Apparently, despite the "’00s [being] a turbulent time for the comic-book business," competition from Japanese comics made zero impact across the world during the decade. The Onion A/V Club's list is a pretty standard, largely American-centric and limited comic book reader's view of the best comics of the past ten or so years, heavy on the big names. It's even illustrated with that same "two people hugging in the blue, snowy woods" image from Craig Thompson's Blankets we've seen a billion times.
There's James Kolchaka! There's The Acme Novelty Library! Look, in a stunning surprise appearance, there's Alan Moore! How'd he get on there? For you mainstream mesomorphs-in-colorful-tights people there's Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman.
Black Hole, check. Persepolis, check. All in all, it's a good list. Just a very obvious one, if you're totally unaware of the comic book as a world phenomenon. No Drifting Classroom. No 20th Century Boys. No Nana.
Can you think of a comic in the past decade that's had as massive an impact on comics culture taken as a whole as Yazawa Ai's Nana? Not only is it a quality book-- Yazawa's ostensibly girly-girl soap opera romance is full of surprising literary touches and arguably the most adult and honest view of young female sexuality outside of actual prose (definitely light years more advanced than most depictions of the same seen in American comics)-- and while sales are not generally indicative of quality, I'd hazard a guess Nana has probably sold more copies than DC's entire published output for any given month. It's probably been read by more people than all the books on the A/V Club's list in total as well.
I don't have the sales figures to back that up but I feel reasonably confident making that statement. I'll do the research later tonight and either crow about it or eat that crow. Raw, with feathers intact.
In its own way, Nana is every bit as seminal a work as Watchmen. It's even inspired not one but two movies, the first of which was as slavishly faithful to its source material as Zack Snyder's version of Watchmen pretended to be. In terms of overall impact, I'd rank Nana higher on the scale. It may surprise you, but there are probably more people worldwide who know who Nana, Hachi and Junko are than know Ozymandias, The Comedian and Nite Owl II. Actually, more people may know the cast of Nana than know any of the X-Men.
I don't see people walking around dressed like Rorshach outside of a Halloween party. Granted, I live in Japan so I have no way of knowing what American comic fans are doing these days. But hardly a week goes by here I don't see a Nana-wannabe.
Granted, even a shitty comic can have a huge impact. Sin City and 300, I'm looking at you. All of DC's company-wide crossovers of the 00's as well. But I mention these things to give you an idea of just how important Nana is to comic book culture as a whole and how ridiculous continued American resistance to and ignorance of all the good comics that are actually out there beyond our pre-conceived notions has become. There's no excuse for overlooking these books, especially when the American mainstream is so moribund-- and indie comics for that matter; if I read one more self-eviscerating or overly twee autobiographical comic that looks like it was drawn by a clever art school student I'm going to vomit-- and we're discussing "turbulent times" for the medium.
Nana is damned good and deserves to be on that list based on its literary merits. I'd definitely put it ahead of Bone and Y: The Last Man. I'd also put it ahead of some of the comics that almost made the cut, like Astro City and The Walking Dead and those by themselves are awesome. That's just how good Nana is. I can't stop evangelizing for Nana.
And I won't.
When asked about the lack of manga on the list, A/V Club staffer Noel Murray responded:
Speaking personally, I feel like manga is one of those subjects that you either give yourself over to completely or you don't even try to speak about in public. I've read just enough to know that I'd sound ridiculously underinformed if I tried to select the best of it.
I encourage manga fans to post their favorites here though.
I can understand because I felt the same way just a few years ago. Now I can't agree with that mindset or the reluctance eeven to try it creates. All it takes is simply broadening your point of view. Psssh. You don't even have to do that, really. All you have to do is read manga as you would any other comic. You don't have to be an expert on manga itself to enjoy quality writing and art. I'm not.
You just approach it not as a manga-obsessive but as a comic book fan with a more universalist, catholic outlook. After all, why limit yourself to the output of US or Canadian publishers? You don't eat just one kind of food, do you?
Or do you?
Manga is simply comic books. Time to put some new names on the damned list. And then you'll discover comics as a medium and a world industry are healthier and more robust than you'd imagined.