2008 was a big year for me. Matt and I got married, we both finished school, we both got jobs, and we each released a new album. I also got to go to my first comic book convention, HeroesCon in Charlotte. A pretty exciting year overall.
It was an exciting year for comic books too! As is now a Living Between Wednesdays tradition, I present my list of the best comic book-related things of 2008. I have selected 20 books, series, movies, events, and phenomenons that I feel were the best of the year. I have also created a list of runners-up, a list of ongoing series that continued to be awesome with the same creative teams as last year, and a list of great series that came to an end this year.
Enjoy the list. It took me about a thousand hours to write. Feel free to disagree, I don't claim to be an expert on these things. Thanks for reading my blog for another year! And have a happy new year! I'll see you in 2009 (a lot more frequently now that school is over forever!).
1. Action Comics
2. Tiny Titans
3. Ghost Rider
4. Watchmen Mania!
5. Wonder Woman
6. The Incredible Herc
7. Top Ten Season Two
8. The Dark Knight/Iron Man
9. The Amazing Spider-Man
10. Fourth World Omnibuses
11. Dr. Horrible
12. The New Frontier Movie/One-Shot
13. Secret Six
15. The Age of the Sentry
16. The Umbrella Academy
17. The War at Ellsmere
19. Daisy Owl
20. Batman: Brave and the Bold Cartoon
The longest-running comic book title of all time was the very best of 2008, in my opinion. Geoff Johns gave us incredibly satisfying Superman stories that embraced the Man of Steel's past without being overly nostalgic. One of my favourite things about Geoff Johns as a writer is that he isn't snobby about the more recent history of comic book characters. Maybe it's because he's a younger writer, but I absolutely love how he doesn't write with the attitude that things were so much better in the 60s, or 70s, or whatever decade the writer feels the closest connection to. Johns does a great job of blending the best of all eras to create stories that will define the current era of comic books.
If you told me a year ago that I would have Ghost Rider on my pull list by June...
Jason Aaron was the perfect man for the job on this title. I have been enjoying Scalped since it started so I was interested in picking up anything else that Aaron was going to be writing...I just didn't expect that to be Wolverine (which was excellent) and Ghost Rider.
So, Marvel took a risk with this one. It was a weird decision. Last year they had a big crossover event happening, World War Hulk. This year they had a Hulk movie hitting theatres. So obviously the thing to do with the Hulk title is to change the titles to The Incredible Herc, and make it a comic about Hercules instead of Hulk, right?
I can't even imagine how intimidating it would be to attempt to fill the shoes of Alan Moore. I guess it helps when the people filling the shoes are the rest of the original creative team. Zander Cannon and Gene Ha have done an excellent job of bringing back Top Ten, which is my personal favourite Alan Moore creation. It really is just as good as it was when Moore was writing it, and Ha is providing his usual beautiful artwork. Plus...it's coming out reasonably quickly! Very exciting.
My wish for 2009: an Absolute Edition that collects the first two Top Ten books, the Forty-Niners and Smax. Come on, DC! Bury the hatchet and put it out!
I spent several years feeling impossible levels of excitement for these two movies, closely following every casting decision, every development, every rumour, every trailer or poster, every photo from the sets. My anticipation was so great that I could hardly believe, when I was sitting in the theatre when they were each released, that the big day had finally arrived. And yet, somehow, both movies surpassed my crazy high expectations.
I mentioned at the end of last year's Best of 2007 post that 2008 was going to be a huge year for nerdy movies. Although both Harry Potter and Star Trek were bumped to 2009, it was still a monumental year for comic book, sci-fi, and fantasy films. Not only because of the volume of films that were released in the genre, but because they topped the box office returns. Six of the top ten fall in that genre, seven if you want to count Kung-Fu Panda, and eight if you want to count Quantum of Solace. So many comic book movies were released that I actually missed some that I was looking forward to (Hellboy II, Speed Racer and Punisher: War Zone, for instance).
Iron Man was loved by pretty much everyone. It was just so much fun, and it was a completely satisfying interpretation of the character. Many of the complaints about the Spider-Man, Daredevil, X-Men or Fantastic Four movies couldn't be made about this one. A lot of the loyalty to the characters and the comics can be owed to the fact that Marvel was now producing the movie themselves with the newly established Marvel Studios. But a lot of the credit also has to go to Jon Favreau, who genuinely loves Marvel super heroes. It also didn't hurt that all four of its big stars were Oscar nominees or winners.
As successful as Iron Man was, it turned out to be the appetizer. When The Dark Knight was released two months later, the whole world became Batman fans. Or, more specifically, Joker fans. It. Was. Insane. Of course we all know about Heath Ledger's amazing performance and his sudden and tragic death, and how that largely was what the world was talking about re: Dark Knight. But if you look beyond that, you'll see some great performances that have been overlooked. Gary Oldman returned as Commissioner Gordon and killed it once again. Aaron Eckhart was fantastic as both Harvey Dent and Two-Face (Spoiler!!). Morgan Freeman was even more enjoyable as Lucious Fox than in Batman Begins. And, of course, Christian Bale once again was great as Batman and Bruce Wayne. I'm not saying that Ledger's performance doesn't deserve the attention it got, I'm just saying that there are a lot of great scenes in that movie that he's not even in.
The added bonus of these two fantastic movies is that their success means more comic book movies in the future! We already heard Marvel's plans for a slew of movies leading up to a series of Avengers films, as well as the plans for another Batman sequel. There are also Green Lantern and Jonah Hex movies in the works, as well as that weird-ass Justice League movie. Who knows what else will get the green light? (Power Man and Iron Fist buddy movie...Power Man and Iron Fist buddy movie...).
A year ago, Spider-Man comics would have been on my "worst of" list. This year Marvel ditched two of the redundant titles, made Amazing Spider-Man come out three times per month, and also decided to make that comic awesome. It was a wise move.
I love the new format of the title. I love that it allows great writers like Dan Slott, Marc Guggenheim and Mark Waid team up with great artists like Marcos Martin, John Romita Jr and Steve McNiven for short stints. The result is that there are no fill-in issues or incidents of burn-out. The larger story arc isn't particularly fluid, but it doesn't need to be because the short storylines are great. The two-issue arc (#578 and 579) by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin were as close to comic book perfection as I think I have ever read. If they had been one issue, it would have been my favourite single issue of the year.
It was a controversial and courageous move for Marvel to basically wipe the board clean of all the terrible decisions they made about Spider-Man in recent years. They brought the character back to basics, but not without including fan-favourite characters and events from the 90s and beyond. The incredibly popular and high-selling arc, New Ways to Die, was an Eddie Brock story that was really exciting and featured some beautiful JRJ art. It's going to make a great hardcover.
I have bought every issue of Spider-Man since Brand New Day started. I had never bought an issue of Spider-Man before. Well done, Marvel!
And Fourth World fans were also treated to the first series of New Gods action figures, which perfectly replicated Kirby's art and, in my opinion, are the nicest action figures of 2008.
Those who know me, or those who read this blog, know that I am batshit insane for Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier. So I was pretty excited about the animated movie that was finally released early this year. Strange Adventures put on a screening of it at one of the local movie theatres here to serve as a release party. The Halifax comic nerd family is pretty thrilled to have Cooke calling the area his home now. If he wrote a grocery list people would show up for its release here, and celebrate it as the greatest grocery list ever written.
When so many elements that I love come together in one comic series, it's pretty obvious that I am going to go crazy about it. Silver age stories, Jeff Parker, and artists like Colleen Coover, Dave Bullock, Nick Dragotta, and Michael Cho combine to make one of the funnest mini-series since...Jeff Parker's last mini-series. This comic is brilliant and fun, and it pays tribute to the Silver Age in a hilarious way without full-on making fun of it. Even the letters page replicates the Marvel Mailbag of the 1960s. The best part about this series is that you really don't need to know much about The Sentry as a character. Each issue is made up of short stories that are in no way complicated and are more about what is awesome about comic books and super heroes than anything else. I feel like a lack of interest in The Sentry might deter people from picking up this great comic, and that's too bad.
"I heard that emo fruit from that emo fruit band wrote a gay stupid comic."
"Well...yes and no..."
"My Chemical Romance sucks. I hate that emo shit!"
"Yeah, well, I don't like them either but since you're asking about the comic written by Gerard Way it's..."
"He only got to write it because he's famous and all his stupid emo fans are in love with him."
"Well, actually, he studied comic book writing before he..."
Unfortunately, inane conversations like this one were the price to pay for what is easily one of the best new comic creations in years. The first series of The Umbrella Academy, Apocalypse Suite, quickly won over most of the comic fans who were doubtful that a guy who makes such uninspired music could possibly create such an imaginative and grown-up comic series. Gabriel Ba's beautiful art didn't hurt either. Apocalypse Suite was collected in a trade and a super deluxe fancy edition. A second series of The Umbrella Academy is also underway.
Most of what I wanted to say about this book I said in a recent post about it. But let me repeat that this book is a completely enjoyable read for people of all ages. Hicks is not only a delightful person, she has a genuine interest in creating comics that have strong, realistic female characters.
Despite the cancellation of the Minx line by DC, 2008 was actually a pretty good year for comics for teen girls. Besides The War at Ellsmere, we also got Hope Larson's Chiggers, Mariko Tamaki's Skim and Emiko Superstar, Cecil Castellucci's Janes in Love, Raina Telgemeier's new Babysitter's Club comic (Claudia and Mean Janine), and all the great new Supergirl stuff that I mentioned earlier. A solid year for sisters doing it for themselves!
I don't know why more people aren't talking about this series. Matt Wagner is doing a fantastic job of telling the origin story of one of the greatest fictional heroes of all time. And Francesco Francavilla's art is stunning in every issue. Plus there are always beautiful covers by artists like Ryan Sook and John Cassaday, as well as by Wagner and Francavilla. Overall, this comic is just really high quality, and it's a great read.
Also, consider this: if Batman read a comic book, it would be this comic book.
One of my resolutions for 2009 is to read more webcomics. And if I find more like this one, then it won't be hard to fulfill that resolution.
Daisy Owl is the name of a young girl who, along with her younger brother, has an owl for a father. This is never explained, and that's fine. Other than the fact that their father is an owl and they live in a tree, and their father's best friend is a bear (Steve), their lives are pretty normal. They go to school, their father goes to work, they go on family trips. Daisy is a very smart young girl who is also a very loving sister to her young and confused brother, Cooper.
Finally something comes along to fill the void left by Justice League Unlimited. The happy difference between this Batman cartoon and others is that Batman is actually a pleasant guy on this show. He's an actual hero, not a grumpy weirdo. It's a great show for kids, very funny and full of action. And seeing characters like the new Blue Beetle and Plastic Man animated for the first time is a real thrill for us comic nerds. Plus...how about those opening credits?! So awesome.
Batman: R.I.P. (DC) by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniels
Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4 (Fantagraphics) by Michael Kupperman
Ambush Bug: Year None (DC) by Keith Giffen
The Hall of Best Knowledge (Fantagraphics) by Ray Fenwick
Marvel Adventures Superheroes (Marvel) by Various
Omega the Unknown (Marvel) by Jonathan Letham and Farel Dalrymple
Janes in Love (Minx) by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Ongoing Series that Continued to Rock with the Same Creative Teams
Jonah Hex (DC) by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and various artists
Catwoman (DC) by Will Pfeifer and David Lopez
All Star Superman (DC) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Y: The Last Man (Vertigo) by Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra
Justice League Unlimited (DC) by Various
The Batman Strikes (DC) by Various
All-New Atom (DC) by Various
X-Men: First Class (Marvel) by Jeff Parker and various artists