Hess House Best of Intellectual Property 2013

I freaking love comics. So many comics. Too many to put in one single list. We all like different things. Some of us like big two comics. Other’s may prefer large publisher creator owned work while other’s dig the small press. I like all of that. I’ll cover my favorites from the different corners of comic book publishing over the month of December. 

For this week I’ll be covering Intellectual Property from outside DC and Marvel

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Being a publisher that doesn’t feature The Avengers or Batman is a tough sell. Engaging your audience with characters that exist outside of the mainline of traditional superhero’s can be an uphill battles. One way for companies to stay afloat or even thrive is to use intellectual property with a name recognition that keep’s the orders coming in and the lights on. It’s much easier to sell whoever your buyer is on a name with some kind of proven track record in pop culture then what can feel like a hit or miss investment on new creator  owned properties. This list is an approximation for all the non Marvel or DC mainline intellectual property comics that transcend what can appear as a blatant cash grab for excellent comic book product. Honorable mention to Valliant titles Archer and Armstrong, Eternal Warrior XO Manawar and Unity that just barely missed the cut mostly because I just started reading a lot of that in the last six months, Brian Wood’s excellent Star Wars ongoing, Layman’s and Sam Keith’s Alien series that was orginally printed in Dark Horse Presents before being collected in hardcover format, Joe Hill’s new mini series The Wraith and Howard Chaykin’s super fun PoliSciFi take on Buck Rogers Now on to the list

AstroCity1Cover10. Astro City Kurt Busiek Brent Anderson

The little indie Superhero comic that could came back to tell us stories on the lives of the everyday people living inside a world populated with being of extraordinary ability. At this point Astro City may just be neo golden age comfort food right down to the Alex Ross covers and so far hasn’t really covered any new ground in this current volume but it’s the exquisite detail of the setting combined with the fully formed rendering of it’s expansive cast of characters by Busiek and Anderson that makes it worth coming back to no matter how much time has passed. One of a handful of comic books that you could give to anybody and have them understand what makes it great. A must read for any comic book fan.

idw-publishing-godzilla-the-half-century-war-issue-2ri9. Godzilla The 1/2 Century War James Stokoe

James Stokoe was able to fully realize the heavy influence that Manga and Japaneses culture had on his work with this excellent take on the story of Godzilla and his mark he left on the world. Stokoe follows a life lived in opposition to a monster and how that evolves over time in a shifting global landscape. Stokoe’s illustration haungtingly renders the urban destruction of Godzilla around the world in hyper rhythmic and detail distinct visual style that can only be his own. A worthy addition to an enduring legend.

Shaolin8. Shaolin Cowboy Geoff Darrow

Geoff Darrow brings back his Kung Fu/Western epic in full force with beautifully rendered illustrations based around it’s hilarious goofy narrative. I think everybody could use more zombies getting tore the fuck up by kung fu and chainsaws and even if the two issues of this comic is probably 3/4’s just that in and of itself it always leave’s you wanting more of it. For anybody that grew up on Tarintino and Wu-Tang this is the comic book you’ve waited your whole life for and didn’t even know it. The word rad was created for comics like this.

STK6126037. Thumbprint Joe Hill Jason Ciaramella Vic Malhotra

One thing I will say for IDW is that they do realize the talent they have in Joe Hill and they are utilizing that to it’s full capacity. I’m still waiting on the final issue of Locke and Key but in that time I’ll take this haunting adaptation of his short story murder mystery about and Iraqi War Veteran forced to make amends with decisions that haunt sub conscious. The story telling from Hill and Ciaramella combined with Malhorta’s gritty street level Maleevesque art style made for a fantastic placeholder for any Punisher fan fiending for the dark street level horror narrative that Thumbprint expertly creates.

sledge44-2-fc-fnl6. Sledgehammer ’44 Mike Mignola John Acurdi Jason Latour 

This two issue miniseries was an incredibly touching introduction for the new character into the Hellboy Universe that centered on sacrifice, death and the consequence of out actions. Mignola and Acurdi’s mediation on the price on soldier must pay to save the world is masterfully illustrated with Jason Latours almost Doonsbury like artistic backdrop of WWII. Powerful and underrated does not even begin to describe my feelings on this book. Required reading for all WWII buff’s and fans of Brubaker’s seminal Captain America work.

QW_001_VARIANT_SECONDPRINT5. Quantum and Woody James Asmus Tom Fowler Ming Doyle

This fucking comic man. I’ve always felt that comedy was the best way for pop art to comment on social issues by pointing out their absurdities. James Asmus, Tom Fowler and Ming Doyle’s Quantum and Woody run is an effective piece of racial/superhero satire that is up their in quality with TV like  The Chapelle Show and Louis or stand up from Chris Rock and Aziz Ansari in it’s ability to subversively point to the stupidity and pervasiveness of everyday racism without beating the audience over the head with it’s message. The fact that it’s a superhero comic is almost besides the point although it uses those genre tropes to it’s advantage as opposed to carrying them like baggage. And we’ve only just begun with Vincent Van Goat. Feels like things can only get better from here.

19455204. Conan The Barbarian Brian Wood Declan Shalvey David Gianfelice Paul Azaceta Ricardo Burchielli

From a guy that pretty much spent 90% of his career doing creator owned work Wood has shown a unique talent for writing Conan the Barbarian with a take that is surprising as it is refreshing. With an extensive run that’s included wonderfully rendered illustrations from the likes of Ricardo Burichielli, Declan Shalvy and Paul Azaceta this comic proved that there is always a new and interesting way to write character. You may have thought you read every Conan story as is possible but Wood and his collaborators adaption of Robert E Howards tale of the barbarian’s early life and love is a fresh new take on what’s been a well worn narrative.

386633-the-sandman-overture3. Sandman Overture Neil Gaiman JH Willams III

This may be punting on some level. First of all I’m not sure if I consider Sandman creator owned because of it’s loose influence from the golden age superhero or Jack Kirby’s rendition, the way that the comic has always existed in a weird space in and out of DC’s main universe or how long it’s lasted in comic book culture where it’s become and institution which is why it’s here. And it’s hard to really judge the overall quality of a series against other comics with 12 months worth of comics when that series literally only had one issue released but JESUS TAP DANCING did you see that first issue? JH Willams stunning illustration’s of Gaiman’s return to the title is in-arguably the best single issue of the year. It’s stunningly beautiful piece of art that is as gratifying for long time fans of the titles as it is accessible for noob’s like myself. This is a comic book at it’s highest level of creation.

comics-catalyst2. Catalyst Comix Joe Casey David McDaid Ulisis Farinas Paul Maybury

It’s been quite a busy year for comic book great Joe Casey but what’s been his best work is probably his most overlooked as well. Catalyst is Casey and his artistic collaborators Dan McCaid, Ulises Farinas and Paul Maybury have re-imagined a throwaway indie superhero relic from the 90’s into beautifully rendered bombastic Kirbyesque high minded modern superhero adventure.  In a year when Darkhorse mounted a brilliant comeback with a combination of high quality third party intellectual property, new creator owned material and re-launching several of old titles from the companies large vault Catalyst maybe their crowning achievement of ambition and artistic vision realization. It’s much closer to the classic game changing Marvel comics of yesteryear from Kirby, Steranko or Starlin then anything the being done their or anywhere without ever being derivative of those classic stories. Catalyst is Casey as a master of his craft firing on all cylinders. The best pure superhero comic coming out of all the major publishers in the medium.

prophet27cover1. Prophet Brandon Graham Simon Roy Giannis Milonogiannis

I really can’t think of a bigger miracle then what was running joke created by THE running joke in comics then the revitalization of Prophet from the creative team of Brandon Graham, Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis. Prophet’s brilliant talent pool of writer/artists revitalized the title by re-imagining it’s world as a cold and dark space epic that illustrates the infinite universe as a savage hunt or be hunted reality where the name of the game is survival at all costs. In-spite of it’s dark and nihilistic mood Prophet ultimately succeeds due to it’s epic awe inspiring imagination of the many worlds and life forms in it’s universe. This comic fully realizes the promise of space based science fiction in a way that nothing else ever has in both comics and otherwise. A future classic.

51 thoughts on “Hess House Best of Intellectual Property 2013”

  1. Great choices, Patrick! I completely agree with your top two choices; PROPHET and CATALYST COMIX are two of my favorites. I would also recommend SUICIDE RISK and CLIVE BARKER”S NEXT TESTAMENT, both from BOOM!

    1. Thanks man. I need to check those out. I saw your letter in Wednesdays Catalyst. Even Darkhorse editorial recognizes your awesome now.

      1. Since you asked… 🙂

        10. UBER (Avatar) – a WWII super-soldier thriller!
        9. CLIVE BARKER’S NEXT TESTAMENT (Boom!) – What if God was a real psycho killer?
        8. CODENAME: ACTION (Dynamite) – some super-pulp espionage… ACTION!
        7. SUICIDE RISK (Boom!) – for some super-villain satisfaction!
        6. ZERO (Image) – read this comic about Edward Zero!
        5. THE SHADOW: YEAR ONE (Dynamite) – the cool origin of a pulp hero!
        4. SAGA (Image) – read it for some space fantasy thrills!
        3. ABE SAPIEN (Dark Horse) – the hero of this comic has gills!
        2. CATALYST COMIX (Dark Horse) – super-hero comic unlike the rest!
        1. PROPHET (Image) – space opera comic, one of the best!

        1. Nice list. I need to catch back up on Shadow:Year One. I liked the first few issues, then missed an issue and, well, you know how it goes . . . 🙂

    2. Did Suicide Risk pick up? I bought the first two issues because of Mike Casey, but wasn’t won over by the story. It wasn’t bad, only it wasn’t engaging enough to keep squeezing it into my pull list . . .

      1. I like SUICIDE RISK because, though the premise initially appears to be the story of an ordinary cop seeking justice in a world of super-villains, there is clearly more to this story and fictional world, and Mike Carey does an excellent job of slowly adding layers to the story in each issue, so that I am eager to see this world’s big “secret”. If you have a chance to check out the later issues, I do recommend it.

  2. What a fantastic list – I’m happily surprised to see Catalyst Comix listed (I thought I was the only person enjoying this series). While I don’t consider myself a huge Brandon Graham fan, I have enjoyed his work on Prophet and agree with you that this series has “future classic” written all over it.

    1. I always say Catalyst is prolly the most underrated comic out their right now. We are a small cult of believers but our belief is strong

  3. Pat, nice article as usual 🙂 I enjoyed reading about the series you choose, most of them I have never heard of. I’m gald you included Thumbprint. I picked up that book because the cover on the first issue looked really interesting to me and it ended up being a great mini. I want to read more Sledgehammer! I picked up lightning war #1 and really enjoyed it so I need to track down more.

    1. Yeah I haven’t actually have the first issue of Lightning Wars that I haven’t read yet. I found the second issue of the original mini to be very touching.

  4. Pat I have learned through experience it is foolish to ignore your recommendations so on that note I have sent this link to all my friends and family titled “Dean’s Christmas Wish List”

    1. Ahhhh thanks Dean. There is more where this coming from so prep your benefactors. I would say that comics 2-5 and 10 are the type of comics that any fan of the medium would dig. Your millage may vary on the others depending on personal preference. Then their is Prophet which is obviously a personal fave that I find amazing BUT you’ll prolly need to leave your expectations at the door because it’s literally like nothing else. Comic is pretty much Conan the Barbarian in Space and on Acid. Like I said millage may vary.

      1. Yeah I have read the first trade of Prophet and there is no doubt it is amazing. The first three issues had me hooked, then things started to get a little crazy…then I had no idea what was going on…then I finished the book. I always debate with myself whether I should get back on it, cause I know its good, I just have trouble caring when I have no idea what is going on. I did try to buy it all up on a comixology sale a while ago but I was half an hour too late, stupid Central Time Zone! Oh and I also started Astro City but ended up stalling after 4…not sure why, I will revisit that as well. Looking forward to more lists!

  5. I recently read the first 2 volumes of Prophet; it is the second most amazing sci Fi series after Nowhere Men. I was reluctant to read it after hearing how confusing it is but I just fell for it. It might be too early or it skipped by your radar, but the Samurai Jack comic is awesome as well. It’s the show in comic book form, which I wish was true of more cartoon comics. Anyway, solid list Pat. What I know of this books from word of month is proof enough they belong on here.

    1. Thanks dude. I was kind of like you where I read the first issue of the relaunch and didn’t get it but kept hearing about it so I read the first trade and was blown away. The scope and the way the art sort of drives the story is amazing. I def gotta check out Nowhere Men and Samurai Jack. I’ve been going back and reading OLD comics that I never read or finished ala Moore’s Swamp Thing, Steranko’s Fury, Simonson’s Thor, Sandman ect so that combined with some DFB stuff that I want to check out before the years over with has my plate full right now but I’m def gonna make time for those when I get a chance. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most and 1 being the least how close would you say Samurai Jack is to Lone Wolf and Cub?

      1. I can second the recommendation for Nowhere Men, it’s a really good series.

        One of my biggest realizations while watching that recent Superheroes documentary was “damn, I really need to read Steranko’s SHEILD stuff . . .” Does Marvel have that in a handy collection?

        1. Yeah they actually have all of it one which is nice because it was published in two different series (Strange Tales and Nick Fury Agent of Shield) Even from watching that Doc you can how influential his work on that was which is crazy thinking about how little actual content he created on it. Dude is amazing. And badass. I might romaticize this on some level but all those marvel dudes from late 60’s to the early 80’s were so fucking cool. Like Steranko riding harley’s and shit, Starlin tripping balls all the time exploring New York City for idea’s and Miller getting knifes pulled on him in the LES while going to CBGB’s. That sounds like the life right there.

          1. Thanks, Patrick, I’ll need to check it out sometime. I knew that Steranko was influential for a small body of work, but it was only while watching the documentary that I realized how distinctive his vision was. Didn’t he also have a three issue run on Captain America which is fondly remembered (and influenced Brubaker?).

      2. Yes Nowhere Men is very good! I have all the issues but on Wednesday I took a look at the trade in the LCS and it was incredible. It is so thick and it’s only $10! I couldn’t resist I picked it up. If you happen to take a look at it I think you will have a hard time not buying it.

        1. Hey, the1, now you can cash out on those first couple issues, which I’ve seen going for pretty high prices for something only a year old, though the release of the trade might drive ’em down a little . . .

      3. I’ve never read Lone Wolf and Cub so I couldn’t say, I just know if your a fan of the cartoon the SJ comic is prefect for you.

        Also you reminded me I need to finish Moore’s ST, I was reading them in order but my library is missing some of the middle volumes so I got stuck. Steranko’s Fury is something I’ve been wanting to read just for the art, which is pretty rare for me.

        1. I’m in the same boat regarding Moore’s Swamp Thing. I finally picked up the first three trades, devoured them, and it was as advertised–fucking brilliant. Now I just have to find the time and money to grab the last three.

        2. Never saw the cartoon but year I’ll check it out. Sterankos writing on those issues are actually really good as well especially considering the state of comic book writing in the late 60’s when the art was what really carried most of that stuff.

        3. Ah, the missing volume from the library problem, aka my excuse for not getting further than volume three of Hellboy. Need to fix that one of these days.

          Still need to read Moore’s Swamp Thing. Another project for 2014 . . .

            1. Portland, OR

              They also do InterLibrary Loans.

              They have some of the same problems with missing volumes, but they’ll usually try to replace them if informed of the gap.

              Bring your book bag!

              1. Portland is so heavy on Comics. With that and the Basketball love I would move their in a heart beat if the opportunity was available.

                1. Not only that, but some really cool creators shop at the LCS where I have my pull list. I’ve hung out at the counter and shot the sh!t with Kurt Busiek, taken a class on graphic novel writing at PSU from Brian Bendis (who I met at the store) and met lots of other artists, writers and cool people there.

  6. Good list, Patrick. I would quibble that Sandman is part of the mainline DCU, or at least was until Flashpoint (I’m guessing it’s Elseworlds now). But, hey, I’m not going to complain about more praise for the issue . . .

    Glad to see some love for Astro City, which I’ve really been enjoying. To be honest, Astro City has long been on my “Too Embarrassed to Admit I Never Read It List” so I’m only familiar with the new Vertigo stuff. Planning to finally rectify that situation in 2014.

    I’ve heard great things about what IDW has been doing with Godzilla, so I’ll keep an eye for that series you mentioned. I’m curious to read Prophet, and I will eventually, there’s just so much stuff out there competing for my time. That said, I’m bumping it up the priority list a little. Catalyst is sitting near the top of my to-read pile, waiting patiently (OK, it’s Joe Casey, maybe not so patiently :)).

    Quantum & Woody is great fun . . .

    1. Thanks man. I’ve read bit’s and pieces of the series past. All very good. With Sandman it was the only place I could think to put it but it really is in a class of it’s own.

  7. Great list Patrick! I haven’t checked out all of these, but the ones I have read (Conan, Sandman, Godzilla, and Prophet) are fantastic. I really want to grab Catalyst in trade when it comes out, I just don’t have room in my wallet to get the singles 😦 Eventually I’ll have to check out Quantum and Woody as well, because I’ve not read a single bad thing about it, and it looks pretty sweet.

    1. I think a lot of people are doing the same on Catalyst. In regards to Godzilla do you like Orc Stain? I haven’t read it but heard good things.

      1. Yes, Orc Stain is amazing! The release schedule is crazy-slow, but with art like Stokoe’s you can understand why–especially because he inks, colors, and letters it himself too I believe. You can get the first trade for a reasonable price on Amazon, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

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