January 6th, 2014 at 10:17 pm

Appreciating 2013

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In some ways, 2013 was the same old thing for the comics world –

We lost more irreplaceable people, perhaps none more so than Kim Thompson. Among other notables, though hardly all of them: Carmine Infantino, Bill Fugate, Stan Lynde, Nick Cardy, Al Plastino, Dan Adkins, Joe Manley – heartbreakers all.

Male creators who didn’t have the excuse of being morons continued to sexually harass women just as guys in comics (and the rest of the arts and, hell, everywhere else) have been doing for years, but this year a few of them were called out in public instead of just being whispered about through the grapevine. The ensuing outrage, followed by inadequate apologies that sparked additional disgust, may have finally put present and future offenders on notice that at least in our corner of the world, this isn’t going to be tolerated. Nobody wants to hear these stories, but let’s hope we’re seeing the beginning of the end of such stories being suppressed for fear of reprisal.

“Adorable,” after several years of persistence, became the single most irritatingly overused word online. Toughen up, you saps.

And ostensibly grown men continued to chase normal people away from comment sections with tedious, vicious arguments over who was the better writer, Jack Kirby or Stan Lee. Here, let me settle this issue once and for all:

But this is a personal appreciation of the year just passed, so let’s get to that before the new one gets any older. And, of course, before the werewolves get here.

For me, 2013 was pretty darned successful, what The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon described as “a quietly major year” in which a lot of hard work paid off in a lot of personally satisfying ways.

The Kings in Disguise sequel, On the Ropes, was published in the spring to reviews that were almost unanimously favorable. I’ll admit that I was a little surprised by the fact that more major newspapers, magazines and general-interest websites reviewed it than the regular comics press – though those industry-centric sites and blogs that did respond were, as the man said, cherce; I’ll take phrases like “masterpiece” and “truly epic” any day of the year. There were also some sharp and incisive interviews on both sides of the comics border, possibly the best being a lengthy interview conducted by Spurgeon (though he had some stiff competition there, and I’m grateful to every one of them).

It was worth the years of work that went into the creation; if it didn’t change my outlier status among most of the stuff that’s out there these days, it’s nonetheless a piece of work of which I’m particularly proud – both for my collaborator Dan Burr and myself – and I believe that in years to come it may equal the reputation Kings has come to enjoy since it first appeared a quarter of a century ago.

And of course, Reed Waller and I finished Omaha. I’d felt a huge sense of relief when I completed my last page of that story, but it was nothing compared to the mix of emotions that came when I finally held the published book – the knowledge that I’d kept the most important promise I’ve ever made.

It was richly fulfilling to hear of the welcome Reed received in San Diego; longtime fans were thrilled to see him, and I heard of one who hugged him and thanked him for Omaha having made it possible for them to come to terms with their own sexuality…not the kind of reception most comics artists usually get (or earn), I think. It apparently hasn’t sunk in on the community that Reed announced that the conclusion of Omaha signals his retirement from comics. I hope someone picks up the cue in the months to come and shows him the appreciation he deserves for having created and completed what Johanna Draper Carlson called his “significant, consuming achievement.”

Not to drag out every little thing I did this year, but one smaller gig gave me particular pleasure. Denis Kitchen, my first comics publisher and the man who gave Kings in Disguise a chance when no other company would, returned to publishing in 2013 and I was asked to write an introductory essay for the first book to be released under his imprint. That was The Best of Comix Book, reprinting a big chunk of the not-quite-underground-not-quite-mainstream magazine Denis produced for Marvel back in the 1970s. It was a hoot revisiting that old material, and a pleasure to interview contributors Trina Robbins, Kim Deitch, Howard Cruse and Justin Green for the essay. Denis and his partner, designer John Lind, turned out a gorgeous volume that I’m proud to be a part of. And I’m pleased to note that I’ll be doing similar duty with a new project slated to appear late this year or early in 2015.

Finally, I was honored with an invitation to speak at the opening of the Billy Ireland museum at Ohio State University in November. The talk was part of a panel about Will Eisner on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of A Contract with God – that’s me doing that very thing in the photo above, courtesy of Jared Gardner – and I think it’s safe to say that we pulled it off.

It was one of those occasions when you’re in distinguished company from morning to night, and – to repeat myself – you’re honored just by having been asked to attend. I spent the week walking around starry-eyed at all the legendary work on display in the museum and managed to make new friends and re-engage with talented people I hadn’t seen in years.

In short, despite the several years I’ve spent working quietly on major projects, 2013 was the year when I truly came back. Thanks, 2013, and thanks to all the people who extended generosity and support as the year unfolded.

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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