Comic Books 2015: The Year in Review

The Cost, the Controversies, and the Cream of the Crop!

The Cost

As the year closes it’s time to see how much you would have spent to read the books that I’ve reviewed.

I purchased a little over 546 new comics this year. That’s up 158 books over last year. The increase comes from my trying out new titles and one company restarting a franchise that I’m a rabid fan of.

The breakdown by publisher is as follows:

DC 188, Marvel 89, Zenescope 88, Dark Horse 84, Image 22, Titan Comics 15, Dynamite 12, Aspen Comics 10, BOOM! Comics 9, Action Lab 7, Avatar Press 6, IDW 4, After Shock 3, Bongo 3, Red 5 Comics 3, AP 1, Archie 1, and Dark Circle 1.

DC continues from last year to be the company I purchased the most from. There were two reasons for this: 1, I’m cheap and $2.99 gets me to purchase and try more of their books and 2, I purchased just about all of the Convergence two-parters. I’m a sucker for the time periods that those stories covered, so they got most of my money. Jumping up from last year’s ranking is Marvel, and there’s one reason: Star Wars. I’m a Star Wars junkie and will follow this series wherever it’s published. Another huge leap up is Zenescope. I’ve been interested in trying their books for some time, so I took the plunge this year and have been purchasing everything they’ve been putting out. I’ve been very happy with what I’ve been getting and will continue. Dark Horse Comics takes a tumble to fourth this year because of Marvel getting Star Wars. With the license going to Marvel, my purchases with Dark Horse have lessened, although I’m purchasing any and all Hellboy titles and have just begun repurchasing Usagi Yojimbo. Another jump up is Image; Invisible Republic is a fantastic new series I’ll follow and I’m picking up Savage Dragon again. Titan comes in sixth with their Doctor Who titles. My favorite Doctors are Eight and the War Doctor, and with Tom Baker’s Fourth soon to be published, I’ll be purchasing more from them.

The cover prices of all the books come to $1859.07. As with last year’s total, I didn’t pay cover price, as I’m a “member” of my local comic book store and get 10% taken off the cover, but sales tax pushed it back up. Additionally, I’ve found a weekend comic book warehouse where dealers sell comics only a few months old for one dollar or less. This includes several of the Titan books I purchased and some DC and Marvels. I put these at their suggested retail price because I’ve lost track of which titles I’ve purchased at the cheaper price.

The breakdown for what I paid is as follows:

Free: 2 (That’s all I wanted from this year’s Free Comic Book Day), $2.99: 109, $3.50: 43, $3.99: 302, $4.99: 20, $5.00: 1, and $5.99: 12

This works out to about $3.40 a book. 

I knew that a majority of my books had gone up to $3.99 this year, as several DC books that I follow (Flash and the Green Lantern books) jumped up a dollar. I’ve been avoiding all the Superman and Batman books because of their cover price, so I’m thinking I’m going to have to be more selective next year with what I pick up from this publisher. My wallet also took a hit from Star Wars, with all of their books being $3.99 or more, and Zenescope’s books being the same. Even Dark Horse Comics raised the price on my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel & Faith.

As I stated, I pride myself on being cheap, but you wouldn’t know it from my purchases. The way I’m looking at the $3.99 cover price is that two comics cost more than buying a new paperback novel at $7.99. I spend about fifteen minutes reading a comic and looking at it’s art, and about a half an hour on top of that if I review it. I can read about 100 pages an hour of a fictional novel. Looking at price and time spent on enjoyment, comics are losing this price battle. I’m really going to have to be more selective in my purchases.

 

Controversies

There were two topics that reared up in 2015 that sent professionals and fans into voicing their opinions.

Appropriate Cover: A cover causing controversy was Rafael Albuquerque’s Variant cover for Batgirl #41. Inspired by the iconic The Killing Joke story, the Joker was shown holding a captive Batgirl while painting a red smile on her face. The cover was called by critics as completely opposite to the more upbeat/youthful Batgirl stories and sparked harsh comments online. The cover was ultimately pulled after the artist’s request, but the cries of censorship and political correctness sill appear online. As with the Spider-Woman #1 Variant cover by Milo Manara that caused a brouhaha late last year, I have no problem with this cover as I knew what its inspiration was and it was a “variant”, which could only be found in a comic book store. Often variant covers are priced at a marked up rate because of their rarity, so it would most likely be out of children’s price range.

Paying for Signatures: Several artists began to debate charging for their signature on books. They were cheered by some and booed by others. Some creators charge for each signature, such as Neal Adams, while others will allow a limited number of free signatures before charging, with some donating the money to charity, as Sergio Aragones has done for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I am a major autograph collector. I have taken long boxes to the San Diego Comic Con for over thirty years to try to get my favorite creator’s signatures. I’ve never sold an autographed book; the signatures are for me as a memento of meeting the creator. The secondary market and the Internet can be blamed for this controversy: someone can get a famous creator to sign a book and then turn around and sell it. I understand the frustration of creators at this. In the last twenty years autograph shows have popped up with celebrities selling 8 x 10s with their signature, and I’ve attended many of those collecting Star Trek and Star Wars autographs. I admit being initially upset with the thought of a comic creator doing this, but I allow myself to pay for an actor or actress, so I realize it’s only fair that creators charge. However, I have had celebrities charge less, or sign for free, if the signature is personalized — the secondary market doesn’t like to pay for “modern” signatures personalized. I would think it fair for a creator to know that if someone wants it personalized; they’re obviously not going to resell it, so that should be a consideration for any fee.

 

The Best In Comics for 2015

Best Cover Artist: Paolo Pantalena. Now that I’m regularly following Zenescope’s titles I’ve been exposed to several outstanding artists. The one that always stands out is Pantalena. His work on Grimm Fairy Tales #113 and The White Queen was amazing, as was his work on Jirni. His illustrations are always detailed and beautiful.

Best Letterer: Matt Krotzer. It was impossible for me to forget the work of Krotzer on Zenescope’s The Jungle Book: Fall of the Wild. Every animal had its own unique font, making each character seem more real than any other title on the market. Rather than having the dialogue balloon change shape or color, Krotzer changed the lettering. He deserves strong praise for this.

Best Colorist: Hi-Fi. A repeat from last year. If there’s a book with gorgeous bright colors, it’s Hi-Fi. Their work can be found on several DC books, such as Superman and Justice League 3001, but also on books for Titan and Joe’s Comics. I simply must have to repeat what I said last year: They are the gold standard in comic book coloring.

Best Inker: Norm Rapmund. Working with Brett Booth’s pencils on The Flash requires someone to help the reader find focus in the insanely detailed visuals. An inker must be able to make the right decision on what line gets thinned or thickened, while maintaining the artist’s vision. Rapmund is a star on The Flash with speed lines, crackling electricity, or the insanity of the contents of a bookstore.

Best Artist: Terry Dodson. This category’s winner instantly came to mind. Two series made him an easy choice: Red One and Star Wars: Princess Leia. He shows that he can create realism, in 1970’s Los Angeles, and iconic science fiction, with Star Wars. Every person, setting, and prop is believable, while every action of every character is like a perfect moment captured on film. His work has made me a fan for life.

Best Writer: Alan Moore. This was another category that I didn’t have to think twice about. Providence from Avatar Press can be enjoyed on two levels: one, a building horror story that makes one incredibly uncomfortable from the horror, and two, an unbelievably researched tale that takes the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and combines and warps them into a single narrative that will thrill fans of this horror icon. When this series finishes I hope an annotated version is released, because I know I’m not catching everything.

Best Mini-Series: Groo: Friends and Foes. For twelve issues Sergio Aragones has had his famous (“infamous”?) wanderer encounter heroes and villains from his past, as a new character searches for her father. It’s always funny, beautifully drawn, colored dynamically, and lettered superbly. To have a book do this consistently, and be appropriate for all ages, is astounding in an industry ruled by angst and spandex. I always looked forward to this book and recommended it to people who want to try comics for the first time.

Best Title: TIE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 and Angel & Faith: Season 10. I’m cheating, but I don’t care. Last year I had to get these titles in, so I created a Best Franchise title, but this year it’s not needed. This pair of books features characters that cross over and discuss one another, so it’s impossible to separate them. The writing is always terrific and the visuals fantastic as they continue the adventures of characters created over a decade ago by Joss Whedon. I’m always moved by these books and relish each new outing.

These are my picks for the best of the year. Hopefully you try a few. There’s something out there for everyone.

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
One Comment
  • Eric
    7 January 2016 at 5:19 am -

    I suggest you read Skies of Fire from Mythopoeia. It is pretty special. My favorite in 2015.

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