Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 In Review: Devon's Take

2008 has been an interesting year for me, comics-wise.

This was the year the glamours came down and I saw ugly.

Personally, I developed alot and hoped that my comics would keep up with me. Instead, what the big two did was tell us of the wonders of the new places they were going to take us, the wonderful opportunities for us that lie ahead. Instead, our sense of wonder was taken away like a passport and we were given weekly comics that go nowhere, plots that went on forever along with event after event, in the hopes that we'd never have an opportunity to leave.

This was the year I soured on the superhero comic.

I read Batman R.I.P. and shrugged.

The best Superman comic in decades came to an end.

My favorite comics, Checkmate and Catwoman came to an end due to low sales and critical acclaim.

The comic that rejuvenated my love of comics, 100 Bullets comes to and end in 2009, along with my former golden children, Manhunter and Blue Beetle. The quality of comics production has never been higher while simultaneously enthusiasm has, seemingly, never been lower. With the way we spend we are wrestling with the realization we've enabled the creation of the current comics market.

Ummm... our bad?

And I haven't even mentioned that, in a recession, we're possibly looking at $4 price points for 22 pages of paper and ink.

Stay with me here, brothers and sisters. The news isn't all bad. In 2008, I saw things that gave me hope. And some things that 'til this day, make me cringe. Like any good child, I learned to share:

1. Jason Aaron

Last week, at 1:30 AM, I get an e-mail from a friend titled, "G-Damn, dude!" This friend of mine had just read volumes 1 through 3 of Aaron's Vertigo series Scalped. This book, like 100 Bullets, constantly surprises, taking the comics medium kicking and screaming into the world of "I-could- hand-this-to-someone-who's-never-read-a-comic-before." You know, something like... a book. With his Wolverine: Get Mystique and Black Panther: Secret Invasion arcs, he showed an absolute understanding and love of the superhero genre. With his Penguin one-shot at DC Comics he made me damn near cry over missed opportunity.

2. Ed Benes on Justice League

I will never wish for someone to get fired but damn, ths man's art makes this comic almost impossible to read. My two favorite JLofA comics were decidedly Benes-free. His art shows no sense of "panel-flow." Each panel never seems to be as consistent as the previous and many pages seem done more done for the original art aftermarket than for the direct market. In last month's issue, the final page was so horribly rendered that along with the reappearance of the Milestone characters, I almost had to check the front cover for a 90's street date. It's simple, really. I'll come back when he's gone. Sorry if that sounds harsh but well... that's how I feel.

3. iVerse

This year, I got an iPhone and I decided to check out some comics. On my phone. The verdict? The intent and the technology are totally there but the content? No so much. Available for free download were some random issue of Shadowhawk (*meh*) and Proof #1. The iPhone allows you to scroll horizontally from panel to panel and for a suspenseful comic like Proof, this optimizes the comics effect. What it did do for me wasn't the intended effect. No, I wasn't interested in dropping a dollar on issue two. No, issue three is not available for iPhone. No, I'm gonna buy the trade.

The other thing that stood out was more of what iVerse could be. iVerse would be perfect for a smaller company like Archie Comics to get their product out to a larger audience. If I were a parent with a restless child, I would love to have the ability to download a comic, hand it to my kid a watch them do something quiet with an electronic hand-held device. iVerse tech could be a future saviour of our medium.

4. The Trade Paperback

Where I became somewhat disillusioned with the comics market, I became enthused by the trade. In reading comics in trade form, I experienced an enthusiasm I hadn't felt since my comics collecting height of two years ago. In one month, I read eight Brubaker Captain America trades and was astounded that I read EIGHT Brubaker Cap trades in one month, especially upon the realization that Brubaker was essentially telling one story and what a story it is.

Also, this year, Local was released as a trade even though I own every issue. The term "trade" truly isn't good enough for this thing. It is a beautifully bound hardcover with a nice thick, white paper stock. If it were a DVD it would be a Blu-Ray edition as it is packed with extras.

Sketches, guest art, commentary, scripts and all twelve covers reprinted in their entirety and all for less than thirty bucks!

is how you present a collection, folks. I proudly gave this book as a Christmas present to one of my best friends. Thanks to Oni Press for doing it right and giving me the opportunity to follow suit.

5. Ryan Kelly

If I had to point a finger at a "talent-to-watch-out-for" it would be this guy and for more reason than one. 2008 saw him wrap up Local, the series that defines him, right now. Mood is all about what this artist brings to his expressive body of work.

In the space of months he went from drawing the journey of a young woman in North America (Local) to chronicling the story of four young ladies lives amongst urban steel and fragile egos (The New Your Four) to inking the story of three British paranormal detectives (Vinyl Underground) to drawing the pseudo-historic tales of long-dead Vikings (Northlanders), every line perfectly fit the tone of each. Whatever he chooses to do next, I'm sure it will be well worth reading.

So there, you have it. A somewhat positive reflection of 2008. Though it may not seem so, there really is alot to look forward to.

It's just that right now, we have to look a little deeper for it.


Samax said...

great post.
i could feel (and appreciate) the desire and push to stay positive.
benes is trash. thanks for saying so.

the majors are bullshitting right now. but, like you said, there are positive spots!

Nate said...

I am wondering when the price tipping point will be.
For me it's $2.99 for a regular issue.

Maybe the makers of our 4 color crack hear this every times prices go up and don't believe there's a point where we'll stop buying.

A quick perusal of some websites and suddenly I see every comic that came out this week available for download. Makes paying 3.99 all the more difficult.

Now I did get the latest Fables trade and the ASB trade for Christmas. It's nice to be reminded that character development and story ARE possible in the modern age.