As is our long running annual tradition, we kick off the year with our annual Creator Survey, a look back and a look forward from a wide swath of comics creators, journalists and publishers. 2020 was a year unlike any other, and this time we asked people to share what they learned over this extraordinary time. The answers are perhaps more personal than usual, but the comics community hung together against a background of turmoil, unrest and a flavor of upheaval unique to our industry. If there’s a trend here, it’s that everyone is eagerly awaiting the time when we can gather at conventions once again. Until then, here’s what people would be talking about if you caught up with them at a show.
As always, thanks to everyone for taking time to participate.
The survey will run for the next three days and end with the 2020 Comics Industry Person of the Year, as voted on by peers.
Kyle Starks, cartoonist
2021 Projects: I have a book in progress right now with my best friend Chris Schweizer with Skybound we’re excited for them to announce! Hopefully a lot more forthcoming!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? I feel like the biggest story maybe didn’t happen – but it’s what is comic’s plan in the event there is no direct market? COVID for 3 months shut down stores and comics didn’t pivot at all, it didn’t seem like there was much reaction or response at all to that possibility.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Hopefully, a return to normal. But, with the inability to make new live action movies and television – maybe 2021 is the year comics become a part of greater mainstream entertainment? Maybe?!
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Hopefully going to conventions again? Not only are they huge part of my income they’re a huge part of my social life. I miss seeing fans and my peers so much.
What did you learn in 2020? In 2020 I returned to writing/drawing my own books again (OLD HEAD, KARATE PROM) and was reminded how that’s really my comic joy. That’s what makes me happiest in life and was desperately needed for me in this nightmare year.
Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Writer
2021 Projects: The fourth sequel to Boston Metaphysical Society will be on Kickstarter in Spring of 2021. It is currently with my artist. I’m also developing a standalone audio drama called Boston Metaphysical Society: The Ghost Ship. It will be on Kickstarter in the Fall of 2021.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Diamond taking a nose dive.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? The changing distribution of comics.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Sitting at a local cafe for hours.
What did you learn in 2020? Not to be upset if something doesn’t get done.
Tom Akel, Creator & Publisher, Rochetship
2021 Projects: The return of BACKCHANNEL and several ‘to be announced’ projects for POW! Entertainment, Rocketship, and others.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The success of comics on Kickstarter and the shake ups at DC.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? The return and evolution of the convention circuit.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: The eventual return of conventions and seeing old friends.
What did you learn in 2020? That in 2021 I hope as a society we can reset social norms back to acting with transparency, integrity, and respect in all aspects of our lives — personal and professional.
David Harper, Podcaster/Writer
2021 Projects: Continuing to run SKTCHD – have an insane oral history that might be a better book coming up – and recording Off Panel, my weekly comics interview podcast. Episode 300 coming soon!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The Diamond shutdown and all the chaos that wrought.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Will conventions happen and if so will they happen in 2021?
Guilty pleasure for 2021: GODZILLA VS. KONG. Which, hilariously, I just checked and was my answer for 2020 as well.
What did you learn in 2020? I’ve learned that I really like baths and that they’re super relaxing, which is helpful when the world is very stressful. But overall, I’ve been very lucky and continue to do well, despite…all of this.
Calista Brill, Publisher First Second
2021 Projects: InvestiGators 3 hits shelves this winter, and Adventure Zone 4 hits shelves this summer!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? I’m torn between the continuing — and ever more dramatic — shake-ups at DC, or else the continuing — and ever more dramatic — investment in the graphic novel that is happening in mainstream book publishing.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Something nice? Let’s all agree that it will be something nice.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: My kid is getting into comics, and his true passion in life is SpongeBob. I plan on reading as many SpongeBob comics with him next year as I can cram into his little brain.
What did you learn in 2020? I can’t imagine getting through this ordeal without my friends. Beloved faces on my laptop screen are getting me through the pandemic one day at a time.
Erica Schultz, Writer/Editor
2021 Projects: The only one I’m authorized to discuss right now is the wrap up of Legacy of Mandrake (Red 5 Comics, Stonebot Comics).
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Warren Ellis, DC’s layoffs, the consistent delay of WW84, The Snyder Cut.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? I’ll be interested in seeing how the HBO Max Warner’s releases work out.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Rewatching Elementary on Hulu.
What did you learn in 2020? I’ve learned that I really should take a break more often.
Jerry Craft, Author / Illustrator
2021 Projects: I’ll be working on the third “New Kid” book.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The success of middle grade graphic novels.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Movie and TV show adaptations of comics
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Meeting fans at industry events.
What did you learn in 2020? With all the horrible things that have happened in 2020, I learned to separate myself from those events in order to continue to create positive books for kids.
Marc Arsenault, comics veteran
2021 Projects: Relaunching Sparkplug Books Distribution after years of work. Alternative Comics, Sparkplug and Wow Cool have said goodbye to Diamond and a major book distributor and will go back to doing it indie. New publications will no longer be issued under the Alternative Comics or Sparkplug imprints. Wow Cool will be the house label from here on out. No releases firmly scheduled yet, but several are long in development.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? COVID was the trigger… For comics retail in the US, the Diamond reaction and aftermath – especially as it concerned DC Comics – was maybe the most visible. Lee’s Comics closing was possibly the wake up call. Or the go back to sleep call, in this case.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Don DeLillo writing The Fantastic Four. Hey, one can dream.
Guilty pleasure for 2021 Not just comics? Dang. Getting buffet-style toppings frozen yogurt is pretty damn high on that list.
What did you learn in 2020? I’ve learned that other people ended up with way more free time than I did! I learned it is possible for every single kitchen appliance to break down in one month. I learned that rats like to eat the insulation off the underhood of my car. I learned that there are two actors named Tony Leung. I learned you can never own too many flashlights.
Marguerite Sauvage, artist and writer
2021 Projects: Super Woman Kara Zor-El for DC Future State, a 40 pages original content book for Bad Idea, a 150 pages original content GN for Humanoids US
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The retailers shutting down, the new episode of sexism denunciations and DC firing a part of its staff
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Hopefully an original content series
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Travelling and doing conventions
What did you learn in 2020? Having great projects to work on is the key, doing sports 2 a week outside, and I realized I can be way more solitary and happy than expected (but I have a kid and a companion though)
2021 Projects: Nothing new that’s public yet!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? There were a few huge ones but I think the one that has the most potential to have continuing rippling effects was the absolute clusterpickle that was the direct market during COVID and the massive difference in how the GN market weathered this year versus periodical comics.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? I think we’ll see publishers and retailers that have relied on the direct market continue to find new ways to do business and potentially new methods of distribution we haven’t fully considered yet.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Looking forward to being able to go back to indie shows and pick up goofy minicomics, stickers, and an increasing amount of cool washi tape again, honestly!
What did you learn in 2020? I think this year really drove home the importance of community and taking care of each other– while we might not be seeing our friends or even talking to each other as much, being about to count on people and giving what we can to keep each other afloat when times are tough is so important. This might mean money or food or other tangible needs, it might mean care packages or just being able to lean on each other for moral support within our communities. It’s also a testament to how powerful community truly is.
Jeffrey D Brown, cartoonist
2021 Projects: A Total Waste Of Space-Time! (book 2 in my Space-Time! series), Batman and Robin and Howard (middle grade), and a holiday Star Wars book
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? All the distribution chaos, with DC leaving Diamond, shops being closed by stay at home orders, and COVID destroying Free Comic Book Day.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Traditional publishers will switch to publishing more comics than prose, Barnes & Noble will start bagging and boarding books to entice shoppers, and comics printed on facemasks will become the new webcomics.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: I may actually have a break in between projects where I’m not chasing a half dozen deadlines. Going to be a fun three days!
What did you learn in 2020? Take nothing for granted and be thankful for everything.
Chip Mosher, Writer
2021 Projects: Fulfilling the Kickstarter for Blacking Out, the graphic novel that I did with Peter Krause. It was successfully funded in July 2020 and we’re sending copies out this January 2021.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Chip Mosher returning to writing comics after a 13 year absence.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Chip Mosher retiring from writing comics… again.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Seeing more mind blowing work from Peter Krause following up on the career defining work he did on Blacking Out
What did you learn in 2020? Comics is the best industry with the best people. I’m so happy to be part of this community.
Stuart Moore, Writer; Freelance Ops, AHOY Comics
2021 Projects: Almost everything is confidential! But I have a fun sword-and-sorcery story in THRILLING ADVENTURE YARNS, edited by Bob Greenberger, scheduled for February 2021.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The distributor shakeup. DC made, and continues to make, a series of moves that will change this landscape in significant ways.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? There’s almost certainly going to be a serious economic downturn before the Covid crisis is over. Comics have been fairly resistant to that so far, but it’s going to affect businesses at every level.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Haven’t seen it announced yet, but I’m hoping for the third AURORA novel by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Crazy-fun far-future teen space adventure.
What did you learn in 2020? I’m very fortunate to have a steady living situation and the best partner in the world. I guess I’ve learned that I can take a year off from a lot of the stuff that usually fills up my life. It might even be a good exercise if people weren’t dying and getting permanent health conditions, all around. Other than that: Take things one step at a time and call on your friends when you need help. Also cats.
Andrew Pepoy, artist/writer/publisher
2021 Projects: I’m writing, drawing, and publishing my first Kickstarter project, “The Adventures of Simone & Ajax,” which is still up for pre-order at https://bit.ly/simoneandajaxgogo. I’ll also be launching my 2nd Kickstarter, for “Monica Moon,” mid-year. More info on all at www.pepoy.com.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The biggest story is the huge hit the comics industry took due to Covid, with so many projects being cancelled or indefinitely postponed. The coinciding reorganization at DC would have to be story #2. So many creatives, including me, found their various jobs dry up, with no idea of when or if these projects or other freelance work would return. I’m constantly amazed and horrified by the stories I hear of some of the creatives and what this year has done to their livelihood in comics.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? 2021 will be the year we perhaps see a new kind of comics biz rise up, as creatives and publishers innovate to try to find new ways to make a go in a changed landscape, with cons still a slim chance and many shops still closed or effected in some way for much of the year. The story will be written by those who find those new ways or expand on existing ones that aren’t seen as the mainstream.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Though I read some of both series when originally released, I’m looking forward to reading, in their entirety, Howard Chaykin’s “American Flagg” and Warren’s “Vampirella.”
What did you learn in 2020? Having recovered from health issues these past few years and planning to get back to lots of work in 2020, I’ve learned that I can’t rely solely on freelancing for publishers. I had covers and a graphic novel to draw this year that didn’t happen. I have to have something of my own to fall back on, so now seemed the time to return to my favorite of my own projects, “The Adventures of Simone & Ajax.” Learning how to be a self-publisher and how to work with both Kickstarter and Indiegogo was a huge and time-consuming process, but I’ll have that to (hopefully) be my way to stay working in comics if these “lost” projects and other new ones don’t happen in a changed world.