Once again, as we ran our annual Creator Survey, we asked people to pick the Comics Industry Person of the Year — someone who made a difference and moved the needle. This year there was no question about who it would be, but several other creators had an impact on voters in 2018 – and you’ll continue to hear from them in years to come.
COMICS INDUSTRY PERSON OF THE YEAR: STAN LEEEmbed from Getty Images
The overwhelming choice was the one and only Stan Lee. Although Stan’s passing on November 12th 2018 was fresh on everyone’s mind, his historical stature ensured that his achievements would be honored.
And as controversial a figure as Lee was, he deserves our respect for a very simple reason: he helped thousands, if not millions, of people to love comic books for more than 70 years. He was the greatest marketer comics has ever seen, or probably ever will see, and an editor who helped some of the medium’s greats make their signature work.
And the voters agreed:
- Stan Lee- I mean he didn’t do much in 2018 but he just died and was one of the last original titans of the industry so it should be acknowledged.
- Stan Lee, for many reasons, the first and foremost being I’d prefer to punt on the question. But his passing signifies a huge milestone in comics – a B.C. and an A.D., and we should award him one final no-prize.
- Stan Lee. Seeing how people have been recognized here posthumously, I can only assume Stan Lee will be one who many people will name here. Lee’s legacy is certainly complicated but his influence and name recognition as the “face” of comics for many people can’t be denied. Though he embraced this role, he was, of course, the quintessential “company man” for Marvel. As I mentioned in a review of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, though he guided Marvel’s creative and editorial direction in the early years, for the most part he seemed otherwise beholden to the publishers and the owners he reported to, often uncomfortably straddling a gray area between management and employee. But of course he took great pride (and credit) in what Marvel became, and it’s telling that he remained the face of the company even as he at once point sued it to receive what he felt was contractually owed to him from the movies. For better or worse, he was great at myth making, himself included; though, I do feel, it ultimately was to help “brand” the company, before anyone even thought that was a thing!
- From elder neglect and authorship controversies to the mainstreaming of comics history and shift to comics as the springboard for multi-platform media empires, this was the singularity year for Stan Lee as a comics icon. Whether one likes it or not, Lee became the surrogate for comics as the grandparent of American Pop culture — and I capitalize that deliberately, since the Pop movement gave popular culture the distinct ethos it continues to exhibit today.
- Stan Lee. He really is one of the great fathers of mainstream American comics.
- Stan Lee. Without reading one of the last X-Men comics he wrote in the 60’s I might never have picked up another comic.
- Yeah, Stan’s got a checkered past as far as creator credit goes and yeah, he’s clearly a huckster extraordinaire, but comics as we know it wouldn’t be the same if not for Stan Lee. If–like me–you grew up reading Marvel comics, Lee was the public face of something you really loved and felt passionate about. You were part of an exclusive club and Stan Lee was that club’s leader and spokesperson. I’m older now (also: jaded and grumpy!) but even I got a little choked up when I heard the news of his death.
- Stan Lee. Nuff said.
It should be noted that Lee is the second posthumous recipient of the Comics Industry Person of the Year, after Kim Thompson in 2013.
COMICS INDUSTRY NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: OLIVIA JAIMES
Although Stan was the overwhelming pick, one other figure garnered enough support to earn the Comics Industry Person of the Year, Newcomer Edition: Olivia Jaimes. The pseudonym of a person still unidentified, Jaimes trod boldly onto comic book scripture with a re-imagining of the Nancy comic strip that was not just updated but relevant, timely and insightful. She redefined the meaning of legacy comic strips and gave the world of webcomics a jolt as well.
And after nearly a year, she still hasn’t been outed– perhaps the greatest achievement of the year in a world without any privacy!
Reached for comment, Jaimes noted “I’m touched and honored— thank you. Please continue to give me many awards.”
And via her syndicate we have the first Olivia Jaimes self portrait, above!
As our voters wrote:
- Olivia Jaimes, for making an old newspaper comic strip interesting and getting a lot of good press while doing it.
- Olivia Jaimes, no question. At the start of 2018, who would have expected that someone could get me to deeply invest in a syndicated comics strip when I have almost exclusively been reading GNs and floppies for years? NANCY is one of the most incisive and insightful comics of our time and the narrative surrounding Jaimes herself is just as captivating as the run on NANCY she has been creating.
- Olivia Jaimes, whoever she is
- Olivia Jaimes. Who knew we’d get alt-Nancy?
- Olivia Jaimes proved that little kids are still the truest mirror of adult idiosyncrasies.
But we have a few more awards to give out!
PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR: ANNIE KOYAMA
Although she is always mentioned many times in this survey (and last year won the Icon Award), there was more support than ever for the one and only Annie Koyama. She announced that she would be shutting down her publishing company in a few years (heartache!), but Koyama is still putting out some of the very best comics around, including this year Chlorine Garden, Space Academy 123, XTC69 and many more. We’re pleased to announce that the Publisher of the Year for 2018 is Annie Koyama.
“I am extremely honoured to have been named Publisher of the Year,” Koyama told The Beat when contacted wwith the news. “It is bittersweet news, as Koyama Press enters our last couple of years of business.
“While I didn’t take the traditional road to becoming a publisher by any means, I am so proud of the more than one hundred titles we’ve published since 2007.
“No one succeeds alone, so I am grateful for the help from my great team: Ed Kanerva, Helen Koyama and Daniel Nishio as well as all of the artists that we have been fortunate to represent, and to the best publishing peers.
“Thanks to everyone who voted. It means a lot.”
And our voters spoke:
- Annie Koyama. In light of her announced pending exit from comics publishing, it is important to acknowledge her incredible influence and contribution to comics.
- Annie Koyama. She’s retiring from publishing after having helped creators and the medium for years.
- There is no one more loved or more deserving of that love in comics than Annie Koyama.
COMICS INDUSTRY WRITER OF THE YEAR: TOM KING
Finally, Tom King once again garnered enough votes for us to name him the Comics Writer of the Year. Although controversial, his work on Batman, Mister Miracle and Heroes in Crisis had everyone talking.
- Tom King. Seriously, anyone who survived 2018 gets my respect. But right now: Tom King is the guy to beat, while Bendis makes the DC Universe feel homier than it has in a long time.
- Tom King. This is tough, but I’ll say Tom King. He had a great year both creatively and commercially, and in a talent-heavy DC universe, he continues to stand out.
THE NEW GUARD
Several cartoonists garnered multiple mentions, all of them women, enough to point to the generation of creators who are going to shape how the medium is viewed: Liana Finck, Lisa Hanawalt, Ngozi Ukazu and Lauren Weinstein. Weinstein has been through a few generations of this, but her work is more insightful and timely than ever.
- Lauren Weinstein is on a roll! Look out!
- Lauren Weinstein is on fire!
- Liana Finck. Her daily output to a quarter million Instagram followers, top drawer status at the New Yorker, and remarkable new memoir is a trifecta. She’s laid creative and authorial claim to the legacies of Saul Steinberg and Art Spiegelman and is still so young. A new standard for the next generation of talent.
- Liana Finck. No one else has reduced the cartoon vocabulary to its essence the way she has. She has so many different frequencies to explore within that spare framework and has captured the broadest audience. Its a huge feat.
- Lisa Hanawalt, who released a book (Coyote Doggirl) and also got and made her own animated TV show for Netflix, Tuca & Bertie, which premieres in 2019, while continuing to work on Bojack. Her output is astounding.
- Ngozi Ukazu! Did you see the photos of her signing lines for the print version of Check, Please!? She’s a creator who will have a huge impact on the long-term readership of comics, and inspire a new generation of cartoonists.
- Ngozi Ukazu — the biggest success of comics that no one IN comics seems to be talking about.
THE KIDLIT GANG
Comics for young readers have been THE trend in comics for the last five years, and many authors known primarily for kids comics were mentioned.
- Dav Pilkey. The DOG MAN books are being devoured by kids just as fast as Dav can (admittedly, really fast!) put them out.
- Dav Pilkey... a five million copy first printing of Dog Man V6 is spectacular and unprecedented.
- Gina Gagliano, who is my friend and peer, is probably my pick. This is someone who deeply loves comics, who came up through interning at publishers, working her way up the food chain at a major publisher and contributing to its enormous success, contributing to multiple comics festivals and international book fairs, and then being hand-picked to start a brand new line at another major publisher…. all while working nights and weekends to get her Master’s degree this year! She’s an incredible success story in comics, an amazing individual, and I love her to bits.
- Gina Gagliano. First Second had a great year, and given how far out they have to plan, she played a part in that before her departure. Her leading an imprint at a major publisher is both a boon for the industry creatively and an underlining of the perceived health of the medium. Plus, hey, she started a podcast! Good for Gina!
- Gina Gagliano. The almost daily news of the creators she’s got signed to her new imprint means that 2020 is going to be the best year in comics for at least a decade.
- Jarrett J. Krosoczka. He started out with kids’ comics, including his Lunch Lady series, but in 2018 he wrote and illustrated a tremendous gut-punch of a memoir, Hey, Kiddo, which garnered so many starred reviews and was a National Book Award finalist in the youth category. People who only read comics from comics publishers may not know him, but millions of kids do.
- Luke Pearson! I have been a fan of the Hilda comics for years, but seeing it make the jump to a Netflix series that somehow managed to capture the quiet, charming, and deeply humane scope of the books was a thrill. We don’t see that gentle spirit much in kids’ TV, but every kid I’ve talked to LOVED it.
Finally many people were mentioned only once, but with such moving testimonials that they are all worth noting. This is a collaborative industry and though comics aren’t perfect, and have a lot of problems, these are the people working to make it better.
- Avi Ehrlich of Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club. Avi has created a comics & music collective that boils over with talent and vitality. He works tirelessly behind the scenes to churn out one great title after another while simultaneously fostering the least dysfunctional family of punks and anti-establishment heroes I could imagine. His “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality makes sure he’s always quick with advice and encouraging words, whereas a lesser person might withhold against those they viewed as “competition”. The world needs more like him!
- Bill Sienkiewicz – because no one champions causes and those in need like him.
- Camilla Zhang. Kickstarter comics is weird bastard child of comics. People love to hate it. But it’s the best place to publish without a safety net. Zhang has helped indie creators (full disclosure: myself included) work around the publishing tape. Kickstarter made the right move hiring someone like Zhang for the comics department.
- Eleanor Davis. She’s the best cartoonist in the world right now. She never does the same thing twice, and few cartoonists think their way through a project the way she does.
- Ezra Claytan Daniels, who literally broke ground in comics storytelling.
- My vote’s for Taneka Stotts, Amy Reeder, and Leila del Duca
- Gail Simone
- He’s going to think I’m just gassing him up, but Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou had an astounding year. PxP continues to fill a niche that nothing else does, he’s a constant source of positivity and humor, and his own lettering work has impressed more and more with each new title.
- Jason Lutes, for finishing up Berlin
- Jay Edidin, for pushing for and getting real change for marginalized creators at a top company.
- Jody Houser
- Julian Glander
- Ken Loyd, proprietor of Keness, a digital print shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which has become a cornerstone of self-published comics. He is legendarily kind and accommodating to frazzled cartoonists, and deserves all the best things in this world.
- Kieron Gillen – his output and devotion to the industry and his readers is just incredible for starters, but also his choice of what to put out is inspiring. WicDiv is coming to the end of its last arc and, together with Jamie, Kieron has proved that a new title can still explode in popularity when handled right and hitting the right notes. Kieron is a master at reading the waves and creating just the right title for the time. See the release of DIE this week – at a time when the geeksphere is going tabletop-RPG mad, he’s there with his finger on the button. Whether he’s writing for a huge franchise like Star Wars or compiling and editing a charity anthology, Kieron never loses connection with readers, friends or why this all matters. He embodies the passion and excitement we all want to feel about comics and he’s elevated the industry.
- Marjorie Liu for being the first woman to win an Eisner Award for best writer.
- Mark Waid – A strong creator entangled in the bitterness of C***csgate, and working hard to rise above it and continue to produce strong work
- Nick Drnaso, Liana Finck, and Michael Kupperman, all of whose wonderful books got the recognition they deserved.
- Pornsak Picheshote (Infidel is one of the best horror comics of all time)
- Eve Ewing (Black girl magic on -full display, on the page and behind it)
- Chris Sebela (consistently putting out amazing, inclusive work – and going hard for LGBTQ+ issues).
- Ryan Coogler. I think the bolt out of the blue this year was the Black Panther film. If anyone tells you they were expecting it to be as good as it was or for it to be the mainstream phenomenon that it was, they’re lying. Let’s split the award between Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman. Pity they can’t make an accessible Panther comic, because it sure doesn’t sell in the DM.
- Shing Yin Khor. Shing does amazing comics work and is also a brilliant interdisciplinary artist. She is consistently surprising and delighting me with her newest creations. She is also such an advocate for creators, particularly marginalized creators of color. She has created multiple scholarships and grants to support creators in their careers, does Resistance Cranes to raise money for immigrants and refugees, and helps others in countless ways every single day. I would not be where I am today without Shing Yin Khor and I’m not the only one.
- Whit Taylor. The SPX 11–or, if you prefer, Whit Taylor, who’s at the center of it all.
- Zainab Akhtar
And finally the intangible:
- China. Not the wrestler, the country. Soon, they will own all of us.
And that’s a wrap for 2018! Many thanks once again to the people who participated in the survey for their passion and insight.
2017: Emil Ferris
2016: Gene Luen Yang and the March Trilogy Team
2015: Noelle Stevenson
2014: Raina Telgemeier
2013: Kim Thompson
2012: Eric Stephenson
2011: Kate Beaton/Jim Lee & Dan DiDio
2010: Robert Kirkman
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.