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classybestof2014

For the second year, the World’s Second Greatest Detective presents an assessment of the comics I’ve read, awarding accolades to books that impressed me. Like last year’s list, this one comes at the beginning of September because my comics year begins and ends with Dragon Con in Atlanta. A lot of titles that I mentioned last year continue to turn out great work: Saga, Revival, Batman, Manhattan Projects– but I’d rather steer attention to titles that didn’t make last year’s list either because of my ignorance, their slow creep to trade, or the fact they didn’t exist last year. There will also be some categories this year. For example:

Best Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

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Katana in “Beware the Batman”

I should remind you that I don’t read any Marvel books, though the announcement that Charles Soule is leaving all his DC titles and the particular temptation of his Death of Wolverine has me eying the other side of the fence a bit. My decision to abstain from Marvel Comics is sort of arbitrary, but not totally without reason- limits on time and resource do not permit me the luxury of reading every comic book, so I picked one of the big two companies and don’t read the other at all. Though I do read a lot of independent comics and that’s really where my heart belongs. I picked DC over Marvel because of many reasons, but the simplest is Batman.

Not all of the accolades will categorized. Nor may all those mentioned really be ‘comics of 2014’ in the truest sense. For example, thanks to a generous donation by Oni Press to the WonderRoot Jackie Ormes Comic Book Library. I had the privilege to read two series that knocked my socks off:

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Courtney Crumrin is the fun story about a misanthropic little girl who lives a society worth hating, but luckily finds an uneasy friendship with her witch uncle and a few easier friendships with netherbeasts. It’s a clever book and the content is acceptable for most age levels.

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The Sixth Gun is an epic story set in a very Wild West, shaped by all sorts of occult and heebie jeebie ghost stuff. Cullen Bunn and the other creators of The Sixth Gun have moved onto other things and the news that DC would cancel All Star Western saddened me a little. East of West is still kicking around, but 2014 has  introduced a Western title that I may enjoy more than all three of those titles.

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Pretty Deadly contains some amazing art. Much like the best work of J.H. Williams III or Francis Manpaul, Emma Rios’s artwork stands out for her creative use of the medium. Panels and pages work together to create a fantastic pace. As Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing takes the story in and out of stories and timelines, the art and especially the coloring distinguish the different parts of the whole quite well. Deconnick opened the Comics and Popular Arts Conference at this year’s Dragon Con with a rousing talk touching on a variety of subjects such as how we learn publicly and with record in a fast-paced technological society and how that empowers a ‘gotcha culture’ which in turn hinders our ability to learn; the use of the white male as the default character; the futility of overly emotional and aggressive responses to opposing ideas; and comic books. Her husband writes a pretty good comic too.

doing it and doing it and doing it well

Sex Criminals is a twist on Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, Out of this World, 9 Songs, the Matrix, A Dirty Shame…and yeah, it isn’t. It’s an incredibly original story about a girl who stops time when she orgasms and a boy who also stops time when he orgasms. They discover this shared ability during the act of coitus and put it to good use, robbing banks to raise money for a library under attack by a viciously greedy bank that the boy happens to work for and where he poops in his boss’s office plant once a day.

Another catergory?

Worst Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

For the video game-inspired animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, a bit of a revolution for the animated superhero movie with its Guy Ritchie-like pace, excessive profanity, explicit sexuality, and a level of violence exceeding even last year’s The Dark Knight Returns, DC made a Suicide Squad movie under the guise of a Batman movie. One thing I like about it is how they retained the original physical attributes of Amanda Waller instead going for the Angela Bassett model. One thing I didn’t like is how they turned King Shark from this:

Joker lipstick on a shark

King Shark in the comics to:

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King Shark in Batman: Assault on Arkham

He looks a cross between Bane and Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me. Their motivation for desharking the shark is unclear to me. I also don’t understand why David Goyer wants to demartian the Martian Manhunter.

Best Comic Book Companion to a video game

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Injustice: Gods Among Us begins before the video game’s storyline. In the simplest terms, Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane who is pregnant with Superman’s baby. Superman gets so mad that he kills the Joker, beginning the fascist reign of Superman and a doting Wonder Woman. Because it is an Elsworlds story with so many DC characters involved, the opportunities for bringing the essences and flaws of these characters abound. Tom Taylor wastes none of them. The Bat family is especially well-done is the book- particularly Alfred and Catwoman.

Best Art in a Superhero Comic Book

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Jae Lee did some of the best work of his career during his time on Grag Pak’s Batman/Superman. Of all the superstar artists from the 1990s that have continued in comics, I think the development of Jae Lee’s work has been the most interesting to watch. If you haven’t seen his work on Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, I highly recommend that one too. Batman/Superman is a dreamy book, but it is not without a strong sense of character and expression. This collaboration between Pak and Lee stands out as a triumph in comic storytelling.

Second Attempt That Makes The Most Sense in the New 52

Giving Deathstroke another chance at having his own title. Also looking forward to Gail Simone returning to her Secret Six roots later this year.

Second Attempt That Makes The Least Sense in the New 52

Why are the Teen Titans starting over again with issue 1?

Best Volume 3 collection of the New 52

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Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics fulfilled its own prophecies in Vol. 3: At The End Of  Days. Morrison’s writes for the long haul and sometimes it works really well (Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, the epic story of Damian Wayne, Doom Patrol, Filth). His eighteen issues on Action Comics is separated into three acts, best illustrated by their separate trade collections. Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel comes off as a pretty typical superhero comic- it’s action-packed and reintroduces many classic characters from Superman’s mythology such as Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Metallo (Metal-Zero), and Brainiac. There are few weirdo moments, typical of Morrison’s work, but don’t overpower the straight-forward superhero elements. Vol. 2: Bulletproof is pretty weird, more distinctly Morrison. The story is all over the place, referencing itself, making the most out of the queer moments from Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, as well as introducing a Barack Obama doppelganger named Calvin Ellis- another dimension’s Superman. Finally, in Vol. 3: At the End of Days, all the kookiness starts to make sense and the details of Clark’s arrival in Metropolis in Vol. 1 become enriched by a Myxlplyxian plot that satisfies the patient reader.

Best Vol. 4 Collection(s) of the New 52

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While The Flash Vol. 4: Reverse, Wonder Woman Vol. 4: War, and Batwoman Vol. 4: The Blood is Thick all continued runs by outstanding creative teams, it is books like the Green Lantern family of books, Justice League Dark, and Green Arrow that have seen new creators come in and take the books in different directions to which I’d like to draw your attention. Much praise has been tossed to Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow, collected in Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine. The art distinguishes itself from the unofficial DC house-style and the writing invigorates Oliver Queen as a character. I do think that in praising Lemire and Sorrentino’s work, a lot of undeserved criticism has been thrown Ann Nocenti’s way. Her depiction of Oliver Queen as an Ugly American in the People’s Republic of China is one of my favorite instances of seeing China portrayed in a superhero comic. Jim DeMatteis has seemingly inherited the Dark family of DC titles, emerging from his run on The Phantom Stranger. In Justice League Dark Vol. 4: Rebirth of Evil, he takes over for Lemire- moving the story from Trinity War to Forever Evil territory. The little demon Constantine‘s are great, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more Frankenstein, my favorite member of the Justice League Dark. With the announcement of Charles Soule signing an exclusive contract with Marvel, I expect DeMatteis may take over Swamp Thing, which had a good, but short Vol. 4: Seeder. Matteis does interesting things with the character in Justice League Dark, but if I was going to pick the new writer of Swamp Thing, I’d go for either Tim Seeley, Kurtis Wiebe, or Angelo Tirrotto. To write an Animal Man title despite his joining Justice League United, I’d recruit Corinna Sara Bechko or Joshua Ortega with the instructions to keep Animal Man dark. Finally, the new slew of Green Lantern creators gave the ring-slingers an exciting year. Ranked best to least best: Red Lanterns, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians. Outside of those Vol. 4s, I was disappointed with the Larfleeze title, but look forward to Cullen Bunn’s Sinestro.

Best Non-Picture Book Author to Write a Picture Book

the boys are dead and girl just wanna have fun

Toby Litt on Dead Boy Detectives

When I lived in Ireland, I discovered the work of Toby Litt, an author whose work was not available in the United States, and absolutely fell in love with it. Deadkidsongs, in particular, left me creeped out and inspired. When I heard he would be rebooting the Vertigo series Dead Boy Detectives I waiting in hefty anticipation for the trade to be released. While I was not disappointed, I must admit that Litt has not taken to the medium as quickly as the likes of Brad Meltzer who blew the comics world away with Identity Crisis. I do however see great potential in the future comics work of Litt as he adapts to the medium. Reading the trade, you can see him become more comfortable and, in turn, more capable.

Best Superhero Live-Action Movie

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X-Men: Days of Future Past, like its predecessors, stands well above the rest of the Marvel movies (with the possible exception of Captain America: Winter Soldier). Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, and the rest of the classic mutants put on a great show and new arrivals like Quicksilver brought energy to the film. This and X-Men: First Class are my favorite of the X-Men movies. They somehow managed to make Fan Bing Bing look terrible, which is my only real complaint about the film.

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In conclusion, I’m looking forward to more great comics this year though I have some concerns about a few creative teams at DC (Wonder Woman) and will miss some of my favorite creators and titles as they disappear from the shelves, hopefully replaced by new books of splendor, wonder, and ideas.

 

 

Phantom Stranger 1,1 cover

I found out last week that I will be presenting at this year’s Comics and Popular Arts Conference at Dragon Con. Last year I presented on Cold War ideologies in the Silver Age Green Lantern. This year I will be discussing how different religions have been employed in the world-building of the New 52. In preparation, I’ve been reading some back issues on the Phantom Stranger- trying to figure out who he was before he became the Judas Iscariot doppelganger that is his present form.

The Phantom Stranger v1 issue 2

I’ve seen other blogs showcase cover galleries before. Much of my aimless internet searching arrives at such places and I enjoy the art I stumble upon. As a bit of a payback for the folks out there regularly posting galleries from old comics, I thought I could share the covers from The Phantom Stranger’s first series back in 1952 and a few from his second series which began in 1969. Despite these two series being published nearly 20 years apart, the Phantom Stranger has changed very little. In fact, many of the first stories in the second series are simply reprints from the first series.

phantom stranger 03 cover

Unlike his more metaphysical modern day counterpart, this Phantom Stranger is into science. He spends most of his time exposing frauds who employ scientific knowledge to deceive the innocent.

phantom stranger 04

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You can see some of the changes in the overall look of comics, horror comics, DC Comics, etc. as we look at the covers from the 1969 series.

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the phantom stranger (1969) 02 - 00 - fc

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the phantom stranger (1969) 07 - 00 - fc

the phantom stranger (1969) 08 - 00 - fc

the phantom stranger (1969) 09 - 00 - fc

the phantom stranger (1969) 10 - 00 - fc

paisleybaby

Both of these images are based on photographs I took at the Gay Pride Parade two weeks ago in Atlanta. The parade was mostly corporate sponsors and churches, but luckily there were a few truly fabulous souls to keep parade attendees from falling asleep like those sexy firemen from Swinging Richard’s. During the parade, I saw a lot of individuals who identified themselves as “bears.” I may need to infiltrate this community for the purposes of finding models for my pictures. Seriously, who makes a better panda than a bear?

Also I can’t take credit for the paisley pattern in the first picture. I just grabbed that the ol’ internet. I probably won’t stick with it as I’m trying to work solely from my own imagination and photographs, but I think it looks good so I thought I’d share it here. I wish somebody would invent a good paisley generator where you contribute a few squiggles and a robot transforms your input into beautifully detailed, yet unassumingly elegant patterns.

Last weekend, I attended the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade. There was an army of David Bowies from various points in his career and a very tall Godzilla that breathed smoke. Perhaps the strangest sight was a van covered in a full graphic wrap featuring premium strands of marijuana and they were distributing medical marijuana lollipops to raise awareness of attempts to decriminalize and legalize marijuana. Other advocates for marijuana’s legalization made their voices heard at the parade, but this van was truly something out of the ordinary. I expected the driver to pull off her mask to reveal McGruff the crime dog, but that didn’t happen. Maybe she took the mask off later.

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Today I posted a series of twelve illustrations based on characters from Ninetendo’s beloved Super Mario franchise. Because of their mature nature, I am choosing not to post them on the home page. If you would like to see the full, uncensored images, please click on SUPER MARIO NUDES and enjoy this celebration of some of the Mushroom Kingdom’s most memorable characters. All of these pictures feature nudity and should only be viewed by an appropriate audience. If you feel uncertain about viewing these pictures, you might as well not look at them. They’re cute pictures, but it’s not like you’ll be missing out on Dostoevsky.
I hope you like them.
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While we have spent several Christmases together, this year will be our first Christmas together in a predominantly Christian country and our first Christmas with a Christmas tree. The tree is artificial, a hand-me-down from my sister. Decorating it has been a joy.

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This photo shows the tree is its earliest stage of transformation from simplicity to fabulousity. Note the faux amanita muscaria mushroom placed on the bottom of the tree in honor of Santa Claus’s Siberian roots.

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The star on top of the tree symbolizes the star that led the three kings to Nazareth where they were informed “THANK YOU, WISE MEN! BUT OUR SAVIOR IS IN ANOTHER MANGER!”

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This Superman figure sits near the top of the tree. It is based on a cover by Jim Lee.

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An anti-Themyscira/pro-Atlantis button. We scored a lot of Flashpoint buttons for free from Oxford Comics in Atlanta. I think they’re still have some. They’re giving them away until they run out. I really like this button and the weird fantasy world misogyny connotations that come with it. It would’ve broken my heart to see to Aquaman marry Wonder Woman because it would break Mera’s heart; she and I share a psychic bond, but have different allergies.

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Our friend made us these two ornaments to commemorate the special relationship between People’s Republic of China and the United States of America. One world, one dream!

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Recycling the season’s classic Naughty-Nice dichotomy

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Batman with a pink grenade, dreaming of pink lemonade

batpenquin

The penguin shall lie down with the bat.

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August 1st (八一 ba yi)

The Chinese Army

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Bob-Omb Over Bethlehem

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Batman spying on Mario spying on a sheep’s little butthole

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Edible ornament, like a string of popcorn

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Deathstroke as a a circle, Norin Radd as a bear

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The Koopa is uncomfortable with the D and everything it stands for.

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Pink-skinned Toad, possibly boiled

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When we visited New York last summer, we saw many of my dearest friends. Of course, we brought many gifts with us. For one of my friends, who is a bit of psychotic pervert, we brought a very creepy cat mask from Japan. The mask continues to make him the envy of every other psychotic pervert he knows. His lady-friend also gave us a gift. She’s Dominican and wanted to share some of her culture with us, so she gave us a couple magic Catholic voodoo bracelets. One of these bracelets appear in the photo above. Both bracelets appear on the tree, warding off evil spirits like birth control and hard work.

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We hosted some of our friends for dinner last week and they brought us this fun home-made ornament. From its design, you can tell that our friends are winos.

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Is it a ghost? an arctic sloth? a klansbaby? an adorable snow demon? one of those naughty gremlins from Family Circus?

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Yuanyuan made these when we lived in Chongqing. The two big ones are Russell and 2D. The two little ones are Murdoc and Noodle.

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Domo: “Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm.”

liberiantoad

Another link in exposing the U.S. imperialists’ hidden legacy of interference in the Mushroom Kingdom

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Detail of Mario’s eyes’ shiftiness

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A carton of milk, a fire flower, and Donkey Kong walk into a bar. Donkey Kong orders a banana beer and the bartender asks him why he didn’t order anything for the other two. Donkey Kong shakes his head and says, “I intend to barter the milk for the beer. If you refuse, I will use the flower to burn down your bar.”

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Monkey

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My neighbor Totoro and a cat biting his style

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Ninjabat from Uglydoll

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Twas the night before Christmas, when the virgin was due,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a Boo.

The stock market was fixed by the Illuminati with care

to distract the masses from pillaging billionaires.

The children were medicated for their ADHD

with anxiety meds and methamphetamine.

Ma in denial and me in withdrawal

Had just signed a check to cover it all.

When straight out of Compton arose such a clatter,

I neither created nor destroyed any matter.

A mouthful of Windex, I smelled like I felt,

bored out of the shutters and hungry as hell.

The movie star’s breasts aroused even the snow

as she jumped up and down on the television show.

When, what to my wandering eyes should appear,

but her tits fell out of her dress and so did her rear!

With a little search engine, so lively and quick,

I found a site where I downloaded the pics.

More rabid than eagles, the internet burst

with photos galore of the starlet, her at her worst.

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Cagney and Lacy!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, those who obey me!

Hey, I just met you and this crazy,

But here’s my number, so call me maybe?”

And then, in a twinkling, I found some proof

that intruders were loitering up on my roof.

As I drew my pistol and napalm and sword,

Down the chimney appeared the chairman of the board.

He was dressed in a grey suit with a loosened necktie,

the typical look for a Hoboken wise guy.

Melting ice cubes flung from his glass

as he looked for liquor with both his eyes and his ass.

His eyes- how they twinkled! His voice- how dreamy!

When he licked his lips, I shuddered extremely.

His slack and sweet mouth was drawn like a stiff,

suckling the nectar from a shoplifted fifth.

A tightly rolled spliff he held tight in his teeth

and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a golden arm,

one little taste would do Frankie no harm.

He spoke a few words, then went straight back to Vegas.

“I hate all the tourists, but at least the bourgeoisie pays us…”

And laying his finger deep inside his nose,

up! up! the chimey he flamboyantly rose!

He sprang from our lives to follow his dreams

and away they all flew like melting ice creams.

But I heard him exclaim at the end of day,

“More, much more than this, I did it my way.”

notbane

Another gift. This is not Bane.

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A propeller shroomed Toad from New Super Marios Bros.

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1up Mushroom with lace

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Blinky

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This cute panda arrived from China with some shoes and books.

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Inky

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44th President of the United States of America Barack Obama

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A tree grows between Captain Marvel’s legs.

One-armed Italian plumber bear in background

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Another gift from an accomplished ghost-buster

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Deadman and Wonder Woman are buttons, but Superman came from a bottle of juice drink.

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This ornament is pretty old. The baby is based on me when I was a baby. Back then, I had a pretty cute butt.

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What’s cooler than being cool? Captain Cold.

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The Wolfman’s First Rodeo

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Yoshi, cruising for confusion among the Christmas miracles.

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