21 Dec 2019

The Paradoscars 2019

The Paradoscars have been a running for well 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 2019:

Best Ongoing Series: Batman

Also nominated: Criminal, Daredevil, Gideon Falls

Jo S: Regular readers of the PCG's output will be well aware of our adoration for Tom King's writing, and how he's managed to turn on all the channels at once with his run on Batman. The knowledge that, almost at the moment we present this award, King will depart the title, makes it all the more piquant, with the gloom lightened only by the news that this is in favour of a new Batman/Catwoman series - and we know how King writes romance (see our love affair with Mister Miracle last year). King's writing on Batman has inspired some of the most astonishing artwork in the past twelve months: regular team mate Mikel Janin has at times acceded to Jorge Fornes, John Romita Jr, Clay Mann and more, each bringing something spectacular to our glowering cave dweller. Standout issues for me were the first of the year, a gore-fest knightmare featuring Professor Pyg, the fabulous recap episode with Bruce and Selina dancing their way through page after page in ever-changing costumes and musical styles and The Magnum PI issue with That Moustache (and yes, those muscles). I didn't think I would be a regular Batman reader: this series has changed my mind on that.

Best Limited Series: Powers Of X/House Of X

Also nominated: History Of The Marvel Universe, Meet The Skrulls, Naomi

Mike S: In the most exciting thing to happen to the X-Men in a long time, Jonathan Hickman has seemingly changed everything we knew while at the same time keeping things familiar and thrilling. With some intelligent science fiction concepts and stunning artwork, in an epic that spans many eras and lives, House Of X and Powers Of X were the no-contest winners in this category. They were clever, concise and obviously written by someone with a love of the franchise, instead of the usual scenario where a new writer comes in and tries to change things up but ends up making it unrecognisable. While the changes here are wide and dramatic, Hickman’s love of these characters - both new and old - was obvious throughout both titles. He ensured that all of the old stories still exist but also don’t exist, depending on what future creative teams decide. Utilising the character of Moira MacTaggert was a stroke of genius and made perfect sense, setting up a new status quo for all of the X-Men in a multitude of locations. It was fascinating to see how Moira changes course in different lives, first hating Xavier and his god complex, then seeing him entirely differently. The art by Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva, with colours by Marte Gracia, was fantastic, bold and detailed. This brave new world for the X-Men bodes well for the future of Marvel’s Mutants and, with Hickman at the helm, I have every confidence of their continuing and growing success.

Best New Series: Daredevil

Also nominated: Ascender, Blade Runner 2019, Valkyrie: Jane Foster

Jo S: Chip Zdarsky took ownership of this character right from issue #1 of this relaunched series, climbing inside Daredevil's skin in a way that gave the reader a real sense of anguish, of conflict, of guilt - and of responsibility. Zdarsky consistently displays his talent for characterisation: not only are both Matt Murdock and his alter-ego complex and full characters, but Zdarsky also writes Frank Castle, Wilson Fisk and new cast member Cole North with such depth it becomes hard not to empathise with the situation of whichever character is the focus at any given moment. North, the Chicago cop transplanted to Hell's Kitchen, is a superb creation, an excellent counterpoint to Daredevil: absolutely committed to doing things by the book, not out of stubbornness but out of an unshakable belief that any relaxation of the law will lead to disaster - for North, vigilantes are unacceptable risks to society, and with Daredevil apparently responsible for the death of a criminal he stopped in his tracks, a conflict is set up that has run throughout the year. Favourite moments for me were the point where Matt Murdock, having committed to giving up being the Daredevil, sits listening to the overwhelming sounds of the city, the fear and pain and violence pulling at him; and Fisk, trying to be a politician, trying to fit in with wealthy influencers, and being so tormented by their disgust at him, their sneering dismissal, that he kills a man with his bare hands out of sheer frustration. Utterly engaging, stylish, dark and intelligent; this series is essential.

Best Single Issue: House Of X #2

Also nominated: Daredevil #10, Detective Comics #1000, Marvels Epilogue

Matt C: This was the issue where it became abundantly clear that Jonathan Hickman wasn't messing around. The remit to revitalize the X-Men franchise was obviously ambitious and, based on his epic Avengers run, Hickman was definitely the man for the job. Even with him on board, it felt like a tall order, with the X-Men nowhere the level of popularity of their '80s/'90s heyday, various attempts over recent years to get them closer to pole position failing to find much traction. So Hickman had his work cut out for him, and the debut instalments of House Of X and Powers Of X both impressed through concept and delivery, but it was House Of X #2 that shifted things up several notches via a retcon that did nothing to tarnish what had come before but instead paved the way for a brighter future. The secret history of Moria MacTaggert was revealed and it was an astonishing feat of reverent revisionism, the writer's belief that you need to be additive, not destructive, when handling major franchises being central to his approach; don't break things apart and try to rebuild - build on top of what you have already. Pepe Larraz' artwork was lively and dynamic and Hickman's plotting was at its most ingenious and audacious. It remains to be seen whether the X-Men can make it back to the top in the long term but the entire project justified itself almost instantly thanks to the brilliance of this issue, and there's no doubting that a whole lot of pull-lists now have more X-books on them than they did this time last year.

Best Cover: Aquaman #49 (Joshua Middleton Variant)

Also nominated: Catwoman #11, House Of X #2, Meet The Skrulls #1

Kenny J: I first became aware of Joshua Middleton’s painterly style with his amazing variant covers for Batgirl. However, it was with this particular cover for Aquaman #49 where he proved to me unquestionably that he is a master of composition and story too. The way Arthur Curry elegantly glides through the air readying himself to face the swirling squall of the sea head on tells us so much about his character, his history and heritage. A hero that feels more comfortable above the surface breathing oxygen but one that is also constantly pulled back into the depths of underwater events. The way Middleton has perfectly balanced the grey sky battling the deep green sea in an almost yin yang shape further solidifies the notion of balance in Aquaman himself; the ocean - spray-crested, cold and inarguably vast - seems to reach up towards its leaping son, a jewelled flying fish rising high above his watery realm, the billowing storm clouds parted out of sight to allow sunlight to stream onto the waves and light up the monarch of Atlantis as he seems to reach for the sun itself.

Best Writer: Tom King

Also nominated: Ed Brubaker, Chip Zdarsky, Jonathan Hickman

Matt C: For the second year running, Tom King wins the Paradoscar for Best Writer. While there's been no prestige project from him along the lines of The Vision or Mister Miracle in 2019 (we'll have to wait for Strange Adventures next year for that) he's continued to produce work of the highest quality. Batman, of course, has been nothing short of phenomenal, taking risks both in terms of story and character, and getting behind the mask and into the mind of Bruce Wayne in a way few other writers have managed. Then there's the his exploration of the fascinating relationship between Bruce and Selina Kyle, something he'll continue in next year's Batman/Catwoman series. In 2019 he also masterminded an event book in the form of Heroes In Crisis, again taking risks with the blockbuster format, putting mental health in the mix with some profound results. Perhaps best of all though was a story that originally appeared exclusively at Wallmart in late 2018, finally made available to a wider audience this year: Superman: Up In The Sky. In the same way that's he's delved into different facets of the Dark Knight's personality, King gets under the skin of the Man of Steel, a rescue mission across the galaxy allowing him to meditate on who Superman is and what he represents in the modern world. It was emotional and exhilarating, a distillation of the character's brilliance and an emphasizing of his continued importance not only in the genre but the world at large. It's one of the great Superman tales and only a writer of King's talent could have made something so inspiring, so moving, so relevant.

Best Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Also nominated: Clay Mann, Joëlle Jones, Mike Deodato Jr

James R: As the most established part of the medium, mainstream comics tend to play it relatively safe in terms of art; panels, page design and action are often fairly uniform, so when an artist comes along who breaks the rules and sets a new standard for excellence, it's impossible to ignore their work. In a very strong field, Andrea Sorrentino is the deserved winner of the 'Best Artist' gong this year. The main reason for this can be found in the pages of Gideon Falls where he seems to reach new heights every month. Working from Jeff Lemire's terrific script, Sorrentino produces images which are nightmarish, astonishing and, best of all, tell a story that could only be realised in a comic. The art in Gideon Falls would have probably won him the vote alone, but he definitely sealed the deal with Joker: Killer Smile. Teaming up again with Lemire, his work in the Black Label title saw him employ three separate styles to outstanding effect, assuring his place as the greatest working artist in mainstream comics in our eyes this year. Bravo to the Italian maestro.

Best Cover Artist: Alex Ross

Also nominated: Christian Ward, Joëlle Jones, Julian Totino Tedesco

Andy H: You really can't keep a good man down, can you? Once again the award for Best Cover Artist goes to - deservedly - Alex Ross. I think this year was a much harder-won contest than earlier years: with more artists these days specialising in cover art than ever before, it's Ross' ability to produce such a prolific amount of work of such a high quality that, frankly, still amazes me. His major body of work in 2019 has been on the excellent Immortal Hulk but he doesn't rest on his laurels. There was the celebratory image for the milestone Marvel Comics #1000 as well as plenty of variant covers for many different books surfacing over the last twelve months, plus, for those who missed it first time round, we got a reprint run of the Marvels along with some interior art from Ross in the Kurt Busiek-scripted Marvels Epilogue one-shot. Can you believe it's really 25 years since the original series first saw print? I don't see him slowing down anytime soon, so I'm already looking forward to more delights in his 2020 output.

Best Colourist: Jordie Bellaire

Also nominated: Frank Martin, Jacob Phillips, Marte Gracia

Kenny J: There have been several times over the last year that I've been so taken by the colours of a book  that I've had to stop and check who the talented individual creating them is. Every time it has been our worthy winner, Jordie Bellaire! The high count of such instances were probably enhanced by her huge output in 2019; Bellaire must be one of the hardest working creators in the industry and her instigation of the "Comics are for everybody" initiative has helped the medium reach many who might not otherwise have had a chance to appreciate it. She seemingly worked on all my favourite titles this year, and whether it was the greens of 1920s Hollywood in Pretty Deadly: The Rat, or the browns of New York rooftops in Daredevil, or the manifestation of magic in the book she also pens with Vanesa R Del Rey, Redlands, her work brings blazing life to all it touches. No doubt there are many more books I didn't get a chance to see that contain her tone-setting yet sympathetic work. This will be the fourth year in a row that Jordie has won our Best Colourist award: if next year is any like this past one I can see there being a fifth.

Most Promising Talent: Jacob Phillips

Also nominated: Jamal Campbell, Jeff Loveness, Maria Llovet

Tom P: The winner of this year's most promising talent first appeared on the PCG radar working alongside his father, Sean Phillips, and Ed Brubaker on the latest iteration of Criminal where his work as colourist added a new, dynamic aspect to this already impressive series. Jacob also proved his talent as an illustrator with powerful work on some of Kim Morgan’s essays, featured in the back pages of Criminal (and Kill or Be Killed before that), pointing the way to an important film that you probably would never have heard about until you sat down with the latest issue. Phillips catches the tone and period of the movies wonderfully. Clearly we are not the only ones to have noticed his work - he has been busy on a range of other projects: his distinctive style quickly catches your our eye as you scroll through BBC Sounds, where he's making a place providing artwork for Radio 4 talking books. We wish Jacob well and look forward to seeing more of his work in the future

Best Publisher: DC

Also nominated: Dark Horse, Image, Marvel

Andy H: Over the last few years the Best Publisher award has found its home firmly on the mantlepiece of the Image homestead but in 2019 we're switching things up by giving DC well-deserved recognition. Much has changed in DC-land of late with a stellar roster of top talent on flagship titles such as Tom King on Batman, Brian Michael Bendis on Superman, Scott Snyder on Justice League - all these have earned respect, while Gerard Way's Young Animal imprint is bringing fresh talent, and a fresh perspective on classic franchises, to the fore. DC have extended their character line-up in interesting and diverse directions with new leading characters like Naomi and Pearl giving a wider range of stories than previously possible, plus what might be considered the most essential DC title of all time gained both a new miniseries in Doomsday Clock AND a phenomenal Watchmen TV series. Dismay at the folding of Vertigo this year was alleviated by the launch of the super-high quality Black Label imprint and with the introduction of Hill House Comics, DC are really offering something for everyone. With classic superheroes, new characters and a line of 'darker' titles, it's great to see one of the older publishers return to form.

Best Main Character: Batman

Also nominated: Catwoman, Daredevil, Forever Carlyle

James R: This is one of those times where you might be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the result, but there's lots of reason why the Dark Knight deserves the nod this year. Firstly, titles featuring Batman have been responsible for some of 2019's best comics: Snyder and Capullo's Batman: Last Knight On Earth has been a suitably grand curtain call for two creators who have left an indelible mark on Batman this century, while Kurt Busiek and Jean Paul Leon's Creature Of The Night signed off in terrific style. Most of all, 2019 has been Batman's year due to Tom King's work on the main Bat-title, orchestrating an epic that wasn't afraid to take risks and gave us longtime readers some unforgettable moments. Still more? 2019 also saw issue #1000 of Detective Comics, leading to a great all-star salute that reminded us why the Dark Knight is one of pop culture's most enduring and endearing figures. Despite turning 80, Bruce Wayne doesn't look like giving up his war on crime any time soon - and based on this year's comics, there's plenty more life left in Gotham's guardian.

Best Supporting Character: Alfred Pennyworth

Also nominated: Detective Cole North, Magneto, Moira MacTaggert

Jo S: Isn't Alfred Pennyworth essentially the definition of a supporting character? Always waiting, always polite, deferential, resourceful, dedicated? And always there? In The Batman's Grave this year, he tends the titular plot, drinks away his anxiety about Bruce's safety, debates his motives and yet is always there, guiding his charge; in the magnificent Batman Annual #4 he narrates day after day of Batman's heroism, tends to injuries, makes the tea, is ALWAYS there. In the main Batman series, Bruce is challenged beyond any challenge he has faced and Alfred is always there... until he isn't. Alfred is essential to Batman's story; without him Batman has no home, no support, no mentor, no balance. None of his achievements would have been possible without this father figure, this guide, this teacher, this voice of reason. Let's raise a glass, or at least a spotless china teacup, to Alfred Pennyworth!

Best Villain: Joker

Also nominated: Bane, Doctor Doom, Thanos

Matt C: The Clown Prince of Crime has had an exceptional year in 2019. Ubiquitous in comics and other media, the Joker became a zeitgeist figure (again) thanks to the astonishing success of his first solo movie, a bleak, violent character study that broke box office records following its release in October. It was a hugely divisive film, and you could get wildly different reactions to it from one person to the next, but it has put the cultural spotlight on Batman's arch-nemesis once more in a major way. His appearances in comics over the last 12 months ran through various Batman titles, Harley Quinn titles, Doomsday Clock, the 'Year Of The Villain' event and, perhaps most impressively, his own prestige Black Label miniseries, Joker: Killer Smile, which saw the top tier creative team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino delve into the psychology of the world's most recognisable super villain, highlighting his unnerving mix of malevolence and intelligence. Much like Batman, Joker is a character that can withstand numerous interpretations - from malicious prankster to full-blown psychopath, and everything in between - which is one of the many reasons why he can stay ahead of his murderous peers after all these years.

Best Adaptation Into Another Medium: Avengers: Endgame

Also nominated: Joker, The Boys, Watchmen

Tom P: If you're sitting reading this now at the end of a hectic year I’m going to assume a few things: that you will have watched this movie and, as you're here, you’re clearly a comic fan of good taste - after all, Endgame is the biggest movie of all time! So I’m not going to hold back. The movie opens after the events of Infinity War and, with Thanos despatched in the first act, you wonder what will come next. Before we know it, we’re five years into the future... Rumours flew around the internet that this would be a time travel movie but, thanks to Ant-Man, it’s a time heist. This clever plot device allows Endgame to revisit past events and some of the greatest hits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then we have that Portal scene, which has to be one of the most exciting things to hit the big screen in years. It’s not just the joy of seeing so many heroes together, it’s more than that - Endgame is the twenty-second film in the series and it responds to that legacy powerfully. We love these characters; we care about them and that allows the film to be incredibly potent. A decade ago the vast majority of people wouldn’t have been able to tell you who or what a Thanos was but now he’s arguably up with Darth Vader in the cinematic baddie list. The Guardians of the Galaxy, who, even among us comic fans, were never a massive seller, are now an incredibly bankable franchise along with Black Panther and Captain Marvel. When Tony clicks his fingers it’s the end of era for Marvel and some of our favourite characters. These films not only changed the superhero genre, they changed Hollywood, and this is the cherry on the top. I struggle to think how this movie could be any better. Avengers: Endgame: we love you 3000.

Most Looking Forward To In 2020: Wonder Woman 1984

Also nominated:Strange Adventures Comic, The Eternals, Umbrella Academy Season 2

Mike S: Wonder Woman was one of my favourite movies of the last decade and established her as a breakout character in the DC movie canon, so I'm thrilled at the prospect of a sequel, with the trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 only serving to heighten this anticipation. Not only do we have Diana living the dream in Washington DC in the 1980s but we have the unexplained return of Steve Trevor and new characters Barbara Ann Minerva and Maxwell Lord, both of whom fill me with excitement, considering their comic book pedigree. Admittedly, we've not seen Cheetah in action just yet but when we do see Minerva it seems to me that there are two distinct sides of her – clumsy and likeable and controlled and empowered – very much a la Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, which can never be a bad thing. I am looking forward to the inevitable high octane action sequences, stunning Gadot in full Amazon mode, especially in the golden-winged armour, and hopefully a pumping '80s soundtrack to boot! The cherry on the cake? That would be finding out if my theory regarding the significance of the title (1984) is something more than a coincidence, connecting as it might the Orwell novel of electronic scrutiny under the thumb of Big Brother with Maxwell Lord and his long-documented connection to Brother Eye. Whatever the answer, I cannot wait to return to the '80s and enjoy more amazing Amazon adventures!

PCG Honorary Award 2019: Kevin Feige

James R: It's not even as if people were saying it couldn't be done; back in 2007, the general public were - outside of the obvious likes of Batman and Spider-Man - less interested in comic book movies, let alone an interconnected series of films with a rotating cast of lesser-known characters. (Baseball) hats firmly aloft then, to the winner of the honorary Paradoscar this year - Marvel Studio's main man, Kevin Feige. Since the release of Iron Man, Feige has overseen a once-in-a-millennium growth of the Marvel brand to its current place as arguably the most successful cinematic franchise ever. He's made a number of canny decisions along the way: he has a knack for trusting talent, giving directors like James Gunn, Taika Waititi, and the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck the chance to shine. He's also not been afraid to test the limits of what an audience will go and see - for example, before Marvel Studios, what Hollywood studio would have gambled so big on a property like Guardians Of The Galaxy? Under his stewardship, Marvel Studios have also made the very smart move of staying true to the characters they're adapting, and taking the strongest storylines from the comics as the heartbeat of their output; 'The Winter Soldier', 'Planet Hulk', 'Extremis', 'Civil War' - whilst not being traditional 'adaptations', Feige has ensured that the DNA of these comics remains intact. And what next for this uber-producer? It's arguably going to be his most challenging period as he looks to win audiences over once again with characters they may not be so familiar with (The Eternals) whilst also overseeing the new era of Marvel TV on Disney+. Not only that, he was recently named Chief Creative Officer for Marvel, meaning he now oversees all of the publisher's output. Oh, and for good measure, he's said to be turning his hand to his other great fanboy love - a Star Wars project. It all adds up to an exciting (and hectic) schedule, but if there's one thing the last decade has shown us, Kevin Fiege is the man who can make it happen. 

No comments: