Here’s part three of our annual survey of the state of comics. Part one is here and part two is here. As usual, keep an eye on the upcoming projects for some news and a few previews that snuck in there.
2017 Projects: Maleficium issue 5
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Congressman Lewis & Nate Powell winning the National Book Award for March. Incredibly well deserved, incredibly vital for what’s happening in our country and a testament to the medium as a whole.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? The biggest news for me will be if Alison Bechdel’s new book comes out. Also Josh Bayer’s Theth- it’s a masterpiece from what I’ve seen. But I’m not sure when either are dropping. Hopefully 2017. We need some hope in this cold cold world.
Guilty Pleasure: I always love/hate-watch Stan Lee’s movie cameos. The strip club in Deadpool was the nadir/pinnacle- sort of completing his Striperella cycle.
What inspires me: Julia Gfrörer- the way she thinks about and makes comics is incredible. Her criticism is fantastic as well.
Jeffrey Brown, cartoonist
2017 Projects: Book two of my prehistoric middle grade series Lucy & Andy Neanderthal is getting the final tweaks for a fall 2017 release, and I’m currently working on the first draft of the third and final volume.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? March wins the National Book Award
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Some cartoonist will make a minicomic about Donald Trump and then Trump will start tweeting about how awful and pathetic minicomics are.
Guilty Pleasure: Going on a trip that is neither family nor work related. I guess it’s called a vacation? I’m going to spend most of it writing and drawing anyway, I’m sure.
What inspires me: Kate Beaton, because I need to laugh more often than ever. Hard to beat reading The Princess and the Pony with my 3 year old.
Conan Saunders, retailer MyComicShop.com
2017 Projects: updated web site
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? DC Rebirth
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? industry growth outside the big 2?
Guilty Pleasure: complaining/waiting for book 6 in the Game of Thrones series
What inspires me: Brian Ralph
Jamaica Dyer, cartoonist
2017 Projects: I’m doing an autobio book, which has become increasingly political and grieving by the end of this year. I’m working on a soon-to-be released project that I can’t say much about except that it involves spanking.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Grant Morrison taking over Heavy Metal Magazine!
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? More queer, female, trans, PoC content than you can handle.
Guilty Pleasure: I’d like a kitten. Does that count? Maybe two.
What inspires me: Such a tough year! We need to be in the streets more in 2017. I’m looking to music for inspiration. I’ve been really enjoying Dame Darcy’s comics for VICE. Isabella Rotman’s comics are so incredibly good, I think she’s a breakout star. Tula Lotay is putting out consistently gorgeous art. The sheer fact that Marvel’s putting out an America Chavez comic makes me extremely happy. And let’s mention a dude! Jim Mahfood’s next Girl Scout’s series is going to be epic.
Kelly Thompson, writer
2017 Projects: Hawkeye! Jem & The Holograms! The Misfits! Mega Princess! My new Storykiller novel, and a few very exciting things I cannot talk about yet. Yay!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I think diversity continues to be the biggest story in comics – in both positive and negative ways – a thousand stories and books and controversies that all relate back to this core idea of pushing (or rejecting) diversity (and change) in comics. The Mockingbird stuff and the push forward (and against) feminism in comics in general certainly springs to mind immediately.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Same as 2016. Diversity is the keyword now and I think it will be until we see real and lasting change.
Guilty Pleasure: I dunno. Not having my ACA health insurance taken away from me? Not losing the right to make my own choices about my female body? Not having my friends hurt or discriminated against? Gah. I’m sorry, I know this was not what you were looking for but we’re headed into dark times…and I seem to have misplaced my sense of humor…and boy is it a bad time to have that happen!
What inspires me: A lot of webcomics I read inspire me, sort of out there doing their own thing and being awesome, cutting through the crap and being brilliant and life affirming about what’s so great about the medium. Hannah Blumenreich doing a hilarious Spidey Zine, Abby Howard’s Junior Scientist Power Hour, anytime Kate Beaton gifts us with a slew of genius cartoons. Emily Carroll’s terrifying beautiful work.
Madeleine Holly-Rosing, cartoonist
2017 Projects: I’m working putting together the trade paperback of Boston Metaphysical Society which will have a brand new 10 page short story. I will be launching a Kickstarter to print it on Feb. 1 2017.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? The state of young LGBTQ stories and characters in comics.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Has Kickstarter become the largest publisher of indie comics?
Guilty Pleasure: More Monstress from Marjorie Liu and Sana Tanaka.
What inspires me: Marjorie Liu and Sana Tanaka. Their amazing ability to develop a rich fantasy world in such limited space.
2017 Projects: Writing and drawing THIMBLE, a quiet middle grade graphic novel for Graphic Universe, and SPARKS, a queer/erotic historical romance for Iron Circus Comics! Plus a whole bunch of small, fun projects.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I╒m delighted to see comics about meaningful, underrepresented experiences by diverse creators becoming a bigger and bigger part of the industry╔
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? And I╒ve got my fingers crossed that more people recognize them as the new mainstream next year!
Guilty Pleasure: Focusing on solo projects! I╒ve been blessed with some amazing collaborators, but it╒s going to feel amazing to hunker down in my art cave and burst out the other end with shiny new books that I╒ve poured 110% of myself into.
What inspires me: Carolyn Nowak╒s minis have inspired me deeply on a creative level. The emotion and humor in her work is incredible, and I can’t wait to see what she makes next.
Melanie Gillman is a gift to comics. I could shout their praises all day, but in short, the wisdom and knowledge they share with this community is invaluable. I learn from them constantly!
I’d also like to mention Alisha Jade, who has done a huge amount to make Australia a friendly and supportive place for women in comics. I wish her efforts were more recognized, such as the Banksia Project, where emerging female creators can get mentorship and guest treatment at Supanova shows around the country.
David Hyde, publicist, SuperFan Promotions
2017 Projects: All Time Comics from Fantagraphics; American Gods and Angel Catbird 2 from Dark Horse; comiXology Originals; HELLBOY INTO THE SILENT SEA and the Mignolaverse titles; and some top secret stuff. Good times!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? MARCH Book 3 becoming first graphic novel to win the National Book Award
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? A market adjustment, as the number of titles being published decreases.
Guilty Pleasure: I’ve been watching all of the Bond movies in order with my family. We’re about to start the Timothy Dalton era, so yeah.
What inspires me: Seeing new art by Mike and Laura Allred always makes me happy.
Cecil Castellucci, writer
2017 Projects: Shade the Changing Girl, Star Trek: Waypoint, Soupy Leaves Home
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Shelly Bond getting let go / Gerard Way young animal
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Hopefully bigger better diversity in comics
Guilty Pleasure: More tent pole comic book films
What inspires me: Hope Larson
Alexander Lu, journalist
2017 Projects: Some freelance comics editing and regular editorial work on The Beat!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Shelly Bond’s ouster from Vertigo which directly led to the outing of Eddie Berganza’s legacy of sexual harassment at DC Comics as a point of comparison. For all the great work DC has put out over the last year, this is one incongruence they still haven’t resolved.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? I think it’s hard to say because we’re in a time of great uncertainty. DC has been doing well over the last several months but Marvel overtook them in sales again in November despite a languid lineup of new titles. Image has been doing better towards the end of this year than the were at the beginning of it, but the post-Saga wave of innovation still hasn’t found its modern day equivalent. Publishers less singularly focused on the direct market like First Second have really interesting lineups for the next year and bookstore/library/book fair sales have gathered momentum, but it remains to be seen just how much those sectors will grow. Moreover, Donald Trump’s election is going to have a measurable impact on the tone American media in all forms, including comics, will take over the next four years. We’re coming off eight years of Obama, who preached a rhetoric of diversity and inclusion that was reflected in TV, film, and comics. What will the rhetoric of a man who keeps a prominent alt-right (read: neo-nazi) figure at his side do to us and the art we create or consume?
Guilty Pleasure: HAIM and Lorde are going to release new albums and I’m going to dance my ass off for months
What inspires me: To this day, Boulet’s 24 Hour comic, Darkness, is an inspiration to me. The way Boulet takes a relatable premise and externalizes characters’ emotions through physical changes to their bodies and their surroundings is a pure demonstration of the pathos and beauty that can be brought into the world through comics.
Ronald Wimberly, cartoonist
2017 Projects: Black History in Its Own Words, Sunset Park
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I don’t follow comics news
Guilty Pleasure: dancing while the world is burning
What inspires me: Bernard Krigstein tried to start a union. That’s inspiring.
2017 Projects: I’m working on a graphic novel trilogy about teenagers and maybe some aliens. The first one comes out in 2018, which means I get all of 2017 to blissfully draw. You can see a bunch of process photos on Instagram.
I’ll also continue to maintain the Cartoonists of Color and Queer Cartoonists databases. (Hoping the CoC will reach 1,000 creators very soon.)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? My personal biggest story was breaking both my hands two days before I went on book tour. That kind of took the cake for me. But self-involved moping aside…
March winning the National Book Award was a pretty big deal. That’s a huge step for comics.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? A cartoonist winning the Nobel Prize? I mean, it could happen…
Guilty Pleasure: A lot of angry, passionate art for some reason.
What inspires me: Sarah Glidden’s book Rolling Blackouts really blew me away. When that happens, I’m inspired to do better. Thanks, Sarah!
Rich Johnson, Marketing, Lion Forge
2017 Projects: I am writing something I can’t really discuss until the time is right.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? It seems that all that was happening in 2016 was the election and the rise of the Alt Right and how we were Trumped. So in many ways the story of 2016 ties into the times in which we now live. The story of 2016 was March Vol. 3 winning a National Book Award. This is important from both an industry and cultural standpoint. From an industry perspective one needs to look back to the days when graphic novels were looked down upon in the world of trade publishing. When I started at DC Comics in 1997 bookstores and libraries didn’t carry many graphic novels, maybe MAUS, and in fact they didn’t want to carry them. It was a battle. We also had to fight for our place in the world of regular publishing. Many in that world mostly thought of comics as a something for kids or as a niche category that appealed to people who hadn’t grown up and graduated into real book. And while that attitude is still out there, the fact that a graphic memoir won the publishing industry’s biggest prize is nothing short of a breakthrough. Yes, other books had been nominated, but March winning an award means that the publishing elite have accepted the medium.
The more profound reason this is the story of 2016, is that what should have been a book that looked back at a time of oppression and struggle in this country, is now a story that reflects the times we are living in that was brought home hard in the results of the election. We elected a man who will say and do anything to feed his ego and lust for power, even if it meant fueling hate. He is a walking stick of dynamite. After the Civil Rights Movement and after an African American man was elected President, you would think that hate and prejudice was losing the battle. In spite of all the strides we’ve made as a supposedly civilized society, much like the villains in super-heroes comics, the bad guys always come back.
The fact that Congressman Lewis used the medium of comic to deliver his story and his message is added reason why this was the story of 2016. The fact is that the comics medium is uniquely able to convey story and to deliver a message. It is something all of us in the industry who have fought so hard to make this medium open to more readers can be proud of.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? The story of 2017 will be how others might use the medium of comics to they’ll their stories. How they might be inspired by Congressman Lewis and others who have brought to this world amazing words and pictures together to move us, excite us, or to inspire us. Who know who might win the next National Book Award
Guilty Pleasure: The fourth season of Peaky Blinders! If you haven’t watched this extraordinary series, start the binge watch on Netflix immediately.
What inspires me: I’m going with an answer that is somewhat personal. I have known Terry Moore for several years and consider him and his wife Robyn friends. I am inspired by his intelligence, his integrity, his humor and the fact that he is also the nicest guy in the business. And on top of that he is crazy talented.
2017 Projects: D4VEOCRACY (IDW), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe (IDW)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? What it should’ve been: the intolerable-yet-continuing harassment of women, poc, and lgbtq+ creators. What it most likely was: DC’s Young Animal?
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Hopefully a big push/commitment from major publishers to give new, diverse creators a platform to tell new, diverse stories; and to back those stories with support.
Guilty Pleasure: Most of my pleasures are guilty, but I blame the church for that.
What inspires me: Everything I’ve seen so far from the Love Is Love anthology has been profoundly touching.
Gary Tyrrell, journalist
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? The conquering of institutions: National Book Award; Library of Congress Ambassador for Young Peoples Literature; MacArthur Fellowship
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? The staffing-up and expansion of :01 Books release slate
Guilty Pleasure: I feel no guilt anymore.
What inspires me: Ngozi Ukazu, who is conquering the world one adorable update of gay collegiate hockey players at a time. If she’s not a shining example of how comics can find something for EVERYBODY, I’m not sure who is.
Mike Zagari, AfterShock Comics
2017 Projects: Leading the charge on Digital/Creative initiatives for AfterShock Comics, as well as partnering up with the rest of the staff, writers and artists for some amazing new series launches in 2017.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Although I was working on Marvel characters and stories for the previous 5 years, I was focusing in the app space. Joining AfterShock in early 2016 brought be back to the direct market and I was surprised to see how strong MONTHLY indie comics sales were. This audience isn’t necessarily waiting for the trade like they were years ago.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? One of the many comic industry controversies over the past 10 years has been print vs. digital. Physical sales are still very strong, but if you look at the details, online stores are greatly surpassing brick and mortar stores. What does that mean? A more seamless, intuitive print PLUS digital distribution and reading system is right around the corner.
Guilty Pleasure: The return of Samurai Jack. Although I don’t necessarily feel guilty about it.
What inspires me: Alan Moore & JH Williams America’s Best Comics Promethea issue 12. The multi-narrative sequential structure is insanely wonderful.
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.