The Nominations for our 2022 Eisner Comic Awards are…

Recently, Comic-Con International unveiled its official nominee list for the prestigious 2022 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.

(See below for the complete list)

The nominees were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges, reflecting a wide range of material currently published in comics and graphic novel form, from around the world. The awards are named in honor of the pioneering comics writer and artist Will Eisner, a participant in the CCI awards until his death in 2005.

DC holds the most nominations with 15, with Nightwing by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo holding 5. Image holds 14 nominations with Destroy All Monsters, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips at 3. Writer James Tynion IV holds the most individual creator nominations at 5.

Winners are to be announced at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con convention, this coming July. For more information on the awards, its judges, and new Hall of Fame nominations, visit comic-con.org.

Here below, the nominees are…

Best Short Story

  • “Funeral in Foam,” by Casey Gilly and Raina Telgemeier, in You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife (Iron Circus)
  • “Generations,” by Daniel Warren Johnson, in Superman: Red & Blue #5 (DC)
  • “I Wanna Be a Slob,” by Michael Kamison and Steven Arnold, in Too Tough to Die (Birdcage Bottom Books)
  • “Tap, Tap, Tap,” by Larry O’Neil and Jorge Fornés, in Green Arrow 80th Anniversary (DC)
  • “Trickster, Traitor, Dummy, Doll,” by Triple Dream (Mel Hilario, Katie Longua, and Lauren Davis), in The Nib Vol 9: Secrets (The Nib)

Best Single Issue/One-Shot (must be able to stand alone)

  • Marvel’s Voices: Identity #1, edited by Darren Shan (Marvel)
  • Mouse Guard: The Owlhen Caregiver and Other Tales, by David Petersen (BOOM!/Archaia)
  • Nightwing #87: “Get Grayson,” by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (DC)
  • Wolvendaughter, by Ver (Quindrie Press)
  • Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Jimenez (DC)

Best Continuing Series

  • Bitter Root, by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene (Image)
  • The Department of Truth, by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds (Image)
  • Immortal Hulk, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, et al. (Marvel)
  • Nightwing, by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (DC)
  • Something Is Killing the Children, by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera (BOOM! Studios)

Best Limited Series

  • Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star, by Daniel Warren Johnson (Marvel)
  • The Good Asian, by Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi (Image)
  • Hocus Pocus, by Richard Wiseman, Rik Worth, and Jordan Collver, hocuspocus.squarespace.com
  • The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, by Ram V and Filipe Andrade (BOOM! Studios)
  • Stray Dogs, by Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner (Image)
  • Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, by Tom King and Bilquis Evely (DC)

Best New Series

  • The Human Target, by Tom King and Greg Smallwood (DC)
  • The Nice House on the Lake, by James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno (DC Black Label)
  • Not All Robots, by Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr. (AWA Upshot)
  • Radiant Black, by Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa (Image)
  • Ultramega, by James Harren (Image Skybound)

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

  • Arlo & Pips #2: Join the Crow Crowd!, by Elise Gravel (HarperAlley)
  • Chibi Usagi: Attack of the Heebie Chibis, by Julie and Stan Sakai (IDW)
  • I Am Oprah Winfrey, by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial Books for Young Readers)
  • Monster Friends, by Kaeti Vandorn (Random House Graphic)
  • Tiny Tales: Shell Quest, by Steph Waldo (HarperAlley)

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

  • Allergic, by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter (Scholastic)
  • Four-Fisted Tales: Animals in Combat, by Ben Towle (Dead Reckoning)
  • Rainbow Bridge, by Steve Orlando, Steve Foxe, and Valentina Brancati (AfterShock)
  • Salt Magic, by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock (Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House)
  • Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear, by Trang Nguyen and Jeet Zdung (Dial Books for Young Readers)
  • The Science of Surfing: A Surfside Girls Guide to the Ocean, by Kim Dwinell (Top Shelf)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

  • Adora and the Distance, by Marc Bernardin and Ariela Kristantina (Comixology Originals)
  • Clockwork Curandera, vol. 1: The Witch Owl Parliament, by David Bowles and Raul the Third (Tu Books/Lee & Low Books)
  • The Legend of Auntie Po, by Shing Yin Khor (Kokila/Penguin Random House)
  • Strange Academy, by Skottie Young and Humberto Ramos (Marvel)
  • Wynd, by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas (BOOM! Box)

Best Humor Publication

  • Bubble, by Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, and Tony Cliff (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Cyclopedia Exotica, by Aminder Dhaliwal (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Not All Robots, by Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr. (AWA Upshot)
  • The Scumbag, by Rick Remender and various (Image)
  • Thirsty Mermaids, by Kat Leyh (Gallery 13/Simon and Schuster)
  • Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, by Haro Aso and Kotaro Takata, translation by Nova Skipper (VIZ Media)

Best Anthology

  • Flash Forward: An Illustrated Guide to Possible (And Not So Possible) Tomorrows, by Rose Eveleth and various, edited by Laura Dozier (Abrams ComicArts)
  • My Only Child, by Wang Ning and various, edited by Wang Saili, translation by Emma Massara (LICAF/Fanfare Presents)
  • The Silver Coin, by Michael Walsh and various (Image)
  • Superman: Red & Blue, edited by Jamie S. Rich, Brittany Holzherr, and Diegs Lopez (DC)
  • You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife, edited by Kel McDonald and Andrea Purcell (Iron Circus)

Best Reality-Based Work

  • The Black Panther Party: A Graphic History, by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson (Ten Speed Press)
  • Hakim’s Odyssey, Book 1: From Syria to Turkey, by Fabien Toulmé, translation by Hannah Chute (Graphic Mundi/Penn State University Press)
  • Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula, by Koren Shadmi (Humanoids)
  • Orwell, by Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier, translation by Edward Gauvin (SelfMadeHero)
  • Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, by Kristen Radtke (Pantheon/Penguin Random House)
  • The Strange Death of Alex Raymond, by Dave Sim and Carson Grubaugh (Living the Line)

Best Graphic Memoir

  • Factory Summers, by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Parenthesis, by Élodie Durand, translation by Edward Gauvin (Top Shelf)
  • Run: Book One, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Save It for Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest, by Nate Powell (Abrams ComicArts)
  • The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel (Mariner Books)

Best Graphic Album—New

  • Ballad For Sophie, by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, translation by Gabriela Soares (Top Shelf)
  • Destroy All Monsters (A Reckless Book), by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
  • In., by Will McPhail (Mariner Books)
  • Meadowlark: A Coming-of-Age Crime Story, by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth (Grand Central Publishing)
  • Monsters, by Barry Windsor-Smith (Fantagraphics)

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

  • The Complete American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, and Scott Hampton (Dark Horse)
  • Locke & Key: Keyhouse Compendium, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez (IDW)
  • Middlewest: The Complete Tale, by Skottie Young and Jorge Corona (Image)
  • Rick and Morty vs Dungeons and Dragons Deluxe Edition, by Patrick Rothfuss, Jim Zub, and Troy Little (Oni/IDW)
  • The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: California Deluxe Edition, by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and Becky Cloonan (Dark Horse)

Best Adaptation from Another Medium

  • After the Rain, by Nnedi Okorafor, adapted by John Jennings and David Brame (Megascope/Abrams ComicArts)
  • Bubble by Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, and Tony Cliff (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Disney Cruella: Black, White, and Red, adapted by Hachi Ishie (VIZ Media)
  • George Orwell’s 1984: The Graphic Novel, adapted by Fido Nesti (Mariner Books)
  • The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, by Robert Tressell, adapted by Sophie and Scarlett Rickard (SelfMadeHero)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

  • Ballad For Sophie, by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, translation by Gabriela Soares (Top Shelf)
  • Between Snow and Wolf, by Agnes Domergue and Helene Canac, translation by Maria Vahrenhorst (Magnetic)
  • Love: The Mastiff, by Frederic Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci (Magnetic)
  • The Parakeet, by Espé, translation by Hannah Chute ((Graphic Mundi/Penn State University Press)
  • The Shadow of a Man, by Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten, translation by Stephen D. Smith (IDW)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

  • Chainsaw Man, by Tatsuki Fujimoto, translation by Amanda Haley (VIZ Media)
  • Kaiju No. 8, by Naoya Matsumoto, translation by David Evelyn (VIZ Media)
  • Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection, by Junji Ito, translation by Jocelyne Allen (VIZ Media)
  • Robo Sapiens: Tales of Tomorrow (Omnibus), by Toranosuke Shimada, translation by Adrienne Beck (Seven Seas)
  • Spy x Family, by Tatsuya Endo, translation by Casey Loe (VIZ Media)
  • Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, by Haro Aso and Kotaro Takata, translation by Nova Skipper (VIZ Media)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips (at least 20 years old)

  • Friday Foster: The Sunday Strips, by Jim Lawrence and Jorge Longarón, edited by Christopher Marlon, Rich Young, and Kevin Ketner (Ablaze)
  • Popeye: The E.C. Segar Sundays, vol. 1 by E.C. Segar, edited by Gary Groth and Conrad Groth (Fantagraphics)
  • Trots and Bonnie, by Shary Flenniken, edited by Norman Hathaway (New York Review Comics)
  • The Way of Zen, adapted and illustrated by C. C. Tsai, translated by Brian Bruya (Princeton University Press)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books (at least 20 Years Old)

  • EC Covers Artist’s Edition, edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)
  • Farewell, Brindavoine, by Tardi, translation by Jenna Allen, edited by Conrad Groth (Fantagraphics)
  • Marvel Comics Library: Spider-Man vol. 1: 1962–1964, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, edidted by Steve Korté (TASCHEN)
  • Spain Rodriguez: My Life and Times, vol. 3, edited by Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics)
  • Steranko Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Artisan Edition, edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)
  • Uncle Scrooge: “Island in the Sky,” by Carl Barks, edited by J. Michael Catron (Fantagraphics)

Best Writer

  • Ed Brubaker, Destroy All Monsters, Friend of the Devil (Image)
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick, Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons Book One (DC)
  • Filipe Melo, Ballad for Sophie (Top Shelf)
  • Ram V, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr (BOOM! Studios); The Swamp Thing (DC); Carnage: Black, White & Blood, Venom (Marvel)
  • James Tynion IV, House of Slaughter, Something Is Killing the Children, Wynd (BOOM! Studios); The Nice House on the Lake, The Joker, Batman, DC Pride 2021 (DC); The Department of Truth (Image); Blue BookRazorblades (Tiny Onion Studios)

Best Writer/Artist

  • Alison Bechdel, The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner Books)
  • Junji Ito, Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection, Lovesickness: Junji Ito Story Collection, Sensor (VIZ Media)
  • Daniel Warren Johnson, Superman: Red & Blue (DC); Beta Ray Bill (Marvel)
  • Will McPhail, In: A Graphic Novel (Mariner Books)
  • Barry Windsor-Smith, Monsters (Fantagraphics)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team

  • Filipe Andrade, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr (BOOM! Studios)
  • Phil Jimenez, Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (DC)
  • Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)
  • Esad Ribic, Eternals (Marvel)
  • P. Craig Russell, Norse Mythology (Dark Horse)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)

  • Federico Bertolucci, Brindille, Love: The Mastiff (Magnetic)
  • John Bolton, Hell’s Flaw (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
  • Juan Cavia, Ballad for Sophie (Top Shelf)
  • Frank Pe, Little Nemo (Magnetic)
  • Ileana Surducan, The Lost Sunday (Pronoia AB)
  • Sana Takeda, Monstress (Image)

Best Cover Artist

  • Jen Bartel, Future State Immortal Wonder Woman #1 & 2, Wonder Woman Black & Gold #1, Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary (DC); Women’s History Month variant covers (Marvel)
  • David Mack, Norse Mythology (Dark Horse)
  • Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)
  • Alex Ross, Black Panther, Captain America, Captain America/Iron Man #2, Immortal Hulk, Iron Man, The U.S. of The Marvels (Marvel)
  • Julian Totino Tedesco, Just Beyond: Monstrosity (BOOM!/KaBoom!); Dune: House Atreides (BOOM! Studios); Action Comics (DC); The Walking Dead Deluxe (Image Skybound)
  • Yoshi Yoshitani, I Am Not Starfire (DC); The Blue FlameGiga, Witchblood (Vault)

Best Coloring

  • Filipe Andrade/Inês Amaro, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr (BOOM! Studios)
  • Terry Dodson, Adventureman (Image Comics)
  • K. O’Neill, The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Oni)
  • Jacob Phillips, Destroy All Monsters, Friend of the Devil (Image)
  • Matt Wilson, Undiscovered Country (Image); Fire Power (Image Skybound); Eternals, Thor, Wolverine (Marvel); Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters (Oni)

Best Lettering

  • Wes Abbott, Future State, Nightwing, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman Black & Gold (DC)
  • Clayton Cowles, The Amazons, Batman, Batman/Catwoman, Strange Adventures, Wonder Woman Historia (DC); Adventureman (Image);Daredevil, Eternals, King in Black, Strange Academy, Venom, X-Men Hickman, X-Men Duggan (Marvel)
  • Crank!, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters, The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Oni); Money Shot (Vault)
  • Ed Dukeshire, Once & Future, Seven Secrets (BOOM Studios)
  • Barry Windsor-Smith, Monsters (Fantagraphics)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism

  • Alter Ego, edited by Roy Thomas (TwoMorrows)
  • The Columbus Scribbler, edited by Brian Canini, Jack Wallace, and Steve Steiner, columbusscribbler.com
  • Fanbase Press, edited by Barbra Dillon, fanbasepress.com
  • tcj.com, edited by Tucker Stone and Joe McCulloch (Fantagraphics)
  • WomenWriteAboutComics.com, edited by Wendy Browne and Nola Pfau (WWAC)

Best Comics-Related Book

  • All of the Marvels, by Douglas Wolk (Penguin Press)
  • The Art of Thai Comics: A Century of Strips and Stripes, by Nicolas Verstappen (River Books)
  • Fantastic Four No. 1: Panel by Panel, by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chip Kidd, and Geoff Spear (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Old Gods & New: A Companion to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, by John Morrow, with Jon B. Cooke (TwoMorrows)
  • True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee, by Abraham Riesman (Crown)

Best Academic/Scholarly Work

  • Comics and the Origins of Manga: A Revisionist History, by Eike Exner (Rutgers University Press)
  • The Life and Comics of Howard Cruse: Taking Risks in the Service of Truth, by Andrew J. Kunka (Rutgers University Press)
  • Mysterious Travelers: Steve Ditko and the Search for a New Liberal Identity, by Zack Kruse (University Press of Mississippi)
  • Pulp Empire: The Secret History of Comics Imperialism, by Paul S. Hirsch (University of Chicao Press)
  • Rebirth of the English Comic Strip: A Kaleidoscope, 1847–1870, by David Kunzle (University Press of Mississippi)

Best Publication Design

  • The Complete American Gods, designed by Ethan Kimberling (Dark Horse)
  • The Complete Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Deluxe Edition, designed by Justin Allan-Spencer (Fantagraphics)
  • Crashpad, designed by Gary Panter and Justin Allan-Spencer (Fantagraphics)
  • Machine Gun Kelly’s Hotel Diablo, designed by Tyler Boss (Z2)
  • Marvel Comics Library: Spider-Man vol. 1: 1962–1964 (TASCHEN)
  • Popeye Vol. 1 by E.C. Segar, designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics)

Best Webcomic

Best Digital Comic

  • Days of Sand, by Aimée de Jongh, translation by Christopher Bradley (Europe Comics)
  • Everyone Is Tulip, by Dave Baker and Nicole Goux, everyoneistulip.com
  • It’s Jeff, by Kelly Thompson and Gurihiru (Marvel)
  • Love After World Domination 1-3, by Hiroshi Noda and Takahiro Wakamatsu, translation by Steven LeCroy (Kodansha)
  • Snow Angels, by Jeff Lemire and Jock (Comixology Originals) 

My favorite comic book, graphic novels reads of 2021

Captain Orion, longtime reader of comics and graphic novels, of strangerworlds.com, writes:

2021 was a quiet year for comic book stores and retail shelves, but the awesome new reads keep coming.

The impact of the ongoing global pandemic continues to affect the industry, creators, publishers. Yet, there the push to keep sequential arts remains perpetual in a forward direction, from and for folks who are passionate for its pure form of art and storytelling. Comic books and graphic novels will never die as long as there are intelligent creatures who can distinguish, interpret, enjoy visual storytelling. But in our present days, that may change in format, and how they are received.

For myself, I am well aware of the new trends of online comics as long form storytelling, particularly with WebToons, and scrolling comics. I do find that evolving form interesting, but found nothing yet that has grabbed me. There are many new webcomics series self-published as well, which I hope to explore in 2022. But for last year, it was all about print and what was available at comic stores, borrowed from friends and local libraries.

I’m often excited if a favorite writer or artist is involved, so there might be a bit bias for how much involved with a read I get. In 2021, I was especially excited to see many favored names prominent on shelves, especially Mark Russell, J.H. Williams III, Naoki Urasawa, Tom Taylor, and more. I also discovered new favorites for the years ahead.

Many of those, I will share below as my best comics and graphic novels of 2021, which I highly recommend for 2022…

BEST SUSPENSE SERIES of 2021

Stray Dogs

Writer: Tomy Fleecs Artist: Trish Forstner, Tone Rodriguez, Brad Simpson
Publisher: Image Comics (limited series)

It’s scary being the new dog. In this suspenseful new series, readers meet Sophie, a dog who can’t remember what happened. She doesn’t know how she ended up in this house. She doesn’t recognize any of these other dogs. She knows something terrible happened, but she just…can’t…recall…Wait! Where’s her lady? Now Sophie has to figure out where she is, what’s happening, and how she’s going to survive this. They say there’s no such thing as a bad dog—just bad owners.

Stray Dogs is an underrated hit and an exhilarating reading experience. By that, I mean looking at the old cartoons. mostly from Disney where house pets and street animals are humanized, to a point of talking and having there own lives. But, also with a realistic approach keeping in mind their physical limits. Stray Dogs brings it all to a creepy extreme, with grisly murder and dark turns where nothing is off the table for the fates of some very cute, talking animals. Throw in some many nail-biting moments, leading to an epic finale. And overall, Stray Dogs is an awesome read.

BEST FANTASY (and NEW) SERIES of 2021

ECHOLANDS

Writer: W. Haden Blackman, J.H. Williams III Artist: Dave Stewart, J.H. Williams III
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

In a bizarre future world that has forgotten its history, a reckless thief, Hope Redhood, holds the key to excavating its dark, strange past—if only she and her crew can escape a tyrannical wizard and his unstoppable daughter. But fate will send them all on a path leading to a war between worlds. Echolands is a landscape format, mythic-fiction epic where anything is possible—a fast-paced genre mashup adventure that combines everything from horror movie vampires to classic mobsters and cyborg elves, to Roman demigods and retro rocket ships. It’s going to be a helluva ride!

This series is a bold mix of magic, technology, world-building, but with a unique feel and presentation, bringing the reader on a dreamy, wild journey. Echolands delivers well with a landscape oriented pages, utilizing J.H. Williams III (which I know well from Batwoman, Promethea) inventive use of panels and transition. It’s all very fast-paced as we follow Hope and friends are in constant danger, but also for the reader to slow-down and really take in beautiful complexities of this strange, fantastic adventure full of interesting concepts. Also, love the extras every issue brings, expanding upon both the insights of the creators and the world of Echolands. This brings what true fantasy should be, without limits and breaking the boundaries of the fantastic.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SERIES of 2021

We Only Find Them When They’re Dead

Writer: Al Ewing Artist: Simone Di Neo
Publisher: BOOM! Entertainment (monthly Series)

Captain Malik and the crew of the spaceship the Vihaan II are in search of the only resources that matter — and can only be found by harvesting the giant corpses of alien gods that are found on the edge of human space. While other autopsy ships and explorers race to salvage the meat, minerals, and metals that sustain the human race, Malik sees an opportunity to finally break free from this system: by being the first to find a living god. But Malik’s obsession with the gods will push his crew into the darkest reaches of space, bringing them face to face with a threat unlike anything they ever imagined, unless the rogue agent on their trail can stop them first…

This is some crazy cool sci-fi fun, told with modern digital coloring, slick animated style, and fluid storytelling. There’s action mixed with moral reflection on our place in the stars, and the limits sentients ponder on breaking. But also, the story feel believable with space physics and engineering that doesn’t seem like made up nonsense. Our main hero, Captain Malik, is the cosmic romantic with an deep life-story bringing him to the edge of the known, and beginning of the unknown. It’s all a wonderful story unfolding in vibrant color and dramatic faire, giving this hard sci-fi a wicked sharp edge. I look forward to see where this all goes!

BEST COMICS PANELING of 2021

The Body Factory: From the First Prosthetics to the Augmented Human

Writer: Heloise Chochois Artist: Kendra Boileau
Publisher: Graphic Mundi – PSU Press (graphic novel)

A young man has a horrible motorcycle accident. He wakes up in the hospital to discover that one of his arms has been amputated. Then a portrait on the wall of his hospital room begins to speak to him. The subject of the painting introduces himself as Ambroise Paré, the French barber-surgeon who revolutionized the art of amputation. From this wonderfully absurd premise, the two begin an imaginary conversation that takes them through a sweeping history of surgical amputation, from the Stone Age to the Space Age. Unencumbered by pathos or didacticism, this graphic novel explores the world of amputation, revealing fascinating details about famous amputees throughout history, the invention of the tourniquet, phantom limb syndrome, types of prostheses, and transhumanist technologies. Playfully illustrated and seriously funny, The Body Factory is sure to delight anyone interested in the history and future of medicine and how we repair and even enhance the body.

This read is both a wild story journey and a real look at the history, science, psychology of amputations and prosthetics. The story is also psychological, dealing with a protagonist dealing with the loss of his body part, and coming to terms with what comes next. It’s fascinating on that level where the situation can happen to us, what how we can understand, given it’s necessity to history and medical solutions. There are parallels of the fictional, the non-fictional, textbook information, mixed in a strategic placements giving the reader a broader understanding of the subject matter. The Body Factory gives much on this unfortunate situation that amputation brings, yet also giving an enlightened approach on the act of living through fixing ourselves. Telling this through expressive art, story mixed with information through this inventive, entertaining style, is awesome.

BEST SUPERHERO SERIES of 2021

Superman: Red and Blue

Writer/Artist: (Various)
Publisher: DC Comics (limited series)

Around the world, everyone knows that when they see a red-and-blue streak in the sky, it’s not a bird…it’s not a plane…it’s Superman. Collected for the first time in its entirety, this unforgettable anthology series showcases fresh new visions of the Man of Steel in his two signature colors!

A series of very diverse stories about Superman, sometimes from different perspectives, that give a fresh look at a character that some would think all has been done to. Those people would be wrong. There are some very interesting takes on Superman, his strengths and weaknesses, and what helped make him so iconic. All of these stories, with an artistic challenge where only red and blue colors used. I loved every issues, and excited to read about Superman again.

BEST CREATIVE STORYTELLING of 2021

Mawrth Valliis

Writer/Artist: EPK
Publisher: Image Comics (graphic novel)

During a skirmish with an opposing Martian faction, a fighter pilot disobeys orders to pursue a fleeing foe. Guided by her determination and curiosity, she is led into a dangerous chase through Mars’s forbidden valley where she will be confronted with the red planet’s darkest of secrets. A fast-paced, 128-page, full-color, pocket-format, sci-fi adventure through Mars’s mysteries all told in its original Martian form.

It’s a short read with a lot of heart. There’s a pursuit across a Martian landscape, leading to some fantastic twists and turns. But, also, there is no exposition of an Earth language. It’s all in “Martian.” giving the reader a more alien feel, and more reading of actions, reactions, and situation. There is more show, don’t tell, and I love that. The use of colors are fantastic, the choice of opposites of blank and white in our two main characters are brilliant. The end is haunting, leaving room for the reader to ponder its overall message and true nature of the story.

BEST SATIRE SERIES of 2021

Not All Robots

Writer: Mark Russell Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Publisher: AWA Studios – Upshot (monthly Series)

In the year 2056, robots have replaced human beings in the workforce. An uneasy co-existence develops between the newly intelligent robots and the ten billion humans living on Earth. Every human family is assigned a robot upon whom they are completely reliant. What could possibly go wrong? Meet the Walters, a human family whose robot, Razorball, ominously spends his free time in the garage working on machines which they’re pretty sure are designed to kill them in this sci-fi satire from Mark Russell (The Flintstones, Second Coming) and Mike Deodato Jr. (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Resistance).

I love Mark Russell’s style at satire with Prez, Flintstones, God is Disappointed in You, dark but with a mix of wit and humor to it all. But here is a brilliant escalation in Not All Robots; to what happens when machines are made to be more human, with attitudes and status. There is a lot of back and forth with human elements/ That includes taken in all the insecurities are also inherited with both humans and machines that they create. But there’s also a lot of metaphorical moments, bouncing back to who we treat as machines today, who we take for granted, and groups we take in as cheap, willing labor. It’s funny, because we see the absurdities that Mark Russell loves to mix as cartoonish tropes brilliantly disguised as current, real human issues.

BEST IMPORTED SERIES of 2021

Asadora!

Writer/Artist: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher:
Viz (published in monthly volumes, 16 volumes)

In 2020, a large creature rampages through Tokyo, destroying everything in its path. In 1959, Asa Asada, a spunky young girl from a huge family in Nagoya, is kidnapped for ransom—and not a soul notices. When a typhoon hits Nagoya, Asa and her kidnapper must work together to survive. But there’s more to her kidnapper and this storm than meets the eye.

Asadora is a historical fiction, science fiction, and suspense mystery all rolled together. There’s much stroy to follow with multiple plotlines, but with memorable characters that we trust will eventually be more connected – a signature style to the storyteller that brought us Monster, 20th Century boys, Pluto – all great works but took time to develop. There’s only a few volumes in the US so far, and off to a big start. Asadora gives more in curiosity with real life events mixed in with science fiction familiarities; all rooted deep in Japanese culture. We also get some great developments, with some tense reactions. But Naoki Urasawa’s art style seems more detailed than ever here. I’m excited, and looking forward to reading more of this in 2022.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL of 2020

Monsters

Writer/Artist: Barry Windsor-Smith
Publisher: Fantagraphics (graphic novel)

In this pen-and-ink graphic novel, in 1964, Bobby Bailey is recruited for a U.S. military experimental genetics program that was discovered in Nazi Germany 20 years prior. His only ally, Sergeant McFarland, intervenes to try to protect him, which sets off a chain of events that spin out of everyone’s control. As the titular monsters multiply, becoming real and metaphorical, literal and ironic, the story reaches its emotional and moral reckoning. Windsor-Smith has been working on this passion project for more than 35 years, and Monsters is part intergenerational family drama, part espionage thriller, and part metaphysical journey. Trauma, fate, conscience, and redemption are just a few of the themes that intersect in the most ambitious (and intense) graphic novel of Windsor-Smith’s career.

Monsters is brutal, mean, and really putting the “graphic” into graphic novel. The art is amazing with a story that leads through the familiar territory of government experiments gone out of control, but then heads into darker territory into both physiological and psychological. It’s started as a Hulk story, then kind of mutated over time, with elements from Barry Windsor’s work on Conan and Marvel’s Wolverine story of Weapon X. There is amazing passion that comes from telling the grand story of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters, which comes out as an uncomfortable, emotionally-driven masterpiece.

BEST REPRINTING OF CLASSICs of 2021

Berserk Deluxe Editions

Writer/Artist: Kentaro Muira
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics (published in volume compilations)

Not much else needs to be said about the amazing epic story of Berserk and art/storytelling of Kentaro Muira. His sad passing in 2021 has brought fans and new readers together to further appreciate his great work and what we will miss in the years ahead. But to best appreciate his work I believe, are these amazing deluxe hardcover compilations of his smaller sized manga volumes, all beautiful brought on larger, high quality pages. For myself in later years of rereading, this will be how I best enjoy the story of Guts and his many companions and challenges.

BEST HISTORICAL COMICS of 2021

The Comic Book History of Animation

Writer: Fred Van Lente Artist: Ryan Dunlavey
Publisher: IDW Publishing (limited series)

Incredibly informative and very entertaining. From the Victorian Era to the Digital Age, no bits of significant knowledge of moving art is forgotten and so well put together. Everything makes perfect sense, especially in the critical turn of my growing up with Saturday morning commercialized cartoons, anime binges through college, emotional Pixar masterpieces, and all in between and moving ahead. Much behind the scenes is explained, including many rough legal spots and bitter feuds, leaving the history of the industry as cartoonish and wacky as expressed through every chapter.

That’s all my favorites for the 2021 year. I probably missed or overlooked some as I could only cover so much. I would love to read your favorites in the comments below.

Big changes, new horizons…

After much thinking and heavy thought, there will be momentous changes for the Stranger Worlds journey.

There will be new plans, and a repurpose of its original mission on this grand journey. To discover, and rediscover the worlds of the infinite imagination and beyond. There will be reaching out, with new tools and a crew gathering, to a whole new outlook, and presentation to our findings, to share and bring back so most far our concepts and ideas that only our creative minds can fathom..

Sometimes, that means going a different way. More information will come soon across strangerworlds.com, its social media connections, and more. It all might take a little time to present our pathways, but we will get there….

Short Animated Film Find: Burn Out

Burn Out

  • Director, writer, animator: Cécile Carre
  • Published: 2017 online and at multiple short film festivals

Synopsis: S​tella,​ ​a​ ​space​ ​mechanician,​ ​has​ ​broken​ ​down​ ​and​ ​ended​ ​on​ ​a​ ​desert​ ​planet.​ ​While​ ​she​ ​is​ ​in​ ​despair,​ ​a​ ​little​ ​girl appears​ ​out​ ​of​ ​nowhere.​ ​Following​ ​the​ ​child​ ​into​ ​a​ ​tunnel,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​depths​ ​of​ ​the​ ​planet,​ ​she​ ​discovers​ ​a​ ​big​ ​cave​ ​full​ ​of objects​ ​that​ ​belonged​ ​to​ ​her,​ ​reminding​ ​her​ ​the​ ​dreams​ ​she​ ​has​ ​left​ ​behind.

Personal Thoughts:

This full film is short, but says much on the current human condition, how many of us feel deep inside yearning for more. We feel trapped, bound to duty, ever-dreaming, never-quite reaching. There is a struggle that I feel in our protagonists dilemma. But, then a child’s voice brings us forward.

We figure it out, an imagination in the story and from the storyteller, clueing us on the real dilemma. Not the need to fix a spaceship but to fix the pilot and get back on real course. The one she dreamed of as a child, and eventually gave up on. The curiosity, imagination, and drive to return to that childlike wonder and push to something better, is what brings our pilot back to the stars. But not so much to work, but to something new and daring.

“I am afraid to give up my dreams when I grow up”.

That’s a great line, for those who indulge in their desire to explore, travel, see new sights should push that priority above simple mundane duties of getting by. I love the message here.

I also love the animation. Very fluid character movement with an awesome use of space, colors, shapes, taking us viewers away for about 4 minutes, and then beyond for what our memory captures. I love every second. The music also fits.

Director, animator Cécile Carre’s artistic style inspires and amazes. She has art prints you can buy at www.inprnt.com/gallery/carrececile. Check them out!

Creator Spotlight Interview: Daniel Coady: indie game developer, creator, artist, dstnce runner

Meet Daniel Coady, a creative design artist and storyteller from Melbourne, Australia, also a pro full stack developer into computing, graphics and games programming, and more. They are continuously working on multiple side projects while seeking new challenges.

Recently, Daniel Coady released their first game dstnce, a indie game for PC’s via Steam and Itch. At a glance, dstnce can easily be judged for something very simple and goggly cute. But throughout, is a deeper surreal experience, and a test of resilience in a seemingly lighthearted world that centers around isolated, limited small environment that is quite familiar to situations many face in our ongoing Covid global pandemic. Here, is a bit more..

Here is a trailer…

After getting to know them through a series of fun game streams, we had asked Daniel Coady about creating and releasing dstnce, the process of game development, and the fine art of creativity. The answers were insightful, as we learned more in our interview below…

Hello Daniel, tell us a little bit about yourself and your game development inspirations…

I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, be it in my early years when I tried to make a crappy little laptop I picked up for $20 run faster, by installing Ubuntu (this was back when it was still using Unity DE, so my fellow Linux users probably understand how well that went down (haha) or right now where in my spare time I like to learn about cool new tech and play around with emulation dev. So, it’s fair to say that I’ve got come inclination towards technology, specifically programming. As well as this though I always found it to be incredibly important to be able to broaden my horizons so that I’m not just always working on computers. This lead to me to pursue hobbies such as photography, 3D modelling/animation, skateboarding, and music.

So, rewind back to high school for me, back when I used to play way more games than I do now. I had a hand-me-down Xbox 360 which was pretty run down but still functioning, and I also had a shared family PC that while pretty not great by even the standards back then did function… mostly. Around this time I also got my first job so I had all this money, and in turn freedom, to explore what games had to offer. This is when I discovered the likes of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Thomas Was Alone, and Bastion. These games really made me feel things in a way that nothing else did, like it was all genuinely powerful and excellent media. Up until this point I had dabbled in game dev before (started making tiny dungeon crawlers in GameMaker way back when I was like… 8-9 or something) but never thought much of doing it “for real”. This changed everything for me though and I set my sights pretty hardcore on becoming a professional game developer.

So, it was settled, and near the end of high school, I decided to drop out to study game dev. Quite frankly, it didn’t go too well. I didn’t learn much in the way of game dev outside of how to use Blender (which has actually come in handy a fair few times), so most of my time was spent trying to find resources online to teach myself. I soon found a Discord server which at the time was called TairaGames Dev Squad (a server for a YouTuber called TairaGames, also on Discord) and is now called Game Dev 101, and I used it extensively to learn about game dev from others as well as share my knowledge of game dev. Fast forward to now, I’ve spent roughly 3 years in computer science and am about to enter my fourth and final year. I’ve been teaching myself game dev while learning as much as I can from others who are far smarter than me.

That brings us to dstnce, a very different game than what many would expect, which feels abstract in its execution. What were your inspirations in the creation process?

It’s kinda hard to nail down all the inspirations that make up dstnce since it truly is inspired by the various bits of art and experiences I’ve had in my lifetime. There’s a few things of note however which have fairly large, and sometimes glaringly obvious, inspirations upon my game:

Make Yourself At Home – This was a jam game a couple mates of mine, Cat Flynn and Cinder Foster-Smith, made many moons ago now. The entire aesthetic of the game was constructed using vector graphics drawn in Inkscape which I found to be fairly distinct and friendly in tone, matching a part of the vibe I was looking for. Using MYAH! as a reference point, I started off by replicating the art and then tweaking it to get the more clean, almost clinical aesthetic you see in dstnce.

The Rhapsody Tapes – One of my all time favourite albums by my favourite band: Ocean Grove. In general, OG really push a message of being yourself and make it explicit that their music has no right or wrong interpretation. I love this so much, the idea of “the death of the author”, because to me art ceases to be the artist’s meaning and instead is now open to how one perceives it. Everyone comes from different walks of life, experiencing different things which shapes their perspective. Because of this, we as creators should respect that. This is why there is no explicit meaning to dstnce — the game is what you make of it.

The COVID-19 Lockdown – I mean, it’s pretty obvious given the current context. dstnce is heavily inspired by my own experiences during the lockdown and just general feelings I have which have been exacerbated by the whole situation at hand. This said, and only time will tell if this is true, I wanted to create something that is more timeless than just a game based on lockdown. There’s loads of art coming out currently that relates directly to lockdown which is great, but I question how much of it will stand the test of time. Sure it may become an interesting time capsule, some insight for future generations to look upon and understand how lockdown shaped us, but to me dstnce is something more. For me, it also touches upon various topics of abandonment, isolation, and hopelessness that may be found in day-to-day life outside of COVID, and I hope that with the power of retrospect this will continue to be the case for myself and others.

What were the biggest challenges in developing and releasing dstnce for release on Steam?

Oh man, so much. I knew getting a game onto a storefront would be a big ordeal, but it turns out it was even more complicated than I thought. I won’t go into great detail on the process cause it’s pretty boring, but the one thing I will say I wish I did was offer myself more time to sort it out. I had the foresight to fix up the legal stuff at the start when signing up to be a Steamworks Developer, but then I put off actually sorting out the store page and such for dstnce until it was completed. So come the end of development, I found out quickly that setting up the store page and build shenanigans would take a long time. So the game was actually completed roughly 3 weeks before it dropped, with one week spent going back and forth with Valve to get approval for my store page and two weeks being the mandatory waiting period between the storefront going up as “coming soon” and the game actually going live. So yeah, anyone reading this who plans to get their game onto Steam: sort out your store page and do it early. It can be a lot more pain than you may initially think.

Dstnce has parallels with the current lockdowns and quarantines that many of us are feeling. Has developing dstnce affected your dealings with the ongoing pandemic?

Kinda, yeah. It’s actually a recurring theme for me to create things when I am feeling my worst. I find art in general to be a great outlet for me, both to get my feelings “down on paper”, but also so that I can explore where I’m at and get a bit of a better sense of how I’m feeling, and in turn act upon those feelings. In regards to dstnce I think the thing it’s helped me come to terms with most is that these feelings I have aren’t exclusive to me. A lot of folks who have played dstnce and sent me their experiences with it have expressed how they’ve connected with it, and a lot of them relate to the same things that I do. It’s helped me feel less alone in what otherwise might feel like isolating feelings that others don’t understand. Also, it was really nice to see that lots of people decided to interpret things in a positive light 🙂 I hope that positivity spreads.

Are there any plans in new game development beyond dstnce?

Yeah, actually! Almost immediately after completing dstnce I started design work on a new game. I don’t like talking too much on what’s next cause, well, I don’t actually know if this is what truly will be next. What does and doesn’t get completed is totally up in the air so I don’t talk about my projects heaps until they’re well past the pre-prod stage. What I will say though is no matter what I do next, I have zero intention to stagnate. I want to branch out and explore my capabilities to design and create truly wonderful experiences for people to play. This does mean there will not be a dstnce 2, and in fact that I doubt many future games will mirror dstnce all that much. I don’t wanna become a one trick pony, so I’m gonna continue exploring and expanding my horizons.

Thank you for your time, as we encourage all to check out dstnce currently available directly on Steam and Itch.. Also follow Daniel Coady on Twitter @fakemuso, on Itch and their own site at pondo.dev.

A strange look back at the obscure Black superheroes of the Golden Age

I love comic books, and its long, strange history through its mainstream American publishing. Imperfect, by way of how Black superheroes have developed over the many decades, but in an awesome, positive direction. I am a reader of color, of mixed race complexation, yet often identified as Black because of my darker skin tones and facial features. Yet, I haven’t thought much of my representation throughout my many years of reading. I was more concerned with inclusiveness, being part of the grander designs of those comic book multiverses, and that is enough.

Yet, I ponder over some often said comments on the arguable statement of Marvel’s Black Panther, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, being our first mainstream Black fictional superhero. This is certainly believed, since the recent popular and award-winning Marvel movie brought much attention to this previously mid-tier character of comics. It’s probably true, before I research anything.

When we often think Americanized super-heroes of a top-ten tier, we think the most prominent in this modern age – Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Captain America, Wolverine, Hulk. Most of these, have long standing roots dating back through decades of comic book history. All of these have primarily Caucasian appearances, set to their most known popular incarnations.

Since then, we have Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Cyborg, Storm (X-Men), Falcon, Luke Cage, Static Shock, Blade, Black Lightning, and more. All Black and proud, part of a building legacy. And it’s great that we get representation out there for comic readers, especially for those very young and discovering comics for the first time.

In my early years, I discovered my first Black super-hero in the comic pages of 1980s run of The New Teen Titans written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. He was part of a very super-team where all seemed equal, together, a group of young friends with personal problems and gripes, yet also helping to save their city, planet, universe, and beyond. Part of that team, was Victor Stone, better known as Cyborg – a young African America man who became part machine, resulting from a tragic accident. With that, the powers and strength of an enhanced body, and he can a shoot powerful, sonic energy blast from his arm cannon. Cyborg was awesome, and still is. So, he is my first mainstream Black superhero. Storm of the X-Men follows a close second.

Though my readings and early obsessions with big comic book crossover melodramas, especially Crisis on Infinite Earths, Secret Wars, Infinity Gauntlet – I would learn of many more black superheroes. I would read many more comic titles from 25 cents bins, and become obsessed with sourcebooks like DC’s Who’s Who, and Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe. Many more of mine favorites include the Black Racer, Bronze Tiger, Vixen, Bishop, Green Lantern (Jon Stewart), and more

So for this Black history month, I looked back to this recent claim that Black Panther was the first black superhero. Black Panther appeared in Fantastic Four #52, released in 1966 as an African king from the fictional land of Wakanda. He would not be well-known for a while in the mainstream until the recent movie. And, he was far from any top favorite super-heroes as I enjoyed those closer to the X-Men and DC Teen Titans more. I liked the costume, and I like panthers, and that was it. I never realized how significant T’Challa really was, until later on as I enjoyed critically acclaimed runs by Christopher Priest, Don McGregor, Reginald Hudlin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. He also showed up in various cartoons, toy shelves, video and board games in the over the last two decades.

Yet, what legacy for Black superheroes, is known before the arrival of our king of Wakanda? Before 1966, to the Golden era of comics of the 1930s to 1950s?

So, I dug through the awesome archive of human history that is our Internet and its many searchable resources. I also picked through some comics history on my shelf including the highly recommended recent book, Invisible Men, The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books, by Ken Quattro. Here are my compiled findings.

The first Black superhero to hit the niche pop culture of early comic books appeared first in 1934 in the Mandrake the Magician. daily newspaper strips. Lothar is Mandrake’s best friend and crimefighting companion, also an African prince of the “Seven Nations” a fictional league of African jungle tribes. His super power was his mighty strength, stamina, and invulnerability to any weapons, and magic. his early appearances had him featured as a servant with poor English skills. His clothing choice was typical of such depictions of a mighty, yet very foreign African man at the time.

Well, Lothar seemed also a bit stereotypical of the African muscleman. manservant (possibly slave as well). Yet, that was far more acceptable and dignified than racist depictions of Blacks in comics of that time. Among the most dubious was “Whitewash” Jones, a young, very minstrelized patriot who joined Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty in pages of Young Allies, published by Timely Comics in the 1940s (later Atlas Comics, then reborn as Marvel Comics). I don’t count him, or Ebony White (The Spirit, by Will Eisner), or Steamboat (Fawcett’s Captain Marvel series), or any awful racist depictions of the era. They don’t inspire, and held back the potential for better Black superheroes in a time where real life African Americans fought proudly yet segregated, throughout World War II.

I did a bit more digging and found the Red Mask featured in the pages of Best Comics, in 1939 which only lasted four issues, and very short printed. Unlike Lothar, the Red Mark stood alone, featured in his own stories. He wore a simple red mask, and fought bad guys. Weirdly, his skin color changed from cover to cover, and in the pages as well. But, for sure he was an African (edit: correction, not African but likely a Pacific Islander) chief who masqueraded as a heroic masked fighter. Not much else is known.

But then, a real surprise came in 1947 with an obscurity, All Negro Comics – a single-issue, small-press American comic book published, written and drawn solely by African-American writers and artists.

Inside this special issue were multiple stories including “Ace Harlem” was an African-American police detective. The featured superhero was Lion Man, the first Black hero created by a Black man (Geo. J. Evans Jr.). He was “a college-educated African American sent by the United Nations on a mission to a uranium deposit on Africa’s Gold Coast, where he adopted the mischievous orphan Bubba.” Though his character costume was jungle-tribal style attire, it meant to more to inspire black American pride in their African heritage.

Yet, still a jungle-themed man, but with noble intentions at least.

Eventually came Jungle Tales #1-7, released circa 1954 featuring Waku of the Bantu, another African prince protagonist hero who battled sometimes battled supernatural foes. His serialization was part of an anthology of tales published by Atlas Comics (previously Timely Comics, and then soon rebranded as Marvel Comics). Waku was a more developed hero who favored non-violent solutions, yet skilled at martial combat, by writer Don Rico and artist Ogden Whitney. The comic art and storytelling was high quality…

And that pretty much all, ushering in a new Silver Age of comic books to come with the rise of Marvel Comics and the evolution of DC Comics. The Black Panther of Marvel Comics would arrive, though still carrying on the jungle royalty archetype. At least T’Challa wasn’t restricted to a loincloth, and hailed from a nation that was more technologically advanced, yet remained hidden and low-key to prevent the curiosity of outsiders.

The 1970s would play up a new type of African American hero, the urban tough city streets defender with the likes of Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Green Lantern (Jon Stewart), Black Goliath, Misty Knight; major players of the Blaxploitation era. Black Vulcan of the Super Friends TV cartoon, I think, was the first Black superhero to hit the mainstream beyond comic books.

Soon after, many more including the New Teen Titan’s Cyborg, where I jumped in. The 90s brought so many more Black superheroes of all types, including African princes to jump back in. Some would get an upgrade and felt more fitting to our modern era. Even Mandrake’s Lothar developed into more in his character reboot alongside Mandrake in the Defenders of Earth animated cartoon and comics. He was still a loyal bodyguard, but described not as an African prince. According to his action figure package lore, he is a “Ninja from the Caribbean.”

So yes, African American and Black superheroes in general share a strange yet developed tradition, which may not have had the best beginnings, but will remain and continue to represent, and be admired and inspire for centuries to come.

Captain Orion’s bestest comic book, graphic novel picks of 2020!

Oh 2020, what an unusual year for the comic book industry.

Sadly, there are less comic book stores, less retail book outlets, and those left are mostly now struggling to survive through the ongoing global pandemic. There’s also the freeze on comic cons, potential book signings, promotions. 2020 was a troublesome year for creators, merchants, publishers, and readers.

Yet, the sequential arts shall survive. Graphic novels sales are up by 29% since 2019! Also, there are many fresh reads throughout the year, and more time among the masses to catch up on these and past work with with the quarantines and lockdowns. Also, buying comics supports the industry, among the struggling creators, publishers, distributers, small business dealers.

So below, are my bestest picks released for 2020, based on what I have checked out.

BEST NEW SERIES of 2020

Inkblot

Writer: Emma Kubert Artist: Rusty Gadd
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

It’s a fun little series about a mischievous magical over-powerful cat. I love the worlds, characters, art, writing, and excited to see where it’s all going!

BEST ONGOING STORYLINE of 2020

Excellence

Writer: Brandom Thomas Artist: Emilio Lopez, Khary Randolph
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

This series keeps on surprising, with twists and turns while presenting a secret world of Black magic that feels more intricate and responsible than your typical Hogwarts melodrama.

BEST COMIC BOOK COVER of 2020

Amazing Spider-Man #55 (latest series)

Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I don’t know if the story is good, but the cover is just too awesome to ignore!

BEST COLORING of 2020

MTSYRY: Octobriana 1976

Writer/Artist: Jim Rugg
Publisher: AdHouse Books

The black light colors are truly eye-popping, with this modern take on an old Russian superhero from the early Bronze Age. To further the color even more, Jim Rugg also put out a 1970s style coloring issue, and colorless version as well. Masterful stuff!

BEST INSANITY of 2020

Dark Nights: Death Metal

Writer: Scott Snyder and others Artist: Greg Capullo and others
Publisher: DC Comics (monthly mini -eries and crossover one-shots)

Also the best guilty pleasure of 2020. As a big DC fan since the late 1980s, the is the most ridiculous and over-the top crossover event yet. Everything has gone wrong in the DCU as an army evil Batman from the Dark Multiverse take over, and things just get crazier from there.

BEST SUSPENSE SERIES of 2020

Something is Killing the Children

Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Werther Dell’Edera
Publisher: DC Comics (monthly series

If you enjoy horror, mystery, stronger and darker content than Stranger Things, than Something is Killing the Children is waiting for you to turn its pages. It’s different, not as spoon fed in pacing, full of mystery, and has a unique protagonist.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION of 2020

Planet Paradise

Writer/Artist: Jesse Lonergan
Publisher: Image Comics (Short graphic novel)

I love this story, which feels like a mix of old fashioned pulp, mixed with grit and light campy elements. Great survival story revolving around adventure, danger, friendship. Also love the alien landscapes, designs, and space tech – simple yet escapist pleasure for sure!

BEST CHARACTER STUDY of 2020

DARTH VADER Vol. 1 – Dark Heart Of The Sith

Writer/Artist: Greg Pack, Raffaele Ienco
Publisher: Marvel Comics (#1-5 of the latest series, collected in trade paperback form)

This is an interesting read as it delves deeper into the inner conflict of Darth Vader since the events of Empire Strikes Back (but before Return of the Jedi), searching his feelings. This leads to a startling revelation, that you should read to find out. The result, gives more sense to his transition and actions in Return of the Jedi, yet also plays upon his cruel, corrupted nature.

BEST WRITTEN SERIES in 2020

John Constantine: Hellblazer

Writer: Simon Spurrier Artist: Matias Bergara, Arron Campbell, Marcio Takara 
Publisher: DC Comics (Black Label) (monthly series)

I freakin love Simon Spurrier’s writing from past work and here, also with great respect back to the Vertigo socio-political days of Delano and Ennis!

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL of 2020

Under Earth

Writer/Artist: Chris Gooch
Publisher: Top Shelf (graphic novel)

This was really, really good, and fitting for a pandemic time for themes of lonliness and isolation turning to friendships and communications through restrictive times. In this case, a prison system in a surreal future or alternate present. The artwork is perfect, with a masterful use of blacks and whites…check it out!

BEST REPRINTING OF CLASSIC COMICS of 2020

Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1

Writer/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz

Many fans of Rumiko Takahashi will know her best for the grander Inu-Yasha anime and manga series. But for me in my older days of when manga felt more fresh to comic books stores, Mermaid’s Saga captured my heart way more. Seeing it all complete, but this time better edited and and presented, is a treasure to behold.

BEST COMICS HISTORY BOOK of 2020

Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books

Writer: Ken Quatro
Publisher: Yoe Books

An large book full of lost history detailing the stories and lives of many obscure Black cartoonists and comic creators during comics Golden Age around the Second World War. Full of rare panels, pictures, fascinating facts on multiple genre contributions (some are very surprising!) what would have been lost if not for this book.

And, that’s all my favorites for the 2020 year. I probably missed or overlooked that might have been better. Please if so, let me know in the comments. I don’t want to feel left out on your best books.

Fan Film Find: Neon Genesis Evangelion in Five Minutes, from Mega64

Neon Genesis Evangelion In 5 Minutes

Published: December 21, 2020 by Mega64 on Youtube

Synopsis: The complete anime of Neon Genesis Evangelion done in more than 5 minutes (about 10), in live action but very low budget, abridged comedic fashion by the wonderful Mega54 crew!

Personal Thoughts (from Captain Orion):

I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion since its VHS release. Though there are many deep philosophical insights and discussions on the original anime and manga out there, it’s still something that gives plenty of room to not be taken too seriously. Neon Genesis Evangelion is may things – a visual masterpiece, a game changer for mech and giant robot genre of its time, an emotional roller coaster with complex characters and development. It’s also silly and absurd at times. The gang at Mega64, who I am also a huge fan has brought about the more fun side of Evangelion perfectly in this brilliantly done love letter to its fandom. Tons of in-jokes poking fun at its strange plot devices, weird foreshadowing, and melodrama. I also love the low budget, yet inventive and practical practical effects, costumes, sets. Just awesome, and perfect entertainment for at least 5 (10 minutes) of my time.

Captain Orion’s bestest video games picks of 2020!

BESTEST

VIDEO GAMES

OF 2020!

2020 was a great year, for video games releases!

A lot of great games were released for this year. Many of them, I wish I got around to or had the consoles including Ghosts of Tsushima, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Doom: Eternal, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and more. We deserved fresh entertainment for this ongoing global pandemic crisis with the quarantines and social distancing shadowing much of 2020. Meanwhile, the interactive industry thrived with consistent sales, new consoles selling out, and plenty of new content for every player of all types.

Many of these fresh screen games set out to be enjoyed alone and/or socially online. We have more advanced gaming technology and means for online downloading, connecting, streaming, social discussing, cheering, and complaining. They all provide great distractions from the current time stresses as we may build upon new and renewed friendships with our shared love of gaming. Or, just pass the time and our best modern remedy for boredom with some single player escapism!

But for me, I’m a little bit of both types. I enjoy gaming alone, and with friends. Such depends on my mood and state of mind. Though, I steered more toward budgeting with big sales in games and freebies. There was plenty out there for those with the thinnest of wallets. I meanwhile, stayed mostly on my PC and Xbox One, no new consoles for me yet. I do want a Nintendo Switch, with time to play the many past games I missed for it.

Anyway, here are the games I personally present as the most important game awards to for 2020!

BEST NEW GAME OF 2020

HADES

Developer and published by Supergiant Games
System: PC, Nintendo Switch

This is the BEST game of 2020, for many reasons that go back decades in what I ask for in a a best-tier video game. Make it challenging, story-deep, visually awesome, sensible controls, gratifying, constant surprises, great music, unique style, and heart. Hades has all of this and more, with aspects reminiscent of other personal favorites – Disgaea, Diablo, Dark Souls, Smash TV. But with Hades, the more you die, the more the game is revealed with more story and gameplay elements. There is so much more I would like to say, but just go play it if you’re into something that feels both old-school but also super modern in its approach and complexity.

BEST COOPERATIVE?! GAME OF 2020

AMONG US

Developed and published by Innersloth
System: PC, Mobile, Nintendo Switch

A surprise that was released in 2018, but earned a huge boost in popularity thanks to its fans, developers, its very affordable price, online streams, and all around fun this game holds; all perfect for this time of mass quarantines and social distancing. Among Us is that connects us, as each game has its own story creating tension on just who Among Us is sus.

BEST KICKASS GAME OF 2020

STREETS OF RAGE 4

Developer: Dotemu, Guard Crush, Lizardcube  Published by Dotemu
System: All the current consoles and PC

HELL YES!!!! I freakin love the old Streets of Rage games for the Sega Genesis (and later mods, fan-made remakes). Streets of Rage 4 is THE damn great, official successor to all of that, including all that made the game great – action, complexity and variance to the button mashing, awesome musical tracks that your fists can dance to. The graphics are perfect with expressive visual style, vibrant colors, detailed backgrounds, and hella fun for co-op action too.

BEST PLAY AND CHILL GAME OF 2020

TOWNSCAPER

Developed and published by Oskar Stålberg
System: PC

It’s not really a game, but it should be someday. It’s hard to explain. Just watch the trailer, and from there, explore the crazy insane possibilities and let your imagination figure out the direction. The more you tinker and discover new aspects of the game, the more more awesome your wierd little world. I love the animation, sound effects, every little detail no matter how small; making Townscaper worth checking out.

BEST VISUAL NOVEL GAME OF 2020

QUANTUM SUICIDE

Developer and published by Cotton Candy Cyanide
System: PC

This particular Japanese anime style visual novel sets itself off apart with a very unique story, and choosy situations that center around mechanics that are very science fictiony, flirty. with deadly sub-games that take a bit more thinking than I would expect. I much enjoyed this all as I watched and chimed in for some very entertaining Twitch streams from a gamer friend that you should follow (twitch.tv/aechonex).

BEST PUZZLING PUZZLE GAME OF 2020

HELLTAKER

Developer and published by vanripper
System: PC

A fun puzzle-adventure with dating and cooking themes game? Helltaker is that and so much more. It’s very unique, with catchy beats, and a whole lot of fun. It’s also free!

BEST FINALLY GOT AROUND TO IT GAME OF 2020

FINAL FANTASY XV

Developed and published by Square Enix
System: All the current consoles and PC

Final Fantasy XV came out a little over 4 years ago and has been in constant development all the way until 2019 with tis final DLC. This open-world game is freakin massive, giving its players much homework into other media for a wider complete experience. I found the 19.99 price for the Royal Edition (main game plus mostly all the DLC) the best I can get for my single-player RPG Final Fantasy loving needs. I enjoyed this far more than expected, delve deep into worldbuilding, and will forever treasure what it brought in this tough pandemic time.

BEST DEMO GAME OF 2020

THE LIFE AND SUFFERING OF SIR BRANTE

Developer by Sever published by 101XP
System: PC for the demo

A surprise treat among I discovered among the PAX Online demos. It’s a visual novel that reads like a lifetime biography, but with choices that do indeed tell a story of about the life and suffering of (you can choose his name). It’s a series of very unfortunate events, where you do your best to make the best out of it, and find deeper meanings though it all. It’s different and worth checking out for visual novel fans, and something to watch out for when it’s fully released.

BEST GAME OF 2021, MAYBE..

CYBERPUNK 2077

Developer: Playstation, Xbox, and PC

The game I was most excited for its delayed release. And, I still am. But after seeing (and laughing) the glitches, problems, frustrations that seem to be a trend for these big, crazy games where play-testing continues with the player after its release…not playing or judging this until the final product is done with enough updates, patches, DLC, whatever it takes to experience as intended. Maybe it will be awesome as its hype. I will remain excited, and wait till the finished product.

That’s all the game awards for 2020 I got. If there was something else I should have played, please share in the comments below!

On Dec. 20, 1940 – Captain America makes his debut, punching Hitler and becoming an icon

On this day, 80 years ago, Captain America introduced himself, punching Adolf Hitler in the face on his premiere comic book first issue on newsstands everywhere!

With a publication date of March 1941, Captain America #1 hit newsstands earlier on December 20th, 1940, by Timely Comics (later reborn as Marvel Comics). The book sold nearly a million copies, as part of the remarkable Golden Age era of comic books hitting its prime for the decade to come.

Two Jewish New Yorker cartoonists, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America. Joe Simon originally sketched the concept for the character as “Super American” but then felt there were enough Supers already on the newsstand and not enough Captains. So, he thought it sounded cool and catchy, and so Captain America was born. From there, he gave the pitch to his editor Martin Goodman at Timely Comics, who approved. Then, Joe wrote the initial story and gave concepts, sketches, cover art to Jack Kirby to take over as the sequential artist for the breakout issue. Jack Kirby fully brought out the character in full comic book form, with the help of Al Lieberman as the inker and Howard Ferguson as the letterer.

And so, Captain America was released a year into World War II, in a difficult time for the U.S still recovering from the Great Depression and dealing with its racist attitudes. Captain America was viewed by many as Jewish propaganda as many Americans were sadly not yet on board against Hitler’s rising fascism and attempted takeover of Europe.

Joe Simon later noted “When the first issue came out we got a lot of … threatening letters and hate mail. Some people really opposed what Cap stood for.” The threats, which included menacing groups of people loitering out on the street outside of the offices, proved so serious that police protection was posted with New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia personally contacting Simon and Kirby to give his support.”

Captain America arrived as a fictional champion against Hitler and his Nazi Third Reich. He fitted America’s rising position and eventually entry into World War II, with the Pearl Harbor bombing pushing the U.S. forward to act a year later after the comic book release. Captain America would continue to punch Nazis in comics and other symbols of its fascism and ideology for the rest of the war through Timely Comics. Soon, Stanley Lieber, A fresh 19-year old editor, would contribute with editing and writing under the pseudonym and later legal name, Stan Lee.

The character of Captain America became a significant pop-culture icon, mostly from Stan Lee’s revival (with the help of Cap co-creator Jack Kirby) of Marvel Comics much later. His new look and updated origin of the 1940’s release would become iconic, appearing further in cartoons, live TV, toys, and movies. The later MCU produced movies featuring Cap portrayed by Chris Evans would boost the iconic fighter of Nazis and other evils to an inspirational status further beyond the failed visions of Hitler’s Third Reich.

After 80 years, Captain America remains a symbol for what’s supposed to be right with America, standing up to evil and fighting for good and preservation of better ideals. Now, Captain America is currently owned by Disney and used to support a monopolistic entity that many consider part of a bigger problem with modern America. Yet, there remains something wholesome and wonderful about the Star-Spangled First Avenger’s humble roots through his comic book introduction, as a colorful champion boldly leads against evil in dark times.

Captain America inspired real life people to dress-up and take on issues of the real world (while some sadly misuse him as a patriotic symbol). A personal favorite is Sikh Captain America, a bearded turban-wearing version cosplayed by cartoonist Vishavjit Singh. He promotes, educates on what he feels Captain America should be about in the modern era, going beyond the super hero theatrics and melodrama of the Marvel Comic and MCU stories. Many challenge him and his appearance going against the white male American ideal. But he fights on, with the ballsy spirit of Captain America’s Jewish creators.

So, Captain America didn’t just punch Hitler in the face 80 years ago. Along with many other comic book super-heroes, he led the fight for generations to come and stand up (perhaps punch if that’s what it takes) evil in all forms. And the fight will continue, often holding on to what we want the righteous symbols to press on to and keep on representing as better patriotism.