2009's Best Comics and Graphic Novels

Orpheus, Dick, and a little reefer: our annual round-up of the year's best

In Studs Terkel's Working (The New Press, 224 pp., $22.95), various artists and writers adapt parts of the Pulitzer-winning author's most enduring book, originally published in 1974. Lance Tooks's layers of Zip-a-tone add jazzy panache to an interview with saxophonist Bud Freeman, and Ryan Inzana's rough inks lend hardscrabble texture to Harvey Pekar's take on "Elmer Ruiz, Gravedigger."

Studs would have appreciated the pathos of Craig Yoe's scoop in Secret Identity (Abrams, 160 pp., $24.95). Artist Joe Shuster, with writer Jerry Siegel, created Superman in 1938, but the pair earned only piecework rates for their efforts, eventually losing control of their lucrative creation and falling on hard times. A few years ago, Yoe stumbled across some bondage comics from the '50s, whose brawny men and bent-over buxom babes resembled Superman and Lois Lane. And wasn't that Jimmy Olsen pushing reefer? Never the subtlest artist, Shuster—whether desperate for cash or indulging an unsuspected dark side—proved incapable of concealing his style in these anonymous porn pamphlets, which the Supreme Court eventually deemed obscene.

Comics. Good work when you can get it.

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