This marks the fourth year we’ve run the Comics Industry Person of the Year Poll, and the results were very straightforward, as you’ll see. The guidelines for voting are as follows: “This can be the most important person, someone who had the biggest impact, an innovator, someone who set the pace, or had a banner year creatively.” The winner’s impact this year was bittersweet, but still something to celebrate.
Past winners also had a lot of support, indicating that the most important comics figures of the past few years are continuing to make their presence felt.
With no further ado, here’s how the voting went this year:
COMICS INDUSTRY PERSON OF THE YEAR:
There was no context on this, and no need to explain. As one person put it, “Kim Thompson, hands down. Heidi, if the answer comes up as someone else, change it.”
Luckily there was no need to stack the voting, as the late co-publisher of Fantagraphics was the overwhelming choice of people from all areas of the industry. Thompson passed away in june at the age of 56 after a brief battle with lung cancer, a sudden devastating loss that not only left comics without a great publisher and translator, but without the driving force behind introduction of a whole world of European comics into the American market. Thompson’s career path is already legend: after co-founding The Comics Journal with partners Gary Groth and Mike Catron, Thompson went on to edit such books as Critters, Zero Zero, and the works of Jacques Tardi, Jason, Ulli Lust, Lorenzo Mattotti, Gabriella Giandelli, Guy Peelaert, Don Rosa, Carl Barks, Joe Sacco, Roberta Gregory and a universe more of some of the greatest comics ever printed. Thomson brought an unstoppable combination of taste, intelligence and knowledge to his editorial choices—a combination that only the true greats have had. And if there is any questions about it, Thompson is one of the true greats of comics history.
While the immense contribution to the comics medium Thompson made remains a legacy that will be treasured for years, his absence also had immediate consequences, sparking the successful Fantagraphics Kickstarter , and leaving his entire line of books delayed (but not indefinitely, happily.) While it may seem counterintuitive to honor a person who is no longer with us as the Person of The Year, Kim’s life is proof that one person can make a difference and change a medium for the better forever.
We reached out to Lynn Emmert, Kim’s widow, and she gave us this statement:
I was thrilled to hear from Heidi about Kim being voted as Person of the Year in comics. This means a great deal to me, especially because the award is coming from peers who knew Kim’s passion for this business. During our relationship I was always a little jealous of how much he loved his work; I never felt as strongly about what I did for living as he did. Kim found what he wanted to do in life and devoted himself to his profession.
When Kim received his prognosis; we talked about the impact he had made in comics and what he had accomplished. I’m not sure he had ever really taken stock of his career before he knew how little time remained for him. The many cards, visits, emails and phone calls he received from artists, editors and other publishers also helped him feel good about the work he had done and the people whose lives he had touched.
Thank you to the Beat for this very meaningful recognition of a life in comics that was well-lived.
We also received this statement from Gary Groth, Kim’s partner at Fantagraphics for more than 30 years:
It is customary in circumstances such as this to tell everyone what the recipient would’ve said about it or thought of it, but the fact is, I don’t know, and it would be presumptuous of me to make that leap. I will say that it’s unfortunately belated, and that if you want to honor his devotion and passion to comic art, you should proselytize to all your non-comics reading friends on behalf of the kinds of comics we publish at Fantagraphics because, I feel safe to say, that nothing pleased him more than to see comics he believed in read and appreciated by more people. – Gary Groth
On a personal note, it’s hard not to be inspired and a little intimidated by Kim’s vision and drive for putting that vision into action. His legacy is left for those just getting into comics to be inspired to do the best work they possibly can and for publishers to stick with the highest standards. The bar Kim set will be hard to clear, but the more we try, the better this industry will be.
While Kim Thompson was the clear number one pick, others were mentions a few times; here’s the rest of the movers and shakers of 2013:
Team of the Year
Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell for MARCH
MARCH VOLUME ONE was not only a sales hit, but it took comics proudly into the mix of politics and history with Rep. John Lewis, and his collaborators Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell a constant presence at comics festival around the country. It showed that a graphic novel could stand up to the highest scrutiny, and several voter recognized its importance:
— “I think it’s an incredible endorsement for the medium to have someone of the stature of Rep. Lewis choose to tell his story and the story of the Civil Rights Movement in a comic format. He knows the power of the medium because of the comic book he read as a teenager that profiled the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and served as an inspiration to him. That he wants to tell his story in the same way is a profound event in the history of the medium.”
— “I want to name a trio, who have worked as a creative team to produce what I consider one of the best graphic novels of 2013: Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. They took BEA, ALA, and SDCC by storm. Everywhere they went, hordes of people came out to see and listen to Mr. Lewis, and to get their own copies of March, Book One. People who would ordinarily never read a comic book have read March, Book One, and that includes members of my husband’s congregation and members of the local NAACP chapter in our town.” — Kat Kan
“Rep. John Lewis: MARCH. It’s not just that the book was a PR blockbuster, releasing on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington during the term of our first black President. He’s been an extraordinary advocate for the power of the graphic novel format, speaking very specifically and passionately about its capacity to teach and inspire. How else was a graphic novel going to make it into the hands of every single member of Congress? That’s big.”
— “Rep. John Lewis. March Vol. 1 is a rare book in that it is an invaluable historical document, an autobiography with a truly gripping story and it’s just beautiful comics. The team of Rep. Lewis, co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell (as well as co-publisher Chris Staros) could have put out a simple effort, and it still would’ve been required reading. Instead, they all pushed as hard as they could to create what will long be remembered as a great, great book (comic or otherwise). To see Rep. Lewis as the center of attention at Comic-Con is probably the highlight of my life in comics so far.” — Van Jensen
BKV has a posse
Last year’s team of the year, Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples, got a bunch of plaudits again for staying atop the sales charts—and indeed even rising. Vaughan was also recognized for Private Eye, his resolutely digital comic about a world without the internet.
— “I’d say Marcos Martin or Brian K. Vaughn for what they did at panelsydicate.com with The Private Eye. Whoever came up with idea first.
This move showed a perfect understanding of how internet works, proving that creation and demand can perfectly live together even avoiding distribution. The fact that owning and processing the whole product can be possible, making the result profitable, feels revolutionary to me and is definitively a huge step for creators.”
— “Brian K. Vaughan, just to pick someone. The double success of SAGA and PRIVATE EYE shows both that he (and his collaborators) are leading the way with the most exciting, engaging conventionally-published comics out there, plus they’re on the cutting edge of what’s coming next.”
— “I think this is a year where comics have really made some huge strides into crossing over into the mainstream – mostly thanks to people like Jeffrey Brown, Allie Brosh, Julie Maroh and Mary Talbot…
But I think my comics industry person of the year would have to go to Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Saga is just so consistently good that it’s actually very easy now to take it for granted. While other comic series have lost my interest (or been cancelled), this comic continues to thrill readers and show us characters that we really care about. When I saw two people at Thought Bubble cosplaying as The Will and Lying Cat, it was the highlight of my weekend.” – Laura Sneddon
— “Brian K. Vaughan – no one else is doing so much to show what comics can be and should be – he’s doing it his way, and his way is just about perfect.”
The Rule Breaker
Several people singled out Mark Waid for his very busy year, running Thrillbent, his digital platform, buying in to a comics shop and continuing to write excellent comics such s Daredevil, The Rocketeer and Green Hornet.
— “Mark Waid – Sure, he’s a brilliant creator, but he’s not afraid to take bold steps on a personal and professional levels. And he’s also not afraid to say “I was wrong”. With his new store, Alter Ego Comics, he shows himself to be someone who puts his money where his mouth is, and is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work. Mixed metaphors, I know, but impressive nonetheless.”
— “Mark Waid. He’s using his clout and celebrity to drag the comic industry (sometimes kicking, sometimes screaming) into the digital age. Marvel and DC are now both using concepts he helped pioneer and popularize at Thrillbent. His influence is also extending beyond the Big Two and into the (much larger) online comics space where the real future of the medium lies. He took a big risk with little possibility for personal gain because he legitimately believes that the comics industry (those who make them and those who read them) deserve better.”
–“Mark Waid. He is the Renaissance Man of Comics: Writer, editor, publisher, retailer, historian and ambassador. He is constantly striving to make better comics and the comics industry is better for it.”
The explosion of comment and revelation about sexual harassment in comics that came at the end of 2013 made several commenters picks this as the story of the year, and a few picked Tess Fowler as the Person of the Year. Although there were many—far far too many— stories about harassment from many people, it was Fowler’s tale (as prompted by Brandon Graham) that really started to peel back the veil of secrecy on a topic that has shamed the comics industry for far too long.
Many publishers were saluted for their great efforts this year.
Koyama has been mentioned every time we do this poll, but this time at least one creator was stumping for her, with strong and well deserved results. Her Koyama Press has produced a fine line of comics and led the way for a renaissance of small and micro-presses that are producing comics that challenge and entertain.
— “I’m gonna say Annie Koyama, because I saw Tom Hart trying to encourage people to do so, and I love Annie, and I’d like her to be the person who represents the industry this year.”
— “Annie Koyama!! She’s doing amazing things.”
— “No one has furthered the “art comics” more than Annie in the past couple of years. She actively fosters young talent, donates generously to campaigns and institutions that further the development of comics and cartoonists and hold comics to a high standard. You find her at many conventions, celebrating comics and art, promoting her own artists as well as others, and being over all gracious, smart and kind.”
Image’s Eric Stephenson was also recognized for continuing his drive to open up coming to new markets and voices.
— “Still Eric Stephenson. What Image is doing right now will have impact on the industry for years to come.”
— ‘’Eric Stephenson… again! Not only is Image Comics clicking on all cylinders, but Eric also added a hit book to the mix by writing NOWHERE MEN.”
DC’s editorial staff
Soon to be relocating to the West Coast, DC’s sometimes embattled editorial staff had their supporters this year:
— “Most of DC Comics editors. They put up with a ton of crap from the top down, and the bottom up. These folks make sure your comics come out every month, managing a lot of egos, curveballs, and demands, but get all the blame if something goes wrong. They work for years, decades, with few chances of promotion, in negative work environments, for little pay, and they still bust their asses everyday to manage the production of your comics. They get no royalties, few accolades, and rarely become superstars who are given executive powers over the fate of comics.”
— “Jim Chadwick, for bringing comics to a new audience that would never go near a comic shop.”
— “Shelly Bond. She’s taken over the Vertigo line with a firm hand and clear vision. I like what I’ve seen so far.”
Of course this was not without its controversies:
— “Dan DiDio. For not committing to a clear and consistent vision, Dan Didio is my Comics Industry Person of the Year. For worse, not better, Didio continues to foment an even greater micro-managed DC Comics culture, too quickly shifting the editorial direction of his comics cargo ship like a speed boat, and leaving disgruntled creators in its wake. Perhaps 2014 will give us somebody with a more positive impact.”
Other publishing types who were mentioned:
— “Dan Buckley. He’s quite effectively steering Marvel headlong into digital publishing with a mix of progressive, non-gimmick driven experimentation and solid distribution deals.”
— “Ross Richie and Boom! Studios. With the rise of the Cartoon Network properties radically changing the landscape of comics, the Two Guns movie, the Fox deal, the debut of Six Gun Gorilla and Suicide Risk, the heavily female editorial staff and the acquisition of Archaia, Ross has taken Boom! from being an afterthought in the Diamond catalog to the flagship of comics’ New Wave.”
— “Steve Wacker — for shepherding through Marvel an array of talent and supporting a slate of interesting artists and writers producing books which are successful, popular, beautiful and evidently the product of their creators.
“Reason 2- I wouldn’t have drawn a comic if Steve Wacker hadn’t encouraged me after seeing my first pages, and then the work I’ve made has been directly informed by his personal advice and the encouragement he has given. I won’t be the only person he has helped and I’ll carry his advice as I go and continue to use it. It isn’t just his work at Marvel that he has been significant for, but his wider footprint on the industry, in often unseen ways.”
Finally, one voter put all the great publishers into one basket:.
— “Kim Thompson, Dan Nadel and Eric Stephenson. It’s a tie for me, for a rather simple reason: all three of these men, in their own ways, changed the way comics are perceived by publishing works that (as far as I understand this) appealed to them and not to some sort of an idea of a common denominator, except for “these are the comics I love.”
A wide variety of creators were mentioned by various folks:
Kelly Sue DeConnick
–“If the gold medal in comics is to have a hit Marvel book and leverage that into a hit Image book then she nailed it with a pair of female protagonist driven comics.”
–“Kelly Sue DeConnick of course! For being a great role model for all comics creators, and a shining example of how positivity, classiness, and artistic passion make a difference in this world. You can try, but cannot deny, her incredible sales numbers on Pretty Deadly #1 with Emma Rios (outselling many Big Two titles and Saga #1 by a decent margin) and her ardent Captain Marvel following.”
–“Don’t call it a comeback, but it is the closest we have to a rockstar returning to stage after years in exile. Battling Boy was easily the most highly anticipated book of the year, and the reaction to it was a fairly unanimous cry of joy and excitement. Same year that David Bowie came back, too. Can’t be a coincidence.”
–“I think BATTLING BOY is brilliant. Paul’s focus on making stories that are mythic and from the traditions of comics while geared toward a new, young generation of readers is great. He’s not simply looking at the “Young Adult” comic book market. He’s building properties for the “Next Adult” comicbook fan.”
–“For me, it is Robert Kirkman. His success with the Walking Dead continues as he keeps pushing ahead working with other creators on his own projects. I admire this much devotion to the world of comics and think of his success story as an inspiration for other creators to take a step out of their safe zone and try something new. It certainly has inspired me.”
— “Sam Alden for a breakthrough year- not only was he pretty damn prolific in creating new comics, experimenting and testing styles and narratives, but I think he used Tumblr really well – making people aware of his work and creating a following that is more likely to buy anything he puts out in 2014.”
— “Marc Andreyko — for jumping onto the Batwoman title like a solider onto a bomb after Williams and Blackman quit over the “no successful relationships in the Bat-family” fiasco. Hopefully, he’ll have continued success on the title — he deserves it muchly.”
— “Matt Fraction who had an amazing creative year. Sex Criminals is mind blowing. FF was entertaining and, yes, adorable. Satellite Sam was as gritty and uncomfortable as a dirty ash tray. And Hawkeye just kept being amazing. Fraction has moved into the category of “artist I’d read if they wrote the phone book.” Bonus points for coming from a household of comic gold – DeConnick also had an damn good year.”
— Michel Fiffe
–“Alan Moore for being Alan Moore.”
— “Becky Cloonan. She has proved that you can succeed in self-publishing through sheer talent and determination. Plus her work in the mainstream is still well loved and I hope to see more of that as well!”
–“Allie Brosh, breaking into print this holiday season with her genius Hyperbole and a Half collection.”
–“Gene Yang for his magnificent BOXERS & SAINTS. “
–“Howard Chaykin, the man is a force of nature, still out drawing, out smarting and out performing many a young turk wannabe, I’m endlessly delighted by his seemingly boundless ability to ruffle feathers, rock boats and raise eyebrows with consistently imaginative, relevant and exciting work.“
–“Greg Capullo, by far, person and work…”
–“Jordie Bellaire. The first superstar colorist, perhaps? Not only a big name in terms of the projects she’s taken on, and how prolific she’s been – she’s also been one of the first colorists to make herself visible, popular, and continually relevant online. She’s worked on a number of high-profile books this year, and distinguished herself with each. We all now think more about coloring than we have before, and Bellaire’s influence on that change in thinking can’t be underestimated.”
–“Chip Zdarsky. I love that guy.”
A couple of folks who helped facilitate various aspects of this year’s comics blockbusting year were mentioned:
–“Julie Tait, for organizing the first Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal this year. It’s the first time there’s been anything like it in Britain and it was a phenomenal success. Hurrah for Julie and her heroic team!”
–“Karen Green at Columbia for amassing an archive of comics in New York City—where the medium began—allowing greater access to some first-rate collections (such as the Kitchen Sink Press archives and the works of Al Jaffee and Wendy and Richard Pini) for future generations of scholars and fans to explore and enjoy.”
A few folks had random picks.
— “Is this even in doubt? The savior of San Francisco and Starling City, it’s Batkid! Best publicity DC got all year.”
— “I can’t think of a single person who particularly stood out, though it was a good year overall. So I’m going to say SHIA LABEOUF. His incredibly blatant acts of plagiarism managed to unite the entire comics and publishing communities, and good chunk of the film world too, against him. Well done!”
And finally, one deranged individual had this pick:
–“No I’m not kissing ass. As noted this year there has been a curtain of death falling around the industry news sites, blogs, magazines, and art criticism. For YEARS the Beat has lived through it all, awarded accolades, and navigated the roller coaster we call the comic industry. No easy feat. This information era finds our industry in a sea of fast moving targets. It’s good to know there is a trusted site to report not only the mainstream news with the corporate entities, but also the wider and diverse scene of independent comics, local conventions and international artists. In a time when SO much is going on, the person of the year doesn’t need to be the one who made a big splash, it’s also the person who makes sense of it all. In 2013 the eye of the storm was often reported at The Beat by Heidi MacDonald.”
And with that note and 2013 in the book once and for all, we’re off to make 2014 the next greatest year that comics have ever seen. Join us, won’t you?
Voting note: Answers are kept confidential unless otherwise noted.
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.