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.
Creator of Little White Mouse, Moped Army, Mixtape:1984
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.
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.
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.
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
Writer of The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, co-owner of Aw Yeah Comics
Archie (Waid, Staples, Wu, and more)
Alex & Ada (Luna and Vaughn)
Rachel Rising (Terry Moore)
Daredevil (Waid and Samnee)
Unflattening (Nick Sousanis)
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
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.
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!
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.