Hello and welcome back to our all-ages comics column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This is our final column until after the New Year of 2014 rings in, which means it’s time for our TOP 15 ALL-AGES COMICS of 2013!!!!!
I am pumped if you couldn’t tell. After reading tons and tons of titles every week, this is one of my most favorite columns to do every year, so let’s do it! To be on the list, the ongoing/mini/graphic novel must have been published either in part or full in 2013, with the exceptions of translations of foreign materials which must have been translated for their first time in English in 2013. For both ongoing and minis a minimum of two issues must have been published to be considered, unless it was a one-shot special. Digital comics are ranked the same as ones in print only (which is rare if it’s print only these days) due to the evolved nature of the comic market. Between new material and reprints this year I have read over 200 titles (I stopped keeping count after 200, so much material out there, thanks digital world), and now I boil it down to this:
REPRINT OF THE YEAR
Herobear and the Kid (Boom!)
Mike Kunkel struck magic back in 2002/2003 with this title, but its indie run over 10 year ago now doesn’t always make it the most common thing to come across, so the fine folks behind Boom! Studios’ all-ages line, Kaboom!, had the right idea and that was to reprint this sucker! If you’ve never read this splendor of comics, it is part Calvin and Hobbes, part Shazam!, and wonderfully a touching story that is very much its own thing. Hands down the best thing to be blessed with a reprint this year is Herobear and the Kid!
Sonic The Hedgehog (Archie)
Sonic, and the other Archie title Megaman (which just missed this list by a hair), got really, really good this year! In fact, we can easily say it was possibly the best year ever in the title’s 20 year run! Sonic has evolved over the ages with the video games, and an eternal core cult audience has kept the comic book going since its animated incarnation days in the mid-1990s, and this year it was just an exquisite example of action, excitement, and thrills, all done right, with easy access to new readers while keeping their old fans happy. We also were treated to that great Sonic/Megaman multi-arc crossover, which was a cool read for fans of those franchises.
My Little Pony (IDW)
My Little Pony: the kids dig it, adult men calling themselves bronies dig it, and apparently this year comic fans dug it, making it surge like wild fire with some the biggest feed back and sales spikes since Adventure Time a short while before it. Surely the TV tie-in helps the title, but at the core, putting the show aside, the comic is regularly delivering up great, well drawn stories that entertain, and in plenty of cases have a pretty great message behind it. Now if only Hasbro would let IDW dig back up the Inhumanoids we’d be in a perfect world!
All Of Scrooge McDuck’s Millions (Disney Comics)
Europe sure churns out a lot of all new Disney comics these days, and specifically Italy rocks the Mouse House. When Disney didn’t renew their comic licenses with Boom! Studios a few years back, most were surprised when they didn’t have Marvel Comics (which they own for those that don’t know) start churning out Disney character comics, but instead released them themselves as mostly digital only titles between their own app and comiXology. The best title to date that they released at the year’s start was All Of Scrooge McDuck’s Millions, where we get endless adventures as Scrooge recalls how he got those first millions. Something about the mood with the art and storytelling just works so cosmically well for this title.
The Smurfs (Papercutz)
Smurfs, the creation Peyo is perhaps best known for world wide, is just a wonderful title. For a good chunk of time now Papercutz has been translating these comics for their first time in English and putting them out, and this year was no different as we saw tales that bore new characters, took them flying, even a Christmas themed book. These guys are timeless and you just can’t smurfing argue that their title isn’t great.
Pantalones, TX (Archaia)
This title by creator Yehudi Mercado was a wild time! Loud, fun, colorful, and endlessly creative. It was just different and it stuck out above a lot of things, which is something to say considering 2013 was heavily dominated by licensed character comics. Mercado and publisher Archaia took a gamble on something original instead, and blam-o, total artistic pay off as Mercado created a book worth a thousand re-reads.
Archie (Archie Comics)
Archie has had its ups and downs during its history that reaches far back, but in recent years we have seen a surge of creativity over there that continues. The main flagship title for the Riverdale universe continued to rock out this year, starting with a cross over with the cast of TV’s Glee, sci-fi tales, shenanigans with Thor’s hammer, and more. I love what they’re doing these days over there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if within the next three years across all media everything becomes Archie again like back in the 1960s.
SpongeBob Comics (United Plankton)
SpongeBob has become a character that has now withstood the test of time, over 10 years old and still rocking out. When we boil the characters of Bikini Bottom down to what really works, it is the same laws that apply to all timeless characters, like the cast of Looney Tunes or what not, and SpongeBob Comics really knows how to tap into that humor and make the cartoon work in the comic book medium. Aside, the comic also lets different artist’s think outside of the box and render our favorite characters in their own art style, helping keep things fresh and fun to read. Happy artists make happy comics, and SpongeBob Comics was a great title to read this year.
Hello Kitty (Viz Media)
Hello Kitty has been around for a good chunk of time now and every year we still seem to see something new with her, from crossovers with Kiss and Street Fighter and beyond. Viz Media branding their own all-ages line have decided to take a homegrown approach in the recent year instead of translating all-ages Japanese manga and the one title that paid off was their graphic novel for Hello Kitty! A beast of task to tell anything in pantomime, the team of writers and artists gladly tackled the challenge and succeeded with these great “silent” Hello Kitty comics that looked nice and more importantly had a bit of imagination to them.
Osamu Tezuka: God of manga! I’ve written about this gentleman plenty in this column and this year marked the DMP release of the first ever English translation of Unico! Thanks to backing from a successful Kickstarter, fans of the cult film The Fantastic Adventures of Unico have been rabid to get a chance to read the original manga that tells the tale of possibly the cutest unicorn ever drawn on the page, and the results was everything we would hope it would be, both comics and the English packaging living up to expectations.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (DC)
Talk about titles that seemed to get REALLY good overnight this year, although it is apparent DC Comics is still trying to figure out its all-ages titles game plan, they seem to be trying to make their titles live up to the new era of quality for all-ages comics on the shelves and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was nothing but a fantastic read all year! From classic set-ups, to really out there alien tales, even their van got haunted and the poor guys at the auto shop had to deal with it. I want more Scooby comics like these and I want it now! Several writers have worked on this title but this year exemplary work was provided by Scott Gross and Sholly Fisch. Don’t lower your bar again DC and keep cranking this excellent bad boy out.
Princeless (Action Lab)
This title returning with it’s fresh take on a fantasy tale from the pen of Jeremy Whitley was a delight to read this year. The universe that’s been created here is a joy to read every issue and hopefully we will get to see the next installment sooner than later! Action Lab has done good giving the world this comic and if you haven’t read it, obviously I have nothing but a string of really nice things here to say about it which means you should run out to the store and pick yourself up a copy of the collected editions now!
The digital title is just wonderful. It looks like a European title, it flows like an American title, a cat and mouse game with a famed teenage robber, set across the backdrop of France, only from the dynamic creative team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover. Its a breath of fresh air and continues to entertain with each and every issue, and with the right price on the comiXology app it’s to become the latest comic you can get addicted too.
The Fox (Archie Comics/Red Circle)
When Archie relaunched it’s Red Circle superheroes line it was quite a swank game plan and although the fanfare has died down a little bit and the New Crusaders is now a set of mini-series and not an ongoing, the quality of the comics are still something to write home about and with their latest mini-series which revives the classic character the Fox, it is another home run that brings back the vibe of silver age fun while being cool. Haspiel and Waid have done great giving us a must read title of a character most would never have expected. A well done treat for superhero fans.
The Phoenix (Phoenix Comic)
The Phoenix blew me away this year! The shear quality of this comic, and a weekly comic at that, was almost incomprehensible! How could it be this good week, surely it has to have drop eventually. And you know what? It never did. Week after week, this British all-ages anthology has produced the best comics one can only be so lucky to come across. If you live in the United Kingdom you are lucky to get it in print, however here in the States its a little tricky for a weekly print publication like this, however they have one of the classiest iPad apps in the iTunes newsstand I have ever come across making the whole package feel great! Anything from comedy to adventure, pirates to space aliens to roman times, are here every week with gorgeous art and amazing story telling. If you do not read The Phoenix you do not know what you are missing and need to get on it now!
Adventure Time (Boom!)
Adventure TIme. Do I need to say more? If there is a Boom! Studios title that can strike lighting more than once, it has been and continues to be this. Fans of the show are happy, casual comic readers love it, and maybe most importantly when looking at a comic: it is always entertaining. Similar to what we see in the SpongeBob comic, the editors give the artists on the back-up stories a chance to do their own thing and render it in their own style, and that freedom pay offs, sometimes out shining the main the story in a few of the issues. That said, the main story always looks and feels like the show while at the same time being its own thing if you don’t follow the show. When came down to all-ages titles in 2013, Adventure Time deserves the number one spot on the list. It’s just too mathematical to not be number one after all.
In summary 2013, like 2012, was an exceptional year for lots of all-ages titles and there were a lot of things I wanted to include on here but was limited to just 15 spots (which is kind of cheating to start with since most lists are 10). Special shout outs to highlight a few memorable things that just missed our list include Peanuts, Garfield and Regular Show from Boom!, Megaman from Archie, Benny Breakiron and Ariol from Papercutz, Looney Tunes from DC (which like Scooby-Doo has suddenly improved seemingly overnight), Ugly Dolls from Viz, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at IDW and the latest Oz mini-series installment from Marvel, all great titles contributing to the over all quality of all-ages comics this year.
That’s it for now, see you in a few weeks in 2014!