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The 2020 411 Comic Book Awards Winners

January 27, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Batman: Three Jokers Comic Book Continuity

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last week we discussed our 2020 411mania Comic Book Award Nominations Here’s what some of you had to say:

Elia Notari “Don’t care about the big two, I’m just here to see some good recommendations from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom etc…”

Galactic Breakdown: “My favorites from what I’ve been reading this year, honestly I’d love to include The Next Batman & Yara Flor from Future State but they just made it out this month. If anyone is interested in Future State, those two books & Dark Detective are phenomenal! Superman of Metropolis is fun too, Future State has really impressed me… I was incredibly disinterested with the idea of it.
Best Big Two Publisher: DC (I like the Omniverse concept)
Best Independent Publisher: Image
Best Writer: Chip Zdarksy (Daredevil, Stillwater), Al Ewing (We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, SWORD, Empyre), Donny Cates (Venom, King In Black, Thor, Crossover) Johnathan Hickman (X-Men), Ed Brubaker (Pulp)
Best Artists: Daniel Warren Johnston (Wonder Woman: Dead Earth), Nic Klein (Thor), Liam Sharp (Green Lantern Season Two), Steve Skroce (Post Americana), Dan Mora (various, Once & Future, Dark Detective/Detective Comics), Jorge Jimenez (Batman), Peach Momoka (various Marvel/DC/other cover artist), James Stokoe (Batman Annual, Joker War Zone)
Best Event: Dark Knights Death Metal, X of Swords, Joker War
Best Book: Ongoing: Commanders in Crisis (Image), Thor (Marvel), Daredevil (Marvel), X-Men (Marvel), Batman (DC)
Standalone/Mini-Series: Wonder Woman: Dead Earth (DC Black Label), Three Jokers (DC Black Label), Dracula Motherf*cker! (Image), Pulp (Image), Dollhouse Family (DC/Hill House)
Best Hero: Kid Cable (X of Swords, Cable, X-Men), Apocalypse (X of Swords), Wonder Woman (Dead Earth, Death Metal), Jason Todd/Red Hood (Three Jokers), Cyclops (X-Men)
Best Villain: Joker (Three Jokers/Batman: Joker War), Robin King (Dark Knights Death Metal), Punchline (Joker War), Mr. Sinister (Hellions, X-Men family), Lady Saturynne (Excalibur, X of Swords) Genesis/Four Horsemen/Swordbearers of Arakko (X of Swords), Donald Blake (Thor)

Ken Wood: “Unfortunately, I am not even remotely caught up on new stuff. I have read the first issue of Three Jokers and it’s off to a really good start.I have the first 10 volumes of Dawn of X and volume one of Hellions and X-Men/Fantastic Four. But I’m a bit behind on my reading right now. I’m almost through the end of 2019…
I do have X of Swords on order but it just got pushed back to the end of February. I also am considering picking up Empyre.
So I look forward to seeing everyone’s suggestions as to what I might read in the future.”

Noodle: “I was about to fill out my nominees but 90% of the categories could be answered with “Daredevil” so, yeah….everyone should read Daredevil.”

Kyatollah: “I’m interested to see how this plays out. I’ve dabbled with other books here and there, but the only series that have kept my attention the entire year have been Miles Morales: Spider-Man and IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

So many great comments! Big thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts!

This week we celebrate the…

2020 411mania Comic Book Awards

Next time someone tells you comic books are dying, send them this column. While the industry continues to evolve, something it is always doing, we’re getting some of the best art and stories on a consistent basis. This is a celebration of the industry and be sure to share your favorites down below. 

Yes, it was a wild, weird year for comic books but from adversity comes opportunity and we’ve seen plenty of creative teams rise to the challenge. Let’s jump right in…

Best Big Two Publisher: DC
In an unpredictable year, DC managed to provide some big headlines, big movies, and some solid output. DC shook the comic book industry when they announced that they would no longer be using Diamond Distributors as part of their strategy to strengthen the Direct Market and open up to new readers.
DC had 4 characters who celebrated their 80th (!!!) anniversary, that being Robin, The Joker; Catwoman; and the Green Lantern, and celebrated by giving each a nifty one-shot.
They expanded the Black Label imprint, a line of books designed to appeal to a more mature audience, with projects by Tom King such as Strange Adventures and Rorschach, Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, and The Other History of the DC Universe by John Ridley.
We got The Three Jokers by Geoff Johns and the rumored 5G/Generation Five project was put to rest with the concepts finding a new home in the Future Slate storyline. Along those lines, the next era of the DC Universe was announced, that being Infinite Frontier. 2020 was a banner year for DC.

Best Independent Publisher: AfterShock ComicsEasily, EASILY, the hardest category of them all. If you’re not aware, the Independent comic book scene has never been better when it comes to art and story. When it came down to picking just ONE company I had to judge it between Titan Comics, IDW, Valiant, Dynamite, Dark Horse, Boom!, Image, Alerna…I could name a couple dozen and still miss a bunch. All have books that I’d put up against anything the Big Two are doing. But when it comes to the one that stands out, I have to go with AfterShock Comics. 
They put out some of the most interesting and diverse selections to choose from. Animosity, Babyteeth, Unholy Grail, The Normals, Rough Riders, Pestilence, American Monster, Betrothed, Brothers, Dracul, Captain Kid, Jackpot!…the list goes on and on. Head over to their site and check out the goods. On a regular basis, AfterShock is putting out gems that need to be read by more people!

Best Writer: Al Ewing
Thanks to some incredibly solid work on books like Empyre #1-6, Empyre: Avengers #0, Empyre Aftermath: Avengers #1, Guardians of the Galaxy, Immortal She-Hulk, Immortal Hulk, and S.W.O.R.D., Al Ewing has shown he’s a player on the big stage. Empyre was surprisingly great for those who have event fatigue and kept me entertained throughout. Definitely pick up any book that carries his name because he has a handle on what makes characters work and keeps the pace moving. 

Best Artist: Jason Fabok*Strictly off Three Jokers, I give the nod to Jason Fabok BUT the asterisk goes to colorist Brad Anderson, who gave Fabok’s pencils depth and clarity that stood out on a very busy stage. The book was not only one of the best looking Batman books but one of the best looking books period, further enriching the story spawn within. Clear and detailed, it was a marvel to view. 

Best Event: Dark Nights: METAL I enjoyed Empyre but really enjoyed Dark Nights: Metal. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo breathed new life into “events” and gave a story that felt important and made a change in the existing universe. When the Justice League and Earth’s heroes find themselves invaded by the Dark Multiverse, things look grim, especially when the Batman Who Laughs is shown to be the mastermind. Entertaining and opens up a world of possibilities…which we are still seeing. 

Best Book: Stealth
I know this may seem like an “out there” pick but Stealth by Mike Costa and Nate Bellegarde is brilliant in its ability to pull you in and make you care. For decades, Stealth has waged war on crime in Detroit, but it seems he’s now taking his pursuit of justice too far. Only reporter Tony Barber knows that behind Stealth’s reckless behavior is an older man battling Alzheimer’s…his father. A father unwilling to accept that he’s no longer the hero this city needs… with enemies all too eager to force his retirement. I cannot praise this book enough and is a prime example of the power comic books have to inspire emotion and grip you to your core. 

Best Hero: Superman
An easy pick? Maybe but the Man of Steel gets the nod off of Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru, and Janice Chiang. Just when you think all the great Superman stories have been told, you get a reminder that his timeless popularity opens up a world of adventures. This book is an adaptation of the 1946 Superman radio show storyline “The Clan of the Fiery Cross” and you get a story that balances the setting and mood of the past with today’s social climate we find ourselves in. A story that is perfect for young and old, new fan or long time reader, it celebrates and showcases all that is good about Superman.  

Best Villain: Batman Who Laughs
2 years in a row! There’s something about this character that captures what a good villain should be. A memorable look and unpredictable yet dangerous attitude, Batman Who Laughs is a character whose best days are in front of him. And that should make every hero in the DC universe very afraid. 

Best Comeback: Daredevil
I’m not saying Daredevil really left but if you are behind on Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil/Matt Murdock, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Not only is he writing a future classic storyline, he’s given new life to the character and his cast. And let us not forget his Wilson Fisk may be the best version yet. The risks are higher but so are the rewards. 
The artwork on the book has been stellar, thanks to Jorge Fornes and Marco Checchetto, giving us one of the most distinctive comic books on the stands. Catch up and find out what all the (deserved) hype is about. 

2021 Will Be Their Year: Venom
As popular as the character has been, I still see him becoming even larger. Credit has to go to the creative team of Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin, and Clayton Cowles. Not only has the Venom book been heading to bigger things, with King in Black, readers are front row to something epic. Cates ability to layer and bridge Venom’s history is impressive and I can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for the character. 

Something to Make You Think: Billionaire Island
Billionaire Island by Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry, and Rob Steen takes a simple concept and makes it work better than you’d expect. I mean, a book about the world’s richest people who build themselves a private island to live on while they wait out the end of the world. It’s a wild ride that will frustrate you while shaking your head with laughter.

The “Really? His book is great?” Award: Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen
Another second year winner and, again, YES, this book is really great.

Best Single Issue: Immortal Hulk #33Celebrating 750 ISSUES of the INCREDIBLE H%LKTM! Something is wrong. Something has compromised the simulacrum. EXTRA-SIZE HULK-SM&SHING ACTIONTM! Banner is refusing to yield. Something is wrong. PL#S! ENTER – THE THOUGHTFUL MAN! Something is wrong. Something is wrong. Something is wrong.
Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, and crew present a 750th anniversary special that will entertain you like no other. 

5 Books That Might Be Under Your Radar But Shouldn’t Be
Once and Future 
Fire Power 
A Gift for a Ghost
Ice Cream Man Presents: Quarantine Comix
Give them a try and see what you’re missing. 

Tired of Superheroes? Check This Book Out!: The Butcher of Paris
While there is so much to pick over when it comes to not superhero stuff, The Butcher of Paris is an intriguing read from Stephanie Phillips, Dean Kotz, Jason Wordie and team told over four issues. It tells the tale of a World War II serial killer largely from a French private detective’s view. Based on a true story, it’s one that will stick with you long after you put it down. 

Favorite X-Book: Hellions
As much as I like the usual, familiar lineups when it comes to the X-Men, I like the books that take another path and pluck from the rich offerings the mutants offer. Nanny, Orphanmaker, Wild Child, Havok, Psylocke, John Greycrow, Empath, and Mister Sinister…yeah, I’m interested. Zeb Wells, Stephen Segovia, Carmen Carnero and the rest bring it when it comes to both funny and heart. Keep it coming folks.

More From This Creative Team Please: N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennett
Have you read Far Sector? If you have, this makes all the sense in the world. If you haven’t, go and grab it. Come from the literary world, Jemisin brings fresh perspective to comic books and the art team delivers amazing art page after page. Green Lantern Sojourner Mullein is stationed on the farthest space sector in the Universe and what transpires is a thing of beauty in words and appearance. If you are avoiding the Big 2 because you think they don’t have anything new to offer, Far Sector is your wake up call. Keep this creative team together as long as possible because it’s magic. 

Book That I Think You Should Give a Chance But You Probably Won’t: DC’s Shadow of the Batgirl
Sarah Kuhn and Nicole Goux come together to give us a fun book to read that encompasses why most of us love reading comic books. 

The “2020 Was Tough But At Least I Won’t Look Silly in 2021, Right?”: New Look Spider-Man
For obvious reasons. 

Look, there are no losers in a thing like this. Like I said, there is so much quality out there that anyone can find something that’s going to speak to them. Share your picks below and see you at the comic book shop!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!