It’s time to announce the annual Comics Industry Person of the Year, as voted on by industry peers. This is the person who moved the needle, made a difference and inspired others, and as you can see from the list of past winners at the bottom of this post, it’s a selection that our voters have always taken seriously.
In the past there have been some tight races.
This year it wasn’t even CLOSE.
Person of the Year: EMIL FERRIS
Emil Ferris and her astounding graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters were the runaway winner for this year’s honor. Not only is her book a masterpiece of style – fusing art and writing to recreate a child’s world with stunning and beautiful detail and emotion – but Ferris’s own personal story is as inspiring as they come. Recovering from partial paralysis, she embarked on her first graphic novel as a way to teach herself to draw again. Her appearances on the convention circuit this year were also SRO affairs, and as a first time graphic novelist after a career in design an dillustration, she proved that achievement can come at any age.
It was a fairy tale story for Ferris this year, and contacted by The Beat, she was more amazed than anything at her win.
“Thank you! I don’t really have any words. Frankly, I’m gobsmacked!
“It’s kind of astounding to experience this much… well, for want of a better word … RECEPTION.
“The kindness of people in comics is completely amazing.
“Sure, folks quibble – like siblings – but there is a great deal of real respect and affection that people have for each other in this (Profession? Discipline? Calling? Tragically Addictive Joyloop AKA Comics)”
The respect and affection voters had for Ferris was immense:
– “Emil Ferris–a perfect example that the best comics can now come from anywhere. She’s not a scenester, not an old pro, not a young turk with boundless energy–a lifelong artist who turns to comics and turns them upside down so perfectly that her first long work is accepted immediately as showing a TRUE understanding of the medium. Plus a great, inspiring speaker.”
– “EMIL FERRIS, who definitely had a banner year in 2017 with the publication of her first graphic novel, My Favorite Thing is Monsters. And if anyone deserves the kind of crazy success she’s had with that incredible book, it’s Ms. Ferris, who struggled to overcome tremendous physical and personal challenges just to be able to draw it. And turns out: in person she’s funny, she’s nice, and she’s genuinely appreciative that the comics community has embraced her and her work.”
– “Emil Ferris: a woman who burst on the scene, relatively unknown, with a stunning book that has exploded like a supernova, getting attention from nearly every major media outlet, making every year’s best list. This is the future of comics: new voices, coming from unexpected sources.”
– “Emil Ferris. Her debut book is amazing, and hopefully presents an excellent counterpoint to the Adrian Tomine myth of alternative comics that authors should make a splash as teenagers, rather than spend their lives honing their craft to make something truly special.”
– “Emil Ferris. I haven’t seen a graphic novel this universally praised, by all corners, the way My Favorite Thing Is Monsters was in quite some time. That her real-life story is an utter inspiration for both overcoming adversity and the potential of late-blooming creativity is an incredible additive to the mark she made on 2017 in comics.”
– Emil Ferris. She came out of nowhere with a book for the ages.”
Team of the Year: THE WHISTLEBLOWERS
Another group that got a lot of support: the women and journalists who bravely spoke out against sexual harassment and ended one of the industry’s most shameful pages. There’s a lot more work to be done, and we owe all these people our support and respect. We need to listen to victims, believe them and take the appropriate action.
– “Liz Gehrlein Marsham, Janelle Asselin, Joan Hilty and the other anonymous people who came forward about Berganza and Jay Edidin for helping tell their story. They have made comics safer for all of us.”
– “Jay Edidin broke the story they’ve been working on for years and years, and when they did it was professional, accurate, sourced and meaningful. I’m grateful they were able to do what nobody else could – it’s helped lead to change in the comics industry, and I’m equally relieved and inspired by it.”
– “Colleen Doran and others, for speaking truth to the “Lalalala I’m not listening” ears of power for so long.”
Writer of the Year: TOM KING
While women dominated the comics industry creatively in 2017, the male contribution was recognized with the excellent work done by Tom King, who shredded 2017 with Mister Miracle, Batman and, unexpectedly, Elmer Fudd. Mister Miracle’s depiction of depression was also a powerful message to demystify this common condition.
– “Tom King has parlayed his critical and commercial successes on Omega Men and The Vision into a creative empire in 2017. His Batman run hit its stride and Mister Miracle is an early frontrunner for best comic of 2018.”
– “Bringing Batman to new heights and breathing new life into Kirby’s Fourth World with Mister Miracle. Marvel dropped the ball by not managing to keep King after he completed his Vision book. A sorely needed shot of new blood into the industry.”
– “He’s proven he can succeed with properties both big and small, and he’s the heir apparent for the biggest writer in comics. I welcome his ascent.”
– “Tom King. Holy hell, is he having a run on Batman. Even his Batman/Elmer Fudd crossover is an instant classic.”
Publisher of the Year: C. SPIKE TROTMAN
A repeat from last year, C. Spike Trotman’s mastery of crowdfunding, social media and picking quality projects made her the Publisher of the Year – including publishing As The Crow Flies, one of the year’s best books, and raising more than a quarter million dollars for the Complete Girls With Slingshots. In a comics industry with multiple revenue streams, Trotman is a powerhouse who looks to the future.
– “@Iron_Spike. Finding an extremely lucrative market beyond the traditional distribution methods, and really growing in content and prominence.”
– “Spike is doing what every comic book publisher is too scared to do.”
– “She’s had a phenomenal year, as she continues to redefine “mainstream” comics publishing, and has quietly turned Iron Circus into one of the fastest growing, most innovative publishing houses around.”
This year we want to present a couple of EXTRA awards:
Icon Award: ANNIE KOYAMA
(Photo by Santiago Garcia)
One person always gets support among voters, but never quite enough to top the poll, but she’s clearly one of the industry VIPs, as well as one of its most beloved figures. Annie Koyama continue to be a model of ethical but profitable publishing, she the books she put out from GG, Eleanor Davis, Keiler Roberts and Connor Willumsen were among the year’s best. She’s what the industry should be.
– “Annie Koyama. Her table at SPX was nothing but stellar debuts that embodied the cross section of wonderful artists she works with and supports with her publishing. It was impressive to see the entire new season displayed like that, with no backlist on the table.”
Most Underrated: GINA GAGLIANO
Photo by Jody Culkin
One person was singled out as someone who doesn’t get enough attention and we have to agree; First Second’s Gina Gagliano is one of the key people in the industry, and doesn’t get NEARLY enough credit for everything she’s pioneered and continues to do. Gina isn’t the kind to shine the spotlight on herself, so I’ll do it for her: take a bow!
– “Gina Gagliano – It is tough to narrow this down, but again I have to give credit to someone who I feel has had a huge hand in the success of a lot of graphic novels and creators: Gina Gagliano, the marketing and publicity manager for First Second Books.”
– “Gina Gagliano for Person of the Year. Every year that goes by that she isn’t talked about for all the infrastructure she has built that the rest of us are hanging onto for dear life is a crime. If it wasn’t for the work Gina has done with libraries, schools and the book trade, a solid chunk of the industry would be stuck waiting tables and moving back in with mom. She has been blazing a trail for years, she’s got an open door to help anyone in comics who needs it (regardless of who they work for or whether they would help her in return), an infinite supply of patience and a memory that is unmatched. I don’t think they have book awards for people like her. So I’m nominating her for this one.”
Of course, many other were mentioned, all amazing people she here’s the rest of the best:
– Andy Oliver and the crew at Broken Frontier for their tireless work in promoting the work of under-appreciated cartoonists.
– Bendis. The shift from Marvel to DC was the most jaw-dropping news of year and if they play this right, it could be just the thing our industry desperately needs right now. While the “Big Two” are far from the powers they used to be (and I would argue that’s a good thing), we still need excitement around them in order to support the Direct Market in its current construct. And the DM, in its current construct, DESPERATELY needs our support.
– Caitlin Mcgurk, Billy Ireland Library)
– CB Cebulski!
– Chris Butcher is killing it in his new role, and doing more to bridge Western/Asian comics communities than anybody else.
– Christopher Priest, for coming back to us.
– David Brothers, formerly of Image now an indie editor.
– David Steward II, Lion Forge publisher
– Donny Cates: BABYTEETH was already in the works before God Country and Redneck had their incredible releases. It got even better as his Marvel work hit the shelves. Then AfterShock announced their first FCBD title: RELAY #0 with story by him and Zac Thompson.
– Ed Brubaker — Kill or Be Killed and Westworld. ’nuff said.
– Ed Piskor – Coming off the wildly successful Hip-Hop Family Tree, Ed’s dived head-first into Marvel continuity with X-Men Grand Design. He, as you say, truly “banner year creatively.”
– Eleanor Davis, for creating amazing work and leading by example as a community leader for her local area and online for our scene.
– Gabrielle Bell. Everything is Flammable is amazing, and her diary comics on Patreon really get me. She’s wonderful at distilling the human condition into one page of comics.
– Gene Luen Yang, who completed his two year appointment as the 5th National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Among his achievements, he created the Reading Without Walls initiative, which promotes reading across genres and outside one’s comfort zones. Through this appointment, Gene has been able to reach out beyond the comics world to schools, libraries, and broader communities.
– Geoff Johns, for saving the publishers’ asses by righting DC’s ship to get away from most of New 52 on towards Rebirth
– Gerard Way. Young Animal has proven itself to be a tremendous success and is probably the biggest resurgence DC’s had in terms of prestige, experimental comics since Karen Berger started pulling together what we now know as Vertigo. Shade the Changing Girl, Mother Panic, and Doom Patrol are all a shock to the system in their own unique ways.
– Joe Illidge. Lion Forge rocks.
– Kelly Thompson has made the transition from comic blogger and podcaster to a busy comic (and prose) creator who writes excellent comics (see the number of “best of 2017” lists Hawkeye made this year) across multiple genres (Superhero (Rogue/Gambit, Hawkeye, A-Force), Licensed titles (Ghostbusters, Jem, Star Wars: Phantasm), and original (Mega Princesses which was a top ten at School Library Journal). She’s super talented and I hope we see a lot more of her this year (hopefully at DC where she should be writing Wonder Woman instead of who is writing right now.)
– DR. SUSAN KIRTLEY, director of the Comics Studies program at Portland State University and author of Lynda Barry: Girlhood through the Looking Glass. Susan has worked tirelessly to create a strong academic presence for comics at the university (which can be tough in a traditional university environment), resulting in the establishment of this post-baccalaureate program in 2015. And rather than go the usual route of having ivory tower scholars teach the courses, Susan has gone out of her way to work with the local comics community, bringing in experienced creators to teach students: Brian Bendis, David Walker, and Douglas Wolk all teach Writing Comics; Shannon Wheeler has been teaching Making Comics; I’ve been teaching Comics History and will teach Comics Theory in 2018. Susan has also set up for-credit internships with the local comics publishers, the CBLDF, and with Matt & Kelly Sue’s Milkfed Masterminds. The result? The last two editorial hires at Oni Press and the last two editorial hires at Dark Horse are *all* graduates of Portland State’s Comics Studies program. (Diana Shutz)
– Magdalene Visaggio
– Mark Millar for selling himself to Netflix
– Marley Zarcone. Her work on Shade the Changing Girl was some of the best work in the industry, and announced her talent to the industry. She’s been around, but this was a huge level up, and I’m sure most people will be checking on what she does going forward.
– Marvel’s entire Human Resources Department
– Meg Lemke – graphic novel programming for Brooklyn Book Fest, Creator of Mutha Mag (giving greater voices to parents in comics), and new PW Comics Editor
– Neil Brideau – for his dedication to Radiator Comics which included moving his inventory to Florida right before the hurricane. He was an Ignatz judge leading up to the move. His positive attitude towards comics and its community has inspired me, especially during periods of doubt.
– Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa whose RIVERDALE has simply taken off
– Riad Sattouf. He’s reached a rare position: he definitely became very famous outside of the comics circles, sold enormous quantities of his books, and kept being respected by the critics.
– Rob Liefeld. No one promotes better than Rob.
– Saladin Ahmed – a new, vital voice that comics needs. Well spoken, bold, confident, and unapologetic for speaking out after good trouble, as John Lewis says. On top of all that, one of the most creative minds to enter the industry.
– Taneka Stotts, crowdfunder and editor of the award winning Elements: Fire anthology
– Tee Franklin (Bingo Love). Bingo Love is her first graphic novel and it made nearly $60k in her first Kickstarter. She’s also the first African American woman to be published by Image Comics. Those are huge accomplishments!
– Zainab Akhtar just because she is putting out so much and doing so many things all on her own. The whole Lakes festival drama opened up a lot of discussion that people are hesitant to talk about, and also, Shortbox has been getting interesting comics from new artists in the hands of people all over the world.
So there we have it! 2017 is done – on to 2018 and all the excitement it will bring. Thanks again to all who voted and contributed their thoughts on this.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.