15 Dec 2018

The Paradoscars 2018

The Paradoscars have been a running for over a decade now, so the process should be familiar to many. We pick the nominations and then you get the chance to vote for your favourites.

The winners have now been announced at a local Bournemouth restaurant with a tipsy PCG. Whilst 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 are 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 2018:

Best Ongoing Series: Batman

Also nominated: Black Hammer: Age Of Doom, Gideon Falls, Thor

James R: What a difference a year makes! Last year Batman wasn't even nominated as one of the contenders for this award, and now, at the end of 2018, it's hard to imagine any other book winning it. Tom King's run has grown with each arc; truly kicking into gear with 'The War of Jokes and Riddles', he's managed to do something pretty rare in modern comics - he's made an 80-year old character seem fresh and interesting, while staying true to the myriad roots that created such an icon in the first place. He's been ably assisted by some fantastic artists too - Mikel Janín and Tony Daniel have both been doing career-best work here, but perhaps best of all was the contribution from Lee Weeks. Weeks' art on the 'Cold Days' arc was astounding, and when twinned with King's brilliant '12 Angry Men In Gotham' plot, we had a mainstream title that reached all-new heights. On top of this, we also had the great 'will they/won't they?' of the Batman/Catwoman wedding, which, (alongside Action Comics #1000), gave DC one of the great event books of the year. As a Batman fan I've loved King's run even more with each story; where it goes next is an exciting prospect and, right now, I wouldn't bet against Batman challenging for this crown again in 2019.

Best Limited Series: Mister Miracle

Also nominated: Batman: White Knight, Days Of Hate, Doomsday Clock

Jo S: Mister Miracle moved me profoundly. From the first issue, it was a series that felt like it had set out to say something entirely new, and now that we’ve reached its close, it’s becoming clear that this book speaks to everyone in a different way. For a parent, the blend of heartbreak, mundanity, terror, confusion and exhaustion are so real in this that I ached for Barda and Scott. For fans of comic books, this brought together so much of the best of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World of Apokolips and the New Gods, but translated it into the modern world seamlessly. If you love the details, like me, check out Scott’s range of t-shirts, and their choice of baby toy. There is war and philosophy, escapism and escapology, heaven and hell and a tiny intimate universe made for two (or three? or four?), all neatly presented in flawless nine-panel format. Tom King is praised elsewhere here for his work this year but his perfect collaboration with Mitch Gerads is unavoidable throughout this series - these two ‘get’ each other and the sum of their talents here is so much greater than the parts. Themes of fatherhood, escape, loss and damage thread throughout and arguments about what it all means in the end will run and run, I suspect. Personally, this is the most beautiful love story I have ever read - and I will be re-reading it multiple times. A study of the mundane mixed with the miraculous, this is a worthy winner and should be on the shelf of every comics fan.

Best New Series: Gideon Falls

Also nominated: Catwoman, Justice League Dark, West Coast Avengers

James R: Gideon Falls is a book that looked like a win before we'd even seen a single page. When the talents like Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino work together, you're guaranteed a brilliant comic - their work on both Green Arrow and Old Man Logan attests to this - but the news that they would be working on a creator-owned series was still thrilling. And so it came to pass: Gideon Falls is one to label as 'must read' - Lemire channels his love for Twin Peaks into a tale that's worthy of David Lynch's TV masterpiece, giving us a dual narrative focusing around the mentally troubled Norton Sinclair and the mysterious Father Fred. These two plots are bound together by the ominous Black Barn - a harbinger of death and madness. It's equally unsettling and compelling, with Andrea Sorrentino's compositions stretching what's possible on a 2-D page, and that's exactly what we should celebrate in comics. It genuinely feels like the product of two greats at the top of their game.

Best Single Issue: Batman #50

Also nominated: Action Comics #100, Mighty Thor #706, Swamp Thing Winter Special #1

Matt C: It caused inevitable controversy, and featured the comic book character least likely to get hitched, but Tom King had made the romance between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle work so spectacularly that it was entirely possible that true love would win the day. But these aren't characters who have happily-ever-afters; they're two individuals experienced in pain and sacrifice, and the way things unfolded shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone with a decent level of familiarity with them both. It was a heartbreaking read with an abundance of relatable truths - King's expert ability at making these iconic creations grounded and believable is a skill that should never be undervalued. Mikel Janín provided the stellar bulk of the art for the main story giving the rest of the issue over to splash pages from some of the greatest artists who've ever put their stamp on the character (Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Tim Sale, Neal Adams, to name a few). It's a testament to Batman's continuing appeal that, nearly 80 years after his first appearance, we've been gifted with an issue of extraordinary brilliance like this.

Best Cover: Mighty Thor #705

Also nominated: Batman #50, Catwoman #2, Gideon Falls #8

Tom P: Russell Dauterman not only illustrated the bulk of Jane Foster's time as the Goddess of Thunder, he also created some of the most striking and iconic covers of the last few years. The series proved to be a brilliant showcase for his artistry and certainly positioned him as one of Marvel's top talents. The cover of Mighty Thor #705 vividly depicts Thor bathed in flame, a mane of hair whirling around her helmet, blending with the conflagration, a vision of contradiction as she stands, head slightly bowed, eyes closed as if at peace, accepting the final sacrifice in the battle to save the gods from Mangog. Its retina-scorching visuals would blaze forth amongst any discerning comic book collection. This extraordinary piece of artwork certainly seems to burn as brightly as the fires of Muspelheim!

Best Graphic Novel/Collected Edition: X-Men: Grand Design

Also nominated: Deadly Class Deluxe Edition Vol. 2: Funeral Party, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, Tyler Cross: Black Rock

Kenny J: With my first reading of Ed Piskor's X-Men: Grand Design, when published as two individual issues, I was amazed at the level of intricacy the standard comic format can contain, both in the art and the text that accompanies it; and then along comes the oversized collected edition of this comic - in the same format as Piskor's acclaimed Hip Hop Family Tree series -  where the superb cartooning of the multitalented Piskor is allowed even more room to breathe. Silver Age renderings with modern sensibilities and a huge amount of X-history packed in - it reveals so much information that I never knew about one of my favourite comic franchises! It's a true testament to how much Piskor loves these characters and the many, many hours he must have put into researching them. It is unusual to see a collection from the Big Two presented like this, with just two issues combined together, but it is also a rarity to find to issues so deserving.

Best Writer: Tom King

Also nominated: Ed Brubaker, Jeff Lemire, Kelly Thompson

James R: Saying Tom King had a good year is like saying the Antarctic is 'a bit cold'! 2018 has seen King acquire a big slice of nominative determinism - he's definitely a regal presence in mainstream comics. First and foremost, his Mister Miracle series with his Sheriff Of Babylon co-creator Mitch Gerads was the standout book of the past 12 months. When I re-read the series following its conclusion, I was struck by its intelligence, humour and unique voice -  these are qualities that are the hallmarks of King's writing, seen in his novel A Once Crowded Sky through and to his work on The Vision for Marvel; King seems to just get better and better. He turned Batman into the must-read ongoing series of the year, and then for an encore he's crafted a brilliantly compelling event book in the shape of Heroes In Crisis. It's no surprise that Hollywood has come calling - on his Twitter account, he's hinted at pitching 'top secret' projects, and whereas I want him to have the opportunity to share his talents with the largest possible audience, I also selfishly hope it doesn't come at the expense of more astonishing comics. I think we're in the best creative period since the mid-80s in comics and 2019 should see Tom King continuing to lead the vanguard. More than a worthy winner, Tom King has ruled supreme in 2018.

Best Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Also nominated: Gary Frank, Joëlle Jones, Mitch Gerads

Jo S: Andrea Sorrentino could have taken this award with even a single issue of Gideon Falls. That series is such a magnificent example of an artist and a writer working in perfect synchronicity, each with the freedom to express their craft to the absolute extreme. From each beautifully clever cover - the maps! the sneaky pareidolia! - through every stunning splash page, to the affectingly simple panels of dark and light, to the horror of spooky faces in the night and gory death and lost children’s toys, Sorrentino dances us into a frenzy. The skill with which he forces us to take our time at key moments in the story - taking a single thought and fracturing it into geometric crystals scattered across the page, making us work in strict synchronisation with Lemire’s storytelling pace - is astonishing. His perspective games are a delight to me as a mathematician - I especially loved a double page where the entirety of Norton’s room is visible in panorama, and the disintegration of Father Wilfred’s world as he steps into the Black Barn, the disorientation he generates by messing with up and down, mirror images, shearing and stretching of familiar objects into something grotesque and disturbing. Sorrentino’s style is unique and I will be seeking out his work in other books soon, as well as relishing the ongoing Gideon Falls artistic banquet.

Best Cover Artist: Alex Ross

Also nominated: David Mack, Joëlle Jones, Sean Phillips

Andy H: 2018 has been a banner year for Alex Ross, in more ways than one. Well, one series he's been doing the covers for this year is Immortal Hulk and it doesn't get more Banner than that! Ahem, anyhow, if you need a go-to artist for your covers, Ross is usually top of the pile. His ability to produce top quality painted covers on numerous comics per year is second to none. This year we saw the aforementioned Immortal Hulk where Ross's cover for issue #1 immediately set the horror tone for this whole series, with a huge Hulk filling the majority of the page, forging his way out of his own grave like Swamp Thing striding forth, enormous cracked finger nails reaching out as if to wrench the very life from the viewer's body. He's generated stunning covers for Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America, plus a number of variant covers including Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Thor, to name a few. It's fitting that Ross is our cover artist of the year as this leads nicely into 2019 and the 25th anniversary of Marvels, the comic series that first brought him to the attention of many comic fans. It still stands the test of time and while we may not currently see his work on the pages of a series, it's always a joy to see his covers adorning the shelves of your local comic shop.

Best Colourist: Jordie Bellaire

Also nominated: Dave Stewart, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Matt Hollingsworth

Jo S: Jordie swoops in and grabs this prize yet again with both hands - she's claimed this for a number of years running but, boy, is it deserved! Bellaire is prolific - she must be one of the hardest-working artists in the business, and has been so busy in 2018 that it’s hard to encompass the range of her work, ranging across multiple publishers and genres as it does, in a short space, so I’ll choose instead to focus on a single issue, where her work made such a huge impact on me it has stuck with me since. Aleš Kot and Danijel Žeželj made an astonishing combination in this year’s Days Of Hate, but its grip on me really took hold in the first issue, 'America First', where the bombing of a redneck bar is rendered as a full splash page of art. Žeželj chose to show the explosion from a distance, in the context of a cityscape, but it’s Bellaire’s colours which give the image its impact: she lights up the night scenes with swoops of rich colour, lifting out of waxy blackness in a way that makes you truly feel the heat gradient between the cold dark and the fiery explosion. Stunning work.

Most Promising Talent: Chip Zdarsky

Also nominated: Danijel Žeželj, Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw

Matt C: Sometimes you hear that a creator you know primarily as an artist is attached as a writer for a certain project and there's an almost instinctive scepticism that presents itself: just because they can draw, doesn't mean they can write! Which is an inherently dumb response of course because they're both methods of storytelling, and telling a good story is one of the fundamental tenets of the medium. I knew Chip Zdarsky had the skill to construct a narrative visually through his work with Matt Fraction on Image's Sex Criminals, but the provocative nature of that series is worlds away from what we expect to see in Marvel Universe. And yet, Zdarsky's stints on both Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man and Marvel 2-In-One have captured the core characteristics of some of the House of Ideas' most iconic creations in a manner that shows exceptional understanding of what makes them tick and how to convey their enduring appeal to an audience. He's produced some of the best writing I've seen for several personal favourites in years, and the spirit of the late great Stan 'The Man' Lee lives on his blend of drama, pathos and humour. Zdarsky has several new Marvel projects lined up for 2019 and if what he's shown us over the last year is anything to go by, we can expect some absolute treats on our pull-list over the next few months and beyond.

Best Publisher: Image

Also nominated: Dark Horse, DC, Marvel

Matt C: DC was snapping at their heels this year after an impressive performance, but once again Image made the top spot with ease, showing how the sheer range and diversity of their range still makes them stand-out from their immediate competitors' reliance on the superhero genre. Not that there's anything wrong with the superhero genre of course - we wouldn't be here without it! - and Image dip their toes in those waters often, but they go farther afield too, encompassing crime, fantasy, horror and everything in between. This year the PCG has thrilled to the likes of Saga, Kill Or Be Killed, Deadly Class and Gideon Falls, to name but a few, and already 2019 is shaping up to be a great year for the publisher, kicking off with the return of the peerless Criminal from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Their continued support of creator-owned projects has changed the industry, resulting in some of the best work in the medium over the last few years, and in 2018 they confirmed yet again that their winning streak shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

Best Main Character: Hawkeye (Kate Bishop)

Also nominated: Batman, Catwoman, Thor

Jo S: Kelly Thompson was clearly born to write Hawkeye, and our brief distress at the ending of her solo Hawkeye series was swiftly soothed by the announcement of the new West Coast Avengers series. Boooo, no more Kate Bishop Hawkeye - yayyyy! Lots more Hawkeye, and the Other Hawkeye, and all her brilliant team from her own series AND a crowd of interesting new hero-types to get to know! Thompson has a genius for picking up the oddities of the ‘female version of a previously male franchise’ issue: she quips about the hip holes in Kate’s suit and teases Clint Barton for being old and out of touch, whilst giving Kate all the strength and skill of the Hawkeye character and adding leadership on top. Kate Bishop is feisty, smart and capable, she is funny, patient and considerate: she’s a good friend and a good boss. I think we would definitely invite her to join the PCG if she were ever over here.

Best Supporting Character: Hawkeye (Clint Barton)

Also nominated: Alfred Pennyworth, Big Barda, Golden Gail

Kenny J: If the first trailer for Avengers: Endgame has taught me anything, it’s how much I’ve missed Hawkeye from the MCU of late. Luckily, he has been backing up his younger namesake in the Marvel Universe as she leads her new West Coast Avengers team, albeit begrudgingly! It is great to see how the dynamic between Clint and Kate has shifted since Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye book. The latter is now the leader whereas Barton has become the bemused elder surrounded by his twentysomething teammates trying to form their skills and relationships - although he isn’t above a bit of awkward flirting himself. It would be easy to paint him as an old grizzled ex-member of the Avengers but he is always up front wisecracking and snarking with the best of them. It's safe to say no matter who is on his side he is always a team player.

Best Villain: Doctor Doom

Also nominated: Joker, Marionette & Mime, Thanos

Matt C: Victor Von Doom. Arguably Marvel's greatest villain, his lasting appeal perhaps due partly to how his charisma and rampant ego are tempered by a kind of logic, a belief that what he's doing is right. He's never been pure evil in the way that, say, the Red Skull has, and consequently he generates sympathy when he's not engaging in purely villainous deeds. Of late, Doom has been trying out the role of hero, although 'antihero' would be a more apt assessment of his actions, but as Reed and Sue Richards made their return to the Marvel Universe in 2018, reuniting the Fantastic Four, his megalomania began to become more pronounced again; he always works best when locked in a struggle - be it physical or intellectual - with Reed. The way his innate pomposity counteracts his genius, along with his tendency to refer to himself in third person, makes him an eternally fascinating character, his exploits always offering thrills and delight, and while other bad guys may have grabbed more headlines in 2018, only a fool would doubt Doom's ability to come out on top, even if that ego of his generally sabotages his own outlandish ambitions.

Best Adaptation Into Another Medium: Black Panther

Also nominated: Avengers: Infinity War, Daredevil, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

Kenny J: It's a pleasant surprised to discover Blank Panther won this vote and not a certain other entry into the MCU canon from this year. Arguably the first with a fully rounded antagonist in the wronged Erik Killmonger, yes, but it would be unfair to highlight Michael B. Jordan's performance above the rest of this absolutely stellar cast, whether it's industry stalwarts like Forest Whitaker or relative newcomers like Letitia Wright, who plays T'Challa's genius sister and new favourite MCU character, Shuri, and of course the (sometime) Wakandan King himself, played with languid strength and unshakeable cool by Chadwick Boseman. Within this now ten year-old film franchise we've gone from the deep space of Knowhere to the Nine Realms of Norse mythology and everywhere in between. It's thrilling to see how Marvel Studios and the expert hands of Ryan Coogler are able to bring something completely new to the screen in the vision of the technological kingdom of Wakanda. A perfect match of cutting edge invention and ancestral traditions. Then there's that Kendrick Lamar-curated soundtrack that still finds itself on heavy repeat. As we close out this era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I'm hoping Black Panther sets the blueprint of what these movies can and should be going forward.

Disappointment Of The Year: #Comicsgate

Also nominated: Chuck Wendig Firing, Fantastic Four Return, James Gunn Firing

Jo S: ...or ‘Much ado about milkshake.’ For those readers unaware of the monster that is Comicsgate, a potted description: Comicsgate is a social media-based movement, an offshoot of the longer-standing Gamergate movement, which seeks to drive out diversity from comics, in favour of promoting white male heterosexual creators and characters, keeping storylines ‘pure’ and keeping female characters as stylised sex-objects. This involves the harassment of creators including women, people of colour, those from the LGBTQ+ community, any who seek to support such creators and any involved in bringing diversity to existing comic book themes. Their work has driven a number of creators to leave social media, and caused considerable pressure on businesses which have declined to support their ideals, including acts of violence from Comicsgate followers. From our inclusive, comfortable armchair of the PCG, it’s hard to understand sometimes why something so contrary to our beliefs could gain any traction in the comics world: it seems entirely illogical that one of the key tenets of the Comicsgate ideal is that the comics industry is being destroyed by diversity, when clearly expanding the audience for comics will be the only way it will survive. Diversity makes comics better for us all - the medium is not owned by the few but by the many. Inclusivity is strength - I have been delighted to discover that there are comics out there which are drawn and written by people like me, for people like me, and if your fun is spoiled because I’m part of your experience, then I am (admittedly very briefly) sad for you. The disappointment we feel about the Comicsgate fiasco was exemplified in August of this year, when Marsha Cooke, widow of Darwyn Cooke, felt moved enough to denounce Comicsgate thoroughly in public. This was followed by swift and full support from a huge range of other key industry members - and an avalanche of further abuse. It is disappointing to see female creators driven from Twitter after their tolerance of the abuse, threats and slurs became too exhausting to maintain any longer. Comics are about us: real people of all genders, with flaws and strengths and ugliness and beauty - our variations are what it is to be human; tolerance and acceptance are what lift us above the rest. Let's keep comics for everybody.

Most Looking Forward To In 2019: Avengers: Endgame

Also nominated: Captain Marvel, Deadly Class TV Show, X-Men: Dark Phoenix

James R: It shouldn't work. It couldn't work. Amazingly, it worked - Avengers: Infinity War is a project that can only be saluted by all comics geeks; Marvel Studios and the Russo Brothers have achieved something genuinely new in cinema. About 20 minutes in to Infinity War, I remember thinking "What if this was the first Marvel movie you'd ever seen??" Under the leadership of Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios had the balls to make a blockbuster that assumed you had been in the theatre for all the other adventures of the - deep breath - TWENTY-SIX heroes that make up the drama in this movie. Listening to the commentary for the movie, the Russo brothers make a salient point - every character in this movie has an arc. From Teen Groot learning to make a sacrifice to help Thor, to Thanos, the Mad Titan himself, achieving his goal of collecting the Infinity Stones; nobody is considered background, or secondary. It's a remarkable achievement that could be seen as the crowning glory of a decade of careful planning and plotting from Marvel - but the jaw-dropping ending to Infinity War suggests perhaps the best is yet to come. We now know that Avengers: Endgame is going to be the final payoff for a series of films that have continued to build on Stan Lee's shared universe idea in the most remarkable way; the initial trailer makes an impressive statement for a movie which will inevitably fall into the 'Action' category: with not a single action sequence on display, this looks like it's going to grab us by the hearts and guts with a grip worthy of that Infinity Gauntlet. What else can we say? Excelsior!

PCG Honorary Award 2018: Jim Starlin

Andrew B: Creative people have often been known to go about with their head in the clouds, but not Jim Starlin. The clouds were never high enough for the man whose Strange Tales #179 was, according to the cover, approved by the Cosmic Code Authority. Jim Starlin’s head found its spiritual home among the stars themselves. By the early '70s, the Big Bang of Stan, Jack and Steve’s genius that had birthed the Marvel Universe was beginning to cool, and the entropic nature of all universes, even one that found expression in paper and print, meant that creativity and originality were heading in reverse. Most of its architects had moved out of the House of Ideas. Somebody else needed to move in and give the whole edifice a lick of fresh inspirational paint. And several somebody elses did. Those of us of a certain age will still feel a thrill at the mention of their names. Steve Gerber. Steve Englehart. Don McGregor. Daring, challenging writers. But the man whose visions most expanded the consciousness of what could be achieved within the Marvel Universe, as well as the consciousness of many of his readers, perhaps, was not only writing his books but drawing and colouring them as well. “Everything elsing,” as the credits to Warlock #9 suggest. Jim Starlin. Jim seemed to specialise in taking characters whose books had failed – Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock – and his brush and his typewriter imbued them with new life. He placed them within an endless, glamorous firmament of glittering galaxies and shimmering stars – nobody has drawn the heavens with the celestial sparkle of Jim Starlin, not even King Kirby himself. He framed their narratives within the greatest themes of literature: good and evil, individuality and conformity, the quest for self-knowledge. And, sooner or later, he pitted his heroes against an antagonist who now ranks alongside Doctor Doom and the Red Skull in the pantheon of Marvel’s most fearsome fanatics. Thanos. It could be argued that Jim’s star did not illuminate mainstream comics for very long – certainly not long enough – but as we know from Blade Runner, the flame that burns half as long burns twice as bright (or something like). And truly, it’s difficult to think of many talents who could match Jim as a comics auteur, as writer and artist – Frank Miller and John Byrne in their prime, maybe. But just as the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year has belonged to Thanos, so the PCG's 2018 Honorary Award belongs to Jim Starlin. Thanks to Jim’s work, the heads of many more comic book readers have found their way to the stars. It takes a titan to create a Titan.

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