Well, 2012 is almost over, and I’m absolutely delighted to see it go. This has been, without a single doubt, the absolute worst year of my life.
My grandmother died in January — she was 100 years old, but nope, you’re never prepared for that, never, never. Three friends died of cancer. We lost Ray Bradbury. I was diagnosed with diabetes. “City of Heroes” was shut down.
Oh, I know, there are lots of ways it could’ve been worse. Lots of people have gone through more horrible things this year, and I’ve got it relatively good. My family is healthy and happy. I have a job that keeps a roof over my head, food on the table, and comics in the longboxes. I’ve lost about 45 pounds since July, and my health is overall pretty good.
Nevertheless. It’s been a deeply unpleasant, depressing, sorrowful year, and I won’t be at all sad to see it end.
And ya know, this hasn’t been a very good year for comics, either.
We’ve had to sit through DC firing Gail Simone from “Batgirl” for no apparent reason (and then hiring her back when they realized that she was much more popular than anyone else at the company); DC shutting down “Hellblazer” so they can try to turn John Constantine into a superhero; fans responding to the (truly awful sounding) Amazing Spider-Man #700 by making serious death threats against writer Dan Slott (Pff, like Slott came up with that? Joe Quesada and Alex Alonso probably thought that one up, then assigned him to work on it.); DC just straight up being a dick to Alan Moore almost all year long with the (mostly ignored by readers) “Before Watchmen” comics.
And dominating geek news for the entire year has been the bizarre hostility in comics and gaming toward anyone who isn’t a straight white male. In a lot of ways, the gaming industry has been far worse with the hating-on-everyone problem, but the new obsession with Fake Geek Girls is largely focused on the comics fan community, especially cosplayers. Tony Harris’s bizarre misogyny helped play it up, but DC and Marvel have had more than their fair share of He Man Woman Hater moments, too. Really, would you be particularly surprised if Dan DiDio announced he was firing all the female creators at DC?
I’m probably forgetting some really important awful moments for comics, too, but there have just been so dang many of them…
Even the year’s major successes — the films of “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” — were really to be attributed more to the skill, talent, and imagination of movie studios than to comics publishers.
DC, of course, has been the leader in bad comics and bad decisions. Marvel’s been a bit better, but has still shown too much enthusiasm for dull crossover events and poor judgement. The independents have been better than both of the Big Two — and yet I’ve still felt mostly bored with the comics that’ve been released this year.
I went through my pull-list earlier this year and stripped a lot of it out. I was tired of spending so much money on comics, of having to find storage space for all my books. And a lot of what I got rid of was actually pretty good. Scott Snyder’s Batman comic, for example, got pulled off my list. It was just fine, Snyder’s still a fantastic writer, and his work on the Dark Knight is just plain some of the best work anyone’s done with him for years. But I still took it off my list because I wasn’t excited about it. It wasn’t a book I looked forward to getting anymore. There were lots of comics like that — The Massive, Dark Horse Presents, Dial H, Demon Knights, Fatale, Frankenstein, Morning Glories, Popeye, Saucer Country, Unwritten, even B.P.R.D. — and I don’t really regret taking any of them off the list.
So what are my picks for my favorite comics of 2012? Here they are, in alphabetical order…
Still the best and most gloriously visceral horror comic we’ve got. Great characterization, art, and plotting make it a winner every issue.
Possibly the most consistently fun and entertaining comic out there. Any comic fan who isn’t reading this is utterly, utterly mad.
Cancelled long before its time, I loved this one for the great characterization and for its refusal to fall into the same boring traps as other teen-oriented comics. Random, shock-value deaths were avoided, and the heroes got out of plenty of problems by talking instead of fighting.
This remains one of the best humor comics you’ll find — the Nicolle brothers are still hugely imaginative, funny, and audacious, even years after they started their comic.
Month after month, the best art you’re going to find in any comic book on the stands.
Probably the best pure superhero comic out there. Mark Waid’s Daredevil is fun, charismatic, clever, action-packed, and just all-around fantastic. And the art is usually pretty darn good, too.
Rude? Yes. Hilarious? Yes. Unexpectedly emotional? Yes, yes, yes. Eric Powell would probably kick my ass for saying it, but he’s got more heart than any other comic book creator.
Love and Capes
This superhero sitcom is light on the action, but heavy on the humor, awesome characterization, and brainy storytelling. I would like more of you to read this, please.
Punk Rock Jesus
An amazing story combining religion, punk rock, politics of all stripes, science fiction, and our global obsessions with pop culture and entertainment. Sean Murphy deserves to win all kinds of awards for this.
A very fun modernized re-telling of Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark.” Great characters, dialogue, humor, and action, all wrapped up in a very friendly all-ages bow. I want Roger Langridge to make more and more comics, that’s all there is to it.
This isn’t really a superhero book at all — it’s part horror comic, part urban fantasy, part reboot of the ancient Greek myths. Half the fun of this is seeing what bizarre new forms the Greek gods and monsters will take.
So that’s what I’ve got for this year. I left off a lot of good comics — books that debuted in only the last few months, books that were cancelled in the first month or two of the year, books that were of unquestionably high-quality but which were nevertheless boring me when I finally dropped them.
What can we hope for in the future? I’m sure not dumb enough to try to make predictions, but I’d like to think that, after a year this bad, there’s nowhere the comics industry can go but up. Unfortunately, my optimism bone done got snapped off, and it wouldn’t shock me a bit to see things get even worse in 2013.
Hold on to your hats, and pray for miracles.