And here’s the fourth and final part of our creator survey, where we look at what inspires creators, what they’re working on and what 2017 may being. Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow we’ll announce the 2016 Comics Industry Person of the Year, and there may be some surprises!
Joan Hilty, editor
2017 Projects: I’m thrilled to be even a small part of the team making the Legend of Korra graphic novels (below_. Mike DiMartino and Irene Koh are doing amazing work and giving the fans, including me, everything they would ever want from a series continuation.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Portland emerging as Comics City West, what with Image, IDW and a constant stream of artists migrating their offices there.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? I suspect it’ll be BOOM. I’m intrigued that they’ve picked up Arune Singh on top of everything else and looking forward to seeing what comes next.
What inspires me: Journalism and comics have influenced me equally from an early age, so this year I’m particularly inspired by the work of political graphic journalists like Sarah Glidden, Jess Ruliffson and Keith Knight.
2017 Projects: Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky; don’t tell me not to worry (i’ll worry all i want) by Kelly Kwang; Egg Creme #1 by Liz Suburbia; and the Ley Lines 2017 schedule, co-published with Grindstone Comics, featuring new work by Eric Kostiuk Williams, Tommi Parrish, Shreyas R Krishnan, and Evan Dahm. (see previews below)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Transitions/Changes – Zainab ending Comics and Cola and launching Shortbox, Sparkplug Books closing up shop, and Last Gasp ending its distribution wing.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017?We’ll see a rise in politicized work and action as a result of the US election/political climate. Particularly, cartoonists and comics artists who have tended to be ignored, excluded, or otherwise never been a part of more dominant scenes in comics will take center stage in a big way.
Guilty Pleasure: I haven’t seen any of the others, but the trailer for Logan really got me amped to see a Wolverine movie.
What inspires me: I could easily pick any of the friends, loved ones, or artists I’ve published, but playing that game gets messy SO – I’ll say Julie Doucet, who has always made amazing comics, but especially the work she’s made since she quit comics is consistently eye-opening. Her artistry, sense of design, and humor are so inspiring no matter what she makes. I still can’t get over Carpet Sweeper Tales, it’s peerless.
Ben Towle, cartoonist
2017 Projects: Aside from doing a ton of cons supporting my last book, Oyster War, I’ve spent a lot of the last year writing and doing character designs for my next project, In the Weeds. It’s a comic about cooking and playing rock music in the 1990s–so, yeah, a bit of a departure for me. Also: it’s all animal characters. I’m hoping to launch it as a webcomic in the first half of 2016. Here’re some character designs:
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Chelsea Cain being hounded off Twitter–because it’s emblematic of what seems to be going on now with direct market comics: publishers’ attempts to broaden their audience and widen their appeal is running up against entrenched old school fanboys, sometimes with extremely toxic results. This is one highly visible story among many many others that didn’t get this kind of attention.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? The biggest story in COMICS in 2017 will be the continued golden age and phenomenal sales of all ages/YA comics, but no one will actually hear about it because it’s not a DIRECT MARKET comics story.
Guilty Pleasure: Star Trek: Discovery!
Ward Sutton, cartoonist
2017 Projects: Promoting the *50th Anniversary* of The Onion’s Editorial Cartoonist, Stan Kelly – it’s a Kellybration including a new book and possible exhibition and more events in the coming year. And, of course, Kelly’s latest cartoons appear in The Onion each week.
The New Yorker called Kelly “Brilliantly Wrong”
Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Sack called the book the finest collection of editorial cartoons about editorial cartoons ever printed (or ever will be printed) in this universe or any other universe that may pop up between now and the end of time.:
And here, Kelly himself speaks to the editors at The Barnes & Noble Review:
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I would say the continued reimagining of characters and existing creations, such at the new Flintstones comic. We’re in a world now where everything old (or not even all that old) can become new and different again with sometimes pleasantly surprising results.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? It is my hope that in the face of Trump’s victory and the rise of ugliness in this country, that diversity in the comics world will continue to grow. I see anticipation for the Black Panther movie, the Luke Cage Netflix series, the diverse leads in the latest Star Wars trilogy, LGBTQ comic characters from Iceman to Batwoman, Disney’s Moana and more to be promising signs. When we see different peoples represented in popular culture it helps us all to get along. It is my prediction and hope that 2017 will be a big year for more women, people of color, and LGBTQ characters and creators to flourish.
Guilty Pleasure: The Wilson movie.
What inspires me: Lalo Alcaraz. With his comics, social media presence, and other creative ventures, Lalo fights the power and speaks the truth courageously.
Stuart Moore, writer, editor
DEADPOOL THE DUCK (Marvel, starts January)
THANOS: DEATH SENTENCE (Marvel, prose novel, February)
THE ZODIAC LEGACY: BALANCE OF POWER (Disney Press, prose novel w/Stan Lee, March)
THE ZODIAC LEGACY graphic novel: AGE OF BRONZE (Papercutz, July)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? The election of Donald Trump, which will affect both the content and the economics of all publishing/entertainment for years to come.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? I really can’t predict it this year. Things could go in so many directions.
Guilty Pleasure: Star Trek: Discovery. Way way back runner-up: PASSENGERS!
What inspires me: Tom Tomorrow’s having a good run.
Spencer Simpson, Books-a-Million, editor Fried Pie Comics
2017 Projects: Fried Pie Con 2 and expanding into more shops!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016?Hastings closing, DC Rebirth, March NBA win
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Image 25, Comic Shop Closings (but hopefully not!), Library Growth
Guilty Pleasure: Probably some angry music, we spent a couple years with good fun tunes
What inspires me: It’s probably still Brian K. Vaughn, nobody does world building better
Isaac Goodhart, artist
2017 Projects: Continuing Postal and I have one cover for Star Trek/ Green Lantern!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I suppose it was the Vertigo shake-up.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? The continuing strides the industry is making to promote diversity.
Guilty Pleasure: More Marvel movies :)
What inspires me: Brian Michael Bendis. (He’s tops, but I have many: Bryan Hill, Phil Jimenez, Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli, Adam Hughes, Kevin Wada, Adrian Alphona, Marc Andreyko…)
Matt Pizzolo, publisher Blask Mask, writer
2017 Projects: I’m writing new volumes of Young Terrorists and Godkiller, and I’m publishing more Kim & Kim, Space Riders, Black, We Can Never Go Home, and tons more.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? The continued spread of comics readerships and creators across demographics, and all the unique voices and opportunity and inevitable friction that brings.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? How the comic market will (or won’t) make room for an extremely crowded field of books competing for limited rackspace, many with different sensibilities and readerships from one another.
Guilty Pleasure: Reading more Black Mask creators working on Big 2 characters, it’s fun for me to read characters I’m nostalgic for told in the fresh sensibilities of the indie-minded creators I love.
What inspires me: Not to be such a company dude, but honestly it’s The Black Mask Family. Everybody really cares about each other and supports each other. It makes all the hard times worth it.
Phillip Sevy, artist
2017 Projects: I just finished up a CO oneshot and 2017 will see the last of the Tomb Raider issues I’ve been drawing for Dark Horse
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I’d have to say the success of DC Rebirth.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? I would love for it to be something about Image comics becoming even bigger and better in creating successful spaces for diverse books and new creators – bringing in new readers.
Guilty Pleasure: The third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
What inspires me: Morgan Beem. She has TWO Image books coming in 2017. She’s not only brilliantly talented (if her upcoming OGN doesn’t win all the Eisners, I’d be shocked), she’s also one of the best people I’ve ever met and have occasion to call a close friend. Her genuineness and kindness coupled with her incredible ability to convey emotion in her work (which is highly original) have brought light and happiness to my life this year. Everyone else will get to see it next year.
Arie Kaplan, writer
2017 Projects: There are a few recent projects that I’d like to mention: Not long ago, I wrote two LEGO Star Wars books for Scholastic. The first one, LEGO Star Wars: Face Off (which was illustrated by Dave White), is out now. And the second one, The Official Stormtrooper Training Manual, comes out in January 2017. I’ve also been working on a few projects for Disney Book Group. For example, I wrote three of the stories in the 5-Minute Avengers Stories collection, which is out now from Disney’s Marvel Press imprint. I also wrote one of the stories in the Spider-Man Storybook Collection, which is also currently available from Marvel Press. And I wrote two of the stories in the 5-Minute Spider-Man Stories anthology, which will be published by Marvel Press in June 2017. I’ll also be giving a series of pop culture-themed lectures at QED Astoria (some of which are about comic book history) throughout 2017. Check out this link for more info. And I’ll be doing several other speaking engagements all over the country. They’ll be announced either on www.ariekaplan.com, on Twitter (@ariekaplan), or likely on both my website AND Twitter. Plus, I’m working on a few other unannounced projects that I can’t talk about just yet. Stay tuned to www.ariekaplan.com (and follow me on Twitter at @ariekaplan) or more details!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I don’t know if this is the biggest story in comics per se, but all the instances of sexual harassment in comics, that’s been a big topic recently. It’s upsetting to hear about. Hopefully, the more these instances of harassment are brought to light, the less likely it’ll be that things like that will happen in the future. Hey, I can hope, right? Part of this is pure selfishness on my part; I’ve got a young daughter, and both of her parents are writers (and they’re both geeks). Hell, her dad is a comic book writer. So it’s possible that – one day – she might decide to work in the comic book industry. And it’s my hope that she’ll be able to do so without fear of harassment. (Now just you watch, after that tirade, my daughter will probably grow up to be an accountant.)
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Again, that’s hard to say.
Guilty pleasure: Well, “guilty pleasure” implies that it’s something I’m only SECRETLY looking forward to because it’s something that’s really horrible, so horrible that I feel guilty for liking it. I don’t know if there’s anything like THAT that I’m anticipating. BUT there are some 2017 releases that sound genuinely good, and to which I’m genuinely looking forward. I’m really intrigued to see how the 2017 Mummy movie (starring Tom Cruise) turns out.
What Inspires Me: Well, one of the first people I ever met in the comic book industry was Al Jaffee, of MAD Magazine In fact, I first met him in the year 2000, when I first started writing for MAD Magazine. He inspired me back then and he continues to do so now, whether it’s his “MAD Fold-Ins,” or the other work he does. For example, he’s illustrated a few stories for SpongeBob Comics (which is a wonderful comic book series you should all be reading). And Al’s in his 90s, he’s a nonagenarian, and he’s still so witty and funny and creative and prolific. He’s a huge inspiration. If I’m even half as productive as Al is when I’m his age, I’ll be lucky.
Judith Hansen, agent
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Gene Luen Yang getting a MacArthur Fellowship
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Raina continuing to dominate the NY Times Graphics Bestseller list
Guilty Pleasure: Hopefully the Amulet movie will be greenlit
Bryan Talbot, cartoonist
2017 Projects: Completing the fifth, longest and last Volume of the adventures of Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard, Grandville: Force Majeure, out next October. What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? The deaths of Steve Dillon and Marcel Gottlieb
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? The Superman Vs Donald Trump graphic novel
Guilty Pleasures: Being published in Turkey
What inspires me: Joe Sacco
Nat Gertler, writer publisher About Comics
2017 Projects: Having finished collecting the outside-the-daily-strip material for Complete Peanuts 26 and reprinting the cartoons by and about being a World War II veteran in college in Vic The Vet, I’m aching to get back to writing my own comics. What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? MacArthur Genius grants for not one but two comicsers, Lauren Redniss and Gene Luen Yang. What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Effects of the new administration on comics, whether on the business (trade war with China driving up printing costs and thus prices, putting smaller players out of the market) or content (as fiercer culture conflicts drive demand for heroic characters on all sides.) Guilty pleasure: Doing a Scooby-Doo/Ghostbusters crossover in the Lego Dimensions game we’re buying for our kids for the holidays (yeah, “for our kids”, right…) If I can somehow get the Sta-Puffed Marshmallow Man to rip off his mask and reveal that he was a real estate developed all the time, I’ll consider that a proper creative victory.
What inspires me: Marv Wolfman is currently writing an enjoyable comic about a teenage girl despite being, well, at least twice as old as a teenager. That seems a good reminder to those of us who are a li’l bit older than a teen ourselves.
2017 Projects: Rockstars and more X-Files
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? ReedPop taking over convention operations for shows here and abroad
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? More convention acquisitions
Guilty Pleasure: Donald Trump’s nuclear apocalypse (not really)
What inspires me: Joe Sacco
Henry Barajas, writer
2017 Projects: I’m working on a biography about my great-grandfather: Tata Rambo: La Voz De Mayo.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? I think DC’s Rebirth had everyone talking and excited again, and Image moving to Portland was huge.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Honestly, I have a feeling a comics legend will die.
Guilty Pleasure: I’m looking forward to more Love and Rockets and Stray Bullets.
Kat Kan, librarian
2017 Projects: I create weekly and monthly recommended graphic novel lists for Brodart Books & Library Services. I’m also working with my middle school Library Book Club students as they create mini-comics, fractured fairy tales, and other creative writing endeavors. I’ll also be participating in Will Eisner Week activities, doing some programming at my local public library and hopefully at my son’s college.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? From my perspective as a school librarian and advocate for comics and graphic novels in libraries and schools, I’d have to say there were two big stories in 2016: first, Gene Luen Yang, a great comics creator, became the Library of Congress Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, received the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (Genius Grant), and continued to produce great comics work with his Secret Coders series for First Second Books. The other big story to me is March Book Three by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. They won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature – first time a graphic novel has won the award; Gene Luen Yang has been nominated twice in recent years. In addition, March Book Two won the Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work. And Congressman Lewis did all this while still serving in the House of Representatives.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Again, this is from my little niche in school libraries, but Scholastic Book Fairs took a big leap into graphic novels by making a new table display category in Fall 2016, and I think that will continue. It’s a great way to get more graphic novels into schools – and directly into children’s hands. GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier was a runaway hit in the book fair, and other titles sold well, and this is happening in schools all over the country.
Guilty Pleasure: It’s not really guilty – I’m hoping for some more time to work with my hands, doing crafts I like. I’m also hoping to work with the Girl Scout troop at my school with their Comic Book Badge this year.
What inspires me: Jim McClain – he’s a self-published comics creator with his work called Solution Squad – an educational comic about math. He’s juggling a teaching career (middle school math) and family along with his writing and participating in comics panels at comics conventions to promote the use of comics in education. He doesn’t give up, no matter how tough things get with his life or his job.
Alex Segura, writer, VP Archie Comics
2017 Projects: THE ARCHIES one-shot, co-written with Matthew Rosenberg with art by Joe Eisma (out 3/15) and Dangerous Ends, my third Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery (crime novel out from Polis Books on 4/11)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? For us, it was the cementing of the main Archie line as a strong alternative to the Big Two in terms of consistent quality and level of talent. That, coupled with the Riverdale TV news and buzz, made for a strong closing to 2016. DC Rebirth was huge, industry-wide, and I’m curious to see how the second year of the initiative plays out, story-wise. The comics-to-movies or comics-to-TV story is more of a way of life now, but that’s always big and interesting to follow.
March winning a National Book Award was massive. A new Love & Rockets series is always big, for me. I don’t know if it’s a story on its own, but there is a trend piece to be written about creators balancing for-hire work with their own creations, and how the byproduct of that is a decrease in “new” corporately-owned, non-derivative characters. You’re seeing a lot of smart creators focusing on their own brand and ideas, in effect creating smaller, boutique publishers, and supplementing that with for-hire work on established characters.
It’s a really vibrant time to get your work out there as a veteran or new creator. So many options and tools. In terms of publicity, the sheer number of mainstream outlets regularly covering comics is staggering, especially in comparison to 10+ years ago, when I first got to DC. It’s really an embarrassment of riches for publicists. It’s very interesting to see how that opportunity is being used by the various publishers, and how it affects the more institutionalized comic trade press. And, how/what info is making it to fans or retailers and when in the process.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? No idea. I’m curious to find out.
Guilty Pleasure: I hate/don’t believe in the term “guilty pleasure,” but I’ll bite: A vacation without a deadline looming. (Ha!) Re-reading the John D. MacDonald Travis McGee novels.
What inspires me: Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction’s versatility as creators and their character/integrity is always inspiring. To name a few, off the top of my head.
Mike Scigliano, Event Management
2017 projects: I’ll be working on a variety of new events in 2017. From the new Comic Creator Conference for MAD Event Management in Long Beach, CA this February to a variety of unannounced events throughout the year.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016?
It’s sort of self serving as this area of the industry has been my career focus for much of the last decade but I think one of the biggest stories in the comic industry for 2016 were comic conventions. From celebrity talent and their fees being publicly explored to cons collapsing (2017 started with a con implosion already) so much shifted on the convention circuit. Celebrity fees hit all time highs. Comic creators have begun to receive fees more commonly. The convention scene really saw a lot of change in 2016.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Following up from 2016 I think we’ll see more contraction of cons. I can count about a half dozen shows already off the calendar for this coming year with more to come. I don’t think this story will dominate the industry. It will play its part, though. I expect to see more emphasis put on local comic shops and their overall health and success/failure. I think comic shops can be taken for granted very easily. Support from the industry as a whole may be a big story we see in 2017. One more will be the continued growth of creator owned comics and their impact on the industry including cons and local comic shops.
Guilty pleasure: Being able to make a little bit of time for me to kick back and relax. I know, it’s unrealistic…
What inspires me: It’s funny, I can’t say one specific person does but I can tell you that a type of creator does inspire me. I love seeing someone work exceptionally hard at creating their own brand. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the company owned comics but I LOVE watching creators build their own properties and personal brands.
2017 Projects: Still busting out the weekly podcast (our 12th year!) with news, reviews and interviews! Hoping to hit some different conventions this year to cover.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2016? Hard to narrow down. March winning the National Book Award, DC’s Rebirth, the Big 2 bringing out more female and ethnic characters (whether just for press or not, still a good thing) and more. Losing Darwyn Cooke was definitely the saddest story.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2017? Hopefully there will be even more diversity represented in comics with both creators and characters. And there will definitely be more politically based comics coming out and a few will probably get some major play.
Guilty Pleasure: I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures since that’s supposed to be something you’re embarrassed about. Ain’t no shame in my game! Looking forward to the live action Beauty and the Beast movie (my former musical theater performer self can’t resist), Riverdale on The CW (I love all things Archie Comics related), and Pitch Perfect 3 (shut up).
What inspires me: Anything by Katie Beaton, Lucy Knisley, Noelle Stevenson and Julia Wertz. They can make me laugh, cry, rage and love. Plus, a simple tweet by Kelly Sue DeConnick can be inspiring as all get out. She is a powerful voice, massive talent and all around kick-ass lady.
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.