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Posts Tagged "Comic Book Top Ten"

THE TOP 5 HORROR BOOKS OF THE YEAR (P.S.: 2014 WAS A GOOD YEAR FOR HORROR)

I don’t usually like horror comics, but this year I found myself reading quite a few.  Many were good: Revival, Greg Rucka’s Veil, and American Vampire: Second Cycle (not as good as the first cycle, but still worth a read).  Even George Romero’s Empire of Dead, published by Marvel (but not taking place in any Marvel universes), was much stronger than expected—largely due to Michael Lark’s art.  And Rachel Rising continues to be excellent, but since it’s on my “best of the year” list I didn’t think I should list it here.

So, lots of good horror comics in 2014 and five truly exceptional ones….

MY FIVE FAVORITE HORROR BOOKS OF 2014

5.  Bad Blood (Dark Horse). 

A surprisingly character-focused by Jonathan Mayberry and Tyler Crook about a (relatively incompetent) vampire hunter with cancer-filled blood, and his goth-stripper girlfriend.

4.  The Wake (Vertigo).  

This was a horror comic in the same way Alien was a horror movie.  Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s story seemed to be a tale of dystopian sci fi futurism, but (ahem) under the surface, this book about underwater mysteries was a horror story and a mystery.  The first arc, which came out in 2013, was definitely the scarier of the two—the wrap up takes place in the light, where the first six issues took place in the depths of the sea, but since it wrapped in 2014, I’m putting it on this list.  Most folks will read it in trade, anyway.

3.  Red Rover Charlie (Avatar).  

A zombie apocalypse story told from the point of view of dogs, written by Garth Ennis.  The only thing that could have made this better is if it had taken place in his “Crossed” universe.  Oh, and by the way, it’s not the first animal comic that nearly made me cry (We3 was first).

2.  Afterlife With Archie (Archie Comics).  

No, this wasn’t just a gimmick: It was good.  No, it was actually excellent.  The only reason it’s not ranked #1 is because it wasn’t really “scary,” and wasn’t really trying to be.

1.  Nailbiter (Image). 

This great mystery reads like a Dexter spin-off.  It’s about an investigation in a town known for birthing serial killers.  In a one-off issue, a pregnant woman comes to the town because she wants her baby to born there and grow up to the next Jeffrey Dahmer, so she can be famous.  That simple story was fantastic, and captures the essence of the ongoing story as well.

Next: The movement in comics is MORE #1s!  So, we’ll look at the best #1s of 2014…

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THE TOP TEN COMIC BOOK WRITERS AND ARTISTS OF ALL TIME: PART ONE

One of my favorite blogs, “Comics Should Be Good,” is running a poll of the best writers and artists of all time.  I know I’ve run my opinion on this in the past on this site, but I thought I’d do a top ten for each with zero research: Just going on gut.  So that’s what you’ll see below, and that’s what Brian Cronin will get as my vote.  I’m posting this as a two-part post, so come back tomorrow for part two.

Follow the link if you want to play along, but if you do, please drop a comment and tell me your picks!

I’ll start with the easier category for me: Best artist.  Before my list, I have to say: It broke my heart not to include Jim Starlin.  But I had to give props to Terry Moore because he’s a true indie creator who needs help getting the word out about his brilliance.

BERKELEY PLACE’S TOP TEN BEST COMIC BOOK ARTISTS OF ALL TIME (off the top of my head)

10.  Terry Moore.  Why: His women make me gasp for breath.  He can take “ordinary” looking people and find the beauty in them.  Strangers In Paradise is one of the best illustrated books of all time.

9.  Mike Zeck.  Why: He’s my unsung hero of the 1980s.  His barrel-chested Captain America and muscular Punisher are iconic—there would have been no Rob Liefeld without Mike Zeck.

8.  John Byrne.  Why: Byrne gets a lot of crap these days for being “normal” or “boring,” but remember: It wasn’t normal or boring back in the 1970s and ‘80s.  He established the style.  Everyone imitated him.  And he drew just about every character in the Marvel Universe with the same love and care—his art knew no favorites.

7.  Steve Ditko.  Why: Two reasons: Spider-Man and Dr. Strange.  Why not higher on the list?  Because there are only two reasons he’s here at all.  They’re great reasons, but he’s hardly prolific.

6.  Frank Miller.  Why: The real question is, why doesn’t the man who single-handedly changed Daredevil from a D-list character and who defined the Wolverine we know today rate higher?  Two reasons: First, he relies heavily on great co-artists like Klaus Janson and Lynne Varley.  That’s not a bad thing, and I still ranked him as the sixth best artist of all time, but everyone who I ranked above him did stellar work with a greater variety of inkers and colorists.  Second, he writes even better than he draws—and when he draws someone else’s words, he’s just not as interesting.  That makes him more of a storyteller than a comic book artist.  (Arguably, it also makes him even more of a genius.)

5.  John Cassaday.  Why: Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men (written by Joss Whedon) was the first comic that I read the issues, bought in trade paperback, and then bought again in large, oversized format, and the sole reason was the art.  The story is fantastic, but it reads just as well on the small page as the large one.  But the art just needed to be bigger.  And then of course there’s his work on Planetary, which is nothing short of transcendent.

4.  George Perez.  Why: He’s literally the only artist in comics that I bought books just for the art.  Everyone else on this list couldn’t sell a book to me without a decent writer backing them up.  If you doubt me, just look at his original run on The New Teen Titans.  Or his work on Avengers.  Or, even better, Avengers vs. JLA.

3.  Jack Kirby.  Why: Because if I didn’t have him on this list, I’d probably be killed.  He’s here for the tremendous contributions to character design and comic book style.  Personally, his art doesn’t move me as much as it moves most other people, but I recognize how important it was to the art form.  Particularly, the next person on my list.

2.  Walt Simonson.  Why: Simonson’s art from the 1980s was unique, original, and groundbreaking.  The way he interpolated sound effects into the drama, and the way he could make things look huge, much bigger than the page…I know Jack Kirby gets applause for that.  Jack may have invented it, but for me, Simonson perfected it.

1.  John Romita, Jr.  Why: The Amazing Spider-Man.  Iron Man.  Hulk.  The best runs of my favorite characters are all drawn by this man.  I understand that his later work might not be as representative, but even some of his recent projects can put younger artists to shame: Kick-Ass and Superman, for example.  But mostly, it’s because nobody, including Steve Ditko, could ever come close to making Spidey look so fluid and fantastic. 

Tomorrow: My ten favorite writers!

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THE TOP TEN COMIC BOOK WRITERS AND ARTISTS OF ALL TIME: PART ONE

As I mentioned yesterday, one of my favorite blogs, “Comics Should Be Good,” is running a poll of the best writers and artists of all time.  I’ve certainly put a lot of thought about this into the past, but it’s always fun to make lists!  So, I made one quickly off the top of my head—without researching or anything to make sure my gut feeling today is the same as my well-thought-out opinions of the past.

Yesterday, I posted my favorite artists.  Today, the harder category: My favorite writers.

Follow this link if you want to play along, but if you do, please drop a comment and tell me your picks!

BERKELEY PLACE’S TOP TEN FAVORITE COMIC BOOK WRITERS OF ALL TIME

(off the top of my head)

10.  Peter David.  Why: When making a list like this, it’s important to reward consistency.  Lots of writers have written a book or two that I’ve loved, or even had tremendous and long runs that are terrific (e.g. ,Dan Slott on Spider-Man).  But writers who can consistently turn in quality work are the ones who are truly the industry’s best.  And Peter David is such a writer.  I’ve often said he’s the best at writing comics that read like novels, in that they have deep character moments that matter much more than the overall plot or action sequences.  And he’s no quitter.  He wrote The Incredible Hulk for twelve years.  He wrote X-Factor longer than that.  And those books never really got stale, either, despite how long he stayed there.

9.  Ed Brubaker.  Why: He proved that noir comics could be a “thing.”  His books are some of the industry’s most literary: Criminal, Gotham Central, and Sleeper, just to name three.  And his corporate work has literally changed the course of characters like Iron Fist, Catwoman, Captain America, and Daredevil.  Without him, it seems unlikely that several of them would ever have gotten media deals.  It kills me not to put Greg Rucka on this list because I love him, too, but between them I had to go with Ed.  Ed killed Cap, after all.

8.  Jim Starlin. Why: Since I’m literally writing this book off the top of my head, it’s influenced by what I’m currently reading.  And what I’m currently reading is every appearance of Thanos.  But that doesn’t mean Jim Starlin doesn’t deserve to be on this list.  Also, the fact that he’s a tremendous artist shouldn’t take away from his merit, either.  Just look at the characters and concepts he created (or wrote so well that he might as well have created), and the rich, detailed, and highly influential “cosmic” storylines he brought forth.  Shang Chi.  Thanos.  Drax the Destroyer.  Adam Warlock.  Gamora.  Captain Mar-Vell.  The Soul Gems.  Not to mention powerful stories like Batman: The Cult, Death of the New Gods, and, of course, one of my all-time favorites, his creator-owned series Dreadstar.

7.  Roger Stern.  Why: He wrote the two comic books that formed the basis of my childhood: The Amazing Spider-Man #224-252 and The Avengers #189-279 (with some gaps).  Not to mention runs on Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Spectacular Spider-Man that I find myself returning to over and over again, even today.  Oh, and he created Hobgoblin.  So there’s that.

6.  Frank Miller.  Why: Because he took an industry that was running on fumes and, nearly single-handedly, changed its course.  You may not like the dark and violent direction comics took after Miller’s magnum opus, The Dark Knight Returns, but the effect was undeniable.  And he didn’t just change the voice of American comics, he changed what we read as well.  With Ronin, Miller proved that comic stories independent of established heroes could not just sell, but could sell in a glossier (and more expensive) format.  People love to sing the praises of Alan Moore, and there’s no denying his work on Swamp Thing and Watchmen.  But for my money, I got more re-reading mileage off of Miller’s Batman: Year One or his seminal run on Daredevil.  No, his recent stuff isn’t nearly as good—but then again, neither is Alan Moore’s.  Or Stan Lee’s, for that matter.

5.  Garth Ennis.  Why: Because of Punisher MAX, the comic book run I have re-read more than any other.  But also because of books like Crossed, Hitman, Preacher, and The Boys.  He’s extremely dark, and may be a bit of a one-note writer with his constant expositions against superheroes and his love of hardcore, extreme sex and violence, but few people can write internal dialog or plot a gritty street-level crime story better than Ennis.

4.  Stan Lee.  Why: Say what you want about how he took credit for everyone else’s work, the fact is that his name shares creation credits with just about every single Marvel character worth mentioning.  Even if he did take ownership of some ideas that weren’t his, there’s so much smoke that there had to be fire as well.  Stan is the Man.

3.  Mark Waid.  Why: Because he’s a helluva guy.  Truly.  He loves the industry enough to constantly push the boundaries, through storytelling innovations on digital platforms and new ideas in hardcopy distribution, but he also writes the hell out of everything he touches.  He wrote the best run of Flash ever, and the only one I’ve ever bothered to read all the way through.  He created Impulse and Damian Wayne.  His work on JLA is eclipsed only by Grant Morrison’s.  He wrote the first Deadpool solo series.  He rebooted and reimagined characters like Captain America, Daredevil, and Ka-Zar, at times when they desperately needed retooling.  And he’s a team player and a utility player, writing installments in important events like the X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse and Onslaught. And as for his creator-owned work, you need only go as far as Irredeemable to find pure brilliance.

2.  Grant Morrison.  Why: Batman.  Flex Mentallo.  Doom Patrol.  We3.  Joe the Barbarian.  New X-Men.  Animal Man.  All-Star Superman.  JLA.  Seven Soldiers.  Marvel Boy.  The list of A-list characters he’s made better, and the list of D-listers he’s put on the map, is endless.  True, not everything he touches is pure gold—but all of it is thoughtful, innovative, and remarkably unique.  There is no voice in comics that can tell the stories he tells.  That’s what makes him superior to excellent writers like Jonathan Hickman or Brian Michael Bendis, who can tell intricate and fantastic stories but who also, at bottom, are telling conventional stories and really haven’t done anything to change the way comic stories are told.  They’re masters of the genre.  Morrison shatters it, and rebuilds it in his own image.

1.  Warren Ellis.  Why: With The Authority, Warren Ellis made a DC version of Marvel’s Ultimates that did what Marvel’s Ultimates never could: It updated the heroes in ways that not only made sense from a modern perspective, but actually changed the “mainstream” versions of the heroes themselves.  He created indelible characters charged with a rich history and backstories that were instantly more detailed, and more intimate, than the histories of Superman and Batman—who had been around for half a century.  With Planetary, Ellis broke the boundaries of science fiction to create a comic book so smart and well-researched it actually made your head hurt to read it.  You could actually learn while reading it.  And finally, with NextWAVE: Agents of Hate, Ellis proved that his voice is hands down the funniest one in comics.  Throw in genius runs on Ultimate Fantastic Four, Thor, and Iron Man (where he created the Extremis concept); a reboot of Jim Shooter’s failed New Universe idea; and brilliant creator-owned work like Global Frequency, Transmetropolitan, and Fell; and you’ve got a writer who can do it all: Humor, hardcore, mainstream—whatever he’s tasked with, he conquers.

Afterword:

After I made this list, I looked at the last post I did on this subject—one I’d put a lot more time and research into.  Looks like the order is a little different, but the main folks are the same.  Only differences are that in 2011’s list I included Chris Claremont, Brian Michael Bendis, Alan Moore, and J. Michael Straczynski, but today instead I put in Peter David, Jim Starlin, Mark Waid, and Frank Miller.   I can’t argue with myself about JMS or Bendis—but their works since 2011 have been significantly lesser quality than before that time, and Mark Waid’s work has been significantly better.  I think they’re probably interchangeable with Frank Miller or Peter David.  As for Chris Claremont, I think of him as a better plotter than a writer these days.  And finally, as for Alan Moore, I have to confess: When I made that list in 2011 I remember including Moore because I thought I had to.  He wrote Watchmen and Swamp Thing, for God’s sake.  But really, other than that, his work just doesn’t move me.  Give me Jim Starlin’s Death of Captain Marvel, his incredible Dreadstar stories, or his wonderful run on Silver Surfer instead.

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TOP TEN BOOM! STUDIOS COMICS THAT NEED TO BE MOVIES (or TV shows)

So, the word is that BOOM! Studios and 20th Century Fox have a first-look deal to adapt comics into TV shows or movies. And, of course, last year BOOM! Acquired the wonderful Archaia publishing line, which comes along with the deal. I’m assuming licensed titles, like the Muppets and 28 Days Later, are not part of the deal—but even without them, there’s lots of great stuff at BOOM!/Archaia that needs to be adapted…Now!

Many deals are already in place: A great 2 Guns movie came out last year, and deals are in place for Unthinkable, The Foundation, Rust, Jeremiah Harm, and several others—but those wouldn’t have made my top 10 anyway.

Here’s what does, and why…

10. Dead Run by Michael Alan Nelson and Andrew Cosby. This would be a terrific “B” picture: Zombies, monsters, and fast cars. After the apocalypse, Americans live in fortified cities. Dead Run tells the tale of Nick Masters, a driver who makes deliveries through the wasteland connecting the cities.

9. Strange Attractors by Charles Soule and Greg Scott. What if you figured out, mathematically, the way a city “worked,” and used that formula to constantly tweak it so it didn’t burn out or destroy itself? That’s the story here: A city engineer who, basically, is God, and his new young student. A great sci-fi story aching to be turned into a thoughtful thriller.

8. I Thought You Would Be Funnier by Shannon Wheeler. This Eisner-nominated humor book is basically a series of New Yorker cartoons, but it could serve as the premise for a series of sketches or animated shorts. I know that spinning these kinds of things off into TV isn’t always successful, but with the right imagination behind it, it could be hilarious.

7. Hero Squared by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Joe Abraham. The writers of the best Justice League comics of all time tell the story of a superhero plucked from his own universe into one where his counterpart version has no powers…And his dating his arch enemy! Yeah, it’s high concept and a bit of a mind-bender at first, but this book has run several volumes for a reason: It’s great. I’d love to see it serialized as a super-hero sit-com. Think “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” if that movie had actually been any good.

6. Potter’s Field by Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta. Just about anything with Waid’s name on it deserves adaptation, and this noir about a man trying to name all the unmarked graves in Potter’s Field is no exception. It could be an ongoing series about each grave, or a movie focusing on the plot that linked the four issues in this great, underrated miniseries together.  It is one of his best works.

5. A Tale of Sand by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl. A graphic novel based on an unproduced screenplay by the genius behind The Muppets, The Dark Crystal, and Fraggle Rock. How is this not already a movie?

4. Mouse Guard. It’s beloved, it’s won dozens of awards, and it’s tailor-made for a small-screen animated series that would have some depth to it. Kids today are savvier by the minute—why not give them something they can really think about?

3. Deathmatch by Paul Jenkins and Carlos Magno. A world’s worth of superheroes and villains find themselves trapped in a gladiator-like kill-or-be-killed arena, with no idea how they got there or why. It’s part mystery, part action, with tremendous spin-off potential. Plus, although it ran for over a year’s worth of issues, it would be fairly easy to adapt to movie length. Why should Marvel have all the epic, heroic fun?

2. Irredeemable/Incorruptible by Mark Waid. To me, this is Waid’s magnum opus. This story of “what if Superman went bad” (and in the case of incorruptible, “What if a supervillain went good”) is one of the greatest superhero comics of all time. I don’t know how well it would translate into a film—it’s a complex saga that took years to tell in the comics–but I’d love to see someone try.

1. The Killer by Matz and Luc Jacamon. The Killer is a French comic about a hitman who doesn’t really struggle with the morality of his job (which is what you’d expect from a book about a killer), but more with the ennui between jobs. It’s also a great thriller. And with five novels in the series, if the first movie is a success the sequel’s already written! Of all the comics on this list, this is easily the most literary and the one I’d be most excited to see adapted.

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THE 75 MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN MARVEL HISTORY

So, the wonderful “Comic Books Should Be Good” blog is running a poll for the “75 Most Memorable Moments in Marvel Comics History” and I sent in my entry. But I thought, since I’d done all that work, I’d share it with you all, my readers. Here they all are, from 10 to 1.

Note: I did this from memory. I figure, I should remember memorable moments. So it reflects my personal biases in terms of what I read. Also, “memorable” is not a synonym for “important.” These are the 10 I thought of first. Finally, a list of 10 is so short…I wanted to include Executioner using M-16s, the time Joss Whedon killed off Kitty Pryde, Human Torch’s last stand before his “death,” Spidey with Gwen Stacy’s body, and so many more.

Click “next” to start!

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