It’s Comic Book Land’s greatest night when four color artists, writers, creators, and characters come together to pay homage to the best of the best of the industry and find out the answer to that burning question…who will go home with the coveted @$$ie Award?
And here’s your host, all the way from Castle Crucifer, it’s…
(Click title to go directly to the category)
BEST SINGLE MOMENT/SINGLE ISSUE
BEST COVER ART/ARTIST
BEST COMIC BOOK CHARACTER
BEST ARTIST/ART TEAM
BEST ONGOING COMIC BOOK SERIES
Vroom Socko - THE THING #8. Poker game(Marvel). The last moment of innocence in the Marvel Universe. 'Nuff said.
Humphrey Lee - The end of "The Slavers" - PUNISHER #30 (Marvel). A really good year for moments that stick with you, and yet this is the one that always comes to me first whenever I ponder over this subject. Garth Ennis has been throwing out some very brutal, yet sensitive yarns of righting wrongs as bloodily as possible for the duration of his MAX run on the PUNISHER, but this was by far the best of them. Six issues of build up for some of the most vile characters I've seen in any comic book, “The Slavers” was an arc that really made your blood boil as Ennis depicted the horrible underpinnings of an operation that saw the kidnapping and brutal rape of a multitude of young women in the depraved sex trade. For six issues we were shown humanity at its worst, and we really, really, really wanted to see someone die horribly for it; and oh yes, they did. I've read a lot of comics over the years, and I don't think I've ever truly hated a group of characters as much as I did the ones in this particular story arc. But the best comes at the very end of the arc with the ringleader of the whole organization tied to a chair and our man Frank in the room with him and also with a lighter, a can of gasoline, and a video camera. "Don't come back" is all he says before sending one very evil man to one well deserved hell, and sending a very succinct message that his cohorts overseas, and the readers themselves, won't soon forget. Just fantastic, fantastic stuff.
Dan Grendell - BATTLE ROYALE V. 15 (Tokyopop) - When one quarter of a manga volume is used to describe something that takes maybe six seconds and it doesn't feel slow, that deserves some congratulations. Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi work dramatic tension like some crazy puppet at a show, making it dance to their tune, and when the scene finally ends, the reader feels a true sense of cathartic release. It isn't just a kid shooting someone - it's a sacrifice of innocence to protect himself and the people he cares about, and it's treated as such. Props also due to Keith Giffen, for translating it all into English so carefully that the nuances come through.
superhero - GWEN STACY reveal. SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE # 6 (Marvel). Oh, I'm sure tons of people would rather pick a decapitating Superboy punch from INFINITE CRISIS as their Best Single Comic Book Moment of 2006, but for me, it was the simplicity of Gwen Stacy being introduced (or reintroduced) in the pages of SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE that got me the most this year. Bringing Gwen into the pages of SMLMJ was a pure stroke of simplistic genius and I was kicking myself for not expecting it. This was one of those comic book moments where I slapped myself on the forehead and yelled, "Of course!" when I saw it. Marvel should be kicking themselves for not giving McKeever a mainstream Spidey book and letting him escape into DC's clutches. McKeever's done some fantastic stuff with the Spidey mythos in SMLMJ while other writers in the core titles like Bendis, Millar, and Straczynski just keep on making attempt after attempt to tear it down.
Ambush Bug - Some people think that this issue made Bendis’ run on DAREDEVIL null and void. I see it more like making a diamond out of a lump of coal. It may have just eeked in before our @$$ie cut-off due date, but DAREDEVIL #93(Marvel) was the single best comic book issue I read all year and proof positive that Marvel should hire Ed Brubaker to clean up all of the messes they have made over the last few years. This issue has a resolution to the unmasking plotline, a final confrontation between the Kingpin and Daredevil that brings the relationship to a satisfying end, and concludes with Daredevil, not slouching in his chair feeling sorry for himself, but optimistically looking towards the future while attempting to learn from past mistakes. I was going to choose JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #0 for introducing Roy Harper as the Red Arrow to current continuity for this category, but after reading this, the first completely satisfying Daredevil issue I’ve read in years, the JLA didn’t stand a chance.
THE MOST IMPRESSIVE SCHEDULE AWARD52 (DC)
THE LEAST IMPRESSIVE SCHEDULE AWARDULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS HULK (Marvel)
THE "AT LEAST SOMEBODY GETS IT" AWARDMARVEL ADVENTURES line
THE "GOD OF MANGA" AWARDVertical, Inc. , for their revival in English of classic Osamu Tezuka manga
BEST HORROR COMIC LINEDark Horse's horror manga
BEST CHARACTER RETURNTHE SPIRIT (DC)
THE "COITUS INTERRUPTUS" AWARDMarvel, Mark Millar, and Bryan Hitch for taking readers up to edge of climax with THE ULTIMATES 2 issue 12 (Marvel) and never delivering an issue 13. Jackasses!
Professor Challenger - TOM COKER (AGENTS OF ATLAS, Marvel) created all six covers of this mini-series and each was a genuine stand-alone work of art. He created a consistent visual image for the series that made every issue pop off the stands and scream "Look at me!" And shouldn't that be the goal of every comic book cover?
Vroom Socko - 2006 only saw two issues released, but that's enough for me to give this award to JOCK for his work on THE LOSERS (DC Comics). Each cover in this 32 issue run was amazing, the final ones being no exception. And no, I'm not just saying that because a quote from one of my reviews has found its way on more than one cover. Ass.
Humphrey Lee - JAMES JEAN (FABLES, DC Comics). Provocative. Lush. Colorful. Playful. And best of all, actually pertinent to the content within the book they're pasted on. All this and more describes the work of arguably the best cover artist in the business today. Every time I see one of his covers on a book, it always impresses me. The artwork is obviously beautiful, but what I love about it is how it always invokes the proper tone and emotion needed to properly enjoy the contents within, which is exactly what the cover of a comic book is supposed to do. Too many times these days I peruse the covers of what's out there and it's the typical assortment of posed figures, or generic shots of some guys hitting each other, or some stupid ass half cover that's apparently supposed to make you think it's somehow important cause it's linked to some sort of "event". And yes, there are a handful of great cover artists out there (John Cassaday, Dave Johnson, Tim Bradstreet, Gabrielle Del'Otto just to name a few) but no one's covers pulled me in as much as James Jean's did this year. They definitely deserve all the praise they can get.
Dan Grendell - J.G. JONES (52, DC Comics)- DC made a good choice when they decided to go with a singular cover artist for their weekly series, and they made an even better one when they picked J.G. Jones. Mixing design sense with art makes for a great series of covers, and Jones definitely works his imagination. No simple series of character shots, oh no. Each has elements of the story inside, introduced in a cool way, but each also works on its own as an image, and doing that 52 times just takes talent.
Sleazy G - JAMES JEAN (DC), for his work on both FABLES and JACK OF FABLES. His covers are always a delight. Clean, classic yet inventive designs are his hallmark, and they’re beautifully painted to boot. It’s a wonder he hasn’t been snapped up yet to do more work in advertising, for book covers or in Hollywood. He certainly deserves it, but I’d hate to see him leave comics any time soon and rob us of his covers. It’d certainly be nice to see him do more interior art, though, after what he showed himself capable of in the hardcover 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL.
superhero - TAKESHI MIYAZAWA - SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE # 9 (Marvel) Tak was my choice for best artist last year and he's my choice for best cover this year. Why? Because the cover for SMLMJ # 9 is the perfect representation of the series as a whole. Yep, that particular cover is a riff on John Hughes's classic teen angst flick THE BREAKFAST CLUB and that's exactly what SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE is. It's John Hughes for the superhero set and I can't think of a better image to clue readers in on what they're in for when they pick up this book.
THE "KICK IN THE CHOPS" AWARDBrendan Deneen and Szymon Kudranski for their hard-hitting, hard-boiled, super-hero-noir independent mini SCATTERBRAIN (Markosia).
THE AWARD FOR WORST CHARACTERIZATIONReed Richards, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the rest of Marvel 616 Universe in CIVIL WAR (writer, Mark Millar, Marvel)
THE "I'M GLAD THESE COMICS ARE HERE…BECAUSE THE NEW MOVIES BLEW" AWARDDark Horse's STAR WARS line
THE "PULP IS ALIVE!" AWARDAPE Entertainment for putting out the best old-fashioned pulp action series of the year with their revolutionary war hero, THE BLACK COAT
THE "WHAT THE FRAK?" AWARDThe bizarre and unreadable nonsense that DC Vertigo and Bruce Jones call DEADMAN.
THE "I THINK I THREW UP A LITTLE IN MY MOUTH" AWARDMarvel's CIVIL WAR - with a little extra vomit for issue 4.
BEST SUPERHERO SEX SCENEKitty Pryde involuntarily phases when Colossus finds her G-Spot. (written by Joss Whedon, ASTONISHING X-MEN #14, Marvel)
Ambush Bug - Nudging IDW’s ZOMBIES VS. ROBOTS out of the top spot on my Best Miniseries list is Michael Avon Oeming’s ARES (Marvel) miniseries from earlier this year. Oeming completely redeemed himself for mucking up the last few issues of THOR’s ongoing series with this godly tale of a father in search of his son. Of course, the father just happened to be the Greek God of War. This miniseries was filled with teeth-gnashing brutality and exciting and original action scenes. When Ares doused himself in flames and told Hercules to throw him into the middle of an enemy army, I knew this was a miniseries that would be hard to beat. AGENTS OF ATLAS, DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, and IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE were all contenders for this category and all deserving. Someone handling Marvel’s miniseries needs a pat on the back and a promotion to handle the mess that the ongoing series have become over there.
Professor Challenger - I know this is probably not intended to be split up, but if I don't, I can't answer it. Sorry.
So, Best Miniseries requires me to go with a personal favorite tie between AGENTS OF ATLAS (Marvel) and UNCLE SAM &THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS (DC Comics). Neither one of these series were reviewed by me simply because I've just loved everything about them from characters, concept, writing, art, lettering, and coloring. And the bonus is that each issue has consistently been on the stands without delay. Both series take an obscure team from the 70s and bring them into the 21st century with a clear and consistent vision and purpose for being. And both have just been loads of fun and action with great writing and great art every month.
Best one-shot: ASTRO CITY: SAMARITAN #1 (DC Wildstorm) The title of this story is "The Eagle and the Mountain" and it edges out my emotional favorite, BATMAN/SPIRIT, because the layers of the writing in this issue were just beyond expectations. Kurt Busiek outdid himself with a complicated character piece examining the personal relationship between Astro City's own "superman," Samaritan, and his arch-nemesis Infidel. Obviously inspired by the story, Brent Anderson turned in the best art he's ever done and Alex Ross contributed a nicely iconic cover. Simply the best stand-alone comic of the year for me.
Best Special: ABSOLUTE DC: THE NEW FRONTIER (DC Comics) This collected special edition is what makes me continue to read comics. 'Nuff said.
Vroom Socko - The clear winner this year is that story of intrigue, bravery, betrayal, adventure and all out action known as CIVI- Nah, I'm kidding. It's MOUSE GUARD. I haven't had this much fun with rodents in a comic since ADOLESCENT RADIOACTIVE BLACK BELT HAMSTERS was first coming out. There is a palpable joy that seeps from the pages of this book. And besides, those mice are just too damn cute.
Humphrey Lee - PRIDE OF BAGHDAD (DC Vertigo). I've said it a couple times here at AICN already this year, but this Original Graphic Novel (OGN) of Brian K. Vaughan's not only stands out to me as the best thing I read this year, but maybe even this decade thus far. This is Vaughan's masterpiece, which is quite the accomplishment given the kind of output he's had in his career. PRIDE OF BAGHDAD is one of those truly special works in the medium of comics that shows you just what comics can and should aspire to in order to stand out on their own as Literature. It's fun, it's energetic, it's harrowing, it's heart-breaking, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. This is one of those books that will be held in the same breath as such seminal works like WATCHMEN and MAUS and V FOR VENDETTA when all said and done. Can't recommend this any higher.
Dan Grendell - UNION JACK (Marvel)- Christos Gage has impressed me in the past and continues to impress me, and this mini-series is his best work so far. Great action, snappy dialogue, and interesting ideas like Arabian and Israeli heroes reluctantly working together made it fun, and making each character multi-faceted instead of stereotypical made it rewarding. Props go to Mike Perkins and Andrew Hennessy as well, who drew the hell out of the series, and Laura Villari, who applied just the right colors to bring it to life. PUNISHER: TYGER and LOCAL were close contenders.
Sleazy G - Brian K. Vaughan’s THE ESCAPISTS (Dark Horse) is the most personal work I’ve read from him. A love letter to Chabon’s amazing characters, the city of Cleveland, and the power of comics, this miniseries was in the end a touching look at the importance of friendship and believing in yourself and your work. It also manages to be exciting, funny, and heartbreaking. Anybody who enjoys Vaughan’s better-known series needs to track this book down immediately.
BEST HOMICIDAL ACTINFINITE CRISIS (DC) The moment Superboy-Prime decided to play Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots with the heads of several no name Teen Titans.
THE "I WAS ONLY MOSTLY DEAD" AWARDMANHUNTER (DC)
BEST EXAMPLE OF WHY BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST ONE LUKE CAGE BOOK OUT PER MONTH AWARDNEW AVENGERS #22 (Marvel)
BEST EXAMPLE OF WHY BENDIS SHOULD NEVER AGAIN EVEN THINK THE NAMES HAWKEYE OR SCARLET WITCH AWARDNEW AVENGERS #26 (Marvel)
BEST USE OF SPLASH PAGES AWARDNEXTWAVE #11 (Warren Ellis & Stuart Immonen, Marvel)
BEST INDIE SURPRISE AWARDFALLING SKY #1 (by Benjamin Dickson, Scar Comics )
THE “JUST DIE ALREADY” AWARDThe Question’s two month death scene in 52 (DC)
superhero - ALL STAR SUPERMAN (DC) This would have been my pick for Best Ongoing of 2006, but I have to agree with my comrade in arms Professor Challenger that it just doesn't come out regularly enough to warrant that particular award. But I do have to say I've really enjoyed reading the exploits of an old fashioned Superman with all of his goofy trappings. I honestly believe that this is the way Superman should be approached in the mainstream universe. Morrison pays equal time to Supes' Golden Age roots, but adds a modern feel that lets you take the last son of Krypton's exploits seriously…just not too seriously. As far as characters go, this is the one I've had the most fun reading about all year and it's been a joy to see this true "re-imagining" of a comic book legend. Morrison gets what made Superman fun to read as a child, but takes the childhood space fantasy action hero and gives him enough of a twist to make his ridiculous aspects embraceable to an adult audience. As much as I enjoyed Busiek's early issues of Superman, I still have to say that the All Star Supes’ is the one I enjoy reading about the most.
Ambush Bug - Damn you, Ed Brubaker. I hated the idea of you bringing Bucky back to life. The one rule was that Bucky stays dead. So imagine how pissed off I am right now to name the WINTER SOLDIER (Bucky all growed up in Marvel’s monthly CAPTAIN AMERICA) as my choice for best character of the year. I’d also be pissed because most of the time it seems as if the Winter Soldier is the star of Bru’s CAPTAIN AMERICA book rather than Cap himself if not for the fact that the issues that he’s in are the most entertaining reads. The Winter Soldier is truly bad @$$ and Bru did a great job of making him not just a Robin/Red Hood carbon copy, but an individual character in his own right. In WWII, Bucky was the one doing the wet works, the dirty jobs, while Cap was walking around as the poster boy for the war. These skills are the ones that haunt him now as he functions on the periphery of Cap’s adventures. He’s one character I look forward to reading about month in month out. Damn you, Bru! Damn you all to hell!
Professor Challenger - My favorite character of 2006 was GORILLA MAN (Marvel) in the AGENTS OF ATLAS. What a great character. Lame as can be in his original version, but Jeff Parker did amazingly funny and touching stuff with him in AOA.
Vroom Socko - While the rest of Marvel featured all of the good guys at each others’ throats, some interesting stuff was happening with perennial baddie BARON ZEMO (THUNDERBOLTS, Marvel). Evolved past the role of villain, yet unable to ever be a hero, his journey was the single most facinating character study Marvel published this year. Hell, the moment where he returned to Captain America the personal belongings Zemo destroyed back in “Under Siege” missed my pick for Best Moment by mere millimeters.
Humphrey Lee - DIRK ANGER (NEXTWAVE, Marvel). For twelve issues, the absolutely brilliant NEXTWAVE has yet to fail to make me rip and roar out loud with its outrageous brand of comedy, and typically the source or this uproariousness was one Dirk Anger. Whether he was talking about his hard bits, or trying to kill himself with a chair that was a giant revolver with the barrel bent up and back at him (yeah, you have to see it to believe it) or just simply yelling "Unleash the Drop Bears!" as he had mutated, carnivorous koala bears of death dropped upon our "heroes", Dirk Anger always stole the show when he was on panel. If there's anything I will miss about that insane little book once it's all said and done, it'll be that vile, cross-dressing bastard.
Dan Grendell - ROGER THE HOMUNCULUS (BPRD, Dark Horse)- I've thought Roger kicked ass since the first time he showed up in HELLBOY. Sure, he was made from blood and herbs and incubated in horse shit, but he was the friendliest guy around, and he even wore pants if you asked. Sadly, he's dead now. Be that as it may, he was more human than most people. Show some damn respect.
Sleazy G - There’s something about DANIEL ACUNA’s recent work for DC I’m really digging. Whether it’s on covers for books like THE FLASH or the interiors on UNCLE SAM AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS, his distinctive style always jumps out at me. His use of a dark, solid line around each character (and sometimes objects) makes them pop out from the rest of the panel, giving it more of a sense of depth. He’s also come up with some great character designs in that book. Acuna’s definitely somebody I’ll be keeping my eye on.
superhero - PAUL POPE, BATMAN YEAR 100 (DC) Let's face it: Paul Pope is a genius. I was skeptical of BATMAN YEAR 100 just because I saw it as another extremely talented indie creator slumming it with the big boys. Boy, was I wrong. While reading YEAR 100 I just felt that I was looking at a fantastic hybrid of Frank Miller's art on DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and David Mazzucchelli's work on the BATMAN: YEAR ONE all those years ago. Now this is how Batman should be drawn! The grit practically scraped off of the pages of this book and it made me feel like I was reading a Batman comic for the first time. Great, great, great stuff here. Frank Miller should go back, read this book, and take notes. What Frank Miller has lost throughout the years, Pope has found…not only found, but he's been able to build upon in spades.
Ambush Bug - CLINT LANGLEY. (2000AD) “Who?” You say. Well, you may not know him now, but I guarantee you will. He’s the artist on 2000AD’s SLAINE, the tale of a barbarian warrior with a gi-normous axe. Slaine’s story is pretty cool, but it’s the artwork that makes this a standout must-have for followers of artists like Simon Bisley and Frank Frazetta, with a little for those who like Dave McKean and Ben Templesmith’s computer-manipulating thrown in for good measure. Langley’s photo-referenced, computer generated characters and landscapes are like nothing I have ever seen in a comic book. His demons are nightmare-inducing. His barbarians are menacing and beyond awesome. I want to see this guy do mainstream work. To think of what he could do with a THOR or HULK comic makes shivers to run down my spine. Seek out and lay your peepers on Langley’s art. You can thank me later.
Professor Challenger - I gotta split this up too.
Artist: DARWYN COOKE (DC Comics). His work on NEW FRONTIER and SPIRIT is stuff I can't stop looking at.
Art Team: CARLOS PACHECO & JESUS MERINO (DC Comics) on SUPERMAN. I don't know if Jesus Marino actually contributes that much more to Pacheco or if he has upped his game by 500% but one of the finest comic book artists ever is now teamed with the perfect inker and shot through to the stratosphere in terms of quality sequential illustration. They are setting a high bar for anyone to ever follow and match.
Vroom Socko - The post-apocalypse has never looked more amazingly desperate, thanks to CHRISTOPHER MITTEN (Oni) and WASTELAND. This stuff is bleak, dynamic, haunting, thrilling, and enthralling, often on the same page. Sometimes even in the same panel.
Humphrey Lee - TONY HARRIS (DC Wildstorm). I've already had a great admiration for Tony Harris' art, as should anyone who has seen his wonderful blend of Pulp and Iconic grace the pages of James Robinson's STARMAN and beyond. That style has gotten a smidge better with that new line technique of his. He’s making everything much more detailed and realistic in the pages of EX MACHINA from Wildstorm. The facial ticks and expressions are better than ever, and as always his character designs and proportions are at the top of the game, and unlike some of the top artists in the industry today, he's still getting out roughly a full ten "monthly" issues a year, not just a handful like we've come to expect. And add on all the stellar cover work he's been doing for not only EX MACHINA itself, but occasionally some for Dark Horse's CONAN series and the DOWN mini from Image, and the man has definitely been making his rounds this year. Only fitting he get some recognition for it.
THE WRITER WE WANT TO SEE MORE OF AWARDJeff Parker (Marvel’s AGENTS OF ATLAS, MARVEL ADVENTURES: THE AVENGERS)
WORST INFINITE CRISIS RELAUNCH AWARDTie between AQUAMAN and FLASH (DC)
BEST INFINITE CRISIS RELAUNCH AWARDWould be WONDER WOMAN if it were published on time, so this one goes to THE ALL-NEW ATOM (DC)
BEST MONKEY AWARDGorilla Man (AGENTS OF ATLAS, Marvel)
BEST ZOMBIE BOOK AWARDZOMBIES VS. ROBOTS #1 (IDW)
THE SQUIRMIEST COMIC AWARDTHE EXTERMINATORS (DC Vertigo)
Dan Grendell - ED BRUBAKER (DAREDEVIL, CAPTAIN AMERICA, CRIMINAL, UNCANNY X-MEN, Marvel)- Brubaker is the man. When Bendis left DAREDEVIL, I had little interest in the title or where he had left it. Brubaker turned that around instantly and I love the book again. When he took over CAPTAIN AMERICA, I hadn't been reading it and the return of Bucky just made me more disinterested. When I started reading to see how Bucky was handled, I had a new monthly book. A great crime book like CRIMINAL just makes it all better. I've liked Brubaker for several years, but this was the year I fell in love.
Sleazy G - I first came to appreciate GAIL SIMONE’s (DC) writing when she was writing YOU’LL ALL BE SORRY. Since then she’s come into her own as a writer, and her titles always end up at the top of my stack. Her two SINISTER SIX miniseries have made me care about characters I didn’t even know before she wrote them, putting them into impossible situations and forcing them to make ugly decisions. Her ability to give characters depth even in only a handful of scenes has made BIRDS OF PREY one of my favorite titles month in month out—a book packed with realistic female characters who are both strong and vulnerable, each in their own way. And she’s brought her same deftness with characterization to the new WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY, a series which manages to be amusing and touching at the same time. And ALL-NEW ATOM is unlike anything else on the market, bringing in magic and science and cowboys and college kids and Lovecraft and a tubby guy named Panda. She’s smart, funny, and willing to put the characters through hell to force them to evolve. She deserves all the work she can handle, and I hope she gets the attention she deserves from fans soon.
superhero - ED BRUBAKER (Marvel’s DAREDEVIL, CAPTAIN AMERICA, UNCANNY X-MEN, CRIMINAL) Leave it to Ed Brubaker to make Captain America interesting again. Not only that, but to be able to pull Daredevil out of the corner that Bendis had written him into...that's no small feat. AND he has a pretty decent run on an X-Men book, which is nearly impossible these days, unless your name is Joss Whedon. Brubaker continues to impress and I can't imagine anyone arguing the fact that he is probably the best writer working at Marvel today. His writing is in character and brilliantly paced. Brubaker writes modern-day mainstream super hero stories the way they should be written. He maintains respect for the character but is able to go into new directions where others would inevitably screw things up and manages to successfully pull his big ideas off. Brubaker is the MAN at Marvel right now and I can't imagine why DC let this guy slip through their grasp.
Ambush Bug - Given my nom de plume, you may think I am biased, but KEITH GIFFEN (DC Comics, Marvel, BOOM!) has had a stellar year in comics. Not only did he give us the only Marvel event that mattered this year with ANNIHILATION, I also firmly believe that he’s the main reason DC’s 52 makes sense from one week to the next. Top it off with some very cool work over at BOOM! Studios with HERO SQUARED, TAG, JEREMIAH HARM, and the always amazing WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? and you’ve gotta admit that this has been Giffen’s year!
Professor Challenger - If the category were "Favorite" writer then Geoff Johns would take that home easily. Our sensibilities on character and story are almost always right in line with each other. And even when mired in cross-over madness, he always comes through with writing that is clear and enjoyable. But in terms of sheer writing ability, WARREN ELLIS (DC Wildstorm, Marvel) continues to just drive over the competition in comics. His approach attacks the pure pop nature of comics with a literary eye. He's high concept with high-minded ideas that always translate to surprisingly well-written comics.
I gotta give a tip of the hat to Darwyn Cooke for his writing as well. I think his writing gets kind of ignored by the bombastic quality of his art. But buried under his art in NEW FRONTIER is a sophisticated story and structure that needs to be recognized as well.
Vroom Socko - Some of you may say it's a cheat to pick the writer of a webcomic. If so, fuck you. RANDY MILHOLAND spent this past year creating the best work SOMETHING POSITIVE has seen since its inception. It saw birth, death, weddings and criminal trials. It's been heartbreaking and hilarious, sophisticated and silly, dramatic and delirious. It's the one comic I find that I simply MUST read every day. It certainly doesn't hurt that Milholand is clearly the most twisted son-of-a-bitch to ever put pen to paper.
Humphrey Lee - ONI PRESS Typically I'm of the viewpoint of "as long as DC has Vertigo, they'll always be tops in my book" (or something to that extent). But you know what? Even though that wonderful little imprint had itself a pretty stand out year again, occasionally they put out something that actually didn't impress me as much as I hoped. Maybe I set my standards too high, or maybe it's just that sometimes there's some subject matter that even I don't find all that riveting in comic book form, but typically the comics I enjoyed most from that imprint this year were the books that I already had a pretty large affinity for. But Oni Press, on the other hand, not only never let me own with my purchases, but exceeded expectations all over the place. We had another wonderful volume of SCOTT PILGRIM from them that was as wonderful as hoped, stuff that I had no feelings going into before hand like POLLY AND THE PIRATES and Jamie S. Rich's 12 REASONS WHY I LOVE HER left me wanting for more, and even the sporadic serialized comics that were released like THE LEADING MAN, WASTELAND, and THE DAMNED have all been of top notch quality. So, while I love my Vertigo, I really can't deny that this year Oni absolutely batted a thousand with their lineup and deserve all the recognition they get for it. Seriously, give their stuff a try. It'll do you a world of good.
Dan Grendell - ARCHAIA STUDIOS PRESS. I've been an ARTESIA reader, Archaia's flagship title, for several years now, and I've always loved it, so when I heard that its creator Mark Smylie was starting his own publishing company I expected something different. I was right. The focus at Archaia is on quality, both in the works chosen to publish and in the materials used. Every Archaia book so far has been a work of art. ARTESIA. ROBOTIKA. LONE AND LEVEL SANDS. MOUSE GUARD. THE KILLER. OKKO: CYCLE OF WATER. This is as close as we get to European comics albums, folks, and I say thank you.
superhero - IMAGE COMICS Lemme see…they do zombie books, superhero books, crime books, and just about every genre under the sun. If you're looking for a publisher with consistent variety and who continually takes chances with material, then you can't go much farther than Image Comics. If there's an interesting idea out there, Image is sure to hook onto it. While the big two filled 2006 with events and crossovers that have just made me want to puke with disgust, Image Comics continues to try and get interesting creator owned stuff out into the market. Bravo, Image. Keep up the good work.
Ambush Bug - AIT/PLANET LAR Every book I have read from this publisher has resonated with me in some way. Be it the historical werewolf allegory in FIRST MOON or the cleverly futuristic CONTINUITY or the heart-breaking ROCK BOTTOM or the full-throttle adrenaline rush of THE COURIERS or maybe the thoroughly entertaining ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE TPB for which the company is named. AiT/Planet Lar has been publishing some of the smartest and most entertaining books in the medium. There are an awful lot of indie comic companies out there but none of them have been as consistently good as AiT/Planet Lar.
Professor Challenger - DC COMICS gets props this year for upping their game with product like the ABSOLUTE editions. But I'm going to give this award as a tie between Dynamite Entertainment and Boom! Studios for publishing excellent series, bringing to the shelves original ideas, and best of all providing opportunities for new talent and old talent left behind by the bigger publishers. Keep an eye on both of these publishers. If they stay as professional and polished as they have demonstrated this last year, they should be around for a long time and only get better.
BEST MANGAMONSTER (Viz Comics)
BEST EVENTANNIHILATION (Marvel)
BEST WESTERN COMIC AWARDJONAH HEX (DC)
BEST COMIC BOOK SPINOFF AWARDJACK OF FABLES (DC Vertigo)
BEST INDEPENDENT COMIC AWARDFRAGILE PROPHET OGN ( Lost in the Dark Press)
THE WORST COMIC OF THE YEAR AWARDCIVIL WAR: THE RETURN (from shitty white cover to the shittier contents within, Marvel)
Vroom Socko - After much consideration, there's only one book I can think of from '06 that managed to challenge my conceptions of what the book was, that surprised me with every issue, that led me through narratives that I wouldn't have predicted, that featured pitch perfect art and the sharpest of words. That book is Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona's RUNAWAYS (Marvel). I'm sure Joss is going to be good, but damn will I miss these two...
Humphrey Lee - FABLES (DC Vertigo). Well, let's see. Why did I like this book so much this year? Well, for starters, we got a full twelve issues of this book this year (something that's apparently an amazing feat in the comic book industry these days). As always, the plotline development as well as the characterization were all top notch. Also, FABLES #50 gave us not only one of the most touching moments in comics this year with Bigby and Snow White's marriage, but that issue in general was probably my favorite of the year. Mark Buckingham has always knocked the art out of the park, showing that while big, broad and flashy art might be the norm of the industry these days, sometimes all you need is a subtle and deft hand to push along a story. Oh, and the 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL hardcover was easily twenty of the best dollars I spent all year. It's been said many times by people who's opinions are probably way more intelligently presented, but I'll say it here as well; this series is easily the closest we're going to get to another SANDMAN, well, probably ever. If that doesn't mean anything to you, well, I feel for your soul. Honestly, I do.
Dan Grendell - USAGI YOJIMBO (Dark Horse). This year my award in this category goes to a proven performer that has yet to dip in quality after some 160 issues. Stan Sakai creates amazing work month in and month out. His artwork is simple yet profound, and so are his stories. A little history, a little emotion, a little intrigue, a lot of action and one cool as hell samurai rabbit make for the best ongoing series of the year.
Sleazy G - I kinda feel like a schmuck for not having picked up anything by Brian Wood until DMZ (DC Vertigo) launched. Set in a very near-future New York City (no over-the-top sci fi conceits here) ravaged by civil war, the book exploded out of the gate and keeps the tension and the stakes high. It’s not about the w