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Another year has come and gone, meaning it’s time for Entertainment Fuse’s Comic Book Awards of 2016! While 2016 was considered by many to be one of the worst years we’ve had in awhile, the comic book industry kept chugging right along, putting out fantastic titles (and some less than fantastic titles). Find out what Entertainment Fuse’s comic book section, which includes Nicole D’Andria, Kat West (aka Comic Uno), and Jim Bush, think are some of the best of the best. In this first part, we feature the people who make comic books possible. So enjoy our picks for the best publishers, writers, artists, cover artists, colorists and letterers of 2016.
Note: Fellow writers Elvis Dutan, Mike Miersen, and Sarah Esker also share their thoughts about the best of the best on their Comic Chromosome podcast, which you can listen to here.
From horrifying titles like Nailbiter to the fame-fueled The Wicked + The Divine, Image’s diverse line of titles seems to have something for everyone. They really do have something for everyone, with every genre covered at their company. They have had many series making the rounds on most comic book related websites, including the beautiful fantasy tale Monstress, the fascinating The Beauty, and of course the space opera Saga, which seems to be everyone’s go-to independent comic. Image knows how to pick them better than anybody else.
DC Rebirth rejuvenated DC Comics this year. It’s great to see our favorite DC characters going back to a more normal status quo, while still telling interesting and original stories.
Last year Image was one of my favorite publishers, and in 2016 the company continues to release some great original stories. Some of my favorite titles being Paper Girls, Revival, Invincible, and Kill or Be Killed.
In 2015 the Archie company had a reboot, and with this reboot the company gained new readers. I have fallen in love with the Archie characters, and in 2016 their new books hit it out of the ball park.
By the standards of the past couple of years, Image Comics was not as far and away the best. Only a few of their new series (like Kill or Be Killed and Motor Crush) in 2016 really caught on. A number of their hit ongoing series, such as Sex Criminals and Saga, has long breaks this year as well. Still, the publisher has succeeded by slowly growing series that eventually hit their stride. Image still had an impressive stable with titles like Bitch Planet, Southern Bastards, Black Science, Lazarus, The Wicked + the Divine and Monstress (among others). The fact that they planned and published many new series in 2016 is also encouraging for comics in general, considering how much creative freedom Image gives their writers and artists. Even compared to its lofty reputation, Image Comics is still the best game in town.
It’s hard to keep up with all of Jeff Lemire’s works. This year alone he’s worked on twelve titles: Black Hammer, AD After Death, Moon Knight, Descender, Death of X, Bloodshot USA, Bloodshot Reborn, Old Man Logan, Extraordinary X-Men, All-New Hawkeye, Secret Path, and Plutona. Plutona in particular is a surprisingly good mini-series that leaves you hanging every issue (in the best possible way, of course). Despite the volume of his work, Jeff Lemire doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
I’d say Williamson is the breakout writer of the year. Already topping my list last year with his series Nailbiter and Birthright, Williamson continues his fantastic Image series and adds even more to his writing roster at Marvel and DC Comics.
Sam Humphries has written some great character driven stories in 2016 including Green Lanterns, Weirdworld, and Star Lord. Star Lord had a great analysis of Kitty and Peter’s relationship towards the end of the series, giving us good closure with their romance. Weirdworld created a new character (Becca) as she mourned for her mother in the strange world of Weirdworld. Now, Sam Humphries is working on Green Lanterns. This series focuses on Baz and Jessica, the misfit Green Lanterns who are trying to make a difference on Earth.
Tom King made his name known with his run on Vision, but I started falling in love with his writing with Batman. King did a great job at making his Batman different from Scott Snyder’s critically acclaimed run. I was most impressed with his first arc introducing Gotham and Gotham Girl!
I was a bit disappointed with Secret Wars’ A-Force, but Kelly Thompson really made the series turn around when it became an ongoing title post Secret Wars. Thompson made me care for the team’s friendship. I was happy that she put a spotlight on Dazzler and Nico, characters who deserve more panel time in other titles. Thompson also was a co-writer of one of my favorite mini-series from 2016, Power Rangers Pink. The title gave us a view at Kimberly’s life after she left the Power Rangers.
I’ll admit that I hadn’t really realized how strong Aaron’s writing had been in 2016 until he won the Eisner, and then it was like “oh yeah!” Aaron has found his footing in writing the main Star Wars title, as was co-authoring the well-liked miniseries Vader Down. His most impressive work for me, though, has been on Southern Bastards, a comic about high school football, racism, crime and the South. Yet it’s also about family, aging and corruption. Along with Jason Latour, Aaron has turned Southern Bastards into one of the better books published by Image (which is saying something!)
Takeda is responsible for the artwork on what I’d argue is the most gorgeous title of the year: Monstress. Every background has intricate patterns that are almost as stunning to look at as the characters. Every character looks like they stepped out of a fashion magazine, both because of their looks and because of the unique clothing designs. Such a unique look that has me hoping Takeda will be doing many more comics in the future.
Daniele Di Nicola
Daniele Di Nicola is an artist who just recently broke into the industry. His work on Power Rangers Pink has blown me away! Di Nicola has created some great new designs for Kimberly and her friends. I especially love how the artist includes Kimberly’s study in gymnastics into her fighting style.
This year Javier Rodriguez has worked on Spider Woman and Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer Supreme. I have been most impressed with his work on Spider Woman. Rodriguez’s work on facial expressions in this book is amazing, bringing life to the series.
I fell in love with Nicola Scott’s art because of her work on Black Magick, and I continue to love her work on Wonder Woman. She penciled the year one story for Greg Rucka’s return on the series. Scott brings the youth, innocence, and beauty that is needed for this story.
Andy Belanger (Southern Cross)
Belanger’s art on Southern Cross is not generic and will not be for everyone. However, he produces some of the most unique, daring and occasionally astounding panels in mainstream comics. Belanger draws in a rough, “indie” style that is not what you see in most comics, which tends to have the realistic muscle toned look or the manga-influenced cartoonish vibe. Belanger’s art is trippy, solid, and bold. He is great at drawing fistfights in Southern Cross, and his art sometimes feels like a fistfight. If you look past the surface, though, you’ll also notice that Belanger is quite adept at drawing faces, expressions, panel design and overall storytelling. He wasn’t the first person I thought of for this category, but the more consideration I gave it, I decided that he really deserved the pick.
Mike Del Mundo
Mike Del Mundo has crafted lovely covers for Marvel this year. His Carnage covers always twist the symbiote into clever shapes that are a touch disturbing, perfectly fitting the vibe for the book. His Weirdworld covers also perfectly reflected the book in question but making some bizarre choices. His Vision covers continue the trend. He’s my number one pick for being able to showcase just what you’re getting with a book in the best way possible.
Jenny Frison is known for her cover work on Revival and has been expanding her work into other titles like Wonder Woman. She does some great color work with her covers that brings a grimness/beauty to them.
I was glad to see more of Cat Staggs’ work in 2016. I especially loved her covers for the Adventures of Supergirl. The comic was a tie-in to the TV show, and with every cover Cat Staggs brought Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl to life.
Mark Brooks does a lot of cover work for Marvel, and even did some interior artwork for Star Wars: Han Solo. His cover work I loved the most this year was for Astonishing Ant-Man, especially the covers focusing on Cassie and Scott.
Cloonan does more writing these days, but she still offers her fantastic artwork to covers. Her covers for Image Comics’ Southern Cross (a series she writes) and DC’s Shade, the Changing Girl are always gorgeous and unexpected. She is one of the best in the business at drawing eyes and her covers often showcase this. Still, while figures are one of Cloonan’s strongest suits, making comic book covers requires a great sense of design and composition. Cloonan has shown a range of interesting and innovative cover looks in her work this year.
Jordie Bellaire has done so much work in the industry, and she’s only grown in notoriety since winning the Eisner for Best Colorist back in 2015. She’s been doing work on all fronts for Image, Marvel and Valient. She’s worked on such titles as Moon Knight, Vision and more, always adding to the eccentric style of the stories. Her colors have also graced numerous covers. One series of note for this year would be The Punisher, which features some nice gritty colors that really add to the covers’ appeal.
Lee Carter is the colorist and penciller on 451 Media Group’s Sunflower. I tried the first issue of Sunflower on a whim, and I am so happy that I did. Carter’s artwork brings so much emotion to a story about a mother searching for her daughter.
With Rico Renzi’s work on Spider-Gwen, he has become one of my favorite colorists in the industry. Renzi brings the vibrancy that Spider-Gwen became popular on!
Mike Del Mundo
Mike Del Mundo is currently working on the new Avengers title, but I was most impressed with his work on the short lived series Weirdworld. Del Mundo’s coloring brought the storybook feel the comic needed!
Lee Loughridge has been working in comics for many years, but it feels like in the past few years, his style has evolved in really interesting ways. Perhaps he is just getting to work on projects that offer more expressive colors. For whatever the reason, Loughridge has been producing some of the most incredible looking comics of the past few years. He colored unique takes on iconic heroes on DC’s Black Canary and Dr. Fate. For Image, he colored some of their most visually impressive titles: Southern Cross, Deadly Class and Wolf. You can definitely make the case that coloring in comics has never been better than in the past few years. In a field of many talented contenders, Loughridge created the most striking work.
The letterer for the rebooted Archie titles, Jack Morelli brings so much personality to his letters. His unique approach to lettering in the book brings a lot of humor to the story as well.
Jack Morelli does the lettering for the new Archie titles. He does a great job at bringing a new vibe to the familiar structure of the Archie reader digests books, especially in the main title Archie.
Sean Phillips works on the current Image comic book, Kill or Be Killed. This comic book series takes a similar approach to novel writing. The comic focuses on the small moments with the main character, Dylan. This is especially shown during Dylan’s lengthy monologues that Phillips letters perfectly.
Mare Odomo does the lettering for Image’s new series Snotgirl. Odomo brings the superficial tone that is needed for this book about a social media mogul. I especially love the coloring of the boxes because it makes it look like your receiving text messages in the main character’s signature green colors.
Todd Klein may not be a household name in comics, but he really should be. Klein is the Michael Jordan of comics lettering. Don’t believe me? He won the “Best Lettering” Eisner Award in 16 of the first 19 years it was awarded. To add to this staggering total, Klein has also won the Harvey Award for Best Lettering 9 times. Perhaps best known for his innovative and multifaceted lettering on classics like Watchmen and Sandman, Klein still works regularly. However, some of those he influenced in lettering have begun putting their own stamp on the field, meaning that you see Klein’s name discussed a little less frequently. He still is excellent, though, as demonstrated by his work on the Doom Patrol reboot.
Thank you for joining us for the first part of the Entertainment Fuse comic book awards! Also check out part two, which features the best series, mini-series, events, characters (new and old), friendship, couples and underdog. As well as the best moments, the least favorite comic and the most shocking moment of the year!