Oh 2012, we hardly knew ya. This past year was another big year for comic books and me. This past year had me spending more time commenting and writing about comics than I ever did before, and there was plenty to comment on and write about. This past year really felt to me like some good comics were being published, and it makes me look forward to what the following year will bring. But first, let’s look at some of those gems that 2012 gave us.
1. Layman (Chew, Detective Comics)
2. Brandon Graham (Prophet, Multiple Warheads)
3. Bryan K. Vaughan (Saga)
For myself, this was the year of the creator-owned books. With Walking Dead #100 being the top book of the year, I don’t see how it could be said otherwise. John Layman has been killing it, both the book and characters, in Chew this year. Brandon Graham has brought back Prophet in such a way that I literally can’t go five panels before I find myself being lost in thought because his writing gives me ideas and makes me think. And BKV…well, that’s BKV. Do you really need to say more?
1. Sean Murphy
2. Rob Guillory
3. J.H. Williams III
When he has been around to draw Batwoman, we do get some high quality art and use of panel layout from J.H. My hat must be tipped to the black and white art of Punk Rock Jesus’ creator Sean Murphy, which actually stands out as a well written book as well. Rob Guillory has as much credit as a creator for Chew as Layman does. These two work magic each month with what they produce.
Best Ongoing Series
3. Walking Dead
If you highlight the books for best writer and artist teams, you have to include Chew in this list. However, BKV’s Saga continues to show that Vaughan has a style that can use the comic book medium to tell adult stories. The book has a growing audience and recently was at a minor spotlight of controversy with Image stating that they wanted to stop second printings on the comic, only to reverse that move a short time later. And Walking Dead has been a consistent first read when I pick up new books for the week. It just continues to show that a character’s death can come at any time, and it does have lasting impact. And the new characters coming out of The Walking Dead this year continue to amaze!
Best Ongoing Series (Superhero)
2. Animal Man
Yes, I’m casting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as superheroes. Trust me, it works somehow. Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz have show tremendous consistency on the book for me, despite some nagging details with the art. Animal Man has been great build up for the Rotworld story line and Swamp Thing should almost be right there next to it since these books have essentially followed the same path through their run so far. Batman needs no explanation simply because he is Batman.
Best New Series
1. Creator-Owned Heroes
3. Manhattan Projects
Yes, you could say I’m an Image fan, but I’m calling it a fan of creator-owned books. Saga is explained above, and Manhattan Projects just is tasty, tasty alt-reality science goodness. And I can heap praises on Creator-Owned Heroes month in and month out. I am sad that issue #8 will be the last, but what it has done so far is just amazing. It had more worth to it for $3.99 than any other comic out there released with the same price point. Great comics inside, and great inside comics information.
1. Punk Rock Jesus
2. The Ray
Both Planetoid and Punk Rock Jesus’ final issues are still yet to come out, but both had just the kind of story that leaped out at me from the comic book shelf. Is it a coincidence that the artist was also the writer for the book? We have seen some good examples of artist as writers on some DC books like Flash and Batwoman, but for story content alone, the creator-owned material just hit it out of the ball park. The Ray also had a great opening number to it, even though the final issue really fell off the mark for me. Overall, the ride has been fantastic on all these series.
Best Single Issue or One-Shot
1. Ralph Wiggum
2. Secret Agent Poyo
3. Beasts of Burden: Neighborhood Watch
The Simpson quarterly one shots featuring a character-focused issue have been consistently fun each time the book hits the stands. The first one, Ralph Wiggum, just showed how much fun Bongo wanted readers to have when it came out. Some of the material inside really made me nostalgic for the TV show, and it was a good thing that I had the DVDs on hand. Chew’s one shot featuring Poyo was just a gut full of laughter and delight. And Beasts of Burden from Dark Horse was a random grab for me on a slow comic book week. I liked it so much that I went out and bought the hardcover collecting all the previous issues. This was the type of comic that I could easily hand out to others and know that they would enjoy it as much as I did.
1. Damian Wayne
3. Chris Fairling
Damian Wayne is the focus of Batman & Robin. Tomasi’s character work on him has been consistently well done even when the book was going off the rails. Add that to Damian’s appearances and one liners in the Batman Incorporated book and it just makes for great character defining moments. Bandette is a character that we are still learning about in the digital pages of her self-titled book from Monkeybrain Comics. I have yet to miss an issue, and I would point to her as one that is going to develop and continue to amaze and delight. And check out the character development of Chris Fairling in Punk Rock Jesus. He has literally grown up through the series and continues to be the heart of the book. I can most relate to his plight, and he seems to be developing into the smartest character in the book.
1. Batman: Li’l Gotham
2. Green Lantern
3. TMNT: Color Classics
Li’l Gotham has been nothing short of out of continuity happy goodness. Yes, there was the controversy with Steph Brown in the second issue (was she there or not?) but the book continues to make the Batman fan in me smile. Johns’ consistency, along with the army of inkers for Doug Mahnke, make for an enjoyable Green Lantern book month in and month out. And kudos for creating a minority character and continuing to establish him to the Green Lantern mythos. I’ve also enjoyed the Color Classics series for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that colored up the original black and white art of the original books. it just had an 80s comics nostalgia vibe to it that I enjoyed.
Some of the best, the BEST, new series came out from Image this year. Creator-owned titles are on the rise, and it is always great to see creators just go crazy with their characters. Take a look at The Walking Dead, which had the highest direct market sales of the year, and tell me how this isn’t the year of creator- owned titles starting to take a bite out of the direct market full of superheroes.
Favorite Other Things
1. The Rise of Comixology
2. Monkeybrain Comics
3. Comic Flea Market
Digital Comics is the future! Well, not quite taking over, but definitely adding sales (as Robert Kirkman recently put it). We will continue to see expansion here, and I don’t think it will ever put the print versions out of service, but it will definitely bring some new, and old, fans into the game.