….we return to the action already happening, welcome to the stage our assembled players!
All Star Comics in Melbourne
Brien from Virgil’s All Night Diner
Stacey from Word of Mouse Book Reviews
Jason Franks creator of McBlack and Sixsmiths
Sarah from Essieteric
Colin Bell creator of Jonbot Vs Martha
Rob Turner mayor of Reynard City
Jorge Solis of Fangoria
Colin Smith, who is Too Busy Thinking About His Comics
….a hush descends upon the audience.
The question was asked which creators most impressed this year. Marc Tylor Nobleman was unequivocal in his praise for Gail Simone (“In terms of plot and character development, I loved almost every arc of Secret Six”), while Ryan from Geek of Oz chose the team behind cult favorite and critical darling Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes – Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman. “They are a fantastic team, keep your eye on them”, was his tip for readers looking for something a little different.
Comic writer and artist Jason Franks picked Image hit The Strange Talent of Luther Strode by Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore. “This book is sharply written, beautifully rendered, accessible and ludicrously violent. The high concept makes it sound like a number of other books, but in execution this book doesn’t read or look like any of them. A top class work by a pair of debuting creators.” As assessments go that’s a firm thumbs up. Franks went on to recommend other creator-owned titles that showcase the wealth of talent outside the Big Two publishers. “I’d be remiss not to mention Von Allan on Stargazer, Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner on Witch Doctor, Tom Taylor and James Brouwer on The Deep… there are many others.” Rob Turner cited the wealth of talent online on sites like Deviantart, recommending in particular that people check out Conroy Cat. He also took the time to recommend his colleagues on Reynard City writer Ian Austin and artist Dan Butcher. “Together they’ve produced the fab Death Boy while Dan has worked on a terrific comic called Vanguard, both well worth your time.” Further indie creative teams mentioned were the two Scotts, Snyder and Tuft, joined by artist Attila Futaki on Image horror title Severed. This American Dustbowel-era vision of depravity was lauded by Jorge Solis as “a creepy and dark fairytale, with a profound message about the loss of innocence. I was hooked right away with the first issue and I had to follow miniseries as it went along.” Colin Bell commended Sam Humphries of Our Love is Real and Sacrifice, indie titles that cleverly courted controversy. “I’ve been really impressed with the way Sam Humphries has promoted and distributed his books”, says Bell, describing the comic writer’s courting of critics and readers online as “a real inspiration to any aspiring comic book creator.”
However the real indie success of 2011 was the fascinating initiative by Renae De Liz. Heads were turned in 2011 by the Womanthology Project’s embracing of crowd-sourcing methods to produce a book outside of the mainstream comic industry, targeting a readership and creative talent which the Big Two are often accused of ignoring – women. Sarah from Essieteric gave props to De Liz for defying the odds. “She met and exceeded expectations for her Womanthology project this year, with a wonderful creative team and committed colleagues who marketed that project across national and international media. In a business where smaller publishers are starting to get their due, she is a great example and resource for our aspiring young female writers and artists.”
Mainstream creators – which is to say writers and artists with DC or Marvel – also got raves from the group. Sarah selected Travel Foreman whose work accompanies Jeff Lemire’s intriguing scripts for the New 52 title Animal Man. She described the artwork as feeling “like sketching through and through, but it also radiates with energy – some of his characters in Animal Man are indistinguishable from head to toe, but you can always follow the line of movement to gauge where the character is going.” It has to be said Animal Man really does stand out from the rest of the DC pack as something quite different, but consensus in this group sided with Mark Waid’s Daredevil for Marvel once again. Mitch from All Star Comics in Melbourne described it as “a stunning book on every level. Just fantastic”. New Marvel talent such as Jonathan Hickman and Kieron Gillen were also highly praised. Ed Allen gave special mention to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fantastic Four by Hickman, stating “he is responsible for writing the two most ambitious titles in Marvel’s current output. If it wasn’t for his decision to lengthen the book I would probably be praising his upcoming solo project ‘Feel Better Now’ too. Brien Gorham saw fit to rave about Gillen’s use of Norse god and erstwhile comic book villain Loki in Journey Into Mystery, crediting the British writer with producing “one of the freshest mainstream comics of 2011. It’s funny, it’s epic, and it reinvents Loki as a fascinating, whimsical anti-hero who may be fighting a tragic, losing battle against destiny.”
Other contenders included Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s The Last of The Innocent (Mitch comments “six books in and somehow these guys are managing to produce their best work!) and Scott Snyder again, for his collaborations with Jock and Francavilla on Detective Comics. Colin Bell admired how the writer “tailored his scripts to suit each individual artist’s strengths, making the handovers in the art department impressively smooth, which is impressive when you consider that Jock and Francavilla’s art couldn’t be more different. It felt like a real creative ‘team’ in the best sense of the word.”
Stacey from Word of Mouse Book Reviews chose Annie Koyama from Koyama Press as the creator she appreciated the most in 2011, describing the publisher as “a maverick and a huge supporter of cartoonists who are up-and-coming and the indie scene. She is a tireless and she is hilarious (just read her Facebook updates!) and as I am a newbie to the geek world, I love all that she`s introduced me to!” Once again the last word goes to Colin Smith, who having recovered from his Misfits fangasm, raved about Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton’s ‘British Batman’ miniseries Knight and Squire. “It’s so damn smart, funny and touching”, Colin remarks admiringly, “and Jaspar Poker The British Joker may just be, along with Dirty Frank, my favourite character of the year. I laughed, I cried. Then I laughed and cried again.”
Come back for our next installment, when the gang reveals what they’re most looking forward to in 2012 – and what they themselves will have in store for the popculture hivemind.