Okay this wraps up our annual tradition of surveying all levels of the comics industry for their thoughts on the state of the union. We still have the Comics Industry Person of the Year to announce in a little bit. A few hemes definitely arose from the answers this year: DC’s movie to the west coast, crowdfunding, digital…those are the big stories as we head into a new year.
Dean Haspiel, cartoonist,
2014 Projects: The Fox, Batman ’66, and Fear, My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Now that we’ve managed to prove the Digital Age of comics (cheers to ComiXology, Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari), I’d hazard to say that Image Comics finally became a serious publisher to recommend and emulate. Chock full of great creator-owned comics (how in hell is SEX CRIMINALS not an HBO show right this very minute?), Image is the place to try out cool, new concepts and for franchise companies to poach talent. There’s an interesting boomerang effect Image is trending wherein new talent creates a cool/new idea, gets poached by the Big Two to write/draw their company toys while said talent gains high profile traction until they can’t muster the editorial mandates and split, heading to the likes of Image, locked and loaded with a loyal fanbase and ready to unfurl unexpurgated ideas. It’s been interesting to witness a lot of our favorite writers and artists balk a certain sense of security to invest in their own product. And, not to knock franchise comics (I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t produce fresh new iterations of The Fox, The Shield, Fantastic Four, Batman, Spider-man, Avengers, etc.,) but I gotta applaud Marvel for bringing back the “pop” they once preached in the late 1960s within their non-team/non-event titles like Fury: My War Gone By, Daredevil, Hawkeye and upcoming She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and Silver Surfer.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Not to knock good and transparent publisher participation, but crowd-funded comix is the way of the future. How many books did Jimmy Palmiotti successfully produce last year? A bunch. Bravo! I know I claimed Image Comics is the place to be but if you can handle the nuts and bolts of publishing, marketing, distributing and building an audience WHILE creating comix (Jeff Smith’s RASL, Michel Fiffe’s COPRA), then self-publishing will become a more formidable business model. Especially if you can share the burden with like-minded creators. More guerrilla-style posses like Oily Comics, Retrofit Comics, and my very own HANG DAI Editions will continue to experiment the idea of ganging up resources while balancing personal works with higher profile jobs until the higher profile books ARE being self-published. Dig? At which point, the creators will grow their own staff, hire their own designers and publicists, and take the necessary meetings to control their destiny and own 100% of what they create. Small press shows like MoCCA, Baltimore Comicon, SPX, CAB, Stumptown, Locust Moon Comics Festival, APE, etc., will continue to be critical in supporting self-published endeavors. One day The Eisner Awards will create a Jack Kirby trophy that will celebrate “excellence in full creator ownership” because, out of all the horror stories our industry has become privy to, it’s Jack Kirby that we all hold dear to our heart and wish he’d gotten a better break while some of us pay our rent off his co-creations (me included). Besides giving the Kirby estate what it deserves, what a better way to honor the significance of Jack Kirby than by designing an award that acknowledges his imagination and battle for creator’s rights to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Better Call Saul!
Robert Berry, cartoonist
2014 Projects: Continuing serialized adaptation of James Joyce’s ULYSSES into comics as well as an illustrated book of Joyce’s short story THE DEAD for release in June.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? While I don’t really work in the superhero genre myself, I kind of think last year’s biggest story was DC Comics leaving New York for California. I think the economic successes we’ve seen in comics over the last few years is due only in part to the exposure we’ve seen through Hollywood. It has certainly lead to more jobs for people with interests and skills in comics and comics fandom. But the diversity and innovation we’ve seen most recently has a lot to do with our connection to the publishing industry and that is still very New York centered. Burbank is fine for the big deals, but the nuts-and-bolts of our industry, of any industry really, relies on having jobs and contacts in a community filled with publishers not commercial-makers.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Aww, I work in digital, classroom-oriented comics and everybody talks about that. And that is always a growth area. But I’m really excited about all the colleges taking a serious approach to teaching comics now and the institutions like the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library in Ohio and the Butler Library collection at Columbia. Educating a new generation on how to use comics as a form of expression while looking back at the rich history of cartooning that’s been overshadowed by mainstream capes-and-cowls is going to produce a really exciting batch of new comics.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? MoCCA Fest. I love MoCCA but, since my own work is largely digital, I never set up a table and am free to move around and see stuff. So I sometimes feel guilty about that, like I should be working harder.
Sarah Glidden, cartoonist
2014 Projects: I’ve been working on Rolling Blackouts–my book documenting a reporting trip to Iraq and Syria with several journalists and an ex-Marine–for all of 2013 and will probably still be working on it for the first half of 2014. It will be coming out in spring of 2015 from Drawn and Quarterly. I’ll also spending much of 2014 working on some shorter pieces of comics journalism on immigration in Buenos Aires, where I’m living right now.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Kim Thompson’s passing. His impact on comics over the past 30 years was just enormous. I never had the chance to meet him, but I know that I probably wouldn’t be making comics today if it weren’t for him.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Probably the continuing proliferation of smaller, very well put together indie comics festivals. And I’ll be keeping an eye on whats happening with digital comics distribution.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Moving back to the US. I’ve been living abroad for almost two years (due to a comics residency in Angoulême and then in Argentina for love) and I miss it. It may be run by a bunch of clowns but its home and I speak its language.
Joe Field, retailer
2014 Projects: Flying Colors Comics is always a work in progress— now into our 26th year with a new five-year lease extension!
In addition, there’s the ComicsPRO Annual meeting (in Atlanta Feb 26-Mar 1), and a Jeff Bonivert Art & Stories book that will hopefully see the light of day in 2014.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Image Comics and how that company continues to be a magnet for the industry’s top writers & artists.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Hopefully it will be that print comic sales will be up again for the fifth year in a row.
I’m also hoping that another “biggest story of 2014” — unknown to us now— will be some kind of moment or event that causes many thousands more people to seek out their local comic specialty stores on a weekly basis.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014?
Looking forward to taking at least one real vacation by going on Cruise to the Edge, a progressive rock themed cruise headlined by YES. Also really looking forward to THE SHADOW HERO by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew, but there’s not a speck of guilt in that!
Allison Baker & Chris Roberson, publishers/editors/writers
2014 Projects: In addition to overseeing the Monkeybrain Comics digital imprint, Allison is an award-winning producer of political media, and Chris writes funny books like Edison Rex, Sovereign, and Aliens.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? From our perspective, the biggest story in comics in 2013 is that there really wasn’t any one big story in comics in 2013. There were a lot of important things that happened, from Karen Berger leaving her long-standing post at Vertigo to DC announcing the consolidation of their east and west coast offices in Burbank, to the steady growth of the digital market and the continued sales performance of Image Comics. But virtually without exception, all of the important trends and events of 2013 actually started in 2012 or before. And the more we thought and discussed about it, the more we realized that the big story of 2013 might well be that we’re still in the middle of a transition period, and we’re all just waiting to see what we’re transitioning INTO. “Comics” as a market and a medium and an industry largely has its roots in the preserved remains of the newsstand market that withered at a fairly constant rate from the 50s, until it finally succumbed to the inevitable in the late 70s. What we know as comics as a business was born out of the uncertain transition period that followed, as publishers began selling direct to comic retailers, and new distribution models made it possible for independent comic publishers to make a place for themselves. We’re in the midst of a similar transition now, we’d argue, and have been for several years, as all of us work out how to integrate new models like digital distribution into the existing direct marketplace, and publishers and creators alike experiment with different serialization models and formats, and we begin to see the impact of the success of corporate-owned characters in other media on the publishing empires that originally introduced them to the world. These are all trends that have been going on for some time now, and we’ve yet to see them resolve. There’s another shoe that’s going to drop eventually, we’re sure of it, and maybe the biggest story of the year is that it hasn’t fallen yet?
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? The thing that we’re personally most curious to see is that kind of changes will result from DC leaving New York for Burbank. For several years now there has been a very different flavor and tone to the comics that were coming out of the New York offices, and those that were being headed up by Hank Kanalz and company out in Burbank. So we’re interested to see what happens when everything is being edited under one roof. The analogy that occurs to us is when Disney purchased Pixar, and there were many people worried that the buyout would result in Pixar losing those things that made it unique and distinctive. And instead, the result was that the rest of Disney became more like Pixar. There would be far worse outcomes than an entire publishing line that was more like BATMAN ’66 and ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? We don’t believe in guilty pleasures, Heidi! We like what we like, and we don’t apologize! But Chris is looking forward to the next installment of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN far more than is healthy for a grown man to do, and Allison is looking forward to the idea of maybe getting a real vacation sometime in the near future.
Kat Kan, educator, writer
2014 Projects: I create the monthly graphic novel lists posted by Brodart Books & Library Services, and I write the “Graphically Speaking” column in Voice of Youth Advocates – the February 2014 issue will mark the 20th anniversary of my column!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? 1) Digital comics continues growth, and now libraries have access with ComicsPlus Library Edition from iVerse. 2) There’s also the big move by DC Comics to Southern California, it feels like the end of an era. 3) This last may only be of interest to libraries, but the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation now has an annual grant for libraries; for the past few years, it offered prizes for librarians who attended the American Library Association Annual Conference. Now, for 2014, it is a grant open to all libraries who have at least one ALA member on staff.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Print comics aren’t dead!
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? I can’t think of this as a guilty pleasure, but perhaps it might be a bit subversive, since I teach in a parochial school: I’m going to do a more formal comic book study in my Library classes, now that I have better technology in the library. Considering the fact that some parents have forbidden their children to borrow comics from the school library, this is my way of getting around their household ban and letting their kids read comics while in school.
EGOs, created by me and artist Gus Storms, launching from Image in January!
ZODIAC, created by Stan Lee, with artist Andie Tong, coming from Disney!
MANDALA, created by The Thirteen, with artist Bruce Zick, from Dark Horse in May!
And I’m editing the Marvel prose novels. Currently working on the X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST novel by Alex Irvine.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? I have two:
1. Image Comics’ surge in both sales and attention, as they released several waves of high-quality, high-profile books.
2. DC’s big move to the west coast. It’s understandable, but it marks a huge shift in how that company operates, and a break with tradition that goes back to the very beginning of the American comics industry.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? The DC move will have side-effects as a pool of editorial/production talent becomes available in the New York area. I’m not sure what form that will take yet, though.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? All the Marvel movies. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 looks great, X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST should be fun, and that CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER trailer blew me away. And then there’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, which is right up my street.
2014 Projects: Primarily I’m working on advancing digital publishing for Marvel Comics with things like Infinite Comics and Marvel Unlimited. In my personal time I’m excited about experimenting with digital storytelling on Comic Book Think Tank with my digital comic RELAUNCH and the Yanapax open source comic reader. I’ve also started dabbling with digital distribution of genre fiction eBooks and comics on iBooks, Nook and other mainstream outlets with Union Combine.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? It seems like the biggest positive story had to be the continued success of self-published and creator-owned comics, specifically from high-profile creators. I don’t think that’s a trend that’s going to stop. On the darker side, we saw numerous accounts of sexism, harassment, and people generally behaving badly toward their peers. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Digital distribution. I think we’ll see digital distribution options continue to expand for mainstream publishers as they try and grow the overall comic market as well as growth in digital distribution for creator-owned and self-published projects. It could lead to a lot more strong, indie comics.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Vanilla bourbon ice cream and spending more time on personal projects. Positivity.
Steve Lieber, cartoonist
2014 Projects: Superior Foes of Spider-Man!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? The twin judgements against the Kirby heirs and the Siegel heirs.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Some spectacularly successful crowd-funders by webcomics creators who have built large audiences in unexplored niches.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? I never know what I’m supposed to feel guilty about. I am really looking forward to Kurt Busiek and Benjamin Dewey’s upcoming project.
Glenn Hauman, ComicMix #troubleshooter, #troublemaker, #troublerighthereinrivercity
2014 Projects: ComicMix Pro Services, where we do everything that comic creators don’t want to deal with or know how to do themselves, including editorial, art, production, printing, distribution, marketing, promotion, web sites– you name it, we’ve done it and can do it for you. Take a look at http://www.comicmix.com/pro-services/
One of our current projects for fundraising is Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel’s BREATHTAKER remastering and their work on the sequel. Details at http://igg.me/at/breathtaker/x/3892225
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? The impact of crowdfunding on comics. With over $23 million dollars raised in successful projects to date, comics has reached out to a new source of revenue that has saved the neck of a number of creators, and even a publisher or two. Now if we can increase the number of success stories, as less than half reach their stated fundraising goals, and some that do still struggle to finish the job get to market.
What will be the biggest stories in comics in 2014? Many comic creators, store owners, and employees will have health care for the first time in a long time, if not the first time ever. A few of them will have their lives saved because of it.
The release of Shia LeBouef’s RONIN will be scuttled by a lawsuit claiming it’s too similar to “Samurai Jack.”
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? To misquote Clarence Darrow, “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some career obituaries with great pleasure.” I expect to read a few of those in 2014.
Joan Hilty, editor/cartoonist
2014 Projects: Battle Lines-A Graphic History of the Civil War (Hill & Wang, 2014); Avatar: The Last Airbender-The Rift (Dark Horse, 2014); Red Light Properties (IDW, 2014)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? The rush to fill the Vertigo void. Warner Bros. has definitively dialed back Vertigo for now, which was once the go-to imprint for creator-owned projects assured of wide distribution and major media exploitation potential; only Image was real competition for those. Now, you’ve got the Boom!/Archaia merger, Dark Horse Originals, Jet City — a critical mass of significant non-Big Two publishers stepping up and offering at least close to those terms. By doing so, they’re scoring some fantastic books that reverted from Vertigo (Bad Houses for one, which I originally acquired for Vertigo and wound up at Dark Horse), many of which are still out there waiting for takers, and getting first crack at the new projects that once would’ve gone there first. Which also means they’ll become home bases for breakout talent in the way that only Vertigo was for many years.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? It’s related: The upsurge in successful original, non-superhero, non-animated graphic novel adaptations to other media. There have always been GN projects in development, but we’re starting to see real discernment in what gets picked and what makes it. I think the ground was laid nicely in 2013 by the box office success of 2 Guns and the critical successes of Blue is the Warmest Color and Fun Home: the Musical. Coming up, we’ve got Cancer Vixen, Fifth Beatle, the Fight Club sequel, Term Life, and who knows what else.
Serhend Sirkecioglu, cartoonist
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? The lack of “inclusiveness” in comics and Big Data…Personally for me it was a non-issue (you can’t force equality, more good female/queer/colored cartoonists are not going come out of the ground, they need to be made and have the opportunity to cut their teeth first) but it’s a step in the right direction. This has been brought up from time to time (even a kick-starter doc was funded on the subject, Comics Undressed) on The Beat and other sites, but i think a greater debate on the topic is around the corner. It brings to light the greater question of why don’t certain groups of people reads comic as avidly as the core audience and understanding where these groups tastes are in term of storytelling. perhaps a deeper looking more at analytics/big data will be where part of the answer lies in expanding the readership of comics.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Reading more Terra Formers
Ben Towle, cartoonist/educator
2014 Projects: My webcomic, Oyster War, is on-track to wrap up in the first half of 2014 and I’m gonna be glad to have that finally under my belt! After that, who knows?… I’m really excited about NOT knowing quite what I’m doing after that. I’ve got a few potential things in the hopper: an all-ages proposal I’d like to put together, possibly a “Volume II” of Oyster War, or maybe even a cooking-related thing that I wrote a few years back.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? It came really, really late in 2013 (December 23rd, maybe?!), but SPX’s decision to to to a lottery system for some tables and “previous bigwig guest” pre-invites for the rest seems like a big story to me. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but table demand for an indie show like SPX hitting a break point that demands this sort of action seems like a pretty big deal–and maybe an indication that the comics scene outside the direct market is where things are really happening comics-wise these days.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Not a “big” story I guess, buy I think we’ll continue to see more and more creators diversifying their income streams and building up a library of stuff they actually own by doing work for creator-owned publishers like Image. It just makes sense. The legal shenanigans of the last few years have made an impression on folks.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? I’m not gonna hold my breath until it comes out, but SUPPOSEDLY Mad Max: Fury Road will be coming out in 2014. I’m a sucker for post-apocalypse movies. And for car chases. And for anything Brendan McCarthy draws/designs.
Charles Kochman, publisher
2014 Projects: After years of neglect on my part getting sidetracked by other projects, we are finally releasing this Fall The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio by Mark Evanier and the Joe Simon Estate, featuring 386 pages of original art from their archives at an affordable price and manageable format. Also from Abrams ComicArts are two nonfiction graphic novels edited by my partner in crime, Carol Burrell: Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squazoni (in the spring), and The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Ernie Colón (half of the team that created The 9/11 Report) along with Dan Mishkin and Jerzy Drozd (in the fall). Both show the power of graphic novels to communicate otherwise complex ideas in a way that is accessible and inspiring to an audience outside the traditional comics community.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? The continuing evolution of DC Comics transmuting from a New York-based editorial company to that of LA entertainment division. It’s emblematic of the way corporate America is heading that employees who have dedicated decades of their lives to a company and have institutional memory are no longer valued and expected to uproot their lives and those of their families for some idea of consolidation and “synergy.”
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? The prophets were wrong: Print isn’t dead and eBooks failed to replace beautifully made and artfully produced books. More and more independent bookstores will rise, curating a selection of titles that serves the needs of their communities.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014?Reading. I’ve been so backlogged this past year, I’ve been enjoying over the break a stack of books by my bed, such as the new Jim Henson biography by Brian Jay Jones. I hope to be able to keep up better in the new year and dedicate less time at night to MSNBC and devote more attention to those books written and illustrated and published by my friends and colleagues.
Jimmy Aquino, podcaster Comic News Insider
2014 Projects: Continuing the weekly podcast full of news, reviews and interviews.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Quite a few to choose from. DC’s move from NYC to Burbank, Marvel’s continued dominance in movies, the well deserved recognition of small press/independent comics and publishers, etc. However, I think one of the biggest is how creators have used crowdfunding to get their projects off the ground. Cartoonists like my old roommate Ben Templesmith have found great success through sites like Kickstarter. I look forward to seeing (and helping) more great cartoonists fund their dreams.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Seems like every year we look to the digital future. I was resistant to digital comics for some time but have almost completely converted (except for graphic novels and trade paperbacks). I don’t think the floppies are dead and hopefully not any time soon. I realize I am not helping since my conversion to digital. Perhaps digital and print can continue to live together in perfect harmony just like that Stevie Wonder/Paul McCartney song. (That’s what it was about, right?)
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? The continued rise of Archie Comics. I hate to say it’s a guilty pleasure as I genuinely loves me some Archie comics. They have really pushed the envelope over the past year with the more serious adult storylines in Life With Archie and the awesome zombie themed Afterlife With Archie. Of course, they continue to offer the great Archie comics we know and love with the floppies and digests that often have fun themes and celebrity crossovers.
Ed Catto, partner, Bonfire Agency, LLC
2014 Projects: Fanning the flames at the Bonfire Agency
The Captain Action Animated Series
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? The continuing, non-stop growth of comics –in movies/TV, comics beyond print (ComiXology, etc.) and the explosive growth of conventions big and small.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Increased acceptance and enthusiastic embracing of geek culture by mainstream brands, traditional companies and society at large.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Craig Yoe’s Haunt of Horror series from IDW
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.