Wooooooooooooooo! Welcome one and all to this special edition of our all-ages comics column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, where we look at our top 15 all-ages titles for 2011! Now, I know 2011 doesn’t end for another three weeks, but I like to get this one up in case you’re looking for holiday gift stuff. 2011 was a great year for all-ages books, lots of new titles popping up, and compared to 2010 and 2009 (when this column started), 2011 is leaps and bounds over those previous years in terms of quality titles. So this wasn’t an easy list to choose, and the site-editors helped pitch in their thoughts to shape this into the best of the best. A ton of the titles we reviewed over this past year, and if you click on the links they will take you to our original articles on them. Aside from the top 15, we also have a best reprint title and best TV/Movie (last year, TV/Movie titles were mixed in, this year we separated). So without further ado, off we go:
BEST REPRINTS OF 2011
Mighty Samson (Dark Horse)
There we so many quality reprints of titles this year. Fantagraphics did awesome with the Mickey Mouse strips, Archie reprinted Young Dr. Masters in their digests, Kodansha reprinted Sailor Moon which held as the top selling collection in America for over two months. However, Dark Horse did a bang up job with the reprint line of Mighty Samson. These hardcovers were nicely done, and to finally get to read this material was awesome. Mighty Samson is a great book that use to be published by Dell, and it really is a no-holds post-apoctalyptic world that is as unlimited as one’s imagination. From monsters to barbarians to bird people, Samson and his crew deal with it all in these collections of amazingly cool action/sci-fi tales. The art is great, the writing is great, the reprint quality was solid of the material, and so it’s our choice for this year. Orignally reviewed here, and here, and finally here.
BEST TV/MOVIE RELEASE OF 2011
The Herculoids (Warner Archive)
This was a long time coming, and this year we finally received the entire series on DVD! We had some cool stuff in TV/Movie this year, Rango was an amazing film, but ever since Space Ghost and Bird Man were released on DVD a few years back, this seemed like the missing link, and thankfully Warner’s Archive Collection, which has been releasing a ton of great hard-to-find titles, gave us this one as well. The DVDs are fairly barebones, as are most of the titles from the Archive Collection as it’s really about getting the material itself unearthed and out there, although they did sell it packaged with a Herculoids t-shirt as a cool option. The material itself is obviously awesome and beloved by two generations of fans, the ones who saw it when it was orignally aired, and those who saw it re-braodcast on Toonami in the late 1990s. It’s a space aged family who lives with a group of super powered monsters, all designed by comic legend Alex Toth, who fight all sorts of aliens and creatures. The show is still awesome, and now you can own it, and so our pick for best TV/Move release of 2011 is The Herculoids DVD collection!
And now here we go with the top 15 all-ages titles of 2011, those titles that, let’s face it, you’re just going to have check out and buy!
Yo Gabba Gabba! (Oni Press)
This collection was both odd and really wonderful at the same time. It had an army of various artists/writers working on it, and it really was as colorful, random, and amusing to both kids and adults at the same time (but in different ways, of course). It’s one of those testaments that make you understand why this Nick JR. show with all its hipster edge has become a main stay and pretty much the new Seaseme Street/Muppets over the past few years with it’s feel, flow, and style, all which translated perfectly onto these pages. Orignally reviewed here.
Snarked! is a lot of fun and it is pretty neat to see what Roger Langride can do with the world of Alice In Wonderland. The humor is solid in this title and has a lot of wit. Most of all, though, is how much I enjoy Langride’s artwork on this title; from the castle to the cartoon slums, his renderings of this world and its inhabitants are fascinating to look at with their slightly-classic and colorful feeling. When you combine the writing with art, it’s a winner for everyone. Originally reviewed here.
Peyo’s Smurfs has been a fantastic comic of all-ages goodness worldwide for years now, and although bits and pieces of the comics have made their way into English here and there, a really great perfectly complete collection has never been rolled out translated into English before. Leave it to the team at Papercutz to cover that gap, and they’re already a good chunk into the collections, with beautiful quality books at cheap prices to make it affordable for everyone. Most importantly, aside from quality or price is that the stories themselves are a fantastic read no matter what age you are. They are always entertaining and always certain to put a smile on the reader’s face. Originally reviewed here, and here, and also here.
Ozma of Oz (Marvel)
This mini-series, which is now in a single collected edition, was really good. An excellent adaptation of the novel by Baum, Shanower’s writing brings the original material to life on the page. Young’s art just rocks; like in their previous two Oz team-ups his visuals are some of the best out there artwork wise. This third time into the world of Oz was also cool for Oz fans since it had the intro of the Nome King, an incredibly important villain in the Oz universe. Marvel will keep rocking these out as long as Shanower and Young keep rocking; the fourth adventure is about to start being released from Marvel. Check it out. Originally reviewed here.
Sergio Aragones Funnies (Bongo)
Sergio Aragones as an artist has always made me laugh, from his work on MAD Magazine to Groo, his artwork is always fun and the gags always funny. It should come as no surprise then that giving him a solo title to just run free with is a no brainer, and happily he delivers with it, not letting his fans down. He could be writing about his first puppet theater or working as an extra on a movie in Mexico, doesn’t matter, every story drawn and written is entertaining, full of heart, and great for everyone who reads to come back issue after issue. Originally reviewed here.
Life With Archie (Archie)
Life With Archie still is rocking hard as a comic in its second year, as one of the best titles Archie has ever published. Although the story hasn’t been as crazy as it was in its first year, it looks like it’s going to be heating up again during its third year if recent events in the book are any indication. The artwork and writing is still good and keeps readers coming back every month to see the fate of Archie’s two futures as they now slowly seem to be intertwining. The other great thing about this title is that you can find it anywhere since it’s published in magazine form and not traditional comic form. You can go into a grocery store and there it is, just like the good old days of comics, and I have to say it’s nice to be able to go some place other than a local comic shop or online (not that there is anything wrong with those options) and find a comic. Perhaps its wide reach is also key to its wide success. As for me, I still can’t put it down. Reviewed this year here.
Young Justice (DC)
This title is great. Some people may gloss over it thinking it is just an adaptation of the episodes from the TV show, but the team behind it has done just a little bit more and gone that extra mile to make it stand out if you pick this title up to read it (and we wouldn’t expect anything else from the writing/art team behind the final issues of the sadly cancelled Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!). The pages of this comic have been packed with a lot of great stories and art, and it’s keeping all our fave DC sidekicks in the spotlight and taking charge without being Teen Titans goofy. Reviewed here this year.
15 Love (Marvel)
This mini-series, that is now collected in a single volume, was surprisingly awesome. It was a little bit of everything and a pretty hip sports comic, something that doesn’t usually do well in the states, making this title stand out. Tennis, models, Hong Kong style artwork, a slice of life tale in the Marvel Universe that rocked. I enjoyed the tennis-playing teen drama of the life of Mill, and I would certainly love to see more of her adventures soon from Marvel. Originally reviewed here.
Codename: Sailor-V (Kodansha)
Aside from Sailor Moon being re-released, long-time fans of the series finally got the release for the first time ever in English of the two-volume prequel series Codename: Sailor-V. The early adventures of Sailor Venus before she meets up with the other Sailor Scouts isn’t just a pleaser for fans of Sailor Moon, but a solid manga entry. It has magic girls and adventures, but surprisingly is a lot lighter and packed with more humor than the pages of her sister title. The two volumes of goodness are both out now and are highly enjoyable! Originally reviewed here.
Gil Jordan (Fantagraphics)
Fantagraphics has put out some amazing work this year, including releases of Sibyl-Anne (which we had an awesome contest for) and Gil Jordan. Gil Jordan sticks out to us in all of its splendor. Yes, it can be compared to a gritty version of Tintin, but at the same time is so much more and its world so much deeper in crime. The adult tones make adults pick it up, and the colors and action give it an appeal to kids, making it an all-ages gem for anyone who picks it up. Originally reviewed here.
Mega Man (Archie)
He’s a fighting robot and his new title is pretty awesome! Mega Man been a wonderfully addictive read, and although the art from the first story arc to the second has gone from amazing to just good, the writing is solid all the way through thus far, and the characters we love from the video game series are always entertaining us month after month with their adventures. You don’t have to be a fan of the game to enjoy it, they build the tale ground up very well, however, if you do love the game you will not get a lack of anything you love about the franchise, it’s all here. Originally reviewed here and here.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW)
It is great to see these guys back in print. The new TMNT starts us fresh with what could be compared to a Marvel Ultimates line take on the TMNT-universe. Some things are timeless, some things are throw backs, and some twists are brand new to keep it fresh. When you add it all together, the new TMNT is one of the best new titles that everyone can read this year. It’s fun, it has amazing action scenes, and really we just can’t say enough good things about this title. Reviewed here and here.
Okie-Dokie Donuts (Top Shelf)
This is the greatest hidden comic of 2011. Okie-Dokie Donuts was amazing! There is something so fresh and light-hearted about this new comic that stands out above the rest of the titles. It’s original, the plot was cute, the artwork was really swank, there just wasn’t another book like this. It was just different enough to capture the hearts of readers of all-ages, and hopefully more will be coming out in this series so it continues to do so. If you think there is nothing fun about a donut shop comic book, think again. Robots, singing, gags, put them together with this art and writing and it equals a fantastic read no matter what age you are. Originally reviewed here.
Super Dinosaur (Image)
This is such a great title, I said it once and I’ll say it again, someone get this series an action figure line! It is a title that not only seems to have endless potential, but lives up to all the hype. It’s a kid and super powered wise cracking dinosaur’s adventures to save the world and kick the crap out of evil! Plus, we also got a cool coloring book this year, which was really geeky cool. Originally reviewed here, here, here, and also here.
Reed Gunther (Image)
There’s something that just stood out from the rest about this title. A cowboy who rides a bear and fights monsters. God that’s cool. You know what else is cool? Not just the concept, but the great writing and art from this duo of brothers. Of all the things we reviewed this year, the one that across the boards we have enjoyed the most has been this title published by Image. Now with the first story arc collected all together, and the second arc hitting shelves with a new set of issues, you will enjoy it as well as your kids. Hands down it was the title this year that is just a winner for everyone. Reviewed here, and here, and here. We also interviewed the creators here.
That’s it for this time! It has been a great year for all-age titles, and hopefully next year will just keep getting better! We are still back next week with one last column for the year before we take a break for a few weeks with this column until January. See you then, and make sure to check all these amazing titles out!