This is now the 9th year we've run the Paradoscars here (formally known as the Paradox "Oscars") and it was in existence 'offline' for several years before that. Yep, we like voting for a best 'things' of the year and we like it even more ever since we invited our readership to join in. So, while the PCG may have come up with the nominations in each category, the winners were chosen by you. As ever, 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. 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 all of you 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 2015:
Best Ongoing Title: Southern Bastards
Also nominated: Deadly Class, East Of West, Lazarus
James R: The two Jasons should feel rightfully proud. The four nominatee for 'Best Ongoing Title' hinted at just how many brilliant books are out there at the moment, and to get the winning nod from our diverse voting pool shows just how special this one is. It's really unlike anything else on the stands; in some way, it's a spiritual continuation of Jason Aaron's Scalped - a book that focused on the darker themes and motivations amongst a tight-knight community - but Southern Bastards adds some Dixie Fried taste to these ideas with a cast of characters that are equal parts horrific and fascinating. After the first arc, which culminated in a jaw-dropping ending, it has been a joy to watch Jason Aaron both deepen and expand the world of Craw County. Having established Coach Boss as a truly terrifying villain initially, he became the main focus as we learned of his miserable early life and setbacks that caused him to become the nefarious heart of the book. Aaron then explored the lives of the supporting cast in the lead up to the Running Rebs' clash with hated rivals Wetumpka in the 'Homecoming' arc. Jason Latour's art and colours are so striking, so consistently great, that it infuses the pages with a real feel for the South. It's fair to say that there hasn't been a weak issue, and it's the title that I just cannot wait to read when I see it on the weekly pull-list. Incredibly, I think this series hasn't peaked yet - given the plot threads Aaron has teased us with, I feel there's plenty more deadly and delicious Southern charm to come. A worthy winner - Southern Bastards is the Homecoming King of 2015.
Also nominated: Airboy, Men Of Wrath, Weirdworld
Matt C: No one quite knew what they'd be getting with Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars, but what was clear - based on his stunning lead up to the event through Avengers and New Avengers - was that this would not be a run-of-the-mill crossover event, nor a rehash of the original 1980s maxi-series. What we did end up getting was a vastly ambitious tour de force of superheroic storytelling, an event book that avoided the trap of squandering a clever high concept (something that's plagued many a Big Two blockbuster series in recent years) and instead offered a brilliantly realised alternate universe where Doctor Doom is a God and the Reed Richards' from two universes (along with various other interested parties) are attempting to wrest the power away from the former Latverian dictator and return reality to the way it was (or thereabouts). Secret Wars has been audacious, intelligent and full of some especially strong character work for the main players, all brought to gloriously epic and vibrant life via the artistic skills of Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina. In a medium where the illusion of change is paramount, lasting alterations to the tapestry of the Marvel Universe were unsurprisingly minimal, but as a tale driven by a powerful sense of urgency (and perhaps a dash of arresting pomposity), Secret Wars has surpassed expectations, and it's highly unlikely we'll see an event book of this calibre for some time to come.
Also nominated: Injection, Star Wars, Tokyo Ghost
James R: Jeff Lemire seems to go up a gear when working on creator-owned projects. The talent behind Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder scored another hit this year with a science fiction series that has all his trademarks: instantly likeable and sympathetic characters, a plot rich in imagination and peril, and lots of surprises. In Descender, Lemire's story has been elevated by the beautiful watercolour work of Dustin Nguyen. His art manages to capture both the technological aspect of the future alongside the emotional components of the title. Descender was optioned by Sony Pictures this year, and it's easy to see why - each issue feels cinematic, whilst never straying too far from the heart and emotion that Lemire always evokes so well. From a captivating first arc, Descender has stayed a strong read, and the most recent issue upped the narrative intrigue several notches. It's clear that Lemire and Nguyen have got a lot more lined up for TIM-21, and if it keeps up the level of quality that was evident in its first year in 2016, then it could well be pushing for the coveted 'Best Ongoing Title' spot this time next year. Descender is a book with so much to applaud - the world-building, the art, the invention - and it remains firmly on an upward trajectory.
Also nominated: Criminal Special Edition, Deadly Class #13, Hawkeye #22
Rob N: In much the same way that it wouldn't be Christmas without Noddy Holder telling us it is at the top of his lungs, it wouldn't really be the Paradoscars without a win for Greg Rucka's superb Lazarus comic. The superlatives from our end have surely been so regular and so consistent that I'm left wondering if there's anything much left to say about this A+ title. Issue #17, in case you've forgotten, is the one in which House Carlyle goes to war with House Hock, having suffered the near catastrophic loss of Malcolm Carlyle at the oil rig summit. With winter sweeping across the land, it is grim times for the family that can most flatteringly be described as 'the lesser of several evils'. Only Forever Carlyle seems to have any idea how to take on Hock in the absence of her father, and so it is left to her to pick up the pieces as the more useless members of her family seem to flounder like rabbits caught in the headlights of an incoming car. A worthy winner of the 'Best Single Issue' category, though the same could be said for many of the other issues of Lazarus this year.
Also nominated: Lazarus #17, Sex #24, Weirdworld #4
Tom P: John Cassaday is no stranger when it comes to strong cover work and this year was no exception. This striking image instantly conveys everything we love about that galaxy far, far away. Darth Vader stands centre stage backed up by full battalion of Stormtroopers and several Imperial Walkers. Hiding in foreground we see our favourite scoundrel hushing his best friend so they might avoid detection and escape. Can these two stand up to this mighty foe? It makes you instantly want to find out. It's safe to say this is the year of Star Wars and just as the new film will no doubt dominate the box office, this image dominated the 'Best Cover' category for a well deserved win.
Also nominated: Hip Hop Family Tree Book 3: 1983-1984, Zenith: Phase 3, Zenith: Phase 4
Matt C: Rick Remender left Marvel in 2015 to focus on his creator-owned work, and while Rage Of Ultron wasn't officially billed as his swansong at the House Of Ideas (a couple of other things still had their place on the schedule), considering the themes he tackles in it - the sins of the past, the bonds of trust that hold people together - it might as well have been. His masterpiece at Marvel was his run on Uncanny X-Force, and he followed that with an impressive first volume of Uncanny Avengers. Although Rage Of Ultron didn't quite reach the same heights as either of those, it was a superior read, and featured the kind of sensational superhero melodrama that Remender does so well. Marvel's latest line of original graphic novels haven't exactly set the world on fire, but this one was an undoubted highlight, and although it may have been released to coincide with the debut of a certain blockbuster movie, beyond the shared characters, it had very little in common, with Remender's writing along with some searing artwork from Jerome Opena ensuring it was a worthwhile addition to any comics bookshelf.
Also nominated: Amazing Forest, High Crimes, Wynter
Tom P: Launched in March 2013, The Private Eye was an instant success with critics and fans alike. It's set in 2076, some time after the 'cloudburst' (where everyone's secrets poured online, warts and all), resulting in the Internet being taken offline permanently. Ironically the only place you could read it (until the recent publication of the hardback edition from Image) was on the web and you could pay what you wanted for it (even nothing at all!). Yes, you can read the whole thing for free if you so desired. Did it work? Well, the same creative team having now launched a new title Barrier and the gamble with The Private Eye paid off as the series reached an astonishing conclusion this year, proving that digital-only comics are just as vital and in demand as their printed counterparts.
Also nominated: Greg Rucka, Jonathan Hickman, Rick Remender
Billy P: Aaron is one of those writers. You know what I mean. Since I first gorged on Scalped – one of the best series in the past decade or so – Aaron quickly became a writer who was permanently etched on my pull-list regardless of title or publisher. At the moment, Aaron is firing on all cylinders. He is, in my humble opinion, a true auteur of the medium, the comic book equivalent of the cinematic director par excellence. 2015 has been an awesome year for Aaron, not least for his gender-defying run on Thor, the absolutely sublime Southern Bastards – an HBO series in the making, one would hope – and a tonally accurate Star Wars series that deftly captured the essence of the Original Trilogy. In the aftermath of Marvel’s Secret Wars – well, not an aftermath as it hasn’t bloody ended yet -- Aaron’s Doctor Strange has been yet another prize-winning bout of graphic wonder, an aesthetic onslaught accommodated perfectly by Chris Bacolo’s majestic pencils. Aaron’s range and reach in genre terms is simply astounding, especially given the quality of his writing, a feat made all the more magical by the quantity of books he writes; and his latest, The Goddamned, tackles the biblical epic in a way that I hope those in the Bible Belt call out ‘blasphemy,’ and cry into their Gideons. ‘Nuff Said.
Also nominated: John Romita Jr, Michael Lark, Mike Del Mundo
Kenny J: If you are going to reboot one of the most famous, long running and much loved franchises in comic history then you better have a crack creative team on board. Luckily, Archie Comics saw fit to employ Fiona Staples to draw the revamped adventures of Riverdale's most prominent inhabitants. The real skill in what Staples brings to Archie Andrews' world is the seemingly effortless way she imbues her own style with that classic Archie feel. Maybe its the attention to detail on the familiar but redesigned outfits, modern but classic. Away from her most prominent work to date, she keeps churning out pages for the still stellar Saga. That's two monthly ongoing titles that she contributes to that could be in the running for series of the year on her work alone. After winning 'Best Artist' in the Paradoscars for the third year in a row, I believe that we can say Fiona Staples is a bona fide superstar.
Also nominated: Alex Ross, David Aja, Owen Freeman
Stewart R: After two years of solid Paradoscar Cover Artist nominee work, Mike Del Mundo finally takes the award for 'Best Cover Artist'! A strong 2014 with Elektra's covers folded over into early 2015 with simple, dynamic ideas that stabbed home the feel of the character and series, the final three issues hosting possibly the most effective front pages of the lot; simple in composition, colour and brave in the use of blank space. Eight masterful images for Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier highlighted Del Mundo's ability to play with thematic images to provide continuity and familiarity, yet tackling each one with a differing tone. Flash forward to the summer's craziness with Secret Wars and he got to not only play in the depths of Weirdworld, but cast his hand over some amazing Planet Hulk images to boot. Between these books he got to show his natural flair for interesting perspective and viewpoints, the reader being cast onto the path of a journey before they've even begun to read an interior page. Check out Planet Hulk #3 and Weirdworld #4 for how he plays with the same perspective and idea twice, but produces two images with very different moods to them. As his star continues to rise, one can't help but wonder how long it may - no, WILL - be before we're writing about Mike Del Mundo in the 'Best Artist' category.
Also nominated: Danny Miki, Tim Townsend, Wade Von Grawbadger
Rob N: It is remarkable that Klaus Janson is still producing such an astonishing body of work so late in his career when many of his contemporaries seem to find it difficult to do the same. I've followed his career with keen interest from the early days of the classic 1980s run of Daredevil when this 'inker' was responsible for most of the finished artwork that Frank Miller was turning in as rough pencils only. Most recently of course he has collaborated again with Miller on the third instalment of the Dark Knight series. The inker in comics has traditionally been seen as a second class talent behind that of the penciller, and was famously derided as a 'Tracer' in Kevin Smith's film, Chasing Amy, but any such derogatory remarks are surely shown to be nonsense once you stop and compare pencil art to the inked pages and you see how much of the detail is down to the inker himself. Klaus Janson has always been at the top of his field alongside such greats as Alfredo Alcala, and deservedly so.
Also nominated: Elizabeth Breitweiser, Frank Martin, Laura Martin
Tom P: Dave Stewart's win should come as no surprise. He has nine Eisner award to his name and I for one can't imagine a Hellboy book without his evocative colours - he adds constant and consistent work to that corner of Dark Horse's output. It's almost impossible to pick up a Mignola book without Stewart's name alongside his. Trusted by the likes of Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale, Stewart brings that extra spark to countless projects and should he wish to, he can now add our *ahem* prestigious award to his long list of accolades!
Also nominated: Ales Kot, Russell Dauterman, Scott Godlewski
Billy P: Given that the comic book landscape could do with more female creators, Marguerite Bennett is a welcome addition to the monthly roster. She has had a couple of blips along the way, most notably in her contributions to the DC weekly series, Earth 2: World’s End; but, in all fairness, she was wallowing in a duck pond brimming with excrement (take note Dan Didio). Bennett’s Lois Lane one-shot in 2014 was a surprise, and I, for one – and, by extension, my long suffering partner-turned-comic-book-reader, Ann L – thought this made a smashing introduction for an ongoing series. Moreover, Bennett’s other one-shot, Batman: The Joker’s Daughter, was exceptionally creepy, vile even, but a fascinatingly grim character study nonetheless. However, Bennett’s triumph this year has been to adapt a set of variant covers that became merchandising elements in their own right --placemats, t-shirts, posters and, lately, sexy lingerie – into an astounding monthly series, that is, DC Comics Bombshells. Now, every male comic fan I know has not yet picked up on this delightful book, but Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Stargirl and Batwoman reconceptualised as World War II superheroes is a beautiful, girl-powered yarn that I hope is given a second arc. I have yet to inform Ann L that the seventh issue is (gulp) the culmination of the series; so a win for Bennett may mean I can have a chance at an easy life. If nothing else, pick up DC Comics Bombshells in trade and you will be surprised. Bennett is one to watch, for sure.
Also nominated: Dark Horse, Marvel, Oni Press
Andy H: Once again the accolade of 'Best Publisher' falls to Image Comics, and deservedly so. Fourth year running I make that. It may not have the biggest market share in the comic world but there's no denying Image are a major player. Where Marvel were the self-titled House of Ideas I think Image can rightly be called the House of Innovation. It's been a great launch pad for new creators to showcase their talent; Otis Frampton (Oddly Normal), Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), Andrei Bressan (Birthright) to name a few. Then there is the wealth of established talent bringing their creator owned projects to the waiting comic masses. With names such as Brian K. Vaughn, Jonathan Hickman, Greg Rucka, Skottie Young, Alex de Campi, Emma Rios, Kieron Gillen, Becky Cloonan, Marjorie Liu, Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, J. Michael Straczynski included in the roster (and many more) it's no wonder more readers are willing to set aside some of their old favourites and take a punt on something a little bit different. It must be working as other publishers have taken the Image format and now offer creators more chance to do their own thing but at the moment, and in their own words, Image own it. Every month you can't help but wonder what new issue #1 will make you sit up and go 'wow'. Image have proven time and again that given the freedom to create, these writers and artists can still astound and enthral us, helping to keep this industry alive. Bravo, Image.
Also nominated: Captain America, Kanan Jarrus, Superman
Stewart R: Amidst the complex political wrangling and compelling caste system shenanigans of Greg Rucka’s future feudal world building in Lazarus, it’s the certainty of Forever Carlyle in her abilities balanced against her uncertainties in her place within the world (as well as the various machinations of her family) that really shines through month after month. This year Rucka has managed to show us the apparent pinnacle of her skills and abilities, setting her up against another Lazarus and even the explosive damage of a bullet to the brain, each time leaving the reader with a palpable moment of doubt before her fortitude and endurance come to the fore. It’s the slower, creeping cracks in her emotional defences and decisions that make her journey so riveting; every subtle act of purposeful disobedience or independent choice that potentially goes against her family could equally spell her own doom - a literal case of biting the hand that feeds her those life sustaining pills and chemicals. Importantly, through these actions and tribulations, Forever never ultimately comes across as naive; unaware of the bigger picture, yes, but never naive. The latest arc has her fulfilling her duties, protecting the Carlyle interests, being the hammer that her family needs, but Rucka is now also taking time to portray her qualities as a leader, utilising those smaller, fragile ‘hammers’ she has under her own charge to accomplish their mission and maybe, just maybe, live to see a different, possibly better world, and in doing so he’s crafting a compelling, dynamic character that I’m sure some readers would even charge through hellfire for.
Also nominated: Budroxifinicus, Foggy Nelson, Hazel
Rob N: My preference has always been for imperfect characters – the ones with 'feet of clay' who often muddle through against the odds, making mistakes along the way. It was the successful formula that made Marvel comics such a fresh and exciting voice in the early 1960s – introducing characters with flaws - but somewhere along the way some of that vulnerability has been lost. What makes Kate Bishop so great is that she comes across as the 'everyman' hero(ine) – believably rough around the edges compared with the confident titans such as Cap and Thor. When things go wrong and she has to work twice as hard as everyone else to win through at the end, the reader can identify with that and enjoy the fact that not everyone in the Marvel Universe is infallible. A lot of the fun in following her adventures comes from the fact that you know she's going to lose all her money, probably her luggage too, have her car impounded, and end up having to phone a 'proper' superhero to ask whether Tony Stark can pay for her motel bill. That and more is what makes her very human and very likeable.
Also nominated: Coach Boss, Darth Vader, Thanos
James R: GOD EMPEROR DOOM. 'Nuff Said! Oh, okay - maybe Latveria's monarch deserves a little more respect. 2015 ended up being a vintage year for us lovers of Von Doom. As Jonathan Hickman's run on Avengers moved to the terminus point, he revealed that it was Victor Von Doom who had been behind the scenes - and eras - all along, and while the Avengers squabbled over the ethics of using a weapon that could destroy worlds, Victor simply got on with the job of facing down the Beyonders (again!) in order to save the world. We then learned it is his force of will that created Battleworld, with (who else?) himself as the supreme ruler. As Secret Wars began, Hickman really let loose with Doctor Doom, establishing him as the malevolent God Emperor of the patchwork remnants of the multiverse. It's clear that Hickman loves Reed Richards' nemesis as much as we do, portraying him as equal parts twisted egotist and 'Man Who Gets Stuff Done'. We know Victor will never truly triumph, as his hubris will always be his downfall, but it's a joy to watch him dismiss characters as incompetent fools, and lamenting that none are worthy of his genius. Even though there's no Fantastic Four to scheme against post-Secret Wars, he's never away for long - even a cack-handed representation of Doom in the Fantastic Four movie reboot can't besmirch the name of Victor Von Doom. All hail the best bad Doctor (who isn't even a real doctor!) in comics.
Also nominated: Ant-Man, Avengers: Age Of Ultron, The Flash
Stewart R: For the past few years now we’ve looked to the big screen for our Paradoscar 'Best Adaptation' winners and it’s 2015 that marks a switch to the smaller screen and the episodic nature of television for our winner. Daredevil has been, for all intents and purposes, an unmitigated success for Netflix and Marvel. Netflix of course won’t release the viewing figures, but reviews have been universally positive and word of mouth has seen a Marvel project apparently capture the attention of those who may not have shown interest in superhero works before. Confirming a second season just 11 days after initial release highlights how well Marvel believe this project to have worked. And it really has worked. Charlie Cox’s sublime Matt Murdock was immersed in a dark, foreboding world of corruption and crime on the streets of New York, his jokey, kind demeanour as blind lawyer Murdock juxtaposed against the colder, ruthless side of his nightly patrols as a masked vigilante, frustrated in his pursuit of justice in a city of seemingly unreachable, undesirable elements and doubting his ability to continue the fight as his efforts bring the heat from all directions. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk is a delightful tour de force of molten fury hidden underneath a shell of bumbling inadequacy as he attempts to build a better city from his own skewed perspective. Stick, The Hand, Night Nurse, Ben Urich, Karen Page and of course Foggy Nelson are all in there to ensure that this is a true Daredevil story, each contributing to the wider picture of Hell’s Kitchen in a variety of ways and urging you, coercing you to binge watch all 13 episodes as the creators intended.
Also nominated: The Beat, Bleeding Cool, Comic Vine
Kenny J: When it comes to comic industry news and its offshoots in moviedom, and now television, there really is only the one-stop shop. Day after day, Comic Book Resources brings us the best in breaking events, reviews and commentary, rarely being derivative of other sites. Sure, over its many years the ever growing website has sucked up many smaller blogs and columns but this only serves to strengthen the whole with a variety of voices and opinions. Where other geek sites may seem homogeneous, CBR uses its vast number of contributors as a strength rather than people to be knocked into shape. And of course it is second to none when it comes to its bread and butter of breaking news and long form interviews... but you all know all this already. As geeks, where else is there to get your daily comic journalism?
Also nominated: All-New, All-Different Marvel , Chrononauts, DC Comics
Matt C: They'll probably be a book written about exactly what went wrong with 2015's Fantastic Four at some point in the future, but don't expect it on near horizon while the wounds remain raw. While early rumours from the set suggested something was up, the lure of Marvel's First Family returning to the screen, this time under the directorial control of Josh Trank (Chronicle), was still strong, because although Tim Story's often maligned two features had their merits, there was no question that we had yet to see an adaptation that was faithful to the spirit of cosmic adventure first witnessed in the original run of Fantastic Four comics from Lee and Kirby some 50 years ago. The knives were out though, and upon its release the Trank's finished film received some of the most bruising reviews awarded to any movie during the entire year. That turned out not to be entirely fair, as there are clearly some interesting ideas being tossed about through the first two acts but, come the final third, behind the scenes tinkering becomes unavoidably apparent on screen as everything devolves into generic mess that pretty much torpedoes any good work seen earlier on. Talk of the rights for the property returning to Marvel Studios turned out to be fanboy wishful thinking, and now anyone hoping to see a worthy take on these characters in the cinema is, sadly, due a long wait.
Also nominated: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Doctor Strange, Daredevil Season 2
Andy H: While we're all coming down from the (at least) year long buzz of waiting for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it's still no surprise to find we're already looking ahead to what cinematic wonders we can hope for in 2016. The last few years have all been chock full of great sci-fi and superhero movies and next year looks like more of the same. Leading the charge is Captain America: Civil War. Marvel have stuck to the winning formula of keeping a fairly tight grip on the continuity of their cinematic universe. You'd think that with so many films out there now it would be a mess, but it's not and that's why the third Captain America movie holds so many high hopes. We know the characters, we've seen them grow and develop. For the most part, we like these people. That's why these films work. Now we're going to see friendships and alliances crumble as Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are divided on the future of superheroes. Not only will we see the Avengers splinter, the big draw will be the introduction of more Marvel characters to their roster. Black Panther, Ant-Man and maybe... Spider-Man? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in full swing and showing no signs of slowing down. This latest offering could be their biggest hit yet.
James R: Jonathan Hickman takes this prize this year as 2015 saw the culmination several years of meticulous plotting at Marvel, the continuation of one of the finest books being published period at Image, and the start of another great series, also at Image. Starting with his Marvel work, those of us who got on board with his Avengers run from the start were enthralled from the first issues of both Avengers and New Avengers. Watching Hickman orchestrate both books was majestic (and lest we forget, he managed to weave the the Infinity event in too!) and reading both series as they built up to no less a crescendo than the end of the Marvel Universe in Secret Wars was a blast. This feat alone would have granted him hero status amongst the PCG, but when you factor in East Of West too, the man deserves all the plaudits he receives. Working in beautiful synchronicity with Nick Dragotta, East Of West is nothing short of brilliant every month - it's a regular pick in our books of the week, and after 22 magnificent issues it doesn't seem to be slowing down, or losing its visceral impact every issue. As always with Hickman, the joy comes from seeing how he handles big ideas and concepts - he's very much a 'Thinking Man's Writer', and there's no shame in that. Finally, the first issues of The Dying And The Dead showed that Hickman's imagination well is far, far from dry - after only three chpaters, he's shown us another series that's epic in scope and ambitious in concept. Whatever else 2016 has in store for Hickman, you can be sure that he'll be a name that will remain synonymous with quality books. For this year though, as the culmination of a magnificent output: Jonathan Hickman - we salute you sir!