Comicon’s Most Progressive Comics 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 Most Progressive Comics of 2019.

 

Most Progressive Comics of the Year (Fiction)

4. Mooncakes, published by Lion Forge/Roar, written by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu drawn by Wendy Xu, and lettered by Joamette Gil.

Mooncakes is simply enchanting. It is a magical tale of a young witch and a werewolf in a world where magic co-exists with the mundane. Yet the magic is completely secondary to the actual story here — a fabulously old-fashioned love story.

In one way, Mooncakes is far from progressive, telling a tale of youth and relationships, the struggles to find love, the difficulty of just being yourself. But it’s that normality that makes this a perfect example of how something can be progressive, where queerness and outsider status is simply an element of something more.

Here, the characters are defined by their personalities rather than sexuality. It plays a relationship tale so well —  a reunion of childhood crushes who find each other once more and dance around what their newfound and obvious attraction might become — and all while having to deal with all the magical stuff.

In Mooncakes, Walker and Xu let the art carry a lot of the storytelling weight, allowing the dialogue to be more natural. That’s why it works so well. It’s a love story that merely masquerades as a magical adventure. And it’s all the better that this good old-fashioned love story is played as such with its queer leads.

— Richard Bruton

3. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #7, published by Marvel Comics, written by Tom Taylor, drawn by Ken Lashley, colored by Paul Mounts, and lettered by Cory Petit

Every so often people get upset that there’s too much politics in comics, forgetting that at one point Captain America punched Hitler right in the face. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #7 presents a thought-provoking look at issues like homelessness and healthcare through the lens of a super hero story. It’s an eye-opening read from writer Tom Taylor, artist Ken Lashley, colorist Nolan Woodard, and letterer Travis Lanham, presenting these issues in such a way that you realize something has to be done about them. It can drive you to action in a powerful way. If you get this upset by the hoops a cancer patient has to jump through in order to get treatment in the Marvel Universe, imagine how furious you’ll be when you realize this happens every day in our world.

— James Ferguson

2. Prodigy, published by Image Comics, written by Mark Millar, drawn by Rafael Albuquerque, colored by Marcelo Maiolo, and lettered by Peter Doherty

Edison Crane is an African American protagonist who’s physically capable, intelligent, and has sex appeal. There’s no mask or costume to hide the fact that he’s black and race isn’t a plot concern. We are seeing a rise of more black characters than ever in comics. Prodigy is an unapologetic black power fantasy and sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

— Tito W. James

1. BTTM FDRS, published by Fantagraphics, written by Ezra Claytan Daniels, drawn, and colored by Ben Passmore

Home is where you plant your roots, but what if something’s already planted there first? In BTTM FDRS, that’s not the only thing concerning about Darla’s new place in the Bottomyards. There are strange men blocking the door to her apartment and her landlord thinks he can make her see that cable beats a washing machine (never mind that Darla doesn’t own a TV). Darla doesn’t have to imagine things to be afraid of – they’re staring her right in the face. Yet what’s great about Daniels and Passmore’s graphic novel (and there are many things great about it) is that readers have their pick of scares, both real and imagined. Stomach churning moments of body horror stand side by side with scenes confronting major social issues like gentrification and racial prejudice (and they’re not always mutually exclusive either). Horror can be a way of getting at the truth and BTTM FDRS does that in spades. If the truth is scary, all the more reason to grapple with it.

— Rachel Bellwoar

Most Progressive Comics of the Year (Non-Fiction)

2. Gender Queer, published by Lion Forge, written and drawn by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer was undoubtedly one of the bravest books we saw this year. A mix of coming of age, body acceptance, personal growth, and understanding who you are perfectly, heartrendingly, told by Maia Kobabe.

Struggling with gender from an early age, Kobabe is unflinchingly open and honest, delivering something informative without ever being preachy; something that could and should be present in every library of every school, such is its potential to speak to other young people struggling with their own gender identity. It might be something as seemingly inconsequential as leg hair, or something as complex and terrifying as coming out, but it’s all covered in Gender Queer, with style, skill, honesty, and true bravery.

And despite being full of moments of heartache, it’s also a book that gives the reader hope, empathy, and sheer joy. We loved everything of Gender Queer — the lightness of tone in the art, the strength of what it says, and how it says it, it’s positive, it’s powerful, it’s honest, and it’s oh so brave.

— Richard Bruton

1. 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

They Called Us Enemy is so disarming because, in the face of the adversity George Takei and his family faced while herded into camps by the US government, there is so much joy in his recollections of his childhood. The dissonance between the crime being perpetrated upon Japanese Americans during World War II and Takei’s recollections of fun and adventure within the camps are no doubt part of the point. But as you get caught up in his story’s strange element of American can-do-ism, the narrative breaks and an older Takei appears with righteous fury about what happened to him. Then it hits you with heartbreaking passages like his father’s decision to leave a campaign office later in his life because Eleanor Roosevelt (First Lady at the time of the camps) plans to visit or Takei’s observation that many members of his parents’ generation just flat out refused to talk about those years. In all of the episodes, though, is the intensely personal feeling Takei and his collaborators convey. It is one thing to learn about the Japanese American internment (a word we dislike using because it sounds too clean) in a short history class unit, but it is an entirely different thing to see one person’s memories of it vividly recreated in the comic book medium. And while it is too late to prevent history from repeating itself, They Called Us Enemy is an incredible and impactful testament of one of the country’s most shameful actions.

— Erik Amaya

Erik Amaya

Host of Tread Perilously and a Film/TV Writer at Comicon.com and Rotten Tomatoes. A former staff writer at CBR and Bleeding Cool, and a contributing writer at Fanbase Press and Monkeys Fighting Robots. Voice of Puppet Tommy on The Room Responds. A seeker of the Seastone Chair and the owner of a Legion Flight Ring. Sorted into Gryffindor, which came as some surprise.

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