BTB Awards: Best Convention

This was, in all honesty, about the toughest category that we’ve had to face in the process of putting these awards together. Before launching Moon earlier this year, Steve and I’s experience with comic cons could at best be described as “limited” and the past 12 months have been something of a culture shock. We’ve had some great experiences and some not-so-great ones (though it should be said that on the whole it has been almost entirely positive). The UK convention scene is incredibly varied and knowing how to go about ranking these events has proven to be something of a challenge. The two events that we’ve chosen to recognise are about as far apart as its possible to get but in their own ways I think they both demonstrate some of the best aspects of what conventions have to offer.

Winner – Thought Bubble

Thought Bubble is a week long sequential art festival which is held in Leeds every year. The comic con portion of the event runs for two days across two convention halls. Very much a fan run convention rather than a commercial venture, Thought Bubble focuses on the artistic aspects of comic books and tends to lean more towards Indy books and UK publishers. That isn’t to say that TB lacks big name creators, this year saw appearances from the likes of Gail Simone (Batgirl, Secret Six), Kieron Gillen (Uncanny X-Men) and Adam Hughes (Catwoman).

The odd thing about our love for Thought Bubble is that we very nearly didn’t go. Beyond The Bunker is London based and while that’s great most of the time (I can actually see the Excel Centre from my window) it means that trekking up to Leeds for a weekend is quite an expensive venture. They say that publishing Indy comics isn’t about the money and, while that’s true to an extent, it’s also true that you only get to print your next comic if you make a profit on the last one. Blowing a chunk of our summer’s profits on an adventure up north seemed like a risky play so close to the print bill for Moon #2.

In the end what convinced us to take the plunge was the astounding amount of goodwill towards the con that flowed from almost every creator we met. At every con we visited we bumped into people who raved about Thought Bubble at every opportunity and, having now attended it ourselves, I can see that they were exactly right to do so.

Me holding down the fort in between sprinting into town for more change

What makes Thought Bubble so good is the way it flawlessly balances scale with intimacy. At two days in length and two halls in size, Thought Bubble is just as big as its London counterparts and its guest list is easily as impressive (more so in many cases as the London cons tend to focus on film and tv guests). You could quite happily skip every other con and walk away from TB with a comprehensive convention experience. At the same time though, the event still feels like an intimate social experience where you share a pint with the creators, attend panels on niche subjects and discover a range of incredible Indy books. It is this combination of size and soul that make Thought Bubble such a joy to attend both as an exhibitor and a fan and it’s a worthy winner for this award.

Runner Up – Kapow!

At the other end of the scale lies our runner up, Kapow! The Mark Millar backed mega-con held its debut event this past April at the Business Design Centre and promised to bring the San Diego experience to the UK.

Kapow certainly lacks the intimacy of Thought Bubble. It is (by its own admission) entirely focused on big names and big companies with small creators offered almost nothing in the way of incentives to attend. But what it lacks in small town charm it makes up for in raw star power and polish. With the likes of John Romita Jr, Frank Quitely and Jonathan Ross in attendance as well as booths for several major publishers and studios, Kapow absolutely delivered on its promise to provide something new. While many cons this year had a great atmosphere, nothing could match the sheer excitement and electricity that permitted the air at Kapow.

Kapow 2011 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London

Sure, there were teething troubles – a somewhat unbalanced guest and badly managed queues succeeded in putting a few noses out of joint – but given how ambitious the project was, these are perhaps acceptable niggles for a first show.The thing that Kapow really shares with Thought Bubble is in how vocal its supporters are. While there seems to be no shortage of people who were happy to write off the con in absentia, I have yet to meet somebody who attended it and didn’t have a great time. Much like its surrogate father, Mark Millar’s convention isn’t subtle but it sure as hell kicks ass.

Check back tomorrow for another BTB award!

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Stan Lee Awards 2011 (part 2)

We’re back for the second part of our speculation on the 2011 Stan Lee Awards. Yesterday we covered the first six categories, but there are still six more to get through, so let’s get to it!

Best Comic Hero

Scott Pilgrim

Iron Man

Green Lantern

Batman

Ok so this is a straight out fanboy race. It just depends on who is voting. I found myself casting my vote for Pilgrim because I felt bad about not plugging for him in the movie category and I have a feeling that I may not be alone in that thought process. If I had to pick an outsider I think I’d go for Green Lantern, he’s got a movie coming out and Blackest Night was a pretty big deal but seriously, who really likes Hal Jordan? Really? You’re lying.

BTB Pick for Best Comic Hero - Scott Pilgrim

Best Newcomer

Nick Spencer

Rob Guillory

Kieron Gillen

Jonathan Ross

The newcomer category paints a rather rosy picture about the future of comics and there is some quite wonderful work to be seen if you look up any of the names you see here. Obviously the big name power of Jonathan Ross gives him a bit of an edge when it comes to casual fans, but to be fair on the guy Turf is one hell of a first book and the fact that he’s willing to put his name on the line to support initiatives like Clint shows that he’s far more serious about comics than some might think.

Kieron Gillen’s work on the critically acclaimed SWORD gives him a pretty good shot but I think I’m going to have to go out on a limb and give it to Rob Guillory. Chew is one of my favorite new books and Guillory’s art is absolutely central to what makes it so good. His skill at combining the horrible and the hilarious have impressed me since the first page of that book and it’d be great to see him pull in a big award like this for his work.

BTB Pick for Best Newcomer - Rob Guillory

Best Publisher

Image

Marvel

DC

Vertigo

Image has had a hell of year in so many regards. As the big two have struggled to keep hold of readers, Image has seen its readership go from strength to strength as it leads the pack of smaller publishers chasing up behind the big dogs. The decision to embrace day and date digital distribution with books like Walking Dead was, to my mind, a master stroke. It puts Image clearly at the front of the digital revolution of comics and makes DC and Marvel seem sluggish by comparison. Yes, the big two still have more fans and so in a public vote, a smaller publisher will always struggle to overcome them, but it’s far from the certainty it would have been a couple of years ago. This could well be the year that DC and Marvel get their rears handed to them by the Indys and in honesty it could be the best thing to happen to them in years. Nothing breeds creativity like competition and for that reason I really hope Image walks away with this one.

BTB Pick for Best Publisher - Image

Best TV Show

Misfits

Boardwalk Empire

The Walking Dead

Doctor Who

I’m inclined to lean towards Dr Who on this one because it’s the only one that I’ve had a chance to really get into watching but I know how much Steve adores Misfits so I’ll place our official Bunker seal of approval with them. Realistically I think Dr Who probably has too big and too passionate a fan base to allow the other nominees a look in and, to be fair, Matt Smith is a bloody good Doctor. But it would be nice to see Misfits pull off the upset.

I have absolutely no idea why Boardwalk Empire is on this list. It looks amazing, sure. But why is it being nominated for an award at a comic book convention? I guess while it’s been a great year for geek movies, it’s been somewhat less of one for geek TV.

BTB Pick for Best TV Show - Misfits

Best Game or Toy

Red Dead Redemption

Halo: Reach

NBA 2K11

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Gotta feel a bit sorry for NBA 2K11 in this category, I’m pretty sure that the people who frequent the Kapow website aren’t the sort of people who play a tonne of Basketball games. I don’t mean to question the game’s quality, it might be fantastic, but I wouldn’t know because I’m the sort of person that frequents the Kapow website.

Honestly I think Red Dead will probably take this one. It was hands down one of the best games of last year and was one of the only things to put any kind of dent in my near religious World of Warcraft schedule. Reach has a fantastic (if clichéd as hell) story but you can see pretty much everything that’s worth seeing in the game in about a day. Black Ops is the heavy hitter of the pack in terms of sales and it does have a hardcore base of fans, but Red Dead is just a better game with a more mainstream appeal.

BTB Pick for Best Game or Toy - Red Dead Redemption

Man or Woman of the Year

Matthew Vaughn

Stan Lee

Robert Kirkman

Joe Quesada

Mark Millar may feel awkward about being nominated in his own awards ceremony but it seems Stan Lee has no such qualms and why not, eh? In actuality, Stan the Man has actually had a pretty influential year and probably does warrant a place on this list beyond the usual “because he’s Stan Lee!” ones. His work with Boom Studios on the “Stan Lee Presents” line has produced some really good work and helped to highlight that while Stan’s writing style may seem a little dated nowadays, as a pure ideas man he really is still one of the best in the business. I have a feeling that he may well walk away with this one largely because of the aforementioned “because he’s Stan Lee!” reason, but if he does then it’ll be a relatively well deserved win.

Vaughn is the clear outsider here for me. Kick Ass was a major event and the fact that Kapow attendees are likely to be fans of that film will probably help his chances a bit, but he’s just not the comic book powerhouse that the others are. X-Men First Class hasn’t been receiving a warm reception from comics fans as of late and while he thoroughly deserves his spot in the nominees list, I just don’t see him pulling off a win.

Were it not a public poll then I’d put my money on Quesada. Whatever you may think of some of his editorial decisions there’s no denying that he made Marvel what it is today and since he’s stepping down this year, it’s probably a good time for an award of some kind to recognise that.

Kirkman would be a fantastic winner for me. 2010/11 really was the year of digital comics and next to Mark Millar himself, he’s probably about the biggest creator in that particular arena. Throw in the Walking Dead TV series and it’s been a pretty solid year. I’d hesitate to put money on him winning, but I’d go nuts if he did.

BTB Pick for Man or Woman of The Year - Stan Lee

Well that’s the lot of them. We’re very curious to know what you dear bunkerites (do you want to be called bunkerites? I think you want to be called bunkerites) think of the list, so please do jump on the comments section and let us know your hot tips so that we can all be proved wrong together when Ant and Dec are announced as winners.

Excelsior!

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Stan Lee Awards 2011 (part 1)

Mark Millar’s been playing his Kapow cards pretty close to his chest in recent weeks in preparation for next Monday’s promised mega announcement about the convention. But at least there’s at least one bit of news that we won’t have to wait until the 14th for: the Stan Lee Award nominations are here!

The Stans are a new award, created for Kapow that are designed to celebrate mainstream comics in all their glory. While the Eisners have traditionally championed lesser known books and creators, the Stans have their sights set firmly on the mass market. Abstract comics about the plight of Spanish chair makers can be extremely good, but you won’t find them anywhere on this list. Nor indeed will you find anything by Millar himself as, being the organiser of the awards, he’s chosen to remove himself from the nominations list.

The list of people responsible for nominating attests to this mainstream quality as well. A quick scan of the publications that participated will bring up names like IGN, Empire, The News of The World (insert phone tapping joke here) and Forbidden Planet. Seth Rogan even makes an appearance to help add some star power to the list.

So we know what they are, now let’s dig into the nominations themselves:

Best Writer

Brian Michael Bendis

Robert Kirkman

Grant Morrison

Garth Ennis

We said it was a list for big names and you don’t get much bigger than some of the names here. Bendis and Morrison are pretty much Marvel and DC’s respective frontmen at the moment so you it’s a pretty good indication of where the rest of the list is going. Not that this is a bad thing, there’s a reason that these guys are big names. I think it’s a shame to see Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning missing out on a nod as their work on Marvel’s cosmic books has been superb, but I guess you can’t have all your favs there.

My heart is with Kirkman on this as I’m a massive fan of the Walking Dead, but if I were a betting man then I think the smart money would have to be on Morrison. Batman Inc may not be everyone’s cup of bat-tea but there’s no denying that his run with the character has been nothing short of monumental. Plus he killed My Chemical Romance, which is bound to score him a few votes.

I’d have to peg Bendis as an outsider in this race. Marvel’s top guy has given us some cool moments over the last twelve months but I’m hard pressed to think of anything that really lives up to the best stuff we’ve seen from him in the past. That said, he remains the king of banter and Bendis off form is still better than most writers at their best, so don’t count him out too early.

Ennis? I think he may just be a bit too indy for this award. I’d like to be proven wrong but I think you’d be taking a chance betting on the Preacher’s horse.

BTB pick for Best Writer - Grant Morrison

Best Artist

JH Williams III

Steve McNiven

Duncan Fegredo

John Romita Jr.

McNiven is flat out one of my favorite artists and his work on Old Man Logan is frankly breath-taking, however I have a feeling that Kick Ass is going to come through and win it for Romita. If it does go that way then it’ll be well deserved. Kick Ass is, to my mind, Romita’s best work and it’s a true example of a book where you honestly couldn’t imagine another artist taking it on. Old Man Logan is amazing but it’s hard to bet against a man when a character he designed is on the side of every bus in the western hemisphere.

Interestingly Fegredo’s nomination makes it two nominations for he and Jonathan Ross’s Turf, an impressive feat for a relatively small book.

Edit – Ducan Fegredo is, of course, the current artist on Hellboy and not Turf. That honour belongs to Tommy Lee Edwards. I shall now go read Ultimates 3 six times as penance for the error.

BTB Pick: Best Artist - John Romita Jr.

Best Series

The Walking Dead

Batman & Robin

Avengers

Batman Inc.

Well with two nominations in one category, you’ve got to favour Morrison here, but I have a feeling that Walking Dead may just sneak it. Batman and Robin has been fantastic this year but a lot of people are still having a little trouble buying Dick Grayson as the caped crusader and the lack of jumping on points for new readers could hurt the series chances. Add into that the fact that the awards are being decided by an online poll and you have to give the edge to the web darling that is Kirkman’s zombie-opus.

Batman Inc surprised me a little bit with its nomination here. It’s groundbreaking for sure, but it’s also pulled a lot of flak for being too similar to some of Morrison’s earlier work on X-Men and I’m surprised to see it edging out books like Secret Avengers and Invincible Iron Man.

Avengers sells a lot of books, but I suspect that most of those sales are to people who, like me, just want to stay abreast of what’s happening in the Marvel universe. It consistently pulls in the lowest ratings from critics of all the Avengers titles and, while it’s an entertaining read, I just don’t see it competing with the other nominees in this category.

BTB Pick for Best Series - The Walking Dead

Best Superhero or SciFi Movie

Scott Pilgim

Kick-Ass

Inception

Iron Man 2

I was really surprised when I looked at this list because I’d honestly forgotten just how good a year it’s been for comic book movies. I’d happily see any one of these walk off with a prize but I have a feeling that three of the contenders are going to resent the “SciFi” part of the category title. Simply put, Inception is just in a different class to its rivals here. As awesome as the other three are, Chris Nolan’s masterpiece simply outshines them. Heck it outshines pretty much every movie of any type released this year.

Again though, Internet fans can be a strange bunch and I wouldn’t put it past a hardcore contingent of Pilgrim or Kick-Ass fans to get together and pull off a coup. Not that that would be a terrible thing. Inception is set to clean house at the Oscars and has already made more money than the gdp of a small country, in the face of that it might be nice to see a true comic book movie take the prize.

 

BTB Pick for best film - Inception

Best Trade

Sweet Tooth Vol.1

Dark X-Men

Fantastic Four – Solve Everything

Blackest Night

It’s hard to see anything edging out Blackest Night in this category. Dark X-Men has a decent slice of fans but on the whole I think that Blackest Night is just too high profile to overcome. That said, Blackest Night could run into problems due the fact that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense by itself and relies on you buying two or three other trades in order to get the whole story (seriously DC, would it kill you to just do a Messiah Complex and organize the issues by when they happen rather than by which book they happened in?) but ultimately I think it’ll take it. To be fair on Blackest Night, it’s one of the better crossovers in recent years so I think it’s fair that it pulls some recognition.

Sweet Tooth is a great book but it doesn’t have the fanbase to win a poll like this. Bet on it only if you’re feeling very lucky.

BTB Pick for Best Trade - Blackest Night

Best Limited Series or Story Arc

Batman & Robin Must Die

Avengers Prime

Dr. Strange

Brightest Day

I’ve been reading a lot of praise for Dr Strange as of late, but I really can’t see anything on this list which I’d consider a serious challenger to Batman & Robin Must Die. Morrison’s reworking of the Dynamic Duo has just been issue upon issue of solid gold and this arc is no exception.

Brightest Day does have its moments and I wouldn’t put it past a few hardcore fans to try and throw a spanner into the works here, but ultimately I think the title’s just been a bit too hit and miss. Let’s face it, 52 it ain’t.

BTB Pick for Best Story Arc - Batman & Robin Must Die

That’s all for today. Pop back tomorrow for the rest of the list and more hot tips from your chums in the Bunker.

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