In the spirit of Newsarama’s own Readers’ Favorites of 2009 Tourney, I thought I’d get a view from my local comics shop and see what my friend in comics, Chris Ureta Casos, the long-time buyer for Comics Dungeon, here in Seattle, had to say about comics in 2009 and much more.
Blog@Newsarama: Chris, with Newsarama’s Readers’ Favorites of 2009 Tourney in mind, tell us your thoughts on what tops your lists of favorites in comics this year.
Chris Ureta Casos: I have a lot of trouble really picking out top favorites for any categories, simply because different creators and titles appeal to me at different times and for numerous reasons. If I had pick on the spot though, my breakdowns would be:
Ongoing Titles: The Boys, the Green Lantern titles
Mini-series: Beasts of Burden, Atomic Robo
Writers: Geoff Johns, Garth Ennis, Peter Tomasi, Gail SImone really shines for her work on Secret Six And Wonder Woman
Artists: Marcos Martin, Darwyn Cooke, Patrick Gleason, Amanda Conner
Covers: Pretty much all the covers Marcos Martin has been cranking out this year. The Cooke covers (regular & variant) for Jonah Hex #50 really stood out for me this month as well.
And just as a general thing I’ve been loving all the great work being put into reprints from Fantagraphics, IDW, and a few others. The newly colored Prince Valiant book was a thing of beauty, as well as the Complete Rocketeer that just came out this month.
Blog@: Moving right along, tell us any thoughts that come to mind regarding trends you’ve observed in 2009.
Chris: Well, the “event” trend along with the nostalgia crawl have been fairly strong for the year. Some events fell on there faces while others actually spiked sales very well and generated a lot of new interest. Then it felt like since we managed to work our way through the bulk of the 80′s nostalgia we for some reason had to immerse ourselves with the ’90′s again which is honestly more than a little bit painful.
Of the more positive trends I would have to go back to the healthy amount of reprinting we’ve seen. Marvel’s finally released the soft cover version of the Marvel Masterworks, which are great if not a few years too late. DC’s Kirby Omnibus collections as well as the Showcase editions and other special hard covers have been fantastic. Then you have Fantagraphics offering such things as Blazing Combat and the Strange Suspense to name a few. Top that off with Dark Horse and IDW really coming up to bat and putting out some impressive collections and it’s just been a dream year for nicely packaged reprint material.
There were plenty of trends I wish we could have avoided. The price bumps, the over saturation of variant covers, and the odd marketing and packaging choices we’ve been seeing from the larger publishers. As a whole, I would think the worse trend is the widening of the gap of communication between consumers, retailers, distributors, and publishers.
Blog@: What can you tell us about your favorite comics from this last decade?
Chris: This is where I really just freeze up because there are just too many things to go on about. I think one of the greatest new titles we’ve seen from the past decade was Atomic Robo, not only for just the actual content (which is amazing) for the actual work ethic of the creators. Joss Whedon’s work on X-Men and his launch of Buffy Season 8 were great in and of themselves but when you factor in the amount of new readership and interest they brought in then you can’t ignore their value.
Geoff Johns has helped to not only resurrect interest in Green Lantern but to push the entire mythology of the creator into being one of the most successful, easily accessible, and expansive properties in the industry.
Pretty much everything Dark Horse has been doing over the past few years has been making me happy, from their production values to their overall content, and they always strike me as one of the if not the most solid publishers.
I don’t think I’ve read a Garth Ennis story I’ve never liked. So, from him launching Battlefields, to returning to Hitman for a few issues, to pinpointing exactly what a Punisher story should be, and to launching The Boys I’ve been a pretty happy camper.
There’s the obvious stuff like All Star Superman, Wednesday Comics, and Scott Pilgrim, which all deserve plenty of praise and attention.
Gail Simone emerging as one of the best writers in mainstream comics has been pleasant to watch. I’m disappointed she doesn’t seem to be doing too strongly on the Newsarama polls.
I was actually one of the minority it seems that really enjoyed Final Crisis and Batman RIP, but hell I thought they were just a lot of fun as experiments.
I feel like I’m neglecting a ton of things….
Blog@: What would you like to share with us about an all-time favorite comic?
Chris: There are two all time favorite books I think need mentioning. First is Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeir. If you want an example of how much emotion can be put into a comic with a very minimal yet expressive style then you need to check this out. This is the only comic I’ve ever written a letter to when it was being published as single issues, and I was incredibly grateful for the reply I got back from the creator. It’s an incredibly sad story, so if you’re a fan of Chris Ware or Craig Thompson you should love it.
The second is Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarndio. Pretty much every time I read I realize that this is pretty much the perfect example of the heights the medium can achieve in storytelling and that more people need to know this work so they can understand how high the bar has really been set. The good news is that Dark Horse will be releasing a new compete collection in 2010.
Blog@: How would you describe the experience of reading comics?
Chris: Reading comics for me can range from incredibly transcendent to horribly enraging. I was taught how to read with comics and fortunately (or unfortunately) they’ve stuck with me for the long run, so visual narratives have been engrained into me and I often can get a little too engrossed in what I’m reading.
Blog@: Any quick and easy comment for someone walking in and wanting to read something that will blow their mind?
Chris: I need to talk with the person first and see what type of taste they have. It’s not that easy for me to assume they will like what I think is cool. Considering how excited I get when Starro the Conqueror shows up or Atomic Robo beats up a giant mutant ant with a Buick I think it’s a safe bet not everyone likes the same thing. It’s a little bit more interesting to gauge what a person’s taste is and see if you can find just the right thing for them, which means actually taking the time to expose yourself to different material constantly.
Blog@: What do you see ahead in comics in the new year, or in the future in general?
Chris: This is a hard one, simply because the future of comics really depends on how the economy holds up and how the publishers react. If we continue to see the trend of prices rising and a harder push to online comics, then we may see some really negative and possibly cataclysmic changes to the industry. There are a few things that could really help such as dropping the cost of production and material, but the main concern is that it feels like consumers are being drained of their blood at times and we are in a recession. I have customers who would love to buy more comics, but they can’t even afford 5-10 comics a week.
I was talking with a customer not to long ago, and we were asking the same question about Hollywood and other mainstream outlets and what trends might pop up over the next year. We decided that unless the powers-that-be were complete idiots, they would realize the potential with the increasing amounts of female genre fans with the popularity of Twilight and Firefly. Comics saw substantial new interest from female fans when Buffy Season 8 came out, and there were so many great books coming out at the time to cross-sell such as Runaways, Fables, and Y The Last Man.
Beyond that, I’m personally hoping that the next trend will be a competition between publishers to see who can publish the best reprint material. We’ve already seen both IDW and Fantagraphics release Ditko books of fantastic quality. I see Marvel is finally reprinting the Geoff Johns Avengers run, which, seriously, what’s been the hold up with that? Ideally, DC will now reprint the entire Abnett/Lanning run of Legion as a rebuttal. There are tons and tons of books actually worth reprinting (and no, I’m not talking about the Spider-Clone Saga and X-Men 2099). Books like the Peyer/Morales Hourman, the Jurgens/Epting Aquaman, the Waid/Kubert Ka-Zar, the original Busiek/Bagley Thunderbolts, and much much more. But please please please don’t make them deluxe hard covers. Just make something reasonable so we can easily recommend them to people without forcing them to sell blood to afford them.
Be sure to check out the Comics Dungeon Web site and, for further thoughts from Chris Ureta Casos, read his reviews at the Trusty Henchmen Web site.