Friday, January 06, 2006

The Comics Should Be Good Best Comics Of 2005 - Best Ongoing Series

It's Part Three! How exciting! This time we focus on all those fun series that keep trotting out, month after month, entertaining us with 22-page slices of goodness, but never get their due because all anyone wants to talk about are trade paperbacks and mini-series. Poor little ongoing series - the Caribbean wife locked away in the attic of Mr. Rochester's house of comics.¹ I still love you, ongoing series! You can always come stay with me!

Let's see what some o' our contributors had to say:

Greg Hatcher:
You guys are killing me here. Anything good that I like that's new is either A) ending, like Gotham Central; or B) losing its creative team, like Conan; or C) not really on any kind of dependable schedule, like True Story Swear To God or Astro City.

Screw it. I'm going with True Story Swear To God, just because I have to pick something, and I really like this book and want more people to read it. Plus, Tom Beland's getting pretty good about keeping to a schedule.

[Editor's note: Jesus, Greg H. really likes TSSTG. Shit. Do I now have to track this down? Just another excellent book that I missed?]

Brad Curran:
It occurs to me that I didn't really follow any ongoing monthlies this year, at least for any extended length of time. I read Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's Legion revamp for awhile, but stopped after the fifth issue. Ex Machina and Plastic Man lost me, too, although I plan on catching up with them at some point. I'm very fickle when it comes to monthlies. The best I can muster is a vote for Runaways vol. 2, which I'm reading in digests.

Bill Reed:
To be honest, I don't even know if I read any ongoing series. Let's see. Human Target was very good, and was cancelled this year. Hmm ... Desolation Jones came out, that's some damned good comics ... then we've got ... oh, what the hell. I pick Fell. I mean, it just started, we only got three issues ... but it's ongoing,damnitt. A petite comics experiment, it's also good eats. Figurative eats. Not literal ones. I suppose it'd be high in fiber or something, though. Try it sometime.

[Editor's note: Desolation Jones doesn't count. It's a mini-series. Luckily Bill wised up and picked an ongoing.]

Mark Ludy:

After the violent one two gut-shot of Mike Allred's alternately joyful and absolutely terrifying love letter to Silver Age DC, and Teddy Kristiansen's Eastern-art tinged meditations on loneliness 'n being human ...

I HAVE to say DC's Solo.

Takes a bunch of genuinely good, decidedly NOT fan favorite artists and let's 'em do whatever they want to do.

I kinda forgot about this book, only picking it up occasionally, until I started to think about this "Best of the Year Thing ..."

And realized that well over half of the "Beat Poor MarkAndrew Over the Head with their AWESOME STICK!" moments I've read in mainstream comics this year came from this humble anthology book.

And, surprise surprise, this makes for some of the most genuinely effective storytelling I've read this year. And sends me on a wild, harried hunt for back issues.

Every one of the four issues I bought this year (Paul Pope, Teddy Kristiansen, Howard Chaykin and Mike Allred) were bordering on genius, shelling out painstakingly labored Original Graphic Novel level material at a cheap five bones cover price.





Brian Cronin:
I understand that on the Comic Blogger's Poll, the Solo series is being treated as a series of one-shots, and that probably makes some sense, but what can I say, I am a cold-hearted snake[Editor's note: Like Paula Abdul?] - I don't play by rules, so since they DO number these things and it is ongoing, I am choosing Solo as my favorite ongoing of 2005.

As for why?

Well, look at it!!

You got a giant comic devoted to just Darwyn Cooke! You got a giant comic devoted to just Mike Allred! You got a giant comic devoted to just Howard Chaykin! Each and every issue of Solo promises to present the reader with a plethora of good stories, and the great art is almost always guaranteed.

Great art and really good stories each issue? A LOT of stories each issue? Stories in different genres?

What's NOT to like?

Please note that I would have picked All-Star Superman, but couldn't bring myself to choose as "Best Ongoing" a title that only had one issue.

Greg Burgas:
Sigh. I'm almost ashamed that I need to keep setting these guys straight. Actually, I haven't read True Story Swear To God, as I mentioned, and I don't have much of a problem with the other picks. But they weren't the best. So I thought long and hard. I put my puzzler to work. I liked a lot of ongoing titles this year, and this is a tough choice. But tough choices are what makes this country great, and I knew I had to take the challenge! Here is what I considered:

Small Gods. Technically, it's an ongoing, but only seven issues came out this year. It's still brilliant.
Ex Machina. If Vaughan is my writer of the year, I should at least consider one of his books, right? This is one of my favorite titles out there, and I almost picked it.
Fables. Another one of my favorites. However, the two-parter with Jack was a bit of a clunker (decent, but not up to the usual standard), and the climax to the "Homelands" arc was a bit anti-climactic, which, as I understand it, is not something climaxes should be.
Gødland. It's only six issues in, but it's awesome. I loves me some Gødland.

But none of those made the cut. So I choose ...

Noble Causes. "What?" you may say. "What? Isn't that just a superhero book? Where's the gravitas?" Well, screw gravitas. And screw Invincible, too - well, okay, don't, because it's a fine book, but Noble Causes is the best superhero book out there. And yes, I know we're supposed to move beyond superheroes and embrace all the possibilities of the medium, but when they're done this well, it's difficult. Jay Faerber doesn't write for the trade, even though he does big, sweeping epic storylines. Each issue gives you action, drama, hints about the big story but enough in the here and now to satisfy you. You get a contained story in each issue, plus enough to keep the overall story moving forward. This year he reached the end of a big, multi-thread story that took us to hell and deep space, and just when it seemed like he had nowhere else to go, he introduced the Blackthorne clan, the evil counterpoint to the Nobles. And the book just got better. When each issue is better than the last (a phenomenon that is taking place in Gødland, too), that's a damned fine comic. And that's why Noble Causes is the best book of the year. I get giddy when a new issue comes out. Isn't that what reading comics is all about?

Another category down. Like Tony Kornheiser says on Pardon The Interruption, I win again!

¹ Look at me with the high-falutin' literary references!

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Blogger Iagorune said...

I’ve got to agree with Cronin on this one.

I REALLY have been enjoying Solo quite a bit more then most any other comic out there. But then again, since Cerebus ended and with the notable exception of the still wonderful Usagi Yojimbo, I’m not really all that nuts about most new comics being published.

Well, at least most monthlies. I do tend to grab Green Arrow and JLA every once in awhile.

I do end up buying my fair share of mini series and one shots. Bu then again if you think about it, the top level guys mostly just do mini and one-shots now.

I’ll occasionally be surprised by something nice in the average monthly but I guess I just got to spoiled by the 1960, 70’s & 80’s and for some reason expect most of my comics to be well written and well drawn.

Still, not buying many new comics has allowed me to become and absolute EBAY back issue fiend, and I can afford pretty much every new Essential, Showcase or trade paper back that looks good too.

I’ll also admit that something that also helps keep the spending down, is that my local library just goes nuts with their comic collection.

Probably 80 or 90 percent of what DC and Marvel have put out as trades, and at least 50 percent of Fantagraphics and Dark Horses have in the last 10 years has shown up at my library here in Colorado Springs.

So I can get away with talking down about the new stuff, because I read it 6 months later and for free.

Which I’m sure John Byrne hates, but what can I say, I like libraries.

Anyway, sorry to go off in my own little direction there.

I guess I should admit that for reasons I can’t even begin to figure out, that I do actually really like All-Star Batman & Robin.

Now I know this makes me both insane and without taste, I have to say that so far I’ve just been having a ball with this series, and I’ve finally figured out what it is that I like so much. And that’s the way the story feels like one of the old comic parodies that they used to have in the long defunct National Lampoon.

I take All-Star Batman & Robin about as seriously as I took the Lampoons version of Deadman, who was actually just a corpse being used to fight crime so that the “heroes” son could eventually make enough money to hire a multitude of winos to piss on his lawyers rose bushes. Or better yet, Son of God.

By the way, and sorry to tangent again.

But was I the only one to notice that when Marvel put out their Son of Satan comic in the mid-1970’s, that ol’ Damian Hellstroms costume was almost the exact same as Neal Adams ”Savior Supreme”????



1/06/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

Holy Crap Cronin.

I expected people to agree with me on Morrison for best writer and probably J.H. Williams III for best artist...

But I didn't see anyone agreeing with me on Solo for best series.

(Although it totally is.)

1/07/2006 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

No, no, Jones is so an ongoing. So sayeth The Ellis.

1/07/2006 12:08:00 AM  
Blogger --Greg Hatcher said...

For those who haven't experienced Tom Beland's True Story Swear To God yet, the best place to start is the "100 Stories" collection recently out from AiT/PlanetLar. That's a little paperback that collects the weekly syndicated strips. It passes the ultimate test as far as humor strips are concerned: it made me and everyone else I know who read it actually laugh out loud. And it introduces everyone, so that when you go from there to the standard TSSTG comic BOOK, it feels like a familiar favorite show going from TV to the big screen.

I can't believe that it was ME, of the lot of you, went for the self-published indie black and white book.

Also, Rick, congrats -- or condolences, not sure which -- on discovering the delight of finding your funnybooks on eBay. I just started doing that a few months ago too and it really is horribly addicting. But oh man it's fun.

1/07/2006 01:34:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

What's interesting, Greg, is in the CBR chat with Tom Beland (the transcript of which should be up soon), Beland makes that EXACT (TV to Film) comparison!

1/07/2006 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

" Holy Crap Cronin.

I expected people to agree with me on Morrison for best writer and probably J.H. Williams III for best artist...

But I didn't see anyone agreeing with me on Solo for best series."

And, if you recall, I almost picked JH Williams as best artist!!

Let's see how our Unimind holds up on the next two subjects (I can see you agreeing with me possibly on ONE, but not the other).

1/07/2006 02:04:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"I do end up buying my fair share of mini series and one shots. Bu then again if you think about it, the top level guys mostly just do mini and one-shots now."

Yeah, good point, Rick.

1/07/2006 02:04:00 AM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

I can't believe that it was ME, of the lot of you, went for the self-published indie black and white book."


There aren't a lot of Indy books that do more than one issue a year, now that Cerebus and Bone ended.

Love and Rockets was my number two pick this year, though. (Tho' not self-published.)

1/07/2006 02:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Brandon H. said...

Tom Beland is one of my comic heroes. TSSTG is one of the things that inspired me to start making comics.

1/07/2006 03:19:00 AM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

Really, Usagi Yojimbo should be voted the best ongoing book every year, but I guess that would get a little boring, wouldn't it?

TSSTG is an extremely good book.

Happy Town is one that crosses my mind in this category that wasn't mentioned. Plastic Man is about the only other ongoing I read besides those, and, yes, it is very awesome.

Several #1 issues of certain-to-be-great series came out...The Secret Voice and Zig Zag, to name a few.

SOLO...I only have the Cooke issue. I'm gonna track down the Allred one soon though...which other ones stand out?

1/07/2006 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

TSSTG is great - the first issue, which is collected in the eponymous TPB, made me love it completely. Good, good stuff.

Fables, which I read in trades because I have the memory of a sieve, continues to be one of my favorite on-goings.

Fell, rocks very, very much.

Young Avengers is super super-hero comics. In my top three on-going.

BPRD never gets enough press - this is not just Hellboy between issue filler - this is creepy, involving material with fantastic Guy Davis art.

Conan rocks the house.

Ultimates is the other good super-hero stuff being published. A punch in the mouth every time.

Ok, is DJ mini or on-going? I thought on-going.

So, Top 5 - YA, Fell, Fables, Ultimates, BPRD & Conan (tie)

1/07/2006 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Well, I guess that's my bad, because I thought Desolation Jones was a mini-series, but apparently it is indeed an ongoing. It still shouldn't qualify because of that truly horrendous issue #3, the "porn" issue. That was not good.

I kind of have to call bullshit on counting Solo, although it's fine by me if it's everyone's favorite ongoing. To me, an anthology series, no matter if it comes out every month or not, doesn't count, because it doesn't conform to the restrictions of every other ongoing series - same writer, usually same artist, ongoing stories. Anyone (even Chuck Austen) can write a few stories a few pages long and make it good. It takes something different to keep it up consistently month after month. And let's face it - Tim Sale's issue of Solo wasn't all that great, and neither was Allred's despite the love heaped on it. For these short stories (and I mean really short, because they have to fit in the comic book format) to be great, they have to be exceptionally great, and I haven't seen that yet in Solo. They're pleasant little slices of fiction, but that's all. Western Tales of Terror was just as good, if you ask me.

And Howard Chaykin is overrated. Quite possibly the most overrated writer working now.

But that's just one man's opinion.

1/07/2006 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

"Anyone (even Chuck Austen) can write a few stories a few pages long and make it good."

Maybe this speaks for anthology books in general over series with continuing creative teams, demonstrating even more how much Solo kicks ass.

Though in general I don't like picking "best of" stuff, "Solo" was one of the best mainstream comic book reading experiences out there for me this year, right up with "Godland" and "Invincible."

1/07/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I thought the 'porn issue' of DJ was good, though possibly weakest of the bunch. But, you know, it kept to the gut-wrench style of the comic. And was based on real-life experience from one of Ellis's friends who just recently passed away, which unfortunately adds to the melancholiness.

Regardless, it's one of the best-written comics out there.

And, damn, Solo was a neat pick for this, but I've only read two of 'em-- Cooke and Allred. I loved 'em. Got to track down the Pope issue.

1/07/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Desolation Jones is an ongoing series.

1/07/2006 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I never thought of Solo as an ongoing, even if the three issues I read were excellent. Also, I buy most of my comics off E-Bay. It's weird having things in common with rick (can't bring myself to capitalize it) and Greg. Because they are very, very old.

1/07/2006 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"Anyone (even Chuck Austen) can write a few stories a few pages long and make it good."

I certainly don't agree with that.

Anyone else agree with that?

Is that, like, a thing people think? That short stories are easy?

I never knew that that was, like, a "thing."

Marvel Comics Presents was basically terrible.

Solo was basically excellent.

Both are anthologies.

And if an anthology is ongoing, I don't have a problem with it being considered for Best Ongoing Series. I think the only real qualification for "Ongoing Series" should be that it is, you know, an ongoing series (well, I also think that it should have a decent amount of issues out in a year, too. More than, like, one or two).

1/07/2006 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Nah, short stories aren't easy at all. I'm just saying that if you're a writer, short stories are easier than long-running stuff. I've only written short stories and novels, not serial comic books, so I can't speak for them, but for me, short stories are much easier.

1/07/2006 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Self-contained short stories are nigh-impossible for me, though I wrote a couple this year (but only like the one-- and for that one I stole a character from one of my own pitches for an ongoing comic series).

I find it much easier to plot long-running serial narratives, but I was built this way through my comic binging.

I think it's different for everybody. Some people are comfortable with the short story. I prefer episodic serial fiction.

1/07/2006 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger craig-d-taylor said...

Favorite ongoing series for 2005:

I agree that Solo was a fine book. More surprises in and between issues than most other comics.

My faves were the Darwyn Cooke, Mike Allred and the Teddy Kristiansen issues. I'm trying to find the Richard Corben and Paul Pope issues.

There aren't a lot of other ongoing series that leap out. Most of the good series, I think, began towrds the end of the year and grabbed me straight off the bat on first issue.

Hard Time Season 2, DMZ, and Fallen Angel.

New Avengers was the biggest disappointment, because it had some promise, and blew it.

Supreme Power (MAX) burnt out after the first year, which showed promise. Another disappointment.

I know it doesn't count coz it's a mini-series, but Morrison's Seven Soldiers was excellent for two reasons: one I'm lokking fwd to a new Morrison-written ongoing (WildCats) and I don't think that any of the mini-series would hold my interest as a regular ongoing. Maybe I'm fickle, but the 3 new series I mentioned above have some longer term arc in mind that intrigues me.

1/08/2006 08:25:00 PM  

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