics in all of North America, and selected the best of the best—just for you! Every last page is worth a look, but here are just a few comics for any mood from this year's Best American Comics.
At a panel at the Strand Book Store, series Editor Bill Kartalopoulos said he hopes it feels like "once a year the comic elves drop an amazing anthology." But of course, there's a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into crafting an anthology like this one. First, Kartalopoulos considers an enormous pool of potential comics, from established authors published by major publishing houses, to indie artists with tumblrs or stapled zines. Anyone can submit their work for consideration. "I take them all seriously, in what I hope is an open-minded way," says Kartalopoulos.
Once he's narrowed the pile down to 130 or so serious contenders, he passes the comics to the guest editor for the final selection. "It's definitely overwhelming," says Chast. But once she started reading through the material, "It was amazing."
"I liked so much stuff, it was hard to choose," she says. It's a relatable feeling: every comic in the book has something wildly unique to offer. Here are just a few examples, for every comic-reading mood:
1. When You're Feeling Lazy: Today by Anne Emond
We've all been there. Anne Emond says that she often works through feelings of frustration by drawing comics. "I made the work as rough and simple as I could," she says, referring to the first few comics she posted online as a recent grad. She tried not to stress too much about quality, and just get her stuff out there, and it paid off: Emond has a massive online following for her all-too-relatable, often autobiographical comics.
2. When You’re Feeling Snarky: Wendy by Walter Scott
For the hard-partying "artists" out there (or anyone who's ever been to Williamsburg, Brooklyn), there's Walter Scott's darkly hilarious Wendy. Best American Comics only includes an excerpt of Wendy's debauched, artistic adventures, but you can read more about her substance abuse on Scott's website.
3. When You’re Feeling Heartbroken: All the Paintings Here Agree by Liana Finck
Liana Finck has a graphic novel published, several New Yorker cartoons, and a massively successful online following. Her comic, All the Paintings Here Agree, first published on The Toast, chronicles "a visit to the Museum of Modern Art After a Breakup." Finck says that it was her way of taking back the MoMA after a break up with a modern art fanatic, and you should go read the whole beautiful thing right this instant.
4. When You’re Feeling Goofy: Broadside Ballads by Kate Beaton
If you don't know who Kate Beaton is, I really can't help you (except that I can: she's a Canadian cartoonist who draws the best darn historical cartoons in North America). The Best American Comics includes her utterly irreverent Broadside Ballads, for when you just want to laugh at people in breeches.
5. When You’re Feeling Sleepy: Blanket Portraits by Geneviève Elverum
The late Geneviève Elverum (also known as Geneviève Castrée) created dreamy, beautiful portraits of blankets that you'll want to immediately crawl under. Her work evokes a certain sense of sleepy peace like nothing else. She's also the author of the gorgeous graphic novel Susceptible, from Drawn & Quarterly.
6. When You’re Feeling Like Life Is Falling Apart: The Corpse, the Ghost and the Hollow-Weenie by Casanova Frankenstein
You may not have heard of the artist Casanova Frankenstein before, and you probably haven't seen anything like his work ever before, either. The Corpse, the Ghost and the Hollow-Weenie, excerpted from The Adventures of TAD MARTIN #6, is a bizarre, gut-punch of a comic. Read it for some perspective if you feel like your life is a mes.
7. When You’re Feeling Lonely: Don’t Leave Me Alone by GG
Few authors can capture the particular, romantic loneliness of childhood the way that GG can. Don't Leave Me Alone is as gorgeously drawn as it is heart-wrenching, drawing on the artist's own experiences of growing up geographically and culturally isolated.
8. When You’re Feeling Nostalgic: El Deafo by Cece Bell
El Deafo is the mostly autobiographical story of a young Cece Bell dealing with hearing loss, new schools, and making friends (although here she is drawn as an adorable rabbit, which I believe is artistic license). Bell's full-length graphic memoir is excerpted in Best American, and it looks back on the challenges and triumphs of childhood with so much heart and humor, it's impossible not to love.
9. When You’re Feeling Sad: Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
Several of the comics in The Best American Comics deal with grief, illness, and loss. But Adrian Tomine's Killing and Dying, from Drawn & Quarterly's Optic Nerve, is simply a masterclass in storytelling. It's no wonder that he's one of the most noted creators in modern comics.
10. When You’re Feeling Weird: Blink-Jinks Playhouse by Char Esmé
There is no easy way to describe the art of Char Esmé. Her work often looks like a sugar-fueled nightmare-scape, but it is weird, wonderful, and off-the-wall funny. "If you're laughing, it's probably because I was laughing while making it," says Esmé. Her work may not be easy to understand, but it is certainly easy to enjoy.
Images: The Best American Comics 2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt