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House to Astonish – The Homies 2013

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We’re one day off the end of 2013, and our next episode (coming this weekend) feature our review of 2013. Those of you who heard last year’s Christmas special (which is all of you who’ve ever heard an episode of the show, I imagine, as it’s still our most-downloaded episode) will know that this means that we’re going to be awarding House to Astonish’s own awards – the Homies – in a variety of categories. As with last year, we want YOU to help – Paul and I are each going to select our winners in the following categories, but we’re also going to read out what our listeners think on the next episode. So check out the categories below, and let us know who or what you think deserves to take home each gong!

BEST NEW SERIES

This one’s pretty self-explanatory – any comic whose first issue was published between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2013 is eligible. What new series got your attention the most this year?

BEST ACTUALLY NEW SERIES

This one’s a little less self-explanatory – what series, again first published between 1 January and date of broadcast, did you think was best, with the proviso that it has to be something where the property wasn’t in existence prior to the start of 2013. We’re counting re-use of titles as well as concepts, so Hellboy in Hell, Young Avengers or Batman ’66 wouldn’t be eligible, but (for example) Sex Criminals would.

MOST WANTED

This is for the comic, series or graphic novel that saw print this year which you’d want to see more of, whether that be a book that was cancelled before its time, a one-shot or mini that just begs for a follow-up, or an OGN that you’d love to see a sequel to.

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE

It may have seemed unappealing when you read about it online, and those preview pages may have looked unremarkable, but when you finally got the winner of this category in your hands you were ready to eat your words. What comic, series or graphic novel did you find yourself enjoying much more than you thought you would?

STIFF DRINK AWARD

This award will go to the comic or graphic novel that most made us gasp with surprise – an unexpected plot twist, a daring cliffhanger or a shocking denouement will stand a book in good stead here.

THE BILL ODDIE SPRINGWATCH AWARD FOR EMERGING TALENT

Here we’re looking for the comics creator whom you think is the one we should all be observing closely in 2014 – they may have had a good year in 2013, but they’re someone whom you believe is only going to go from strength to strength.

THE GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS AWARD FOR EMPLOYEE RELATIONS

What move did a comics company or creator make this calendar year that made you glad you didn’t have to work with them? Wonky management edicts, prima donna creators and tales of publisher woes are what we’re looking for here.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT

This is exactly what it says – which creator, creative team or publisher really knocked it out of the park this year?

Let us have your picks in the comments thread below, before midnight (your local time) on 3 January. Only ONE NOMINATION per category, please – any that say “oh, I just couldn’t decide, so here are two, or three, or five suggestions” will be disregarded in relation to that category. Please also let us have a bit of info on your thinking on each one – we’ll read out a range of the responses on our big end-of-year show. Happy nominating!

11 Comments

Best New Series: Sex Criminals, which despite its inherently salacious nature, offers a far more perceptive and sensitive look at human relationships than most comics dare offer, even comics without people who literally stop time when they fuck.

Best Actually New Series: Voice in the Dark by Larime Taylor, a superb comic about a young woman trying to live with serial killer impulses. Terry Moore described it best as “Dexter meets Strangers in Paradise”, and if anyone knows Strangers in Paradise…

Most Wanted: Batman Inc., because it was the only DC book I was reading with any regularity, and it offered a suitably epic ending to Grant Morrison’s epic seven year tenure on the Bat books. Then again, one could also argue that he’d spent long enough on the titles and it was time for a natural ending to his densely interconnected story.

Most Pleasant Surprise: Wolverine by Paul Cornell and Alan Davis. A comic about a grotesquely overexposed and often one-dimensional character, with the series hook being a plot lifted directly from the movie (losing his healing factor). Despite this, it was a gripping read that challenged the character like never before.

Stiff Drink Award: The three deaths in Uncanny Avengers. Though the book lost its flagship status due to all the delays and the increased buzz for Jonathan Hickman’s story, Remender managed to recapture our attention by killing off three major characters in one issue (for however long that lasts), and jetisonning the others to a new world.

Emerging Talent: Larime Taylor of Voice in the Dark. Not just because he’s a disabled artist who draws with his mouth, but because his art and writing is objectively superb.

Employee Relations: Stephen Wacker, who will be deeply missed from Marvel’s comics, though hopefully his switch to Marvel Animation will mean more cartoons that can be enjoyed by ages past six years old.

Outstanding Achievement: Image, which managed to swipe teams from the Big Two, and create buzz based on the names of its creators bereft of them working on any established icons. The fact that Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have successfully gone from Captain America to a fiftysomething secretary of a spy agency is a really good sign for the industry’s interest in new concepts.

@Neil – Thanks for your nominations! Just for info – both Voice in the Dark and Sex Criminals are eligible for Best New and Best Actually New. Would you still want to nominate one for one category and another for the other?

@Al Kennedy; Of course. Pick both in whichever categories you prefer. This has been a great year for comics, where the creator-owned stuff has gotten so high profile that I don’t even need to bother differentiating between “New” and “Actually New”.

Question:

COPRA: first issue November 2012 with a print run of 400 copies (I got one :-D). However, thousands of people were introduced to the series through the first compendium, published in 2013, which collects the first three singles. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe most people who read COPRA are reading it in the compendiums. So does it count as new?

Relatedly: When you say “with the proviso that it has to be something where the property wasn’t in existence prior to the start of 2012,” do you actually mean 2012 or were you copy pasting from last year? Also, what counts as “existence”? A published comic? Certainly, the character of Battling Boy (for example) has existed for decades. Sorry for all the niggling questions, I just don’t want my votes to be disqualified.

PS: I’m posting this at HouseToAstonish also.

@Neil Totally agree on how amazing this year’s been for independent comics; I was just wondering why the nomination for the two categories was different, given that both comics nominated would fit either category (i.e. if one is your pick for Best New, why it wouldn’t also be your pick for Best Actually New), but I’m happy to tally the votes however you’d prefer.

Best New Series: Batman 66. This year I FINALLY got myself a smart phone, and with it, I began the switch to digital. One of the absolute greatest pleasures of that transition was reading Jeff Parker and, in particular, Jonathan Case’s issues of Batman 66. Here’s a little secret of mine: I never laugh at superhero comics. NextWAVE – nothing. Bwahahaha Justice League – couple smiles. But Batman 66 – pure crackup. I actually yell at the screen when I read Batman 66, “Oh crap, get out of there!” “No way! NO WAY!!” This comic is a pure joy to read, and at 99 cents per installment, they can’t put them out fast enough.

Best Actually New Series: Zero. Not too much to say about this one, I haven’t even picked up the fourth issue yet, but so far I love Kot’s selection of artists and just his overall approach to the depiction of violence. It reminds me a lot of old Frank Miller comics, where the main characters use incredibly brutal violence to solve all their problems, but by eschewing standard action-movie stylization, the work at the same time condemns that violence. It also reminds me of the short-lived “Electric Ghost” Winter Soldier arc, back when Jason Latour and Nic Klein were handed that poisoned chalice. Zero: It reminds me of comics I like. Good enough for the win!

Most Pleasant Surprise: Al Ewing and (mostly) Kewber Baal on Jennifer Blood. It’s a Dynamite big breasts comic based on a tossed-off Ennis concept. How could this possibly be good? And yet, it’s riveting and tragic and brutal and hilarious. Ewing really kills it on this one.

Outstanding Achievement: COPRA by Michel Fiffe. This is the best monthly comic currently published (well it’s on hiatus for a bit now, but was published monthly in 2013). And here’s the thing for me: I don’t care much for the dialogue in this comic. If I didn’t care much for the dialogue in a corporate comic, it wouldn’t show up on this list. But with COPRA, since Fiffe controls every aspect of the production, you get in all other ways a vastly superior product, with better paper, beautiful hand lettering (which often reflects the character or situation), and coloring too wonderful for my poor artistic vocabulary to describe. Add to that Fiffe’s inventive page layouts, uncanny character designs, and Miller-meets-Ditko fight choreography, and you have an artful but unpretentious, totally satisfying read month after month. I had some other categories in mind for Fiffe’s work, but no, this is where it belongs. COPRA – Outstanding Achievement.

Best New Series: Young Avengers. No contest. As someone between 18 and 25 in an awkward place in the world this spoke to me like nothing since Starman ever has. On a less personal level it had all the clever dialog and twists and turns that make for great serialized fiction, and McKelvie’s design work and layouts were superb.

Best Actually New Series: I read nothing this year that qualifies. I’m going trades for things that aren’t X-Men, with a few exceptions like Young Avengers, so I have yet to check out things like SEX and Sex Criminals that looked really cool and new.

Most Wanted: Young Avengers. I can totally get behind the whole “seasons” concept, and can accept that Gillen and McKelvie feel they have said all they can (though I really hope the final two issues explain the mystery of Patri-not which I had thought was going to be their second year), but I wish Marvel had gotten a new team lined up for the next season. I’m worried that these characters will drift into limbo for another few years, and in the case of Miss America Chavez possibly forever.

Most Pleasant Surprise: All-New X-Men. Yes, it debuted in 2012, but it didn’t wow me until 2013, so I’m going to count it. The premise sounded, to put it plainly, dumb. I read the first few issues because it was where I could get my first taste of Cyclops’ Brotherhood. I figured I would read the trades eventually but didn’t really care. I decided to get caught up before Battle of the Atom and wow did I ever regret not reading it as it was coming out. Bendis is doing some great work with Kitty and the kids, making the whole premise of the O5 coming to the future worthwhile. The juxtapositions are making for a great look at how the X-Men have changed over the years, and the whole cast feels so alive. I was never much into Bendis’ Avengers but his X-Men is becoming some of my favorite.

Stiff Drink Award: Deadpool. The pit of corpses. The daughter who may be out there. Possibly the best Deadpool story ever told.

Emerging Talent: Declan Shalvey. I first saw his stuff in Thunderbolts with Jeff Parker and it blew me away. It was like seeing middle years Seinkweicz all over again, when he started to get more experimental with shading and shape but before he started producing mixed media hallucinations of brilliance. If I wasn’t trying to be a strict trade waiter I would have followed him to Venom and was super excited to see his work in Deadpool. Moon Knight with Ellis is pretty much the perfect combination, so their upcoming book might be my first non-X-Men monthly since Young Avengers.

Employee Relations: Can I just say Bob Harras? Just his very existence? Can I lump every assinine and incompetent thing he does, proving over and over again that he learned nothing from how he ran the X-Men and Marvel into the ground in the 1990s into one single frustrating entry? Can I combine the destruction of Hellblazer (TWICE! First when the book was cancelled, second when Jeff Lemire was replaced after one issue of the already inferior Constantine), the loss of JH Williams on Batwoman for stupid reasons, and the loss of James Robinson to Marvel to do the book he wanted to do in the first place into one single middle finger to the worst editor the medium has ever known? No? OK. Then I guess I have to go with Batwoman. DC had the perfect storm of a great pair of writers and a great pair of artists (including JH Williams who I am quite willing to call the most talented artist in comics today, if not ever) working on a well received book that majorly upped their diversity profile. JH Williams has even said that he was ok with a certain amount of editorial interference, despite having enough talent that he should have been given free reign to do whatever he liked. But Harras was up to his old shenanigans of constantly changing his expectations. The creators loved the book enough to put up with those shenanigans for two years before quitting. And since the straw that broke the camel’s back was the blocking of a gay wedding DC ended up looking homophobic. Luckily Williams is more reasonable than most would be in that situation and came out publicly assuring anyone that it wasn’t homophobia that forced him to stop his story but single editorial bungling. How does DC thank him? By not printing the final two issues that were totally ready and completed. Talk about spiteful.

Outstanding Achievement: Marvel. I almost gave it to Jason Aaron and Brian Bendis, but the only thing that has stopped me from buying a lot more of Marvel’s output beyond their incredible joint X-Men run is personal funds. It’s interesting how Marvel and DC have directly switched places from 20 to 25 years ago. Back in the early ’90s Marvel was the one shunting around creators, obsessing over making everything badass, and generally creating a lackluster product with the exception of a few gems. Whereas DC was letting great writers loose with their characters to produce seminal works that are still best sellers today, often writers who Marvel had pissed off. Now Harras is over at DC repeating those mistakes, while Marvel’s Marvel NOW! campaigns are reminding me of DCs creative Zenith. Marvel hasn’t been afraid to take chances in 2013, and 2014 looks to be shaping up the same way. Writers are being allowed to make huge changes and see them through to the end and everyone seems to be enjoying what they do and working together to enrich each other’s narratives.

Best New Series: “Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde” was my favorite of the year. Three issues telling a dense, fun, interesting story. I want to see a new “Resident Alien” series every year. It’s an elegant use of a classic concept.

Best Actually New Series: “Federal Bureau of Physics” (formerly Collider) has been very enjoyable with great world-building and character moments. It was good to see that Vertigo is still managing to deliver quality comics and this was the best of the bunch.

Most Wanted: Can I say a series that does a complete retcon of “Avengers Arena” so that those pointless deaths never happened? I’ll settle for Mettle and Juston waking up in showers in Dallas. I skimmed through issues of the series when I was helping out at my LCS and it was all such a painfully written attempt at being significant and meaningful because there’s death and that’s emotional.

Doesn’t qualify? Okay: Most Wanted: More solo adventures of Sif. “Journey into Mystery” starring Sif was excellent and it’s a real shame it didn’t find a larger audience. It was unique, combining fun, action and character development in an excellent package.

Most Pleasant Surprise: “Wolverine” by Paul Cornell and Alan Davis. I bought the first issue solely because of the creative team – I’ve enjoyed a solo Wolverine title before but I wanted to give Mr. Cornell and Mr. Davis a chance. They wowed me right from the start. The issues that Alan Davis didn’t draw were noticeably weaker but overall, this is the most pleasant surprise of the year.

Stiff Drink Award: “Nimona” chapter 9, pages 30 through 36. This sequence of Noelle Stevenson’s webcomic “Nimona” delivered one huge shock moment that had all the readers in denial and horror and followed up with another that was equally jaw-dropping. A game-changer in one of the best web-comics out there.

Bill Oddie Award for Emerging Talent: Larime Taylor (“Voice in the Dark”). Here’s a story-teller who knows how to use the page and the medium to its full potential. He deserves more attention – and deserves this award!

Glengarry Glen Ross Award for Employee Relations: Is there even any contest here? It can only go once again to the people making the decisions that DC editorial follow and that drive away creators and alienate fans. I don’t know if that’s Bob Harras and Dan DiDio or if they’re just mouthpieces or scapegoats. 2013 was yet another year when DC made it obvious that it’s a corporation with a purely corporate mentality. Other comic companies may have the same goals and mentality, but they don’t let it all show as blatantly. The decisions of upper management regarding their intellectual property (because they sure weren’t thinking of their characters) continued to drive creators away, with the cancelation of the marriage of Batwoman and the annulment of Aquaman and Mera’s marriage being the best examples. I’m glad I don’t have DC as a client because I’d be embarrassed.

Outstanding Achievement: Terry Moore for “Rachel Rising”. He’s on top of his game and every issue has built the world in greater detail and showcased incredible story-telling skills and a feel for horror that I haven’t seen equalled in any of the other comics in that genre. The tension on some pages is incredible. I think he’s producing his best work ever.

Happy New Year!

Shit, misread the Glengarry Glen Ross award. In that case, I’ll rescind my vote for Stephen Wacker (because I misread it as a GOOD editor), and echo everyone else’s deserved complaints against Bob Harras.

And Al, if I must differentiate, make Sex Criminals “New” and Voice in the Dark “Actually New”, as Matt Fraction was already a popular writer when he started the series.

BEST NEW SERIES

Zero

BEST ACTUALLY NEW SERIES

The Private Eye

MOST WANTED

Christos N. Gage writing an ongoing superhero book for Marvel or DC rather than just doing fill in or co-scipting work.

MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man

STIFF DRINK AWARD

Daredevil’s climatic fight with Ikari. One of the best hero / villian showdowns in recent history.

THE BILL ODDIE SPRINGWATCH AWARD FOR EMERGING TALENT

COPRA by Michel Fiffe

THE GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS AWARD FOR EMPLOYEE RELATIONS

Bob Harras and Dan DiDio

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT

The House of Stephen Wacker (Daredevil, Hawkeye, Superior Spider-man, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, etc)

Sorry, that last post was mine. I forgot to type my name.

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