The Best of The (Comic) Best of 2011

Written by Shaun Daniels and Edited by Sharon Wong

With the end of the year having come and gone, the holiday season of wish lists is now the season of ‘the best of 2011’ lists.  ‘Tis the season where every person, place, thing and blog tries their damndest to remember the best, and worst, in media from the past year.  We are no exception to the rule so we racked our brains trying to recall the good, the bad and everything we wish to remain forgotten forever (like acid wash jeans).  Without further ado, we present ‘The Best (and Worst) of 2011′ comic-style.

BEST NEW SERIES:  Swamp Thing

Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Yanick Paquette and Published by DC Comics

With just four issues under its DC 52 belt, Swamp Thing has established itself at the top of our digital stack each and every Wednesday it’s released.  Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette have also established themselves as a great creative team by bringing the mythos of Swamp Thing right out of the gate.  The pair acknowledges the past work of writer Alan Moore and artist & writer Rich Veitch while blazing their own trail for the book.  There is a direct connection to Animal Man (yet another favorite of ours) which will be fun to see play out this year.

BEST ONGOING SERIES:  Hack/Slash

Written by Tim Seeley, Art by Daniel Leister, Letters by Crank! and Published by Image Comics

Since we’re children of the ‘80s with a love for horror that knows no bounds, we love us some slasher horror.  Month after month, Tim Seeley and Daniel Leister have continued to turn out several of our favorite horror stories in comic book form.  This is no easy feat especially with the lack of depth reputation of slasher characters in movies and shows.  Seeley has fleshed out the slasher concept, creating both interesting rules and explanations in regards to them.  On the flip side, Leister’s rendering of Cassie is so on point she reminds us of that girlfriend we used to have, who was a lot of fun but carried a lot of baggage.  You know the type…starts out with all sorts of crazy love and ends in a horrific crash but nevertheless, you go back to her again and again.  Of course, our ex never hunted Slashers for a living.

BEST DIGITAL COMIC:  Double Feature

We’ve been singing the praises of Double Feature from the very get-go, something we’ll continue to do so this year.  This series of comic books created by Four Star Studios’ Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, Josh Emmons and Sean Dove covers four different genres: action, fantasy, horror and sci-fi.  There are no corporate overlords watching the numbers, no company-wide crossovers to disrupt storytelling, hell, there are no book editors with Four Star Studios and Double Feature.  With the writers and artists working from one genre to another every month, the readers are treated to pure creativity.  A few of our favorite stories thus far have been “Cursed Blade” (Marshall Dillon & Matt Cossin), “Edrik the Lazy” (Lee Bretschneider & Justin Peterson), “Brigantine” (Josh Emmons & Mike Norton) and “The Liar” (Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Bechko).  Just for the Double Feature record, we want to see more of the aforementioned stories and soon!!

BEST LICENSED PROPERTY:  28 Days Later

2011 marked a big year for licensed properties like Dynamite Entertainment’s Bionic Man and the whole slew of Planet of the Apes series over at Boom! Studios.  The latter was this close to beating out 28 Days Later but regardless of our choice, all three are worth checking out, especially the Planet of the Apes titles from favorites Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman.  Unfortunately, 2011 also marked the end of 28 Days Later.  We love rage zombies like it’s nobody’s business and are very sad to see this series go but all good things must come to an end eventually.  The book fit firmly between the first and second films, and filled in gaps in the story while keeping the mystery going for a few plot points.  The trades are readily available as you might want to brush up on the series in case of any real world rage zombie outbreaks.

BEST ARTIST:  Yanick Paquette

This was a tough pick but Yanick Paquette gets the nod this year.  Paquette has been able to tap into the art style of the seminal run of the 1980s Swamp Thing all while keeping his sensibilities as an artist for the book and its covers.  From the broken neck abominations to the creepy and almost disarming take on the young Arcane, this artist’s approach will have you thinking about what horror comics are.

BEST WRITER:  Tim Seeley, Jeff Lemire & Scott Snyder (a three-way tie)

Tim Seeley is writing everything.  OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but we don’t lie when we say the man is super busy; Seeley created and writes Hack/Slash, worked on the mini The Occultist at Dark Horse Comics, just started picking up Witchblade from Top Cow Productions and has the revamped Image Comics’ Bloodstrike coming out this year.  Plus, he still finds time to work on his co-creator-owned digital comic venture Double Feature.  With all of the comics he’s juggling, one would think he’d drop one book but he remains a real-life superhero.

Jeff Lemire continues to captivate our imagination with his self-written and self-drawn book Sweet Tooth over at Vertigo.  You have to be heartless to not love this series about a hybrid deer-boy in a dystopian tale of the human population dying off, leaving hybrid animal-children in its wake.  He has taken a horror approach to this book and managed to creep the hell out of us with The Rot, who is the heel for this book and Swamp Thing.  Lemire is also doing a title for the DC New 52, appropriately titled Animal Man.

We round out our three-way tie with Scott Snyder.  From Batman to American Vampire to Swamp Thing, Snyder is making a name for himself.  With Swamp Thing, he is basically saying, “OK, here is Alan Moore and Rich Veitch’s Swamp Thing.  It happened but now we’re moving on in our own direction.”  Right off the bat, he has given depth to Alec Holland, a character that has never been fleshed out save for the dichotomy of Swamp Thing, the Green and Holland’s humanity.  Snyder’s take on Arcane is truly terrifying and at the same time, pure friggin’ genius!!

BEST (MAINSTREAM) PUBLISHER:  DC

When it comes right down to it, DC trumped Marvel even though it was the latter part of the year that garnered enough excitement to become our favorite mainstream publisher.  DC’s whole line of comics got a facelift, some much more than others, with the linchpin of the reboot being the diversity of genres.  It marked a return to war comics, horror comics and the continuing of Westerns with All-Star Western.  It’s been really fun to see the return of Swamp Thing, Animal Man and I, Vampire, and good to know that DC hasn’t relegated horror titles to its Vertigo imprint.  New series Justice League Dark is off to a solid start and features our favorite sodding Englishman John Constantine.

BIGGEST NEWS:  DC New 52

There was quite a bit of goings-on throughout 2011 but at the top of our list was the reboot/relaunch/whatever you want to call it at DC Comics.  Whether you were happy with the new 52 or not, it was big news for the comic book community.  We were in the happy camp, looking forward to the New 52 since a lot of the titles were getting a little stale.  The biggest reason for the New 52 is simply survival; DC opted to be proactive by trying to save their company.  By no stretch of the imagination was DC in dire straits at the time of the relaunch but the writing was on the wall, either change or die.  Unlike most other comic book companies, DC shook things up and it paid off in the form of the biggest sales numbers in recent years.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:  Digital Comic Pricing

We here at the Fright Channel try our best to stay positive.  After all, there are plenty of places in or around the interwebs that are ripe with negativity.  Unfortunately, we’ve succumbed to it but only surrounding digital comic pricing.  We want companies, creators, writers, artists and all involved in the production of a comic to be paid and paid fairly.  With that being said, we do not understand the equal pricing between digital comics and tangible comics, and then the dollar drop in price for digitals after the first month.  If comic book companies didn’t care where you bought their books, the initial price of digital comic books would be $1.99 or $2.99 as opposed to the current $2.99 and $3.99.  Very simply put, digital and tangible comics are two separate products, and should be priced accordingly.  The exception is the few creators in the realm of novels as most digital books are cheaper than the cost of tangible ones.

There are brick and mortar comic book stores who have gone so far as to say they will not carry company X if they lower the cost of a digital book below the cost of a physical copy.  That is what one calls cutting one’s nose off in spite of its face.  Those stores, who will remain nameless, are going to drive their customers to digital, a competitor or a mail order service instead of their own store.  Our recommendation:  focus on turning a trip to the comic book store to that of a fun and unique experience.  To see a working example of this, look at Chicago’s Challengers Comics + Conversation as the best comic book store going!

Feedback is always welcomed at shaun@horrorhaven.com and sharon@horrorhaven.com

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