It’s been a real year for comics. But, if comics are doing their job, every year should be a year for comics. I’d hate to see the medium suddenly slip backwards. So far, 2010 has shown me that it is serious about bringing some excellent news, events, and comics to the table. I hate to see only negative press so here’s my favourite ten moments from this year so far.
It’s a series that’s only 2 issues in and yet I’m already in love. I was in love with only preview art, as shown on our Hype Machine, and with anticipation I waited. The title finally debuted and it was a very strong opening, as seen in Matt’s review. Hickman and Weaver managed to cram each page full like they were packing for Spring Break with only a Dixie cup to house what they’d need for the week. There are so many ideas and concepts floating around this first issue that there could be no way I’d ever turn back. It’s the secret history of S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the years and we get Egyptian polymaths, Leonardo Da Vinci, Celestials in China, and the fathers of Iron Man and Mr Fantastic. The writing is dense and the art is even more so, in the best possible sense.
With issue two the pace slowed down somewhat and decided to focus on just one segment of the overall puzzle that is the fractured story Hickman has begun. We get Nostradamus like I’ve never seen before and a story that looks to be absolutely epic and in every quality. My only gripe, and this seems to go with a lot of readers, is that it is bi-monthly. I hate having to wait two months for more of this but if it means I get more of that fantastic art from Weaver it’s easily worth the wait and I won’t be going anywhere. This is a brave move from Marvel and I hope Hickman gets to keep to his guns on all creative decisions for the book.
9 - Stephen King Writes Comics
I remember, as a kid, my brother had the issue of X-Men that Stephen King wrote a few pages for. It was some charity issue, from memory, and King’s pages were suitably creepy, there’d be no other choice. For years I have enjoyed his novels and even some of his films but I’ve always been interested to see how he’d go writing comics. And I mean writing them himself, as cool as it is that we currently have four colour adaptations of The Dark Tower, The Stand, The Talisman, and N, they are all written by other people. And they’re all stories I’ve already read. I think King does a masterful job of being the creative director, and the quality is superb, but I want new material.
This year saw King write his own scripts for a completely new story. A story so fresh that it actually came from another writer, Scott Snyder. The debut of American Vampire was one that came with glorious praise, even from myself, and it’s interesting each week to note that we get 32 pages for our $3.99, making it a spectacular deal, and we also get to see who writes that months better half of the comic. It’s Snyder V King in a vampiric showdown of 16 page installments and I kind of like that Snyder has won a few of the rounds. This comic has promise and it is a shame that King will depart the title at the end of the fifth issue, and the end of his story, but I hope the title retains its quality, as Snyder seems like a new name to watch and Rafael Albuquerque was always going to be dominant on the art.
8 - Amazon Glitches and B&N Remainders
Who doesn’t love a good sale? You always see that news footage of people scrambling into the post-Christmas sales with reckless abandon of the safety of others. It’s almost a delight to see and can only be trumped by watching women swamp wedding dress sales, though perhaps that is only in the movies. Us fanlads and fangals rarely get an opportunity to bust the doors and wreak havoc on a decent sale. Sure, FCBD comes along once a year but it’s usually dignified, and whenever my local has a sale it’s usually still reasonably priced, nothing insanely rock bottom that will get everyone out of their houses and waiting at the door at 9am. But this year we got the fan equivalent, and we didn’t even have to leave our homes.
In March, Amazon suddenly was beset by a glitch that priced many of the Marvel Omnibus books at under $10. Of course not only was this glitch found by the willing public quickly it was also very effectively disseminated to and by that public via social sites like Twitter. There was a major panic amongst the massing hordes to get in while they could and buy up large. Amazon eventually found the glitch and rectified it but orders were already in place with confirmation emails being automatically generated. From what I know, people were only eventually sent one copy of each omnibus they ordered, so no stocking up was allowed, and some books went out of stock and so could not be shipped. I speak of this event with such distance because I was out of town for the weekend and so missed the entire debacle. I returned to see my Twitter feed full of gloats about massive bargains and I was annoyed. I still am.
Anyway, I never thought something like this would occur again, and really it hasn’t, but more recently we saw the Barnes & Noble website offer a stack of trades cheap in their bargain books section. These books are remainders and as such have reduced price stickers on them that little black mark along the pages on the bottom or top to show they need to go but that shouldn’t hold you back. Prices were low, less than $5 low, and the selection was eclectic but pretty decent. Again, Twitter helped spread the news and the fan community swept in with all the vigor they could muster. Some books ran out of stock by the time I got there, so no cheap taste of Ultimates for me, but there were plenty of other titles to choose from and choose I did. I closed on 7 books for about $20 or so, plus shipping, and I know Matt got an even better deal. It was nice to be able to get a few varied titles from IDW, Marvel, and Dark Horse for such a price.
And I’ll admit, I always keep an eye on Twitter because, much like earthquakes or dictatorial regimes overthrown, if it’s going to happen that’s the quickest place I’ll ever hear the news.
7 - Marvel’s B&W One-Shots
I unashamedly love all these titles, and showed the love with this op/ed piece. Even the not so good parts are made up by the awesome parts and the sheer anticipation when I see one coming down the line. I love the concept and usually, for me at least, the outcome has been worth the wait. We get a handful of creators just having a go at a particular character in whatever way they please. The creators aren’t always the highest tier, we have no Bendis appearances for those wanting it, but we do get Kieron Gillen and Duane Swierczynski, Ted McKeever, and even Jonathan Hickman. If you’re willing to put up with characters like Shang Chi and Dr Strange then you should be appreciative of the variety of talent being represented in the pages. I find that each book has a slew of different looks at the character being presented. We’ve seen many varied sides of Ares and Iron Man as well, and Daredevil is coming down the line. I’d like to see more of these get made, not necessarily every month but just as the chances arise. Iron Fist and Nick Fury would be good choices, and I could even see someone like the Punisher or Luke Cage getting a run, not to mention the possibilities for doing one for someone like Spider-Woman or Loki.
I also have to note that most of these issues sported a text piece in the back and I just thought they were the coolest things ever. It really takes you back to those old Savage Sword of Conan books where you’d have to dedicate a whole afternoon to getting through the fun.
6 - iApps For All
It’s a brave new world out there and technology is the key to unlocking the future. There’s probably no gadget in this world that reminds me that I live in the future quite like the iPhone does. You can really do anything with these wonderful creations, and I very nearly mean anything. It’s like some sci-fi hand held device that brings the world straight into your palm and I love that it also brings comics into my word, and for free.
I started off my digital comics campaign with the ComiXology app. I found it to be a pretty decent way to get into some new comics, and even plenty of free content. The thought that I could download comics for free, and still can, completely blows my mind. It’s the greatest gateway ever created. Anyone can access these, and it seems they do. I don’t see digital comics as becoming my preferred consumption method any time soon but I was very grateful that over time we have been delivered, via the powerhouse ComiXology, apps for Marvel, DC, and Boom! All three companies are working to get all sorts of free content up and you can also buy some random back issues of titles new and old as companies look to slowly fill out their catalogues digitally. I discussed the Marvel app recently and I feel that the other companies will most likely be very quick in catching up in what they offer.
Day and date distribution is being toyed with, DC already offer it on Justice League: Generation Lost and Marvel are going to do it with Matt Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man annual so we can only wait and see how it all works out for everyone involved. Personally, I am just loving the free content available; while typing this, my iPhone just downloaded 5 full Marvel comics. That’s what I call pretty damn awesome.
5 - Viking and Wednesday Comics Get HC’s
If I like a series I generally pick it up each month to support the title and the creators. If not enough orders are made for a title then it can get canned before the first issue even hits shelves (and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the absence S.W.O.R.D. has made in me) and here we even established a Hype Machine feature so that people know to get in quickly on anything they like so that it doesn’t go the way of the dodo, or the moa for those sick of the dodo’s monopolization of being the poster child for extinct animals. I believe in following titles and only wait for trades on series I am really unsure of or ones I got in wickedly late for. That’s, usually, my policy and it serves me well.
However, I supported Viking and Wednesday Comics and I loved the experience for both. Each offered art and spectacle that was thoroughly enjoyed by me but then the kick in the pants came months later. Each was released recently in mammoth hardcover collections that simply need to be seen to be believed. They are monstrous and all that is awesome in the world and I know I’ll never own either because I have the singles and life is not so gravy that I can justify double dipping.
To be fair, I don’t actually feel like I missed out, I loved reading Wednesday Comics in weekly form and believe that the HC offers a different experience in nearly every way and not necessarily in any way I want. I also enjoyed reading Viking each month and I definitely feel that it needed the monthly support and the HC is much more expensive that the floppies were, so that’s nice. I do just want to point out that if you missed either series you should definitely partake in the HC’s as they are an amazing spectacle and quite a good story. And it’s nice to see companies try to offer something a little different and grand in their presentation of collections. Especially two worthy titles where the art was such a strong and majestic aspect of the product.
4 - Walking Dead TV Show – Pre-Production
It hasn’t even aired but I feel like The Walking Dead, brought to you by Frank Darabont and AMC later this year, is an ideal that has hung over the first half of this year. It’s a dream that a long form comic can be adapted and check so many boxes to make me so anticipatory that I just don’t know how I can wait any longer without having to catch a flight and storm the set sometime soon (hey, Robert Kirkman, want to fly an Aussie comic journalist out to the set? It’d make a great story for you as well as me…). It just feels like a perfect match up and here’s why.
Frank Darabont. The man is good at what he does and what he primarily does is entertain me. He also adapts great literary works (yeah, Stephen King is literary, so what?) and he knows how to stay true to the source material while also lifting it slightly, which is such a hard job to do. As soon as I heard his name was on board, as the man behind this whole endeavor and executive producer, I know I was almost guaranteed quality.
We also have a pretty fine cast, most of which I am impressed by Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. I love Rick as a character and he really needs to be nailed for the show to prosper, as much as it is an ensemble piece it needs this rock in the center to be broken and polished with equal care for the story to feel right. Andrew Lincoln caught my attention years ago in a show called Teachers. He was awesome and likeable in it and I can only imagine he’ll use this role to stretch his game and really show us what he can do. There’s nothing but faith coming from here.
The zombies actually look incredibly decent. Having watched my fair share of zombie flicks (and probably yours as well) I know good make up from bad and these few snaps of the walking dead look top notch. Not cheesy at all and surprisingly gory considering this is for TV. If they can keep this level of quality for all examples, and background shots, then I’ll be won over.
Finally, they have the creator happy. Sure, Robert Kirkman nearly always seems happy, but this is one of his biggest creations and so to hand it over to others must be a hard and trying time. He’s loving it because from what he’s seen, and they’ve included him to a fair degree, it’s all going swimmingly. He’s even getting the chance to write an episode but mostly his feedback seems to center on how well the story is going, possibly even better than how he managed it the first time around. I can only hope the rest of this year brings such superb news about what is going to be a ground breaking classic for the comic medium.
3 - Daytripper
Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon spent years drawing the art for other peoples’ words, and doing a fantastic job of it in works like Casanova and the Umbrella Academy, but with this title from Vertigo they have been allowed to write the tale as well and the results have been pretty spectacular. We follow Bras through a variety of days in his life. Each day ends with his death but this isn’t the reason I love this title so much. I love this title for so much more than could be summed up in any pitch sentence or review.
Daytripper shows us a man in his entirety and shows us how and who he is at different times of his life. Being a man, and one who has lived a fair degree of days in my life, I can relate to so much that Bras does, and the changes that he constantly shows he goes through. The man you are when you are 21 is not the same man you will be years later. It’s the little moments in between, the stolen glances, the forgotten songs, that slowly define you fill you with fond memories, when you get the chance to remember them at all. I love this series because it is completely real and something I can relate to.
Bras has experienced love and life and death and the masterful Brazilian twins manage to showcase these emotions and scenes in such brutal reality that you feel like they might just be your own memories, and I can only imagine for so many that it is so close that the difference is negligible. They can capture in a handful of panels what it would take you a half-dozen beers and two hours to soliloquize to a mate at the pub. I love this series because it says what you want to say, and want to hear, and does it in a way better than you could ever do either.
It seems that many have trade waited on this series which is a real shame. I would hate to have had to wait to get this series and I’d hate to take anything less than ten months to experience it. This is one of those rare examples of a comic that you could hand to just about anyone to prove that this medium is series, and it is brilliant. You can also read my review of the first half of the series.
2 - S.W.O.R.D.
There was something about this series that makes me love it still to this day. It was fun and it was incredibly well written and drawn and mostly it was something different. It wasn’t the usual fare that Marvel tends to put out, it was a chance, and sadly a failed one. Kieron Gillen showed an obvious affection for the characters, both established and created, and Steven Sanders was getting the chance to work right in his wheelhouse of technological fancy and characterisational whimsy. The results were fantastic and I’ll forever wonder what could have been if it was given a few more arcs to run.
Agent Brand was created by Joss Whedon in his Astonishing X-Men run and she was a pretty cool character there. Gillen took that sliver of cool and make her an intergalactic spy who was a cross between Modesty Blaise and Nick Fury; she was awesome. The universe is a wide tapestry to draw from and Gillen and Sanders strove to make it even more epic that just the locations. The back and forth dialogue between Brand and her furry boyfriend, Beast, was like His Girl Friday but with the gender roles reversed, which worked so very well for them both. The feeling of the comic was breezy, like everything mattered but none of it really did anyway. It was a romantic comedy from the 50’s set in space and with Death’s Head appearing, and doesn’t that sound just nice, yes? Death's Head even took the time to speak with us here about the series.
This was a comic I could have happily bought for years to come, or at least for as long as the two creators wanted to make it for, but that chance was not afforded us, the loving and adoring fans. The series was set for cancellation before the first issue even hit stands because of the poor turn out of pre-ordered sales. Let it be a lesson for all future titles that look promising, order early because the companies take heed, and we don’t want another S.W.O.R.D. on our hands.
1 - I Start Writing For The Weekly Crisis
Not to be overly personal, I had to inject myself into this list because it has been exceptional fun becoming part of the team here are The Weekly Crisis. I have always loved comics, and always loved writing, so to get the esteemed opportunity to combine both and have a fun time has been completely cool. I had followed this site for a fair while before being lured in by the promise of fame, adoration, loving comments and the rest that goes with being a tenured writer here. There was no chance I’d say no and I haven’t regretted it once.
In the past six months, I’ve managed to interview a few top tier creators in the Fireside Chats (I never thought I could say that I’d email and converse with the people who make my favourite characters live), I’ve managed to do my little bit for the comic industry with the Hype Machine, I get to think up fun little Top 10 lists (well, truthfully, I was already thinking about them, but now I get to share them), I get to contribute to Covers of the Week and thoughts on the monthly solicitations, and I also get to stretch my wings with whatever gonzo op/ed pieces catch my fancy. It’s a sweet job and even yielded some free comics along with the ride.
I have written over 60 different articles and over 100,000 words (not including any cover or solicitation commentary) and I have to admit that I’ve loved doing it every step of the way. I’ve never written about something I didn’t want to, and I’ve never forced an article to have to come out. Usually the articles are fun, and like this one, I enjoy getting the time in the early mornings and late nights to slip away and hammer at the keyboard until they are finished. Adding the images is another step, but I’d rather stay positive and talk about what I like and I love doing this. It’s a labour of love and getting to publish my thoughts and have people comment on and discuss them is an incredibly enriching and rewarding process. I’d not trade it for anything and I can only hope that I get the opportunity to continue to do it for the rest of the year, at least, even though I know having a little baby will affect my writing schedule and output but I am sure that’ll I’ll still find time to do this which I love.
I just hope you’ll all bear with me.
I hope that this list shows you what I like but that it also gives you faith that comics haven't gone down the gurgler. I could just as easily do a list of bad comics moments from this year but let's be positive. There have been so many things this year that I haven’t mentioned, or possibly didn’t even get to experience, so tell us, what so far in 2010 has gotten you really excited?