Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Should Auld Aquaintance Be Forgot.

There are certain things that you just have to do, when you write columns like this. You have to attempt to stay topical, you have to know what you’re talking about, and you have to avoid cliché. Luckily, I have failed at the first two all along (and really have no way to be topical this time – I’ve been offline for the last week and have no idea what’s going on in the world of crazy comics internetsville beyond the headlines. For all I know, Brian Michael Bendis has finally closed up Jinxworld and retreated to some retreat where he’ll work to atone his sins of writing Secret War), so it seems time to fail at the third, as well. With that in mind, it’s the last column of 2005! Let’s think about the last year for a second, shall we?

The problem with my attempting to do a Best of 2005 retrospective is that I can’t really remember what’s happened in 2005 and what hasn’t. I mean, I’m tempted to say that Or Else by Kevin Huizenga was the best new title to launch this year, until I think back and realize that it actually launched in late 2004 (something I know purely because I can remember reading the first issue in my last apartment – Kate and I moved at the start of this year). Oh, sure, I know that DC ruled the War Of Online Buzz this year, with all the Infinite Crisis, All Star and Seven Soldiers books (If it made Marvel feel any better, they definitively won the War of Online Derision with the over the top hype for the disappointing House of M, which was, of course, going to break the internet in half twice, once with the return of Hawkeye and then with the reduction in mutant characters if not mutant books), but there’s more to comics that DC and Marvel slapping each other over market share, you know. Not much more, admittedly, but still.

Maybe the thing that marked my 2005 for comics was a return to optimism; things like All-Star Superman, Scott Pilgrim (Yes, I’m heavily behind the curve, I know) and even Infinite Crisis actually delivered what they promised, and new books like Local, Flytrap, Nat Turner and Smoke and Guns offered pleasant surprises, being even better than expected. It’s a strange state of mind for me to be in, actually feeling positive about the comics industry – especially as publishers like Alias and Speakeasy seem to be in some kind of a race to see who can implode first, taking with them a raft of promising new titles and creators (in Speakeasy’s case) and Mike Miller (in Alias’s). Actually, perhaps that has been comics legacy for 2005 – watching publishers fuck up their PR. Besides Alias’s losing affiliated studios and creators, missing shipping dates for their entire launch line, having public spats between themselves on Newsarama and the entire sick pleasure I get out of seeing things like that happen – as opposed to the somewhat awed “They’re doing what now? Are they insane?” feeling I get with each new Speakeasy announcement, for example, there was also that whole series of incidents where Tokyopop’s OEL contract details started getting leaked, causing some creators to be concerned, other creators to be exceptionally defensive, and Tokyopop to look like the money-making company they are, as opposed to the altruistic Savior of Comics that some had been portraying them as.

But where was I? Optimism? That’s right.

I have my love for comics back, somehow. I’m actually excited to read DC’s weekly 52 series, even though I’m sure that it’s probably going to be a trainwreck that’ll miss ship dates within three months, purely because the idea of the Writer Supergroup (and unlike many online pundits, I’m a fan of all of the writers involved, to varying degrees) trying to tackle a weekly soap opera of great scope is something that I find bizarrely interesting. I’m excited to read Kevin Huizenga’s new Fantagraphics series, Ganges, so much so that even the extortionate price (something like $8 per issue) doesn’t scare me off. I’m beyond excited for the launch of First Second Books, because their launch line includes brand new autobiographical work by Eddie Campbell (painted, no less), which is along the lines of Jack Kirby Coming Back To Life To Work On A New New Gods Series With Grant Morrison in my eyes (and beyond Campbell, their line-up is really strong – I worry that the Direct Market isn’t going to be interested in them, because it’s definitely not aimed at them, but the creators who are doing work for them is so close to my dream line-up as to give me goose pimples. Nick Abadzis is doing new work for them! Nick Abadzis! I’m such a Nick Abadzis fan that, if you were here dear reader, I’d be gripping your shoulders by now and screaming Nick Abadzis, do you understand?!? in your face like a madman). I have friends who are working on comics that I can’t wait to see. I am working on comics that, if I can get past my performance anxiety and collectable fears of success and failure, I won’t be able to wait to see. The idea of 2006 containing all of this comics goodness is a somewhat disorientating one that has me cautious about what’s around the corner to karmically balance all of this out.

(The answer to that question is potentially Marvel’s Civil War event, which looks like what happens when Marvel realizes that the “huge mega event crossover” approach of DC’s over the last couple of years has really worked for them, and then tries to apply a tacky Real World Analogy to it: It’s Best Friends With Ideological Differences like Infinite Crisis that tears apart the superhero community, like Infinite Crisis, but it’s really about 9/11 and the Patriot Act! And written by Mark Millar! That said, the 9/11 Spider-Man book sold well for Marvel, and Ultimates does gangbusters, so I’m sure it’s going to be a success for them, but I’m not sure it’s for me…)

But, yeah. 2006 looks like it’s not only not going to suck, and may in fact be filled with all manner of good and great things to read. Considering that I entered into 2005 with the feeling that all that is comics was doomed, doomed and further doomed, something must’ve gone right in the last 12 months to turn me around. So here’s hoping for more of that next year, as well as whatever New Year Resolutions that you’re all promising yourselves.