So, there are quite a few things to rage about or against in the comics world. For example, there are entire websites devoted to things like Has DC Done Something Stupid Today? (Today? No. 8 days ago, though…), and Is Wolverine Still Dead? (No. No he is not. [Charles Xaiver, on the other hand… well, it’s complicated]). Then you get into Marvel’s Terrible, Awful, Really Bad Year or Two, all of the publisher-distributor-retailer madness so eloquently documented by Brian Hibbs, and the rapidly changing marketplace swinging from floppies to trades, specialty shops to big-box retailers and Amazonian Behemoths, and non-domestic markets. Moreover, all of that is just the thin ice covering a deep ocean of industry woes and complaints, both significant and otherwise. Just taking a cursory look, things look pretty damn awful, and gods help someone thinking about getting into comics for the first time, or getting back into them after a hiatus of more than a year or so.
And yet…. It’s Thanksgiving here in ‘Murica, and in the spirit of the season, and despite all of the above, there are some things in the comic world that I am truly thankful for:
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee on Captain America. Seriously. Thanks guys. After The Run Which Shall Not Be Named, it’s nice to have one of my favorite four-color heroes back.
Image Comics. Lazarus, Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, Copperhead, Manifest Destiny, The Walking Dead, and on, and on, and on.
Smaller Independent Publishers. The growing strength, quality, and innovation of small publishing houses in the industry is simply incredible. 451 Media Group, Aftershock Comics, Avatar Press, Lion Forge Comics, Oni Press, Red 5 Comics, Titan Comics, and Vault Comics are just a handful of the publishers out there right now that are delivering incredible stories from powerful creative teams every month. If you’re not reading at least a few of these guys’ titles, you’re missing out.
The Return of the Mini-Series. And a lot of these are coming out of the independents, but we’re also seeing some from Marvel (Punisher: Platoon, Astonishing X-Men, the forthcoming Phoenix Resurrection). I love this format, because it helps me to keep new titles flowing through my pull-list. Let’s face it, at $4/book, my monthly comic budget gets eaten up pretty fast, so it’s nice to have some slots opening up every few months for new stuff. Plus, more and more of the industry’s best creators are looking to tell self-contained, complete stories that they really care about – and then move on to the next, different story, so there are some insanely good limited series being produced.
Astro City. Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, Alex Ross, et al. making old school new again since 1995.
Ms. Marvel, The Champions, and the whole diverse teen crowd at Marvel. Suck it haters, these kids are freaking awesome. Hope and idealistic heroism is kinda what the world needs right now. Hell, I even like kid Cyclops, and any franchise that can make me like Scott Summers has to have something going for it. These books do the best job of remembering what made Marvel great to begin with, and I can only hope some of their spirit bleeds over into more books at the House of Ideas.
Wonder Woman. Because she’s always been kick-ass, and now everyone knows it. Dark Knights and Men of Steel? Pffft! We know who run the world.
Cinebook, which is bringing some of the best European comics to American readers who have finally realized that the Old World has more to offer than wine, beer, and cheese.
Garth Ennis. The man who is sometimes single-handedly keeping war comics in the mainstream, and who also continues to write some laugh-out-loud funny, thoughtful, and occasionally cringe-worthy books. Let’s face it, though: the man hits far more often than he misses: Preacher, The Boys, War Stories, Johnny Red: The Hurricane, Punisher: Born, Punisher: Platoon – I mean, c’mon!
Tom King. See the bit about mini-series above. Also see The Vision, The Sherriff of Babylon, and Mr. Miracle. And let’s hope that DC has the sense to greenlight King’s proposed Sgt. Rock series, because THIS MUST HAPPEN, AND I WILL FLY TO BURBANK AND COME FOR DC IF IT DOES NOT. Just sayin’.
Greg Rucka. I’m not sure this guy knows how to write a bad comic. There are a lot of great writers in the industry right now, but Rucka is far and away my favorite, particularly when he’s playing in sandboxes he built, but he’s no slouch when it comes to other IPs either. Read his Wonder Woman and Punisher runs for instance, but if you aren’t reading Stumptown and Lazarus you should probably seek immediate psychiatric help.
So there you go. Despite all of the problems in the industry, and the challenges it faces, there’s a lot of good stuff going on as well, and it’s not a bad idea to remind ourselves of that fact from time to time. Now go and have a happy Thanksgiving – eat too much, watch the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon, and round out the day with some great comics – just, you know, wipe the gravy off of your fingers first.