About a week ago, we put up a strange post that was partially a criticism of Vice’s “Best Comics of 2015” list, and partially a meditation on the frustrating nature of “year’s best” lists in general. But the post had a middle section where we got needlessly specific about things we (supposedly) do and don’t like. We admitted it was “crotchety” “red meat” for the “stereotypical Heavy Metal readership”—but it was just unnecessary. Hell, we even called Archie out by name—good ol’ Archie! What did Archie ever do to us? This is a blog, but we are also a publisher, and it’s poor form to poop on acclaimed work just because it’s not the kind of thing we’d publish. The comics world is vast, there is room for all kinds of books and all kinds of readers.
So for the record: Sorry, Archie Andrews. Please accept our apology. We’ve added you to our pull list. (Jughead can take a hike, though.)
(We stand by the gist of the post as valid, and the information in it as somewhat useful, and it’s still on the site—if you really, really want to read it, click here.)
What follows the article we were brainstorming when that Vice list sent us off on such a questionable path. 2015 was a hell of a year for comics—these are ten stories, trends and products we liked and will remember. We have much to celebrate.
10 Awesome Things That Happened in 2015
Philippe Druillet’s Lone Sloane in English
Philippe Druillet is one of two great French artists whose work was key to defining Heavy Metal from its inception—the other being Jean “Moebius” Giraud. It’s unfortunate that Druillet (who’s still alive, and only 71 years old) doesn’t have the same profile for today’s fans of graphic storytelling. His work is every bit as alluring as Giraud’s, in a completely different way, and it is arguably more effective. Fearsome, otherworldly beings; massive, menacing architecture; dizzyingly complex page layouts crammed with detail—there’s nothing in comics quite like reading a Druillet story. So we doff our hats x1000 to Titan, who published The 6 Voyages of Lone Sloane in 2015.
The Four Horsemen Write Again
They’re not the “Four Horsemen.” They haven’t worked together and on occasion have famously feuded with each other. But there’s a strong case to be made that Alan Moore (62), Frank Miller (59), Neil Gaiman (55) and Grant Morrison (55) are the four writers who did the most to expand and legitimize the medium of comics from the mid-1980s up through Y2K. In 2015, all four of them released new work, something that hasn’t happened in a calendar year since (by our reckoning) 2007.
Moore: Crossed +100, Providence, Nemo: River of Ghosts
Miller: The Dark Knight: The Master Race
Gaiman: Sandman: Overture
Morrison: The Multiversity, Nameless, Annihilator, Grant Morrison’s 18 Days, Avatarex, Klaus
“The Eternaut,” Alive and Gripping 58 Years Later
The medium of comics has a strange advantage over many others: its evolution from a juvenile form of entertainment to something far more wide-ranging. Of course, this is often a downside, with people who just don’t get it writing off comics and graphic novels as kids’ stuff. But Argentina in 1957 was a country reeling from military coups and civil unrest, bitterly polarized and on the brink of self-inflicted economic ruin. A science-fiction comic strip was a pretty good way to talk about politics. The serial “El Eternauta,” written by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and illustrated by Francisco Solano López, told a subversive story about resourceful resistance fighters who must battle various invading creatures—stand-ins for the military forces and coup d’etats that vexed Argentina after the deposition of Juan Peron. But it’s more than an allegory—it’s also a damn good story. Nearly 60 years after the strip’s debut, Fantagraphics published its first run (1957-59), a beautifully-packaged 368-page collection given the title The Eternaut.
Gail Simone and the Dynamite Dames
We’ve always had a great affection for three heroines currently living under the Dynamite roof: Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris. There’s something so Heavy Metal about them. And yet, cheesecakey genre fantasy adventure (something we’re familiar with, God knows) isn’t necessarily a growth industry. It deserves to be shaken up; its storytelling should be considered with a critical eye. Dynamite did that in a big way with Swords of Sorrow, a grand multi-title saga that pulled in Sonja, Vamp, and Dejah, as well as Jungle Girl, Masquerade, Jennifer Blood and Lady Rawhide. The crazy lady driver who took this on was Gail Simone, and her fellow scribes included G. Willow Wilson, Mairghread Scott, and Nancy Collins. In all, Swords of Sorrow spanned 21 issues. While some readers felt the story was “rushed” or uneven, public response was generally favorable-to-celebratory. The fresh interest created in these genre characters is undeniable; the phenomenon of female readers suddenly caring about scantily-clad female heroines is kind of crazy. Then, after the event was over, Gail Simone dropped a bomb: She and artist Nicola Scott had redesigned Sonja, Vamp and Dejah’s costumes. Starting this month, the three ladies will be much less naked. Now, we didn’t welcome this news all that warmly. Our feelings are at best mixed. But we don’t believe in sacred cows either. It is a gutsy move by Dynamite and Simone, and we’re interested to see how it plays out in the market. And if it turns out that Red Sonja without her scale-mail bikini is a flop? Hell, Dynamite can bring the bikini back—after all, Power Girl’s controversial “boob window” has come and gone repeatedly, and Superman has died at least 4 times.
Star Wars Comics Rule the Galaxy
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was without a doubt the box-office story of the year, with tentacles reaching far into other areas of entertainment and culture. And yes, comics. So Marvel wanted to cash in on the Star Wars mania—of course they did. But here’s where the story diverges from your typical tie-in tale. Marvel did an amazing job with the Star Wars books, not just providing a main title in keeping with the franchise but adding spin-offs and one-shots that gave us more details on characters we love. Yes, Darth Vader and Leia got their own series, we might have predicted that—but so did Chewie and Lando. The comics got great writers (Mark Waid, Greg Rucka, Kieron Gillen and many others) and fantastic interior artists (Mike Deodato, Jr., Phil Noto, Simone Bianchi and many others). The covers were stunning. This was an example of a massive tie-in done right. It was good for Marvel (which dominated sales in 2015 thanks to Star Wars and Secret Wars), and it was good for comics as a whole. By many measures, 2015 was the best year for comics sales, well, ever, according to the Diamond sales numbers at Comichron. And Star Wars #1, which came out in January 2015, racked up over 1 million copies sold—something that hasn’t happened since 1992 (if this list at Zap-Kapow! is accurate).
Welcome Back… Bloom County?
Star Wars came back in 2015, and we got the news that X-Files, Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, Big Trouble in Little China, and a host of other things are on their way… back. Coming back is a major trend. Yet of all the things that came back, we were most surprised by Bloom County, a hilarious and groundbreaking newspaper strip by Berke Breathed that had stopped publishing in 1989. Apparently the possibility of a President Trump has a reviving effect on satire of yesteryear. As foretold in the Book of Revelation.
Best. Comic. Book. Movie. Marketing. Ever.
The Deadpool movie will be out on Valentine’s Day 2016, but advertisements and teasers for the film have been with us for many months now. And at a time when there’s fear of “superhero fatigue” at the box office, the selling of Deadpool is exactly what we needed. It all kicked off with an homage to Burt Reynolds’ famous nude photo that ran in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1972. Since, we’ve seen a red band trailer, snarky video teasers, innuendo-laden viral imagery, spoofs of other movies’ posters, and priceless tweets from star Ryan Reynolds—the irreverence and smartassery we’ve come to expect from the character.
The Proof Is in the Creator-Owned Pudding
When you look at the lists of 2015’s best comics (which we’re not going to do in any detail, not again), one thing is abundantly clear: The creator-owned model is working, at least in terms of quality. Those who “care” about comics—meaning that they read a lot of comics, and think about them a lot, and write about them and argue about them—tend to care about creator-owned works a lot more than corporate fare. (And a lot of the corporate stuff is good! And sometimes it’s the same people doing the corporate stuff and the creator-owned stuff! We’re not pooping on corporations.) The Wicked + the Divine, Saga, Bitch Planet, Paper Girls, Descender, Southern Bastards, Wytches—these are among the most acclaimed comics of 2015, and they’re all creator owned. That’s good for comics as an artistic medium. Comics, it turns out, benefit when we think of them as art created and owned by specific artists, rather than intellectual property owned by companies.
Idiots Protest “Pornographic” Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Schools Stand Their Ground
On at least two college campuses, the award-winning graphic novel Fun Home proved upsetting to fragile, narrow-minded students. In this “tragicomic” memoir from 2006, author Alison Bechdel documents (among other things) the experience of growing up lesbian in a small town and dealing with her closeted father’s suicide. The book was made into a musical that won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In 2014, Bechdel won a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a “Genius Grant.” Conservative Christian students, one at Crafton Hill College in Yucaipa, California, and a few at Duke University, refused to read Fun Home on the grounds that its content is “pornographic.” Ha! As a challenged author, Bechdel joins the ranks of Sherman Alexie, J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, Judy Blume, R.L. Stine… the list goes on. The protesting of graphic novels is an established trend: Persepolis (by Marjane Satrapi) and Saga (by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples) both made the top-10 list of challenged books in 2014. But the Fun Home hubbub seems like a turning point because the protest was initiated by the students themselves, not their parents or conservative school administrators. And the schools (politely) stood up for the books and the instructors who assigned them.
Don’t Call It a— Actually, You Can Call It a Comeback
Don’t you hate it when someone puts out a list of cool stuff and then adds their own crap to it? Well, sorry. It was a big year for Heavy Metal. A momentous year. An historic year. We announced Grant Morrison as our next editor-in-chief. We published Barry Geller and Jack Kirby’s Lord of Light in the pages of issue #276 and as cool posters. We put Skinner and Sideshow Collectibles on our cover. We published Metal Pesado #1, a Spanish-language issue featuring work by Mexico’s best comics talent. We launched our first-ever standalone comic under the Heavy Metal banner: Hoax Hunters. Buzz on our second-ever standalone comic, Interceptor, was strong throughout the fall and into December, and when it went on sale (first week of January 2016, actually) it sold out. It’s now the tail end of January 2016 and our third-ever title is on shelves (Narcopolis) and you’d best place your preorder for our fourth (The Doorman). We even started updating this usually fun, sometimes fallible blog on a regular basis. We have to admit: It’s a damn good time to be Heavy Metal.
Here’s to another damn good year—what you got, 2016?