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Some great creative talents have emerged or continued to thrive in the comic book industry in the year 2015. The entire Comic Book section of Entertainment Fuse has gotten together to showcase our favorite creators in the first part of our annual comic book awards. See our picks for the best publisher, writer, artist, cover artist and colorist below.
NOTE: I would have liked to include Action Lab Entertainment as well for their many great titles, but considering I’m interning there I thought it wouldn’t really be fair. Still, I’d highly recommend checking their titles out.
This year, Archie took the leap of rebooting their flagship character. Easily, this could have led to disaster, but instead I’m pretty sure the series will end up on several best lists for its artwork and story. On top of that, there’s a great handful of all-ages comics produced by Archie as well. Specifically, Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog are great all-ages series that aren’t just enjoyable for kids but for every age group. These are truly all-ages books. They crossed over with each other again this year and brought a bunch of Capcom related characters with them, which I’d love to see appear in future Archie comics.
Image Comics is the place to be for creator-owned comics. It seems like every other week they’re coming out with a new series. Some standouts this year include Rat Queens, Jupiter’s Circle and Black Magick. Their partner imprint, Top Cow Productions, also provides a number of series such as Witchblade, which reached its finale this year, and Switch, its alternate universe counterpart that seems to suggest Top Cow will be creating its own Ultimate universe.
Avatar Press has really knocked it out of the park this year, with standout books like Crossed +100 and Providence. The publisher might usually get out a few decent issues of whichever series per year, at best a handful usually, but in 2015 they have truly outdone themselves. Getting Alan Moore back into shape and writing clever and interesting genre pieces was an inspired stroke, which is not to mention other star writers like Simon Spurrier and the continuing Kieron Gillen. Sure there are still a ton of lows for Avatar, but this year marked a stark change in terms of entertainment value. A lesson most commonly learned and then forgotten among many publishers.
This is the first year I am not picking one of the big two. I felt both DC Comics and Marvel lacked this year because they focused to heavily on their events. But I must say there were a lot of indie companies that impressed me this year, especially Image. There were a lot of number ones I enjoyed like Huck, The Beauty, Black Magick, and Switch just to name a few. Then of course there were a lot of returning favorites I enjoyed reading like Revival and Morning Glories.
Image Comics was my pick for Publisher of the Year for 2014, and it’s quite possible they will be my pick for 2016. The reason is that Image produces so many great titles, and they are constantly adding exciting new series. Increasingly, my reading list consists of mainly Image titles with select ones from other publishers. Some of the excellent books Image released in 2015 include Sex Criminals, Saga, Velvet, The Fade Out, Rocket Girl, Southern Bastards, Copperhead, Deadly Class, Southern Cross, Lazarus, Bitch Planet, Wytches, The Wicked + The Divine, and many others.
PERANIAL WINNER: IMAGE COMICS. Who else? Boom? Avatar was close, honestly, with Providence, but I still think Image is putting out the bulk of this year’s books. Saga, East of West, Rumble, Nameless, just to name a few.
I consider Williamson one of the breakout talents of the year and by far my favorite writer. His Birthright series has a great family dynamic and memorable fantasy elements. Nailbiter is my favorite horror title of the year, delivering on the chills as well as the compelling characters.
Tom King is the easiest choice for this slot – as he is sort of a mix of an early Geoff Johns and James Robinson, a work horse that is able to maneuver incredibly deftly. With as many as five books out at any given time, King has shown a remarkable versatility and consistency. Varied genres such as classic DC cosmic The Omega Men and more niche politically charged series like The Sheriff of Babylon, everything seems to be under his area of expertise. The most average of his books is the middling Robin War event, but his batting average is more solid than most.
Tom Taylor ended his run on Injustice Gods Among Us earlier this year and then moved onto Superior Iron Man and All New Wolverine. Taylor gave fresh new perspectives on titles that had been a bit bland to me in 2014.
It turns out that two of my favorite series in 2015 were written by the same person: Ed Brubaker. They are quite different from each other as well. With Velvet, Brubaker (along with artist Steve Epting) is crafting a taut espionage spy story with the feel of 1970s movie thrillers. The Fade Out, Brubaker’s latest project with artist Sean Phillips, on the other hand, has elements of film noir while also taking place in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Both series have strong plots, characterization, and dialog. When Brubaker is writing to his strengths, he is one of the top writers in the business.
Alan Moore! A lot of my favorite books this year started a while ago. However, a big stand out comic for me this year was Providence. As someone who hasn’t read a contemporary Moore book in years, this was a pretty refreshing return to form.
Karl Kerschl is probably the biggest breakout artist of the year. His style reminds me of a romantic anime and it really works for the tone of Gotham Academy.
Fiona Staples’ artwork is one of the highlights of Archie. Her work has so much personality and humor in it, which also shows in her work on Saga.
Nicolas Scott (Black Magick)
Some of the best artistic moments of the year came from Black Magick #1. Her hyper-realistic style, combined with only black, white and red, make for gorgeous artwork.
Jacen Burrows has reached his golden age in terms of quality in 2015 with regards to his work on Alan Moore’s Providence. While he has usually been seen as Avatar Press’ “superstar artist”, he’s never really been more than serviceable at best. The bar has definitely been raised with Providence where Burrows not only finally cracked the code for characters and settings with actual weight and emotion to them. The real feather in his cap has been the knack for design the series has shown, relating the best designs for the “Innsmouth Look” and pretty much everything else Lovecraftian.
Before 2015 I had never been a big fan of Thor, but with the beautiful artwork of Dauterman and Aaron’s grounded writing Thor became one of my favorite series of 2015. Dauterman puts a lot of detail in his art, and his work was at its best with The Mighty Thor #1. In this issue he gave us a great comparison of Jane Foster receiving chemotherapy and her turning into the Mighty Thor.
Michael Allred has a long history in independent comics, most notably with his character Madman. Recently, though, Allred has been working with Marvel Comics. Allred teamed with writer Dan Slott on Silver Surfer, and it was one of the best and most unusual Marvel series of the year. Silver Surfer, being set in space, gives artist a lot of room to show their chops, and Allred did not disappoint. His art on Silver Surfer was creative, distinctive and really cool. It’s good news that he is teaming with Slott again on the post-Secret Wars relaunch of Silver Surfer in 2016.
David Marquez for his work on Invincible Iron Man. I know, a little weird. A part of this was because I’m tired of giving Jock and Fiona Stables a pat on the back, and partly because of Marquez’s raw talent. His work on IMM is so slick and clean, it’s just fun to look at.
Mike Del Mundo
Del Mundo has a lot of creative covers, from his Bucky Barnes title to his Carnage covers. Who would’ve thought going into Carnage’s mine shaft mouth would look so cool?
Jae Lee has a very distinctive style. It is this style that I sometimes put in a worst comic book cover list… while at the same time finding one to put on the best comic book cover list. His artwork is really polarizing. Regardless, it definitely leaves an impact on viewers, especially his Catwoman covers.
Jacen Burrows pulls double duty as the best cover artist of 2015 as well. Not only has he been doing the atmospheric regular covers of Providence, which do a lot to set the mood of the issue, but also every single variant cover for the series. Now I usually don’t care about variants, I find them needless most of the time, but Burrows’ variants are superb. They draw from and expand the Lovecraft mythology in such a loving way that I am almost tempted to pick up a few. There is no chaff with these covers and when put together they tell a story all on their own of a universe vast and wide as the imagination.
Brooks worked on a lot of comics this year including Ant Man, Darth Vader, and Star Wars Kanan. I love the painting style for all of his covers.
Jamie McKelvie produces some of the most original-looking covers in comics. His work can be seen regularly on two series from Image Comics: The Wicked + the Divine and Phonogram The Immaterial Girl. In addition to his illustration style, McKelvie also has a really good sense of cover design, which sets him apart on the comic shelf. His style is also very much his own, meaning that you can usually tell a McKelvie cover just based on the look and design of the issue.
Serge LaPointe (Gotham Academy, Batgirl),
LaPointe adds to Kerschl’s wonderful artwork in Gotham Academy with a beautiful painted palette. His work in Batgirl also deserves a mention.
It seems like every other comic I read has colors by Bellaire. She has done work for Image Comics, Marvel and Valiant. Some standout titles she’s worked on this year include the Marvel titles The Vision, The Amazing Spider-Man and Moon Knight. Her work on Moon Knight in particular does a great job creating a gritty, noir style look that really fits with the tone of the series.
Nicola Scott’s artwork is majorly complemented by her use of color in Black Magick. Or, rather, her use of black, white and red. I don’t think the three have ever been used more effectively or creatively. From the biggest things, such as the overall noir feel inspired by the black and white, to the tinniest details such as the red veins in a man’s eyeball.
This year Renzi worked on Spider-Gwen, Howard the Duck, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. My favorite title he worked on was Spider-Gwen. I love his use of bright colors. It really sets the tone well for the title, which is an important and vital job for a colorist.
There are a lot of really great colorists working in comic books today. Matt Hollingsworth has been doing excellent work for over a decade for many publishers. He was nominated for an Eisner in 2014 for best colorist, and his work in 2015 was just as good. Some of the titles he colored included Wytches (Image), Tokyo Ghost (Image), We Stand on Guard (Image), Daredevil (Marvel), and Wolverine (Marvel).
The next part of our awards will focus on the stories and characters within the comic book pages that we’ve grown to known and love from 2015. See our picks for the best series, mini-series, event, character, new character, couple and friendship in part two of our awards.