Comicon’s 7 Best OGNs of 2019
by Erik Amaya
Welcome to Comicon.com’s Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of 2019. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Comic Series,Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Single Comic Issues, Best Writers, Best Artists, Best Cover Artists, Best Colorists, Best Letterers, Best Digital/Webcomics, and Most Progressive Comics.
Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards this year include: Brendan Allen, James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Noah Sharma, Rachel Bellwoar, Tito James, Tony Thornley, Richard Bruton, and Erik Amaya.
The following are Comicon’s 7 Best Original Graphic Novels of 2019.
7. Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter, published by Hachette, written by Jean-Yes Ferri, drawn and colored by Didier Conrad
It’s always a pleasure whenever a new edition of Asterix comes out, and this time round was no exception. And although Asterix will forever live in a small Gaulish village fending off the might of the Roman Empire in 50 BC, he’s finally come into the 21st century with this humorous tale of teenage tantrums and, finally, female representation that’s a bit more in touch with modern practices. But only a bit. Asterix still ends up saving the day, mind you. But, as any father of a teenage daughter can attest, it’s a scenario totally relatable as the Chieftian’s daughter, Adrenalin, sends Asterix, Obelix and the whole damn village on a merry dance in trying to tame her and keep her on lockdown. Needless to say, she has a nose for trouble and hilarity ensues as a result. Another fine edition to the canon and faithfully illustrated in the appropriate, distinct style by Didier Conrad from a Jean-Yes Ferri script. C’es magnifique.
— Olly MacNamee
6. Dear Justice League, published by DC Comics, written by Michael Northrup, drawn by Gustavo Duarte, colored by Marcelo Maiolo, and lettered by Wes Abbott
I’ve never written a fan letter, but if I had the option to email Superman or Wonder Woman, that might change. Dear Justice League has a number of kids turning to the heroes of the DC Universe for advice on everything from what to do when you’ve made a mistake to how to celebrate your birthday. Ranging from humorous to thought-provoking, writer Michael Northrop shows a unique and fallible version of the Justice League; humanizing even the godlike heroes by showing them in a new light. Artist Gustavo Duarte is the perfect fit for this, bringing a beautiful and expressive style to these characters that amplifies the humor and the themes throughout. Although this is part of DC Kids, it’s very much for all ages.
— James Ferguson
5. Polar: The Kaiser Falls, published by Dark Horse Comics, written, illustrated, and lettered by Victor Santos
Hot off his own Netflix Original movie, you’d think it’d be the perfect time for the Black Kaiser to retire. Well not if the next generation of freelance assassins has anything to say about it. Minimalistic color choices, creative paneling, non-verbal storytelling, and gory action all blend seamlessly to deliver a satisfying final chapter in the Polar saga. Whether you’re new to Polar or are a longtime fan, The Kaiser Falls is a must-read.
— Tito W. James
4. Penny Nichols, published by IDW/Top Shelf, written by MK Reed and Greg Means, drawn by Matt Wiegle
There are always going to be people looking to tear you down in life, which makes it all the more important that you seek out the people that don’t. No graphic novel embodies that carpe diem spirit more than Penny Nichols. After agreeing to help her sister man her drink booth at a health expo, Penny is just looking to get through the event in one piece. Instead she meets Bobert and Sam, who are making a horror movie, and eagerly solicit her help with the project. Penny doesn’t know horror. She doesn’t have filmmaking experience, but after their conversation she decides to give their offer a shot and realizes filmmaking is something she can get excited about. Reed, Means, and Wiegle have a wonderful understanding of human nature and the enthusiasm their characters have for their work is inspiring — in a put a fire under your own pants sort of way. Take chances, follow your dreams, and surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy, because it’s not easy and Penny Nichols doesn’t shy away from the effort involved, but it can be done.
— Rachel Bellwoar
3. Superman of Smallville, published by DC Comics, written by Art Baltazar and Franco, drawn, colored and lettered by Art Baltazar
How do you do something new with an 80 year old character? Art Baltazar and Franco do just that with Superman of Smallville — showing a new, fun side to the Last Son of Krypton as part of DC Kids. We know that Kal-El was raised as Clark Kent by his adopted parents, but what kind of trouble did he get in when he was figuring out his powers? How did he transition from Superboy to Superman? How did he explain Krypto to his mom and dad? These are the ideas explored in this graphic novel that is an absolute joy to read from beginning to end. The artwork is just the right amount of cartoony, adding to the fun of the story, showing that even the Man of Steel doesn’t have all the answers, but that’s OK.
— James Ferguson
2. They Called Us Enemy, published by IDW/Top Shelf, written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, drawn by Harmony Becker, and lettered by Gilberto Lazcano
Many fans know George Takei from his role as Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek series. In They Called Us Enemy, Takei shares his memories of being sent to a Japanese internment camp with his mother, father, and younger siblings, Henry and Nancy. George was putting up Christmas decorations with his family when the news came over the radio that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. From that moment forward life became increasingly restrictive for Japanese Americans in America until, one day, the Takeis were forced to leave their home and belongings behind. Takei has spoken about his experiences before and Becker portrays him at various talks that he has given. What They Called Us Enemy amplifies is the difference between George’s memories of what happened and what he’s come to realize about those years as an adult. Able to provide a historical context that he wouldn’t have had when he was four, a child’s perspective is a powerful thing and, especially in light of what’s been going on at the Mexican-US border (with children being kept in cages and separated from their parents), Takei’s story has a fresh urgency.
— Rachel Bellwoar
1. BTTM FDRS, published by Fantagraphics, written by Ezra Claytan Daniels, drawn, colored and lettered by Ben Passmore
It’s not easy to write any graphic novel, but Ezra Claytan Daniels did it back-to-back in 2018 and 2019 and they were both terrific –and each one grabbing a spot on our list! This time he takes us on a weird, funny, sometimes horrifying journey into the heart of that strange old building in the bad part of town in BTTM FDRS.
Darla doesn’t want to be another trust fund artist, so she’s gone back to the family’s old stomping grounds in the Bottomyards and rented herself an apartment. It’s hard enough to get an artistic career oﬀ the ground and navigate the complex politics of gentrification and opportunistic land lords, but there’s something else in the building, something that wants to own Darla and her friends.
Brilliantly brought to life by Ben Passmore’s art, BTTM FDRS is fun and bizarre in all the right ways, but it never gets away from the serious issues at the heart of its story. Identity, gentrification, and the battles over black identity are central to this wild horror-comedy. It’s a very different vintage from Upgrade Soul, buoyed as it is by Passmore’s unique story-sense and bubblegum colors, but there’s no denying that this book is razor sharp and joyously fun.
— Noah Rohan Sharma