Elana’s Best Comics of 2015
Most Ambitious Experiment
From Brandon Graham, joined by Emma Rios and the large crew of alt comics creators they’ve invited to write and draw for his new comics anthology magazine. The first if it’s kind in ages, think of it as a modern version of Heavy Metal Magazine, the legendary adult scifi and fantasy comics mag that was huge in the 70s and 80s known for featuring work by artists European artists like Moebius and Milo Manara. Graham is doing the modern equivalent for new and old audiences with artists like Farel Dalrymple and Tessa Black. He puts his money where his mouth is in terms of diversity on every level too and welcomes quality work by newcomers. Here’s our podcast with him. The audio is rough for the first half but it’s better after that and he’s an amazing guest.
Innovation of the Year
Rosy Press. Founder Janelle Asselin is leading a revolution in feminist, inclusive romance comics! A woman-lead company funded via a kickstarter online and now in print. This genre has been missing from the shelves for too long.
Creative Team of the Year
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Between The Wicked + The Divine and Phonogram: the Immaterial Girl this was their best year yet. I think they are the best creative team of my generation. Even the Wic+Div issues with guest artists maintained their storytelling excellence.
Kevin Wada. Everything he touches is beautiful. He did regular covers for Catwoman and The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage this year and variants for everything from Zodiac Starforce to Midnighter I bought A-Force #3 just for his variant to frame on my wall.
Best Interior Artist
Stephanie Hans (Angela Queen of Hel, Angela Asguard’s Assassin, 1602 Witch Hunter Angela). She paints better than anyone these days.
Jamie McKelvie (Phonogram, The Wicked + The Divine) I mean he did an entire issue that was a remix of an earlier issue and it was still brilliant.
Tom Neely (The Humans) Brutal, lurid, period perfect and expertly crafted
Best Limited Series: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl
Best First Issue of a New Series: Monstress (w) Marjorie Liu (a) Sana Takeda
Runner Up: All-New Wolverine #1
Comics Art: Best Two Page Spreads:
Here are the comics that keep me buying individual printed issues because their two page spreads are jaw dropping and book binding or online interfaces will just get in the way:
- Silver Surfer, penciler Mike Allred. Colorist Lee Allred. This may be the best Allreds work to date. One of these pages was a moebius strip you had to spin around to read
- The Humans, penciler/inker Tom Neely colorist/ Kristina Collantes. Some are lurid mandalas. Some say “Ka-Fuckin-boom” across them. Always far out and exciting.
- The Sandman: Overture. penciler JH Williams, colorist Dave Stewart. JH Williams is the best comics artist working today. So yeah.
Best Single Web comic: Lighten-Up by Ron Wimberly
Best webcomic series: Bashback: A Story of the Queer Mafia (w) Kelsey Hercs, Lawrence Gullo, (a) Fyodor Pavlov who will be on our podcast January 25th.
Kaptara: (w) Chip Zdarsky and (a) Kagan McLeod: scandalously hilarious sword and sorcery and scifi in space with a diverse cast)
Jughead (w) Chip Zdarsky and (a) Erica Henderson: All of the revamped and reimagined Archie titles are wonderful but Jughead has a particularly funny and absurdist humor, ear for dialog and Henderson (you know her from Squirrel Girl) nails the sight gags every time.
1602 Witch Hunter Angela (w) Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen. That lawyer joke though… actually all of their Angela comics have been very funny)
Archie vs Predator (w) Alex De Campi (a) Fernando Ruiz ‘Nuff Said.
Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess (w) Jeremy Whitley (a) Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt. The hiring hall “not all men” scene alone would be enough. But there’s more!
Best DC Comic:
It’s one of the comics I anticipate most every month. I hadn’t read the earlier series and it hasn’t mattered. I love the mystery, dark humor and creative art especially when writer/artist Ming Doyle gets to step in. Having a bisexual man writing a bisexula male character pays off.
Gotham Academy (w) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan (a) Karl Kerschl. Charming and inventive. The art is wonderful and sets the tone of a comic that’s “Hogwarts in Gotham” love this crew of funny, believable and diverse kids. Batman mythos are woven in fun ways but you do not need to know Batman or read other comics to follow along.
Catwoman comics of 2015 (w) Genevieve Valentine (artists especially David Messina) For a uniquely creative and fresh character arc, queer ladies kicking tail and stunning art that actually used characters’ street clothes as key signals in character development. The story arc came to a complete, satisfying conclusion. That’s rare these days. I treasure it.
Black Canary (w) Brenden Fletcher (a) Annie Wu. Because it was time that Dinah had a band. And her band is grand. Band on the run hijinks.
Best All New All Different Marvel:
Weirdworld (w) Sam Humphries (A) Mike Del Mundo
Any comic before or after the relaunch with Angela’s name in the title and Marguerite Bennett writing it.
Best comic for people who hate superheroes and genre fiction:
No Mercy (w) Alex De Campi (a) Carla Speed McNeil
A bus load of college bound teens heading to Central America for some poorly throughout voluntourism falls off a cliff. That’s just the premise. It gets darker from there especially because the teens are so damn believable. The art is also really unique, illustrative and approachable.
Best Fantasy Comic: Monstress (w) Marjorie Liu (a) Sana Takeda
Best Sci-Fi Comics (which also happens to be very politically radical)
Bitch Planet Vol 1 (w) Kelly Sue DeConnick (a) Valentine De Landro
Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Vol 3 & 4 (w) Alex De Campi (a) R. M. Guéra (a) Afua Richardson (a) Chris Peterson and Nolan Woodard
Best “Daaaamn that’s Brutal” Moments
Midnighter #1 (Steve Orlando, Aco, Fajardo Jr). Midnighter punches a rib-eye steak through a guy’s head. Staked with a steak!!!
The Humans #4 (Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely) Drugged, ape-like Humans kept as slaves battle to the death. Actually pretty much every issue of this comic would rank in creative brutality and fight scene bloodbaths.
Most Well-Intentioned Guy who’s Being a Dick: Dick Grayson
In his solo title, Grayson, Dick Grayson is getting idealistic teenagers arrested allegedly for their own safety, including countless brown kids. His privilege is blinding him (I explain why here). And then in Batgirl he crashed Alyssa’s wedding to try to swoop in and steal Babs away from her date. Stop being a Dick, Grayson! His 2016 resolution should be checking himself. (The creative teams on his books are strong so it will be good to read either way).
Awesome New Butch and Tomboy Characters
Regardless of sexual orientation female characters with a more masculine self presentation are incredibly rare in comics. This year four stood out Katie King of Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess, Kim aka Taurus of Zodiac Starforce , Mac of Paper Girls (who is obviously a baby dyke and the f-ed-up slur is clearly part of that story) and Sanna Strand from Battleworld: Runaways. Here’s to a new year where more people see themselves reflected in stories.
Best New Character
Sera from various Angela comics published by Marvel and written by Marguerite Bennett and/or Kieron Gillen.
Best Revival/Thing I Never Cared About but Now I do
Jughead and Archie
The Fade Out (w) Ed Brubaker (a) Sean Phillips
Picture perfect noir set in Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Best New Tween Comics (to keep Ms. Marvel company)
Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess (w) Jeremy Whitley (a) Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt
Zodiac Starforce: (w) Kevin Panetta (a) Paulina Ganucheau
Jem and the Holograms (w) Kelly Thompson and (a) Sophie Campbell
Best Ongoing All-Ages Series (to keep Lumberjanes company):
Gotham Academy: Hogwarts at Gotham with a diverse cast.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (w) Ryan North (a) Erica Henderson. Can I also point out how Squirrel Girl does a great job of solving problems in creative ways that don’t involve violence at times? And how amazing it is to see a super heroine with thick thighs and legs?) Because that is radical and needed.
Cover that Made Me Buy a Comic/ Best Arm
Most Subversive Cover
Ming Doyle’s Constantine #1 Variant. There has never been a male character in a more “come-hither” comic book pose by a mainstream publisher. Not even Grayson (which is also impressive).
Best Character Rehabilitation/Character Who Used To Be Offensive and Now is Fascinating
Cyborg as done by David Walker. Cyborg is now a comic that deals with issues of race and disability in a sci-fi frame work. Funny what happens when you get a black writer to write a black character.
Wedding Of the Year
Alyssa & Jo in Batgirl #45. Comics weddings are usually a complete madhouse (in a fun way). This was emotionally wise, adult and sweet– also in a fun way. It’s also the first trans wedding in a mainstream comic.
Cutest Newly Confirmed Couple
Angela and Sera in Various Marvel Comics with Angela in the title. I’m sure Harley Quinn and Ivy are Cute too but I haven’t read that series.
The Humans‘ Tom Neely. It’s all done by hand by the penciler and inker. It puts other books to shame. TO SHAME! The words are integral to the art. He spells “brains” in brains!
Kristina Collantes (The Humans)
Matt Wilson (The Wicked + The Divine and Paper Girls)
Best Thing in Secret Wars (and best one shot comic)
Emotionally resonant ultra short romances about fan favorite characters like Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel or Daredevil. Marvel, please hire Whitely to do an ongoing romcom comic about a biracial couple like Danny Rand and Misty Knight. Yesterday!
Best Thing in DC’s Convergence
Greg Rucka’s The Question. The rest of you guys can go home now. (Though I did enjoy New Teen Titans I think it was mostly Nicola Scott’s lovely art, my nostalgia and some shall we say unexpected shiping that did the talking).
The Comic that’s gone MIA that’s got me SAD
8house Arclight (w) Brandon Graham (a) Marian Churchland. The beautiful, creative and trans-friendly fantasy comic went on hiatus for a bit but it will be back in a few months.
Best Body Diversity in Comics Art
Jem and the Holograms (Sophie Campbell)
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Erica Henderson)
Rat Queens (Tess Fowler)
Geek Event of the Year
FlameCon New York’s first LGBTQ comics convention. And it has people from across the spectrum attending and participating. I haven’t felt that sort of unity since, um, ever.
Comic most in Need of a Revamp Relaunch
Wonder Woman. Here’s an explanation of the problem artistically and what could fix it. But here’s why DC won’t fix the problem. It has to do with sexism.
Up and Coming Artist to Watch-Out For
Paulina Ganucheau. She’s done work for BOOM! but Zodiac Starforce is taking flight. I expect BIG things from her soon.
The Wicked + The Divine and Bitch Planet Nail Wraps.
The Best Podcast We’re Not On
Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men (which you can find under Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men). It’s educational, touching and hilarious.