So far, the year 2014 has given us here at PTBN Comics many reasons to be thankful…and it’s pretty amazing how similar many of our lists were this time around. Stop eating that can-shaped cranberry sauce and enjoy this list of things in comics that we are grateful for.
1. The wide variety of comics available. There’s so much that gets published every week and it can feel overwhelming, but there is absolutely something for everyone. Marvel, DC, Image, Valiant, IDW, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, Thrillbent…you can find something to love at any one of them.
2. The changing face of comics fans. We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of fans who are non-male, non-white and non-heterosexual over the last few years, but this year seems to have been much stronger in that respect. It’s being reflected in the types of characters being published and the people hired to write and draw these books. This has lead to new approaches and ideas which only serves to make the comics better.
3. Comics movie/TV. We’re getting an unprecedented number of TV shows and movies based on comic books these days and nearly all of it has been great! For those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, this is just unbelievable. Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the upcoming DC Comics films and the potential for other publishers to start making their properties into something more fills my inner child with more joy than he every thought possible.
4. DC and Marvel taking chances. From a female Thor, to Kamala Khan becoming Ms. Marvel to Sam Wilson becoming Captain America to the launch of Gotham Academy and the major changes to Batgirl with a new creative team and updating characters like Wally West…the Big Two aren’t afraid to try things that are outside the box. As much as they both get accused to doing the same things over and over again, they’re still not above taking real chances on new ideas. Maybe everything won’t work, but being willing to take a chance is what will ultimately break a good idea through.
5. Wider access than ever for new and old fans. From local comic shops to services like Comixology and Marvel Unlimited, nearly anyone, anywhere can get access to some great comics. The digital market place has opened up the medium to a whole new generation of readers while the movies and TV shows are generating new interest in the characters and stories that spawned them. This year has been strong for all those things and more. 2015 will have a lot to measure up to, but it’s looking good so far.
1. Fan service. It may seem strange to be thankful for such a concept, but just look around you at the landscape of comics and pop culture right now. Marvel and DC both are name dropping characters and concepts like crazy in their various live action properties. Whether it’s Jasper Sitwell’s monologue in The Winter Soldier that directly referenced Stephen Strange and Hank Pym or both The Flash and Arrow’s continued nods to further expanding the DCU on TV, it’s a great time to be a fan who can understand and appreciate some of the more obscure references. Throw in both companies’ upcoming comic book events – Convergence and Secret Wars, which both seem to feature fan favorite versions of characters returning from decades past — and you’ve got a perfect storm of nerd nirvana. Life is good.
2. DC getting their collective shit together. I’m not talking about comics here, but movies. We DC fanboys have watched as Marvel has executed one of the most ambitious cinematic plans of all time to near perfection. Meanwhile, DC has stumbled through failures like Green Lantern and had to wait for Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy to conclude before making fresh plans for a connected DCU. We all thought Man of Steel would be the first step in that plan, but Warner Bros. seemed to be dragging its feet after Man of Steel was met with a mixed response. However, we recently got confirmation that something is at least in the works. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Suicide Squad …. And the FREAKING JUSTICE LEAGUE are finally coming to big screens near you. There’s a lot that could go wrong along the way, but at least DC/WB is finally giving this whole connected film universe thing a shot.
3. Scott Snyder. Yeah, I’m thankful for one dude. Wanna fight about it? After Grant Morrison was the one overseeing the Batman side of the DCU for so long, it’s been a giant breath of not just fresh air, but delicious air that smells of bacon, bourbon and a giant grilled steak. To say Morrison’s style on the Dark Knight wasn’t in line with my own would be a vast understatement, but Snyder is like my spirit animal when it comes to all things Bat. His Batman is MY Batman for a lack of a better term. His run has been going on for a while now, but the past year has just served to emphasize my love for it. He wrapped up a bold retelling of the Batman origin in Zero Year, has begun what seems to be his biggest and most epic story yet in Endgame and has successfully overseen what I consider to be one of the biggest challenges in comics – a weekly title, Batman Eternal. Not just overseen it, but Eternal has been outstanding thus far. Throw in his excellent Superman Unchained and other non-Bat works, and you’ve got the makings of a modern-day legend. But, for all he’s done, he doesn’t show any signs of stopping. If his interviews are any indication, we’ve got at least a few more years of Snyder Batman to look forward to. And that’s something to be damn thankful for.
1. The continuing success of creator-owned comics. The comics industry may be financially driven by characters, but it’s creatively driven by the men and women who write, draw, ink, color and letter these books. The success of creator-owned works like The Walking Dead, Fatale, Southern Bastards, Trees and numerous others shows that fans are more receptive than ever to comics outside the Big Two.
2. Variety at the Big Two. 2014 has seen a renewed dedication to variety across the board. It’s important to produce both light-hearted AND “grim and gritty” books, because there is an audience for both.
3. The rise of comic book television. “Arrow” was just the start, as it turns out. With the adventures of Oliver Queen and company continuing to wow me each week, the same network has churned out this year’s breakout hit, “The Flash.” Meanwhile, against all odds, Marvel’s “Agents of SHIELD” has turned into must-see TV. NBC’s “Constantine” has also proven an entertaining show, and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is off to one of its best starts yet as season five approaches its midseason finale.
1. The supremacy of comics in pop culture, further cementing their acceptability in the eyes of the general public. Look, I don’t need movies and teevee to “legitimize” my passion for anything (and get off my fucking lawn), but the increased visibility and awareness of comics in general has invited no shortage of exemplary thinkpieces from some really smart people, bringing new voices and unique perspectives. There will always be a niche aspect to the pastime, but the fact that comics are considered no more lowbrow an artform than film, music, or anything else that aspires to mass appeal encourages the discourse to grow up ever so slightly. Success begets dissection, criticism, and accountability. We are having the (occasionally uncomfortable) conversations we need to have, and now more than ever, I feel like they are actually being heard.
2. And on that note, Guardians of the Galaxy, for continuing to move the ball forward. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands, its warm reception serves as a welcome reminder that comics is a medium, not a genre, and an evolving one at that. This can be looked to as a shining example of the consumer being rewarded for leaving all preconceived notions at the door.
3. Gotham, for proving that Batman (sort of) can be funny again after all that GrimDark Serious Nolaness ™. Even if it must be ironically so.
4. I said it last year, and I’ll reiterate it again: I’m thankful for digital comics. While we haven’t quite arrived at the promised land of “Netflix for comics,” I’m hopeful that Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology means that we at least have the infrastructure to support it. Point being, ease of accessibility is critical in an industry that isn’t the most inviting for newcomers. Whether encountered on store shelves or iPads, any distribution method that puts more comics in front of new faces has to be counted as a win.
5. Comics-based podcasting, for enriching my life, or at least helping to pass the time during my day job. There’s no shortage of humorous, insightful, or downright sublime shows well worth your time and serving all conceivable interests. And that’s not counting the ones I appeared on in 2014! Honestly though, I am genuinely grateful for having this platform — as generously extended by our fearless leaders in Place to Be Nation — which has brought me closer to friends I’ve never actually met. I give thanks indeed to my fellow comics staff in Nick, Greg, Russell, and Todd; Justin, Scott, Brad in the editing room; and Glenn and Steve, just ’cause. AND ALL OF YOU! Dawww.
6.) And finally, Cyclops, for being so right (costume notwithstanding) he needed a solo series to spread the gospel.
1. Accessibility. Everything, and I do mean everything, is written for “the trade” these days. Most of the comic series that Marvel, DC, and Image are currently putting out are collected into affordable and quickly released trade paperbacks that allow readers to jump in and catch up with these stories and characters (though some books get the hardcover treatment first). For instance, Jason Aaron’s Image book “Southern Bastards” put out its first trade TWO WEEKS after the final issue of the storyline was published….and for only $9.99 retail! DC was late to the party on getting their trade program up and working, but even they have gotten on board. Seriously, between my local library and Amazon, I’m reading more books in trade than ever before. Someday, I’ll even get around to subscribing to Marvel Unlimited (it’s not a money thing, it’s a time thing).
2. Social Media, Podcasts, Youtube and Comic Blogs. For over twenty years, the internet has been a haven for comics enthusiasts. (Old man waxing nostalgic alert) I fondly remember the newsgroups and even the old DC chatrooms on AOL from my online salad days. Twitter is the data stream this information addict has been waiting his entire life for. If there’s significant comic news on any given day, it spreads like wildfire through Twitter or Facebook…faster than ever before. Comic companies are also using new media streams like podcasts and Youtube to promote their books and to give creative teams more exposure (Check out Marvel’s “The Watcher” and DC’s “All-Access” on Youtube-both are weekly shows that keep viewers current with what’s going on). Blogs about comics have been around seemingly forever, but I am particularly fond of a page created this very year that pays daily tribute to the most misunderstood of super teams: DC’s much-maligned Legion of Super-Heroes. I check in to legionofsuperbloggers.blogspot.com almost every day, mostly because I am a giant dork.
3. Disney INFINITY 2.0: Marvel Superheroes Edition and Lego Batman. My two sons and I don’t see eye-to-eye on our comics reading. Over the years I’ve saved a longbox full of comics (mostly based on the Timm/Dini animated DC universe) for my sons, but all they want to read are Teen Titans Go! and Sonic the Hedgehog comics. That’s fine, they’re age-appropriate, and it still warms my heart to see them reading and enjoying actual comic books instead of always playing with their iPods and Gameboys. However, we play video games together based on comic characters every weekend. The Lego games have been great family entertainment for years, and they are responsible for introducing my boys to the heroes and villains of the DCU. While recently watching CW’s “The Flash”, my 4-year-old calmly told me, “That guy is going to be Captain Cold because he has a hood and a freezing gun.” Dude. My FOUR-year-old. We love playing Disney Infinity (though it’s second only to Skylanders for being a habitual collector’s nightmare) and this year a Marvel version was introduced. We’re having a blast playing as Iron Man, Rocket Raccoon, and Hawkeye (though we have the Spidey and Guardians sets as well) and we enjoy building our own levels and even creating an Avengers mansion together. They even have Iron Fist!
4. Weekly DC titles. I still venture to the local comics shop every Wednesday, and sometimes my saver’s bounty is a paltry one, but every week there are two guaranteed books that I’ll enjoy. I consistently look forward to my issues of “Batman Eternal” and “New 52: Future’s End” (there’s also now a weekly Earth-Two book as well, but that’s not my bag, baby). Top-notch creators like Brian Azzarello, Scott Snyder and new Justice League artist Jason Fabok, the tightest of plotting and some of my favorite members of the extended DCU make these two books underrated treasures…..though you may want to wait for the trades or back-issues on sale, since full runs of the books at cover price will set you back over $150 each. Spread out over a year though, it isn’t that bad. Plus, you get Firestorm! Friggin’ Firestorm!
5. Figures Toy Company’s Mego reproductions. I am an unashamed child of the 1970’s…the era of “The Superfriends”, Underoos, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk TV series, and Mego 8” figures. I love Megos, and miss the modest collection I had as a youth. Figures Toy Company is reissuing (and creating some new) DC Mego-inspired figures. The toys are indistinguishable from the vintage Megos, though the packaging is updated to be re-sealable so that you can actually play with these guys without affecting the value. They’re even making a recreation of the legendary Aquaman Vs. The Great White Shark playset (vintage ones go for over $10,000 on eBay). Figures’ reproductions are a bit pricy (usually going for $25 as compared to the $3 price point Megos had once upon a time), but compared to how much Megos go for on the open market, it’s nearly a steal. I am super thankful that these are coming out again.
Happy Thanksgiving, Nation!