Why I Love Comics Awards for '08

Welcome to the very special year ending Why I love Comics Awards, first edition. A few people do these on a few different web sites and I figure Comic Related should join in on the frey. So, we jump from different companies both big and small, check in on a few very deserving series and even give out the very coveted Comic of the Year Award. So let's jump right into things.

Hellboy 2 the Golden Army - Yeah that's right, Hellboy goes first for me if only because of how snubbed it seemed to be by the overall audience, critics included. This is what happens when Guillermo gets full reign on the hellboy universe and mixes it with his visionary and truly creative mind. Doug Jones actually gets 100 percent credit behind Abe Sapien and steals a lot of the show. Johann, played beautifully by the voice of Seth McFarlane, gets added to this interesting cast and both Ron/Selma get some new levels added to Hellboy/Liz's complex relationship. The movie's fight scenes mixed together with it's crazy art style really made it unique from everything else that was out their. From the creatures to the environment's, things were amped up so much from the first movie that you go away feeling like this is exactly what they wanted to do from the beginning.

Iron Man - Tony Stark is finally brought to the big screen in a way that honestly seemed to surprise the whole world. It set Marvel Studio's up in a big way, showed just how much of a fan Jon Favrou is and gave us a truly defining performance by Robert Downey Jr.

The Dark Knight - Seriously does anything else really need to be said at this point? Second highest grossing film of all time and probably the very best comic book movie ever made. It's a blast and everyone in this movie pulls the performances of their careers. Definitely wins this award more than the others on the list.

Honorable mention goes to the Incredible Hulk for finally being the Hulk movie every fan can get behind. It turns out, all it needed was Edward Norton as the star. It was an intelligent action movie giving all the respect possible to the source material and even has a guest appearance by Tony Stark.

Second honorable mention goes to Punisher War Zone which in my mind, was the very essence of what a Punisher movie should be. A no holds barred action film with lots of death, explosions and bad ass Frank Castle moments.

I can't even tease this one. It's the Middleman hands down without a doubt. Sure we had the new season of Heroes and a few other cult/nerdy shows that could be listed, but no show could capture the charm that was the Middleman. It show that was both based after a very indie comic book and it was a series where you got mobster apes, zombie disease spreading fish, evil vampire puppets and a guest appearance by Kevin Sorbo. It has to be good. Even better, you can easily find copies on the omnibus from Viper Comics and the first episode of the series and some of the second are actual adaptions of the first two middleman stories, both of which are pretty fun.

Honestly it was original, interesting and had so many pop culture references that you really had to do repeated viewings just to catch them all. Another positive the show had going for it was it's perfect casting. If anything both Matt Keslar and Natalie Morales have strong careers ahead of them in any genre if the show doesn't get picked up. Seriously, if anything, this was a refreshing change of pace when we no longer have stuff like the Sam Raimi produced shows or anything sci fi on any major networks that has camp thrown in. Javier has a cult hit on his hands and here's hoping we get a second season.

This one goes to a musical starring Neil Patrick Harris and written by the Whedon family. This, of course, is the show known as Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog and probably one of the cooler things to be released in the last year. From Neil playing Billy to Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion backing him up as the supporting cast this was a real treat to watch.

The songs were great and easy to sing along with. Captain Hammer had some of the best one-liners that I've heard in a long time. From what I've heard the dvd of the event is packed with extra content which is pretty cool and it definitely deserves all the attention it's been getting. It's cast beautifully, well acted, the songs are great and it's a Whedon project. Really, what's not to love?

Dummies Guide to Danger: Lost at Sea written by Jason Burns with art by Joe Eisma was one of my favorite mini series to come out of any company over the last few years. It was a great noir tale featuring an actual dummy who may or may not be alive (which is one of the draws of the series) whose partner has major dating problems. His partner is also one of the most successful private eyes on the planet and gets a lot of attention for the dummy at his side.

Jason Burns writes easily likable characters who are constantly pulled into crazy situations and have to overcome the things that are dragging them down in order to save the day. I'd say the trade would look good on anyone's book shelf.

Best Ongoing Series definitely has to go to Proof. Alex Grecian, Riley Rossmo and Kelly Tindall are probably one of the best creative teams to work together in comics. Proof brings a new take on the bigfoot mythology and adds in a lot more. If your a fan of cryptozoology or just looking into things that people have reported on stories ranging from the chupacrabre to the dover demon, this is a book for you.

Another positive going for the series... Since day one, Proof has been on time every month which I think speaks a lot for the three guys that work heavily on it. It's a refreshing change of pace from all the cape books out there and it's one of the best written comics on the stands today. Where else can you see bigfoot fighting a thunderbird in order to save it's life and keep it from being endangered? What's a thunderbird you ask? Maybe you should read the book.

Fred Van Lente wrote a lot of books this year. In Wolverine: First Class, he could tell a full story in just one issue all the while making you feel like you'd just read a whole arc (in just 22 pages). In Incredible Hercules, he and Greg Pak worked as a team to bringing modern mythology into the Marvel Universe. Then there is his Marvel Zombies 3, where the more obscure the character, the better they are written. From start to finish, he was a force to be dealt with in comics this year. Fred's work on his creator owned Comic Book Comics also found itself becoming an automatic fan favorite. I'd say the best thing about Fred as a writer is that you can tell when he loves a character as they find themselves in a satisfying story filled with things you wouldn't usually expect. He definitely belongs at the top of this award.

Tim Seeley is a modern day master of horror, yes I know I said that in the column before but it's a fact. He's right up there with Steve Niles in this corner of the comic book world. He's the comic equivalent to Sam Raimi, John Carpenter and Wes Craven all wrapped in one. Cassie and Vlad plus the whole supporting cast are believable characters in such a crazy world where slashers come back to life every few days.

Whether it's Loaded Bible or Hack/Slash or even just his artwork, the man understands the craft of good storytelling. Oh and the Re-Animator arc? Probably one of the best stories (in terms of being faithful to the original movie) that I've ever read or even to any horror character really.

Terry Moore has one of the best track records as a comic book creator in the business. This year his work grew more quickly as it included some mainstream stuff taking over writing duties for BKV's Runaways. Right away, he had the characters down perfectly for this series. It was great to see them finally back in the hands of someone who obviously understood my favorite group of teenagers. Then there was his writing on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. It's funny how much Terry seems to understand teenagers as the book was refreshing and fun with just a tiny element of Spider-Man thrown in towards the end of each issue.

Of course, we can't mention Terry without Echo. In my mind, it is probably one of the best books I get to read anytime it comes out. It's a great self published title that puts a lot of the main stream stuff to shame. Terry seems to be getting stronger as he works on within the industry and it's a great thing to see. Hopefully, '09 gives us more great Moore moments.

Riley Rossmo constantly evolves his artwork as Proof moves to new story arcs and it's always a pleasure to see. Whether he's drawing a dinosaur or the dover demon, even Ginger or elvis, his style is unique and fits all the beats to the story.

Paul Pelletier's work on Guardians of the Galaxy has been incredibly strong and he was definitely the right choice for the book over all. His action scenes and character detail make him one of Marvels strongest artists and starting the year on the War of kings prologue will just give him more spotlight.

Emily Stone's work on Hack/Slash is a highlight every month. From all the different slashers to her takes on Cassie and Vlad. She's one of the top indie artists in the business in my opinion. Seeing her death scenes and the emotion on a character's face, her work shows the skill of an artist who's been working as long as the industry has existed.

Joe Eisma is a modern day Will Eisner and I realize just how that sounds. Pretty big boots to fill, but all his artwork fits in this fun retro style that helps whichever writer he works with tell a better story. Whether it's a murder mystery or a story about a crew of astronauts going up to an alien planet, he shares a unique style that just brings new things to any comic he's drawing. Oh and that crazy detail? Almost on George Perez levels.

Hack/Slash because, at the end of the day, not only did Tim Seeley's creator owned book have one of the best years it could have, it gave back to the horror fans with one of the best crossovers ever. Cassie met Herbert West in a fun three part crossover that did hit some controversy but Devils Due remained completely behind the book. The Annual had a fun story guest starring the Suicide Girls and over all there were some pretty chilling yet really cool moments in the series.

Honestly one of the best horror books you could ask for, whether it's Vlad trying to embrace his new life or Cassie having to deal with exactly what her family life was, she remained a strong female lead and this book has it all. The storylines are crazy but never dumbed down and the twists are actually shocking. The art, well the artist just happens to be one of the people winning Best Artist of the Year so you already know what I think.

Honorable mention goes to Army of Darkness which did it's best to stay true to the source material while adding new mythology to the Evil Dead universe. It was crazy and had a perfectly "in character" Ash finally accepting his role as the chosen one.

Teen Titans which basically had to reform it's membership with only four core members as the rest of the team was either dead, needed time to themselves or was just flat out killed off. Under Sean McKeever the book has finally pulled out of the funk it suffered since Geoff Johns left the series. There have been some interesting twists (Wonderdog) and even some great team building moments that gave us a new blue and gold (well blue and red as in Red Devil and Blue Beetle). Every member of the team got a shining moment from Beetle's own supporting cast being used to Cassie finally coming into her own once again and being truly independent after everything that happened with Connor. New costume to boot! It will be interesting to see the recruitment drive and exactly who's joining with the team in 2009.

Guardians of the Galaxy spun right out of Conquest and was the second successful cosmic book to come from Abnett and Lanning. Boy, did it live up to the hype. When you roster is made up of Drax the Destroyer, Starlord and Rocket Raccoon you'd be surprised at how well the book works. Sure, the team is chaotic on their first two missions but the book works. Even when the new roster comes up, the book still manages to pull you in.

Secret Six is about a group of characters who are in a very morally gray area. It's also a book starring guys like Deadshot and Catman and it's really, really dark. But hey, we all succeeded in getting the book moved into an ongoing as the fans really responded to the earlier mini's. Scandal is a great leader when she has her head in the game. The full cast of the book always manages to surprise depending on the mission. Sure, the first arc of the series isn't over yet but it's been a blast so far and I can't wait to see more.

This was one of my toughest calls this year but I'm going to have to give it to Image. Image has really become the home to a lot of creative books and people. They officially made Robert Kirkman a partner and he vowed to get back on time in 08/09 which seems to be working in his favor so far. Then there are the smaller books like Proof and the Perhapsonauts which truly excel at storytelling. Add to that the fact that Image is where you can find all the Man of Action books by creators like Joe Kelly and Joe Casey (who are at their strongest creative points ever). It also helps that now Top cow is with Image and seems to be going in a new and much stronger direction then ever before. Creators can safely publish their own work and still be creator owned, all the founders are back together and they're going to be working on a project in '09. This has definitely been a huge year for Image and I can't wait to see what '09 brings for them.

"My god has a hammer" That one line encapsulated exactly why the Marvel Universe will be safe after Secret Invasion. That line said by just one man who had a plan for the entire skrull invasion showed both humor and stated exactly why the skrulls wouldn't win in the end. When you have a character like Thor, who is one of the most powerful men in the Marvel universe, you know you're going to loose. Nick Fury knew it, but sadly Verahnke did not. I really think that it deserves Moment of the Year because it pretty much set up two issues early what was going to happen at the beginning of issue eight of Secret Invasion and told us exactly who was going to win the war.

Captain Britain and the MI13 really deserves the honors all by itself. Eight issues in and I'd say it's one of Marvel's strongest books. Yes, the book did start with a Secret Invasion tie-in but the end of the arc was wrapped up with Pete Wisdom doing his best Wanda Maximoff impression in a very fun way. The Black Knight got a new squire and found his sword wasn't what he thought it was. Captain Britain receives a very big upgrade by one of the most famous magicians out there. Here, Paul Cornell hits on all marks and throws some crazy yet fun ideas out there. John the skrull made a fitting last stand that really touched your heart. The whole cast has been surprisingly well fleshed out in a short amount of time. The book deserves all the attention it has gotten and the hits really keep coming.

Mi Chen Po didn't strike me as all that villainous in the first place, but he's been pulling the strings in Proof since issue one so it's great to finally see him introduced. Not so much a villain as a flip side of the coin, he's proving to be anything but a fan of the human race. It will be interesting to see what 2009 brings for him and the entire story.

Norman Osborn really doesn't need an explanation. Basically, the man used the media and inside information to get into the highest position the Marvel Universe has. He was cold, calculating and did things his way. He even went so far as to unite some of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe together. Sure, he's got the split personality that could break through at any moment but Norman has evolved from just the crazy guy on the pumpkin glider into so much more.

Cecil from Invincible definitely ranks right up there with Norman Osborn. Mark has trusted the guy for a few years now working with him the entire time. Now, it turns out he had two killers on his payroll and turns his foot soldiers against our hero the second he questions his judgment. Given the recent insight into his past with an origin story, we get to see exactly how he got his scars. Great stuff.

Wendy Watson was probably one the strongest female characters on a tv show in a long time. She questioned her boss, stood against all odds and actually faced down death with such bravery take that it really got to you. If the Middleman doesn't get renewed, you can still look to the series and see exactly how female characters should be written. She is incredibly fleshed out and independent. She's an avid comic book reader, questions everything and has a great sense of humor. Throughout the entire season, the Middleman wouldn't have survived without her. Wendy is one of those unique characters that comes along and shows you that a character can be an attractive girl, but that doesn't mean she can't save the world.

Deadpool basically saved the world from the skrull invasion... It would be nice if anyone actually knew that right? Wade seems to be comfortable in his insanity once again and really brings heroic chaos to the Marvel Universe. Sure he's not out doing what's best for humanity, but he did manage to single handedly take down a full skrull battleship and gave the way to win the war to the wrong guy. Yeah, so I guess he's an accidental hero of the year.

It goes to Deadpool's first story arc and Daniel Way/Paco Medina. It was technically a Secret Invasion tie in but did it's best to hide that fact. There were a bunch of skrulls running around, but Wade does his best to get the skrulls to confide in him. When they realize what he does, it's way too late. Wade Wilson aka Deadpool managed to save the world from a skrull invasion. That's why the book gets best storyline. Honestly no reader would ever see that coming.

Well friends, I guess that's it for this year and I really want to send a thanks to everyone who's made the year a blast for me. It's been great being welcomed into the Comic Related family and even greater making all the friends in the comic business I have so far. From Alex Grecian to Jim McCann, I really appreciate everyone's time and have loved talking with you all. Special thanks to Chuck for being a great boss and always giving positive feedback to my columns. Oh and you the readers, I love hearing that people have actually been able to pick up books because of my columns. See everyone in the new year!

Eric Ratcliffe is a young writer/pop culture journalist/interviewer currently working on pitching a project named the Hunter chronicles. When not reading his weekly stack Eric can be found watching dvd's, playing on his 360 (gamertag: Zack Hunter) or just surfing online trying to find a scoop or two. Brand new to the Comic Related family, Eric is a fun new voice. Eric shops at TJ's Collectibles. Visit them on the web at www.tjcollect.com!

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