Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, my ComicMixers! I hope you all had a merry Christmas, a sassy Chanukah, and grumpy Festivus if you were so inclined. So, with Father Time about to hit the retcon button on our daily calendars… I thought it would be apropos to reflect a bit on those amazing and terrible things that made my year. Please note: this isn’t ALL about comic books; you’ve been warned.
Because I like to start on a dour note… here’s The Worst!
5. Avengers Vs. X-Men Vs. My Sanity: Simply put, this stands up as yet-another-example of what makes me hate the mainstream comics business. No matter how many times they lather us up with “we’ve got the best talent on this”, “this will change everything”, and “you won’t believe what happens!”, they always end up the same. Bloated, predictable, and unending. Every Marvel event since the dawn of Brian Michael Bendis has finished up in deeper doo-doo than when they began. His boner for “shades of grey” is unnerving. We get it; making our favorite characters wail on one another is why we buy comics. But, hey… guess what? It isn’t. I’d much prefer a well thought out story that ends instead of a non-stop soap opera.
4. The 2012 Election: Not the result, mind you, but the unending nature of it all. For what felt like nearly the entire year, we were privy to 24 hours a day coverage of not only our POTUS but everyone vying for his seat. It brought out the worst in the candidates and the politically charged masses along for the ride. In the worst case, certain louder-than-usual politico-creators became so unnerving I was forced to hide them from my feeds. First world problems? You bet. But no less annoying on my life and times this year.
3. Wizard World Conventions: The movie definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So Wizard World changes the guard on high. They attempt to make sweeping changes on the floors of their traveling circus, making D-List celebs the premier attraction. They continue to maintain the second highest per-show cost for visiting artists. In short? They continue to drive away the very thing that started them out so very long ago: comics and the people who make them. While my li’l studio always sells well at these abominations… rarely are we joined in celebration at the end of the cons. Hence, my finger of shame this year.
2. Green Lantern: Another finger of shame… a ring finger! Geoff Johns has taken Grant Morrison’s Five-Year Plan model and Michael Bay’ed it to death. As I’ve been forced to note several times this year, the continual event fatigue on the entire line –which shouldn’t even be a line – is too much to bear. And while the majority of 2012 was spent with Sinestro and his gal Friday Jordan traipsing around the universe righting wrongs… this Rise of the Third Army is the emerald icing on a sheet cake of excess. Too many McGuffins, too many predictable plots, and a brand-new Lantern who thus far is more a caricature of “not-a-terrorist” than a fleshed-out legacy ring-slinger. One I’ll happily predict will last in prominence half as long as the last not-ready-for-prime-time-player, Kyle “Costume Change” Rayner.
1. Comics News Coverage: Well it finally caught up to us too, didn’t it? CNN begat CNN, and from them spawned the 24-hour news cycle that has extended to comics. Between Newsarama, Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Resources, and others (hold your tongue for a second, please) all looking for an audience… We’re left scouring trash-bins and date books in order to report anything about our beloved industry. I waive the white flag. And now to those who think I hold this very site on the fire? Nay. ComicMix is about writers expressing their opinions, and that’s enough for me to remove us from said blaze. Simply put, the news is important, but the environment we’ve built to report and sustain it is sickening. Marvel, DC, and the like can’t sneeze without us finding out about it… and then creating a backlash over it before the press releases have hit an inbox. Enough is ‘nuff said.
And now… The Best:
5. The Dark Knight Rises: Three cheers for Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus. Yeah, I know… The Avengers was more fun. But it wasn’t close to TDKR’s level of sophistication. Neither movie was flawless, but Batman kept me on the edge of my seat pretty much the whole way through. The depiction of Bane was as good as it will ever be – menacing, big picture villainous thinking, and an actual brain amidst the brawn. But Bane wasn’t what made the movie. Bale’s Wayne was nuanced, angsty without being annoying, and above all else… visibly human. Nolan, in spite of Frank Miller and Grant Morrison showed that you don’t have to depict the God-Damned Batman to show the world a fantastic caped-crusader. Add in a brilliant turn for Selina Kyle, and it added up to one of my favorite flicks of the year. I would have put Django Unchained in this spot, but I haven’t seen it yet.
4. Marvel Now: If you read my reviews over at Michael Davis World (and I know you do…), then you’d know just how much I’m loving the House of Mouse these days. Fantastic Four / FF is proving thus far to balance the whimsy the series used to be known for with mature overtones. Iron Man, while nowhere near as good as Fraction’s run, is still entertaining. Superior Spider-Man has me legitimately interested in the wall-crawler again. Mike Gold has tried several times to recommend Captain America to me. My Unshaven Cohort is reading an X-Men book for the first time ever. And Avengers? Epic as I’d ever want it to be. Marvel looked at DC’s retcon-reboot-whatever, and opted instead to play it safe. Frankly, it’s proven to me that it was the right thing to do. Sales spikes or not. By choosing not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Marvel is stealing me away one book at a time
3. The Baltimore Comic-Con: Unshaven Comics took the 13-hour drive to the East Coast, and boy howdy was it ever worth it. We sold an incredible amount of books. We rubbed elbows with industry giants at the Harvey Awards. We got to hand our book to Phil LaMarr. We had dinner with Mark Wheatley, Marc Hempel, Glenn Hauman, and Emily Whitten. And at that dinner? We had crab cakes as big as softballs. Frankly? It was a weekend of a lifetime. Such that we’ve already registered and purchased our table for 2013. It’s the most comic-book-centered convention we’ve been privy too. Charm City? Color me charmed.
2. Unshaven Comics’ Sales: Hate to get all self-promotional here, but screw it. Unshaven Comics had a simple goal. With no distribution, no investors, and nothing more than our blood-sweat-n-tears… we wanted to sell 1000 books over the course of a year. After attending a dozen shows, and doing our best work ever? We sold 1406. We made amazing connections, saw fans actually seek us out at shows, and gained over 300 Facebook fans without purchasing an ad or doing anything more than hustle. By hook or crook, we’re making the smallest impact known to man on the comic book industry. But I’ll be damned—it may actually be working. All it’s done is fuel our fire for 2013. 1,667 books moved next year will mean we see the shores of San Diego in 2014. Beards on.
1. Bennett Reed Fishman: Simply put, no other moment, comic book or otherwise, is worth a hill of beans in my world. On January 27th, 2012, I became a father. Ever since, every single thing I’ve done has been for the betterment of his life. Having been an ego-centered bearded ne’er-do-well for far too long, suddenly became moot. In his eyes and smile, the world around me means nothing. And when at 5:30 every day he stops whatever he’s doing, and smiles ear to ear when Batman: The Animated Series comes on? It tells me this kid is my kid. And my worldview is 100% different. Sorry, comics. You never stood a chance.
Happy New Year to all of you who read my articles week in and week out. May 2013 prove to be a safe, prosperous, and amazing year for you all.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander