Now that we’ve gone through all of our 2013 in Review columns, David’s done his yearly wrap-up and we’ve done a few other pieces about the last year, I’m coming for one of our final 2013 in Review pieces. (I say “one of” because the last thing will be Wednesday — promise, the very last one.) Not to ruin too much of the magic, but the way that we do 2013 in Review here at Multiversity is based on a voting system for a select number of categories — but there are a number of things that don’t get covered in it.
So, as such, I am doing the Best of the Rest list, focusing on things that I feel deserve the spotlight but that did not get coverage in our other Year in Review articles. Hopefully you find this to be an eclectic list that either points out things you’d forgotten or introduces you to something you didn’t previously know about, something that may not get the stereotypical spotlight that is shining all over the place in other areas of comics.
That, or you can make fun of me in the comments for trying to be oh-so-cool with my picks here. The other staff does already, you may as well join in.
Read on for my thoughts, and here’s to another exciting year in comics!
Best Colorist: Jordie Bellaire (“Zero”)
While 2013 brought many things in comics, one thing that I noticed is that a bigger focus of attention was put towards comic creators beyond just the writers and the artists. In terms of colorists, there is no colorist working in comics today that changed the conversation about a colorist’s role in comics as much as Jordie Bellaire did, and I find it remarkable. Besides working on a litany of titles in an increasing and ever impressive resume, this year Jordie Bellaire helped launch Ales Kot’s “Zero” — and in doing so helped redefine the comic creating nature as the constant visual element of the series where every book features a new artist. And with every book she touches featuring remarkable palettes and different styles of colors, Jordie Bellaire is becoming just as much of a household name as any writer or artist around.
Best Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos (“Hawkeye”)
In addition to conversations about colorists changing, letterers saw a big upswing in focus in 2013, and I would like to think it is in part thanks to the continued efforts of Chris Eliopoulos. An accomplished letterer, writer and artists of his own accord, Chris changed the conversation for letterers with his active role in “Hawkeye,” most noticeable in the continuously praised “Hawkeye” #11 that starred Lucky aka Pizza Dog. In it, Chris was listed for not just letters but production, and looking at his work on the issue both in terms of the misheard dialogue from the humans and the visual design aspect to how Lucky “spoke”, Chris Eliopoulos essentially raised and set a brand new bar for letterers everywhere with just one extremely clever issue.
Edit: As has been noted in the comments, apparently everything I credited Chris Eliopoulos for in this section was on incorrect information.
But, I don’t care. I still love his work. He still gets the award.
Best Editor: Alejandro Arbona (“Quantum & Woody”)
Some say that the best compliment you can give a letterer is that you didn’t notice their work, and the same can be said for editors. However, one editor’s work who I’d like to spotlight is that of Alejandro Arbona, who is perhaps one of the most deserving of your praise. Formerly of Marvel, having notably worked with Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca on their colossal “Invincible Iron Man” run, Arbona was unfortunately laid off in 2011. Yet he continued to work on great comics, such as “Sacrifice” and “Casanova”, and in 2013 he joined the Valiant staff, most notably with (my favorite title) “Quantum & Woody.” Arbona is an incredibly smart man who appears to bring out the best in his collaborators, as any good editor should, and the quality of books like “Casanova” and “Quantum & Woody” prove it. If you see his name in the credits of a book, you should expect great things.Continued below
Best Self-Published Comic (One-Shot Edition): “Ultranova” by Ryan Ferrier, Chris Peterson and Ed Ryzowski
One of my favorite one-shots that I read this year, Challenger Comics’ “Ultranova” is like the lost comic that you imagine Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky would’ve made. Chris Peterson’s design in the book is impeccable, the scope wonderfully daunting like a mix of Sunshine and Event Horizon; it’s a scary little sci-fi comic, a haunting and lasting read that stays with you well after you’ve turned the last page. Ferrier is certainly making a splash with “D4VE” at Monkeybrain, but as good and funny as that book is, it’s this release from earlier in the year that truly shows off his writing talent.
Best Self-Published Comic (Mini-Comic Edition) “Demeter” by Becky Cloonan
A dark and moving meditation on loss and love full of gothic imagery, Becky Cloonan’s latest mini-comic was one of her best works yet. Cloonan is easily one of the most talented artists in the industry, and her DIY work ethic has always been rather inspiring; this year would certainly be no different, and her work with “Demeter” showed us that. The third in a thematic trilogy of self-published mini-comics, this is Cloonan at the absolute top of her game and you can feel her passion for the medium soaked into the ink of the book and cut onto the page with every pen and brush stroke. Becky Cloonan’s recent essay also gave an interesting look into the production of the comic, which opens up a brand new door of appreciation for the book.
Best Self-Published Comic (Kickstarter Edition): “God Hates Astronauts” by Ryan Browne
Kickstarter has certainly become something of a powerhouse in the comic world, offering up an opportunity for many to publish comics in a brand new and affordable way. And while some creators have certainly proven the flaws in that system, others still have shown that when Kickstarter works it really works. Such is the case with Ryan Browne and his book “God Hates Astronauts.” Originally self-published in print and put online for free, Browne took “God Hates Astronauts” to Kickstarter and was a resounding success. Making about 500% of its initial goal, Browne put together a magnificent and exclusive hardcover sold from him at shows and with many different iterations given out to fans, including hilarious defaced editions. And while the book was later reprinted in trade at Image (another resounding success that came from the Kickstarter for Browne), what’s important about Browne’s Kickstarter is that it was done in a quick and professional manner, proving that while Kickstarter could potentially have its flaws, with the right creator something wonderful can be produced.
And if something wonderful can’t be produced, you at least get the next best thing, which is “God Hates Astronauts.” Did you see he convinced Murder By Death to make him a theme song?
Best Non-US Comic: “Dungeon Fun” by Colin Bell and Neil Slorance
From the team that brought you the SICBA-Award losing comic “Jonbot vs. Martha” comes the next best thing to a comic about a man turned to a robot going through a divorce — a fantasy comic about a young girl embarking on adventure! “Dungeon Fun” was an incredibly fun and highly praised one-shot from Scotland’s own Colin Bell and Neil Slorance this past year, and while the category I’ve created in order to talk about this book might be a flimsy excuse at best, this is still a book well worth talking about. I’ve had the pleasure to watch Bell and Slorance evolve as collaborators and creators over the years and it has been remarkable to see them play off each other’s strengths and create great comics together. If you’re looking for a duo that’s remarkably in sync with each other, look no further than these two and their magnificent book together, which is well worth the fees you’ll accumulate in having this book shipped to you from across the pond (or the conversion fees for a digital copy — your pick).Continued below
Or, uh, just regular price if you happen to be a non-US reader. Hello. Did you know we’re based in the US here? Sorry about that.
Best All-Ages Comic: “Adventure Time” by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb
All-Ages Comics are this weird entity in the comic world where everyone seems to want for them to exist but no one can really figure out that “all ages” means all ages, not just kids. It’s an incredibly hard balance to reach. Yet, with the ever popular Adventure Time comic book, Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb proved that making a comic for all ages is not as difficult as everyone keeps pretending it is, and with another full year under its belt this remains one of the best ongoing comics around. It doesn’t get discussed as often as it should nor is it praised as often as it should, but “Adventure Time” deserves all of the accolades it could possibly get and more. With issues that offer up first-person perspective adventures or choose-your-own adventures, incredibly witty dialogue and beautiful artwork that doesn’t just imitate but surpasses the animation of the show, North, Paroline and Lamb have put something wonderful together with their iteration of the popular animated series — and it really, truly is for everyone of all ages. That’s hands down the best part.
Best Digital-First Comic: “Knuckleheads” by Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson IV
I’ve been a fan of Robert’s for some time now (I actually have a print of his framed and hanging on my wall visible from where I write this), so when I heard that his old comic “Knuckleheads” was going to see new life at Monkeybrain I was rather excited. And boy, was I pleased to see that it was as good as I wanted it be. As it turns out, Robert and writer Brian Winkeler have put together one of the most refreshing and entertaining takes on the satiric superhero genre, not just falling into the stereotypical tropes and pitfalls that most “ha ha look at the bad Superman” books use as a crutch. “Knuckleheads” is one of Monkeybrain’s best books, and it certainly makes a wonderful case for the increasingly popular 99 cent digital comic revolution that we’re seeing today. Plus it has vomit and Ke$ha/poop jokes. That’s always good. So despite the release schedule (which is a bit inconsistent, yet still somehow consistent for Monkeybrain in general I guess), if you’ve somehow been missing this series you really ought to check it out.
You can find all of “Kunckleheads” on Comixology.
Best Webcomic: Boulet’s “The Long Journey”
Honestly, this one is best just seen on its own sans commentary. You’ll get it, though.
Best Non-Fiction Comic: “The Hip Hop Family Tree v1: 1970s-1981” by Ed Piskor
This comic took me absolutely by surprise, as I’d actually never heard of it until Fantagraphics released a collection. Originally serialized on Boing Boing, Ed Piskor’s exploration of the origins of hip hop is one of the most visually vibrant and informative biographical comics of the year. A true celebration of the time and place that gave birth to such a popular genre, “The Hip Hop Family Tree” has introduced me to far too many forgotten gems to even possibly name here. Even for those of you that aren’t a huge fan of hip hop, it’s rather impossible not to read this book and marvel at Piskor’s ability to capture the mood of the time and the rhythm of the music within the pages of the book.
While the original printing of the book has sold out, Fantagraphics has put up a pre-order for the second printing of the first volume, which you can find here.
Best English Foreign-Language Reprint: “Muse”
I actually wrote about this earlier in the year (surprise, surprise), but “Muse” — or, as it was originally titled, “Träume” — tells the story of the well-endowed Coraline who moves into a mysterious steampunk-inspired mansion as its new caretaker, and quickly finds herself in an adventure that I still describe as “Little Nemo” meets Inception. It’s actually rather deceptive of a book, just glancing at the cover, but the illustration by Terry and Rachel Dodson does give a good indication of how beautiful the book’s interiors are. With a steampunk design sense and wonderfully emotive and full figured characters, it’s rather easy to enjoy this book for its portrayal of the lead character as well as the creative story found within, almost like that of a modern day fairy tale. And while Humanoids puts out a lot of great reprints in America of European comics, “Muse” was by far one of my favorites and most memorable of the year.Continued below
You can still order it from Humanoids directly, or find it at select shops. It took me a few stores to find it when it came out, but someone near you is bound to have it.
Best Collection (Reprint): DC’s Deluxe Edition of “SOLO”
I’ve been ragging on DC pretty heavily this year, as this was the year I took DC comics out of my pull. It was a tough decision. But despite their newer books not being something that captured my attention, DC finally reprinted their incredible mini-series “SOLO” into a nice, big hardcover for you and all your friends to finally own. I myself am fortunate to have the single issues of the series, but for those who did not pick it up at the time, “SOLO” was a rather remarkable book in which incredibly talented creators were given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted with DC’s properties, including but not limited to familiarly big names like Darwyn Cooke, Mike Allred, Paul Pope and more. The new hardcover collection is a must own, and having seen it on a shelf in a store, I actually kind of lament picking up the single issues because of how well the production on it is. So don’t make my mistake and get out of those back issue bins! This book belongs on your shelf yesterday.
You can find “SOLO” in all good comic shops or on Amazon. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, you really, really should.
Best Comic Book Film (Superhero): The Wolverine – Unrated, Extended Edition
As the legend goes, Multiversity Comics only started as a place for me to write about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and four years later I got the opportunity to once again write about Hugh Jackman portraying the iconic Marvel character on the big screen. And while this award was almost taken by Thor: the Dark World, the recently released Unrated and Extended edition of the movie moved The Wolverine very high up my “Movies I Loved in 2013” list. Featuring Jackman’s best performance as the character yet, this film made up for all the mistakes of the previous and offered a wonderful opportunity for the Wolverine character to simply just be Wolverine on the big screen. It was a delight to watch, and the extended edition (which features the single most Wolverine moment ever to be filmed as he lights a cigar on top of an explosion while fighting ninjas) was — to put it lightly — everything I wanted it to be. And then some.
The Unrated edition is available on Blu-ray now.
Best Comic Book Film (Non-Superhero): Le bleu est une couleur chaude (Blue is the Warmest Color)
Did you know this was a graphic novel? Because it is — and it’s a really great graphic novel. Written and illustrated by Julie Maroh in 2010, “Blue” is a bittersweet coming of age story that is wonderfully illustrated and features a remarkable use of color. And the movie, a three-hour French film by Abdellatif Kechiche and starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, is just as engrossing and touching as the graphic novel. I’ll admit to not being familiar with the book until the film, but having had the opportunity to both experience the graphic novel and the film, I’d say that this is hands down one of the best films of last year (that I admittedly wish I’d gotten to see last year, instead of in this past week — but c’est la vie). And while calling it a comic book film is perhaps a bit inaccurate, I felt like it deserved an extra spotlight in anticipation of its nomination for this weekend’s Golden Globes.
Best Comic Book Television Show: Arrow
I know. I’m just as surprised as you are.
But really, Arrow killed it with the first half of its second season. I found that the first season was a bit of a chore to slog through, despite some good moments and a refreshing ending, but it appears that Warner Bros has figured out what to do with all those DC properties they own and that is put them on TV. While the comics are kind of miserable right now and Man of Steel was what it was, Arrow is a great reminder of why these characters have endured for as long as they have — and you honestly need look no further than the two Barry Allen co-starring episodes to see why the show works. I can’t wait for it to come back (and for that Flash spin-off!).Continued below
Arrow returns to the CW this Wednesday, but you can probably catch re-runs on On Demand or something.
Best Non-Multiversity Comics Website: The Comics Reporter
It’s probably a faux pas to have a category like this, but I do feel it’s necessary to point out the work that Tom Spurgeon does year-round. Because, honestly, here’s the thing: the stuff that Tom writes about on the Comics Reporter is the kind of stuff that usually doesn’t make it onto Multiversity. That probably sounds like a backhanded compliment, but in the news cycle a lot of the same comic news gets recycled and repurposed at all major comic sites (including ours, depending on your definition of “major”, right?). Yet, I go to the Comics Reporter to see Tom cover other things, the things I may have missed or may not know about. It’s Tom who points out when books like “Supermag” are coming out, and his recent 100 Comics Positives for 2013 has been incredibly thoughtful and rather clever. I also quite love his Group Think posts, and even participated in one once when the moment was right.
So while he may not include Multiversity in any of his recent round-ups (that’s probably our fault), his site is full of interesting and informative comics coverage that you just don’t find anywhere else, and for that I really respect all of the work that he does at The Comics Reporter.
Plus, he’s pretty funny on Twitter.
Most Anticipated “Hey, Whatever Happened To…?” Comic: Tie! The “SHIELD” Finale and “Niro”
There are two comics that I was incredibly eager to see in 2013, and as it is 2014 now I feel like I should probably mention them as they easily would’ve earned accolades from me (undoubtedly so). The first is the long-anticipated finale to Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s “SHIELD” at Marvel, a (semi-)spin-off from “Secret Warriors” that details the early days of Marvel’s top spy organization. The second is Cameron Stewart’s latest endeavor into digital comics with the self-produced “Niro,” which he released an extended preview of online and then… nothing.
Hickman confirmed that he was wrapping up the scripts of “SHIELD” and Dustin Weaver wrote extensively about what’s going on with the book, so hopefully we’ll see that in 2014. As for “Niro,” I’m not sure — but I’m hopeful. Stewart had a busy year, with an Assassin’s Creed graphic novel (his second!) and the release of the hardcover of “Sin Titulo” that was followed by a world tour. Hopefully, between work on “Seaguy Eternal” and “Multiversity” (those are happening in 2014 too, right?), he’ll find some time to breathe life back into “Niro” as well. He had mentioned it as still in production in November at Robot 6, so fingers crossed for a release in 2014.