Another year comes to a close and we’ve spent the better part of the past 3 weeks drowning in “Best” and “Worst” lists. You might be tired of these, but come on, you know that a year can’t officially start until I’ve weighed in with my annual best and worst of the year list. Today we’ll accenuate the positive and celebrate the things I feel are the absolute best things in comics today. Along with that, I give you my quick list of my picks for the year and a little commentary.
So without further adieu, I present to you my list of the Best Things in Comics in 2012!
This one may come as a surprise to some people (especially Jason Wood of 11 O’Clock Comics), because in the few conversations I’ve had about Kickstarter, I’ve been a bit skeptical of it for various reasons. But that said, I can’t deny the force it’s become in comics by giving entrepreneurial folks a platform to help get their work funded, completed and to an eager audience. Kickstarter is, as many before me have commented, the ultimate democratization of content. If people like what you’re offering, they’ll chip in and help pay for it. If not enough people like it, then you don’t get funded. It doesn’t get much more simpler than that. When I look at projects like Ryan Stegman and Matt Marrocco’s I Draw Comics, I see the potential of Kickstarter. Here is a fantastic idea, that perhaps a publisher would have gotten behind, but given the tough economy we’re in now, more and more publishers are unlikely to take a risk. I Draw Comics is a wonderful resource that will hopefully inspire the next generation of comics artists and we have Kickstarter to thank for it. Beyond a project like I Draw Comics, we’re able to see creators find another way to get published. If anything, the success of Kickstarter in comics is a HUGE BLINKING RED LIGHT as to the problems within the comic book industry, especially amongst indie comics and the new world order under Diamond and their distribution stranglehold.
4. More Options For Digital Comics
In last year’s Best Of list, I applauded the maturity of digital comics, which had come a long way in 2011, moving the majority of the publishers to day and date releases. That momentum continued in ways I could never have predicted in 2012. Now, it’s not uncommon to look for a title digitally, not find it and wonder why it’s not there (*ahem* FuryMAX *ahem*). In just the span of a year, digital comics have not only become commonplace, but all sales indicators show that it’s not hurting the direct market nearly as much as they feared, in fact, there’s an argument to be made that it’s helping sales across the board by bringing in new readers. And new readers is indeed where it’s at, and that’s why it’s so exciting to see digital comics take the leap from an app-centric business model (being only available via Comixology or iVerse or what have you) and expanding to the book marketplaces offered by the various tablet manufacturers. Now comics are a staple in the Apple iBookstore, Amazon Kindle store and the Barnes & Noble Nook store. No longer are comics publishers dependent on device users to find some arcane application and navigate a digital replication of the direct market within an app. Nope, now a person with a brand new iPad Mini that they got for Christmas can simply go to the iBookstore in iTunes and start buying graphic novels, trade paperbacks and now even single issues. With this development, I think we can expect to see the digital audience grow even larger and finally get the elusive “new readers” hooked and engaged.
3. Marvel NOW!
I’ll admit, when I caught wind of Marvel’s big publishing initiative, their response to DC Comics and The New 52, and got the details of just what Marvel NOW! was going to be, I was skeptical. Upon first glance, the prospect of a multiple month roll out of new number one issues where the big draw was that the creative teams were being mixed up was not something that excited me. Everyone I spoke to at Marvel, from creators to staffers assured me that it would be good and to wait and see, but as the days grew closer to October 2012, I remained skeptical. It just seemed like lipstick on a pig. Another lame attempt to re-number comics and be force fed marketing about the same old, same old. But once the Marvel NOW! train started rolling, I’m extremely pleased to find out that I should have listened to all those Marvel folks and that, for the most part, I was wrong.
With the majority of the comics coming out of Marvel NOW!, not only are we seeing new voices and new looks on the Marvel stable of characters, but it’s clear that the creators involved are stepping up to the challenge and delivering some of the most imaginative, well thought out, new work to Marvel Comics in a while. It definitely has now been established as a moment in time, when things shifted at Marvel and I think we’ll look back at Marvel NOW! as the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. If the work we’ve gotten from Thor: God of Thunder, All-New X-Men, Avengers, Young Avengers and Uncanny Avengers are any indicators, this is going to be a glorious time for Marvel in the days ahead. Now let’s hope they keep the quality up and avoid the dreaded event books in 2013!
2. Image Comics & The Explosion of Creativity
At the end of 2011, we all knew Image Comics was going to be the publisher to watch with their 20th anniversary in 2012, and boy did they put on a show. Coming right out of the gate with Fatale from Brubaker and Phillips, and then not letting up at all. It seems as if there was a new series every week from Image: Manhattan Projects from Hickman and Pitarra, Saga from Vaughan and Staples, Mind the Gap from McCann and Esquejo, Happy! from Morrison and Robertson, Revival from Seeley and Norton…the list just goes on and on of the quality creators and books that were released this year. Thanks to the bolstering of creativity at Image Comics, fans can get more than just their zombie fix with The Walking Dead. Science Fiction came back big thanks to the open sky approach at Image, and it’s even bled into the pages of many Marvel books. And they didn’t stop there, with announcements of upcoming projects from the likes of Matt Fraction, James Robinson, Greg Rucka, even more Jonathan Hickman and more, it’s clear that 2012 hasn’t been a flash in the pan for Image Comics.
While Marvel and DC have been stumbling over themselves to relaunch and reposition themselves in the marketplace, Image Comics stood up and put a stake in the ground around the simple idea of great creators and unlimited access to their creativity. The idea that a new spin on things or a retelling an origin is a short sighted way to do business and instead, simply putting out quality work seems so simple, and yet you have to wonder how and why others don’t simply follow it. With the continued…evolution of Vertigo and the struggles other smaller independent publishers have gone through, it’s clear that Image Comics is the best game in town for creator owned work and ultimately the people who get to benefit from that the most is the readers.
We knew it was going to be good, but we didn’t know it would be this good. When Image Comics announced Brian K. Vaughan was returning to comics at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2011, all we had was a word, “Saga” and that haunting image from artist and collaborator Fiona Staples. When we finally got our hands on that first issue, it was clear just how much we missed Brian K. Vaughan from the world of comics. Like I said, we knew Saga would be good, but I’m astounded at the level of just HOW GOOD it is. Topping nearly every “Best Of” list I’ve seen, it’s no surprise to see me raving about Saga, but when 4 of the first 7 issues issues get Pick of the Week here at iFanboy, that’s something to take note of.
Earlier today I was talking about just how good Saga is and I realized, I can hardly put it into words. It just is. Saga touches on all the amazing and wonderfulness that can exist within comics. Out of this world science fiction and bizarre characters, but at the same time being just so relatable and so human. I was afraid that while he was off in Hollywood, Vaughan’s comic chops would be a bit rusty, but now after the first first 7 issues of Saga, it’s clear that if anything, Vaughan has simply continued to hone his skills and become an even better writer. But he’s not alone and I would love to praise Fiona Staples’ art but I’m too busy picking my jaw up off the floor in reaction to it. Each issue, Staples is able to impress and dazzle us as she brings this amazing world to reality.
Saga is the kind of comic book that makes me want to run out and convert non-comic readers into comic readers. It’s rare when a book this good bursts on the scene, but it looks like we’ve all struck collective gold with Saga and after one successful year, I cannot wait to see where year two and beyond takes us while on this wonderful adventure.
Ron’s Best of 2012 List – By Category
- Writer: Jason Aaron - named our Writer of Year for 2012, Aaron reached crazy good heights this year for me, ranging from Wolverine & The X-Men to the launch of Thor: God Thunder. He is firmly one of the best.
- Artist: David Aja - Like everyone else, I’m wowed with every issue of Hawkeye that comes out with Aja art. It’s unlike anything else out there and leaves me wanting more
- Ongoing Series: Saga – scroll up and read me gush about Saga
- Mini Series: Happy! - It’s still got one more issue to go, but already from the 3 out of 4 released, I can tell that this tale from Morrison and Robertson will be a seasonal must read every holidays and that’s an accomplishment.
- Original Graphic Novel: Parker: The Score - The thing that amazes me about the third Parker book from Darwyn Cooke is out he’s able to outdo even himself. The Score builds upon and is even better than the first two Parker books. Graphic Novel perfection!
- Collected Edition: Scene of the Crime - I gotta say, this is a beautiful collection and my favorite of all the collected editions out this year. Great design, fantastic comic and enriching extras from Brubaker, Lark and Phillips.
- Biggest Surprise: Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre - I didn’t think I’d love this as much as I did, but it transcended the vertical banner on the cover and Cooke and Conner gave us a wonderful coming of age tale.
- New Series: The Manhattan Projects – I know, Saga is a new series too, but I wanted to highlight my other favorite here. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra are serving up some unpredictable, alternate history science comics that I never want to end.
- Publisher: Image Comics - If you ask me what kind of comics do I want to see more of, it’s simple: Image Comics.
And that sums up my Best of 2012. Tune in tomorrow when I go to the dark side and share with you the Worst of Comics in 2012.