The Gold Standard Awards
With every great medium comes a need to celebrate the best of that particular industry, it’s an unwritten rule. Just as how for every writer, there comes a time to do an awards column as a way to do a meaningful column during a busy and overwhelming season. I’ve spent the past few weeks running through my collection, as gathered in the past year, and sifting through news and notes that predate this wonderful little column of mine, and I think it’s finally time to unveil them!
Our first award is the ever important “Best Male” category, in other words, who put the hero in Super Hero. It’s an industry dominated by male characters, but only one can be the best!
- James Barnes (Captain America)
- Danny Rand (Iron Fist)
- Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
- Bruce Wayne (Batman)
- Richard Ryder (Nova)
And the winner is…..James Buchanan Barnes! Captain America!
This has been Bucky’s year, as last January saw him debut his new threads and identity as the new Captain America. He spent the majority of the year wrapping up the first real arc of the book, as he saved America from the Red Skull and did his best to do right by Steve’s memory. He saved America, went public, and even joined the New Avengers. He fought AIM, the Grand Director, The Red Skull, Skrulls, Batroc the Leaper, and even an old face from his past. Buck has had a banner year and truly come into his own as a top tier hero in the Marvel universe.
And for every great man, there is always a great woman to even the scales. In this day and age a strong female character is a must, and every company is doing their best to create them. It’s not always an easy goal to accomplish, and it seems harder and harder to keep a female solo series running (especially at Marvel), but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have some great ones!
- May Parker (Spider-Girl))
- Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)
- Kate Sawyer (Manhunter)
- Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)
- Barbra Gordon (Oracle)
And the winner is…..Spider-Girl!
Despite her impending cancellation, Spider-Girl continued to define what a teenage hero should be, as well as what a Spider-Man book should be. It’s been a long year for our girl, and unfortunately her run is almost over. But not before we got the brilliance that is “Brand New May”, the Spider-Girl clone saga. Say what you will about the prospect of one, but Tom DeFalco is master of all things Spider, and he’s making it work. Consistently one of the top books on stands, May is the epitome of what a hero should be in this day and age.
And what are stars without their supporting cast? Sure, you buy the book for the spotlight character, but you need to have more than that to keep a book a float.
Best Supporting Male
- Dylan Battles
- Baldar the Brave
- Eric O’Grady
And the winner is…..Crusader!
The only good Skrull from the Initiative, his character arc this year has been one of my highlights, as I go on and on about it. A Skrull who wanted nothing more to be human, who wanted to fight for his adopted home world, even when it meant fighting his own people. He killed his most honored and trusted friend, gave up his mark of honor, and declared himself a hero of Earth. He fought as hard as he could, and even helped save the Earth by defeating the Hank Pym Skrull. The only downside to all of this is that his amazing character arc ended in tragedy, as 3D Man killed him with a single word. “Skrull”. Crusader vanished as he died, the last acts of his Freedom Ring, and I can only hope that he’ll reappear alive and well later this year.
And of course, there’s the women as well!
Best Supporting Female
- Black Widow
- Jessica Jones
- Courtney Whitmore
- Samantha Eve Wilkins
- Helena Bertinelli
And the winner is…..Samantha Eve Wilkins…Atom Eve!
This was actually a tossup between Eve and Widow, but Eve took is as her full time return to Invincible has made for some amazing character moments, and the pulling of the trigger on the long awaited relationship between her and Mark/Invincible. She has a unique power set, ties to every character in the book, and she plays nicely off of Mark. Her role is very natural, and the coming together of the two gave long time readers exactly what they wanted, while in no way feeling forced. Here’s to Eve getting a nomination for best female, not supporting next year!
Now how about teams? Super heroes love to roll in groups for some reason, and they have since forever. There’s dozens of them out there these days, especially with the Fifty State Initiative, so it was a big list to cut down to a small list. But who takes it?
- The Initiative
- The Green Lantern Corps
- Secret Six
- Birds of Prey
And the winner is…..The Green Lantern Corps!
Last year ended with the wrapping up of the Sinestro Corps War, which led to this year being a rebuilding period. Alpha Lanterns, new laws, new recruits, and even a dark Guardian. The team is massive beyond massive, and yet never feels overwhelming. They’ve fought Yellow Lanterns, Mongul, the home world of the Black Mercy, and even Red Lanterns. All the while contending with the upcoming Blackest Night, and the debuting Purple and Blue Lantern Corps. 2008 was a banner year for the Corps, and 2009 is only looking to be that much sweeter. Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, two books to watch this year!
Now you can’t have a great good guy without having a better bad guy. After all, without Joker and Luthor, where would Batman and Superman be? Villains are the most important part of any title as they add a sense of legitimacy to the heroes they go after.
- The Red Skull
- Dr. Hurt
- Queen Veranke
- Norman Osborn
- Parker Robbins
And the winner is…..Norman Osborn!
Two years ago Norman was in jail for killing a reporter and was known publicly as the Green Goblin. Last year Norman took over the Thunderbolts after Civil War. This year Norman took his place as one of the most powerful men on Earth, leading the new organization that is replacing SHIELD, and taking one step closer to the Presidency. He’s smart, cunning, intriguing, and is having the perfect build as a true masterminding villain. He’s also the leader of the Dark Illuminati, and the mind behind the Dark Reign. 2008 was huge for him, but it ended with him becoming that much bigger.
But where would any of these be without the creators? The writers and artists that bring these characters to life?
- Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Daredevil, Uncanny X-Men)
- Matt Fraction (Punisher, Uncanny X-Men, Iron Fist, various Thor one shots and minis, The Order)
- Grant Morrison (Batman, Final Crisis, All Star Superman)
- Geoff Johns (JSA, Action Comics, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, Legion of Three Worlds)
- Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, Annihilation: Conquest)
And the winner is…..Geoff Johns!
A close race ends with Johns narrowly edging out the mighty Brubaker for the top spot, almost entirely on the merits of writing four of my favorite monthly books this past year. Johns takes a lot of flak, but he is consistently one of the best writers in comics and has been for at least the near six years I’ve been back into regular reading. 2009 is going to see him dropping JSA and Action Comics, leaving him with Green Lantern as his only current monthly. Good money will see him returning to the Legion in some form as he’s gone to great lengths to bring them back. Of course, more exciting then that will be seeing his return to the Flash with Flash: Rebirth, and with any luck, he’ll be writing the title soon after that wraps.
And for every great writer, you need a great artist. Comics are a visual medium, and that makes the pencils on the paper just as important as the words, and at times, even more important. Visual story telling means you need clear images to move you from panel to panel, and these guys are the best that there were this year.
- Steve Epting (Captain America)
- Ivan Reis (Green Lantern)
- Tony Daniel (Batman)
- Stefano Caselli (Avengers: The Initiative, Mighty Avengers)
- Michael Gaydos (Manhunter, New Avengers)
- Oliver Coipel (Thor)
And the winner is…..Ivan Reis!
I said a few months back that the worst thing that could happen to Ivan is that he does a big universe spanning crossover, not that he couldn’t do it (as I know for a fact that he could, and wonderfully at that), but that it would cause him to leave Green Lantern. His pencils are beyond amazing, and he does epic space stories with apparent ease. His pencils capture the iconic nature of the characters, while never growing stale nor does he show fatigue on giant pages with dozens of characters. Every character on the page has their own face, and the attention to detail is phenomenal. I continue to expect amazing things from Mr. Reis in 09.
Fight time! Super heroes + Super villains = Brawl for all. Period.
- Everyone vs Skrulls (SI#7)
- JSA vs JSA
- The Immortal Weapons vs Hydra
- Captain America vs Captain America
And the winner is…..The Immortal Weapons vs Hydra!
And how do you out do a giant kung fu brawl between the fiercest, most able warriors in the world against the hordes of Hydra? Simple, you don’t. Try as you might, the fight was beyond epic in both scale and execution. Beyond that, it provided the perfect climax to the story, as the entire book to that point had been building to Iron Fist against Hydra. What better way to do it then to add in the other Immortal Weapons? Oh, and Luke, Misty, and Colleen were there too. Heroes for Hire, Immortal Weapons, awesome.
An unfortunate thing about comics is that sometimes characters need to die. Sure, it has the potential to further a story along, but a lot of times the ball is dropped, or worse, the character is thrown up to the crossover gods. Sometimes deaths wind up being completely meaningless, while others are never forgotten. It’s a double edged sword, and it truly does matter most what you do in the aftermath of a characters death.
- Mr. Sinister
- Pa Kent
- J’onn J’onzz
And the winner is…..J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter!
J’onn’s death was surprising and horrific at the same time. Sure, since One Year Later he’s floundered in character limbo after a failed attempt at generating new interest in the character, but he’s also a founding Justice League member. Despite never having a solo series last an extended length of time (though Ostrander’s run was outstanding), J’onn has always been a prominent figure in the DC Universe, and has belonged to nearly ever incarnation of the JLA. His death was made that much more important due to the Peter Tomasi written Requiem, which expanded on the event of his death, as well as showing how it rippled across the heroic community. We felt the loss through his friends and loved ones, and mourned with them as they buried him on Mars. It was a very touching moment that I doubt I’ll forget anytime soon.
I couldn’t tell you how many books I read this past year. Not if I tried. There was just so damn many! But only one can honestly be called the single best issue that I’ve read all year.
Best Single Issue
- Y: The Last Man #60
- New Avengers #47
- X-Factor: Layla Miller
- Thor #11
- DC: The New Frontier Special
And the winner is…..Y: The Last Man #60!
One need only read this book to understand my pick. In fact, and not to knock the other books nominated here, but I knew what book was going to win this before I even set up the ballots. When I read the final issue of Y: The Last Man back in January, I knew I was reading the single best book I would go through for the rest of the year, and my prediction was correct. I never expected a single issue to do enough justice to the book to wrap everything up, but then Vaughan went ahead and did it. We’re fast forwarded into the future to show how the unmanned world has progressed, only to see that it’s thriving in large part due to the cloning research of Dr. Mann. Through the eyes of a clone of Yorick did we see the world, and then inside of a room with padded walls, we watched him speak to the original. We find out about the later days of his life, including a scene with Ampersand that I still cry openly at the thought of. The issue is the single best concluding issue to any series that I have ever read, and one of the best single issues I’ve read ever. Please, my friends, do yourselves a favor and pick up the trades. This is an amazing experience.
An incredibly subjective subject is going to be use of powers, since going in there are quite literally hundreds if not thousands of events to mull over. Yeah, I have a lot of time on my hands to read, but not enough to scan every book I read this year for kick ass moments. So I picked the five I thought stood out the most, and well, here you go.
Best Use of Super Power
- Reactron (Gold Kryptonite + Kryptonians = Thin out their numbers)
- Thor summoning the spirit of Captain America
- Crusader vs Skrulls
- Starman: Key to the multiverse
- Layla Miller starts the Summers Rebellion
And the winner is…..Thor!
Just a few months ago, on the anniversary of the death of Captain America, Thor roused his spirit from its slumber for a talk. Over the course of several pages the two old friends talked religions, personal beliefs, and what their camaraderie meant to one another. Sure, it wasn’t some balls to the wall action sequence, but it was an incredible moment made possible solely due to the sheer amount of power that Thor currently wields, and if that doesn’t make it a use of a super power then I don’t know what does.
A line that stands out as utterly unforgettable, there are a couple each year, usually. And I know my short list is doing none of them justice, but let’s be honest, this is just an excuse for me to showcase some of my favorite little quotes from the past year.
- “I…I don’t want to hurt anyone….” Elixer, “Are you fucking kidding me?! You gave me a fucking tumor!” Vanisher
- Norman Osborn
- “My God has a hammer!”
- Deadshot in Secret Six #1
And the winner is…..Norman Osborn!
I think Norman will just speak for himself.
No book can stay stagnant and remain successful, so as nice as the status quo may be, it’s made to be broken. Best direction is a category for titles that have made great and successful attempts this past year.
- JSA (Thy Kingdom Come)
- Batman (RIP)
- Superman (New Krypton)
- X-Men Legacy
And the winner is…..Thor!
JMS has completely reinvigorated this title, rebuilding the mythology from the ground up, while at the same time grounding it very much on Earth. Literally, as Asgard is in Oklahoma. We’ve had a new status quo debut, complete with new limits for the abilities of the title character and other Asgardians. We’ve seen Baldard the Brave discover his true origin as the secret prince of Asgard, and Loki has even turned into a woman (thought the true reason why is SINISTER)! For all that has come before, JMS has moved this series forward, modernizing it without following the traditional route of reinventing for the sake of doing so. We saw Thor go down to Earth as he awoke other Asgardians from their slumber, and we saw his hardships as a king. We even got to see him spend time as Donald Blake, and I’ll say this much, Thor works SO much better with a human identity. It’s the little things, you know? A literal God with a secret identity is enough to give you the point of view needed to fully appreciate the character and their actions and visions, as it gives you something to relate to. Helped even more so by JMS and his amazing ability to write a flawless everyman.
The breakout star of the year is, in all honesty, possibly the biggest award on this list. It means that this creator wasn’t even a name to consider a year ago, but now they are on the fast track to success. These are the names to watch in 2009.
Best New Talent
- Duane Swiercynski
- Sterling Gates
- Valentine De Landro
- Peter Tomasi
- Johnathan Hickman
- Jason Aaron
And the winner is…..Peter Tomasi!
Tomasi almost didn’t get nominated for this award, but a quick look through Diamond’s charts proved that Glazer was right. This WAS his year. Black Adam, Nightwing, Green Lantern Corps, JSA: Magog, Final Crisis: Requiem. Last year he was an editor, and this year he was being put on important titles. And beyond that? He fucking aced them. All of them. The other writers and artist on the list had stellar years, but Tomasi became a top star. His not being on the best writer list felt like a crime, as he was just barely cut, which would have made for an even more incredible win.
Miniseries help carry main stream comics, especially super heroes. Have a character you want to do a story with that can’t hold up a monthly? Mini-series! Want to tell a story that wont fit into the main title? Mini-series! Want to do three extra Wolverine appearances in a month? Mini-series!
Best Mini Series
- Rogues Revenge
- Young Avengers Presents
- Ultimate Origins
And the winner is…..Rogues Revenge!
The biggest loss to the Flash, other than Geoff Johns leaving, was that Geoff Johns couldn’t write the Rogues there anymore. Alright, so that was cheap, but it’s the truth. He managed to make the villains as important, if not more so at times, then the hero. Hell, even the last arc was Rogues vs Rogues with Flash trying to play clean up. They were a huge focal point of his run, and since it ended they’ve been criminally mishandled more often than not. So seeing that not only Geoff Johns, but his amazing Flash collaborator (until 200) Scott Kollins were coming back to do a three issue mini about JUST the Rogues was enough to make me giddy. There was no disappointment either, as Johns got every single one back into top form. They decided to call it quits, got revenge on the one who did them the most wrong (Inertia for making them kill a Flash), and even faced Libra and burned away their pasts (Cold and Weather Wizard in two very haunting moments). And how does it end? With the realization that Barry Allen is coming back, and with him a world where the Flash sees them as super villains. No more fun and games, just time to be Rogues.
The industry thrives on new blood, both in terms of talent and in terms of properties. So it goes to figure that for all the books entering into the marketplace every year, there’s going to be some homeruns.
Best New Series
- Secret Six
- Invincible Iron Man
And the winner is…..Secret Six!
Long overdue is all I can say, as this is a book I’ve been clamoring for since the end of Villains United. Sure, there was a miniseries, but that was back in 06, and we didn’t get a full series until 08. At least the wait allowed us to have both Gail Simone and the phenomenal Nicola Scott on board for the project, which only adds to the awesomeness. These two have an incredible synergy between them that most creative teams only can dream of, and yet, despite only having worked together on Birds of Prey, the two provide a fun and energetic experience that shows how well the creators click. So top that off with Catman trying to be a hero, Deadshot being Deadshot, and Ragdoll’s own unique sense of completely disgusting comedy, and what do you have? The best new ongoing of 2008!
And now for the best of the best, the last of the positive awards for this year. Which book wins the coveted best ongoing title of the year award? Which stands leaps and bounds above the competition and demonstrates what this lovely industry is all about?
- Captain America
- Immortal Iron Fist
- Green Lantern
- Action Comics
And the winner is…..Captain America!
By far the hardest award to hand out, Captain America just barely inched out the first runner up (Green Lantern), as both have been incredible and without a bad issue this year, but I have to give it to Cap. This year in Captain America has been all about Bucky proving himself worthy of the mantle left behind by Steve Rogers, and it’s been an incredible tail. The book felt very close to home, as Brubaker weaved in some real life events to add more credibility to his “The Men Who Stole America” story, and even managed to give us a fitting conclusion. The book has some of the best characterization in the Marvel universe, not to mention the best pacing. In fact, better then all of that, is that the book is pretty much immune to crossovers allowing a single story to be told at its own pace without having to cater to other titles. Kudos to Brubaker, it took one year in the suit to make Bucky as important as any of the top tier heroes in Marvel, and to keep washing away the distaste for the lack of Steve Rogers.
The Full Retard Awards
“Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, ‘Rain Man,’ look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho’. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, ‘Forrest Gump.’ Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain’t retarded. Peter Sellers, “Being There.” Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don’t buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, “I Am Sam.” Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed…” – Kirk Lazarus, Tropic Thunder
I’m pleased to announce that our Full Retard winners will go home….well, empty handed as there are no awards. But if we did have them….still, empty handed. Why waste the money celebrating horrible things?
Especially horrible things like the starring character in a book, where the character is just play awful in their role. Sometimes it’s horrible characterization, other times it’s obnoxious writing, and occasionally it’s even due to just being plain unlikable, or as us wrestling fans like to say, possessing X-Pac Heat.
- Chimera (Checkmate)
- Donna Troy (Countdown/Titans)
- Mary Marvel (Countdown/Final Crisis)
And the loser is…..Spider-Man!
Let’s admit it, this hasn’t been a banner year for Spider-Man. It opened up with the horrendous Brand New Day, and it still hasn’t ended. There have been a few well told stories, apparently, but all in all it’s been an insulting experience to a long term fan of the character. I’d say more, but any one of my regular readers knows exactly how I feel about this iconic character and the depths through which he has fallen.
- Jason Todd (Countdown)
- Rick Jones
- Amber Bennet (Invincible)
- Forager (Countdown)
And the loser is…..Jackpot!
I don’t even read Spider-Man and I know this story. Registered super hero shows up called Jackpot, spouting lines made famous by Mary Jane Watson, and looking IDENTICAL to MJ. Readers all claim they know its MJ and that the surprise is horrible. Writers do a few pointless twists and turns to try and hide the identity. And in the end? It’s an MJ look-a-like hopped up on MGH using a stolen super hero identity. Does that sound like something you might be interested in?
Worst villain almost sounds like a winning title, stupid wordings. Thing is, the best villain is going to be the best received one. The worst? Just a steaming pile of evil crap. Possibly even the diet coke of evil.
- Superboy Prime
- Ultimate Ultron
And the loser is…..Rulk!
Over powered, poorly characterized, and despite a promise of knowing his identity after six issues we still don’t know it after nine. He’s made better characters job to him without remorse, and all in all, he’s the kind of villain that is only as weak as his writer lets him be, which is just horrible writing in and of itself.
To be the worst writer of the year it takes a special kind of, well, I can’t say talent, but it certainly takes something. It’s not even about being someone who brought the least to the table, anyone can do that. No, it takes a special kind of suck to be the worst writer, it means you helped define the part of your industry that nobody should be subject to. It means that you have produced titles that are able to make long term readers scratch their heads and wonder why they still buy their weeklies. This isn’t necessarily a knock on any of the writers on the list other then, well, you guys have had shitty years.
- Adam Beechen (Countdown)
- Bruce Jones (Checkmate)
- Judd Winnick (Green Arrow/Black Canary, Titans)
- Jeph Loeb (Ultimates 3, Hulk, Ultimate Captain America Annual, Ultimatum)
- Sean McKeever (Countdown, Teen Titans, Birds of Prey)
And the loser is…..Jeph Loeb!
This year Jeph managed to set new levels for horrid writing as he was given top tier books to write and then proceeded to produce three of the worst pieces of crap I have ever had the misfortune of laying eyes upon. The single high note of his year was the Ultimate Captain America Annual was that was merely decent. In Hulk he’s blazed a trail that proves that he has not picked up a single Marvel title in years, as he mischaracterizes and nerfs the powers of characters such as Thor in an effort to prove that his Red Hulk was strong. So strong, in fact, that despite Loeb creating the character, even he can’t keep the power levels straight. Of course, at least it has managed to have a story more linear then Ultimates 3 which….I bought the first three issues and still couldn’t tell you what happened, just that a lot of people showed up for no reason, and apparently everyone was a robot. Ultimatum…..well, two issues in and Loeb has proven yet again that he doesn’t really know how to write characters, so he just writes the big moments. Hell, the man got fired from his gig of producing and writing for Heroes. Hang it up Jeph, you’re done.
And just as there are amazing artists who do beautiful work, there are always going to be others who make us weep when we see their scratches on the pages.
- Larry Stroman
- Greg Land
- Simon Coleby
- Howard Chaykin
And the loser is…..Larry Stroman!
I’m sorry, but anyone who can make M look like this deserves it. Period.
Worst death means that it’s a combination of pointless, aggravating, and just plain horribly written. Pretty much ever nominee fills out that.
- The Wasp (Ultimatum)
- Andreas Strucker
- Orion (three times in a month!)
- The rest of the New Gods
- Karate Kid
And the loser is…..Andreas Strucker!
This almost went to the cannibalized Ultimate Wasp, but Andreas gets the loss here. See, I like Andreas Strucker. I like Fenris, I like Baron Strucker, I like Hydra. I love this kind of stuff and have no idea why, but they are just great villains to me. And Andreas, after the past few creative teams on Thunderbolts, has been a very well managed character to me (even when Norman is crucifying him). He’s got this level of arrogance that befits his social position as he wishes it was, but not as it is. I figured going into Dark Reign he’d have a chance to shine. Not-so-much. Norman Osborn kills him in a throw-away moment during the Dark Reign one shot, and then a week later in Thunderbolts we get to see the awesome version of him do his one last non-jobbing act. They couldn’t even time that much out right.
Every year is ass loaded with miniseries and one shots, after all, they’re easier to sell then a new ongoing. Just slap an X/4 sticker on, and you’re going to get some sales. Some succeed with well written stories and others….
- Secret Invasion
- Ultimates 3
- Countdown: Arena
And the loser is…..Secret Invasion!
Why Secret Invasion? Well, without going on too much of a rant (been there, done that, like three times), an event miniseries that fails to deliver on every conceivable level, while promising to redefine the landscape of a major comic company, is more than enough to guarantee a loss here. The other miniseries might have been horrible, but none failed on quite the level Secret Invasion did, as none of the others had nearly as much riding on their success. There’s your lesson, hype makes bad things worse.
How does one define the worst title of the entire year? Honestly, what makes a book bad enough to be the worst? Horrible characters? A nonsensical plot? An inability to remember what you yourself have written? How about a total disregard for the book you’re actually writing? All of these and more make up the criteria for this list.
- Amazing Spider-Man
- Green Arrow/Black Canary
- New Warriors
And the loser is…..Hulk!
Why Hulk when there are so many other bad books? Because for such a horrible disgrace of a title, one that ignores even its own continuity, it still sells high enough for Marvel to call it a success. It’s proof that readers are sheep who buy names rather than quality, which is unfortunate as I hate to insult my fellow readers. But if this book were to sell less, if Marvel was to be made known the old fashioned way that this book was horrid, then we’d see a creative shift and all would be fixed. It’s kind of like Brand New Day, only it abused the continuity of other books as well while the raping of the Spider-Man franchise stays pretty closed up. Red Hulk has fought Thor, Iron Man, the Avengers, hell, he sucker punched the Watcher. Does it make sense? No, in fact, Chewbacca living on Endor makes more sense.
The Gold Standard