2015 NEsO End of the Year Awards
It’s that time for us here at Needless Essentials Online to pick our favorites for the End of the Year Awards. This is the comic book section of the sort-of-second annual NEsO Awards. The first year was split up into two lists, the top 10 of 2014 and comic book films. If you want to see what won last year, just check out those links, and then come back to see this year’s awards.
The way it works is that I’ll give the runners-up and then the winner. If we were having an End of the Year Awards banquet, we would list of all of them and then announce like a real awards show. Instead, we’re a website and this is the way we decided to do it this year.
Fiona Staples – The winner of so many awards, this year saw the artist for Saga help launch the new Archie series with Mark Waid. Her style helped the transition to a more current Riverdale.
Joëlle Jones – The artist of Dark Horse’s Lady Killer used an expressive style to convey action that while it could be studied, retained the edge of a fight scene in a film or television series. She also accurately captured the feel of the time period.
Robbi Rodriguez – The artist for Spider-Gwen manages to keep the energy of the first series and still make the series feel fresh. He was also a staunch defender of the character’s use by artists that over-sexualize female characters.
Ben Caldwell – Prez was one of those series that managed to take a silly concept and make valid and poignant social commentary with it. A lesser artist couldn’t have pulled it off, but Ben Caldwell managed to carry the pathos of a father dying as well as a self-driving car and a transgendered war robot.
BUT THE WINNER IS:
Sophie Campbell – The artist for Jem and the Holograms by IDW, Sophie has really created a fantastic diverse comic that is appealing for any fan of good comics, but especially girls and women. Her style was a perfect fit for the characters and showed what a good artist can do to help a licensed comic find its own voice. While her replacement for the second story arc in Jem does fantastic work, Sophie’s style is one that we look forward to seeing again on the series next year.
Jason Latour – The writer for Spider-Gwen, he’s created an entire alternate history for the Marvel Universe where not only Gwen Stacy became Spider-Woman, but Matt Murdock never became Daredevil, The Fantastic Four never were, the Punisher is in the NYPD, and there’s a different Captain America, working for S.H.I.E.L.D.
Jason Aaron – One of the most prolific writers this year, his profile exploded with the new Star Wars series, and providing a valid mystery in Thor, but he still managed to produce profound non-superhero work with Southern Bastards, which got optioned for an AMC television series.
Mark Waid – The project of his that had the highest profile was Archie, relaunching the Riverdale Gang in a more modern high school setting. It could have come across as a very pathetic attempt to make characters that have been around for over seventy years cool. Instead, we got reminded why we loved the characters in the first place.
Kelly Sue DeConnick – Between Captain Marvel and Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue DeConnick was vary visible for creating stories that not only female readers could enjoy, but that male readers could get into as well.
BUT THE WINNER IS:
Matthew Rosenberg & Patrick Kindlon: Whenever writers can surprise me with a fabulous story, I have to applaud them. We Can Never Go Home was the series that surprised when I first started reading it and didn’t stop, even up to the last page. There were moments where a reader could think that he or she knew where the story was going, and then it would go slightly different. This became a six issue story deserving of a follow-up and we’re so happy to know that in 2016, we’ll get more of Maddie and Duncan.
Best New Series
It should be noted that this is for regular series only. Series that had an announced finite ending are not eligible for this award.
Spider-Gwen – One of the comics of 2014 turned into one of the best series of 2015. The feel that made her debut issue so great carried over and even managed to make the Spider-verse event seem like it needed to be read, just to see what happened to Gwen there.
Archie – A reboot of Archie and the Riverdale Gang seemed like a prospect doomed to failure. Archie Comics even managed to screw up a Kickstarter to simultaneously launch three additional series, but Mark Waid and Fiona Staples crafted a comic that begged to be read. They delivered everything that made us fall in love with characters at some point in our lives.
Jem and the Holograms – With a feature film that failed miserably by failing to capture any of the magic of the original animated series, the burden of honoring something that was held so dear to so many fans fell to IDW’s Jem and the Holograms. It carried through with a promise to make characters so heavily rooted in the 1980s work thirty years later. Adding to that was fantastic, bright, colorful artwork and an understanding that the Holograms’ nemesis didn’t need to be entirely evil.
Fight Club 2 – When the original author of a novel decides to make the sequel a comic, it turns into big news. It’s even bigger when it’s as good as this series.
BUT THE WINNER IS:
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl – Any series that captures the imagination of a three-year old daughter is exactly the comic we need. This series stands directly in opposition to overly dramatic feel of so many other super-hero comics. It also added one more comic with a strong female lead for young girls to look up to without feeling like it was pandering. It’s so nice to see a comic that understands how silly the lead character seems and embraces it. It was the flagship for the return of truly fun comics that marked 2015 as so special.
We Can Never Go Home – It surprised us from the very beginning and featured a story completely focused on the two lead characters. It refused to go too deep into the tropes of new superhumans, and came to a conclusion that left us wanting more.
Spider-Gwen – One of the breakthrough characters for 2015, Gwen Stacy reminded us how fun Spider-Man could actually be. It also worked on exploring the Marvel Universe that might have been.
Lady Killer – This was a great story about a 1960’s housewife that has a secret life as an assassin. It featured great artwork and should be in the collection of anyone that loves great action comics. The news that a sequel will return in 2016 is exciting to any fan of this comic!
Jem and the Holograms – Like we said in the previous category, the burden for Jem and the Holograms was all on the comic book. When the original artist, responsible for so much of the visual appeal left the series for a few issues, the replacement didn’t try to duplicate her style, yet was such a compliment that the change was hardly noticeable.
BUT THE WINNER IS:
Prez – I was a fan of the original series but the premise of a teenage President is absurd enough without needing more absurdity stacked on top. Prez managed to work in some of extra absurdity by making it mirror real world absurdity. Drone pilots that are sloppy gamers? Game shows that ask almost morbid things of contestants to win obscene amounts of money? The House of Representatives deciding the result of a Presidential Election? End of life robot bears to ease the passing of patients too poor to afford health care? It’s all in there along with a teenage president that quickly shows that she’s more decent and intelligent than anyone else in the room.
Best Single Issue
Thor #8 – This was the big reveal of the new Thor’s identity. While it wasn’t much of a shock, it was handled in a way that made sense. It also held a little bit of nostalgia, making Thor’s secret identity a frail human being to juxtapose against the power of a Thunder God.
Infinite Loop #2 – This was a case of the second issue clearing up any confusion left behind from the first issue that introduced the protagonist and set up her world. It made the problem relationship beautiful and completely relatable, no matter what the reader’s gender is.
Jem and the Holograms #2 – Once we get past the origin, the story can really start. We get introduced to the Misfits and quickly realize that they’re not entirely evil. Sophie Campbell managed to do what most artists can’t and make ten female characters each look different.
Prez #2 – This was the issue that really made the effort to include social commentary within its satire. This can often not work or come across as heavy-handed preaching. This issue made it work.
BUT THE WINNER IS:
We Can Never Go Home #1 – It’s very seldom that we can get surprised by a comic. We get previews from smaller publishers all of the time. So much of the time, they are sub-standard and wouldn’t be productive to review. We have a policy that negative reviews are only to be published for comics that are heavily hyped or overly controversial. We Can Never Go Home was that rare surprise of a comic we hadn’t heard of from a publisher that we hadn’t heard of that was better than the majority of comics that we review.
Matthew Rosenberg’s story was engaging, with characters that were easily relatable and were not horrible stereotypes.It also had a familiar feel that didn’t reek of nostalgia. As the series progressed, the story maintained the level of quality that the wait for volume two is going to seem very long indeed.
Publisher of the Year
Titan Comics – The owner of the Doctor Who license didn’t rest on it for their success and took the opportunity to launch several new titles. It became a home to some mighty good comics.
Black Mask Studios – The smallest publisher among the top five, with titles like We Can Never Go Home, Space Riders, and Mayday, they made a real splash in terms of the quality of comics that they put out. We always look forward to an e-mail from them arriving to share what they’re up to next.
Dark Horse Comics – Without the Star Wars license, you’d expect them to wallow for a little and try to figure out a direction. However, they leapt at the chance to put out some amazing new series and show the rest of the comics industry that they weren’t just the publisher of Star Wars and Hellboy.
Image Comics – Always a publisher of fantastic comics, Image was very judicial with the use of variant covers, even suspending their retailer exclusive variants. Their catalog holds some absolutely must read series.
BUT THE WINNER IS:
Archie Comics – Archie Comics surprised everyone this year by successfully rebooting Archie and the Riverdale Gang. Adding to that, they have a successful Horror line that grows more intricate with each issue. Their super-hero line up remains very unlike anything anyone would expect from Archie that’s deserving of at least a try by fans of comics.
Their one major hiccup in an otherwise remarkable year was a Kickstarter that had to be cancelled in the wake of a deal with Wal-Mart to get Archie comics into the nation’s largest retailer. This was quickly moved to the obscure reaches of fans’ memories with a successful launch of Archie and Jughead.
News Item of the Year
Dark Horse Gets A New Editor-In-Chief – This news story took an unexpected turn when it occurred after his predecessor was publicly accused of public sexual harassment after a long period of rumors floating through the industry. It also sparked debate on how comics journalists treat publishers when a new editor at Dark Horse was later accused of glossing over the story while she was waiting to start her new position at Dark Horse. It also prompted us to examine our own role as journalists.
Duke University Fun Home Controversy – When people start asking for comic books to be banned because they have adult themes, it can be irritating to those of us that know comics can address a variety of tough issues. However this bit of news was very troubling because it was about people using their personal religious beliefs to get around requirements for a college education. It also classified something as pornography simply because of the presence of same sex relationships. It struck a nerve and took over Facebook feeds for several days.
Diversity In Comics – This was a theme that ran all year. It not only pertained to characters in comics, but to the creators behind those comics. Some publishers, like Marvel, did very well with the former, but almost all of them did poorly with the latter. Overall, though, it seems that progress is being made, if for no season that attention has been brought to the problem.
The DC Multiverse is Back – Convergence was a hot mess. However, one good aspect that came from it was that DC officially brought back an infinite multiverse. This allowed for creators to launch series that ignored the New 52 continuity and allowed for some great series like Prez. Unfortunately, it has not helped DC’s bottom line yet, which could affect DC ‘s willingness to give new series that do not support the main line a chance.
BUT THE WINNER IS:
Frank Cho Sketch Cover Controversy – Yes, we failed to cover this story. For the most part, it seemed to be a slap fight between artists Frank Cho and Robbi Rodriguez. However, it refused to die as fans seemed to pick sides on social media, and Frank Cho continued to pick a fight through repeated sketch cover commissions that poked fun of Social Justice Warriors by putting an outraged Spider-Gwen screaming “Outrage!” Social Justice Warriors continued to use Frank Cho as an example of artists that over-sexualized female comic book characters.
What made this the story of the year was how it forced fans and artists to take stock of how they view female characters and as a result women in their lives and within the world of comics, whether it be as fans or professionals. As fans, we need to grow up and look at how we view women around us and how that is represented in the comics that we read and create.