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DID YOU READ

Our favorite comic book moments from 2011

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In a year that gave us big screen blockbusters like “Captain America,” “Thor,” “Green Lantern” and “Transformers,” sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and appreciate the medium where these stories got their start.

With the book officially closed on 2011, I and my fellow contributor, Matt Singer, thought we’d offer up what were some of the best things we saw in comics over the last twelve months. If you are behind on your monthly reads or trade/digital waiting any series, please be advised that there are significant spoilers ahead.


Aunt May Gets A Hug

From “Ultimate Fallout #1”

Let’s face it, at this point, the only truly sad thing about most comic book deaths is the degree of desperation on the part of comic book companies who try to drum up interest in their characters by killing them off. The death of the Ultimate Universe’s Peter Parker in the pages of “Ultimate Spider-Man” is this year’s one notable exception. You could reassure yourself after Peter’s death at the hands of the Green Goblin by reminding yourself that the “real” Spider-Man was still alive and well in the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man,” but that didn’t make writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley’s work in the pages of the follow-up mini-series “Ultimate Fallout” any less devastating. In the best scene — one that literally brought tears to my eyes — Peter’s Aunt May reluctantly attends a public funeral for Spider-Man. As she walks into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a little girl calls out to her. It turns out that Peter had saved this girl from a fire years earlier. If he hadn’t become Spider-Man — if he hadn’t made the same sort of heroic sacrifice that eventually took his life — she would be dead. She offers May a hug and they embrace. Aaaaaaand cue the embarrassing waterworks (“Oh, no, I’m not crying. No, it’s my allergies. Yes, in the dead of winter.”). I’ve been a die-hard Spider-Man fan my entire life and Bendis’ version of Peter Parker might be the best I’ve ever read. I’m going to miss reading his adventures. But it was worth losing him for a scene like that. – MS


A Cowboy in Gotham

From “All-Star Western #1

Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti had been writing the adventures of DC Western bounty hunter Jonah Hex for several years by the time they were handed the reins of “All-Star Western.” Plenty of their earlier Hex books are worth reading, but they really knocked it out of the park with this story, in which Hex comes to Gotham City in the late 1880s to solve a mystery and gets paired with an unlikely partner: criminal psychologist Amadeus Arkham (if you’ve played any Batman games on PS3 or Xbox lately, that name probably rings a bell). It’s an ingenious riff on Westerns and Holmesian detective fiction, with fittingly rough-hewn art by artist Moritat. DC cancelled all of their titles this year and replaced them with 52 new ones. Some were good, some were bad, some were great. Even though it’s set over a hundred years in the past, “All-Star Western” is one of the few that truly feels new. – MS


An Unexpected Sequel

From “Archie #627”

I love bad movies, and one of the best worst ones ever made is “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park,” a 1978 live action TV movie about the hottest band in the world and their poorly written, even-more-poorly acted battle with an evil amusement park inventor. Everything about “KISS Meets the Phantom” is bad. Even the stunt doubles are bad (unless the movie was made during a brief, otherwise undocumented period of time when Ace Frehley became a black man). This, of course, makes it sublime. Technically the new “Archie Meets KISS” comic isn’t a sequel to “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park,” but I’d be shocked if writer Alex Segura wasn’t a fan. Instead of a predictable storyline about the band playing a gig in Riverdale with Josie and the Pussycats or something, he concocted a story about the group getting accidentally summoned from another dimension by Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He even gave Gene “The Demon” Simmons “KISS Meets the Phantom”-tastic lines like “We can only slow them down. They have the DYNASTY AMULET!” There’s still a couple issues left to go in this crossover, but I’m already hanging on ever panel. A word of warning: if at some point in the story Space Ace is replaced for a page or two by an African American, my brain might explode. – MS


A Crossover Flies Under the Radar

In “Swamp Thing” and “Animal Man”

We can’t just pick one particular scene here, because different readers discovered this little bit of awesomeness one at different times. If you read “Swamp Thing” first, you discovered about the battle between The Green, The Red and The Rot alongside scientist Alec Holland. If you favor “Animal Man” on your pull list, you made your first journey into The Red with superhero Buddy Baker and his daughter Maxine. The crossover here by “Swamp Thing” writer Scott Snyder and “Animal Man” writer Jeff Lemire is so low-key that you don’t feel penalized if you only read one of the two books. But loyal readers of both were rewarded with an ultra-cool moment of realization when they discovered that these two books — two of the best of DC’s new universe — were covertly working together to lay the groundwork for what looks to be a massive and massively interesting storyline. I fully expect the payoff the wind up on our list of the best comic book moments of 2012. – MS


Meet the Mighty

From “Fear Itself #7”

It was probably inevitable from the moment in “Fear Itself #1” that the bad guys got their own versions of Thor’s enchanted hammer that the heroes would eventually get some badass Asgardian — “badasgardian” — weapons of their own. And they did, at last, in “Fear Itself #7, when Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Dr. Strange, received some much-needed Odin-infused armaments and became The Mighty. Admittedly, The Mighty’s role in the “Fear Itself” finale was mighty anti-climactic, and I’m afraid the other sweeping changes made here to the company’s continuity won’t even last a year (some didn’t even last through the end of the series: see the death and return of Bucky). But the sight of all those classic Marvel do-gooders decked out in Stuart Immonen-designed Asgardian finery made for perhaps the coolest visual of the year in super hero comics. – MS

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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