December 23rd, 2010
Because what the world needs now, is another end of year list…
1) Happy Endings.
Scott Pilgrim got his girl, but more importantly Scott Pilgrim learnt to stop acting like a douche, and finally deserved the girl, in one of the most satisfying endings to one of the most satisfying comics of the 21st Century. Emotionally resonant, savvy, hip, a cotton candy of complex flavours. A perfect gem of a comic.
Batman finally came home after killing a God; saving the universe; dying; having his identitiy demolished and rebuilt; being lost in time, fighting pirates, cavemen, gangsters, cowboys and 5-D squids…to find Gotham in the safe hands of a shiny new dynamic duo. Truly a better batmobile was built. The happiest ending? Now we can all be Batman!
Cannibal Fuckface found a planet where it’s a non-stop fighting, wanking, flesh-tearing, rape party in Jonny Ryan’s id-comics masterpiece Prison Pit. Awwww. How sweet.
2) Return of the King(s)
2011 saw the full on return of some of the industry’s greatest errant sons. The neon smudged wonder of Mindless Patron Saint Brendan McCarthy hit comics again, after years of gonzo movie pitches and brilliant design work. While the stories may not have always done justice to the sublime, jagged brilliance of his art, the simple fact of having more comic pages available in one year than in the previous 10 was a pure thrill.
Long live the New McCarthyism!
Better yet was Shaky Kane’s triumphant return with the truly sublime Bulletproof Coffin. Basically all superhero comics look like this in my world. Fuck the boring photo-realism sheen of Epting, Hitch et al. Give me these garishly beautiful, crazy primitive ur-comics. Kane’s work has developed from his vibrabt Kirby mash ups of the 80′s and 90′s, bringing lements of Geoff Darrow, Charles Burns and Jose Munoz. But all with his distinctly wonky, sickening perspectives and pop-trash filter. Sex on a stick from a true Brit legend. BPC was like tuning into a programme from the missing channel, dosed up on the eyeballs on bugpowder.
Not forgetting Neal Adams’ utterly bezerk Batman: Odyssey, which was like reading a comic that had been translated through BabelFish and back again. Confusing, confounding and just plain odd, this is the work of a cranky old maverick who’s ingested Miller’s 21st Batman and forced it through Bob Haney filter with nary a consideration of logic, narrative or good taste.
3) Colours out of space
Photoshop is a blessing and a curse. One of the most adaptive, flexible creative programmes, it has the potential to revolutonise the way comics look. Unfortunatley it is also one of the best turd-polishing tools available. Mainstream comics are coloured with all the imagination and range of a Michael Bay film. Bland artwork is given a repulsive 3-d sheen, creating slick , lifelss and *ugh* professional looking comics. Black-ops comics we call it. The Ultimates has a lot to answer for by ushering in an era of dull, muted metallic looking comic art.
Thank fuck, then, for the people who remembered that comics art should leap from the page, could be jarring, vivid and joyous. Colouring that could go outside the lines. Lynn Varley’s incandescent, brilliant colour art on Miller’s DK2 was 10 fucking years ago, and people are still only catching on.
So stand up Kyle Baker, Dash Shaw, Jamie Grant, Brendan McCarthy, James Stokoe, Shaky Kane, Frank Santoro, Charles Burns, Frazer Irving, Darwyn Cooke, Jim Rugg, JH Williams, D’israeli, Brian Chippendale, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Henry Flint, Brandon Graham, Sean Phillips and all the countless others usng colour in bold, rude and experimental ways.
I would always prefer someone to shoot for the moon and fall on their arse spectacularly. And comics is, or at least it should be, the perfect medium for that. Grant Morrison’s epic, labyrinthine dismantling and rebuilding of Batman, which culminated this year, was the perfect example of glorious over-ambition. It was a story that thrilled and frustrated in equal measure, but by thunder did it try to wring every ounce of wonder and excitment out of this pulpiest of forms.
This was revamping through catharsis; an absorbtion and expulsion of 60+ years of Bat-lore and continuity to auger in a new era of dynamic stories. It was the Bat-equivalent of Greg Feely’s realisation that shit makes roses grow at the end of the Filth. There was real heart at the core of this comic. This was more emotionally engaging and exhausting than a Batman story had any right to be. Immersive, thought-provoking, sublime and ridiculous, it’s the only superhero comic I’ve read solidly in the last 5 years. It’s a Morrison mega-story to rival The Invisibles, Doom Patrol and Zenith. And it reminded me what I’d always known, but had maybe forgotten.
I fucking love Batman.
And I love it when people try.
5) Vital signs
Ultimately the best thing about comics for me this year has been the sheer proliferation, and variety of comics currently being produced. It astounds me when people bemoan the supposed paucity of original material being produced (I’m looking at you Uncle Alan) currently. There are comics everywhere, man. The internet is alive with web-comics, the self-publishing and zine scene is more in vogue than it has been in years. New publishers have sprung up, taking chances on new creators, whil estasblished creators are still experimenting and pushing the envelope.
People are making comics who’ve never even read a Superman or Spiderman comic. Using whatver tools they can. They’re mashing up genres and styles and doing whatever they want to to express themselves. A generation of people who grew up on 8-bit computer games are making comics, incorporating new storytelling methods and narrative tricks. The lexicon of comcs is getting broader and more interesting all the time. Some of them are terrible, some are great. Some have a long way to go, but they’ll have a lot of fun getting there. Fucking seven year olds are writing comics for god’s sake.
Don’t tell me the artform is in trouble. And don’t confuse your own jaded palette with everyone else’s appetite for whatever new stuff this upstart artform spews out.
* Oh yeah, and there was this:
I liked this.