Sunday, December 19, 2010

Introducing: The Dork Awards!

So the year's winding down, and that can only mean one thing: a list of the best comics of 2010! But here on the Dork Forty, a simple list of the year's best comics isn't enough. Around here, we say anything worth doing is worth over-doing! And to that end, we present to you...

The First Annual Dork Awards!

The Dork Awards, affectionately known as the Dorkies (if only to our own staff of professional nerd wranglers), are a recognition of funnybook excellence. The prizes (or, should we say, No-Prizes) are given based on completely arbitrary factors, mostly my own personal taste. This means that the nominations will mostly be drawn from the field of high-quality genre fiction, with little or no consideration given to things like neurotic drama or nihilistic comedy. If I didn't read it in 2010, it won't be getting a mention.

Rather than doing one gigantic post outlining all the Dorkies at once, though, I'll be awarding one Dorky at a time over the rest of the year, spread out between insufferable Christmas posts and the occasional Funnybooksinreview piece. Partially, this is because I hate bloated award shows, and partially because I haven't quite figured out all my categories just yet, and want more time to shape them into entertaining reading. That said, it’s time to get started with a category I do have figured out:

Best Mini-Series

Introduced in the very early 1980s, the comic book mini-series was an immediate hit with readers. It opened doors in the mainstream comics industry to tell more novelistic stories with a beginning, middle, and end, giving us both high and low classics in the form of Watchmen, Camelot 3000, and so many others. It was also a stroke of genius for corporate spandex publishers. Got a popular character that you’re not sure can support his own series? Give him a mini-series instead! And if that sells well, then you can commit to an on-going. Such now-venerable characters as Wolverine and the Punisher got their own books based on this model. The mini-series also gave us the line-wide crossover event series, in the form of Crisis on Infinite Earths and its inferior, rushed-to-production-to-make-it-look-like-they-had-the-idea-first retarded cousin, Secret Wars.

(Actually, I’m not being fair to Secret Wars. It was bad, but its predecessor warm-up series, Contest of Champions, was far, far worse.)

As with everything in funnybooks, of course, the mini-series got abused. Eventually, it seemed like every third-string hero got his own mini (Iceman, anyone?), and the high production values of the early mini-series often fell by the wayside. They became just another crappy wrinkle in the comics-as-usual hairshirt. Even the big crossover minis fell into this trap, with horrid stuff like Secret Wars II (even worse than the first one!) or the innumerable DC crossovers that followed in the wake of Crisis’ success.

That hasn’t stopped classics from being made as well, though, and in this age when trade paperback sales are as important as those of the periodicals that spawn them… The mini-series is a natural format. 2010 brought us tons of minis, and today we recognize the best of them. So, without further ado…

The nominees are…

by Warren Ellis and Garry Gastonny

Warren Ellis’ meditation on the-superhero-as-deity is perhaps his best work in several years, and is only partially marred by an ending that’s weaker than it deserved.

The Bulletproof Coffin
by David Hine and Shaky Kane

While the superhero comic that’s about superhero comics is nothing new, David Hine takes that well-worn subject matter in great, weird, Lynchian directions, aided immeasurably by Shaky Kane’s Jack-Kirby-Meets-Geoff-Darrow art stylings.

by Brendan McCarthy

Brendan McCarthy takes Steve Ditko’s two greatest artistic creations, tosses them in a bag full of psychedelics, shakes well, and pours the results out onto the page, raw, molten, and sanity-blasting.

by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Brilliant slice-of-life drama from the Brazilian twins. Even without the series’ spicy hook (its protagonist dies every issue), this would be great comics.

by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

Alan Moore’s black and bitter farewell to the comics industry, a modern vision of Lovecraftian evil that brings all that author’s implied nastiness to the surface.

Strange Science Fantasy
by Scott Morse

A flawed, but conceptually and artistically magnificent, homage to the Marvel monster comics of the 1950s. Might have earned its nomination on the strength of the Shogunaut alone.

And the winner is…


This book faced some stiff competition from Fever and Neonomicon. The first is an artistic triumph that appeals to my sense of the bizarre, and the second is Alan Moore applying his usual brilliance to the works of HP freaking Lovecraft! But Neonomicon is only half-done, and the writing in Fever (though pretty great in places) just isn’t up to snuff. And I will, in the end, always come back to the writing.

And that’s Daytripper’s greatest strength. Sure, the artwork from Moon and Ba is beautiful stuff, aided and abetted by the always-gorgeous color work of Dave Stewart. But it’s the writing that wins the day. Over the course of the series’ ten issues, we’re given a complete portrait of the life of a man named Bras, painted in the most memorable days of that life. It’s a story about fathers and sons, friends and lovers, and about how we all have to figure out our own way in the world. By the end, the twins have created not just a portrait of one life here, but of life itself. And it’s the series’ embrace of life, in all its highs and lows, that puts it over the top. Their vision of the world seems very complete to me, a mixture of absolute despair and abject happiness that makes the whole big mess worth the time it takes to live it.

Daytripper is a work of (dare I say it) literary merit, and I’m pleased to have been able to experience it over the course of the last year. It’s the good stuff, and well-worthy of the very first Dork Award.


  1. Nicely done, though I must say that the ICEMAN miniseries was sheer excellence in it's day! No, I actually haven't read it, but somebody had to say it!

  2. HEH. I knew somebody would defend it! I actually bought and read the first issue when it came out... but no more. I remember it being incredibly dull.

  3. Two quick questions on your selection of best Miniseries How much of it had to come out in 2010?

    Because i notice the lack of Joe the Barbarian and Scott Pilgrim?

  4. I wasn't too worried about the minutia of how much of a series came out when (though that did keep Batwoman out of the running for Best Funnybook). But to address your specific examples...

    I didn't think Joe was as good as any of the stuff I nominated, honestly. I like it loads, but I felt that the stuff up above is, for various and sundry reasons, better.

    And as for Scott Pilgrim... I debated whether it should have been nominated under the heading of Best OGN or Best Funnybook, but never even considered it for Best Mini. I mean, that story is hundreds of pages long, and ran for six freaking years! That's an on-going series as far as I'm concerned, as much as Sandman or Ex Machina or any other series designed with an ending in mind. I went with Best OGN in the end to highlight the format in which O'Malley chose to publish it.