Continuing with our annual survey looking at the year past and the year ahead, we have a whole lot of previews, from a giant publisher and a little indie. Also some real talk about small businesses vs corporations. The battle of our times?
You can read the first two parts here.
Ben Towle, cartoonist
2021 Projects: Four-Fisted Tales: Animals in Combat, my GN of real life stories about military animals (homing pigeons, messenger dogs, etc.) is wrapped up and will be coming out this fall from Dead Reckoning. I’m really excited to have this book out in the world and I’m crossing my fingers that by the fall in-person cons will be a thing again so I can spend at least the latter part of 2021 at places like CXC, SPX, etc. promoting the book.
And with that book completed, I’m hoping to spend a lot of my work time in 2021 jumping back into my 90’s cooking/music “funny animal” comic, In the Weeds. I’d love to have this completely penciled by the end of the year so I could start shopping it around.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Distributor-o-rama. In the midst of all COVID it was insane to see all the goings-on: monthly comics distribution grinds to a halt, starts again, “UCS Comic Distributors,” “Lunar,” TUESDAY on-sale? It’s madness, I tell’s ya!
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? (Hopefully) The return of conventions.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Finishing up Dark, the TV series where horny German people travel through time to have sex with each other.
Brandon Schatz, Co-Owner of Variant Edition, The Beat Retailer Columnist
2021 Projects: Rebranding the store and buying a location. Also, handing in more than half a dozen articles. Fingers crossed on that last one.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? For myself, DC’s distribution moves and personnel moves. Any other year, it would have been the loudest thing out there – though to be honest, the noise HAS been pretty loud in retailing circles.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Marvel diversifying their distribution model in light of what I will believe to be Diamond’s ongoing instability. Marvel WILL continue to play ball with Diamond though, as I believe DC’s schism was caused by a kind of hard ball no parties can afford anymore.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Continuing to see what madness CROSSOVER will bring. It’s not high art, but it is fascinating to see unravel.
What did you learn in 2020? You can’t put your trust in large structures or corporations. The folks who run operations at that scale have an inherent selfishness that requires growth at the cost of care and innovation. Community is where change and support will always come from. Stay small, stay safe, take care.
Andrew Farago. Cartoon Art Museum Curator
2021 Projects: I’m working on programs and exhibitions for the Cartoon Art Museum, hoping that we get to reopen to the public again in the near future. I’m also working on a couple of books for Insight Editions and Sideshow Collectibles, which should be hitting shelves by mid-year.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020 (apart from COVID)? That feels like asking what the biggest story was in the early 1860s apart from the Civil War. I’m sure there were other things happening, but Covid’s been part of every single comics story this year whether we wanted it to be or not. New releases, conventions, awards, contracts…they’re all under that shadow.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? A return to normal, I hope. It’s been heartening to see all the new ways that we’ve connected to our friends and colleagues during the time of Covid, and I think conventions, when they’re safe again, are going to feel even more like family reunions than they did before. That’s going to be a wonderful thing.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: TRAVEL! Can’t wait to see friends and family in person again. Eating at restaurants again.
What did you learn in 2020? I’ve learned that people are incredibly resilient and adaptable. We’re all in this together, and so many people have stepped up to help out their friends and neighbors. That’s been great to see.
That being said, I’m looking forward to completely blocking this year from my memory once we’re all vaccinated and back into our normal mid-2019 routines again. One day, and who knows when that will be, we’ll all go on about our business and not think once about Covid, and that’s going to be a wonderful day.
Gary Tyrrell, Webcomics blogger
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? I am amazed that Comic Con International continues to not answer the most basic question about their utter failure to secure the Eisner voting, and am flabbergasted that after repeated explanations of their obligations under California and international law, that they have apparently done not a damn thing.
If governments ever catch up from the backlog that COVID has imposed on them, they’re going to find themselves in the hot seat. Speaking as somebody whose day job intersects pretty deeply with infosec, they brought it on themselves.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Hopefully, it won’t be so hard to talk about really worthy comics widely, and what should have been a triumphant launch year for Random House Graphic will only look more important for having been delayed a year.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Friends, in the community and out, are in for so many hugs, shared meals, excellent drinks, and hangouts.
What did you learn in 2020? Just how many people cannot be arsed to go to the simplest, least amount of effort for the safety of others. Gonna need to ramp up the shunning for the next decade or two.
Taimur Dar, Journalist/Marketing Specialist
2021 Projects: Continuing to do freelance marketing work with Global Voice Acting Academy plus some new potential clients. Also some exciting things happening with the Dwayne McDuffie estate.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? All major changes at DC Comics – cutting ties with Diamond, Dan DiDio being let go after two decades, all staff layoffs
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? When conventions can officially return
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Sitting in a movie theater to watch new movies with friends and going to conventions.
What did you learn in 2020? Carry an attitude of gratitude for every little thing going forward. Make sure you make an effort to get outside especially during great weather. Keep yourself mentally stimulated and reach out to different people just to shoot the breeze. Otherwise, life starts to feel like a prison. Above all else, value connections and relationships above material goods.
Chris Ryall, Writer/Editor/Past and Future Publisher, Syzygy Publishing
2021 Projects: Multiple projects/publishing ventures with Ashley Wood and others
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? DC’s broad firing of veteran talent; secondarily, me being out at IDW. Again.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Syzygy Publishing
Guilty pleasure for 2021: COMIC CONVENTIONS. God, I miss seeing all of you.
What did you learn in 2020? 1. Leaving a key job in the middle of a pandemic can be both a big, unsettling thing and also a mentally restorative move;
- Finding comfort in various forms of media has me even more determined to support those creators in additional ways;
- I and we all need to make a more concerted effort to continue to expand the diversity of the talent pool, the audience we all hope to reach, and the material itself;
- I have been fortunate as hell to get to work in the comics industry these past 16 years and hope to still do so for a long time to come.
Andrew Arnold, Editorial Director, HarperAlley
2021 Projects: Launching I Can Read Comics and, in general, publishing a number of incredible graphic novels from amazing cartoonists, including Treasure in the Lake from Jason Pamment!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Jerry Craft’s NEW KID winning the Newbery!
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Jerry Craft winning the Newbery a 2nd time!
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Crossing my fingers for Outlander Season 6
What did you learn in 2020? That, while it’s definitely not the same, we can still remain connected.
Rufus Dayglo, Cartoonist
2021 Projects: ‘The Devil’s Railroad’ for 2000AD with Peter Milligan! A sci fi story about refugees
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? In a year where we didn’t get to socialise, go to cons, saw big companies sacking lots of their staff, I hope it’s given us a chance to realise that ‘business as usual’ isn’t gonna work! So much of the comics industry is pure franchise, and regurgitation, and I hope we will want to start creating new fresh and exciting things, independent of big companies. The current system of distribution monopoly and a few mega corporations has revealed how fragile this broken eco-system is. It’s our jobs as creators to build a new system we want. DIY. Like a Punk record label.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Where do we go from here? INDEPENDENCE!!!
I think 2021 is an amazing opportunity for creators to get more involved in Indie projects and step away from the flailing corporate monsters of Comics.
I think/hope 2021 will be the beginning of a new wave of Comics, smaller in scale, but more new voices.
Shops and other venues may well still be closed…and we will see creators banding together to make stuff directly for audiences. We can do this.
Let’s beat the corporate model, and make comics with a wider appeal. We have never had a more ‘captive’ audience!!!!
Guilty pleasure for 2021: I just got the keys to my 200+ year old shop that will be my new home in France, it is a complete wreck!!! Haha
So I plan to spend 2021 renovating, breaking things, and drilling holes through windows! ( anyone know how to use a sander??! )
I am excited to make new own comics, in my own place ( in France!!!) It’s an amazing adventure!
What did you learn in 2020? This year for me was all about communication. I had just moved to France from the UK when Lockdown happened! I was supposed to be buying a new home studio and everything was put on hold. I lived out of a suitcase. I didn’t have a chance to make new friends, as I was in total lockdown. So communicating remotely with family and my friends became my lifeline. This year has been a comedy of errors, and I have been lucky to ride it out on a wave of croissants, duolingo lessons, and trying to stay positive. I was so lucky to work with some truly amazing people this year, and their patience while I worked in less than ideal circumstances was a huge relief. Being grateful for an adventure in a foreign country, and remembering to laugh. Drink some water.
Rob Salkowitz, Comics journalist
2021 Projects: Two new books
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Distribution shakeup – Diamond closure & DC’s shift
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Final fate of DC
Guilty pleasure for 2021: Traveling. Anywhere. Also going to a bar once in a while.
What did you learn in 2020? Don’t take the little pleasures in your community for granted.
J.T. Yost, publisher/cartoonist, Birdcage Bottom Books
2021 Projects: I’m co-editing an anthology of comics from aging punx called “TOO TOUGH TO DIE”. I’ll also be publishing three more issues of Lance Ward’s “Flop Sweat” series, “Comfort Creatures” by Robert Stevenson, “Everything Is Super” by Rottsteak and a few others. Also looking forward to my own comic on the Westboro Baptist Church being published in the “American Cults” anthology (co-published by Robyn Chapman and Silver Sprocket).
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The immense struggle in all facets of comics making, from creators to publishers, distributors to comics retailers. Everyone has struggled throughout the pandemic, yet somehow comics continue to get made and get seen. Here’s hoping for a better year in 2021.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Given the trajectory of 2020, anything is possible. I’m sure Donald Trump imagines himself as a superhero, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a clumsily written comic featuring Daring Don that nobody wants to publish leading to Trump’s complete meltdown and hostile takeover of the comics industry
Guilty pleasure for 2021: I’m looking forward to seeing my family again, my kids attending school in person again, not wearing masks. None of these pleasures will make me feel guilty (except maybe feeling happy for my kids to be away from me for several hours a day).
What did you learn in 2020? I’ve learned just how thankful I am for a working partnership with my wife in raising our kids. I wouldn’t have been able to survive the upheaval of 2020 without her. Somehow, after 20 years together, one year of close quarters through a pandemic homeschooling our kids, and we’re still not sick of each other.
John Jackson Miller, comics industry analyst and science fiction and comics author
2021 Projects: I’ve written novels the two past winters – Star Trek: Discovery – The Enterprise War and Star Trek: Discovery – Die Standing; I can’t reveal this winter’s project, other than to say I’m always writing. Over at Comichron, I expect to continue piecing together what 2020’s picture was, even as I put the final touches onto some big research pieces into the past.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Nothing compares to the shutdown of a business that hadn’t missed a week of new comics in eight decades; whether or not the “shutdown split” performed by DC would have happened anyway, it is now integral to the story as well. The recovery is another essential part of the story – whether the final chapter or not, the apparent resilience of the periodical business has been pretty remarkable. Special mention goes to the collectors, who, not having conventions to attend, poured money into chasing comics at what turned out to be just the right time.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? In the Direct Market, we’ll see how DC’s strategies – ranging from its new distribution mechanism to its thirty-year record-small slates of new comics – continue to fare. Marvel’s Heroes World experiment lasted 21 months; the equivalent mark would be right at the end of 2021. Marvel’s bankruptcy-era small new release slates lasted quite a bit longer, so there’s not an easy comparative there — but the big difference about today is there a lot more middle-tier publishers. Unlike in the late 1990s, any shelf spots not taken by one publisher will almost certainly be annexed by another; it’s something publishers always need to factor in when making plans.
Guilty pleasure for 2021: I’ll be delighted to get back to any convention-going at all – fingers crossed that we actually see some again. I just hope everyone doesn’t try to schedule everything for the last week of December!
What did you learn in 2020? I’ve set up a second office in my house facing a different window – gives me the illusion of movement. I also cue up Youtube livestreams of street webcams in tourist towns around the world, for the illusion of travel. Deciding whether it’s a Gatlinburg, Tennessee day or Canmore, Alberta day is a peculiar source of daily variety.