Comicon’s Most Progressive Comics Of 2020

by Erik Amaya

Welcome to Comicon.com’s Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of the strange year that was 2020. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Comic Series, 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: James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Cesareo Garasa, Rachel BellwoarScott Redmond, Tito James, Gary Catig, Tony Thornley, Richard Bruton, and Erik Amaya.

The following are Comicon’s Most Progressive Comics of 2020.

Most Progressive Comics of the Year (Fiction)

3. Wynd, published by Boom! Studios; written by James Tynion IV, drawn and colored by Michael Dialynas, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar

Wynd’s themes of oppression, intolerance and violence managed to resonate deeply in a year filled with deeply entrenched social and political instability. The titular character Wynd’s own insecurity in who he’ll grow up to become (monster or magic?) is a familiar growing pain, but even with that fear he’s confident and self-assured in one facet of himself: his sexuality.

His crush from afar on the royal gardener’s son, Thorn, is never treated as anything other than what it is: natural, if maybe a bit stalkerish. Meanwhile, the story of a land ruled by “Blood Laws” which make Wynd’s mere existence a crime punishable by death is uncomfortably closer to reality than we might care to admit.

The deadly Bandaged Man might be the symbol of prejudice and fear that hunts Wynd and all other magical creatures, but not even that can scare him from being true to himself. And in our current era of resentment politics, willful ignorance, and weaponized fear, that is a message which is not only important to remember, but absolutely essential.

— Cesareo Garasa

2. The Magic Fish, published by Random House Graphic; written and illustrated by Trung Le Nguyen, lettered by Patrick Crotty

Fairy tales can be powerful and in The Magic Fish, they serve as a common ground between Tien and his mother. The two speak different languages and approach the world very differently, making it hard for them to connect at times. This becomes problematic when Tien wants to come out to her, but fears how she might react — especially as he’s still figuring this out for himself. The Magic Fish is a stunning and powerful story about a young man finding himself and sharing that with those closest to him. It’s the kind of book that will help others going through similar situations for many years to come.

— James Ferguson

1. Superman Smashes the Klan, published by DC Comics; written by Gene Luen Yang, drawn and colored by Gurihiru, lettered by Janice Chaing

A delightful, innocent-looking mini-series which explores far more serious issues. While ostensibly based on an old Superman radio show from the mid-40’s (1946, to be exact), and dealing with the racism of a country who saw the Japanese as the enemy during WWII (and a pan-Asian prejudice dating back to the 1800s), there is something sad in it’s parallels to our own contemporary hate-filled society. In fact, it’s this very rise in right-wing thinking that was the impetus for this whole series by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru. A timely read done with the same sense of social justice and Golden Age innocence of early Action Comics. Like a mad manga/Fleischer Studios mash-up, but with much better Chinese representation.

— Olly MacNamee

Most Progressive Comics of the Year (Non-Fiction)

2. The Weight of Them by Noelle Stevenson, published on Gumroad

Continuing on from an idea embedded in an earlier comic, the former executive producer of She-Ra and the Princess of Powers goes into detail about their decision to go through with top surgery. In discussing the procedure, Stevenson goes a long way to normalizing it for those who may still question whether or not they want it for themselves; to say nothing of altering those unaware of what top surgery means. Stevenseon’s use of single-panel pages sensitively broaches body issues that while quite specific, become easy to empathize with. The confusion, endless self-doubt, and the broader issue of her gender — the say nothing of the way top surgery can be genderized itself — are all presented with a special talent. His cartooning is, all at once, disarming and loaded as she recounts years of thoughts and feelings. Then, finally, there is a moment of relief Stevenson shares with their audience even as it leads back to a question of gender which, for the moment, is answered by “yes.” It is a comic worth every dollar you choose to pay for it.

— Erik Amaya

1. Nova Graphica: A Graphic Anthology of Nova Scotia History, published by Conundrum Press. Contributors: Sara Spike, Rebecca Roher, Paul Hammond and Dusty Keleher, Colleen MacIsaac, Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes, Sarah Mangle, JJ Steeves, Laura Ķeniņš, Sarah Ziolkowska and Vanessa Lent, Rebecca Thomas and Rachel Hill, Jordyn Bochon, Veronica Post and Donald Calabrese. Edited by Laura Ķeniņš; Cover Art by Emma Fitzgerald

There are the stories everyone knows and then there are stories you didn’t even realize were stories. Nova Graphica is filled with the latter kind of tales, answering questions you might have never thought to ask — like why homes in Halifax’s Clayton Park have carports — and uncovering history in the process. Sometimes it’s a matter of widening the scope of a story that is known, like how Viola Desmond was arrested for not giving up her seat in a movie theater, in order to recognize everything else she accomplished during her lifetime. These stories aren’t just stuck in the past, either. All of the contributors in this anthology follow their stories to the present day to show how decisions made decades ago can still have a lasting impact. It’s an amazing collection and one for which you don’t need to be Canadian or from Nova Scotia to appreciate.

— Rachel Bellwoar

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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