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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Tim O’Shea — I’m glad to get this note from Tim O’Shea, and happy he’s working
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 EVERYONE
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.