Sunday, January 7, 2007

Looking To The Stars: The Fifth Annual Starry Awards

The Golden Globes. Mr. Blackwell’s Best & Worst Dressed List. And now (once again), it is time for The Starry Awards. Because it’s just not the start of a new year, without us yammering about the best and worst of last year.

In any case, welcome to what has become a yearly staple of the Comics Nexus: The Starry Awards for Excellence and Disgrace in Comics Writing.

Hey everyone. Tim Stevens here, once again. I just wanted to remind you all that, apart from making sure this wasn’t one big libelous rant about why Judd Winick is the Anti-Christ, the editorial team of Comics Nexus had nothing whatsoever to do with these awards.

As such, we do not endorse or believe in “Starman” Matt Morrison or anything he writes. In fact, we’re not sure just how his work keeps getting published here. So, we apologize in advance for… everything.

Of course it has been pointed out that the comic industry already has the Eisners, the Harveys, the Eagles and the Wizard Awards. Why on Earth 2 then, these alleged people ask, do we need another damned award?

Because it was this or a follow-up interview with Monkey Woman?

The Starry Awards were started so that I, the ever humble author of this column, might dispense awards to those I felt were most worthy of praise or damnation based on their works in the past year.

Which would be great except, and Mathan asked me to point this out, he hasn’t actually read any comics from the last year.

The Starries name ten stories in total. Stories, for the purpose of this award, can be single or multiple issues of one book or multiple books relating to one plot-line. The Starries are based solely upon the personal opinions of Matt “Starman” Morrison and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else.

That’s the truth, for once! Send all complaints to We don’t want to hear it!

Five Staries are awarded to stories which, more than any other stories this year, made me stand up and cheer, burst into tears or just stopped me in the middle of reading to say “This is damn good stuff.” Five Staries are awarded (if you can call it that) to stories that, for some reason, I found disappointing. Stories that left me feeling that a mark had been missed and missed badly. Some of them are stories that, in fact, I think are just plain terrible.

That said: Here are the winners and losers!

The Best of 2006

Best Moment All Year: The Thin Green Line
(As taken from Infinite Crisis #7)

Infinite Crisis offered a lot for the die-hard DC Comics fan to be excited about. There were many “geek-out” moments – things that happen that just make you pause and think about how sometimes, a comic book can do something cool that just wouldn’t work in any other media. And when you get right down to it, that’s what Infinite Crisis ultimately was – a love letter to the genre in all of its’ goofy coolness.

But for my money, nothing matched the sheer coolness of the sight of all 7200 (give or take a few) Green Lanterns, under the command of Guy Gardner, making a green wall hundreds of miles thick in order to slow down the out of control Superboy Prime and the ensuing battle as three Supermen of three generations dog fight through a Kryptonite asteroid belt before plunging into the heart of a red sun before falling onto Mogo, The Living Planet.

Perhaps some filmmaker could replicate that image, but I doubt it.

Funniest Read All Year:The Thing #1

I may have to start giving this book to whichever book Dan Slott is writing on any given year, because a trend does seem to be establishing itself in these awards. Regardless, no one can argue that whatever else can be said about this far-too short-lived series, is that it always delivered the laughs.

Case in point; in the very first issue, we are given the summary of where Ben Grimm’s life stands through the oldest of clichés – a man reading the newspaper out-loud. We are told of how, thanks to the events in Fantastic Four, Ben has wound up becoming filthy, stinking rich, has his own penthouse apartment and is dating a supermodel/actress.

And who is it that is telling us this? Peter Parker, reading the newspaper and mumbling about how unbelievable it is that a common man – an ordinary guy like Ben Grimm - should be living in an ivory tower with a gorgeous woman attached to him...

... as Mary Jane asks him what’s wrong with supermodel/actresses and Jarvis – Iron Man’s butler (for Peter and family were living with Tony Stark at this time) - asks Master Parker if breakfast is satisfactory.

In that moment, Slott lets we the fans know that he is one of us and that he is well aware of the silliness of not just his book, but of Marvel Comics itself. And that as much as the likes of Warren Ellis and Mark Millar may preen about serious art and making a statement, it’s all about having fun. At least, it should be.

Best Team-Up:Green Arrow/Green Lantern

2005 saw the return of Hal Jordan to the DC Universe. And, not surprisingly, 2006 saw the return of the original Emerald Allies to active duty alongside one another.

While there was no major storyline or mini-series that united these two old comrades, apart from a two-part story in Green Lantern where the two joined forces to fight Mongul and thwart his plot to harvest enough of the dreaded Black Mercy planet to disable all of Earth’s superheroes, they still managed to pair up quite a few times.

As the universe teetered on the brink of destruction in Infinite Crisis, the two quipped about the upcoming baseball season and made plans for the next week – so confident were they that this wasn’t really ‘The End of The World’.

As One Year Later opened, the two met – now mayor and ex-POW respectively, to talk of how the world had changed and themselves with it.

In 52 they teamed with their other allies to take on a strange cult obsessed with the resurrection of dead superheroes.

And in Justice League of America, a torch was passed as Hal and Ollie met briefly... as Hal came to pick up his semi-nephew Roy Harper for a mission while leaving his best friend at home to babysit in a moment that was both comedic and touching.

Of course none of their pairings came close to equaling their original glorious team-up, back in the olden days of the O’Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow book. But then again, what could? It was still a treat, however briefly, to see two best friends united again in fighting the good fight across several titles..

Best Make Over: The Green Lantern Corps.

I came into comics at a time not too long after The Corps had died, but I still remembered, vaguely of one comic book – one of the few my mother had ever allowed me to have – that we bought while in the middle of moving when I was five. It was a Green Lantern book – and I got to see all of these weird and unusual alien Lanterns. And while I couldn’t make out all the words, I still thought the sight of all those creatures was very cool.

This year saw The Green Lantern Corps restored after a decade of absence in the DC Universe. They had a successful mini-series, followed by the start of their own title and numerous cameos both in the Hal Jordan centered Green Lantern title as well as the mini-series Ion and Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage, to say nothing of their universe-shaking appearance in Infinite Crisis. I am glad to note that time has not hurt the concept at all, and while most of these new Lanterns are rookies, the concept is still just as cool to me as when I was the five-year old boy who still thought Green Lantern was just some smiling guy with brown curly hair.

Best Retro Tale: Doctor Strange: Blood Oath

There have been very few stories coming out of Marvel Comics of late that haven’t been tied in, in some fashion, to their big Civil War storyline. There are fewer still that evoke the classic Marvel feel and have not required an encyclopedic amount of knowledge regarding some fairly obscure characters.

Trust Brian K. Vaughn to write a series that manages the neat trick of being both a wonderful introduction and a treat for the seasoned Marvel Comics aficionado. Though incomplete at the time of this writing, Blood Oath has been a splendid, no-fuss introduction to a Dr. Strange; a character who, despite a number of recent cameos, seems little used in the modern Marvel Universe. It has also been a masterful Doctor Strange tale in and of itself and proof that a regular and engaging Dr. Strange series is not only possible, but necessary.

The Worst of 2006

Most Likely To Cause Continuity Robots Heads To Explode:Civil War and All Its’ Tie-Ins

I haven’t followed ever single book that is a part of Civil War but it would be inaccurate to say that creating a timeline of the events of Civil War is difficult. It is in fact, impossible.

I’m sure the boys over at Marvel News and Views could give you a complete list, but my personal “What the-“ moment came when I realized that we have two different incidents that show Sue Richards leaving her husband under entirely different circumstances.

In Civil War, we see her quietly leaving in the middle of the night after fulfilling her wifely duties (i.e cooking a big dinner and giving her husband a good shagging). In Fantastic Four, she leaves in an explosion of psychokinetic force-field power after trying and failing to talk with her husband about her concerns with his plans and effectively saying “Screw this. Screw you. I’m gone.”

Now, I don’t think that either of these portrayals really fits the character of Sue Richards. I think it’s unlikely that under any circumstance, much less the two depicted in the comics, that she would leave her children in the care of the man that she is leaving for being, to quote Eddie Izzard, “a fascist dickhead”. Regardless, I think it can be agreed that this kind of continuity conflict would not happen were the editorial team not asleep at the wheel. Or at the very least making sure that stories make sense instead of delivering edicts about how this story is Important Art on The Colbert Report.

The “What The Hell Just Happened?” Award: New Avengers

I tried to keep reading this book. Really, I did. But sometime during the end of the Sentry reintroduction and sometimes before they brought in Warbird it just became harder to keep track of what was going on. Or, at the very least, it became harder for me to care what was going on.

The “I Waited For This?!?!” Award:Civil War

I was going to give this award to All-Star Batman and Robin until I realized that they didn’t actually have an issue come out in the last year, making it ineligible.

So instead, we dishonor Civil War, whose delays slowed not only its’ own story, but the entire Marvel Comics line as they refused to release certain books – which might otherwise have spoiled the Civil War story-line – in a timely manner.

Worst Makeover of the Year: Spider-Man

This award is not just for the much-hated Iron Spider costume, but for the general change in Peter Parker’s character in the last year. Once he was one of the smartest and most independent of heroes in the Marvel Universe. But Peter was transformed into a jabbering idiot line-walker in the wake of Civil War, with his new suit apparently also suppressing his common sense.

Does it seem at all likely to anyone out there that Peter Parker – the man who has, because of his powers, endured more pain, suffering and general aggravation from the general public because of who he is and what he does would ever willingly reveal his identity on national television?

Given how much his life has been screwed with by the few villains who DO know who he really is, does anyone really think Peter would out himself to the public knowing that now he’d have to worry about every single punk in a costume with a grudge or something to prove going after his family?

Do you really think that Peter would honestly NOT think about the consequences and worry himself to the point of developing another ulcer about it?

Do you really think that Peter would ever go along with the crowd and become a yes-man for Tony Stark for as long as he did? The same man who eschewed numerous team memberships over the years for the simple reason that he worried about being tied down to a group and not being able to pick and choose his battles?

Do you really think that Peter, even after getting smacked down by Iron Man, could be taken out by the likes of Jester and Jack O’Lantern?

Like Mark Millar’s 12-part Spider-Man series from a few years ago, the character of Peter Parker as depicted in Civil War only works if you accept that Peter Parker is - at best - incompetent and overly naive or - at worst – stupid but incredibly lucky.

This portrayal of the character flies in the face of years or character development and tradition. And while this kind of paradigm shift can, at times, create a compelling and interesting story, all this has managed to create is one big unreadable mess.

The Worst Comic Of the Year Award: How to Make Money Like a Porn Star

Pornography seemed to be on the mind of many an irate comics fan this year. But while feminist and conservative comic-fans alike groused over Alan Moore’s attempt at intellectual pornography with his book Lost Girls, this book seems to have fallen under the radar of many comic book critics. Thank Heaven for small favors.

Having read this book at my local Barnes and Noble (my local comic book shop refused to carry it), I find myself reluctant to give it any press - even bad press. Still, I can say in all honest that this was not only the worst book I have read this year – it is the worst comic I have ever read.

To call this graphic novel terrible is to deny myself the chance to use words such as “misogynistic”, “putrid” and “unfunny”. It is, to quote Dorothy Parker, “not a book to be set aside lightly… It should be thrown with great force.”

Written by Neil Strauss, who is perhaps best known for assisting rock stars such as Tommy Lee and Marilyn Manson in penning their autobiographies, How to Make Money Like a Porn Star is reportedly meant to be a satire. Specifically, it is a satire of Strauss’ recent work with Jenna Jameson - How to Make Love Like A Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale.

Now, I have not read any of Strauss’ previous work but two things are apparent to me regarding Strauss’s training as a writer. First, he was never told that self-parody is not something attempted lightly. Secondly, he was never taught that satire is meant to be funny.

The story as told here is depicted in far too cartoonish a manner to be taken seriously as an indictment of the porn industry and is far too violent to be taken as a dark comedy. While there is probably a very funny, twisted story to be told about the dark side of the porn industry, this is not that story. So take Unca Starman’s advice – do not give in to curiosity and allow yourself to read this book. Because unlike your average Jenna Jameson video, this book has nothing of interest and no educational value whatsoever.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.


  1. There was another poor continuity moment the likes of the Sue Richards one you mentioned above. Just last week, The Punisher's story differs wildly from Civil War to War Journal. It's essentially the same events just put into a blender and rearranged. I found it particularly annoying as I read them back to back so that the continuity bloopers were fresh on my mind.

  2. Yes, I've heard of quite a few incidents. There was another one this week (which I didn't mention because it was THIS week and not last) but the events of how Spider-Man hooks up with The Resistance are completely different in Amazing Spider-Man and Civil War.
    Civil War - Peter has a spur-of-the-moment fight with Tony, gets his butt kicked, escapes as the idiot guards shoot out the glass Peter couldn't break with his spider-strength. Peter runs through the sewers, is jumped by Jester and Jack O'Lantern and then gets saved by The Punisher, who carries Peter to Cap's hideout.
    Amazing Spider-Man - Peter is caught in the act of sneaking out after making sure Aunt May and Mary Jane get out of Tony's building first and making a plan to regroup. Tony tries to take Peter out with a command he programed into Peter's armor but - surprise - Peter was prepared and reprogamed the armor to override Tony's commands. He escapes while Tony is stunned, goes into hiding with Aunt May and Mary Jane in a hotel for a day or so, breaks into a TV Studio to send a message to the public about how he's changing sides and spilling the beans on the secret prisons. Cap sees the TV broadcast, gets Johnny Storm to send Peter a message (big fire spider in the sky and the words 'Meet me') and Peter agrees to join Cap's team after a neat speech where Captain American quotes Mark Twain and sounds damn cool.

  3. Sadly I also skimmed the Porn Star "book" in a book store. And my brain still hasn't forgiven me...

  4. This just reinforces why I stopped reading comics, thanks. :)