What Were the Best Graphic Novels and Web Comics of 2012?

Reading between the lines.
Feb. 1 2013 11:22 PM

The Cartoonist Studio Prize: The Shortlists

The 10 graphic novels and 10 Web comics competing for Slate’s new comics prize.

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The Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies are proud to announce the nominees for the first Cartoonist Studio Prizes. The winner in each of our two categories will be announced on March 1; each winner will receive $1,000 and, of course, eternal glory. The shortlists were selected by Slate Book Review editor Dan Kois, the faculty and students at the Center for Cartoon Studies, and this year’s guest judge, legendary New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly


The Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Graphic Novel of the Year: 2012 Shortlist

The 10 nominees for best graphic novel of the year include ambitious, medium-challenging work from respected comics veterans and accomplished, genre-defying comics from newcomers. These 10 books—some experimental, some traditional, and all remarkable—represent some of the best that comics had to offer in 2012 for readers of all ages.

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Lilli Carré for Heads or Tails, a collection of dreamy, unsettling short stories whose beautiful artwork varies from lush black and white to evocative color. Published by Fantagraphics.

Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido for Blacksad: A Silent Hell, a gritty, gorgeously drawn noir set in New Orleans, where a feline detective must solve the case of a missing pianist. Published by Dark Horse.

Tom Gauld for Goliath, a deadpan retelling of the Biblical story of David that employs the cartoonist’s signature stick-figure style to tell a deceptively complex, moral tale. Published by Drawn and Quarterly.

Brandon Graham for King City, a graffiti-inspired catpunk adventure in which every sci-fi frame teems with jokes, Easter eggs, and treats for the eye. Published by Image.

Jesse Jacobs for By This Shall You Know Him, a visionary, funny, obscene look at the creation of the world as seen through the eyes of squabbling cosmic gods. Published by Koyama Press.

Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez for Little White Duck: A Childhood in China, an understated, clear-eyed, all-ages memoir about Liu’s life in Wuhan in the 1970s. Published by Graphic Universe.

Luke Pearson for Hilda and the Midnight Giant, a whimsical, all-ages folk tale about a plucky little girl whose family is evicted from their home by invisible elves. Published by Nobrow Press.

Chris Ware for Building Stories, a hugely ambitious epic (in 14 individually bound pieces) of the life and times of a single apartment building and its residents—from the elderly landlady to a lowly bee. Published by Pantheon.

Julia Wertz for The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, a bracing set of sharp-witted autobiographical strips that chronicle, among other things, her battle with systemic lupus. Published by Koyama Press.

Frank M. Young and David Lasky for The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, the story of the first great family of country music, whose vivid storytelling is backed up by copious historical research. Published by Abrams ComicArts.

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The Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Web Comic of the Year: 2012 Shortlist

The 10 nominees for best online comic of 2012 range from wildly popular online comic strips to deeply weird experimental graphic stories. All of them, though, utilize the unique properties of the Web to deepen their storytelling, whether through the accretion of detail that daily publishing allows or through innovative programming and design that could only happen online.

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Ryan Andrews forSarah and the Seed, an elegant, ever-surprising story of a married couple who discover, late in life, that they are pregnant. Read it here.

Gabrielle Bell for Lucky, her ongoing diary comic that explores, in oft-uncomfortable detail, the ups and downs of a life lived in creative pursuits. Read it here.

Boulet for Bouletcorp, his frequently updated collection of quasi-autobiographical absurdity and pop-culture quandaries, translated from the French. Read it here.

Vince Dorse for Untold Tales of Bigfoot, an engaging ongoing story “for grown-ups and kids” about a lost dog and the lonely Yeti who becomes his friend. Read it here.

Patrick Farley for The First Word, a jaw-dropping comic that tells a primal story through photorealistic, technologically adept means. Read it here.

Dakota McFadzean for The Dailies, a cleverly drawn daily strip that explores the boundaries of reality in quirky, occasionally shocking ways. Read it here.

Randall Munroe for xkcd, his long-running strip that mixes science jokes, sharp-edged social criticism, and the occasional burst of wide-eyed wonder. Read it here.

Winston Rowntree for Subnormality, a wild and wordy ongoing comic, drawn with a level of detail and a visual energy that can strain your typical browser windows. Read it here.

Noelle Stevenson for Nimona, a funny, frisky twice-weekly series about a medieval supervillain and the exasperating young woman he takes on as his sidekick. Read it here.

Jillian Tamaki for SuperMutant Magic Academy, a boarding-school drama laced with the supernatural, told in a style ranging from brusque to arch and dreamy style. Read it here.

Congratulations to all 20 of our nominees. We’ll announce the winners in the March issue of the Slate Book Review.

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