For those outside the comic community, the medium might seem a little intimidating to break into. The comic shop can be a winding labyrinth into the minds of thousands of artists and writers. That’s a great thing, if you know where to start.
We asked comic shops around the U.S. to weigh in on what they’re looking forward to this year. This writer has personally been enjoying D.C.’s recent Swamp Thing reboot, but depending on who you ask, it’s good we consulted the pros. Take a look at what they recommend below, and while you’re at it, see what we loved in 2011:
1. Hal Johnson – Midtown Comics
Release Date: May
Teen Boat! has long been a fan favorite of minicomics circuit, but this underground hit is finally getting the mainstream treatment it deserved from Clarion books this May. Imagine a dead-on, deadpan parody of an Archie comics, starring an alienated teenager who happens to have the power to turn into a boat.
That’s Dave Roman and John Green’s Teen Boat!, a graphic novel that strikes perfectly the difficult tone of being equal parts high-school melodrama, teen comedy and adventure story about a were-boat. It’s completely ridiculous, completely hilarious, and surprisingly heartfelt. “The angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat!”
2. Thor Parker – Midtown Comics
Crime Does Not Pay Archives Volume 1 HC
Release Date: March 28
Crime Does Not Pay is a genuine piece of history. The Golden Age comic focuses on true tales ripped from the headlines of its time. Gangsters, murderers and thieves come together in its gruesome pages. Take a trip back in time when Dr. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent made this series one of comics’ most controversial titles, and a major player in the creation of the Comics Code Authority due to its brutal and realistic depictions of violence.
Crime Does Not Pay puts a light on the ugly world of true crime and never pulls a punch. This series is perfect for fans of crime stories, comics history and American history. Kudos to Dark Horse Comics for giving this series the prestigious hardcover archive treatment it deserves!
3. Portlyn – Brave New World
Release Date: May 5
Continuing its tradition of offering an actual comic (as opposed to a preview or some random one-off) on Free Comic Book Day, Oni Press is shipping Bad Medicine. Looks like some fabulously twisted combination of House, The X-Files and 24, all swirled together with a little bit of CSI: WTF. Can’t wait to see what Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir come up with. Interested in seeing the relaunch of all things Valiant, as well. Who knows? Maybe what we’ve all really been missing is X-O Manowar…and we didn’t even realize it.
Portlyn won the 2008 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing award
4. Richard Neal – Zeus Comics
Batman Incorporated #1
Release Date: May
In 2011, DC Comics re-launched their entire Universe with huge success. The next phase begins in 2012 with the year of the Batman. Grant Morrison, the architect of the modern Batman returns to DC’s sales power house Batman Incorporated with a brand new number one in May. Morrison established himself early on in DC and Vertigo with perennial favorites like Doom Patrol and the Invisibles.
His Batman marries Morrison’s unique sci-fi concepts and characters to a grounded-in-reality dark knight. Morrison’s Batman truly is a Man of the Impossible. With Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster film Batman: the Dark Knight Rises getting a release this summer, you’ll want to get ready with Morrison’s slick, action filled Batman Incorporated #1.
Richard Neal co-created the Variants web television series>
5. Jeff Stang – Laughing Ogre Comics
Thief of Thieves
Release Date: Feb. 8
Thief of Thieves follows Conrad Paulson, an aging thief, and his cohorts on various heists. This book is doing what TV shows have done for years and is taking the “Writer’s Room” approach. Robert Kirkman of the Walking Dead, will be the showrunner and he will be bringing in writers for different story arcs. The first writer is Nick Spencer, who is writing some great stuff now including Morning Glories and Ultimate X-Men. Shawn Martinbrough will be performing art duties for the series and he is known for his classic noir style. The best part of this comic is that the story and focus can change with every story arc. One writer may wish to do a character study while the next may go with an all out action story.
6. W. Dal Bush – Challengers Comics + Conversation
The Secret History of DB Cooper
Release Date: March
Oni put out some of our favorite books of 2011 (One Soul, Petrograd, Sixth Gun), and they’re starting off 2012 with what looks to be another winner: The Secret History of DB Cooper by Brian Churilla. With a premise that reads like a Hunter S. Thompson pitch for the next Bourne movie (“Aided by powerful psychotropic compounds, Cooper assists in a campaign of psychic assassination against the Soviets.”), The Secret History of DB Cooper has a chance to use real-world figures and politics to tell a crazy-ass, fantasy sci-fi thriller of a comic. And, really, isn’t that what history is for?
7. Jon Scorfina – Star Clipper
St. Louis, Mo.
Release Date: Jan. 25
The recent stone-cold cool, cult hit, Bulletproof Coffin from Image Comics, returns with it’s second installment, “Disinterred” in 2012. This time writer David Hine tells bizarre short-stories across six issues of headless corpses, 10-year old sociopaths, and giant talking eyeballs. Illustrated to perfection in Shaky Kane’s style of hallucinogenic pop-culture amalgamations, Bulletproof Coffin – “Disinterred” is a send up to pre-comic code nostalgia. Don’t let this series stay under the radar.
8. Ryvre Hardrick – G-Mart Comics
Conan the Barbarian #1
Release Date: Feb. 8
Fantasy has become hot again. Properties like Game of Thrones and Skyrim have created a new surge in fantasy’s popularity, making this the perfect time for Conan to reach a wider audience. And there’s no better team to tap that potential than Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. Brian Wood’s Northlanders has shown that he’s adept at writing action and adventure, but he can also hit the emotional beats often lacking in action-oriented books.
Becky Cloonan, too, was an inspired choice, as her art style is different than anything we’ve seen before on Conan, yet fits it perfectly. Simply put, Dark Horse’s new Conan the Barbarian is a book that no fantasy fan will want to pass up!
9. Justin Blair – Samurai Comics Mesa
Vengeance deals with one of my favorite things in comics; Super Villains. They’re the most interesting characters, especially some of the personalities focused in this book: Magneto and Doctor Doomthe (villains who fancy themselves the heroes); Bullseye and Red Skull (the cold blooded killers); Doctor Octopus (the insane genius); and Loki (the god that causes havoc for the fun of it).
Each is spotlighted in an issue offset by the new Teen Brigade—some new and old faces working in the shadows to save the world, who are now faced with the Young Masters trying to usher in the new generation of villainy.
With tons of great guest appearances (Who doesn’t dig Son Of Satan!?), a terrific new lead (the Ultimate Nullifier is crazy cool); clever use of modern forms of communication (the Teen Brigade text to keep tabs on each other and use LOL speak, but trust me it’s not annoying), and some social commentary—all while touching on being a teen and growing up—it has something for everyone.