Continuing our 2021 Creator Survey of an eclectic mix of creators, publishers and journalists, we look back at the big story of 2020 — not hard to figure this one out — and what will happen in 2021. Bonus previews from a bunch of books, most of them from traditional publisher.
You can read Part 1 here.
Abby Denson, Cartoonist
2021 Projects: My new book, Kitty Sweet Tooth, will be out from First Second in April. I’m really excited to be collaborating with the artist Utomaru for it! Her art is just stunning. The story is about a cat who manages a movie theater and programs weird movies. She devises wacky snacks to serve at the screenings with help of a mad scientist and a witch!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The exacerbating challenges of the direct market, including comic shops closing and distribution troubles due to the pandemic, as well as corporate changes at Marvel and DC were major stories. The cancellation and postponement of comic conventions too. On the other hand, the success of middle-grade and YA graphic novels continues.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Hopefully, the big news will be post-pandemic recovery, and an explosion of creative and socially relevant new work.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Watching more Star Trek: The Original Series, I’ve been getting into it lately! The optimistic vision of Earth society’s future, the campiness, the costumes, and Shatner’s acting are a lot of fun to watch, and a great escape.
What did you learn in 2020? Like many, I experienced creative pauses and emotional exhaustion at times in 2020. I tried to be patient with myself and not feel too guilty about being unproductive. I found after giving it time (sometimes a long time) I was able to get back into it. It’s very important to take care of yourself, and to be kind to yourself and others, especially now. Talking and video chatting regularly with friends and family helps a lot. I’m planning home studio organization and art archiving projects, which I think should be good projects to get through this winter.
Mark Waid, Publisher/writer
2021 Projects: All things Humanoids–Space Bastards, MPLS Sound, Count, and more
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? That for the first time in its history, the comics publishing industry shut down for weeks with no new material distributed–and somehow survived.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? How many–or few–publishers and stores are left operational by mid-year.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: To go three days in a row without having to think about Donald Trump and his brood of carbon-bag homunculi.
What did you learn in 2020? That the value of employees working in a central office, under one roof, cannot be overstated. Zoom is awesome, but being able to stick your head into someone else’s office to ask a quick question or to feed off the positive energy of co-workers at stressful times is priceless. I was utterly unprepared for how even the simplest lines of communication could fail and had to be rebuilt in a remote-office situation, though we at Humanoids are ultimately stronger because of it.
Enrica Eren Angiolini, Colourist
2021 Projects: I’m working hard on a project that I can’t reveal yet, but I’m super excited about! It’s going to be a BIG announcement coming in 2021! Something I can talk about, is the Kickstarter of second issue of my creator owned project “Temerity”, with Chard Hardin and Jemma Young.)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? I think what really stood out to me was how the comics industry has worked and struggled to find new ways to get to the readers: digital releases and crowdfunded projects stealing the main stage! I hope that will carry on in 2021, in addition to the more traditional distribution.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Seeing friends and colleagues at cons again. Hanging out, meeting readers and inspiring folks. It might not be a guilty pleasure, but it surely is the thing I look forward to the most.
What did you learn in 2020? Except for a couple of very slow months during the Spring, where things were looking quite dark, I think I’m one of the lucky ones. I used this unfortunate year to dedicate myself more to illustration and character design, which was something I had been meaning to do for a long time. I worked hard on my comics, got a lot of satisfaction out of it and learnt to give myself some personal space again, which I had needed for a long time. I would definitely recommend doing that to all my fellow artists. Breathe and remember that your physical and mental health are the most important thing.
Temerity preview pages:
Rich Douek, Writer
2021 Projects: Sea of Sorrows, Wailing Blade
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Diamond shutting down and the ripple effect that it had on publishers, who, almost across the board had to stop producing comics until shops were able to open and receive books. But it wasn’t all negative – during the shutdown, you saw a lot of communities rally around their stores and a lot of creators finding new ways to get their work out there. It was a big shakeup for sure, but if there was a silver lining, it’s that the community got closer as a result.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Since the early fall, things have been on an upswing and I think that will continue. We’ve all been stuck inside binge watching shows and I think people are looking for different forms of entertainment- I hope comics can fill that need for a lot of them.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Meeting up with friends at a bar, or restaurant. Or library. Anywhere!
What did you learn in 2020? I learned that if you’re struggling, there are people you can reach out to, and you’ll often be surprised at how helpful they are willing to be. Asking for help is hard, but so is struggling in isolation. In most cases, we’re not as alone as we try to convince ourselves we are.
Ron Chan, cartoonist
2021 Projects: EARTH BOY, a middle-grade sci-fi OGN written by Paul Tobin, with art by Ron Chan. Available Spring 2021 from Dark Horse Comics!
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? The return of conventions and what that looks like.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Hug friends, eat at restaurants, sing karaoke, pet dogs, and just generally not having to be cautious all the time about social distancing!
What did you learn in 2020? I’ve learned to take self care more seriously. And while I miss seeing many friends in person, I’ve also had the opportunity to connect to others more frequently via Discord and Zoom.
Clayton Cowles, Letterer
2021 Projects: Adventureman, Batman, Bitter Root, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Die, Eternals, Rorschach, Star Wars, Strange Adventures, Venom, X-Men, and others.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Allegations of sexual misconduct against Warren Ellis by 100 people.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? I have no clue.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: More volumes of Witch Hat Atelier, which I feel no guilt about loving whatsoever.
What did you learn in 2020? Tribalism is more powerful than survival.
Eric Reynolds, Associate Publisher of Fantagraphics Books
2021 Projects: CELESTIA by Manuele Fior, CRISIS ZONE by Simon Hanselmann, QUEEN OF THE RING by Jaime Hernandez, RED ROOM by Ed Piskor, UNIMPRESSED by Miranda Tacchia, CRASHPAD by Gary Panter, NOD AWAY by Josh Cotter, AFTERNOON AT McBURGER’S by Ana Galva√±, YOUNG SHADOW by Ben Sears, ongoing issues of LOVE AND ROCKETS and NOW: THE NEW COMICS ANTHOLOGY.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? DC’s coldblooded move to drop Diamond at a time when the market needed stability more than anything.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? The fallout from 2020: will Diamond be able to recalibrate? Will comic shops rebound? Will the comic book format be further marginalized by the very entities that have propped it up for decades?
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Schadenfreude
What did you learn in 2020? Take nothing for granted; we are all in this together.
Paolo Villanelli, Cartoonist
2021 Projects: Star Wars Bounty Hunters
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Miniature wargames!
What did you learn in 2020? Find time for yourself!
Jim Zub, Writer
2021 Projects: Conan the Barbarian (ongoing at Marvel), Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons (mini-series at Dark Horse), Stone Star Season 2 (digital first at comiXology Originals), the Skullkickers 11th Anniversary Special (one shot at Image), and more to be announced.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? DC Comics leaving Diamond was the biggest story in North American comics this year and it all seemed to cascade out of COVID closures and the resulting publishing uncertainty.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? The ripple effect on mass media we’re riding out from the pandemic – film/TV/streaming, games, publishing and entertainment as a whole are going to feel the effect of this. How we make things and how people buy them were already changing, but the tumultuous times of 2020 kicked all of it into overdrive.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: More tabletop RPG sessions played via Zoom. I jumped on a game with some industry friends for what was supposed to be just a one-shot adventure and we’ve been playing steadily since June – New friendships, lots of comradery, and a much-needed dose of escapism.
What did you learn in 2020? The Negative: Almost every industry only needs 2-3 weeks of financial uncertainty before it starts losing its goddamn mind.
The Positive: Things change, projects crumble, but there are always new creative opportunities to tackle, even if I have to make some of them myself.
Reilly Brown, artist
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Creators helping retailers stay open
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Conventions getting back on their feet.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Spending too much money at a comic convention.
What did you learn in 2020? I can’t work in a house with children running around!
Lucy Sullivan, Writer/Artist
2021 Projects: Shelter – written & drawn by me (one shot) / Sweeney Todd & I – a Razorblades story written by Dan Watters, drawn by me. Artwork on stories from Fraser Campbell & Dave Cook and hopefully writing my next graphic novel, The Bad Old Days.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Downfall of big 2/ 4 through Diamond. Subsequent move into Kickstarter by well-known creators & publishers and the conflict it’s caused amongst the community & small press creators.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? New leaders in the industry: Vault, White Noise, TKO. Change in reader tastes & how that will affect storylines & creator owned content.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Sleep
What did you learn in 2020? Moving everything online – launches, comic cons etc means 3X as much work. You cannot do everything, so sometimes you need to accept what you can do or just put your pen down. Go for a walk, read a book, anything that gives you a break.
Shaenon K. Garrity, Writer/Artist/Editor
2021 Projects: Jeffrey Wells and I will be wrapping up our long-running webcomic Skin Horse. My first graphic novel, Willowweep Manor, with artist Chris Baldwin, will be out in 2021 from Simon & Schuster. It will be awesome.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? No idea, but some of my favorite cartoonists did some of their best work this year. I was blown away by Joe Sacco’s Paying the Land, Derf Backderf’s Kent State, and Allie Brosh’s Solutions and Other Problems.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Slowly building a new world from the rubble of the apocalypse, Barter Town-style.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Three horror movies is a normal number of horror movies to watch per day, right?
What did you learn in 2020? It turns out six-year-olds don’t like being in Zoom meetings all day.
Willowweep Manor preview pages:
Katharine Kan, Librarian/Graphic Novel Specialist
2021 Projects: In February I will moderate a graphic novel webinar for Brodart Books & Library Services. I’m also on the Executive Board of Reading With Pictures, a nonprofit organization working to connect educators with comics. RWP has reorganized in the past few months, and we’re planning to do more to help educators use comics in the classrooms.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The DC distribution debacle was the big bad story. The story that has had a large impact on the library/school/book market is Jerry Craft’s graphic novel THE NEW KID winning the Newbery Medal in 2020. It’s the first time a graphic novel has won the biggest award for young readers’ literature. 2020 has also been a great year for Gene Luen Yang, who published two graphic novels – DRAGON HOOPS and SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN – and both have been appearing on many “best of” lists for 2020.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Continuing fallout from COVID-19 on comics publishing, distribution, and retail.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Being able to go to a restaurant and feel safe.
What did you learn in 2020? Unfortunately, too many people in my community don’t take COVID-19 seriously. I work in a public library, and I have to help everyone, including those who refuse to wear a mask, or wear it incorrectly. I feel fortunate in that I’ve always been someone who prefers to stay home rather than go out and socialize, so it’s not been a burden to stay within my little family circle. So far, we’re doing okay. Okay is about as good as it gets during this time.
Rob Clough, Critic, editor, and publisher
2021 Projects: A potentially big project for Fieldmouse Press, more criticism for SOLRAD, my blog (highlowcomics.blogspot.com), my patreon (patreon.com/highlowcomics), TCJ.com, and looper.com. My capper to every year is my feature on the artists of the Center For Cartoon Studies in December.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The way in which so many cartoonists and comics shows found a way to pivot toward some rich, fascinating online events. There were some very good books, to be sure (Joe Sacco and Derf had the biggest “name” books), but the response of cartoonists to both COVID and the events of the months of protest against George Floyd’s murder was heartening.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Hopefully, the return of publishing tours and shows like SPX.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: I desperately want the vaccine and subsequent herd immunity to be effective enough to put on comics shows again.
What did you learn in 2020? Now more than ever, I learned that reaching out to others when you need help, being honest about your feelings, and telling people how much you love them are all absolutely crucial. You can’t take the presence of others for granted, but 2020 taught me and many others that you need to be mindful and deliberate in showing others how much you love them–because everyone responds in kind.