So here we are, another year in the books. As we look back on 2011 (and iFanboy’s 10th year in existence), I’m back at the keyboard to provide my annual best and worst of the year list. I decided this year to mix things up and start with the positive and celebrate the things I feel are the absolute best things in comics today. In addition, I’ve added a new element to the best of list, a quick list of my picks for the year. So without further adieu, I present to you my list of the Best Things in Comics in 2011.
5. Digital Comics Mature
When I wrote about Digital Comics last year, I heralded it as a banner year in the evolution of Digital Comics. It’s amazing how a year ago, I had no idea how big the the avalanche that would follow digital comics in 2010 would be in 2011. It’s like comics were moving at 15 miles per hour in 2010, and then in 2011 everything kicked into gear and made it to 80 miles per hour in no time flat. I honestly would not have predicted that one year later we’d see practically every publisher releasing comics digitally the same day as print. Nor would I have predicted the number of established platforms we’d see digital comics on. In 2011 we saw digital comics on iOS devices, Android devices (including a wide array of tablets), Google Chrome, Facebook, the Barnes & Noble Nook tablets and the Amazon Kindle Fire. Digital Comics went from being an novelty to being an industry wide force and it was head spinning to be involved in as much as I was through my day to day work at our parent company of Graphicly. Finally, after years of saying it was coming, I felt the world change within the comics industry around digital comics, and it has been unbelievably exciting to be involved. Now, we just need to see the number of readers of digital grow, but as the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.”
4. The Rocketeer Re-Emerges
One of the most pleasant surprises this year, for me personally, has been The Rocketeer. After IDW accomplished the task of collecting and re-releasing the original series by Dave Stevens into varying formats for wide audiences, ranging from affordable hardcover to deluxe to the insanely amazing original art edition, I thought that the re-visiting of The Rocketeer was all said and done in 2010. Luckily, again I was wrong. When IDW announced they’d be doing a mini-series anthology of new Rocketeer stories from modern day creators, I cringed. I’d much rather leave well enough alone, and the idea of Rocketeer stories not written and drawn by Dave Stevens was not something I thought would end well. Boy, was I wrong. Luckily, the stewards of The Rocketeer at IDW kept to the ideals and vision of Dave Stevens and some of my favorite comic talent like Darwyn Cooke, Mark Waid, Dave Gibbons, Kurt Busiek and many others delivered their A material to Rocketeer Adventures, which allowed me to do something I never thought would happen, read new Rocketeer comics. Not only were they new Rocketeer comics, but they were fantastic. Add onto this the fact that Disney finally released the movie on Blu-Ray, and now I sit in a world where I can enjoy The Rocketeer more than ever before.
3. Image Comics On The Verge
I’ll never forget my first Image Comics: Supreme #2 and The Maxx #1. I bought them randomly after taking a year off from comics not knowing what the heck Image Comics was. After reading those two comics, I immediately ran back to the comic book store for more. There was an energy present in those comics that was unlike anything I had ever read in comics. Now, as Image Comics prepares to celebrate 20 years of existence, I feel a similar energy. As I’ve mentioned in my nomination of Image Comics for publisher of the year and with a few thoughts shared with Robot6, I think that there’s something brewing at Image Comics that we should all be paying close attention to. In a marketplace that is rapidly getting smaller and combating that fact by throwing more of the same out there, Image Comics is taking daring risk and innovating with their comics. With creators like Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, Brian K. Vaughan, Jonathan Hickman, Erik Larsen and many others, Image Comics has quickly become the beacon for creator driven comics across a wide array of genres. In addition to all star talent, Image Comics has also become the place for emerging talent. We’re watching some of the future great creators get their start with creators like Joe Keatinge, Brandon Graham, Rob Guillory, Emi Lenox, Nathan Edmondson, Riley Rossmo and many others. Image Comics could have rested on their laurels, enjoyed the success of The Walking Dead and keep depending on the Image founders, but they haven’t. They’ve chosen to follow the tradition set 20 years ago and work to change the comic book industry and that is something I’m having a wonderful time watch happen, twice in my lifetime.
Okay, all of you have to cut me some slack here and admit that I’ve put in my time, I’ve suffered through the years of agony, and now, finally in 2011, it became a great time to be an X-Men fan again. The year started out with the unlikely emergence of Uncanny X-Force, which is now the best ongoing comic at Marvel Comics thanks to Rick Remender’s amazing tight storytelling and some legendary art by Jerome Opena. Building on that momentum, Kieron Gillen slid into the drivers seat on Uncanny X-Men, ready to usher in a new status quo in the X-Men world. Little did I know that it would be Jason Aaron, who we already marveled at his mastery of Wolverine, would be the X-Factor that made the X-Books go from good to great. X-Men: Schism served it’s purpose as an event with meaning, surprising even me with what the crux of the story ended up being, which led to the Regenesis launch and one of the best new series I’ve ever had the pleasure of being there from day one, with Wolverine & The X-Men #1. And while these 3 creators lead the way, the supporting books such as New Mutants, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and Generation Hope, written by the aforementioned Kieron Gillen, were a bolt of exciting youth within the universe. And the quiet consistency of X-Factor, lead by Peter David, made the tales of Madrox and his team one of the most underrated titles at Marvel Comics as a whole. I sit back and look at all the amazing X-Men comics + having survived the dreaded renumbering of Uncanny X-Men, I thank the comics gods for proving that, truly good things come to those who wait. Now, as we sit on the even of Avengers Vs. X-Men, I just pray to those same comics gods that Marvel doesn’t screw it up. Things right now are PERFECT in the X-Men Universe. The pieces are in place for a long, wonderful period of great comics..as long as the creators involved don’t get re-assigned or anything extreme happens. I’m optimistic. I have faith in Aaron, Remender and Gillen that 2011 was just the beginning of a long prosperous period of great X-Men stories
1. Comics is Overflowing with Positivity & Enthusiasm
Those of us who live and work within the comics industry can be incredibly critical of the industry itself. We can be snarky, sarcastic, cynical and out and out catty at times (more on that in my Worst of 2011 post). But in 2011, I noticed something else emerge from the professionals within the comics industry: Positivity and Enthusiasm. The influence of social media on comics is going to one day be the subject of a case study, I’m sure of it. I’ve never seen how one tool such as Twitter could come in and be universally swept and adopted by an entire industry. Further, to see that tool then be used as such a force of positivity, it’s something to behold. On a daily basis I’m able to see the overflowing enthusiasm and energy of creators like Rob Liefeld, Scott Snyder, Rick Remender, Jeff Parker, Jim Lee, Joe Keatinge, Brian Michael Bendis, C.B Cebulski, Jim McCann and countless others. They’re sharing with us both their love for reading comics as well as making comics and it’s something that we, as fans, have never been privy to before. Say what you will about their work, you may not be a fan of their art or their stories, but I challenge you not to be inspired by their enthusiasm and passion for their field of work. Each day I’m driven to create amazing things and be incredible, purely just by following their posts on Twitter. That’s some powerful, magical stuff. I don’t know how much longer this will last, but I have a feeling that right here, right now, in this moment of time, we’re experiencing something special.
— robertliefeld (@robertliefeld) January 3, 2012
Ron’s Best of 2011 List – By Category
- Writer: Rick Remender – I’ve raved about Remender’s work on Uncanny X-Force and named him my vote for Best Person Working in Comics in 2011
- Artist: Gabriel Hardman – The highs and lows I experienced this year with Hardman’s work proves how he had a career year. The fact that I was so upset at his run on Hulk coming to an end combined with the elation of the announcement of his upcoming work on Secret Avengers proved that Hardman was my choice for art in 2011.
- Ongoing Series: Uncanny X-Force – one more time, in case you haven’t heard me yet: Best. Ongoing. Series.
- Mini- Series: Flashpoint: The Outsider – This one surprises me as much as it surprises you, but James Robinson’s ability to craft and deliver a new, engaging character within this clusterfuck of an event was an accomplishment
- Original Graphic Novel: Love & Rockets: New Stories #4 – I know, it’s a serial, but it’s bigger than standard comic issue. See my Book of the Month review for my reasons.
- Collected Edition: Richard Stark’s Parker: The Martini Edition – I cringed at the thought of double dipping, after getting the initial Parker books in hardcover, but man did Darwyn Cooke do right by us, jamming this oversized edition with extras that makes the Absolute New Frontier look like amateur hour.
- Biggest Surprise: Journey Into Mystery – Never in a million years would I think that I would be a fan of a Thor related book, but thankfully Kieron Gillen’s insanity won me over
- New Series: Near Death – In a year that featured probably the most new series ever published in one year, it’s this unlikely 1980′s style action book that I’m the most excited for every month
- Publisher: Image Comics – see above and my Publisher of the Year nomination. Image Comics is the publisher to watch.
And that sums up my Best of 2011. Tune in tomorrow when I go to the dark side and share with you the Worst of Comics in 2011.