2015 was definitely a year… With ups and downs both professionally and personally it’s one I’m not going to easily forget. From going to Thought Bubble and getting to meet some of my Idols, to having to cut back on my comic work for real life work. It’s been a difficult year to say the least, but here goes, my ode to the year, my best of list to end all best of lists, my look back at why the year might have been one of the best yet for comics and the medium…
Best Publisher – Image Comics
I really hate to jump on the Image bandwagon, but goddamn do they make it difficult not to love them. With such a varied output ticking the boxes of all genres, Image pretty much cleaned up this year. With books like Big Man Plans coming from the same publisher as I Hate Fairyland and Chew, they manage to partner amazing creative teams while giving them the space to do what they want, whether it’s one of the bleakest stories I’ve ever read (we’ll get to it, trust me) to the bright, colourful, funny and imaginative. Image have had another killer year, with the production value of their Hardback Deluxe Editions being better than anyone else, and their physical sales only increasing in an industry where we’re constantly having it shoved in our face that it’s in decline.
Honourable Mention: The Indie Scene! Holy shit has this blown up. After being at Thought Bubble, I’ve finally seen firsthand how massive the independent scene in the UK is, and it’s only getting better. The standard of books being produced is up there with some of the best on the market, and easily surpasses a lot of the books published by “The Big Two”.
Best Writer – Jason Aaron
Even though none of his books feature in the Top 5, Aaron has killed it this year in terms of sheer variety, doing Thor for Marvel, but also completely different books Southern Bastards and Goddamned for Image. I’ve found myself repeatedly going back and reading so much of his work this year just for enjoyment; Scalped is still amazing, Wolverine and the X-Men was one of the better X-books of recent years and Men of Wrath with Ron Garney is a proper old school revenge book. With such an honest way of making characters, and the ability to have you invested in them so quickly, never mind the way that he handled Thor, making it my personal pick for the best run of the book for a long time, he was an easy choice for best writer.
Best Artist – Ben Templesmith
With one of the most unique artistic styles out there, his heavily-inked art manages to toe the line between beautiful and brutal at the same time. Squidder is always the piece of his work that comes to mind and is the one I give to people as a perfect example. His use of bright colour in the background, but then over inked, heavy black foregrounds make every page a piece of art that would look amazing on a wall, but which also tells a story itself. You’d get asked a fair few questions mind you, and some of it is properly dark. If there was any other reason he get’s the pick for Artist of the year, you’ve all seen my Hellboy, right? An incredible artist and a nice guy to boot, Ben Templesmith is my pick for the year.
Top 5 Series of 2015 (in no particular order)
Big Man Plans (Image Comics) – It’s only 4 issues, but boy does it pack in a ton of story. Pour yourself a strong drink, get comfy and make sure there’s someone/thing to give you a hug when you finish. There’s plenty of grim books on the market; Crossed, Walking Dead, Southern Bastards, some of Grant Morrison’s darker work; but none of them come close to what Eric Powell has created with BMP. It’s unrelenting with how stark and grim it is, and every time you think it couldn’t get any darker, Powell takes it one step further. Yet you’ll be hard pressed not to want to pick up the next issue, even if it’s just to see how much worse it can get! With every subsequent issue better than the last, it’s hands down one of the best books that has been published in the last 5 years, for sheer originality alone.
Colder (Dark Horse Comics) – Craig and I talk about it enough, but this is another one of those books where the sheer quality of both the writing and the art are absolutely astounding. You’ll start to question everything, be wary of pigeons, paper airplanes will never look the same again and yet you won’t want to put it down or look away. Playing on such an old fashioned horror approach in that it’s what isn’t shown that really makes the impact. Although, it’s worth mentioning that what does make it onto the page, Ferrerya manages to make both haunting and beautiful.
Saga (Image Comics) – Saga is one of those books that is just *comfortable*. It’s the top of my read pile when it comes out, they take breaks so that the book is split into seasons, and Vaughan/Staples manage to create something that actually reads better in single issues instead of trades, giving it a serial feel to it, almost like a radio play. There’s also something absolutely stunning about Staples’ covers that just don’t cross over to a trade, and Vaughan’s honest replies to the letters page is almost worth the cover charge alone. Also, Dragon Dick.
Gotham By Midnight (DC Comics) – Almost the only DC book I read this year, and it was one of the most unique takes on Supernatural forces in Gotham. Sadly cancelled before it’s time, the series will live on as one of the most perfect 12 issue runs DC has ever produced. Fawkes manages to make you care about a cast that aren’t actually particularly nice people, and the team of Ferryera (again) and Templesmith on art duties, while their styles are both very different, compliment each other perfectly.
All of Marvel’s Star Wars (Marvel) – Seriously. 2015 might be most remembered for the year that Star Wars took over. It’s safe to say that Marvel smashed it with their creative teams/series with Shattered Empire giving us a look into what happened between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, Darth Vader making one of the most revered baddies in Sci-Fi history even more of a bad ass, and every other series being an amazing read. Their first major cross over (Vader Down) was a huge success, making the villain seem somehow more menacing in his utter destruction. An essential purchase for any Star Wars fan, every issue make me feel like a giggling child again with the seer scope of it all.
Honourable Mentions: Far too many to mention, but I’ll list a few: Southern Bastards, Batman, Secret Wars, BPRD, Burning Fields, Loki, The Punisher, Rat Queens, Long Walk to Valhalla, Thor, sex criminals, Multiversity…
2016 has some major boots to fill, but what an experience 2015 has been. Thank you so much to everyone that has contributed to the site in any way. we have managed to grow so much in the last 12 months and have built such an amazing following. The only way is up from here and it’s all down to the work of others and the hours of work they’ve put in to making this great.