The Washington Post

MOST POPULAR STORIES OF 2011: What topped the year in Comic Riffs

MEMORIALIZING STEVE: The stepping-down and, soon after, the death of Steve Jobs inspired many artists — some of whom cast the Apple co-founder in silhouette. (JOHN SHERFFIUS)

Thank you.

Thank you, sincerely for a half-minute here, for stopping by Comic Riffs in 2011 — a year in which more viewers clicked on this humble blog, by a significant margin, than in each of our three previous years.

You read ‘Riffs via Tumblr — as the Best Webcomics post was one of The Post’s most popular articles of the year as directed from that site.

You read ‘Riffs via Twitter — as a Steve Jobs cartoon post generated one of The Post’s most retweeted links of the year.

And via Facebook and other social media, many of you shared stories about “Peanuts” and “Calvin and Hobbes’s” Bill Watterson and the new Ultimate Spider-Man.

So as we begin to dive into 2012, we pause for a moment to list the Top Twelve Topics among ‘Riffs readers in 2011 (based on the e-mailbag and other forms of feedback, as well as social media). Here is what you were most drawn to:

1. Tribute to Disney’s Mary Blair: Google’s “Doodle” — to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the late Disney artist’s birth — inspires streams of curious viewers to read more about Blair and her distinct, brightly colored palette that left a mark on Disney parks. All year long, in fact, our numerous Doodle noodlings drew many new eyes.

2. Steve Jobs: Comic Riffs pays tribute to Steve Jobs, the Artist upon the Apple co-founder’s death in October, and also collects some of his words of wisdom about art and creativity. That begat, in turn, talk of how artists chose to memorialize Jobs — from similar imagery to heavenly depictions (which themselves begat that much-retweeted cutting cartoon). From technology to popular arts to publishing, Jobs was, of course, one of the stories of the year.

3. Webcomics Love: In the last weeks of 2011, a flood of nominations poured in as ‘Riffs asked readers to share their picks for best comics. So many webcomic noms came in, we’re still culling through the thousands of links as we prepare a January readers’ poll of finalists. And together, the thousands add up to one singular thing: The sheer force of webcomic fandom.

(CUL DE SAC / Richard Thompson/Universal Uclick)

5. “Peanuts”: By the time its longtime home syndicate United Media shuttered its New York doors after more than a century, the “Peanuts” empire had moved on to Iconix, which launched a major digital and social-media plan for Charles Schulz’s kids — even leading to a first book app, for the evergreen seasonal chestnut ”A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

MILES MORALES: A page from "Ultimate Fallout.” (AP Photo/Marvel Comics) (Marvel)

7. Superheroes on screen: Whether Henry Cavill was being cast as the Man of Steel, or Anne Hathaway was picked to slither into Catwoman’s Spandex, news of current and future superhero films enticed fans all year. Which is partly why Comic Riffs sat with Marvel mastermind Stan Lee — who shared 20 Memorable Quotes by his 89th birthday last week — to ask the legend: In the summer of his “Thor” and “X-Men,” why does the superhero film endure?

8. Game animation: Facebook announces its debuts of Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego as role-playing social-media games. The crowd goes wild.

9. Doonesbury & Sarah Palin: In his Pulitzer-winning strip, Garry Trudeau adapts excerpts from Joe McGinniss’ soon-to-be released Sarah Palin bio. Some newspapers pull the comic, citing their inability to have independent verification over professional and personal claims against the former Alaska guv-slash-Rogue. And for the umpteenth time over four decades, Trudeau has editors and readers debating the role and responsibilities of satire.




The brutal attack on Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat sparked artistic response from his colleagues. (NATE BEELER/Washington Examiner)

10. Arab Spring (and beyond) for cartoonists: A young Egyptian activist translates a decades-old comic about the Rev. Martin Luther King. Political cartoonists in much of the Arab world push the boundaries on how their leaders can be depicted. And one popular political cartoonist in Syria, Ali Ferzat, is reportedly beaten brutally by government forces — prompting cartoonist and rights groups to react.

. (SUSIE CAGLE / courtesy of Cartoon Movement/.)

12. “Tabloid behavior”: Editorial cartoonists can give thanks for sex, drugs and the rock-and-roil of tweeting. Not their own, natch, but rather the exploits of such politicians as twexting Anthony Weiner and hedging Herman Cain, as well as the back-cottage industry that is Charlie Sheen. As fodder for cartoon satire, these men gave 2011 a shot in the arm — a shot, no doubt, filled with “tiger’s blood.”

Happy New Year, indeed.

BEST QUOTES OF 2011: From Gaiman to Watterson, the Year in Comic Riffs


Anthony Weiner’s twexting got the nation’s cartoonists all warmed up, if no one else. (MIKE LUCKOVICH/Atlanta Journal Constitution)


Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.


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