Posts Tagged ‘Lumberjanes’

My Top 11 Comics Of 2014

December 31, 2014

I’ve been brainstorming my top comics of the year for a few weeks now, making notes when I thought of a book I really liked, and I’ve been slowly amassing a really decent list of titles. Then I sat down to figure out my top ten (which turned into a top eleven because there were too many good books!), going “Okay, I like this one the best, then this…” until I had a definite list. I did this entirely on gut feeling, based on how much I liked these books, with no agenda whatsoever. Here’s what I’ve ended up with: Seven of my top eleven books feature female writers and/artists, while my top eight books star female characters. I know I run women in comics stats and talk about increasing female representation in the industry all the time, but this gal-filled list was entirely unintentional. Ladies, real and fictional, have just been killing it this year.

So here are my top eleven comics for 2014. Now, I didn’t read everything, but I sure read a lot, and it was a great year for comics all around. Also, a quick note: I like to pick new books rather than just reiterate all of the things I liked last year. So Saga and Sex Criminals and everything else I talked about last year are still great, but this is an all new list of my favourite comics. Let’s get into it:

11) ODY-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward

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Gender-swapped mythology is pretty much everything I could ever want in a comic book, and I’ve been really looking forward to this series, but I wasn’t prepared for how impactful it was to read a female Odysseus. I found it weirdly powerful to see her, and so many other women, at the center of such a legendary story. On top of that, it’s a really cool, crazy comic book. The first issue was a blast, and I can’t wait to see where it goes in 2015.

10) The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

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This is the history of the world before our world, and it is big and bizarre and brilliant. I picked up this book on a lark at my local library, and I’m very glad I did. Technically it came out in late 2013, but the rules for this list aren’t terribly hard and fast. This book is hilarious, clever, fun, and most of all unique, and I highly recommend it.

9) East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta

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Okay, so this is a Western, but it’s also science fiction, set in an alternate version of the United States and starring the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If you think that sounds awesome, you and I could probably be friends. And it IS awesome. It’s violent and bonkers and embraces all of its inspirations while doing completely new and fantastic things with them. It’s also absolutely gorgeous. I just grin from ear to ear when I read this book.

8) Thor by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman

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I fell out of the Thor loop a couple years ago after being a regular reader during Matt Fraction’s tenure, but I jumped back on board out of curiousity about the new female Thor and am loving it so far. The new Thor trying to figure out how to be Thor in the midst of battles with Frost Giants is all kinds of fun, and I’m enjoying the slow burn on the big mystery of who this new Thor actually is. Plus that costume is super cool. The writing and art are both solid, and it’s been a guaranteed good time each month.

7) Batgirl: Futures End #1 by Gail Simone and Javier Garron

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I was not at all a fan of the “Futures End” event, and I didn’t really keep up with Gail Simone’s Batgirl, but this issue promised the return of both the Stephanie Brown AND Cass Cain Batgirl, so I was all over this issue. It did not disappoint. It was so much fun to have both characters back, along with a new Batgirl, however briefly. While it was just a one-shot set in a hypothetical future, this comic had loads of heart and humour along with some much-missed characters.

6) Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro

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There’s only been one issue of Bitch Planet thus far, but oh wow what a first issue it was. It was a total punch in the face, in the best way. The book is set in a not too distant future where non-compliant women are sent to a prison planet. It’s a feminist riff on exploitation films with sharp, cutting writing and gritty, beautiful art. It’s brutal but thought provoking, depressing but hilarious. If you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely should.

5) Edge of Spider-Verse #2 by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez

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This should have been awful. I generally hate Spider-Man, so an event with ALL of the Spider-People was the last thing I was interested in. And bringing back Gwen Stacey just seemed ridiculous. Then I saw the amazing costume, and that Gwen was in a band called the Mary Janes, and I was intrigued. I loved the book, loved the character, loved the writing and the art. Everything about it was fun and great and I’m so excited for the new ongoing series. No one was cooler this year than Spider-Gwen.

4) This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

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As someone who spent their summers at a family cottage, This One Summer was totally up my alley to begin with. The engaging story and lovely artwork perfectly capture everything that’s weird and wonderful about summers at the cottage, and on top of that it’s a beautifully told story of friendship and adolescence. It’s no wonder that it won a Governor General Award; it’s richly deserved.

3) Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke Allen

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Friendship to the max! Lumberjanes is an absolute blast to read, every single month. You’d think that gals in a summer camp getting up to whacky hijinks might get a little bit stale after a while, but each issue is more fun than the last. The book is chockfull of hilarious adventures, but the core of the title is the friendships of all the girls and their commitment to each other. If this book doesn’t make you happy, then you just don’t have a heart.

2) Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl

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The Bat-line has been mixing it up in fun ways this year, with a fantastic new team on Catwoman and a wonderful revamp of Batgirl, but Gotham Academy is my favourite thing to come out of DC this year. The book is basically Harry Potter set in Gotham City, but somewhat less magical. Not entirely un-magical, though; something is definitely afoot! Olive Silverlock is a great protagonist, but her optimistic, adventurer pal Maps Mizoguchi gets my vote for best new character of the year. The cast is great, the writing is awesome, and the art is spectacular. Gotham Academy is killing it on every single level.

1) Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

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I think it’s fantastic that Ms. Marvel exists. It’s a mainstream comic with a star who is a Muslim-American, non-white, female teenager; ALL of these demographics are massively underrepresented in superhero comics. Even if it sucked, I’d be happy they tried it. Luckily, it’s amazing. It was no contest for me to pick my favourite comic of the year. Ms. Marvel has been killing it from its very first issue, telling kick ass superhero stories in new and exciting ways. It’s ridiculously fun to read every month, and instantly goes to the top of my pile every time I get comics. It’s “important”, yeah, but more than that it’s just epicly good comic booking. If you aren’t reading this book, do yourself a personal favour and go check it out.

So there you have it, my top eleven comic books for 2014! Feel free to disagree and list your own favourite books in the comments. I’m always glad to hear about what cool stuff I may have missed over the year.

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Noelle Stevenson, Of Nimona And Lumberjanes Fame, To Draw Wonder Woman In Sensation Comics

December 12, 2014

The March issue of Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman looks like it’s going to be fantastic. Not only does it have a story by Heather Nuhfer and Ryan Benjamin, it’s also got one written by James Tynion IV with art by one of my favourite creators in all of comics, Noelle Stevenson. Here’s the solicit, via Comic Vine:

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #8

Written by James Tynion IV and Heather Nuhfer; Art by Noelle Stevenson and Ryan Benjamin

Cover by Jae Lee

Teenage Diana comes to Man’s World, and discovers a “Wonder World” where she makes new friends. That part’s great, but her Amazon bodyguards are busy tracking her down and scaring everyone she meets! Then, “Sabotage Is in the Stars,” as Wonder Woman aids India’s space program, making it safe for them to launch their new SpaceCrops platform. But when Diana discovers LexCorp caused the problem, she takes matters into her own hands!

It looks like the Tynion/Stevenson story will be the first one, with a teenage Diana and her Amazon bodyguards. Tynion posted this sketch of all of the characters that Stevenson designed for the story, which looks so fun:

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All of the creators on this issue are wonderful, but I’ve been a huge fan of Noelle Stevenson for years. I first heard about her when she started her “Broship of the Rings” art, a series of drawings and eventually a short comic that reimagined characters from the Lord of the Rings as modern dudes. Biker chick Eowyn was probably my favourite, though hipster hobbits were a close second. Her career has since exploded from there. Her webcomic, Nimona, wrapped up recently and is being published next year, and she’s part of the amazing team behind Lumberjanes, one of the best comic books on the stands right now. She’s also got a day job at Disney and wrote a story in an upcoming Thor annual. I’m so excited for Noelle Stevenson to draw a Wonder Woman story partly because I love her art and partly because she is exactly the sort of creator that the Big Two needs right now. Stevenson is the future of comics, and while I adore her own original stuff, I hope we get a lot of superhero stories out of her too.

I feel sort of bad talking up Noelle Stevenson when everyone else on the book is super good as well. It’s going to be a great issue all around! She’s just one of my very favourite creators, so I’m super excited. You should definitely pick up the book in March, and the stories should be available digitally before then.

On Female Customers In Unwelcoming Comic Shops OR These Shops Will Slowly But Surely Die

February 11, 2014

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Yesterday, Noelle Stevenson posted a comic about her experiences in comic shops that were unfriendly towards female customers.  Noelle is a comic book creator herself, the writer and artist of the fantastic and award winning webcomic Nimona and the co-writer of the upcoming Lumberjanes, and yet she often finds comic book shops uncomfortable and offputting, to such a degree that she doesn’t go to them anymore.  The staff can be condescending and dismissive to women, and this obviously creates a rather unpleasant environment for female customers.

Some might suggest that Noelle’s experiences are her own and not necessarily indicative of comic shops more broadly, but here’s the thing: Her comic has been up less than a day and it’s already got over 60,000 notes.  There are A LOT of people identifying with her frustrations, and this highlights a huge problem within the comic book industry.  It’s not a new problem, certainly, but one that’s existence is ridiculous in 2014.

Now, there are a lot of fantastic, welcoming comic shops out there.  The site Hate Free Wednesdays lists tons of great stores, including my own local comic shop, Strange Adventures.  But for every awesome store, there’s a shop that conforms to The Simpsons Comic Book Guy stereotype and treats female customers poorly.  They assume that because she’s a woman she doesn’t know anything about comics, or that she’s there just to buy stereotypically “girly” items.  They see themselves as the gatekeepers of a vast mythology that the uninitiated are unworthy to access, and see all women as automatically on the outs based solely on their gender.  They believe that the objectification and sexualization of female characters is fine – nay, required – because comics are meant for them and must cater to their prurient desires.  They are a sad, contemptuous bunch who have long forgotten the joy and awe these caped adventurers inspired in them when they first discovered comics.

Which brings us to the comic book industry itself, and superhero publishers in particular.  In many ways, these unwelcoming shops are a reflection of these publishers.  They assume that women don’t want to buy their products, they rarely hire women and when they do they often put them on books starring female characters, they’re terrible at making their characters accessible to new readers, and they continually pump out T&A to appease what they see as their core audience.  Their books are dark and gritty, joyless tales of death and destruction.  For quite some time now, unfriendly comic book shops and unfriendly publishers have been working in tandem to repel women away from comic books.

Things have been getting better on the publishing side, albeit slowly.  Marvel in particular has realized that a female audience exists AND that they enjoy more than just female characters, though the recent increase in female-led books is nice too.  The New 52 and Marvel NOW! have created a somewhat better level of accessibility.  The T&A is still pretty ridiculous, though, and there is often an entrenched antagonism towards anyone who brings up sexism or problematic choices.  They don’t seem to realize that making a few good moves doesn’t mean that people won’t continue to criticize their many bad ones.

Nonetheless, the industry is slowly improving, however glacially, and ideally comic book shops will follow suit.  The growth in popularity of publishers like Image and Boom!, particularly among female fans, is shifting audience demographics, and the stores that continue to see female customers as some sort of affront to their purity will miss out on a lot of business.  In this day and age, when it’s so easy to get comics, both physical and digital, online, all comic book shops are going to have to offer excellent service to survive, and those who actively exclude half the population will probably be among the first to die.

Noelle’s comic perfectly captures the plight of many female fans in today’s comic book marketplace, but hopefully the tide is turning.  It’s ludicrous that women still face such neanderthalic treatment in comic shops in 2014, and the responses to the comic from mansplainers online has just been foolish.  Patriarchy; it’s the worst.   But in the end, some women will find good shops and these stores will thrive, while others will find alternative ways of getting comics.  Some might ditch the medium, which is unfortunate, but overall the recent growth of female readers has been very encouraging.  I mean, disgruntled female customers are MAKING COMICS about their experiences.  Comics will be fine; this is the new vanguard of what the medium is becoming.  In the end, the real losers are the actual losers who fail to recognize that women are people and instead lock themselves in their He-Man women haters nerd dungeons; their shops will stagnate or die.  And good riddance to them.


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