Having reflected back on the best (and most cruelly ignored) comics of the past year, it's time to look forward. Here are six comics I'm really excited about reading this year. As usual, my list reflects my own alt-comix/alt-manga interests/biases. So let me know in the comments what titles I've been such a clod as to overlook.
1. Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez (D&Q). Any new Gilbert Hernandez book is cause for celebration, but I'm especially interested in reading this new graphic novel, a fictionalized memoir of sorts that draws upon Hernandez's experiences growing up in California. It's probably the most blatantly autobiographical thing any of the Los Bros have done. A number of critics haven't cared for some of Beto's more genre-based, envelope pushing work in recent years, so this might be the book that wins him back some followers.
2. Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz). It's been a while since Viz released Matsumoto's utterly amazing GoGo Monster, and I feared the poor reception of that book meant that we would in all likelihood not see any more of his work in the near future. Not so! Here comes Matsumoto's latest series, about an orphanage, the children that live there, and a beat-up car that suggest the promise of escape to a trio of boys. Given Matsumoto's track record, I can't imagine this not being fantastic.
3. Nijigahara Photograph by Inio Asano (Fantagraphics). 2013 looks like it's shaping up to be a pretty amazing year for manga. Not only do we have new work from Matsumoto, but Fantagraphics announced a few weeks ago that they'll be releasing this long-praised horror classic from the author of Solanin. I've been waiting for this one for awhile -- long enough that I doubted it would ever see an English release in my lifetime. I'm happy to have been proven wrong.
4. The Strange Tale of Panorama Island by Suehiro Maruo (Last Gasp). See what I mean about it being a great year for manga? I know, I know -- I shouldn't get my hopes up. Last Gasp has been promising this book, about a remote and mysterious island full of hedonistic pleasures, since 2010. Right now it's scheduled for July and I see no reason to assume that date will get pushed back. There's precious little of Maruo's work available in the U.S. (for good reason: his work can be profoundly gory and upsetting) so it's nice to see more heading this way soon.
5. Fran by Jim Woodring. Based on what Woodring told me in our recent email interview, it sounds like Fran will be quite the harrowing -- even potentially traumatic -- story. I'm good with that. Basically, Woodring has earned my trust on books like Congress of the Animals to such a degree that I'm willing to go along with him on his new journey, regardless of how upsetting its conclusion might be.
6. Hand Drying in America and Other Stories by Ben Katchor. I didn't even know this was coming out until I started searching Google for "anticipated comics 2013." If you've read The Cardboard Valise or any of Katchor's other books, you'll know what to expect here: Surreal stories of urban people obsessed with objects and the nostalgic memory they maintain. I wouldn't expect any sharp departures in this new book, but I would expect it to be funny, thoughtful and delightfully weird all the same.