Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dork Awards 2010: Best OGN

So the Dork Awards got a little sidetracked, I’m afraid. You know how it is. Work, visits with the family, playing with your Christmas presents, deciding that an actual vacation where you just relax is probably a really good idea before you drop in exhaustion… That sort of thing. But I’ve had all that now. I feel re-energized and properly vacated. So now it’s time for the Dork Awards to resume, with the award for…

Best Original Graphic Novel

“Original Graphic Novel” (or OGN, for short) is a high-falutin’ term for a novel-length funnybook story. One that’s created to be published in book form rather than as a serial for periodical publication. It sounds pretty technical, but it’s really not. It’s comics done the same way prose novels are done. Many say that it’s the real future of comics, and I can’t disagree. Much as I love my weird adventure serials, the allure of a story with a beginning, middle, and end is undeniable. And the preferred fictional format for most readers. That being the case, if comics really are trying to make their way back into mainstream reading habits, this would seem a natural route to take. So without further ado, let’s look at what the future brought us this year…

by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca

Ostensibly a “Best Afrodisiac Stories Ever Told” reprint collection, Jim Rugg’s tales of a pimp super hero function as both a loving send-up of the Blaxploitation genre and of funnybook publishing trends in the 1970s and 80s.

The Outfit
by Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark

The second of Cooke’s monotone adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker novels. A masterful melding of Stark’s prose with the comics format, the best cartooning in the business, and a fine showcase of the early 1960s design aesthetic appropriate to the period of the novels.

Mesmo Delivery
by Rafael Grampa

This story of ultra-violent truckers carrying a mysterious cargo technically came out a year or two ago. But I only discovered it on this year’s re-release, and it’s the most brilliant piece of action storytelling I’ve seen in ages, so it gets a nod.

by Jim Woodring

This wordless tale of Man-Hog’s enlightenment (and eventual sacrifice) is dense with visual symbolism, and queasy with things that make you uncomfortable for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to the conscious mind. Perhaps Jim Woodring’s masterpiece.

X’ed Out
by Charles Burns

And speaking of queasy things… The first volume of Charles Burns’ tribute to TinTin is filled with Burns’ trademark grotesqueries, and features a very sick young man’s memories of a troubled past, and his dream adventures into exotic (and toxic) lands.

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
by Bryan Lee O’Malley

The slam-bangin’, character-growin’ finale to the Scott Pilgrim saga. The best pure fun comic of the last decade came to a close in fine form, and was maybe the first Japanese-style “series of OGNs” title to really make an impact in the American funnybook market.

And the winner is…


This was a really tough category this year. But much as I loved the pure fun and superior design work of the other nominees, Weathercraft goes home with the Dorky because it was the work of the greatest depth and sheer artistic merit. Jim Woodring always works in dense visual symbolism, often to the point that it only makes sense to the artist himself. But here, he turns in a work where the landscape and everything in it reveals layers of hidden meaning, and tells a story that’s as beautiful as it is disturbing and strange.
It was also a real workout for my funnybook reading muscles. Normally, “reading” the pictures in a comic is something that happens unconsciously for me and, I suspect, for most funnybook lifers. But with no words to rely on here, I found myself slowing down and reading Woodring’s richly-detailed pictures much more carefully. That not only paid off for this book (which abundantly rewards close reading), but has also made me a better funnybook reader all the way around.

That alone might be enough to give Weathercraft the nod, but it’s also just a damn fine piece of weird-ass funnybooks. And that, of course, is what we live for around these parts.

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