As is Beat tradition, it’s time for our annual Creator Survey to kick off the year. We’ve reached out to a wide-ranging group of comics creators, retailers and journalists for their thoughts on the big events of 2019…and what the world holds for 2020. You’ll find all kinds of previews of upcoming projects thrown in here, and for the eagle eyed, some news such as…a new book from Raina Telgemeier in 2020? It’s true! For this year’s edition we also asked respondents for the biggest comics and people of the decade past – and the results may not surprise you if you’re a regular Beat reader.
As always, we’re very grateful to those who took the time to answer. And to all answering or reading – a very happy New Year!
Calista Brill, Editorial Director of First Second
2020 Projects: InvestiGators by John Green!
Biggest Story of 2019: The massive explosion in children’s graphic novels across the book publishing industry
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? The trade war with China, and how it affects the massive explosion in children’s graphic novels across the book publishing industry
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: The Witcher
Person or Comic of the Decade: Tom Spurgeon
Mary Kate Reed, writer & editor
2020 Projects: 2 unannounced projects
Biggest story of 2019: The growth of the kids comics market. It’s staggering.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? Someone puts out all of Taiyo Matsumoto’s No. 5 in English in 2 volume omnibus edition.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: More board game nights with friends.
Person or Comic of the Decade: Tom Spurgeon is the person of the decade.
Ted Rall, Editorial cartoonist, columnist and editor
2020 Projects: I am working on a book-length editorial cartoon about the division between progressive and centrists in the Democratic Party called: “Political Suicide: the Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” I am teaming up with investigative journalist Greg Palast to do comics and illustrations for his upcoming book “How Trump Stole 2020.” A television adaptation of my 2009 graphic novel “The Year of Loving Dangerously” is in development in Hollywood.
Biggest story of 2019: No clue. Too busy working.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: Watching Democrats screw up again by running a lame moderate candidate to lose to Donald Trump. Then laughing as they pretend to be surprised.
Gary Tyrrell, Hack webcomics pseudojournalist
Biggest story of 2019: The continued growth and easy availability of comics that aren’t by cis, straight, middle aged white guys. Speaking as a cis, straight, middle aged white guy, it’s about friggin’ time that I get to read comics from people whose POV and life experiences are so different from mine. For so long, so much of the comics industry was intent on only occupying this tiny niche designed in a lab to appeal to what a corporation thinks cis, straight, middle aged white guys want. I’m so glad that the next couple of generations of family and friends will be able to have much wider reading horizons.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? There are two people who run small editorial staffs that I suspect will be the most influential publishers of 2020: Matt Bors at The Nib, and Gina Gagliano at Random House Graphic. I really want to see what they each have up their sleeves.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: I think 2020 will be the year I finally get to CXC; I’m feeling guilty because Tom Spurgeon encouraged me to attend when we finally met face-to-face this year.
Person or Comic of the Decade: Uncharacteristically, I’m not going to say Raina/SMILE, because the past decade in comics nearly completely coincides with the work done by Mark Siegel and the people he’s nurtured at First Second.
There’s literally not enough room to mention all the world-class talent that First Second has published — including my favorite books from at least half the years of the decade — and what’s likely even more significant is how his staff has grown and spread and is in charge of what, half of the Big Six graphic novel imprints?
His vision of just how broad comics can be — everything from board books to treatises on immigration policy — is now de facto editorial policy across the publishing industry. Literary awards, widespread adoption by libraries, growing acceptance in classrooms, the explosion of nonfiction and educational comics, creators headlining book festivals, new title announcement exclusives in major newspapers and magazines, the odd genius grant or ambassadorship — all of these would have happened without First Second, but they happened a hell of a lot sooner with First Second.
Jeffrey Brown, cartoonist
2020 Projects: Once Upon A Space-Time!, the first book in my new middle grade series Space-Time!
Biggest story of 2019: The passing of Tom Spurgeon, who – no offense to The Beat! – kept me informed, entertained, and thinking thoughtfully about comics like no one else. I think I took Comics Reporter for granted, and will continue to miss it and Tom.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? I don’t know what the biggest story will be but the tiniest story in comics will be somebody putting out their new minicomic, and really, I like that story. I miss it. I wish it was happening to me.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: Petting my cat while I talk to it in semi-baby talk. Judge all you want, but my cat is an adorable little sweetiekins, yes, he is, little sweetie, yes he is. He is such a little sweetie.
Person or Comic of the Decade: Smile, Raina Telgemeier. It would be notable for its sales alone, but Raina and Smile have done so much more – in making comics acceptable in schools and libraries, expanding the boundaries of what people think comics can be, opening doors wider for girls and women as readers and creators, helping a whole young generation of kids have a better appreciation of comics.
Michael Uslan, Originator & Executive Producer of the Batman/Joker Movie Franchise
2020 Projects: Graphic Novel: “Archie The Married Life 10th Anniversary‚Äù
Biggest story of 2019: JOKER unexpected huge success
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? The sale of a big comic book company
Guilty Pleasure for 2020 : Wonder Woman 1984
Person or Comic of the Decade: Stan Lee+
Rachel Dukes, Cartoonist
2020 Projects: ‘Frankie Comics’ and ‘The Wizerd’ (both coming out through Oni this Fall) See preview of Frankie below!
Person or Comic of the Decade: Cannonball by Kelsey Wroten
Van Jensen, writer
2020 Projects: I’m writing a new series for a new publisher, collaborating with Jay Baruchel and Jake Larsen. Then a new creator-owned thing. And I’ve been writing a bit for DC Comics again.
Biggest story of 2019: The resilience of the art form. It’s so strange to hear so much “death of comics” hand wringing at a time when sales are solidifying or strengthening and there are more diverse and exciting works being published in America than ever.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? I think 2020 will be the tipping point of awareness that “mainstream comics” no longer means superheroes-plus-Image. But instead, the mainstream is graphic novels published for younger audiences. That shift has already happened, but industry awareness lags behind.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: My man Robert Venditti on Justice League!
Person or Comic of the Decade: Raina Telgemeier’s Smile came out in 2010. Raina was a talented and respected cartoonist already, but that moment marked her establishment as the voice of the new market of comics, one that grew exponentially over the decade. No one sold as many books as she did, which is credit enough. But Raina also created a whole new realm of comics that other creators are now exploring. The current health of the industry owes so, so much to her.
Dash Shaw, cartoonist
2020 Projects: I hope my book Discipline will come out in 2020. I’m not sure yet.
Biggest story of 2019: The sad loss of Tom Spurgeon. An unbelievable array of graphic novel masterpieces.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? There are so many great graphic novels coming out regularly now, I just hope the readership increases.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: The Cartoonist Kayfabe channel I consider a guilty pleasure.
Person or Comic of the Decade: Person: Kim Thompson. Comic: For the first time in comics history, a decade produced too many intelligent, artistic, ambitious and unusual works to list here.
Mark Siegel, editor, artist, author
2020 Projects: Editorial: DRAGON HOOPS by Gene Yang; THE DAUGHTERS OF YS, by M.T. Anderson & Jo Rioux; Author: 5 WORLDS BOOK 4: THE AMBER ANTHEM (see below!)
Biggest story of 2019: Tom Spurgeon’s passing away.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? Young Readers graphic novels eclipsing picture books and chapter books.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: Chocolate-covered gummy bears while watching high profile indictments.
Person or Comic of the Decade: A flowering of comics in America – vital, influential medium in a true rebirth, exploding in all genres and styles.
Samantha Puc, Journalist
Biggest story of 2019: Raina dominating the bestseller list
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? Vault Comics continuing its meteoric rise, esp. with the introduction of Myriad
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: Disney+ Marvel shows
Person or Comic of the Decade: We said goodbye to so many important industry figures in 2019, but perhaps the hardest moment was losing Tom Spurgeon. His impact on the industry was immeasurable, and moving forward without his voice still seems like swimming in darkness. I imagine it will for quite some time. He’s my pick for industry person of the decade because without him, this industry is fundamentally different – and lesser.
Rob Clough, Critic
2020 Projects: Along with Daniel Elkin, Alex Hoffman, and Ryan Carey, we are launching SOLRAD.co, a new, non-profit website of comics criticism, interviews, resources, commentary, and new comics. We hope to provide a new paradigm with regard to criticism.
I’m also the Programming Director for the Small Press Expo (SPX), and we will be expanding once again as we welcome back ICAF as a partner of the show. Adding the academic element back into SPX is very important to me, as we continue to make it into a true comics festival and not just a trade show.
Biggest story of 2019: There’s another cultural shift happening at the minicomics level as the newest generation of cartoonists has digested the widest range of comics and cultural influences of any group in history. As a result, the work I’m seeing is more personal, innovative and immediate. It’s a new comics underground, only far more diverse in terms of gender, race, and sexuality identity.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? An increasing focus on providing a sustainable living for cartoonists as well as finding legal, financial, and health resources for them. Whether that’s a union or something else, it’s long past time for this to happen.
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: Those dumb ol’ Marvel movies and TV shows. It’s like eating a bag of Cheetos.
Person or Comic of the Decade: Raina Telgemeier is a clear choice for person of the decade. She single-handed invented a new market as stubborn publishers finally realized that girls desperately wanted to read comics aimed at them. Now, YA comics are one of the few profitable areas of publishing. These are quality books that never talk down to their audience but are also immediately accessible.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg with regard to her influence. Scores of children (boys and girls) are growing up reading her comics about mental health, navigating difficult family situations like divorce, and unabashedly throwing yourself into projects that you love and will be deeply influenced by this. Not only that, but her tireless touring at schools, bookstores, and libraries and her encouraging kids to express themselves through art will create a new generation of artists willing to talk about their personal lives as well as create fantasy.
Raina Telgemeier, goraina.com, cartoonist
2020 Projects: Unannounced book project that I’m really looking forward to!
Biggest story of 2019: We got our New York Times Graphic Books Bestseller List back! That list makes such a difference for new and upcoming creators, and the overall legitimacy of the comics medium in the larger entertainment world.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? Maybe we’ll get a cartoonists union in 2020. Fair wages and treatment for all!
Guilty Pleasure for 2020: Seeing friends during the summer convention season is always a highlight.
Person or Comic of the Decade: The unsung hero of the industry just might be agent Judy Hansen. She’s had a hand in making some of the biggest graphic novel creators and publishers of the decade into massive successes, and does it for no reason other than a love for comics. She’s a fierce advocate, a mighty ally, and has a breadth of knowledge like no one else!
Brandon Schatz, Comics Retailer, Columnist for The Beat
2020 Projects: My main focus is going to be attempting to provide more access to comics in remote areas of Canada through the store’s online ordering system. In terms of writing, the plan is to provide more regular content at The Beat – especially as the industry lumbers ever closer to a complete paradigm shift.
Biggest story of 2019: The very public restructuring of DC under the new AT&T overlords, combined with the much quieter plate spinning over at Marvel. The direct market won’t truly thrive until they ween themselves off shoving a majority of their money to the big two. The storm clouds are dark for a reason, and there’s a storm coming.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2020? I truly hope the answer isn’t “one of the big two abandons the direct market,” only in part because the direct market can’t take it. In reality, I hope it isn’t the case, because then retailers who condemn the big two for looking outside the direct market for sustenance will gleefully point to the publishers for the DM’s ruination, and not at the poor business practices they routinely partook in to bring about the collapse themselves.
Person or Comic of the Decade: A posthumous nomination for Tom Spurgeon – who by all accounts not only stoked the comic fires publicly, but was a champion for many through bringing awareness to fundraising efforts, all the way to small words of encouragement, just because it was a good thing to do. Also, just a razor sharp wit. I didn’t appreciate him enough while he was around, and have discovered endless troves of public and private stories about this man’s endless will to HELP. And we could use a whole lot more of that.