Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of Meltdown Comics, Jason and Stacey are proud to present the winners of the first annual “Meltdown Comic Awards!” And like our awards show brethren, the MCA’s do not disappoint in the statue department because each and every one of our illustrious winners will be the recipient of Meltdown’s very own version of a “No-Prize,” wait for it… that’s right, it’s a virtual “Golden Melty” award! Woo hoo! Yeah, we know what “virtual” means – the big budget version of these awards are still in the works. But for the meantime, please welcome the “Golden Melty” to the awards show line up.
We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote in this year’s festivities. All of the nominees were chosen from the Diamond Comic Distributors Top 100 Selling Books of 2009, but it takes real comic fans to be able to decide the winners. And now, without further adieu, may we have the envelopes please?
(Click any of the pics below for a larger view.)
1. Best Indie Series: KICK-ASS (Icon)
What do you get when you cross an Eisner Award winning artist with the writer/creator of the bullet-dodging series “Wanted”? You get one hell of a kick-ass title, that’s what you get. (I wonder how many times that joke has been used.) Seriously, if you haven’t read this funny, brutal, and somehow weirdly grounded (in a Tarantino sort of way) superhero story, I strongly recommend that you do – if only to say you’ve read the source material for the upcoming, sure-to-be-a-hit movie based on it. John Romita Jr. and Mark Millar have given us a story founded in a question I think almost every kid asks themselves at some point in their childhood, myself included: “What if real people could be superheroes?” It’s such a simple idea that it’s stupefying as to why someone hasn’t thought of it before. Of course, there’ve been realistic-type superhero stories in the past, but Millar places his characters in a world which so closely mirrors our own, very little suspension of disbelief is required to be sucked in by the narrative. Romita’s art is fully on par with that of his award-winning run on “Amazing Spiderman.” The winner of “Best Indie Series” this year is entrenched with stereotypes and riddled with comic book clichés, but by the end of the first issue, you’re so sold on the concept, you could totally overlook an inexplicable appearance of say, Wolverine. (He’s in every book, right?)
2. Best Series: BATWOMAN – Detective Comics (DC)
For me, “Batwoman” winning this category is a no brainer! The re-introduction of Kate Kane has been almost three years in the making as this series marks her first appearance since Detective Comics #52. Well, Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams did not disappoint. With practically no history of Batwoman in place, Rucka was able to write this series as a clean slate and has successfully baited fans with each issue leaving them wanting more. While the first few issues showed us what Batwoman, the superhero, can do and what formidable enemies she’ll be facing at every turn, the issues following gave us insight into what makes Kate Kane tick… and it ain’t a pretty picture. She wears her “bat” like a badge of honor and her painful past is woven into every move she makes. I, for one, can’t wait to see what she does next. And I’m happy to see the Meltdown Comics readers agree.
3. Hero of the Year: GREEN LANTERN (DC)
For a superhero with arguably the silliest weakness (um, the color yellow, for crying out loud), the Green Lantern, or more notably Hal Jordan, has raced back from a third tier hero and title choice to become one of the most popular books on the shelves today. All of this is due in large part to one man, Geoff Johns, writer of “Green Lantern: Rebirth” and his current brainchild “Blackest Night” which is going on in the D.C.U. Over the past couple of years, Johns has flawlessly crafted Green Lantern into a cornerstone of the D.C. universe, and more often than not, written a must-have book beating the likes of Batman and Superman, especially in recent story arc events. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Green Lantern is this year’s “Hero of the Year.”
4. Villain of the Year: NORMAN OSBORN (Marvel)
Originally created by Stan “The Man” Lee and Steve Ditko as an arch nemesis for the old web-head, Norman Osborn has been a main stay in the Spiderman cannon since 64’. But it wasn’t until Warren Ellis’ run on the “Thunderbolts” followed by Brian Michael Bendis’ “Secret Invasion” event that Osborn was brought to the forefront of the Marvel universe as a heavy hitter. Through his genius, albeit evil, machinations, Osborn has ended up effectively turning the Marvel universe on its head. In the aftermath of the Secret Invasion, Osborn positioned himself into a seat of power orchestrating the downfall of all the heroes, while legitimizing any villain he could keep under his thumb. With the addition of a Stark Tech suit of armor, Osborn rules the country with an iron fist as the… well… Iron Patriot. I can’t think of another more frightening, corrupt, all powerful C.E.O. to be our ‘Villain of the Year’ than him. (Well, with the exception of Martha Stewart, of course.)
5. Most Horrific Death: ARES – Head split in two with an axe – Wonder Woman #33 (DC)
I admittedly have never been much of a Wonder Woman fan, but according to Wikipedia Ares is “Based upon the Greek mythological figure of the same name, he is the God of War and the major adversary of Wonder Woman. He first appeared in Wonder Woman #1, volume 1, published in the summer of 1942, written by Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston.” Apparently the character was changed to the Roman God of war Mars, and then recently back to the Greek version during a modern reboot of the title. Sounds to me as if Ares has been a bit of a thorn in Wonder Woman’s side since her inception, so I’m assuming he deserved the splitting headache he received from the Amazon. So, since everyone seems to like a good bloody axe to the head, I give you the following picture for your sickly viewing pleasure, you twisted freaks you.
6. Best Return From The Dead: CAPTAIN AMERICA – Captain America: Reborn (Marvel)
The return of Steve Rogers has been three years in the making and thank God, because Captain America has been a favorite character of mine since I was a kid. Not that Bucky Barnes sucked as Cap because he doesn’t, but the return of Steve Rogers was always the plan. So why the wait? Why the grand re-introduction? The “Reborn” series has given Marvel the chance to initiate a whole new audience to Captain America and educate them on who Steve Rogers is, how he came to be the original Captain and what makes him a hero. With the current set-up of having two Captains, there’s so much more story to tell and “Reborn” is a unique way of telling it. I’m thrilled to see Steve back from the dead and really grateful he’s not all zombied out. Whew.
7. Best Cover: SCALPED #30 – Cover by Mark “Jock” Simpson (Vertigo)
Ok, here’s the truth – I haven’t read most of the Scalped issues and I still think this is one of the coolest, most haunted covers ever. Glad to see you all agree. Using muted colors and grey tones gives this art a creepy tone reminiscent of classic horror movie posters – especially with the one bright splash of red to emphasize the brutality of this intense crime story. And without featuring any of the main characters or any of the series’ core story points, Jock’s disturbing imagery gives way for the readers’ imagination to run away with ideas of what’s to come.
8. Best Spin Off Series: BATMAN & ROBIN – by Grant Morrison (DC)
The Dynamic Duo is back! … well, sort-of. It’s not quite the Batman and Robin you grew up with, nor the Caped Crusaders everyone has been used to for the past 70-odd years. With Bruce dead, the mantle of the Bat has finally been passed to its rightful heir, Dick Grayson, the first Robin. Robin, you don’t say? “Just who is that young upstart” you ask? Well, it’s none other than Damien Wayne, the offspring of Bruce Wayne and Ra’s ah Ghul’s daughter Talia. (He must have forgotten to use the Bat-condom). With so much history behind these two characters, it’s hard to come up with original ideas to keep it fresh, but Grant Morrison takes his time to hit a number of familiar Batman notes (a brand spanking new flying Batmobile, for one) and subtly spotlight what makes this duo different from previous incarnations. Whether we’re watching Dick’s unique style of fighting compared to Bruce’s, his hesitance to step into his mentor’s shoes, Damien’s eagerness to prove himself as his father’s rightful replacement, or the different ways each hero interacts with the ever dependable Alfred, Morrison conveys each personality with a beautiful level of emotional depth. The series is not quite as highbrow as previous Morrison projects, but that’s also one of the many aspects of “B&R” that makes it such a fun read. With that said, I suggest you sit back and enjoy the “SMACK,” “BAM”, and “KA-POW”-filled ride as you watch these two high-kicking detectives wipe the floor with some of Gotham’s worst in what has been deemed the “Best Spin Off Series of the Year.”
9. Coolest Costume: BATWOMAN – J. H. Williams III (DC)
Again, no surprise that I’m the one doing this write up since, well, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a little obsessed with the coolness that is Batwoman. The lady kicks ass and that’s the bottom line. Now she has a costume to match the ‘tude. While the basic design of the costume hasn’t changed, the updates and additions all have a specific and important purpose. For example, her belt is no longer loose fitting and contains pouches to conceal weapons; her mask wraps all the way around her head and fits snugly under her hair to offer more protection; her bracer points detach and can become weapons. That’s all practical and great, but, ok, I’m going to be a typical girl for a minute and talk about how much I love the look and color. OMG, people! (You must read that with a “valley girl” accent.) I love the striking red emblem, boots and cape that match her fiery red hair… even if some of it is a wig because Kate’s hair is on the shorter side these days. I’m also digging the sharp edges of her cape and arm braces – this chick means business. And, as I learned from J.H. Williams’ style sheet, the cape comes to five points at the bottom which form a “clearly stylized red bat design when completely unfurled.” One word: awesome.
10. Best Graphic Novel: ASTERIOS POLYP – by David Mazzucchelli (Pantheon)
The story of an aging architect, Asterios, who witnesses all of his worldly possessions go up in a puff of smoke after a freak lightening strike burns down his building, is honestly the most emotionally introspective story I read all year. After losing all he owns, our self possessed protagonist takes a random job in a small town as an auto mechanic while exploring his past, which includes his childhood (several scenes are narrated by his stillborn twin brother, Ignazio), the slow dissolution of his marriage, and his need for redemption. David Mazzucchelli, best known for the critically-acclaimed “Daredevil: Born Again” story arc, masterfully uses expressionist techniques to invest every panel with added depth and emotion that raises this book from the halls of ‘comicdom’ to that of high art. If you haven’t read the best graphic novel of the year, “Asterios Polyp,” what are you waiting for?
11. Best Writer: BRIAN K. VAUGHAN – Ex Machina (Vertigo)
As a born and raised New Yorker, “Ex Machina” has always struck a cord with me, and I have Vaughan’s exemplary storytelling skills to thank for it. Few writers have the ability to take a life altering event like 9/11 and make it an acceptable backdrop for a compelling and topical story like “Ex Machina,” but Vaughan has done just that in his creation of Mitchell Hundred. As his alter ego, the superhero Great Machine, Hundred saves the second tower from crumbling on that fateful morning when terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers. After a daring rescue like that, he finds the race to the Mayor of New York’s office an easy one. Now serving in the job, Hundred is faced with balancing his new role in politics with his old one as Great Machine which seems to have been a blessing and a curse at the same time. Vaughan artfully uses the medium of comics to tackle current issues like gay marriage, racial profiling, and drug legalization in a post 9/11 world where everyone’s perception of what is safe and true has been changed forever. If only we could vote for Mayor Hundred in the real world…
12. Best Artist: JOHN CASSADAY – Planetary (Wildstorm); Astonishing X-men (Marvel)
Former Eisner winner for both “Planetary” and “Astonishing X-Men,” Cassaday is the rock star among comic book artists. Few artists are as versatile as Cassaday who manages to inject his own style into every drawing while still evoking the classic look and feel of the time honored characters he’s drawing. Cassaday’s “Planetary” journey with Warren Ellis has been years in the making and finally came to a close with a much anticipated bang in issue #27. Although he’s recently concentrated on cover art, Cassaday made a rare return to interior art for the close of the series and did not disappoint with his stunning visual homage to past issues in both the style of the characters and use of colors. And Cassaday’s continuing partnership with Joss Whedon on “Astonishing X-Men” has produced some of the coolest renditions of comics’ most iconic characters like Wolverine. Now that he’s turned his artistic eye to the screen, who knows what’s in store for one of the best comic artists of our time.
13. Best Celebrity Made Title: JOSS WHEDON – Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight (Dark Horse)
Ok, I’m a little biased when it comes to all things Joss and Buffy because I’ve had the privilege of knowing Joss for years through work and was the publicist for the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” television series. In my eyes, Joss is a genius and he can do no wrong, and the comic series by Dark Horse is no exception. But forget about my professional ties to Buffy, as a loyal viewer who watched long before ever working on it, I’m still mourning the loss of that series. Thank God the good peeps at Darkhorse were as well and saw the brilliance of continuing it through comics. “Season Eight” is just that – the next season of the series that picks up where the show left off. Under Joss’ supervision and with him writing so many of the individual issues, the “Buffy” comics are a perfect complement to the show in style, tone and storyline. And further bolstering the comic series are all of the “Buffy” series writers who have written issues along the way including Jane Espenson, Drew Greenburg, Doug Petrie, Drew Goddard and Steven DeKnight. When season seven ended, Buffy put into motion several things that would have consequences down the line and “Season Eight” has been all about showing them. At the heart of every issue and arc still lies the angst Buffy and her friends carry with them while they’re charged with having to save the world over and over again. In a way that only Joss can, he weaves that angst and the very real feelings behind it into the fantastical world Buffy lives in where slaying vampires and mutilating monsters is, like, totally normal. And what gives the comics an edge over their television brethren is that there’s no limit to the imagination… nor the budget so Joss can now afford to create an even more expansive sandbox for the Scooby gang to play in.
14. Best Event of the Year: DARK REIGN (Marvel)
Cap’s dead, Tony Stark is an invalid, the Green Goblin is the head of the Avengers, and all of the world’s heroes are on the run as outlaws. Sounds like an issue of “What If?”, right? But it’s actually the current reality going on at Marvel with their ongoing “Dark Reign” event. After the Superhero Registration Act sets off the Civil War, and with the shocking conclusion to the Secret Invasion, we saw a huge shake-up in the Marvel Universe. In broad strokes, for those of you who haven’t been keeping up, “Dark Reign” is about Norman Osborn’s (a.k.a. the Green Goblin) rise to power as Tony Stark’s replacement as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (an espionage and law-enforcement agency) which Osborn immediately disbands to create his own organization H.A.M.M.E.R. Through his actions, and his reputation as the villainous Green Goblin, a number of outlawed heroes decide to take Osborn down, by force if necessary. I, for one, like the change in the status quo, and apparently all of you do as well. Should be every interesting to see how this all plays out, but with the recent resurrection of Captain America, I think we’re soon about to witness the end of our favorite event of the year. And that leads us to our last category….
15. Best W.T.F. Moment of the Year: CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN
Not really much to say here. Anyone that reads Marvel on any kind of regular basis will know what I’m talking about when I say that ‘the guy’ was running around in four different titles before he was actually resurrected. I know all about deadlines and push backs, scheduling conflicts, etc, but come on… how do you drop the ball on bringing back your flagship (pun intended) character? I think I even saw him in the swan hatch on “Lost” before the last issue of “Captain America: Reborn” hit the stands. *sigh*
And that concludes the list of winners for the first annual Meltdown Comic Awards compiled from votes we received posted to the website and through tweets and emails. Yes, folks, extremely scientific. Next year we’ll be bringing on the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche (not really) to secretly count the votes as well as expand to paper ballots in the store and in the weekly pulls (that one is true.) And, as if our amazing commentary wasn’t enough (wink, wink), stay tuned for some expert analysis from Meltdown’s own staffers. Now, Stacey and Jason would like to thank the following for making the MCA’s possible: well, God, of course, ‘cause there always has to be some “God” in a thank you speech; the guys at Meltdown for – well, that’s an obvious one, right?; Melty, for so graciously agreeing to his new gold-tone attire; all of the tweeters who tweeted the hell out of these awards; James Cameron, just cause he was nominated a gazillion times this season, so what the hell; um, sniff, hang on, we’re getting a little teary here… no, wait, don’t start the music yet! —
Follow us on twitter: Jason -@GoTodash; Stacey – TVStaceyLevin