Christine Larsen unleashes the horde in ‘Orcs #1’

A treasure hunt goes horribly awry and a legendary hero discovers a mysterious island in the first issue of the self-published comic.

A treasure hunt goes horribly awry and a legendary hero discovers a mysterious island in the first issue of the self-published Orcs by Christine Larsen, which is now available on comiXology. Or, if you prefer print, you can buy it from her online.

Larsen has been creating fun comics for a while now, from her work on covers for BOOM!’s various Cartoon Network series to Valentine with Alex De Campi for Thrillbent. Orcs looks pretty wonderful, as you can see for yourself in the preview below.

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According to an interview at Forces of Geek, Larsen has more issues planned. “Currently, I have an additional four written, but I have an outline for a larger arc if I find I feel up to it and it looks like the readership is there,” she told the site. “The current sets of stories are episodic, so anyone can pick them up at any point and read them. I’m saving the bigger arc for if I feel daring, but I also may want to move on to new worlds by then. That’s the nice thing about self publishing, I can keep the future loose and see how the project is received.”

Have I mentioned I’m excited for Rafer Roberts’ run on Archer & Armstrong?

Introducing Davey the Mackerel …

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New ‘Beasts of Burden’ story due this year

The dogs and cat of Burden Hill return this year in a new story by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer and Jill Thompson.

The dogs and cat of Burden Hill return this year in a new story by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer and Jill Thompson. The “all-cat” issue will detail where Dymphna, the witch’s familiar who has allied herself with the protectors of Burden Hill, disappears to at night.

Dymphna
Dymphna

“Dark Horse is mapping out the issue, and if all goes well we’re looking at a Spring release,” Dorkin said on his LiveJournal. “However, we have some blank pages to fill in the back of the comic, and we’re trying to see if anyone has any questions or comments for us to print in a letters page for the issue. Even if we only fill a page, that’s one less ad in the issue and a little something extra to read. Right now we only have one letter. Eep.”

The Eisner Award-winning comic from Dark Horse Comics stars a group of dogs and cats that investigates supernatural events in their town. Beasts of Burden began as a recurring feature in the Dark Horse Book of … anthologies before graduating into its own miniseries. The animal protectors have also teamed up with Hellboy and appeared in Dark Horse Presents.

Update, 2/11: Dark Horse issued a press release on the return of Beasts of Burden, which you can find below with art:

Dorkin, Dyer and Thompson Discover What the Cat Dragged In!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MILWAUKIE, OR—Evan Dorkin (Eltingville Club, Milk and Cheese), Sarah Dyer (The Dark Horse Book of Monsters) and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) return to the characters that won them the Eisner Awards for Best Short Story and Best Publication for Teens with a new one-shot comic: Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In!

This standalone adventure is a perfect entry point for readers new to the award-winning series. When curiosity gets the best of Burden Hill’s cats (and one reluctant raccoon), sleeping demons are awakened and black magic is unleashed on the town of Burden Hill.

Multiple award-winning comics creators Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson first introduced these very special investigators in The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings and the other Dark Horse Book of . . . anthologies, for which they won coveted Eisner Awards for Best Short Story and Best Painter.

In 2009, the beasts of Burden Hill received their own miniseries, Animal Rites, which garnered widespread critical acclaim. In 2010, they met up with Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, cementing these unlikely heroes in the pages of Dark Horse history.

The one-shot Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In (MAR160030) is in stores May 4, 2016. Preorder your copy today at your local comic shop!

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‘Sharknife’ creator Corey Lewis returns with bimonthly anthology series

‘Sun Bakery’ marks the first ongoing series from Press Gang.

Press Gang, a new publishing initiative from Floating World Comics and Study Group Comics, has announced its first ongoing series: Sun Bakery, a bimonthly anthology series by Sharknife creator Corey Lewis.

Described as “a one-man Shonen Jump-esque comics anthology,” Sun Bakery will run 48 pages and include “robo space adventure, paranormal skateboarding, breakdancing, and social swordplay.” The first issue will feature three stories: “Dream Skills,” “Arem” and “Bat Rider.” The first issue ships in April. Check out some preview art below:

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Z2 announces four new projects for 2016

Publisher announces new projects by Jarrett Williams, Miss Lasko-Gross and Kevin Colden, Sam Sattin and Chris Koehler, and Gabe Soria and Paul Reinwand.

Z2 Comics, the publisher of Ian McGinty’s Welcome to Showside, Chris Hunt’s Carver and Miss Lasko-Gross‘s Henni, among others, has announced four new titles for 2016 with some impressive creative line-ups.

Probably the name I was most excited to see on the list is Jarrett Williams, who wrote and drew two volumes of the fun wrestling graphic novel Super Pro K.O.! (a third one is due out in April). His new book is about high school students who team up to fight “sinister, intergalactic vagabonds” in what will surely be a fun, action-packed book. Also of note are the wonderful Lasko-Gross and her husband, Kevin Colden (Fishtown, The Crow, I Rule the Night), who will collaborate for the first time on a story about intergalactic smugglers. Author Sam Sattin (The Silent End) teams with illustrator Chris Koehler (Wired, The Atlantic) for a story about dogs and cats living together, while Gabe Soria (Life Sucks, Batman ’66) and Paul Reinwand (28 Warlords) create a “rock’n’roll noir story” that’ll feature a soundtrack by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and the Arcs, with tracks inspired by the comics.

Artwork, release dates and additional details provided by the publisher can be found below.

HYPER FORCE NEO_Issue1_Cover

Hyper Force Neo by Jarrett Williams
April 2016

Hyper Force Neo, from Super Pro K.O.! creator Jarrett Williams takes readers along on the adventures of Dean Masters, a 9th grader tasked with leading a group of tech-savvy teens called Hyper Force Neo. Their Mission? Save New Sigma City and their high school from the sinister, intergalactic vagabonds known as the Dark Edge. With the use of their Hype Suits, Neo Keys, high-tech weaponry and over-sized Neo Mechs, Dean and his friends just may get the job done. The first issue of Hyper Force Neo will be a super-sized 48 pages.

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The Sweetness by Miss Lasko-Gross and Kevin Colden
May 2016

Set in the future, the first collaboration from the husband and wife creative team of Miss Lasko-Gross (Henni) and Kevin Colden (Fishtown) follows two bad-ass female intergalactic smugglers of a mysterious controlled substance who cater to the unique tastes of alien drug addicts.

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Legend by Sam Sattin, Chris Koehler
June 2016

What if a biological terror agent wiped out most of humanity, and our domesticated animals were left in charge? How would our dogs and cats set about ruling and rebuilding the world? Legend is the story of animals uniting to fight mutant creatures and attempting to restore the world their masters destroyed.

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Murder Ballads by Gabe Soria, Paul Reinwand
2016

A meditation on music, obsession and how far someone will go to see their vision become real, Murder Ballads follows the fall and reinvention of Nate Theodore, the dead-broke and deadbeat owner of a failing record label who is on a cross-country drive in the dead of winter, fleeing the wreckage of his business and trying to save his crumbling marriage. Nate is given an unexpected chance to reverse his fortunes when, during a stop in a desolate rust belt town, he “discovers” Donny and Marvell Fontweathers, two African-American brothers who play a raucous brand of doom-laden country blues. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and the Arcs is creating a Murder Ballads soundtrack, which will be released by Nonesuch Records.

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 5

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here part 4 is here.

Paul Sizer

Creator of Little White Mouse, Moped Army, Mixtape:1984

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1. MS. MARVEL:
The longer this series goes, the better it gets, and seeing Kamala Khan literally become a new comic superstar with an eager brand new audience who has not seen themselves represented in books before now is amazing and heart-warming. Plus, the skill with which G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa craft this book and make it look and read SO differently, yet SO on point is a credit to them all as creators.

2. GRAYSON
I’m not really a Batman family reader, but damn if GRAYSON isn’t a compelling spy thriller, and yeah, I’m going to say it; the beefcake does it for me. But it’s not really just gratuitous; it’s there for a reason. Everything in the book looks great, but seeing Dick look as good as his other fellow spies and enemies, and watching a book knowingly use the art to show equal time to a hunky male lead as they do to the sexy female leads is a nice balancing act. I’m sure it is a welcome gift to any reader who wants to see more attractive men being amazing in their comic stories.

3. BITCH PLANET
This could have gone so wrong, but it’s Kelly Sue Deconnick, and she nails it. Watching exploitation in the hands of the other side is always thrilling, and no less when the creators actually have something smart to say. BITCH PLANET was equal parts social commentary, feminist manifesto and C-movie storytelling, but once again, the balance of those elements proved to be the key to unlocking the good story within. A good shock to the system, that hopefully will rattle loose a few more good stories.

4. SPX and COMIQUE CON 2015
Within 2 months of each other, I got to see how conventions that focused on the less or under-represented creators could really impact me. This year’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda was especially engaging, with some killer panels that addressed needed and (at times) uncomfortable realities that some creators have to deal with because of race, ethnicity and gender. The inaugural year of COMIQUE CON was also inspiring to see a wide, wide range of female creators talk and show instances of overcoming problems that I will never encounter as a white male comic creator. But in both instances, it wasn’t finger-pointing; it was informing and inspiring and letting people know that a well informed community of creators is the first step to making comics better for everyone.

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5. AIRBOY
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a creator hang themselves out on the line for all to see (FUN HOME is an obvious choice), but AIRBOY was one of the most bare-naked (sometimes literally) assessments of a creator’s failings I read all year. James Robinson is painfully honest in painting himself as the terrible person he had become, and this comic series seemed to be him building a ladder to climb out of the hole he had dug for himself. Smartly, he wrapped the story in a nice allegory about the unattainable level of the hero trope, but alongside that, Robinson also examines the creative process in all its beautiful and horrible detail, and in the end finds his way to the top of a ladder that puts him back at ground zero. As hard as I fell in love with Robinson during his STARMAN tenure, this was an eye-opening session with him grappling with his creative life after great success.

Renee French

Creator of Hagelbarger and That Nightmare Goat, Barry’s Best Buddy, Baby Bjornstrand

Laura Park’s DO NOT DISTURB MY WAKING DREAM no. 4
Helge Reumann’s SEXY GUNS
Nate Turbow’s Instagram Account
Dustin Harbin’s DIARY COMICS
Rina Ayuyang’s TCJ A CARTOONIST’S DIARY

Christina Blanch

Writer of The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, co-owner of Aw Yeah Comics

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Archie (Waid, Staples, Wu, and more)

Alex & Ada (Luna and Vaughn)

Rachel Rising (Terry Moore)

Daredevil (Waid and Samnee)

Unflattening (Nick Sousanis)

B. Clay Moore

Writer of Great Big Hawaiian Dick, Bad Karma

1. The continued growth of successful comic-related television shows.
2. Image Comics solidifying their rising position in the marketplace.
3. The exodus of high-profile “Big Two” talent to creator-owned books.
4. Marvel mining the Star Wars franchise for massive success
5. Archie Comics’ revival and push toward new directions

Elizabeth Dismang Breitweiser

Colorist on The Fade Out, Velvet, Fatale, Outcast

1. Visiting the set of Outcast the television series and having the opportunity to finally meet fellow creators Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta in person, as well as, getting to meet all the incredibly talented people in television who are bringing our comic book to life. It was an immensely cool, enlightening, and rewarding experience.

2. Watching my husband Mitch’s new book, The Futurists, start to take shape. I couldn’t be more proud of the work he and co-creator Patrick Stiles are doing, and I can’t wait for everyone else to get to share in the magic they’ve been creating. I’m especially excited about the new approach Mitch is taking with his artwork.

3. River City Comic Con in Little Rock, AR. It’s been great to watch my hometown show grow by leaps and bounds over the past few years. With the new venue at the State House Convention Center in the beautiful downtown River Market District, 2015 was the biggest and the best yet.

4. Getting to add a few beautiful limited edition prints and books to my art collection from two of my favorite modern day creators, James Jean and Mattias Adolfsson.

5. All the great comic industry related films and television shows. The ones that had me most excited: Age of Ultron, Star Wars, and Daredevil.

Denise Sudell’s contribution:

Even though I stopped writing about comics eight years ago, and even though I hardly ever read comics anymore, Tim O’Shea convinced me to contribute to this year-end review. So from least to most important (at least to me), here are my favorite comics-adjacent productions and events of 2015.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones. I’ve never been a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society I’ve been a DC Comics gal since the innocent Silver Age days when Lois Lane dashed around Metropolis in a pillbox hat and white gloves, coming up with harebrained schemes to find out Superman’s secret identity and get him to marry her. And I so loved the first two seasons of the 1990s superheroic romantic comedy Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman that the show actually brought me back to reading comics after an absence of thirty-something years.

So I fully expected to be swept up, up, and away by the new live-action Supergirl TV series. After all, I’d been a fan of both the 1960s version of Supergirl, Kara/Linda Lee (hiding her powers from the world, living in the orphanage where her famous Kryptonian cousin had left her, and longing to be adopted by a family of her own), and writer Peter David’s initially-inspired 1990s reboot of the character. Plus the show and its star, Melissa Benoist, had gotten rave reviews from critics. Why wouldn’t I fall in love with this new version?

But CBS’s Supergirl left me cold. I didn’t like how Kara was saddled with a foster sister who turned out to be a spy for a “super-secret agency, and how the only people in whom she could place her unqualified trust were men. I also didn’t like how she was depicted as wide-eyed and apologetic and more than a trifle bumbling. Yes, I realize that the point was to show Kara growing into her powers, but the character, and the series, didn’t have the depth I was hoping for.

Instead, the comics-related show that grabbed me this year and wouldn’t let go centers on a super-anti-heroine from the Marvel Universe. Unlike chirpy, naïve Supergirl, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) was deeply cynical and flawed even before the horrific events (seen in occasional brief flashback) that left her traumatized, and that continue to haunt her. And that’s one reason why I love her (and her show) so much: I identify with characters who are prickly and sardonic and difficult to get close to, like Jessica.

Another reason I prefer Jessica Jones to Supergirl is that the Marvel show features a wider range of interesting women characters. Yes, Supergirl’s nemesis is the sister of her late mother; yes, in her secret identity, Kara works for a female media mogul (who has all the warmth and solicitude of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada). But Jessica’s female supporting cast is far more intriguing: her best friend Trish, whose backstory as a teen TV star could be a series of its own; lesbian attorney Jeri, who is cheating on her wife with one of the employees at her law firm,

and who has her own agenda; and Hope Shlottman, a victim of the same villain who tormented Jessica, to name just a few.

I know the character of Jessica Jones, played by Ritter, will be featured in the upcoming Netflix series The Defenders, and will undoubtedly show up in the Luke Cage series as well. Still, I’m hoping that Netflix and Marvel see fit to bring the character back for a second season in her own show. I’ll be watching.

Fun Home, the Broadway musical. Pioneer lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s multiple award-winning graphic memoir Fun Home (named Best Book of the Year for 2006 by Time.com) was turned into a stunning theatrical work that opened on Broadway during 2015 – the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian main character. It won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score (by Jeanine Tesori & Lisa Kron, the first female writing team ever to win the award), Best Book, Best Direction, and Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris, who played Bechdel’s closeted gay male father). For my money, though, the most unforgettable aspect of the show was the astonishing performance by 11-year-old Sydney Lucas (who has since left the show) as Small Alison. Lucas’s clear-voiced, awed, joyous solo about the moment of recognition she experienced the first time she saw a butch lesbian – a song based directly on a panel from the original graphic novel haunted me for months after I saw the show. (Lucas was nominated for a Tony Award as well, but her competition included two other Fun Home actresses, a situation that I suspect ended up splitting the vote.)

The Queers and Comics conference. For me, the most important comics-related event of 2015 – heck, the most important comics-related event in years – was getting to go to the first-ever university-based LGBTQ comics conference. Organized by veteran lesbian cartoonist Jennifer Camper (Juicy Mother) and hosted by the Center for LGBTQ Studies at the City University of New York, the two-day conference was billed as “bring[ing] LGBTQ cartoonists, comics writers, and artists together with scholars and fans in order to document the history and significance of queer comics.” And did it ever. I got goosebumps watching queer cartooning pioneers Trina Robbins, Mary Wings, Roberta Gregory, and Lee Marrs talk about creating feminist comix in the early 1970s. I got more goosebumps watching the parade of cartoonists – there had to have been at least 20, if not more — whose work was featured in the longrunning series Gay Comix. I marveled at the range of panels presented during the two days: queers, comics, and disability; “Queer Zinesters Do It By Hand”; “Creating Trans* and Genderqueer Characters in Comics”; queer people of color in art and activism; serialized queer comics; queer comics on the web; female sexuality in queer comics; and on and on and on. Plus there were keynote speeches by gay male pioneer cartoonist Howard Cruse and the aforementioned Ms. Bechdel. It was like a big family reunion: I hugged people I hadn’t seen in years, or even decades. More important, I got to learn about queer comics, and queer comics creators, I hadn’t heard about before.

The conference was such a success that the organizers are talking about doing it again in 2017, maybe in San Francisco. But I can’t imagine it feeling as overwhelmingly revolutionary as the first time.

Nolan Woodard

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Batman”
Matt Wilson’s color
“Southern Bastards”
Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire on “Injection”
Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina as an art team

A. David Lewis

I think we all have to stop and marvel at the phenomenon that is JESSICA JONES. The days of superheroes’ rarity on the big and the small screen are well over, but to have a binge-able, mature series of this quality at our disposal for entertainment (and for thought-provoking discussion) makes this a transmedia Golden

Even though it began in 2014, it was hugely exciting to see how Grant Morrison’s MULTIVERSITY wrapped up. In fact, it has only faded from memory, I’d argue, due to DC’s weak implementation of the flawed CONVERGENCE event.

Similarly, SANDMAN OVERTURE straddled the calendar line due, in part, to its extended execution. But, all in all, it was worth waiting out the year for.

On a personal note, I’m delighted that the Comics Studies Society (www.comicssociety.org) was approved for official non-profit status just this past month. I’m excited about this organization in terms of the future of high-quality scholarship on the medium in the U.S.

My #1 is without question Nick Sousanis’s UNFLATTENING. It’s a scholarly work like no other, merging the art and the academics of comics in a way we haven’t seen in at least 20 years!

Jane Irwin

i;m more tuned in to the independent side of comics, so here are my Top 5 items of the year, in no particular order:
 
1) The return of Der-Shing Helmer’s The Meek and the introduction of her new comic, Mare Internum. Helmer’s sense of color is jawdropping, her storytelling slow and elegant: design, plot, and characters unfold on each page like a thighfriend.
 
2)  Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel. If you’re into storytelling in any format — comics, writing, songwriting, editing, anything — do yourself a favor and pick up this book on how NPR radio teams craft and hone their final narratives. Each chapter is a brilliant, polished gem.
 
3) Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu: a surprisingly deep webcomic about hockey bros with a devoted Tumblr following and a highly-successful Kickstarter.  Though it’s Ukazu’s first published comic, Check, Please features impressive character development, gorgeous backgrounds, and an amazing use of atmospheric color. 
 
4) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is hands-down my favorite graphic novel of 2015. Jamieson started as a children’s book illustrator, and her style fits this all-ages book perfectly. She also skated for the Rose City Rollers as Winnie the Pow, so all the derby details — including Astrid’s convoluted journey to the track — are refreshingly accurate. 
 
5) The publication of The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by Iron Circus Comics —  C. Spike Trotman officially became the largest comic publisher in Chicago with the release of E.K. Weaver’s sexy stoner roadtrip webcomic.  Weaver’s immersive locations and believable love interests make it easy to see why Iron Circus chose TJ and Amal as their first creator-owned book.

Runner-up: Sophie Campbell’s art in Jem and the Holograms. I thought the 80’s cartoon was vapid and cloying and horribly animated, and I can hardly believe I’m writing this actual sentence, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK AND IT IS GORGEOUS. Campbell is clearly having the time of her life designing all the hair and costumes; the characters vault right off the page, crackling with kinetic energy.

 

 

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 4

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here part 3 is here.

Sensation Comics #39
Sensation Comics #39

Carla Speed McNeil

Sensation Comics, Finder

These things happened, and I learned things from them I didn’t expect.

I wrote and drew a WONDER WOMAN story titled BOTH ENDS OF THE LEASH for Sensation Magazine. I’d never tried to wrap my mind around any of the comic book demigods, but the more I read about this princess, the more facets she reveals. I had some odd and, frankly, rather woo experiences trying to find a story for her, which in itself probably is what made it worth doing. The story is about animal defense, so it hit a lot of nerves, and I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from long-term fans, but none more so than the fan I didn’t know about: my older sister.

I had NO IDEA my sister was a Wonder Woman fan. She’s eight years older than I am, so I guess I missed her Underoos stage. But she’s nearly six feet tall, long black hair, green eyes… How tempted was I to make my Diana’s eyes green just for her! But the fact that I found out late in the game that my sister’s such a fan restrained me from redesigning the Princess radically. This time.

I drew an issue of a horror comic called HARROW COUNTY, written and drawn by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. I’ve never done a straight-up ghost story. This one was about a not-entirely-lost soul, a sad, ferocious little ghost in two parts. The tricky part, the thing I had to keep reminding myself was that, no matter how bad I felt for him, I needed to keep him creepy. That’s what makes him work. Poor little sticky thing.

If that was true of HARROW COUNTY, it’s doubly true of NO MERCY, the book I’m drawing with writer Alex de Campi. She rarely pulls a punch unless it’s for effect, and has been a master class in how fast you can make things happen in a story. It’s all too easy, especially when you love worldbuilding, to get lost in creating the immersive experience, forgetting that stories are about and-then-what.

The storytellers who REALLY surprised me with the depth and deftness of their storytelling are the ones who are making the tv show STEVEN UNIVERSE. If you don’t like goofy, it’s not for you, but that story’s deep heart, complexity of imagined world, and up-close-magic-tricks of throwing down new Plot Cards have left me with my jaw on the floor. I am watching. Taking NOTES.

Dunno if I’m going to be able to get all of these things into the new FINDER story I started in DARK HORSE PRESENTS last November, but they’re all in my head, at the very least. They’ll end up in SOMETHING.

Eric Haven

UR, MythBusters

1. Recidivist 4, by Zack Sally
2. Intelligent Sentient? by Luke Ramsey
3. Cosplayers 3, by Dash Shaw
4. Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet, by Geoff Darrow
5. Idyl – I’m Age, by Jeffrey Jones

Vito Delsante

Stray, Actionverse, Action Lab: Dog of Wonder

Actionverse #4
Actionverse #4

5. The Flash TV show – there’s not enough of it in a week. It’s not even a guilty pleasure. I sit and watch it with a smile from ear to ear. And while I enjoy Arrow (not caught up) and what I’ve seen of Supergirl (not caught up), I never miss Flash.

4. Conventions – I hate conventions, and that’s not a strong hate. It’s just…they’re inconvenient sometimes. But I had great experiences this year in Baltimore, NYCC and New Jersey Comic Expo. More shows are popping up (really looking forward to the 3 Rivers Comicon in May), and I hope the remain a local staple more than the overblown extravaganzas that they can become. Smaller shows are the best.

3. My comics – Stray came out this year. Line Webtoons announced that Dean Haspiel and I are working together again on the New Brooklyn Universe. Actionverse 0 just debuted and I’m writing a new all-ages comic, Action Lab: Dog of Wonder. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such opportunities and such amazing collaborators.

2. My friends’ comics – Beef With Tomato, Schmuck, Smoke, We Are Robin, Ghetto Klown, Plunder, the Bunker…working with my friends on Actionverse. As exciting as it is to see my own stuff out there, it’s just as exciting to see my friends get their work seen and recognized.

1. My kids – Unto us, a son was born this year. And while I’m still in the introduction phase with him, my daughter (who will be 3 in February) has become a huge part of my life and is dictating how I create comics in the near future…in a good way. I don’t know…it’s all new to me, but I’m enjoying the lessons.

Jim Zub

Wayward, Samurai Jack

1) Image’s Continued Creator-Owned Success
2) Diversity in Characters and Creators
3) Convention Culture Continues to Thrive
4) The Widening Embrace of Comics Content From Mainstream Media
5) Disney the Pop Culture Juggernaut: Animation, Marvel Movies, Star Wars

DJ Kirkbride

Amelia Cole, The Bigger Bang, Never Ending

Copra
Copra

5. COPRA makes me giddy. I was late to the game and missed the single issues, but Bergen Press’s trades are so snazzy. Tough characters in tough stories with tough art — I’m in as long as MICHEL FIFFE continues to create the book. Pure comics power!

4. COMIC BOOK APOCALYPSE: THE GRAPHIC WORLD OF JACK KIRBY, both the amazing CSUN exhibit and the accompanying book from IDW, gave me a jolt of energy regarding the whole medium, and art in general. From his early romance comics to of course all the superheroes to his mind boggling collages, there’s a reason JACK KIRBY is THE KING. It was a true delight seeing his pages in person, and reading amazing essays about the man and his art.

3. DAVID F. WALKER taking over comics! I’ve known Dave for a few years and have always admired his work, so it’s been a true pleasure watching him finally get the credit he deserves. From SHAFT in late 2014 to this year’s CYBORG and the upcoming (as of my typing) POWER MAN AND IRON FIST (with one of my favorites artists, SANFORD GREENE), his success this year just couldn’t have happened to a more deserving creator. Good for my pal, and good for all of us comic fans!

2. MICHAEL ALLRED drawing comics is one of my favorite things each and every year. He’s making magic with DAN SLOTT on SILVER SURFER — the Marvel character (along with, I’d say, DOCTOR STRANGE) that Allred was born to draw. He’s one of the nicest and most talented guys in comics, so it’s always a joy to see work from him.

1. HEROES FOR EVERY READER! Since I was a kid, part of my love of SUPERMAN has always been that, lack of muscles and perfectly chiseled features, I kinda look like him. Big jaw, blue eyes, dark hair… it made Halloween fun growing up (as almost every pic of me was in some Underroos-based Superman costume). Identification is important to kids, to see themselves in their heroes. This is just one of the reasons why characters like MS. MARVEL, BATGIRL, MILES MORALES: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-GWEN, CYBORG, MOON GIRL, AMELIA COLE (I have to mention the hero created by ADAM P. KNAVE, NICK BROKENSHIRE, and myself here, right?), and many more having their own comic book titles is so important. We still have a long, looooong way to go, but it’s great to see some logical and, obviously, long overdue steps FINALLY being made. It’s a no-brainer and win-win for everyone!

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 3

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.

Corrina Bechko

Writer of Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen, Invisible Republic, Heathentown, Star Wars Legacy

HIGH CRIMES – Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa
A comic this good deserves a beautiful presentation, and this lovely hardcover looks amazing on a shelf. The real treat is found inside though, as the story remains engrossing until the very end. Just beautifully done all the way around.

TREES Vol. 1 – Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
I’m so glad I read this in trade, as the story is rich and tragic and bore a lot of flipping back through after I had finished so that I could revisit certain plot threads. Comics don’t get much better than this.

Copperhead
Copperhead

COPPERHEAD Vol. 1 – Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski
This book is just so much fun. A lot of people try to do scifi westerns, but hardly any get them right. At last, here’s one that does.

SHUTTER Vol 2 – Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca
Things here are just as crazy and inspired as in the first volume, but now that we know the characters better their plight is much more poignant. Big reveals happen, but it’s the relationships between the characters that carry the book.

MURDER BOOK – Ed Brisson (various artists, it’s an anthology)
I became a fan of Ed’s work when I first read a couple of his Murder Book stories several years back. I’m so happy they’re finally all collected here in such a nice package. There are some very brutal tales here, each one brought to vivid life by a wonderful artist.

Lorraine Cink

Host & Writer of Marvel’s The Watcher.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix
Star Wars Force Awakens
Squirrel Girl
CritJuice Podcast
Star Wars Shattered Empire

Rico Renzi

Colorist of Spider-Gwen and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, director of creative endeavors at http://heroesonline.com

Russian Olive to Red King
Russian Olive to Red King

Russian Olive To Red King is a BEAUTIFUL object and story.

Southern Bastards is amazing every month.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the superhero action comedy I’ve always dreamed of. (full disclosure, I help make this comic)

The Divine/The Realist, anything made by Hanuka twins forever!

Cheating here, 2 collection that I read in the past but got collected beautifully for print in 2015: The Private Eye and The Complete Eightball

Marcelo Maiolo

Colorist of Batman Beyond, Old Man Logan, Pacific Rim, KING!

On Movies: Mad Max: Fury Road
On TV series: Justified Season Finale
On Brazilian comic book: A Vida de Jonas (The Life Of Jonas)
On comics: Saga
On My work: Old Man Logan #01 – With Lemire and Sorrentino

Patrick Zircher

Artist of Green Arrow

Island
Island

The Rise of the Woman Character: I didn’t add it all up but I think titles with female leads sold more copies this year than ever. And that’s fantastic.

Diversity: I don’t think we’ve reached a point that reflects the demographics of the lives we live but real improvements are being made.

DC You: The creativity embraced by DC You made for interesting new stories.

Island: This anthology showcasing a variety of cartoonists styles in a short story format is an essential venue for comics.

The Indies & Vertigo: Once again comic-makers offered a rich variety of well-craftedCchristianberanek

Christian Beranek

5. The Walking Dead has reached its peak. Have people finally had their fill of post apocalyptic zombie soap operas?

4. DC’s mad push for relevance has actually created some great television. They aren’t able to tie the movies into that continuity, however, and it might end up hurting their overall brand.

3. Marvel’s continued dominance. I imagine we’ll hear about Phase 4, 5 & 6 plans soon. Don’t see them slowing down for decades.

2. Webcomics continue to grow and have the most readership (some upwards of 500k) yet mainstream comics continues to discount their importance.

1. Star Wars. I was an active part of the 1999 excitement leading up to the prequels but more of an observer this time. There will be no one to stop Disney this time. They finally rule the audience they’ve always coveted and they’ve only just begun to exploit the property.

Mike Perkins

Star Wars in the Marvel Universe
Netflix and Marvel
BEST COMIC: Goddamned – Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
BEST COMIC: Josephine (published by Delcourt) – Penelope Bagieu
PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT – Rowans Ruin with Mike Carey ( published by BOOM!)

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 2

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here.

Tom Spurgeon

Screenshot 2016-01-04 at 2.48.39 AM

  1. Mowgli’s Mirror — I enjoyed this Retrofit comic book follow-up to Arsene Schrauwen quite a bit. Olivier Schrauwen is a major talent and one of those cartoonists whose every work demands attention. It’s always exciting to get to know a cartoonist’s work when they fall into that category.
  2. Money — I’m encouraged by things like Short Run in Seattle getting $20K from the NEA, and Jeff Smith/Vijaya Iyer of Cartoon Books facilitating a $7K gift to the cartoonist Katie Skelly at the show on which I work, Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. Comics-makers and comics institutions need to be supported in a rational, realistic way.
  3. Sprawl — I found it really interesting that nearly every top comics list had different comics on it, and that I’m guessing somewhere around 200 comics made best-of lists this year. My hunch is that this indicates a really interesting conversation going forward. Comics criticism used to be about hammering away at some really tightly-held but ultimately untenable ideas: that humane works, delicately crafted and strongly idiosyncratic, were more significant works of art than the latest, forgettable twists in genre work adhering to a rigidly commercial tradition. Heck, some people still argue this. Now we have to do the hard work of separating the great from the good, and everyone’s armed for bear. There are some fun discussions to have over the next 10 years.
  4. Mainstream Comics Exhaustion — I thought the listlessness of the Marvel and DC lines fascinating. I will never understand why Convergence was a good idea — that seemed an experiment in a laboratory designed to shed readers. Marvel’s shift from a powerful line-up to an average one is really telling, and it’s heartening to see a readership that’s simply baffled by things like two Howard The Duck issue #2s less than a year apart and wants no part of that particular madness. I can’t recall a more listless period creatively in those books since the late 1990s. Some of the more beloved mainstream comics of the moment seem to benefit from simply tweaking ol formulas rather than generating new ones
  5. Tim O’Shea — I’m glad to get this note from Tim O’Shea, and happy he’s working

Zander Cannon

Favorite Comics of 2015

First of all, I have a bunch of series that I always love, but so does everyone else, so I don’t really have anything new to add, just that they’re great. God Hates Astronauts, Saga, Southern Bastards, Gene Ha’s Mae (which I letter), Prez, Bitch Planet, Godzilla in Hell, Groot, Daredevil.

Nimona by Noelle Stephenson I randomly happened upon the web version of Nimona long ago when it was about half-done, and it was this incredible sensation of experiencing a cool new art style, a female anti-hero, and a completely engrossing story. I just got the hardcover recently, and it’s just such a beautiful polished story that still roots as a sort-of gag-a-day webcomic.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson I’ve always loved Ryan North’s comics, and I am perpetually impressed that he always seems to manage to carve out a fun, interesting story that has just the right amount of weight and consequence within whatever continuity he’s given (Marvel, Adventure Time, etc.). More than that, reading the issues of Squirrel Girl is just such a enjoyable experience. The fact that there are little marginal notes — kind of like the mouseover text in webcomics — and the social media feed used as a recap just makes it that much more fun. Erica Henderson’s cartoony, fun art and all the subplots about Squirrel Girl’s roommate are just the best.
Screenshot 2016-01-04 at 4.00.15 AM

Deep Dark Fears by Fran Krause These are great. Again, I found these online, then just got the book for Xmas — I could barely get a chance to read it because all my family members were cracking up and saying “That’s just like you!”. I also love that since so much work is available online for free, that publishers are putting a lot of slick publication design into their print work.

Luther Strode by Tradd Moore This book is bananas. The story is progressing slowly enough that I don’t have any idea if it’s going to tie itself together, but the art and storytelling that Tradd Moore puts into it is unreal. I like that you can tell that he really gets lost in the art and that he solves visual problems in fascinating ways, some of which are really efficient and elegant, some of which clearly just involve drawing every last goddamn soldier or tree or shard of glass or whatever.

CyberRealm by Wren McDonald No Brow put out this beautiful, short little self-contained comic and it’s just the sort of thing I like. Written like a straight genre story, drawn like an indie comic, and then soaked in a heavy dose of cynicism. 

Van Jensen

1 – RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING

My favorite book of the year, a small, soulful story from the Immonens. There’s nothing quite like seeing extremely talented creators telling a story unshackled by convention.

2 – HEAD LOPPER

Andrew MacLean’s fantasy epic is a visual treat, the most fun I’ve had reading comics in longer than I can remember. Each issue has at least one action sequence that’s something I’ve never seen before.

3 – WYTCHES

I was a bit slow getting to this, but the first collection is exactly the kind of horror I love. Creepy, atmospheric and intense, focused always on the characters and never on the gore. I read it on the beach, since I knew anywhere less serene and I’d end up with nightmares

4 – MULTIVERSITY

What a wild, woolly assemblage of crazy concepts, characters and locales. Not all of it worked, but the best of it was so damn good I kept going back to study it more, hoping to gain some understanding of how on Earth it was made.

5 – MARCH BOOK TWO

Another strong entry in the autobiography of Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis (who actually represents my district). It’s a reminder that there’s still much to learn from one of the most important movements in our history, and it’s all the more fitting that it comes out in an era when we clearly see that much more progress needs to be made.

Shawn Martinbrough

SMartinbrough-Top Five-MPHMPH-A realistic approach to the question of, “If you gained the ability of superspeed, what’s the first thing you would do?” The honest answer: Steal EVERYTHING. Fun writing by Mark Millar with gorgeous art by Duncan Fegrado. Fegrado’s attention to detail and action create really great moments here.
SMartinbrough-Top Five-Outcast
Outcast- I’ll probably get accused of shilling for the home team with this selection but the writing is trademark Kirkman slow burn creepy with exquisite storytelling and design by artist Paul Azaceta. I really love the economy of Paul’s lines, page design and SMartinbrough-Top Five-SICARIOhis amazing ability to convey character emotions. The colo
by Elizabeth Breitweiser are perfect.

SICARIO- The storytelling in this film by director Denis Villeneuve blew me away from the first shot. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is way overdue for sainthood and the score by composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is haunting in the best way. Buy the bluray NOW.

SMartinbrough-Top Five-TheWIRE

The WIRE-My choice for best television series ever created (Breaking Bad and The Sopranos are close seconds) was finally released on Bluray in 2015. I was late to the game but after so many folks whose opinions I respect heaped such praise on this show, I jumped on with Season 4 when it first aired on HBO. I was immediately hooked by the first scene with Snoop in the faux Home Depot. I’m about to start another marathon while drawing at the art table.

Between the World and Me- An honest and sincere window into the African America experience in America by author Ta-Nehisi Coates. My fiancee “borrowed” this book from me the day it arrived via Amazon. Required reading for EVERYONESMartinbrough-Top Five-BetweentheWorldandMe

Laura Martin

going to make an exception for this Top 5 list. I’m going to do a very overdue shout-out to five people who have been there through my entire career: my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my brother. This is for you, Nolie & Joan DePuy, Peg & Jerry Theirheimer, and Tom DePuy.

1995 was a banner year for the DePuys. My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary, Peg and Jerry celebrated their tenth anniversary, and I graduated college and started working in comics.

When I first broke the news to my parents that I’d accepted a colorist position at WildStorm, they didn’t take the news well. I was their youngest child, and the one living closest to them; I was fresh out of college, and I could have easily pursued a design job at any of the Orlando theme parks. Mom’s reaction to the news was something I’ll never forget. When I said I’d be moving from Orlando to San Diego, she replied, “Hahahano you’re not.”

The conversation did improve from that point, thank goodness. Within a few weeks and some nudging from my brother, my folks came around, and with a lot of trepidation, they decided to help me get my things in order and send me off to my new life in San Diego.

The family watched closely as I went from scrappy newbie to seasoned colorist, from staffer to freelancer (and back to staffer and then back to freelancer), from renting a rat-hole studio to buying a split-level ranch, from a nobody to a multiple award winner. They celebrated my successes and worried over my low points. My parents visited my various offices and even attended MegaCon one year. They welcomed Randy into the family, and celebrated his successes and worried over his low points as well. They gamely read the comics I brought home, even when they had no interest in the subject matter (although Dad liked Ministry of Space and Mom liked The Rocketeer). Hardcovers of my books became coffee-table books, always on display in their den. Mom and Peg, both longtime tax preparers, waded through our abysmal recordkeeping every year, and kept us safely out of the jaws of the IRS.

The biggest thing that my family did, and continue to do, for me is to be my sounding boards. They always ask really good questions: How am I being treated in the industry? Are my bosses fair? Does the portrayal of female characters bother me? Why are the deadlines always so crazy for colorists? What did the DC purchase of WildStorm mean, and, much later, what did the Disney purchase of Marvel mean? What did it mean when I went exclusive for Marvel? How are my studiomates? Am I hitting my deadlines and taking care of myself? Have I met Stan Lee? Is Jim Lee related to Stan Lee? (I cleared that one up really early.)

The one question they never asked me, however, was the question that too many comics artists get from their families: “When are you going to get a real job?” Whenever I hear of a fellow professional whose family isn’t supportive, I’m so very thankful for my own family. They might not always understand the crazy industry I work in, but they’re all glad that I found my niche early on, and that this niche has been very, very good to me over the years.

Now we’re all getting older; they’re all either retired or semi-retired, and we compare MRIs and worry over our octogenarian parents’ health more often than we exchange career advice. But I know if I were to suddenly decide to quit my job and become a cat whisperer and live off the grid, they might ask me a bunch of questions, but ultimately they know that I don’t make decisions lightly, and they’d support whatever I choose to do.

So thank you, Mom, Dad, Peg, Jerry and Tom (don’t say Tom and Jerry, they hate that). Thank you for being supportive when I chose this path, thank you for embracing Randy and his similar path, and thank you for walking the path with Randy and me — slightly behind us so we could forge our own way, but close enough to catch us when we stumble.