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She Has No Head! – Bests (and a few Worsts) of 2011

So…Greg Burgas gets grouchy when we post “Best of Lists” before ALL THE COMICS HAVE COME OUT.  I tend to not agree because the reality is that if I missed it by the last week of December, or didn’t get it yet, I’m probably not going to have time to read it with all the chaos of the holidays and end of the year.  But I capitulated to Greg’s demands this year, and so here we are, January 2nd, with my Bests of 2011 (and a few worsts).

Please keep in mind as always that I didn’t get to read ALL THE BOOKS.  A handful of books are sitting on my shelf just begging to be read (last year’s The Return of The Dapper Men is this year’s Habibi), and they might have all been contenders, not to mention all the books that I didn’t read that aren’t sitting on my shelf and won’t be read for ages.  They all might have been possibles…but unlike our fearless leader Brian Cronin…I can never manage to read all the books (I don’t know how he does it).  I would say my most notable and glaring holes come from being behind on DMZ, Scalped, and Daredevil, all of which I like, and all of which I suspect might have made things tough for other books…but which I’m just not current enough on to include.  Of what I DID read, here’s what I really loved the most…

Best Single Issue:  DETECTIVE COMICS #874

Writer:  Scott Snyder

Artist:  Francesco Francavilla

Publisher:  DC Comics

This was probably the toughest category this year as I read a lot of really good single issues, in large part due to so many new series debuts.  Of them all though, Detective Comics #874 made me sit up and remember exactly why I love comics.  Horrifying and beautiful, thought provoking and perfectly plotted, Detective Comics #874 gave me goosebumps as I read, and by the end of the issue I was intrigued and moved, thoughtful and incredibly anxious to see what Scott Snyder would do next.  Francavilla’s art, with its deadly accurate pacing and moody colors showed us the pinnacle of a writer and artist working together to in perfect synch and it was a thing to behold.

As a result of so many great single issues, I’m doing a Top 25 single issues list later this week over on 1979 Semi-Finalist.  I’ll update this post with the links when they’re live if you want to check back, but if you’re on twitter you should follow me there so you can see when the post goes up.

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Best Ongoing Series: UNCANNY X-FORCE

Writer: Rick Remender

Artist(s): Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic

Covers:  Esad Ribic

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

The title of this series is still completely silly to me however the sheer ballsy-ness of this series makes it impossible for me not to be impressed with it time and time again.  The cast is odd (Fantomex, Deadpool, Wolverine, Archangel, Psylocke, and then because that’s not odd enough we eventually add Deathlok?  What?!) But it just WORKS.  In the hands of a lesser writer, those voices would be overpowering and the book would be a mess – Deadpool, Fantomex, and Wolverine alone are strong voices that could overpower everyone – but it somehow just fits together like gears that were made to interlock – and the result is some of the best X-Men comics I’ve ever read.  It helps that Remender has been allowed to live free of ridiculous events and tie-in crap, free to tell his stories, no matter how big and weird.  That tends to be when we get the best comics quite frankly, when smart savvy creators are allowed to roam free.  Let’s see more of this Marvel. 

Honorable mentions for this category:  Detective Comics (volume 1) which were some of the best Bat comics I’ve ever read. Full stop.

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Best NEW Ongoing Series:  BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 9

Creator: Joss Whedon

Writer: Andrew Chambliss

Artist: Georges Jeanty

Covers: Steve Morris

I created this secondary category this year for NEW ongoing series because I didn’t feel that three, four, or five issues was enough of a run to compete with much longer runs like Uncanny X-Force and Detective Comics, but I felt with the sheer number of great new series out, I needed to recognize some of them. This was obviously a tough category thanks to DC’s company wide relaunch and some key Marvel re-launches (Ultimate Spider-Man, Wolverine & the X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Daredevil, etc.).  In the end, I went with Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 because I feel like for all the great new series that are out there right now, this one is the most willing to re-invent itself while somehow not jettisoning anything about the characters.  So much of DC’s relaunch, even the stuff I really like, is interesting but flies in the face of much of what has come before (I’m looking at you Wonder Woman).  But with Buffy…all the characters remain completely intact and true to what we know and love about them…and yet things still manage to change.  It was true of Whedon’s series when it was on television and it remains true now…the series morphed every single season, becoming an entirely new animal and yet allowed the characters to remain intact and to grow and develop naturally. At the end of the day, everything is about the character and nobody respects their characters more than the Buffy Universe.

Honorable mentions for this category include:  Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Rachel Rising, Angel & Faith, Wolverine & The X-Men, and Ultimate Spider-Man.  I’m sure Daredevil would be on here as well had I been reading it.

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Best YA Series (ongoing or mini-series):  PRINCELESS #1

Writer:  Jeremy

Artist: M. Goodwin

Publisher: Action Lab

While only three issues of this four issue mini-series have been released thus far, this was a huge out of nowhere surprise for me.  While there are some great YA mini-series out there thanks to great artists like Skottie Young who draws the OZ series adaptations, Art Baltazar responsible for the always great (and now cancelled) Tiny Titans, as well as some great work from Roger Langridge for Boom!, this little book from Action Lab really took me by surprise in a wonderful way.  With a smart script that defies regular story conventions, an empowering story for girls and boys, and wonderfully energetic art, Princeless is a must read for anyone interested in comics for kids.  Princeless is also smart enough to be entertaining for adults, which is huge when it comes to a medium as small and insular as comics.

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Best Mini-Series:  WOLVERINE & JUBILEE

Writer: Kathryn Immonen

Artist: Phil Noto

Publisher: Marvel

How much I loved this mini-series shocked the hell out of me.  I like Wolverine just fine, but he’s totally overexposed for my tastes.  And Jubilee?  Well, I get the appeal, but she’s never been one of my favorites.  Add to that I knew she was recently stripped of her powers and turned into a vampire and let’s just say I was eyeing this thing with one very skeptical raised eyebrow.  But I like Kathryn Immonen as a writer very much, and I adore Phil Noto’s work.  And when Oliver Coipel’s truly fantastic fist cover showed up, I knew I had to give this a try.  Turns out it was AMAZING.  Smart and funny, heartfelt, and drily sarcastic, while feeling cool and being stunningly beautiful.  What else can you ask for in a superhero comic?  The only thing wrong with this mini-series is that it ended.

Though Legion of Monsters by Dennis Hopeless and Juan Doe has not yet wrapped up, it would easily be an honorable mention for this category.  Also notable as honorable mentions: American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Green Wake by Kurt Weibe and Riley Rossmo, and Loose Ends (also not yet complete) by Jason Latour, Chris Brunner, and Rico Renzi.

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Best Original Graphic Novel:  PAYING FOR IT

Writer/Artist: Chester Brown

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

One would think that a book called Paying For It that is in fact a memoir about a man’s experience soliciting prostitutes, would be at least mildly titillating. Instead it’s zero amounts of sexy and an insightful and fascinating look at love and sex that painstakingly examines philosophy and the very nature of romantic love itself.  Brown ponders many deep questions in this excellent volume, from the meaning of romantic love, and where it originated from and what qualities make up a man’s own self-worth, to the decriminalization and potential regulation of prostitution as a sociopolitical issue.  His art is bare and functional, with very small panels. It’s a style that well fits his purpose here, and the stripped down nature of the art allows the reader to focus on the truly heady questions that Brown is asking of himself, rather than getting caught up in sexiness, which would, quite frankly, derail the whole thing. Great autobiographical and memoir work manages to transcend the narcissistic and mundane, finding ways to become intimate and relatable. Despite being a woman, having been in a romantic relationship most of my adult life, having never been to a prostitute (and not to mention not being a Canadian) I found myself engaged (and engulfed) by Brown’s own questions to himself about romantic love, and the incompatibility of romantic love as a lasting and immutable thing. I pondered his questions intently, my own answers surprising me. It’s only in the best work that we are inspired to turn important questions back onto ourselves to truly examine and learn from them, and Paying For It is exactly that kind of work.

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Best YA Original Graphic Novel:  SHADOWEYES IN LOVE

Writer/Artist: Ross Campbell

Publisher: SLG

Shadoweyes In Love continues the story of Scout Montana, a 17 year-old high school student with a good heart and a proclivity for activism living in the fictional city of Dranac.  In Shadowyes Volume 1,  community-minded Scout turns into a superpowered blue being after being hit in the head with a brick.  With her new superpowered form and a serious sensitivity to light, not to mention the inability to turn back into her human form, Shadoweyes becomes a vigilante superhero.  Her new role (and form) tests all of her relationships, as well as her feelings about right and wrong now that she has the power to do something significant about said rights and wrongs.  In Shadoweyes In Love, Scout continues her vigilante ways, but her feelings about where she should draw the line looms ever larger as she kicks, punches, and stumbles her way into her new life.  With new friends and love interests, as well as some serious moral hurdles in front of her, Scout is a superhero unlike many we get to see in comics, and its wonderfully exciting and exploratory work.  As always with Campbell’s work, one of the biggest strengths are the fantastic visuals.  Shadoweyes In Love is the latest example of Campbell’s consistently stunning artwork – a fluid, confident style of storytelling that is equal parts function and beauty.  One of Campbell’s many visual strengths lies in his unique character designs, unlike so much of superhero comics, Campbell has lead characters of all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations – a truly diverse world, much more like the one we all actually live in rather than what generally seems to be reflected back to us through media.  Campbell imbues his characters with fantastic well-rounded personalities – filling them with strengths and weaknesses that well reflect real people you might know.  Heroes in Campbell’s stories are just as fallible as anyone else and I love them all the more for it.

Honorable Mentions: I read a lot less great YA stuff this year than last, but Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brogsol stood out as one of the best.

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Best Webcomic:  HINGES

Writer/Artist: Meredith McClaren

Publisher: Self/Web

This could also easily go to Hark! A Vagrant, but since I’m recognizing Hark! below, I figure I’d spread the wealth.  Meredith McClaren is the talented artist that has been tapped to do the upcoming volume of Jen Van Meter’s much anticipated Hopeless Savages Volume 4. But in the meantime you can read her completely haunting and beautiful webcomic Hinges.  The mastery of craft in McClaren’s pages – from the well-developed drawing style, to pitch perfect color choices, to even her stylized execution of word balloons – is just phenomenal. The story of Hinges is frequently text free, relying on McClaren’s strong artistic chops to tell the story – but even without words it’s emotional and haunting. McClaren is a major new talent in comics and I simply can’t wait to see what she does next.

Honorable Mentions:  Hark! A Vagrant, the always exceptional The Abominable Charles Christopher, Oglaf (NSFW), and Faith Erin Hicks Friends With Boys…which she has been publishing for free online and which has an early lead on winning best YA OGN for 2012 when it releases in print from First Second this coming spring.

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Best Collected Webcomic:  HARK! A VAGRANT

Writer/Artist: Kate Beaton

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Kate Beaton’s unique perspective, sharp sense of humor, and loose but deadly accurate drawing skills combine to create her brilliant Hark! A Vagrant webcomic, which has now been collected into a fantastic hardback volume by Drawn & Quarterly.  In Hark! A Vagrant Beaton casts her biting satire across many categories: history, science, literature, and yes, even our beloved superheroes. When it comes to history, science, and literature Beaton takes her considerable knowledge and pairs it with a brutal funny bone to turn things on their ear to hilarious effect. When it comes to superheroes Beaton’s background in anything but superheroes works to her advantage as she puts creative spins on age-old favorites to create wonderfully unexpected results. Those unexpected results have launched Beaton into the mainstream superhero comics world significantly of late, with several pieces in Marvel’s Strange Tales II last year. Her work in Strange Tales were some of the best offerings of that entire volume, and so long as she can keep bringing her distinctive eye to superheroes, we’ll all be better for it.  Beaton’s writing is smart and sharply funny, but it never feels mean, which is a relief. So much satire feels unnecessarily cruel these days, but Beaton rises above it all to find the gems without the nastiness.  Beaton works in a rough kinetic style, imperfect and full of emotion. While the look, on the surface, might appear crude, those that pass it by are missing out, as her expression work is alone is sublime, sometimes selling the bit even without words. Beaton can get more mileage out of a character’s face than some of the most detailed and realistic of artists.

She also draws happens to draw amazing babies and fat ponies.

Best Trade:  BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR

Writer: Scott Snyder

Artist(s): Francesco Francavilla and Jock

This was quite simply an historic Detective Comics run by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla. Scott Snyder took everything that was excellent about the greatest detective, even with Dick Grayson in the suit and paired it with everything that makes for a good horror story, and turned Detective Comics into the best superhero comics hands down in 2011, and one of the best “Batman” runs of all time.  Snyder couldn’t have done it however with the absolutely pitch perfect art team he had in the form of Francesco Francavilla, Jock, and David Baron.  When reviewers talk about creative teams working in perfect synch, this is what they’re talking about.  Though there was much controversy over the idea of Detective Comics being re-launched and re-numbered after such a long run, surely everyone can agree that it was a treat to watch it go out with such a brilliant bang.  Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run will surely be one of the most respected Batman runs for a very long time and the fact that Bruce Wayne wasn’t even in the suit makes it all the more impressive.

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Best Short Story:  AMERICANA  (FROM THE UNEXPECTED)

Writer: Brian Wood

Artist:  Emily Carroll

Publisher:  DC Comics/Vertigo

As a huge fan of both Brian Wood and Emily Carroll, hearing that they’d be pairing up for a short story in a Vertigo anthology was the kind of thing that made me giddy with excitement.  When “Americana” came out, I was not disappointed.  A unique take on a dystopian worldview caused by climate change, the story was full of surprising and beauty. Wood’s sad but sweet story of a generation of women survivors after the world has been forever changed as paired with Carroll’s lovely, clean, stylized art was a breath of fresh air.  No pun intended.

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Best New Character:  MILES MORALES

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Sara Pichelli

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Nobody wants Peter Parker to die.  Peter Parker is beloved the world over.  Even as someone that doesn’t read Spider-Man regularly, I still love Peter Parker…but the entire point of the Ultimate universe (as I understand it) is to get us some change in comics.  To do some bold things that you couldn’t do in the regular universe.  And so I find the creation of Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man, a young kid of color, to be a huge step in the right direction and frankly, long overdue.  In the hands of Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli I have read a nearly perfect superhero origin story in the form of the first five issues of Ultimate Spider-Man.  Miles is a fantastic character that I already care for deeply and am hugely invested in and I hope he’ll be around for a very long time to inspire both new and old comics readers.

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Best Cover:  DAREDEVIL #1

Artist: Paolo Rivera

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Like “best single issue” this category was a total bitch to try to decide this year.  Unlike last year where Batwoman #0 was very obviously my perfect cover for a variety of reasons, this year, there were so many that I loved, and it was hard to distill which one captured perfection for me personally.  In the end, I’m giving it to Daredevil #1 because the cover is one of the most clever and interesting ideas I’ve seen in a very long time, executed perfectly,

That said, there were so many great covers that I’m doing a list of my 30 favorite covers of 2011 over on 1979 Semi-Finalist.  Like with the single issues list, I’ll update this post when it goes live, but twitter is your best bet if you don’t want to miss out!

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Worst Cancellation:  NORTHLANDERS

Writer: Brian Wood

Artist: Various

Publisher: DC

Northlanders was quite frankly a brilliant series that constantly re-invented itself, showcased a vast array of incredibly talented artists, and thanks to its chapter breaks, was very new reader friendly.  But alas, its life was cut painfully short by DC as they cut Vertigo off at the knees, letting editors go and cancelling books.  Well, DC’s loss is Dark Horse and Marvel’s gain as Brian Wood takes his brilliance elsewhere – Conan from Dark Horse with Becky Cloonan, The Massive with Kristian Donaldson from Dark Horse and Wolverine & The X-Men Alpha & Omega from Marvel.  All really exciting projects that I can’t wait to read (and talk about).

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Biggest Surprise: BIRDS OF PREY

Writer: Duane Swierczynski

Artist: Jesus Saiz

Publisher: DC Comics

I was incredibly hesitant about a new Birds of Prey.  I felt that the re-launch in 2010 was badly mishandled despite Gail Simone’s best efforts and obvious enthusiasm for the book and characters.  DC never managed to get a consistent art team on the book, and quite frankly, it was the wrong art team to begin with anyway.  By the time they brought on Jesus Saiz (the perfect artist for such a book) the book’s fate had already been sealed and we were headed for ANOTHER relaunch.  I was disappointed and skeptical when I learned Simone wouldn’t be on that new book.  I tried out the new series only because I’m a huge fan of Saiz.  Imagine my surprise to realize this was easily one of the best new books of the new DCU?  With tight plotting, a small more manageable cast, strong sexy art that was respectful of its characters, and some great character chemistry this book quickly moved to the top of my reading pile.  Additionally, in a year in which Miles Morales doesn’t debut, Starling might have won “best new character.”  There’s a lot of great stuff here and if you haven’t been reading, for any reason, I urge you get on board.

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Biggest PR Snafu:  The SDCC/Kryax2 Nightmare (and the ensuing fallout)

Everything about the SDCC/Kryax2 nightmare sucked.  Except of course what ended up happening in the fan and critical community, which was a shocking number of columns, posts, and general discussion about the issue of women in comics – both characters and perhaps more importantly, creators.  Though the reaction on the side of readers, fans, and critics has been interesting and some would say helped galvanize the issue of women in comics, the event itself still counts as a huge snafu.  The idea that a major corporation like DC and its leaders would not only hold such small minded and ill-considered views on sensitive subject matters, but espouse them freely made them look not like major players in a billion dollar industry, but little boys that haven’t grown up.  Much to my dismay, given recent quotes and such small action following up the events of last summer, I’ve left feeling decidedly “glass half empty”.  We’ll see what SDCC 2012 brings, but I hope that if they haven’t actually adjusted their views over the last year, that they’ll at least be prepared to appear as if they have, for their own sakes.   

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Worst Industry Development:  Vertigo being cut off at the knees

This of course includes the firing of some fantastic editors and the cancellation of several books – including some titles that ended rather naturally and as expected like DMZ, as well as prematurely ending a great series like Northlanders and replacing it with a whole lot of nothing.  Vertigo is still able to bring us the excellent ongoings Fables American Vampire, The Unwritten, and Hellblazer, and a few new series like the mini-series Spaceman and Willingham’s upcoming Fairest as well as Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly’s exciting Saucer County soon, but we’re not seeing nearly as much new stuff from Vertigo.  There’s also a general feeling that Vertigo is just not looking for new work.  Perhaps that feeling is partly misconstrued and based in rumor since we ARE still seeing some new books (like Saucer County) but in general we’re not seeing nearly as much new work – both series and graphic novels – coming from Vertigo or announced for 2012.  Additionally, thanks to the new 52 a lot of series that might have lived (and been a much more natural fit) under the Vertigo banner – Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing, Stormwatch, Animal Man, Demon Knights, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E, and even Voodoo – are now firmly “DC” territory, with some of them struggling mightily to fit in that box.  All in all, the layoff’s, the strange cancellation of books like Northlanders, Madame Xanadu, and Unknown Solider and the general feeling that Vertigo isn’t necessarily looking for lots of new work is a sad state of affairs indeed considering that Vertigo has consistently put out some of the best comics and graphic novels of the last decade.  I’d love to be wrong about Vertigo.  I’d love it to be around FOREVER.  I’d love to see just as many, if not more titles forthcoming this year and in all the years that follow, for the brand to expand and new people to be brought on board, but it feels like they’re contracting, not expanding, and that bums me out to no end.

New Justice League...same as the old Justice League...but with collars (and chokers!)

Biggest DC Missed Opportunity:  The opportunity to do real change within their relaunch.

While many fans and critics (yours truly included) worried about the idea of a re-launch in the first place, at the end of the day, if they were going to go for something so bold, I wish they had really embraced it.  Starting over should have been the chance to REALLY start over.  But instead, while we got some amazing new books, mostly we got a rehash of all the same old stuff that we had before – some of it good and some of it bad.  In addition, while some of their new books are legitimately fantastic (I mean, it pleases me to no end to be able to love a monthly Wonder Woman book again) some of the mistakes they made were painfully bad and make one wonder what on earth they could have be thinking and who, if anyone, was on board for any kind of “quality control.”  While DC got some books right in incredible ways, some of their misfires, with books like Voodoo, Catwoman, Red Hood & The Outlaws, Mister Terrific, and Suicide Squad, were misfires of EPIC proportions. Some of the decisions made at a time when DC literally could have done anything they wanted, makes me wonder who, if anyone, is running the ship.

Odd Women Out. From Upper Left: Kitty Pryde, Storm, Rogue, Sif, Ms. Marvel, Jessica Jones, Black Widow, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Misty Knight, She-Hulk, Valkyrie, and Emma Frost

Biggest Marvel Missed Opportunity: Cancelling all their female led titles and failing to develop any female characters into a “Wonder Woman-like property”

While Marvel has been easily outshining DC on finding and recruiting top female talent, they have flailed badly when it comes to developing their female characters beyond being team players.  With the recent cancellation of X-23 and Ghost Rider, Marvel has cancelled their only two female led books.  And in the past couple years they have cancelled Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, and a variety of others.  While female characters play impressive and important roles on a variety of team books – Hope is arguably the star of her team book Generation Hope, Rogue is absolutely the star of her team book X-men Legacy, Emma Frost regularly stars in Uncanny X-Men (among others), Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Jessica Jones, and Spider-Woman and a variety of other Avengers lead their books on the regular, and Misty Knight led her canceled Heroes For Hire series – Marvel seems unable or unwilling to develop any of its ladies as a true “Wonder Woman-like” property.  While scores of men headline multiple books at Marvel – Wolverine, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Hulk, Deadpool, Venom, Moon Knight, Punisher, Black Panther, etc – not a single female character is given the time, attention, and opportunity to be similarly developed.  I understand that Marvel’s not interested in losing money on a book that doesn’t sell as well as they deem fit, but developing a character into becoming a true property takes time.  You can’t expect it to happen overnight, and male OR female it’s hard to launch a new series and character in comics these days.  But if you want strong female characters that can compete with their DC counterparts (Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Black Canary, Supergirl, Zatanna, Catwoman, etc.) you have to take the time to grow them.  Given that Marvel is these days owned by Disney it seems an even bigger missed opportunity to let these superheroines flail in relative obscurity.  Disney has made “Princesses” a billion dollar enterprise…no reason they can’t do the same for the likes of Kitty Pryde, Storm, Rogue, Sif, Ms. Marvel, Jessica Jones, Black Widow, Captain Marvel/Monica Rambeau, Misty Knight, She-Hulk, Valkyrie, and Emma Frost.  Well…okay, maybe not Emma Frost, but you get my point.  It’s kind of an embarrassment of riches…just…sitting there…wasting away.

Okay, well…with that last rant out of my system…we close up this year’s best of list on She Has No Head!  If you want to hear more “best of 2011″ talk, make sure to tune in to 3 Chicks Review Comics next Monday when Sue, Maddy, and I will be discussing all our favorites of the past year.

Here’s to a great 2012 for everyone – comics related or otherwise – and as always thanks to all of you for reading and supporting She Has No Head!

52 Comments

[...] Head on over to She Has No Head! for a write up of some of the bests and worsts of 2011! [...]

Nice roundup. HINGES looks beautiful, and this is the first I’ve heard of it. I totally agree about the New 52, and the awesome work Liu, Brubaker and Ellis have done with Black Widow recently has me craving a Black Widow book!

Still time to catch on Daredevil, only seven issues in :)

farbeyondhalford

January 2, 2012 at 10:10 am

I love Brian Wood and really didn’t love the story in The Unexpected.

Kelly, I’m so glad to see you boosting “Birds” with some love here. I too was skeptical without Gail at the helm (although, as you pointed out, the reboot was meh at best). But this new “Birds” is one of my favorite of the New 52. It’s made the cut of the nine titles I still get (that’s 2-3 times the amount of mainstream DC I was buying before), and it’s the first book I read every week it comes out. Great cast (with some inspired left-field choices in Katana and Poison Ivy) and gorgeous art. I hope its sales pick up; it seems to be near the low end of the midrange titles.

@dnwilliams: Thanks. Glad I could introduce you to HInges – it’s wonderful. I would love to see another Black Widow book…but since they just tried it in 2010 (not to mention 2 mini-series – neither of which I liked at all) I feel doubtful that we’ll get it. Then again, as the only woman in the Avengers movie…if that hits big maybe we could get something? Although if Marvel was smart they’d already be working on something so it could be out (the number one issue?) when the movie drops. Perhaps that was the idea behind the series of last year…that it would be running when the movie came out…but I guess it didn’t have the legs. Too bad because it was a great book under Acuna and Liu.

@Maverickman874: Planning to get in. Although the hype at this point may hurt it. It’s a lot to live up to.

@farbeyondhalford: Hmm. I loved it.

@Rebis: Thanks, I think BoP is absolutely one of the best books of the DCnU, and as I said, one of the biggest surprises. I also talked about it here, did you catch it?

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/11/07/she-has-no-head-8-great-new-female-positive-ongoings-you-should-be-reading/

Oh, and a little bit here:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/12/05/she-has-no-head-third-annual-awesome-women-in-comics-holiday-gift-list-2011/

I mean, Misty Knight is still the lead in Villains for Hire, which is cool… but it’s a mini nonetheless.

Frankly, I think it’s mindbending that Storm’s never had an ongoing title under her name. As far as I can remember, she’s had four mini series — the one from the 90s by Ellis, the one by EJD, the childhood one called Ororo, and the recent X-Men: World’s Apart that didn’t even feature her name in the title! One of the most famous female superheroes in the world and they’ve never even attempted an ongoing? Seems odd to me.

All right, Internet, I get it. I’ll check out Uncanny X-Force and Scott Snyder’s Batman as time permits.

I really think you’d dig Uncanny X-Force.

Snyder’s Batman, likely, as well, but I really think you’d like X-Force.

Interesting stuff.

Looking at Kelly’s collage of female Marvel characters, what immediately jumped out at me is that 50% of these characters were either created or most prominently written by Chris Claremont. That says a great deal about Claremont’s contribution to Marvel, and it’s a shame that his current internet reputation is tied mainly to a few dialogue scripting tics. But it also says something about Marvel, given that Claremont ceased to be a significant shaper of the Marvel Universe a full two decades ago.

As someone who follows creators rather than titles or characters (Joe Casey and Sean Phillips were able to make comics about Grifter some of my favorite issues of the past 10 years), I’m more concerned with seeing additional creators develop a Claremont-like record of organically featuring strong female characters in prominent titles than I am with the title of the book. Frankly, the title of a comic hasn’t had an effect on my reading decisions since before I could drive. But I’ll freely concede that I am coming at this from a male perspective and likely with some attendant blindspots, so I’d be interested in hearing Kelly’s thoughts on why a book with a female character’s name as the title would be more significant than a female-led book like X-Men: Legacy or Generation Hope.

[...] Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources Posted in new additions, Uncategorized | Tags: [...]

Uncanny X-Force is unbelievably good. I kept feeling like I wasn’t supposed to like it, with Deathlok showing up, the Age of Apocalypse being a major plot point, and the whole “inner demons” angle being mined so heavily, but goddamn it’s good. It feels spectacular and natural at the same time, and the series has been blessed with some top notch art.

My only complaint is the stupid black zig-zags on Fantomex’s outfit. Can’t stop hating them.

I think the complaint about Marvels lack of female solo titles is less of a problem with marvel and more of the downside of being a comic book fan. Every fan has issues like this in some way. Every fan has an example like “why was Joe Kellys excellent deadpool always on the verge of cancelation when the now inferior written deadpool so popular?” Its just the way things are. I have a tendancy to really love titles that people arent really buying and get cancelled. Everything from the 2099 line to Quasar to L.E.G.I.O.N. to The Ray. And I also have asked why these books get cancelled instead of the 6th ongoing Avengers book.. but thats just how it is. I alone cannot sustain them.
Bringing up Disneys Princesses kind of answers your own question by the way. I love that you read comics. I love how many women do now… but you’re still the minority. The majority still want princesses. Just as the majority of guys sadly would rather have that 10th book that has wolverine in it. Nick commented thats its crazy that Storm has never had an ongoing but she is in good company. None of the original X-men has ever had an ongoing. And except for Wolverine, most X-men haven’t. Nightcrawler and Gambit have, but so has Emma Frost and Jubilee. And Dazzlers ongoing lasted longer than any of them. Marvel DOES try.
The sad thing in wanting Marvel to have a Wonder Woman like property is that personally, i always got the feeling that Wonder Womans name alone is what kept her book going throughout the years. I always suspected it would have been cancelled if not for the need of D.C. to have it there. As it stands.. she is the only one of DCs Big 3 that could never hold a 2nd book. And your point that it takes time for a property to gain popularity doesnt mean they need an ongoing to do it. Again.. Deadpool gained popularity by not having a book for years while spidergirl was given 100+ issues (seemingly to satisfy people using this arguement) and it didnt help at all.
And on the topic of Claremont bringing so many female characters to popularity.. I wonder if Bendis will also be thought of like that in the future. He brought back Spider Woman and made her popular again. He created Jessica Jones and Deena Pilgrem and the books Takio and Scarlet. His female characters in Ultimate Spiderman helped define the book. (oh how i miss that cast.. years and years of subplots and character work dropped just like that.) I hope that now that he is finishing Avengers, he will finally do a lasting Spider-woman book like he always said he wanted.

@Nick: Misty being the lead in Villains For Hire still doesn’t make it “Misty Knight” and thus she remains easily replaceable. Also, I’m behind on my Villains for Hire…why is Misty the lead? I guess it’s sitting right here…I could just READ IT MYSELF. nah.

Storm would (at least years ago) have absolutely been my pick as a female character to develop as a major property to “compete” with Wonder Woman. She has the goddess thing, she has a cool “edgy” backstory/origin story, she’s a woman of color (bonus!) and her power is awesome.

@Michael P: Let us know how it goes – both are really great.

@RagneLife: In fairness, my list might just be skewed because I was raised on those Claremont X-Men…so it’s my default setting to call them out. That said, I think there’s some truth to what you say.

All THAT said, I hated “X-Men Forever” with the heat of a BILLION SUNS…so things…they change. ;)

I agree with you on Grifter (Casey/Philips)…those WildC.A.T’s books were awesome. So much so that I put a new version of that in MY “new 52″ (scroll to the bottom!):

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/06/20/she-has-no-head-yet-another-pass-at-a-dc-52/

There are many reasons why a female lead in her own title is important – not the least of which is simply because it shouldn’t be weird thing. Tons of male characters headline their own books and there’s simply no reason why there shouldn’t be some female characters headlining their own books. If EVERY book were a team book, then sure, we don’t need any headliners…but that’s WILDLY not the case. No, instead most books are named after a dude (although it’s less true at Marvel than DC) and (currently) NO books are named after ladies. It’s a problem. One of the most basic reasons to have a book named after you? Because any artist or creative team, editorial, whatever can come in and make someone ELSE the star of X-Men Legacy…they can’t do that if the book is called Rogue.

Now, they can of course cancel it…which is what we’re seeing right and left, but what I’m asking for is a bit more commitment to the idea…a bit more faith in the process of growing a character…of growing a property into a brand, into something that spans something larger than just a monthly comic book. Takes time, takes money, takes devotion, takes good creators. But it’s been done before and it can be done again.

@Apadoca: Agreed. I too keep waiting for UX to suddenly be shit. It keeps being awesome though.

I disagree with you on Fantomex’s costume though. I kind of love it…though I wouldn’t want to draw it (pain. in. the. ass.) ;)

@brak: I think at the core the disagreement you and I have is (well, we have a few) but the first one is that I am not talking about just comic books. While Wonder Woman’s comic book may not regularly sell well (or as it should) she is a PROPERTY. She has had a television show and an animated movie (and there is always talk of doing it more/again/better/etc. – though these projects seem to be doomed in the last decade or so). Wonder Woman has a make-up line. There are toys, and t-shirts, and dolls. There are coffee mugs (I have two) and buttons and jewelery. There are coloring books, and kids books, and bags and pajamas and underwear (both naughty and nice). There are lunch boxes and blankets and keychains. There are notepads and diaries and address books. And even this…the most awesome kitchen appliance ever (though you can’t buy it in the US…which is totally screwed up by the way):

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleytalong/wonder-woman-stand-mixer-hpz

The number of these things you can buy/see/do/have for Rogue? Slim to none. And the same for all the other Marvel ladies I listed (though Jessica Jones and Cloak/Dagger ARE getting tv shows!). In general these ladies are just not considered PROPERTIES. They have little to no mileage beyond their comic books. Wonder Woman long ago transcended that…for a lot of reasons, including the fact that she was held up as part of the DC Trinity and had a comic book with her name blazed across the cover pretty consistently for nearly 70 years. It matters. It gives her cred, it gives her pop culture cache, it gives her brand recognition. Everyone knows her name. And Marvel could do it for a few key characters of their own…but they don’t. They don’t fully commit.

You are right that not a lot of X-Men get their own ongoings (except Wolverine) and small mini-series events for a variety of team members here and there is the status quo…but step outside the X-Men. Let’s say…Avengers, the other big team. Hmmm. Captain America has his own books, Thor has his own book (sometimes more than one), Hulk has his own books, Spider-Man has his own books, Iron Man has his own book (sometimes more than one)…it goes on, and on, and on. And that’s fine, good for them. But I’d like to see some commitment to building these ladies up. I don’t consider 7 or 8 issues before cancellation (like the recent Spider-Woman and Black Widow books) enough of a chance. Ms. Marvel had a long run (50 issues), I believe Spider-Girl had a good run at one point (and then a new series that did very poorly), She-Hulk has given it a couple tries, some more successful than others. But just because it didn’t work, doesn’t mean you don’t try it again. And I would say that sometimes…there are some quality problems there that the “bigger” male led or team led books don’t have. It’s unfair to say XXX got cancelled which automatically equals people don’t care about XXX when there are obviously a lot of factors there.

But I’m not complaining just because “oh, poor me, a book I liked got canceled and I’m a unique snowflake that deserves to be listened to! what I like is important!” It’s just not about that. Sure I’m bummed when something I like get’s canceled but that’s not what I’m talking about, I’m talking about something much bigger than that. This is about building a property. It’s about investing time and money and energy in a larger (quality) product in the interest of capturing a much larger market and building that new audience. I just happen to believe it really can be done. I see the money girls/women spend on Buffy, on Twilight, on Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Smallville, various Manga, and scores of other things and I don’t see THAT much difference between those things and the wealth of characters/stories/potential properties we have sitting right in front of us as comics. But you have to make it a little more appealing. You have to let them know you have something for them.

As for “most women” wanting Princesses. I don’t expect that even if all the money in the world was poured into comics and superheroines that you would necessarily reverse the trend of women/girls loving princesses, but you could grab A LOT of it. I feel this is a chicken/egg problem. You say women/girls are inclined to like Princesses. I say that’s what we’re fed and we often don’t know any better (until rather too late). I believe society tells women that they are SUPPOSED to like princesses and pink. Many women genuinely DO like both and would like those things whether they had been told to like it or not. And a good percentage of women reject it outright and go the opposite direction (superheroes and blue?). But many others just don’t know there is another option because society is very good at forcing stereotypes on us based on gender. And I’d say all the same is true for boys as well by the way.

Does it mean that overnight (or ever) you would see a massive reverse if society wasn’t shoving these things down our throats? That all boys would wake up liking pink my little ponies and all girls would wake up liking blue army men? Of course not. But the split would be wildly different than what it is now if we could level the playing field a bit and take gender conventions/expectations/punishment out of the equation.

The bottom line is that girls and women currently consume a massive 80% of fiction books. And if comics can pick up even a reasonable fraction of those dollars…the comics landscape can change dramatically. And it’s my position (and has been here…repeated ad nauseam) that you don’t need to do that much differently in regards to content to capture that audience. You still have problems with finding the audience (where are they and how do you get them are constant problems that we still haven’t cracked)…but small tweaks in the content – like lowering the implied “no girls allowed” sign on a lot of superhero books/media, and creating some titles led by women, and named as such are some of the small steps that you can take to help do this.

Anyway, I’ve said all this before…I’m sure I’ll say it all again…

thank you, Kelly!!! <3

Totally agree about Storm. Wolverine gets 50 solo books despite being in 50 teams, someone should give Storm a chance. Not holding my breath though

Great list. I hate to dwell on the negative but ….

Regarding Vertigo, I really do not get what DC is doing there. The periodical comics business is not all that great. It has a shrinking audience and declining margins. It has only has two virtues from a business perspective. The first is that it absorbs of of the costs of creating content that can be packaged into trades. TPBs have a longer shelf life (some are even evergreen) and seem to still be growing (or at least not shrinking). The other is to produce ideas that can be adapted into other media.

Vertigo has historically been vastly better at both those things than the rest of DC Comics. Moreover, Karen Berger has been smarter about how to update old properties into the 21st century than anyone else at DC. Berger is a major reason that properties like Shade, or the Doom Patrol, or Swamp Thing have life in them.

Regarding the female Marvels, it occurs to me that 6 of the 12 characters that you chose to spotlight were either created (or re-worked) by Chris Claremont with Dave Cockrum and/or John Byrne. Claremont and Byrne created both Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost. Claremont re-worked Storm with Cockrum and Byrne. Claremont co-created Rogue and introduced her into the X-Men with Cockrum. Claremont re-worked Ms. Marvel with Cockum. Claremont and Byrne added Misty Knight to the Iron Fist cast.

It seems noteworthy.

Ooops. …

The Claremont point was well addressed while I was watching the Fiesta Bowl.

… Wonder Woman long ago transcended that…for a lot of reasons, including the fact that she was held up as part of the DC Trinity and had a comic book with her name blazed across the cover pretty consistently for nearly 70 years. It matters. It gives her cred, it gives her pop culture cache, it gives her brand recognition. Everyone knows her name. And Marvel could do it for a few key characters of their own…but they don’t. They don’t fully commit.

This is a key point.

With Wonder Woman, you know that DC is going to stay with her through the ups and downs. She is just like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash and their other core franchises. She is never going away for very long. In recent years, that commitment has broadened to Birds of Prey and (to some extent) Catwoman.

Marvel has never had a female character that was not creator dependent. If Bendis (or whoever has their stock rising at Marvel) takes an interest in (or a disliking to) She-Hulk, then he can do whatever he likes with that property. That is not true of characters on their A-list. Spidey, Wolverine, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man have to be in a condition where they can be used on lunch boxes and stuff toys. Wolverine is not going to go insane, lose his powers and vanish. No one is going to mercy kill Iron Man and leave him dead for very long.

I don’t think most of the x-females or x-males work as solo title characters. I think is additionally hampered by her marriage to Black Panther which does both characters no good as they belong in disparate corners of the 616.

Regarding Marvel promoting females I agree with you Kelly. Disney/ Marvel Entertainment should use their publishing division as a testing ground foR different IP even if it means incurring losses as the losses in a movie production’s failure are considerably larger. Let stuff find a dedicated following and audience in the comic books and this will result in more financial with multimedia adaptations and licensing of IP.

Marvel will again try with female led titles and all ages books within this calendar year, I think that is assured.
I just hope that the books.

1) gets a creative team which knows what they are doing
2) has more PR and marketing devoted to the launch of said books
3) Give them the creative teams a guaranteed run of at least 3 years or 30 issues so that they can complete stories and do their best to not sales slide. Consistency in quality will be key.

In the end sales will decide if a title gets the axe or not. But I do get the feeling sometimes that the Marvel fanbase is less inclined to support female led titles ( or all ages ones) for an extended period of time.

Also, as a side note, the online female fandom seems to be larger for and prefer DC ( at least the female comic book bloggers I visit).

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 3, 2012 at 5:32 am

Interesting list. No mention of SCALPED?

Happy New Year, Ms. Thompson!

@Tom Fitzpatrick: Read the intro Tom! ;)

Have to say, I’m pretty bummed at the lack of love Secret Six is getting on end of year Best lists. I loved it, so I’m biased, but it got great critical reviews everywhere issue after issue. Not really a complaint at you Kelly, I’m just looking to vent.

See, I think the biggest thing we disagree on is that you think i disagree with you. I think the world of comics is flawed and wish a lot of things were different. Ive always read your post and agreed with almost all of them. My point is that Marvel tries to do female driven books all the time.. just as they try to do an alpha flight book and a defenders and a new warriors or a silver surfer.. You can argue that those are all books that need to be kept in the spotlight.. need an ongoing. Silver Surfer has been around forever and is a huge name.. but if he can’t hold a book… then he can’t hold a book. Your list of Avenger solo titles is a huge hint as to the problem also.. Those aren’t examples of how male books succeed, those are examples of how only the big names from the Golden age can hold a book indefinately. Which is why Wonder Woman is where she is today. Sure there are a few rare exceptions..like Wolverine.. but even books like Deadpool might burn out just as Ghost Rider did in the 90s. If you want a true property.. one that will always be around and have lunchboxes and be on stamps and sneakers.. its just too late. For any character that is less than 50 years old.. the best we can hope for is a few years of flash popularity. And Again.. Im not saying this is what I want in comics, its just what, as a comic fan of 20 years, ive observed to be the truth. At least as far as Marvel and Dc go. Im always hoping that Invincible and Courtney Crumnin and the like will be the future.

Personally.. I think the greatest misstep from Marvel this year has been how they brought back the Crossgen comics. Here was a line that fans loved because they were novels done as comics.. they had long term stories to tell. Not villians of the month but a strong narritive direction (featuring a diverse cast of characters with great art in different genres) and the first thing Marvel did was make them mini series? Then they threw away everything else that fans loved about them. Sad. but hey.. thats the world we read in.

Thank you for the list, some new titles to read, though of the titles I give away, from Seven Days: mon-Thurs, to Chew, I am having a hard time getting excited about Hark. I would agree with you on Batman: Black Mirron, except I am still on week 3 or 4 of back order (but ordered due to good reviews).

Anya Ghost was blah sadly, not comparing to I fight Giants or Lost at Sea from previous years.

On YA, Shadoweyes only continued the year of ‘intersex are bad people’ started by Kingdom of the Wicked as it opened the year. Shadoweyes in Love and Ross MacDonald is the difficulty of singular to minimal representation in a repressive environment. Yes Ross MacDonald writes about females who aren’t all size 0-4 and bisexuals, trans, intersex, lesbians plus disabled woman including amputees. And that’s great and horrid. It is great because there IS something to read, but it is horrid because when the same cliche’s end up here, as well as the ‘boys club’ comics, I’m supposed to give a pass because what? Albino’s are freaks? Intersex girls are bitches and freaky and bisexuals eventually WILL backstab you? I like the art of Ross MacDonald but this book sank under cliche. Compared to the YA Finder: Voice by Carla McNiel about gender, identity, entitlement, and waiting to be rescued v. finding a way to rescue yourself – there seems no comparison.

I was disappointed there was no compilation choice in best of – from Echo, to Finder library 1, this was a good year for comics not previously compiled.

As for the brak conversation, there is a kitch store up here, the wonder woman items are sold out, the madaline are sold out, superman and batman remain. I am not sure if the same arguements I hear in Brak which I heard 1, 3, 5, 10 years ago come from an enclave of entitlement which is threatened or just don’t get it. in 1989 there were more male authors on the best seller list, but in science fiction, it was concluded women made ‘smarter’ fiction, whether it was Lois Bujould, Octavia Butler, or Le Guin. Now, living in a country where women read 80+ books a year on average, and as you mention are 3/4th of the income, the bestseller list has changed to meet with that need. The whole justification for exclusion seems to be like watching the start of the TV show Big Bang, about males who filled up a life without women, because they wanted wanted they were scared of, then feared the loss of what they had. But for all individuals and societies, life moves on. And when Fortune and Economist comes out showing that companies with enough women on the board are economy weatherproof, while boys clubs are not – well, look beyond the tactless jokes, the bizaare breast size, the outfits and the WASP male superdom, and ask what it will look like to a female CEO? Is there really, after 2010′s ode to the aging male in comics (from Old Man Logan to Distant Neighborhood) any more to be gotten from a market that even the publishers say isn’t enough.

Or like computer games, should we move on and accept that there is another 51% of the population.

It also bothers me that Ross MacDonald was given to me as one of the top three females making positive females in comics (The other two were also males). Indeed, in the thread no one could seem to name 10 females making comics.

Next, maybe we could get it into anyone’s head that those with disabilities are 1 in 7 and there are 100,000 new US citizens with disabilities thanks to better body armor, and Iraq/Afganistan. Therefore, wheelchairs should look more like wheelchairs (I have seen, out of perhaps 35 wheelchairs drawn, ONE which looks like a functional wheelchair) – oracle and all (including Terry Moore’s fantasy cover). It isn’t that hard. Not when Ti-lite, Lasher and Colours are making wheelchairs that can roll on lava. Lasher has an ad showing a 7 year old girl holding the Lasher magnesium wheelchair above her head (it wieghs three pounds), and they water cut names and images into footplates, wheels and other metal (for the same price). If they can draw the lower half of 6/7th of the human population correctly, why do the comic artists have such a problem with all forms of prosethic devices or assistive devices (including the bras of the last 5-10 years)?

@Elizabeth McClung:

I definitely disagree with you on your opinion of Shadoweyes in Love (and Ross Campbell’s work in general). I like my characters being flawed and realistic and don’t see a problem with the characters being represented – or see any of them (especially in SIL) as evil.

Who gave you a list of “top three females making positive comics with females” and gave you three men? That seems highly unusual. I WOULD put Ross Campbell on a list as someone making great comics about women and that women will like (obviously, not EVERYONE) but I certainly wouldn’t list him as a “female creator”…so I don’t know what to tell you there.

As for “comics BY women” – I urge you to check out these lists that I did in 2010 and 2011. Many others do similar lists/columns/etc. They’re out there and people are talking about them if you’re looking, but not everyone has caught up yet.

http://1979semifinalist.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/13-fantastic-female-comics-creators-of-2011/
(from this year)
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/12/13/she-has-no-head-20-favorite-female-creators-of-2010-part-one/
and
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/12/20/she-has-no-head-20-favorite-female-creators-of-2010-part-two/
(from last year)

As for Finder…perhaps I am mistaken, but I don’t consider that YA, though I thought it was very good (and wrote a little about it and Carla Speed McNeil on that first link above).

Kelly,

As with Batwoman: Elegy last year, I pounced upon Batman: The Black Mirror upon its HC release almost entirely because of your reviews (and the rest of the Chicks, of course). Once again, I was not disappointed. (It’s also due to your enthusiasm for his pre-new 52 run on ‘Tec that I am buying his Batman monthly.) So… thank you!

And have a great 2012. (I promise not to have an Earth-shattering party on my birthday; the world will survive. :P )

So when is the Doomsday Clock supposed to begin? Gotta know so I can cram all of this delayed reading in…

Enjoy 2012 everyone!

who’s Ross MacDonald?

god i’m a failure T_T

@Dean: Regarding Wonder Woman vs. various Marvel Characters.

Exactly. As usual you manage to say it better than I ever do! Wonder Woman has the same credit, brand recognition, history, etc., and thus commitment from DC that no other female character has managed. And as Sue and Maddy and I have often discussed on 3 Chicks…many female characters would benefit from and desperately need advocates to raise their visibility…but ultimately that won’t solve anything long term…because that too remains entirely variable. Mike Carey has been a huge advocate for Rogue for ,,,what the past decade almost?…and he’s done wonderful things with her, but he’s off the book now. So what will happen next for her? it’s a big question mark. Wonder Woman does not face those kinds of questions marks (even though her book experiences tumultuous and frustrating times).

@Maverickman874.

I would love to see your three points taken seriously at Marvel in order to help ensure success with new titles.

I suspect you are right about the female online fandom of DC being larger than Marvels…but I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I think that’s exactly what we’re talking about. Though Marvel has some amazing female characters (and I say this as someone who was raised on Marvel and see it, not DC, as my entry point) there’s just not enough forward push with the female characters on their own to help sustain that fandom. If I want to talk about female characters in comics it’s easy to talk about Wonder Woman or Batwoman and their books, Supergirl, or a team of ladies like Birds of Prey…what will I talk about at Marvel? A good run of Rogue in X-Men Legacy? A couple panels of Ms. Marvel or Spider-Woman in a recent Avengers book? The characters are there and they’re great…but they’re just not given that focus that you get with a book that they headline and which literally revolves around them.

@JRC: Yeah, fair point. Secret Six is badly missed these days. For me, I’m not a fan of Califore’s art and with a strong year of comics you usually have to nail things on both the writing and the art for me to make a list like this. The book is DEFINITELY missed though, I agree.

@Keith Bowden: Thanks!

@Darryl B. Any minute now, right?

@Nick: I think he’s a Ross Campbell/Ronald McDonald hybrid…right?

@Ross: Yes, Ross MacDonald…you are a complete failure with your completely awesome comics.

More seriously, you make my list every year and I’m one picky sonofabitch (‘cept, y’know, I’m a girl).

Ross McDonald: The clown styled multi cultural comic drawing symbol of the number #1 fast food comic franchise in a place that we think is america….

Ronald McDonald: A clown who hangs around kids in fast food commercials (Think IT meets Tom Hanks in “Bachelor Party”)

Ross Campbell: Some dude that draws *gasp* realistic looking women in funny books that isn’t named Terry Moore….

(LOL GL with Glory, Ross! Now I go into hiding b4 Kelly and Brian kick my black butt out of the comments…)

[...] Kelly Thompson at Comics Should Be Good! shares her bests, and a few worsts, of 2011. Her bests include Princeless, Detective Comics and Uncanny [...]

Kelly, you ALMOST had it right……

Detective Comics #875, not 874, was the best single issue of 2011. =)

(although 874 was outstanding)

If you will permit me I’ll expand on my choice a bit here….

************

The best single issue comic I read in 2011? Easy. Detective Comics Issue 875.

*flashback time*

I had stopped collecting comics around 2001 – 2002. Oh, every now and then I would go pick up a trade at Barnes and Noble, something like Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, or the Long Halloween, or All-Star Superman. But I hadn’t darkened a comic shop in years and buying a single issue? Forget about it.

But I missed it. I missed collecting. I missed the that weekly rush of heading into the LCS and seeing what goodness was waiting for me in my saver box. I decided the time was right to get back into it – but where to begin? Obviously it would be a DC book, but I hadn’t followed any series in years and know nothing about where my favorite characters where in their stories.

Then Blackest Night showed up. Ahh….perfect. I liked the horror aspect of the series and it featured all the DC heroes so I could get a quick overview of what was going on with them. The series was a blast but like all event comics, it ended and once again I was left without a series to collect.

One day scanning the comic racks for something to read I happened on Detective Comics #875. I picked it up and flipped thru it. Hmmm, interesting art. Never heard of this Snyder guy but I’ll give it shot. I bought the comic and headed home to read it.

Holy shit.

I will say right now that this issue, DET number 875, is THE comic book that brought me back to collecting comics full time.

This issue is one of the most perfectly written stories I have ever read in a comic. It starts off with a Harvey Bullock narration that sets the tone for the entire story. Harvey’s been around for years but I had never heard this voice before. Wow. This is film quailty writing. I knew within the first 2 pages that something special was going on here.

Then comes Commissioner Gordon. And again he narrates the story in a voice I hadn’t heard since Millers Batman: Year One. Snyder owns Gordon wholly and completely in this story. Gordons grief over his unsolved cases and sorrow and dread over his son goes BEYOND comic book writing. I became so engrossed in this story and in Gordon’s world I forgot what it was I was holding in my hand – a 2.99 comic book. With art that made Snyders story sing even louder. If this comic was illustrated by a lesser artist it just wouldn’t have the same impact. But here, I have to think that Francavilla knew what he was working on was something that rarely comes around – a perfect story.

Issue 875 is a perfect story. It is a story that brought me completely back to comics. It is the issue that made me a life long fan of Scott Snyder.

When I reached the last page of this issue and closed the book I had chills. I knew I had just read the best single issue of 2011.

“I think he’s a Ross Campbell/Ronald McDonald hybrid…right?”

hahahahahaha!

“Ronald McDonald: A clown who hangs around kids in fast food commercials (Think IT meets Tom Hanks in “Bachelor Party”)”

Ronald McDonald is really creepy, right? Why is he hanging around these random kids all the timeand trying to get them to eat deep fried potatoes and processed meat?

Wonder Woman has the same credit, brand recognition, history, etc., and thus commitment from DC that no other female character has managed.

To which I ask, commitment to what? Practically reboot the character every 5 years or so? Everyone talks about Wonder Woman as this tentpole character but the reality of the matter is no one knows what to do with her. And haven’t since Marston died in 1948. The character contstantly has its premise rewritten based on the interests of the writer. Edgy horror, greek myth in modern times, goofy super hero, 60s super spy, super street kid. Hell, even listen to the chatter when the aborted TV pilot and you have half the fans thinking it should be Xena and the other half wishing it could be the reincarnation of Lynda Carter. (and look at how radically all the different Wonder Woman TV pilots, broadcast and unbroadcast, are from each other; even TV producers can’t decide what to do with her)

I don’t even think in the New 52 reboot they’ve served her well. Superman and Batman have multiple books that show different sides of the character. Wonder Woman has one. An excellent one, but one that’s rated Teen and above with edgy horror and narrowcasting the focus. If I had been planning comics, I would have kept it but also done Sensation Comics #1 with a more general audience, Superheroically focused, Wonder Woman battling Dr. Psycho and the Cheetah alongside the edgier Azzarello/Chiang book.

What I think you want is a female character at Marvel with the brand recognition of Wonder Woman. But I would argue all Wonder Woman *has* is brand recognition. Beyond that, it’s notional at best. Wonder Woman is just as big an indicator that no one knows what to do with superheroines in a male dominated market.

@Graeme Burk: Part of what I want from a Marvel character IS brand recognition, yes, because I want her to be bigger than whatever comic book she’s currently starring in, because as we all know, that has peaks and incredibly painful valleys. So yes, I want something way bigger than that, I want a character that cannot be just swept under the rug after a terrible arc in her book. I want her to be a true IP the way WW is. And one of the ways to get that is to have a character that a publisher is committed to enough that for 70 years (with a few blips) she always has a book named after her and starring her. It has to become almost common…the way a DC line without Batman or Superman would feel. WW missing from the lineup has to feel like a big hole in the line. Marvel has nothing like that for female characters. Headlining a book (whether it be good or bad) for many years is a big deal and people underestimate how rare it is and how significant.

If I was in charge (which would be awesome, let’s face it) there would certainly be more than one Wonder Woman book – the same way we have multiples of Bats, Supes, and GL, etc. For starters I would do both the Azzarello/Chiang book (as is) as well as something along the lines of the Ben Caldwell YA Digest Wonder Woman. There would be many changes, no doubt:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/06/20/she-has-no-head-yet-another-pass-at-a-dc-52/
But a teen/adult WW book and a YA books would be a start.

@Brak: I’m sorry, but we do have massive disagreement on these issues. Which is fine, nothing wrong with a little good old fashioned disagreement. Keeps things interesting.

Even in your second post, we are worlds apart.

I would first object to this:

“My point is that Marvel tries to do female driven books all the time.. just as they try to do an alpha flight book and a defenders and a new warriors or a silver surfer.. You can argue that those are all books that need to be kept in the spotlight.. need an ongoing. Silver Surfer has been around forever and is a huge name.. but if he can’t hold a book… then he can’t hold a book.”

My argument is basically that in this climate, the excuse of “If X can’t hold a book, then X can’t hold a book” does not take a long enough view. If you want to someday make millions selling Storm stuffed animals and cartoons and lunchboxes and underwear, then you have to start with the comic book…the long running, committed to, great creative team, hopefully brilliant, but not canceled when it isn’t brilliant (or when it is but still doesn’t sell well) comic. Otherwise you never get to the stuffed animal. Of course you could make her a star doing something else as well, but since we’re comic book fans and we’re talking about comics…let’s say it needs to be a comic.

My second disagreement is with this:

“Your list of Avenger solo titles is a huge hint as to the problem also. Those aren’t examples of how male books succeed, those are examples of how only the big names from the Golden age can hold a book indefinately. [sic] Which is why Wonder Woman is where she is today.”

How can you make this assumption when all of the examples that exist (except for one on the DC side) are male? It’s possible this is true…but we’ll never know, because all of the golden age properties that have this success also just happen to be male. The sole female success in the litter, is ALSO the sole female character with a book going on for 70 years. It’s not an accident.

Another related disagreement:

…”those are examples of how only the big names from the Golden age can hold a book indefinately. [sic] Which is why Wonder Woman is where she is today.”

I don’t disagree that WW having been around so long isn’t to her advantage, it is. Absolutely. That’s part of what I’m talking about. If in 1960 – whatever – Marvel had put the full force of well…Marvel, behind Storm (or whoever) she would be a massive IP today, capable of running her own book, being in talks for a movie, having a cartoon, and the requisite stuffed animal, etc. But they didn’t do that…so we really don’t know if it would have worked or not. I believe it would have. I believe Marvel could have a WW equivalent, or very close to one, had they just done this years back. But just because we don’t have a time machine doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try it now. If they don’t then we’ll be here in 20 more years opining, “man, in 2011 they had such an opportunity to turn Black Widow into a huge IP…why didn’t they do it?” Guess it’s too late now! See how the circle logic does nothing for us? We didn’t do it back then, therefore we shouldn’t do it now? It makes no sense.

One more and perhaps the most basic disagreement:

“If you want a true property.. one that will always be around and have lunchboxes and be on stamps and sneakers.. its just too late. For any character that is less than 50 years old.. the best we can hope for is a few years of flash popularity.”

I just simply don’t believe that. I might be impossible to catch up with Wonder Woman since she has a 70 year head start but I don’t believe at all that it’s impossible. In part because I came to comics in the mid-90′s and i loved Rogue like it was going out of goddamn style…based solely on the cartoon. But had their been a cartoon spin off, a comic book, a stuffed animal, a barbie, a movie, a graphic novel, a lunch box, an anything…at 15 I would have owned it. But there was almost none of that. She was part of a team in a cartoon that I loved, and she was part of a team in a comic book, where she showed up far too little for my tastes (and I’m sure far too much for some people’s). I sought out every single thing I could of hers, but short of back issues in which she sometimes got decent face time, there just wasn’t much there. Now, mileage obviously varies on something like that. Maybe Rogue, though perfect for me personally, does not have broad enough appeal that would make her work on a WW level, but surely there are characters in Marvel that do (I put up a handful initially that I do think could work, with the right platform, attention and care).

But in all this, I suppose it seems to me that your point is, if they didn’t do it 50 years ago then they can’t do it now and my point is that it’s not too late, but it gets harder and harder to do all the time. If they’d done this when I started reading we’d be 20 years into an epic run of Storm as a powerful female icon in comics…if they do it TODAY, then in 20 years, we’ll be 20 years in (but we’d be 40 if they did it back then!)…it’s all a matter of perspective.

The first Hunger Games came out less than 4 years ago…look at it taking over. Harry Potter has been coming out since 1997 and shows no signs of stopping…the fandom is massive and gains new followers every year. Because here’s the thing…kids are always being born and trying to find things to love and when there are good quality things for them to turn to…they will. And then you end up with older fans AND fresh new fans. Twilight is seven years old and popular as ever. I don’t know when comics decided to roll over and not compete with novels for their audience, but it’s a mistake. YA fiction is HUGE right now in large part because kids are always looking for something to fall in love with. But not enough of them are looking to comics and that’s comics mistake.

It’s never too late to take these things and turn them into massive successes. But you have to do the work, you have to spend the time (and frequently the money – which Marvel/Disney – quite frankly – have plenty of)…it’s not just going to fall into your lap without sacrifice. Few things worth anything, do.

In thinking about all this I’ll tell you something that most of the Marvel characters I listed REALLY need that Wonder Woman (and Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc.) have…they need a logo. The X-ladies usually stick to X, Avengers ladies A…Ms Marvel gets the closest I’d guess with her lightning bolt…though it’s not great. These ladies need to hire graphic designers who are experts i branding…then we’ll be on our way. :)

@Erik: Detective #875 was amazing. Absolutely. I still prefer #874. Interestingly enough reading your passionate response to #875, you could easily sub out a few things and call that my response to #874. :)

@ Graeme Burk:

But, don’t we get radically different takes on Batman every few years as well?

I have read comics featuring Batman as a pulp adventurer, a science hero, a horror tinged detective, a noir tough guy, a steampunk superhero, the head of a hero franchise and on and on. All those different takes are described as being part of the strength of Batman. The same thing is true of Green Lantern, The Flash and (to a lesser extent) Superman.

That is what DC does with its A-list properties. They do different takes and switch stuff up when it stops working.

Don’t fret about Vertigo. We’ve already lost Wildstorm, which was far more reliant on existing properties to thrive than Vertigo ever was (with the exceptions of Sandman, Swamp Thing and Hellblazer, the latter two of which haven’t been great in over a decade).

There’s some great-looking stuff coming out of Image, such as BKV’s Saga and Brubaker/Phillips’ Fatale. I’m sure Brian Wood has more things coming soon as well.

@stealthwise: I wouldn’t expect anything from Wood at Vertigo anytime soon given that he’s got a mini at Marvel and two big projects (Conan and The Massive) at Dark Horse.

I mean, I’d love it, but I’m just not seeing it, especially given the Northlanders cancellation. But perhaps you just meant in general? In which case, yes, he has great stuff coming.

And I DO worry about Vertigo…just because Image, Dark Horse, and IDW are doing some interesting stuff (not to mention Oni, Top Shelf, D&Q, SLG, Boom!, Fantagraphics, and a handful of other upstarts) it doesn’t mean I don’t also want Vertigo in there and swinging.

Dean spoke much more eloquently about Vertigo in the comments above, and I agree wholeheartedly…it’s alarming.

I can understand showing more commitment , but what’s the cut off point? Marvel is a business and they can’t keep a book if it doesn’t sell.

And Marvel did try and push X-23, they even added her to the highly anticipated Marvel vs Capcom 3(I even know of a few people that picked up her book because they liked her in MvC3).

The White Tiger that was recently introduced in Avengers Academy will also be a regular in The USM cartoon(It’s even implied she was created for that show and then added to the comics).

I agree they should do more, but it’s not like they don’t try.

@John King: I don’t know what the cut off point is, but it’s a damn bit longer than anything I’ve seen.

But I also don’t agree that they can’t keep a book if it doesn’t sell. I know this is an unpopular point in my “plan” but I think they have to look at any book(s) as being okay as a loss, for a considerable amount of time if they’re trying to grow a new market. They have to look at it as an investment – given the failed history of building any character that hasn’t already been around for 20+ years (male or female) then you have to assume this book/character is not going to make money initially…and possibly for quite some time. But you have to spend money to make money. And I believe this is a case where companies (like Marvel/Disney) should invest and take the short term loss in order to get the greater (potentially huge) payoffs later. They have to look at it as forging new ground, and creating a new market that they have let die off…that takes time, and money.

Regarding what they have done – I don’t see 21 issues over 18 months to be nearly enough of a commitment. Especially with a shifting creative art team (and not one that is/was particularly well known, with the exception of Noto toward the end). Additionally, while I am a big fan of Liu, and think that from a content and quality point of view she’s a good writer for that book, it’s not exactly like putting a “marvel architect” on the book.

What else have they “tried” with? I don’t see abandoning Spider-Woman after issue #8 because the creative team had to take a break and move on as too committed. I don’t see abandoning Black Widow after issue #8 because…well we don’t really know…is it because it wasn’t selling well…or because Liu was tapped to do X-23? Spider-Girl also got abandoned after issue #8 – and that was with really bad shifting art duties issues (not to mention a truly unfortunate issue #2 that undermined all the greatness of issue #1 – in my personal opinion). 7 issues of Ghost Rider? I don’t know how anyone could paint this as commitment…?

@ John King

@ Kelly

i agree with what Kelly says. Disney/Marvel should absorb some losses and invest more in the publishing division and marketing. It will pay off later when your main source of revenue is licencing and multimedia adaptations aside from comics.

Wonder Woman also has a Snuggie….

Back in the day, I thought there was a Rogue Barbie doll, but now I’m thinking that maybe it was just one of those dolls someone made that Wizard used to feature.

I thought there was a book before Shadoweyes in Love. I just got that out from the local library (and it was a geeky thrill to read the blurb on the back and go “I’ve emailed her!” You can’t imagine the looks I got from everyone….) Good news is that the first volume is on order at the library.

My guess with Marvel not developing more female characters, even from an IP standpoint, is that they make more money from the IP exploitation of the other (male) characters than they believe they could make from the future IP exploitation of female characters, and then they also have to spend money up front to develop them? Yeah, not gonna happen. (Of course, as you point out, it’s a short sighted view. Hell, look at Buffy — 20 years ago do you think anyone figured that that goofy Kristy Swanson movie would lead to the massive IP that Buffy has become? And now there’s talk of a new movie, too….)

Actually, Ross MacDonald’s a crime fiction writer, I believe.

From what I understand of Vertigo, one reason it might not be producing more comics isn’t necessarily that DC isn’t looking for more stuff (of course the beast wants to acquire more property!), but that the terms of the contracts are decidedly in DC’s favor, from what I understand. DC gets first shot at media rights (thru WB) and a large cut of the profits (from what I understand, I could be wrong).

Compare that to say, Image. While you might need to put up money to publish through them (if I understand correctly), but you’re also going to reap all the benefits.

Let’s say they’d actually made the Fables TV show (instead of the seeming ripoffs that made it on to TV this season). Willingham probably would have gotten a good cut, but it’s doubtful he’d be too prominent in the promotion. In fact, let’s just point out the fact that the Fables TV show DIDN’T get made.

Contrast that with how Robert Kirkman is a virtual household name with Walking Dead. AND he reaps most/all the benefits because he owns the thing himself (not sure if Tony Moore or Adlard have co-ownership or not).

Faced with the choice of signing up with a company that will take plenty of the profits (and based on how they don’t really promote the Vertigo stuff as much, without many benefits) versus signing on with somewhere that you’ll own/control most of it yourself…it’s a no brainer.

Plus, as you say, since the superhero side of Vertigo has been re-co-opted to the main DCU, there’s not that element where someone could start and then work their way into creator ownership (like Morrison starting with Animal Man and Doom Patrol and then doing Invisibles or WE3, or Ennis on Hellblazer to Preacher).

Mm, probably babbling now….

@Travis – It’s kind of a tricky proposition. The larger companies (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image) have the resources and contacts to turn series/characters into bigger properties. Conversely, Marvel and DC in particular are going to be more concerned with corporate properties that will earn them more money.

But without their sponsorship, the smaller creator-owned properties are less visible and less likely to spin off into a major media property. (It’s not impossible, and it doesn’t always work. For every Walking Dead there’s a Rocketeer and an Elfquest an countless books that’ve never been considered.)

I read an interesting analysis once that since the advent of creators’ rights that no truly great characters have been created, that writers “save” them until they can put them in something they own, but that when they do put them out there they don’t have the organic spark of being part of the Marvel/DC universe. The article had many interesting and valid points, though I don’t agree with the premise of its conclusion.

Comics is such a niche market now and has been for a long time; it will probably remain that way in print. There’s a possibility of a resurgence in digital, but the ideas an characters still have to be cultivated in order to survive in the medium (whatever the platform) and have any chance of becoming a multi-media property. If, for example, X-23 isn’t making it as an ongoing series but Marvel really wants to get behind her, then maybe a series of short series is the answer. Specific story arcs (around 6 issues)/long graphic novels (around a dozen issues) with – shudder – a new #1 issue for each story, marketing each as a unique series and maximizing interest could be one way of supporting a character for the long haul and keep the sales levels higher until a time that she could sustain a longer-ongoing series. But even if certain characters have to be sustained as losses for a time, the ultimate rewards could be great.

This short-sightedness is not unique to comics as its infused throughout our society, wanting instant gratification & short-term payoffs. Long-term investments aren’t valued, and that’s a problem because we need both.

Marvel makes me laugh, and you’re absolutely right that they don’t know a good thing that they have. They have a lady Thor with an effing flying horse and they can’t figure out how to turn her into a popular character, for any age group or demographic? Really? She’s like My Little Pony meets Barbie meets Pippi Longstocking meets Gloria Steinem.

Stop focusing on boners for one second, boys, and I promise the world will open up.

What a sad bunch.

@TS: You win at the internet – this is one of the best comments ever! Thank you!

Great commentary on Marvel & DC missed opportunities. To me it’s a no-brainer to have an ongoing Kitty Pryde series. She’s already well developed (if you go back to before the Claremont regression) as a Wolverine level Shield agent. I can see a Mossad-esque Kitty Pryde ala Munich/Haywire tracking down evil mutants and detaining them instead of assassinating them.

When I realized that most of the DC reboots were largely reiterating their current continuity I shrugged my shoulders. At least they got WW right, though I wish the Nicola Scott run got to go a little longer.

[...] talks about the genesis of the Fast Cash story arc (concluding today with #349!). It all began with the mystery of Ross MacDonald, which continued to build and build until it all came to a head with this week's odd (and [...]

[...] talks about the genesis of the Fast Cash story arc (concluding today with #349!). It all began with the mystery of Ross MacDonald, which continued to build and build until it all came to a head with this week’s odd (and [...]

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