1. Who has been the best publishing company this year?
I find that the big companies have had a mixed year. I have probably enjoyed DC more than the year before with books such as Grayson, Gotham Academy, Bizzaro and the continually surprising Justice League, but it is still a directionless company that has yet to truly work out what it wants to be. Marvel have had a troublesome time with the Secret War delays ruining the end of a joyous Hickman run and another pointless reboot, and honestly it breaks my heart. Image have continued with their stellar titles but almost all new successful books appear to be from big creators that have left DC and Marvel. It used to court the little guy and now it relies on the well known names, albeit the high quality is very much maintained. So my answer will probably surprise you because I will give it to Panel Syndicate, despite me writing a post discrediting their digital modus operandi. They tried something new and it worked unbelievably well and I hope they do as planned and shine the light on new creators.
2. Who are your top three writers of the year
i. Tom King has been my break out star of this year and each and every comic he produces is beautifully written with a plot well thought out and often told ingeniously. His work on Grayson has been exceptional in the way in which the story was revealed and his angle on The Visions is so impressive. There are other writers that have shone but there are few books that I have enjoyed reading more than these.
ii. G Willow Wilson has touched my heart on multiple occasions in a community that has similar principles and practices to mine. Her understanding of community and culture is second to none and is able to piece together the very realistic cast around a rather standard hero villain archetype. Proving that it is never the events of a book that matter but the way in which our characters handle it.
iii. Rick Remender seems to never stop writing even though at times he probably should. Not everything he has done has struck gold but his Image work has been some of my favourite of the year. The heartache and personal tragedy has always been his hallmark but to have a reckless drug addled teen and a hopeful but continually mourning mother drive such stories is a feat I struggle to comprehend.
3. Who are your top three artists of the year?
i. Greg Tocchini has a style that is all his own. His sense of reality is warped and twisted and feels quite estranged at first. Once you become attuned to it, he seems to be able to produce passion and terror at the same time. The worlds he has created are vibrant and designs so vivid that they are unlike anything seen previously. His colours a vibrant and pertinent to the story he is trying to tell that they become integral to the page
ii. Mike Del Mundo produced one of my favourite books of the year, Weirdworld. He is one of few artists that defy convention and run off to do whatever they please and produce incredible work. Not only did it fit the ridiculous and crazy Winter Soldier story that Ales Kot had produced but Aaron’s Secret Wars tie in. The colours were engrossing with such depth and texture with characters so alive and vibrant.
iii. Esad Ribic seems to be able to produce page upon page of incredible looking work. I did wonder whether he could manage every hero in every Marvel universe for Secret Wars but he did so successfully. He suffers with emotional expression at times but Thor gave us his best work in that regard. He needed to be elegant and powerful on a grand scale and that is exactly what Secret Wars gave us.
4. Who are your top three colourists of the year?
i. Matt Wilson has been stellar in any book he touches. Not only has he been integral to the Gillen/McKelvie books, especially Phonogram but his work on Thor has taken Dauterman’s art to a new level. It is the one book that seems to use all of his ability as it is incredibly bright and colorful but also so subtle in how it depicts the fantastical elements of the comic. These include the rainbow Bifrost and the magnificent Ice Giants, but it is Dauterman’s detailing that he brings crystal clarity to.
ii. Bettie Breitweiser forms part of the immaculate team that includes Brubaker, Phillips, and Epting as she colours both Velvet and The Fade Out. I would love to understand her process because both of these books features colours that seem so realistic and depict light and shade so perfectly. Where Velvet lurks in the shadows, Bettie is so good at showing the action in almost two completely different environments on the same page.
iii. Dave Stewart produced a real showcase of his talents on the Sandman Overture because he needs to keep up with JH Williams III surreal fantasy. You will note that there is a diverse set of splash pages that required completely different types of rendering but all looked incredible. This book is the perfect example of a colourist can do to a book and should be studied by all.
5. Who has been your favourite letterer of the year?
I thought about this long and hard, which was one of my motivations for even creating the question but when you think of letters that made such an impact there were two. The first was Clayton Cowles on #WicDiv who produced fantastic work for each unique God, but someone else did that to a much grander scale: Todd Klein on Sandman Overture. With a book that can leave you completely lost as to who is speaking and wha they are talking about, his letters provide guidance in where to go and what to think. Truly wonderful work.
6. Who has been your favourite cover artist of the year?
Mike Del Mundo has been producing cover after cover that has been inventive and wonderful to look at. His highlights include the crazed and nonsensical Weirdworld, the iconic images of Winter Soldier and incredibly powerful imagery of Planet Hulk. The image to the left, of hulk puppets is my favourite by far.
7. Which creative combination has been your favourite of 2015?
Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson and Clayton Cowles. To have a team that consists of a writer, artist, colourist and letterer that most people can name is inspiring to the world of comics. It is the sheer expanse of the team that make it my pick, let alone how well they are synchronised in depicting not only the story but the personality of each character they work upon. Both The Wicked + The Divine and Phonogram are complete cohesive entities of artwork.
8. What are your top three comics (Any publisher) of the year?
i. Low – Remender has had another good year but it is Greg Tocchini that has made this book shine so incredibly. The story does not play out as you would expect but more like chapters that barely follow on from one another. But as each comic forms a unit of an overall story, they each have well-structured ideas and a character that truly suffers and transitions from beginning to end. The art is so unique and beautiful that what seems a little obscure becomes very familiar very quickly: just wonderful each and every time.
ii. Ms Marvel – As a man of Indian descent I am very akin to Kamala and her heritage. This is the first time that I felt like a book was intimately related to me, and it feels very odd but amazing at the same time. Having gone through similar family turmoil, I fully appreciate the back-story at hand. But G Willow Wilson is expert at having a hero being effective and fearful at the same time, but overcome those odds to become amazing. Whether it is Miyazawa or Alphona on the art, as long as Herring is colouring, it feels very homely.
iii. The Wicked + The Divine – The end of the original arc was devastating and quite upsetting as we lose yet another character, but the specialist single issues featuring guest artists were also incredible. The Tara issue saw Tula Lotay being emotional in an issue that was truly disturbing but also befitting of the story. I very much look forward to the rest of the story, albeit with a touch of trepidation.
9. What are your top three individual comic issues of 2015?
i. Ms Marvel #18 – There is one aspect about this book that is incredibly important to me, especially at this moment in my life, and that is family. This issue saw Kamala’s brother fight for her honour and show love at the most important of times, together with a family unit that is bonded so deeply but not always obviously. This is typified by the most emotional moment of the whole book where Kamala’s mother accepts her for who she is.
ii. The Wicked + The Divine #13 – I have rarely read a book that covers depression and the superficiality/emptiness of life so relevant to it’s own story. It was a very difficult read and Tara’s life was tragically depicted by the incredible Tula Lotay. Her colouring and emotional expressiveness was heartbreaking and worthy of the story at hand. It is rare a comic makes you feel so sad and for that alone, it is worthy of comic of the year (even though it isn’t!).
iii. Low #10 – Remender and Tocchini struck a chord with me in exploring the love and mentality of Stel Caine. Her resoluteness and determination to fight for her family is unparalleled, especially considering how awful circumstances have left her. Her will to carry on is written so beautifully and emotionally that her forgiveness for her failures left me speechless.
10. Which has been your top original graphic novel of the year?
Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection. I fell in love with this book the moment I bought it from Toronto and was so impressed with Kate’s ability to take her superhero and English literature knowledge to produce very insightful and delightfully funny comic strips. Her comic timing is incredible but her diverse base of knowledge that she draws upon to tackle more current socio-political issues is impressive. I recommend this to not just any comic book reader but to anyone that reads!
11. For us sensitive souls out there: Which book do you dislike that you find hard to admit in public?
Give that I decided to place this question in the list meant that I had a book to get off my chest. That book is Lazarus. I have rarely found a book that I have almost nothing to write about. That is a lie because Lark produces some lovely still images, but his action do lack fluidity. Otherwise I really struggle with the writing as it is low key, banal and lacks any interest whatsoever. Perhaps it is the simple feudal set up that is marketed as a rich alternative political system, it really isn’t because it is a bunch of rich folk abusing the poor and was found in feudal medieval England. Also the main character has no personality and is not even meant to have one, but her character progression is more focused upon her minimal violent role in a decrepit family as opposed to developing a persona. Phew! I have been wanting to get that off my chest for a long while.
12. For the Hickman fans out there: Which Secret War tie in was your favourite?
The Secret Wars tie-in Weirdworld was a spectacle indeed. Del Mundo seemed to have full reign on delivering a world in which he had full control. The characters he created and the environments he depicted were so well rendered that the central character had little hope of survival. Whether it was the crystal warrior Warbow or the childishly drawn map, the whole book was a joy to behold.
13. For the Bat fans out there: Which has been the best Bat book in 2015?
Grayson without a doubt. I have lost complete interest in Batman and find it tiresome, overtly grandiose and far to Wayne-centric. Gotham Academy has been great throughout but it feels a little off pace whereas this book moves from strength to strength. Seeley and King are producing not only intelligent and complex plots but also told in very inventive ways. Janin and Mooney are both great artists and are only improving with each issue. However I do wonder whether their story will be told without interruption as clearly DC have gotten wind of the fact that this book is flying. I expect we will see more of Dick and these creators in the very near future.
14. For every single comic fan out there: What has disappointed you most about comics this year?
It goes without saying that the social media community is a very diverse one but there are factions that will promote a book to its fullest, drive a book into the ground, challenge social norms, make political points from nothing or champion causes to the death. For the most these ventures are worthwhile but there is a lot of commentary regarding the fact that everyone should be allowed to have their opinion and be able to voice it without vitriolic attack. This is true and will always be true including the vitriolic attacks. What has really saddened me is how some fans have been silenced and have left the social media arena because they couldn’t handle it anymore. It isn’t just because of the waves of popularist thinking that sweeps people away but also the obsession for attention. I have noticed, especially doing the end of year questionnaire that some people have just left and I did not even notice. I think we have only just begun to understand the reality of social media and the etiquette that has yet to fully develop and be incorporated, it may never reach widespread acceptance. The only answer is really to take a little time to gain some perspective, but it can be very difficult to visualise. It takes wholehearted interactions at the end of the year for me to realise that I have friends that couldn’t handle contradictory opinions, sickening creator worship, the abhorrent sexism and courting of female fans, the unwillingness of cliques to engage with others of different race, creed and sex, the fear of voicing his true opinion of Star Wars. In case you hadn’t guessed it, the last one applies to me. Being a faceless entity brings out the best and worst in people and I wish I could give you a way of surviving the things you hate that don’t just involve just letting them go, perhaps even leaving Twitter, but so far that is the only advice I can offer. Be patient, be calm and know when to stop talking.
15. And deliberately left open to interpretation: Which has been the most socially representative comic of 2015?
This question garnered some interesting responses, much of which was in relation to what I actually meant by the question. As I stated this was to engage with the comic fan about their thoughts about representation in comics, how it is done, whether it should done and if it is done at all. And that is exactly what I got. So I shall be posting that in a separate post with some personal reflection and commentary. But I will tell you what the question means to me:
I find that many forms of media engage with the non-Caucasian man as a matter of standard these days, whether it be men and women of varying ethnicities to the variety of sexual preferences that exist. However I struggle with the idea that just having a non-Caucasian man is enough to bring about social acceptance/cohesiveness/representation. It doesn’t. I want well-written characters that fit a story or interaction naturally that reflect a different way of life; I don’t just want a female Thor or an Afro-American Captain America for the sake of it. I am so pleased that both those books have evolved their characters into the people who are them, especially with Jane Foster battling cancer and Sam challenging racial perceptions. I am the happiest when I read about how many people adore Ms Marvel because her culture and life is my own, and I never knew people could engage with it. This means that it is written so well that they seem real and relatable and break down this arbitrary superficial boundaries, to bring joy to all. That is what I meant by the question and what I want to read in my comic.
Thank you all for taking the time to reading this and participating in the questionnaire. The results will be up tomorrow!