40. STAR WARS: TAG & BINK EPISODE I: I often accuse George LucasJ'accuse!, I go. J'accuse!of no longer having a sense of humor (really, the novels, comics, and new films are almost devoid of the belly laughs we got from the original trilogy), but once in a while an authorized Star Wars tie-in comes along that reminds us of a grand sense of goofiness and fun before midichlorians came along. Sight gags, pop cultural references, and wacky guest appearances populate a continuity implant of the
39. ACTION COMICS: Thanks to an enthusiastic recommendation by Steven at The Roar of Comics, I started picking up Superman titles again for the first time since the Millennium Giants saga, and hoo boy, it's a good year to be a Superman fan: post-Infinite Crisis DC has done a wonderful refit on its flagship character and especially its longest-running title. The height of excitement, action and, yes, fun comes in Kurt Busiek's Auctioneer trilogy (#841-843), which portrayed the Man of Steel as a decisive, inspirational, and compassionate team leader: the Real Steel Deal.
38. ETERNALS: It'll never be considered one of Neil Gaiman's greatest works, but his modern twist on Jack Kirby's Marvel version of the Fourth World has been a delight to me this year for its intricate mysterious building action, the subtle and sublime artwork of John Romita, Jr., and its refusal to slavishly duplicate Kirby's artwork and storylines and instead set out in a new direction that's faithful to the original without being a carbon-copy. In other words, Eternals honors the King by bringing a new approach to some of his more outrageous characters. (Now bring us the conclusion, Neil 'n' John!)
37. FUTURAMA: I'm a big fan of the Bongo Comics line, which has the unenviable task of accurately capturing a couple of the most inventive and funny animated programs of the past several years. Though I dearly miss the TV series Futurama (and I've eagerly lookin' forward to new episodes in 2008), the Bongo Futurama comic often fills the gap with clever and funny new stories. The writers have the characters down pat: just read the pages and you can hear John DiMaggio's abrasive Bender in your head. None of the comics published this year was as innovative or inventive as 2003's Futurama #14 (which I'll get around to reviewin' one of these days as one of my most fun comics, ever), but they're still a consistent delight, and, thanks to HarperCollins's trade book republishing program, might actually be picking up some Futurama and Simpsons fans who have never read a comic book before.
36. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!: I'm not jus' sayin' this because Kicky Kevin Church gave me a signed copy ("Bully: stay in school!") of What Were They Thinking: Monster Mash-Up, but because there's few comics that actually made laugh out loud more than once this year, and both issues of WWTT reduced me to hearty guffaws and helpless giggles by uncannily targeting my wacky sense o' humor by re-dialoguing old comic books (or, as described on one of the covers, 'Keith Giffin & Company go nuts and change the word balloons on an old comic!') If your sense of humor is tickled by Mystery Science Theater 3000, or (does anybody remember this show?) Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection, you'll get a bucketful of larfs from these.
35. FANTASTIC FOUR: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY: This year, in their own book, Reed Richards built a stalag in an alien realm, Ben Grimm gave up fighting for what he thought was right and walked away, Sue Richards abandoned her children, and Johnny Storm made incest jokes. That's a good enough reason for me to run, not walk, as far away as possible from Fantastic Four. But the spirit and the energy of the true FF lives on in various miniseries and one-shots throughout the year, especially this oddly scheduled special which coulda been a regular issue but no doubt had to be shoveled into the schedule before Civil War rendered my favorite comic book family as a buncha jerks. A Death in the Family is a heartfelt and touching adventure of Johnny refusing to let a silly thing like time stop him from saving his sister's life. Solid action, great characterization, and most of all, the FF behave like family who love and respect each other. Strike the regular Fantastic Four book off the Bully-canon and put this one up there, because in my little button eyes, this is the real FF. Accept no substitutes.
34. RUNAWAY COMICS: Mark Martin's gleefully inventive Runaway Comics heralded his return to floppies this year, and oh boy, how I've missed him. The many who draws the most frantic and cutest baby animals since Walt Kelly (I want him to draw the Bully comic book someday, please!) gave us two issues in 2006 chock-full of more fun than most series manage in 12 issues. Gran'paw, Carrie Nation, Montgomery Wart, and the Yeah Butt! What more do you want from comics?
33. I HEART MARVEL: WEB OF ROMANCE #1: Despite my dislike of Civil War, I haven't objected as much to how it's affected Spider-Man: I've enjoyed the new stories and situations that Peter's joining the Avengers and his public unmasking have provided (although it's starting to get to the point where you wonder: how on earth can Marvel continue this story without undoing it?) I've especially been intrigued by the concept of Peter's friendship with Tony StarkStark filling a role of mentor and supporter that Pete's been missing since the death of Uncle Ben (which makes the eventual betrayal even more poignant). It's also a storyline that gives us such the lovely and loving portrayal of Pete and Mary Jane in I Heart Marvel: Web of Romance, as Peter struggles to find the perfect Valentine's Day gift for his red-headed reason for living. Points off for signaling the end of the story so early into it, but still a wonderful fun and touching tale and absolute proof against arguments that you can't write good stories about a married Spider-Man.
32. BATMAN/THE SPIRIT: This teaser to Darwyn Cooke's relaunch of Will Eisner's The Spirit series merges the world, the heroes, the supporting characters and the villains of the worlds of Bruce Wayne and Denny Colt virtually seamlessly, and most of that's due to the utter light touch with which the story's treated: although his Batman's grim and focused, Jeph Loeb doesn't sacrifice fun for grittiness. Critics of this one-shot complained it doesn't fit into continuity (Catwoman's in her new uniform while Babs Gordon is walking), but they're missing the point: that it's so freakin' cool to see P'Gell ensnare Commissioner Gordon, the Spirit scolding Batman with "You sure like telling other people what to do!" and a final confrontation that relies on the oldest switcharoo in the book, but it's pitch-perfect and beautifully illustrated. I'm a Spirit fan from way back, so I didn't have a problem recognizing his rogue's gallery as some readers did, but in the end it really didn't matter: gorgeous art, solid action, and a story that is everything a fun comic should be without taking itself too seriously.
31. FRANKLIN RICHARDS: SON OF A GENIUS: If you've read one Franklin Richards story in any of the several specials throughout 2006, you've kinda read 'em all, but that doesn't stop 'em from being silly, goofy, happy adventures of the mischievous son of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman and his pet robot: a characterization that's so pitch-perfect it really ought to be integrated into the mainstream Marvel Universeadventurous and sneaky Franklin running wild is a lot more interesting than Earth-616 Franklin, who usually spends his appearances sniffling or cowering. Give the kid some spice! As usual, I'd rank this series a lot higher if Chris Eliopoulios's art wasn't so clearly derivative of Calvin and Hobbesevolve the style in a more original direction and this could've been in my top ten. (Also, mega-bonus points off for wasting a huge percentage of the Thanksgiving Special on that needless and stupid Marvel/Guiding Light crossover comicone of the worst bait-and-switches of 2006, and worse, a pointless and futile marketing ploy directed at the wrong end of the intended market.)
Can there possibly be more? Yes! Bully's Fun Fifty for 2006 continues tomorrow with #30-21!