Our Favorite Creators' Favorite Comics of All Time: Ethan Young

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Our Favorite Creators' Favorite Comics of All Time: Ethan Young

Last year, Paste’s writers and editors did some soul searching and paid homage to the comics that inspired our career-long devotion to all things sequential art. As we approach Thanksgiving this Thursday, we asked a handful of creators about their favorite comics of all time. First up is Ethan Young, whose graphic novel Nanjing: The Burning City won Paste’s favorite comic of 2015. He followed that emotional sucker punch of historical fiction up with The Battles of Bridget Lee: Invasion of Farfall, a hard-nosed sci-fi opus that doubles as a retelling of the Mulan folktale. And don’t even get us started on A Piggy’s Tale, the enchanting adventures of a benevolent pooch based on a real-life service dog. With an oeuvre that seamlessly melds character, passion, emotion and action, Young’s unranked picks appropriately straddle intimate indie landmarks and fantasy gold in equal turn. Come back tomorrow when another creator will reveal their favorite comics of all time.

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Batman Annual #14


Writer: Andrew Helfer
Artist: Chris Sprouse
Publisher: DC Comics

Two Face has always been my favorite Batman villain. His obstinate moral code and dubious methods perfectly reflect Batman. For my money, Batman Annual #14 is the definitive Two-Face origin, not The Long Halloween. We're introduced to a Harvey Dent who is broken by an abusive father and pushed to the brink by corruption. We see the complexity of Dent's internalized pain, and his failure to cope. Chris Sprouse's art is nicely grounded for the grittiness of the story, while still offering a Toth-like classic appeal, a style he'd perfect for Tom Strong many years later.

Bone


Writer/Artist: Jeff Smith
Publisher: Cartoon Books

My first issue of Jeff Smith's magnum-opus-in-the-making was Bone #11. Fone Bone is trying to write a love letter to Thorn, but has trouble coming up with the words. While he's deep in thought, two Rat Creatures sneak up behind him, and hilarity ensues. Bone is on the short list of comics that are universally praised by both critics and audiences, as well as being commercial juggernauts: Maus, The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Persepolis and Fun Home (and now we can add Smile and the March trilogy to that). But when I think of Bone, I'm transported back to that time in my life where a cute little creature fawning over a warrior princess helped me escape the world for a little bit.

Death: The High Cost of Living/Death: The Time of Your Life


Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

This is slightly cheating since these are two books, but they form one story. Much like with Sandman, Neil Gaiman reworks magic tropes and injects them into an otherwise mundane reality, creating offbeat juxtapositions. Death walks among us, but boy is she charming. Yet, nothing is ever forced. The relationships that Death forms are all organic, and we tag along not because the plot beckons us, but because we want to.

Ghost World


Writer/Artist: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Fantagraphics

Probably no other graphic novel encapsulates the waning days of Gen-X snark and angst as precisely as Ghost World. I often revisit this book to recapture that period in my life when I was confident I knew more than everyone around me. Clowes' artwork is gorgeous, meticulous and slightly alienating, which can also describe the world he crafts for the two young girls as they navigate the transition from teen to young adult.

Ripple: A Predilection for Tina


Writer/Artist: Dave Cooper
Publisher: Fantagraphics

Dave Cooper's Ripple is a glorious descent into sexual depravity. The characters don't inspire any enjoyment or sympathy, only distant pity. Yet the pacing, the narration, the sometimes surreal linework and the brutal honesty all combine to make a beautifully unsettling comic that taps into our self-hate and guilt-ridden desires.

Same Difference


Writer/Artist: Derek Kirk Kim
Publisher: First Second

In my mind, Derek Kirk Kim is the most underrated cartoonist of the '00s. He didn't produce a ton, and he'd be the first to tell you to stop preening over this one short book, but with Same Difference, he gave us an authentic friendship in just under 90 pages, while offering a subtle nod to the outsider experience of Asian American identity. This was one of those rare books, along with Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese, that really made me feel included in the pop culture conversation.

This One Summer


Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: First Second

In High Fidelity, when the characters are all debating another one of their arbitrary Top 5 lists, Rob sneaks in a more current album, but is called out by Barry. "Ahhh…new classic status slipped into a list of old safe ones…" Well, This One Summer is my new classic status entry. A comic that taps into the carefree aimlessness of youth, Mariko and Jillian Tamaki deliver a masterclass in sequential storytelling. Nothing big seems to happen, and yet everything that does happen feels monumental for the young girls. This book is poetry in comic form.

Tricked


Writer/Artist: Alex Robinson
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

If you asked me to recommend a graphic novel with a John Hughes vibe, Alex Robinson's Tricked is it. His dialogue is corny but earnest, his characters are archetypal yet distinguishable, and the story pulls you into its intimate bubble of personal triumph and small victories, even as the characters all converge into something grander, making you feel like you're part of a larger experience.

Ultimate Spider-Man #1-13


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel

Along with Fortune and Glory, the first two storyarcs of Ultimate Spider-Man are Bendis' finest hour as a writer. The two things he popularized in American comics—run-on dialogue and the adoption of Manga-style decompressed pacing—have become both his calling card and self-satirization. But Ultimate Spiderman honed these quirks, and gave us a fresh Peter Parker who was relatable for a new generation. What would YOU do if you suddenly became a superhero? OF COURSE you would tell your girlfriend!

WE3


Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

I know exactly what happens at the end of WE3, yet I still have to fight back my tears whenever I reread it. Morrison and Quitely have done some fantastic comics together, but this one is stripped of any meta-fictional pretense. All we have is a simple, powerful story of survival involving a cat, a dog and a rabbit. And whether you love or hate his work, for WE3, Quitely's art is simply sublime.