CLEANING UP HOUSE FOR 2009
There are some scraps left over from 2009 that I'd like to cover this week. Plus, it'll give me a week to start catching up on my reading, since the holiday schedule was particularly busy this year. It's tough to review something when you haven't read much, you know?
First, let's have a break-down of the Pipeline Retro series that started this year as an attempt to get more value from old comics that are silently sitting in deeply-stacked longboxes. These are books I hadn't read for a long time, that I had a lot of fun going back to. Thankfully, the vast majority held up to my memory of the fun they were, though one or two I cast a more critical eye on.
- "The Sensational She-Hulk" (31 March)
- "Ka-Zar" (07 April)
- "Deadpool" (14 April)
- "Shockrockets" (28 April)
- "Gatecrasher" (05 May)
- "Superboy" (19 May)
- "Quantum and Woody" (09 June)
- "Batgirl" (07 July and 14 July)
- "Pitt" (08 September)
- "Namor" (07 October)
I have plans for more Pipeline Retros in 2010, as well. Putting together the 1,000 Comics list over the last couple of weeks reminded me of a lot of titles I'd like to go back to.
Next, some of the "major" reviews for the year:
- "Red Hulk" (06 January)
- "Chickenhare" (13 January)
- Darwyn Cooke's "Parker" (02 June)
- "Largo Winch" (30 June)
- "PVP Awesomeology" (21 July)
- "B.P.R.D." (04 August)
- "Bloom County" and "Family Circus" (13 October)
- "Sinister Six" (10 November)
- "Image United" (27 November)
- "Chew" (08 December)
- "Rocketeer" (15 December)
Some commentary on the year, as it happened, starting with the single most controversial column of the year:
- "Tips on Tradewaiting" that became "Do We Need Comic Shops?" (10 March)
- The role of the comic shop in a digital world. (17 March)
- Are comic book cover artists necessary in a digital comics world? (21 April)
- Five Ways Digital Comics Could Change the Medium (12 May)
- Reading comics on the TV screen (26 May
- The Great Comics Purge of 2009 (23 June)
- Cover Design (14 July)
- Comics on the iPhone (28 July)
- Mike Wieringo: Two Years Later (18 August)
- DC's Photoshop Disaster? (25 August)
- Disney Buys Marvel (01 September)
As you can see, I've been thinking about digital media a lot this year. I think it's the story of the next decade. If things move quickly enough, it might even be the story of 2010. The disruption digital might bring to this industry cannot be overstated. The bumpy road of comics is about to see bigger bumps.
Finally, The Pipeline Podcast is now five years old. 2009 was a rough year for the podcast, if I'm being honest. I never would have guessed that parenthood would interrupt the podcast the most. The column carries on as strongly as ever, I'm still editing a full complement of CBR Reviews every week, but the poor podcast has taken the hit, with a nearly random schedule.
I hit on a production issue midway through the year that allowed for some extra podcasts to come out, though. I now record the podcast on my iPhone. Sure, I have all this great audio recording equipment at home, but it's in the room with the computer next door to the baby's, and I can't record while she's sleeping for fear of waking her up. So now I just podcast on the road or on my lunch hour, with my always-handy iPhone. The sound quality is not nearly as great to my ears, but it's good enough that I don't think you'd guess its origin immediately, if you didn't know.
The podcast is something I want to pay a little extra attention to in 2010 to help put it back on a normal schedule, and even add more podcasts to it, as this new recording style promised. It's time to get working on that.
Is that a New Year's Resolution? I was trying so hard not to make those. . .
MY CONTRIBUTIONS TO CBR'S TOP 100
I'm stealing this bit straight from the blog of my fellow CBR Columnist, Timothy Callahan. Tim posted the write-ups he did as part of CBR's overall "Top 100 Comics of 2009" list. You can find the final 100 list here.
Though I screamed a couple of weeks ago of my hatred for Top 10 lists, I allowed myself to get sucked up into the fun on this one, mostly out of my own curiosity for what I'd come up with. Just keep in mind: I was limited to only the comics I've read. And we weren't doing archival collections. Given how much of my reading this year was of past years' materials, that put a crimp in my list. "PVP Aweseomology," "The Rocketeer," and "Bloom County" would all have been contenders, otherwise.
It was still fun to pare down the list to a respectable 10 comics worth mentioning, though ranking them is a bit of a challenge. That's why I'm listing them in alphabetical order here. I think four of these paragraphs were used in the final list, so I apologize for the déjà vu in advance. Additional commentary will be italicized between bullet points.
- "Amazing Spider-Man" (Marvel): There are lots of comics anthologies out there today, but this is by far the most successful of them. Top notch creators. High soap opera. Classic Marvel storytelling. And an impressive organizational effort to produce it three weeks out of every month. What's not to like?
- "Chew" (Image): No doubt the breakout book of the year, John Layman's flesh-eating detective quickly moved from one not joke to the center of a brand new universe of interesting characters, situations, and twists on modern living. It's a subversive little tale, told with flair and humor. Rob Guillory's art is cartoony, stylized, and beautifully colored to emphasize his work, not hide it in so-called "realism."
I've found in recent years that discovering new and exceptional comics is often a point of frustration for me, because they don't sell enough copies or get enough attention. That's why I'm particularly happy that "Chew" is doing so well.
- "Empowered, Volume 5" (Dark Horse): Adam Warren, for some reason, makes remarkably entertaining comics that never quite reach the top levels of the sales charts, but should. "Empowered" is the latest, now with five volumes out in a series that started out as commissioned gags, but has since evolved into a very humorous character-driven superhero farce. Part cheesecake, part Kevin Smith, "Empowered" is an event whenever a new edition comes out.
- "Glamourpuss" (Aardvark-Vanaheim): Like nothing else out there on the stands, probably ever. Dave Sim mixes an artist's search for style with some wacky parodies. Most notable for his historical look back at the classic fine lined black and white comic strips of yesteryear, Sim's audacious art styles shine through, even if the computer lettering is unfortunate.
This book is good timing on Sim's part, too, as so many of the strips he references in the series have seen recent reprintings.
- "Little Nothings, Volume 2" (NBM): Lewis Trondheim is a fascinating man, in part because so many of his little neuroses mirror my own. This collection of his observations on life hit dead on for me, and his beautifully watercolored sketchy art has more life than many of today's top comic artists' finished work.
I can't tell you how happy I am that a third volume is on its way!
- "Missing the Boat: The Offered Salvation and Inevitable Demise of the Churamane" (Image): I'm afraid this small hardcover book by writer Wayne Chinsang/Justin Shady and artist Dwellephant at Shadowline got overlooked when it was released earlier this year. At first, it seems silly and over-the-top, but by the end develops into a touching, heartfelt, and often laugh-out-loud funny story of the two creatures who missed Noah's Ark through their own laziness, thus dooming their species.
Remember what I said above about great comics frustrating me? Here's one I bet most people never saw on the stands.
- "The Muppet Show" (BOOM!): I grew up on the show. I watched repeats of the show on Nickelodeon as an adult. I bought the DVDs of the series before I ever had a child. And Roger Langridge beautifully keeps the characters and the series alive now in comic book form for Boom! Studios. I couldn't have asked for anything more.
- "Parker" (IDW): Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptation is a visual tour de force, showing off just one of the many styles the man is capable of working in. The high-contrast mono-color look has never fit a story so well, and Cooke's storytelling sense guides him through some of the rougher parts of adapting a novel for a visual format.
"Parker" was my #1 pick.
- "Stylish Vittles, Volume 4" (Dementian Comics): The long-awaited conclusion to Tyler Page's epic autobiographical tale of college sweetheart love. This one started as a webcomic before making it to print in a much smaller format than the last three volumes, but it's still satisfying and provides the closure fans have been waiting years for. Page plays with standard comic book autobiographical convention convincingly.
Also from Tyler Page, "Nothing Better" Volume 2 came out this week. I have my copy, but still haven't read it yet.
- "Wolverine: Old Man Logan" (Marvel): It's another Mark Millar spectacle, to be sure, but Steve McNiven's art stole the whole show. This is an evolution to his art style, with a tighter line and more detail, depth, and visual spectacle to match Millar's storyline. This might not be "high art," but it was a lot of fun to read.
Looking back at my list, I'm proud of the variety of publishers included. In 10 books, I only repeated publishers twice, with Marvel and Image. No DC title made the list, which didn't surprise me. I'm not reading much in the way of DC books these days. Some interest me, but only enough to wait for a trade on.
There are books not on that list that are in everyone else's Top 10 list. Most likely, that's because I didn't read it, either out of lack of time or lack of interest. (I really want to read "Asterios Polyp," but I haven't gotten around to buying it yet. Ditto "The Photographer.")
This all gets back to my rant about Top 10 lists. They're all arbitrary. Rolling up as many as possible -- as CBR does every year -- is about as valid a way of producing a respectable list as I can imagine. Even then, there are some titles categorized as "howlers" by some of CBR's readership. I probably wouldn't disagree with them, if I had read all 100 comics in the list. Until then, who am I to judge?
In fact, is there anyone out there who has read all 100 comics on that list? I'd be very surprised, unless they're a comics retailer whose job it might be to read everything.
I'm reading comics this week. That will make it much easier to review something next week. See how the system works?
Here's a condensed version of everything else: