13 Dec 2014

The Paradoscars 2014

Following an increase in the amount of votes received by over 300%, 2014 has been the most popular year for the Paradoscars yet. In some categories the voting was very tight, in others (*cough*Best Publisher*cough*) the winner left their fellow nominees in the dust.

The winners have now been announced, once again at the local curry house with a tipsy PCG. If someone wants to finance a glittering awards ceremony for 2015, please get in touch. While all the nominees deserved the limelight, we feel the winners have come out on top because they deserved to be there – in other words, they’re the best of the best.

Thanks to everyone who voted, especially considering many of our nominees weren’t more mainstream, predictable choices, and we do hope you all come back for more passionate opinions on our beloved medium next year.

And so here they are, the winners of the Paradoscars 2014:

Best Ongoing Title: Saga

Also nominated: Black Science, Deadly Class, Lazarus

Stewart R: It’s a strange phenomenon at the PCG that through this past year you won’t have found a single review of Saga here. Not one. While I haven’t reviewed it, I’ve read it the day it appeared in my weekly comic order and it’s been always present, without fail. During 2014 we’ve come out of one Saga creative team ‘catch-up break’, had seven solid issues, and now find ourselves back in hibernation mode waiting for January 2015 and #25 to rise into view. Rise it will, read it we will, and enjoy it undoubtedly we will. And that’s the whole reason that Saga truly deserves to win the Best Ongoing Title award. It’s damn near unmissable reading every single chapter and it’s truly unpredictable even with Hazel giving us narrative hints of what’s to come. Certainly things for this beaten-up family unit have become even more difficult through 2014 as Bryan K. Vaughan has had them weather the toil of the chase with surprising strength despite painful losses, only to start cracking up from within as everyday personality clashes show that love may not always conquer all. Broad in scope, keen in focus and always about the characters, Saga continues to buck convention and shy away from any specific genre. Space Opera? Soap Opera? Whatever category you squeeze it into, the reading audience is up on their feet and applauding Saga and there’s no sign of that ovation ending yet.

Best Miniseries: The Wake

Also nominated: Dead Body Road, Starlight, Trillium

James R: I said it at the time, and I'll say it again now - there's a special comics alchemy that occurs when Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy work together. It was absolutely evident in their second Vertigo collaboration, The Wake. A monster from the deep tale with breathtaking ambition that saw the plot move from the claustrophobic confines of an undersea drilling platform to a dystopian future, and managed to squeeze in all of human history for an encore. I think this series cemented Sean Murphy's superstar status - his art handled the wild challenges of Snyder's script with aplomb, and made each issue an absolute feast for the eyes. If we're being ultra-harsh, the general feeling around the group was that the final issue didn't quite deliver the knockout blow the earlier issues had suggested, but this was still a magnificent accomplishment, and a rattling good tale. I can't wait to see what this dynamic duo are going to cook up next - it's bound to be an essential read.

Best New Title: Southern Bastards

Also nominated: Deadly Class, Low, Moon Knight

James R: The South will rise again! The Deep South of America has always had a certain fascination for artists and writers, and hot on the heels of HBO's brilliant Southern-centric True Detective, 2014 saw the majestic arrival of Southern Bastards. The creation of two sons of the South - Jason Aaron and Jason Latour - this book dazzled from issue #1. Aaron is at his best when examining the nefarious side of human nature, and in creating Craw County, he has excelled himself. This series hit the ground running, following Earl Tubb as he made a reluctant return to his hometown, uncovering a corrupt fiefdom run by the town's football coach, the magnificently-named Coach Boss. However, after five issues, Aaron turned the knife on his readers, moving the story into even more complex and deeply compelling territory. It's been beautifully illustrated throughout by Jason Latour, who gives the book a genuine feel and a unique colour palette. It may only be five issues old at time of writing, but it's already established itself as one of the must-read books of 2015.

Best Single Issue: Lazarus #10

Also nominated: Birthright #1, Deadly Class #6, Southern Bastards #4

Rob N: The first nine issues of Lazarus painted a bleak picture of a dystopian future where the worst excesses of big business were given a free hand to operate as semi-autonomous Renaissance Princes, but by issue #10 it became clear that however bad House Carlyle might be (and bad they are, let's not forget that), they are practically a charitable institution offering honey mead and fancy French pastries to the starving displaced masses when compared with House Hock, a corporate fiefdom that seems to have digested Nineteen Eighty Four and V For Vendetta and decided that a state run along the lines of Norsefire is the way to prosper in a competitive marketplace. With its drugged to the eyeballs population of slaves-in-all-but-name, 'uplifting' propaganda bulletins and billboards everywhere extolling you to BEHAVE, the world of Lazarus suddenly turned very much bleaker than it ever had been. Greg Rucka skilfully presents this vista through the eyes of renegade Carlyle fugitive, Jonah Carlyle, who makes the near fatal mistake of running to House Hock expecting sanctuary after he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar back home. What he gets instead is a brutal and poignant insight into what goes on in his world to people far less fortunate than himself.

Best Cover: Elektra #1

Also nominated: Catwoman #37, Daredevil #4, Elektra #3

Stewart R: Mike Del Mundo is one of those crazy talents who evidently appears to tackle visual projects from a bare minimum of two angles. As series artist on Elektra it was clear that he plays with a host of different styles and tricks within his masterful paint work to depict fluid and fascinating action, driving along dynamic sequences and occasional delusional dreamscapes. With our cover of the year however, he highlights once again his ability to say a great deal with just one image. Pop Elektra #1’s cover up on your PC or tablet, then walk to the other side of the room and look back at the image. The face of Elektra is clearly there to see, her pale visage framed by hair of black and her familiar red head scarf. It’s only when you get closer to the image that you realise that what first appeared to be random artistic paint splatter is actually a depiction of visceral carnage which defines this assassin perfectly. Every part of that face is made up of instruments of destruction or the effect of her bloodletting and it’s breathtakingly beautiful in its composition.

Best Graphic Novel/Collected Edition: Seconds

Also nominated: I Was The Cat, Nemo: Roses Of Berlin, Zenith: Phase 1

Tom P: With the follow-up to Scott Pilgrim Bryan Lee O’Malley introduces us to Katie, a talented chef on the cusp of turning 30, a women who’s not happy with how her life is going, her dreams of owning a restaurant just out of reach. Just as O’Malley mixed Scott Pilgrim with video game inspired action, Seconds mixes late tewntysomthing angst with folk law and music when she meets a Blondie-esque house spirit that offers Katie a power she can’t help but abuse. A real highlight of my comic reading this year I’m delighted to see it rewarded here and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you try this heartwarming morality tale yourself.

Best Digital/Web Comic: The Private Eye

Also nominated: Anti-Hero, Crossed: Wish You Were Here, D4ve

Kenny J: In a year where the premier digital comics retailer was bought by the world’s biggest online retailer, it speaks volumes that, for the second year running, the PCG award for Best Digital Comic goes to The Private Eye, an independent digital title in the truest sense. Even using a pay what you want, digital rights free model, Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin have been able to release an equally inventive tale of technology, privacy and conspiracy in a post-Internet world. As stories go, it’s one on the edge of current events but never allows itself to get mired in the politics of now. Instead, it forges its own path through a not entirely unrecognisable future while displaying the thought and innovation both creators have become known for in their day jobs but uncoupled from the editorial dictum that often accompanies that. With both Image and Comixology adopting a similar model, Vaughan and Martin may have set the course for digital comics for the foreseeable future. Let’s just hope there’s still an Internet to deliver such quality!

Best Writer: Rick Remender

Also nominated: Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman, Charles Soule

Kenny J: It feels like Rick Remender has been on an ascendant trajectory for a while now but 2014 is finally the year where he took the comics industry for his own. The shear inventiveness found in earlier titles like Fear Agent and his defining run on Uncanny X-Force has grown to make some of this year’s stand out titles, including the latter’s spiritual successor Uncanny Avengers and Marvel’s big event, AXIS. He’s made Captain America, the first Avenger, a ninety year-old, killed Rogue and spliced Charles Xavier’s brain to the Red Skull’s. That’s not even mentioning his creator owned titles being published at Image: Black Science, Low and last but far from least, Deadly Class. A wide array of settings, styles and genres but all recognisably penned by the same man, interweaving as they do with his values and personality.

Best Artist: Fiona Staples

Also nominated: Nick Dragotta, Michael Lark, Matteo Scalera

Stewart R: For the all the reasons that Saga deserves the accolade of Best Ongoing Title, it’s probably true to say that Fiona Staples deserves to win Best Artist (or with a 2nd win in as many years, should that now be Best Ongoing Artist?). As the writing of Bryan K. Vaughan has shifted and morphed beneath his hands to a darker, sombre, sadder time for the characters involved, Staples has displayed succinctly and vividly that change on the page and particularly in the transformations of Marko and Alana from a passionate couple on the run to parents struggling to deal with staying still, hiding away in plain sight and the character traits and faults they didn’t have time to focus on before. Staples has aged the pair through their troubles, maturing them, hardening them and such visual transition is no easy task, yet she has produced seven highly consistent chapters through 2014, depicting life, death, love, hate, strangely ambivalent robot people, alien worlds, recognizable 21st Century interactions and one young child’s unique development through all of the craziness. Ever emotive, highly effective and eye-strokingly pleasurable, Staples’ art hits the double targets of terrific consistency and high quality with unbelievable skill.

Best Cover Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Also nominated: Jim Cheung, Mike Del Mundo, Jock

Matt C: It was looking like it was going to be a relatively quiet year for Darwyn Cooke. There were a few things here and there – illustrations in Parker prose novels, a contribution to Batman’s 75th Anniversary celebratory animation, interiors to the final issue of All Star Western – but nothing that really felt like he was going out of his way to reassert himself as one of the preeminent comic book artists of the 21st century. Until, of course, the announcement that he’d drawn variant covers for 23 of DC’s premier titles in December, and that was all that was really needed to remind us of his abundance of talent. As always, he channels Silver Age imagery in a way that makes it feel utterly contemporary, and the set of covers he’s provided are an absolute joy to behold, perfectly capturing the exuberant wonder of DC’s most iconic characters. He’s got a bunch of covers for Dynamite relaunches due at the beginning of next year (Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant et al) but for 2014 it was like he was lying in wait until the last moment to once again display his pure command of this visual medium.

Best Inker: Klaus Janson

Also nominated: Gerry Alanguilan, Mark Farmer, Tom Palmer

Tom P: As inkers go, it’s safe to say Klaus Janson is a titan. Having worked in comics from the early ‘70s, highlights have included his inking on Frank Miller’s Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns to illustrating Batman for the ‘Cataclysm’ crossover in the ‘90s. Most recently he’s been best known for collaborating with John Romita Jr on everything from Wolverine to Avengers, and in 2014 he’s reteamed with Romita Jr again for Geoff John’s impressive new run on Superman. His bold, energetic line work never failing to add a terrific dimension and polish to everything he contributes to.

Best Colourist: Jordie Bellaire

Also nominated: Lee Loughridge, Laura Martin, Dean White

Stewart R: In 2013 Jordie Bellaire won the PCG’s hallowed Best Colourist award and Matt C summarized his award statement by saying “while she's really made a mark on 2013 you get the feeling 2014 will be an even better year for her”. Well, you don’t get much better than winning the award again! Be it the dark, city skylines and shadowy alleyways of Moon Knight, the globetrotting and time-spanning black ops locales depicted in Zero, or the faraway magical landscapes of a world inhabited by magic and animals in Autumnland: Tooth and Claw, it is possible to spot a Bellaire book and guess with relative accuracy that she’s the driving force behind the hues and tones utilised. The great hitch to that skill is not being able to quite identify that one aspect or element which sets her work out from the rest, so varied are her palettes and honed are her skills. A three-peat for 2015? I wouldn’t count it out...

Most Promising Talent: Joshua Williamson

Also nominated: Ryan Browne, Tula Lotay, Babs Tarr

Matt C: Joshua Williamson really made his presence known in 2014. I’d become fully aware of his abilities thanks to the excellent Monkeybrain digital series, Masks & Mobsters in 2013 (more please!) as most of his work-for-hire output (primarily for DC) had slipped under my radar. It’s been three titles at Image this year that have put him squarely on the map this though: Ghosted, Nailbiter and Birthright. A horror/crime hybrid, a twisty, devious serial killer tale and a blast of sword and sorcery brought into the present, Williamson has jumped from genre to genre without missing a beat. The quality of his storytelling at this stage seems to suggest his career trajectory can only go one way from here: up!

Best Publisher: Image

Also nominated: Dark Horse, Marvel, Oni Press

Kenny J: This may be the year where the term ‘Big Two’ has finally become redundant. Formed over two decades ago, it seems over the last few years Image has decided it was going to become the home of new, fresh and fiercely independent ideas. It’s now taken our award for Best Publisher two years running by not only offering as many titles on a weekly basis as Marvel and DC but also tonnes more variety at a consistently higher quality. As business models go you can't get much better than that. I mean Walking Dead, a little indie zom-comic you may have heard of, features consistently in the number one slot of Previews' top selling titles. Not a fan of zombies? Why not try the sci-fi western world of East Of West. No? How about the fantasy tinged horror of Umbral or the android romance of Alex + Ada or, if you like your technology more blood stained, there’s Lazarus. I could go on and on. It really is no exaggeration to say that Image is currently publishing something for everyone. I am and probably always will be a superhero fan (Image have that as well) but I also believe that comics are an art form intrinsically infused with an energy that allows them to birth concepts mostly left untouched and unimagined by other media. But even in the comic industry, Image is pulling far ahead of the competition as other companies return to the same well again and again. Move over Marvel, there’s a new house of ideas.

Best Main Character: Forever Carlyle

Also nominated: Callum Israel, Captain America, Thor

Rob N: Greg Rucka is a truly superb writer who in my opinion deserves far greater success than he actually gets. Of the many accolades I could send his way, first and foremost is his remarkable skill at writing realistic, believable and strong female characters. Because by and large many men who write female characters in comics often fall foul of one of two things: either their character is overtly sexualised and two dimensional or, if the writer tries to steer away from that particular pitfall, then the character often becomes to all intents a bloke with breasts – sacrificing recognizable female traits in exchange for 'being tough', when really life has shown that there is no reason at all why the two can't go hand in hand. Treading the middle ground and making the character strong, resilient but still recognisably female seems to be beyond the writing skills of many of Greg Rucka's peers (*cough* Warren Ellis *cough*). Not so Mr Rucka though, who has an impressive portfolio of female characters to his name from the early days of Whiteout and Queen And Country through his tenure on Gotham Central (I should perhaps add that his partner in crime in those days, Ed Brubaker, also displays a similar skill in writing women well) to the present day with Forever Carlyle, the central protagonist in Lazarus. The gold standard for me in writing believable, interesting and self-reliant female characters in comics has always been Peter O'Donnell's complex creation, Modesty Blaise. And if Modesty is the 10 out of 10 score for men writing women, then I'm pleased to say Greg Rucka generally rates an impressive 9.9, as he does in Lazarus with Forever.

Best Supporting Character: Kate Bishop

Also nominated: Foggy Nelson, Kadir, Rarah

Kenny J: Although not a main player in Gillen and McKelvie’s recently wrapped Young Avengers run, Kate Bishop was the standout character for me, fierce, funny and a dab hand with a bow and arrow. I would have happily read a solo book starring the young female counterpart to Clint Barton. And in Hawkeye that’s pretty much what we got over the last year, albeit on alternating months. In fact, it could be argued that Kate was not merely a very important supporting character but the co-star of Matt Fraction's story, every part Barton's equal. One can only hope when Fraction vacates the writer's chair for Jeff Lemire that the ex-Green Arrow scribe gives both Hawkeyes a shot.

Best Villain: Prince Robot IV

Also nominated: Coach Boss, Doctor Doom, Kang

Tom P: The Best Villain category has been awarded to fine variety of scum over the years. Previous winners include more obvious candidates like Thanos, Red Skull and the Joker to the much less obvious - Tony Stark! But it’s never been awarded to a royal, TV-headed robot before… until now. Introduced in Saga #1, he's pursued the cast of the sci-fi soap opera from Cleave to Sextillion, in which time he’s grown as a character, loved and lost a little along the way, and between you and me, it wouldn’t surprise me if we change our tune about this put upon Prince in the not-to-distant future.

Best Adaptation Into Another Medium: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Also nominated: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days Of Future Past

James R: I'll hold up my hand on this one: I feared that this would be the one where Marvel would come unstuck. Following an odd post-credits sequence after Thor: The Dark World, I wasn't worried about the talent of James Gunn (If you haven't seen his masterful superhero movie, Super, I implore you to!) but instead I feared that the idea would be too 'out there' for mainstream audiences, and without a recognisable cape or mask amongst the cast, it could have been a big-budget disaster. But more fool I! Gunn et al managed a masterstroke, giving us this year's most breathless blockbuster full of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, foot-to-the-floor action, a must-own soundtrack and a newly-minted action hero in the shape of Chris Pratt. It was one of the many great cinematic experiences we've shared as the PCG collective, and on emerging out into the foyer, it was clear that Guardians was a hit. Having rewatched it recently, I still feel that Ronan the Accuser is a bit of 2-D bad guy who could have been fleshed out a little more, but then I think - Celestials! They had the Celestials in a movie! That's the frankly insane world we fanboys are living in now. Roll on the sequel, and the Awesome Mix Tape volume 2!

Best Comics Website: Comic Vine

Also nominated: Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Resources, Thirteen Minutes

Tom P: Comic Vine wins the hotly contested Best Website award for the first time this year. Along with news and reviews, it’s packed with features, articles and enthusiastically produced content, with some of its biggest strengths being its lively community and the comprehensive comics wiki. From creators, characters and runs, it never fails to be an impressive resource, whether you find yourself tracking down that cover to a series you're trying to complete or attempting to figure out who the heck that guy was in the latest issue of New Avengers!

Disappointment Of The Year: Crossover Events

Also nominated: DC, Gotham TV series, Original Sin

James R: Urgh, it's hard to build up the energy to write about this one. Yes, I know that in some ways the big events are the blockbusters of the comics industry, and one quick squint at the sales charts shows just why the Big Two keep going back to the well marked 'Crossover Events' with alarming regularity. However, as a fanboy who was swept up by the scope and sheer audacity of Marvel's original Secret Wars as a kid, I now see the big events as an almost inevitable let-down. In recent years, Flashpoint was solid (but did lead the way for the drawn-out disappointment of the New 52 project) and Infinity was enjoyable enough, but 2014 has been an elongated sigh of crossovers. For Marvel, Original Sin started promisingly before finishing in such a ludicrous fashion, and one felt foolish for having stuck with it for so long, while AXIS - despite being built up to for what seemed like an age - has fallen incredibly flat. Meanwhile, DC's Future's End didn't really get off to the most inspiring of starts, and as much as it pains me to say it as a die-hard Bat-fan, Batman: Eternal had none of the magic of Snyder's normal Batman title, and felt hugely dull and inconsequential. 2015 - dare we say it? - looks a little more promising, with the grand finale to Hickman's Avengers epic, Secret Wars, on the horizon, but in another strong year for comics (and creator-owned titles) it seems the big events are often the dampest of squibs.

Most Looking Forward To In 2015: Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Also nominated: Ant-Man, Marvel's Star Wars comics, Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars

Rob N: To get me excited, or at the very least 'interested', in advance of a big budget licensed genre motion picture is a task on a par with the Labours of Hercules. Advance 'buzz' on the Internet for an upcoming film of that ilk interests me about as much as a new One Direction single might, so in the case of the next Avengers film I should perhaps be typically blas̩, shrug my shoulders and simply go back to watching the torrent of high quality TV shows we relish these days. Such is not the case with Age Of Ultron though, and this is down to the surprisingly brilliant first film by Joss Whedon. I'll be honest РI wasn't necessarily expecting anything more than an averagely enjoyable escapist romp, but what we instead got was a near perfect porting of the essence of the Avengers to the medium of film. It pretty much ticked off every box on your Avengers film wish list without compromising ticket sales, and that's not an easy thing to do. As a kid, Avengers was always my favourite Marvel book, the one I grew up with during the classic issues #1 to 200 run that featured so many memorable storylines. And one of my favourite Avengers villains was Ultron who foreshadowed so many later SF stories based around various forms of AI threatening mankind. James Spader as the voice of Ultron would actually have been my first choice, so obviously I'm very happy there, and with Joss Whedon still onboard for the second film I can confidently say that for once I'm looking forward to a big budget action film! I may (whisper it) even get round to watching the trailers...

PCG Honorary Award 2014: Walt Simonson

Matt C: When you mention Walt Simonson’s name these days, the first thing to spring to mind for most people will be his seminal, defining run on Thor in the 1980s. In anyone’s book, being responsible for such a massively influential take on an iconic character is certainly nothing to be sniffed at, but focusing purely on that alone does this hugely talented individual a disservice. With a career that’s spanned over 40 years, Simonson has tackled – either as writer, artist or both – some of the biggest properties in the medium, from Superman to Star Wars, Fantastic Four to Wonder Woman. His frenetic, vibrant art and intelligent, imaginative scripts have kept him in step with the times while some of his contemporaries have been left behind, and the sheer volume and quality of his output over the years has made him a more than worthy candidate for our Honorary Award from 2014. And why is he still important in 2014? Look no further than his IDW Ragnarok series, a book that could have easily been a chance to coast by on former glories but has proven to be just as vital, just as exciting, as anything he’s ever done. Walt Simonson easily deserves his place alongside our previous winners, Stan Lee and Mark Waid. A comics legend.

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