And so we wrap up this edition of our yearly wide-ranging survey of creators from every end of the business on what happened and what’s coming. It’s been a fascinating journey through the thoughts of the comics industry on all levels. Once again, huge thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to respond and comment. We wind things up with a lot more previews including a new book from Emma Rios and a peek at the Birdcage Bottom Books lineup for the year- and lots in-between. You can check out the other parts of the survey here.
Emma Ríos, Cartoonist
2019 Projects: I’m very glad to say that Hwei and I finally finished Mirror. It was quite a tough year for us and I’m extremely proud of how we managed to come over all that and of how we drove this little big story to its well deserved ending. Issue 10 will appear in the solicitations next month and the book will reach stores in April. For all of you who kept waiting to read the conclusion, thank you, really. I can tell you we gave everything we had and we really hope you like it. (Some preview pages below)
On the other hand, Kelly Sue and I have been working on the third arc of Pretty Deadly. It’s set in Early Hollywood and we are bringing some noir and horror to our pages this time. We are also using shadow puppetry as a narrative element which is very interesting and crazy fun for me. The arc is half done and we will bombard you with lots of updates soon.
And now, my secret. If everything goes as planned I’ll spend most of this year working on a new project called Anzuelo, meaning ‘hook’ or ‘lure’. A book about death and preservation, and more than anything about the sea. I’ve been keeping this story in the back of my head for a couple of years already, waiting for a chance to finally focus on it alone. I’m writing and drawing again for this, but unlike I.D., this time it will be all in watercolors and wayyy longer. The whole project is pretty ambitious and, ahem, rather pretentious. I’m scared but also very excited about it.
Fortunately, the mighty David Brothers, whose thinking and writing I truly adore, will help me as editor/therapist and will bear with me through all of this terrifying journey.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? I’m going to say the recent English subscription to Shonen Jump. I believe it’s a pretty generous and smart move, and to me it feels like the biggest change in comics since we started preordering.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? Emily Carroll’s new book, When I Arrived at the Castle. The book is published by Koyama Press and will debut at TCAF. Emily is one of my favorite creators, obviously. Her work has been inspiring and frightening me for years. She always takes storytelling to a whole new crazy level almost effortlessly. I’m so jealous!
Also! The latest work by my friend Borja González is going to be released in English this year. The title may change but in Spanish (Reservoir Books) and French (Dargaud) its called The Black Holes and it is a truly fascinating story that I hope to see in every BEST OF THE YEAR list. You’re going to be mindblown.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Maybe reading all Naruto, I guess? Bleach? Having a rather easy access to all those crazy popular and crazy long series from the last decades now drives me crazy. But, to be honest, it doesn’t feel guilty at all.
Who inspired you in 2018? I’ve been very inspired by rewatching Yoshiyuki Tomino’s dystopian anime of the 80s and 90s, recently. Specially anti-war stuff like Gundam, Fang of the Sun Dougram, and so on…
Steve Foxe, Writer & Paste Magazine Editor
2019 Projects: In addition to plenty of Paste goodness, I’ve got two OGNs I can’t talk about just yet, several promising pitches in the works, and my short in BOOM!’s Steven Universe: Fusion Frenzy one- shot will be out in March!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? Honestly? 2018 didn’t feel like it had a defining comic story. Maybe I’d just give the nod to DC announcing umpteen new imprints targeting different markets. We won’t actually see how Zoom, Ink, Black Label, and Wonder Comics work out for a bit, but I applaud the publisher trying to meet readers in different niches. And while it’s not a POSITIVE story, the swift response to Eric Esquivel accusations gave me hope that we are getting better, as an industry, at responding to these sorts of issues.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? Similarly, I think the response to Zoom and Ink will be a huge story in 2019–either because it works as well as I hope/suspect it might, or because it does so-so and DC gets cold feet right away. I also expect some BIG BIG things for Marvel’s Merry Mutants, but I’ve already said too much… And while I’m not a movie guy, seeing how Captain Marvel lands and how the MCU pivots out of Endgame will mean a lot for the MCU’s continued success, especially with GotG3 in such a precarious position.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Reading more old comics! It can feel like a never-ending marathon keeping up with weekly releases, but in 2019, I plan to carve out more time to read (and re-read) older books. I did that a bit this year with some old Vertigo runs and loved it, and I plan to do it again next year, as well as start a FULL re-read of Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants, starting with Giant-Size X-Men and going through to the Morrison era.
Who inspired you in 2018? Tini Howard has been a close friend since 2014, and seeing her amazing successes this year (and knowing about some of the ones coming up in 2019!) has definitely inspired me to kick my own butt harder.
Tom Kaczynski, Cartoonist/Uncivilized Books Publisher
2019 Projects: Ginseng Roots by Craig Thompson; Now, for the first time in his career, Thompson is working in serial form, in a bimonthly comic book series. Part memoir, part travelogue, part essay—all comic book—Ginseng Roots explores class divide, agriculture, holistic healing, the 300 year long trade relationship between China and North America, childhood labor, and the bond between two brothers.
Cannonball by Kelsey Wroten; Follow the messy life of Caroline Bertram: aspiring writer, queer, art school graduate, near alcoholic, and self proclaimed tortured genius. Wrotens’s debut graphic novel will turn many heads!
Stonebreaker by Peter Wartman; The sequel to Over The Wall by the artist of Avatar the Last Airbender: Imbalance; Four years after saving her brother, Anya continues to explore the endless, twisting streets of the mystical city, Noridun.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? The biggest story is the ongoing seismic shift in the comics industry. The slow but sure transition from periodical business to graphic novel business. Comics retailers complain about the continued slides periodical sales from Marvel & DC, but don’t really do the homework on graphic novels, or alternatives that could bring in new audiences. This job is being done admirably by indie book stores and online retailers who are not afraid to experiment and try out new titles.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? The biggest story of 2019 will still be the biggest story of 2018 with the added caveat that we will start seeing more diverse and interesting periodical titles that will move into the space that will be opened up by the continued slide of Marvel & DC.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? The new Criminal series by Brubaker & Phillips, but I don’t feel guilty about it.
Who inspired you in 2018? I’m continually inspired by every independent cartoonist out there who manages to keep creating new and interesting work, year after year. The seas are rough out there, and seeing new and amazing work continue to emerge, is flabbergasting and humbling.
Joan Hilty, Editorial directo
2019 Projects: Showtime at the Apollo (Abrams, Jan), Good Talk (One World, Mar). Pageturner’s thrilled to have helped bring these to life.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? The passing of Stan Lee. However one feels about his life and legacy, it’s a milestone for both the past and future of comics.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019?
For me it’s which companies survive, and thrive in, the remarkable ongoing staffing and distribution shakeups across our whole landscape — and how that affects workplace equality. We’re living in transformational times.
I’m working on more and more Little Garden comics and associated projects. Chiefly, the continuation of my four-panel, one-page strips.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? The dissolution of Tumblr for a great many users is undoubtedly the most significant and impactful comics story of 2018. Tumblr performed a crucial function in the visual arts industries, particularly in the comics industries. It was a way for work to spread around as casually and easily as radio works for music. A lot of important careers began in the trenches of tumblr blogs and reblogs. The scaling back of the platform will do considerable damage to industries rooted in visual culture.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? I’d like the biggest comics story in 2019 to be an increased interest in short works; strips, short stories and graphic essays. Long form comics are wonderful but we need to give more space for a multitude of ways to approach sequential art.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? I’ve finally gotten to be old enough that I laugh out loud at the cartoons in The New Yorker. And I accidentally subscribed to the magazine, so bring ’em on!
Who inspired you in 2018? I’ve recently begun reconnecting with the work of Aubrey Beardsley when I was experiencing a bit of an overload of inspirations. Being able to zero in on his illustrations has helped me to focus my ambitions and cut out a lot of the noise in my head.
Josh Bayer, cartoonist
2019 Projects: Working on something called Unfinished (seriously, thats the title.) Heres an advance page
And on seasons 2 and 3 of AllTimeComics with Josh Simmons, Trevor Van Eeden, with guest chapters by Gabrielle Bell, Julia Gfrorer and inks by Simmons, Me and Josh Simmons, Tom Toye, Ben Marra Ken Landgraf and others. I also have a new book due in April from Tinto Press, theres some images here:
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? I really don’t know, theres a lot of destruction everywhere on every level of Society and also a lot of community building in our own little microcosm. I am just trying to stay lost in a haze of work and art and teaching. Sorry, thats not much of an answer.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? Someone going down in the worst flameout of Indie Comics history and someone else rising to the highest peaks of industry adulation. While I have been known to see the future through mystic means, I can’t be more specific than that Ive already said too much.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Two way tie: Silently judging people for their desperate need for approval and vocally judging peopler their desperate need for approval.
Who inspired you in 2018? I tend to work in 20 year blocks of inspiration, not yearly. Janelle Hessig and Bobby Madness and Elizabeth Bethea all inspired me to engage with comics hard at the start of the millenium when I discovered them. They are true DIY, as are many other punk publishers and artists; but their work crossed my path at a crucial point that gave me a strong push towards what I wanted to do. And I am still going with them as key influences.
Alex Lu, Managing/New Media Editor of The Beat
2019 Projects: On the journalism side of things, I’m launching some exciting new media ventures for The Beat. And on the comics side of things, I have credits on INFINITE DARK, several upcoming First Second books, and a whole bunch of ~secret projects~ you’ll see on the shelves next year.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? Can I cheat and say there’s a three way tie? The death of Stan Lee, clearly, but also the fascinating narrative surrounding Olivia Jaimes’ run of NANCY and the continuing (and currently more rapid) investment of Hollywood money into new comics ventures.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? If there’s a recession, that will likely become the central narrative for anything that happens in comics in 2019. Even if there isn’t, however, I’d still be interested to see what the flow of outside money into comics looks like by the end of the year.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? TEEN ROMANCE COMICS (I FEEL NO GUILT)
Who inspired you in 2018? This is a total cop out, but this year has been crazy for me and I owe a great deal to an enormous network of friends, colleagues, and mentors who have both supported me and given me opportunities that have made 2018 the best year of my professional life. From my Editor-in- Chief Heidi MacDonald to everyone at First Second to my lunch pal/business adviser Brandon Montclare to my frequent creative collaborator and awesome pal Ryan Cady– I owe all of you (and many more whom I didn’t name here) a great deal.
MariNaomi, cartoonist, database administrator
On the creative front, I’m coming out with Book Two of my Life on Earth young adult graphic novel trilogy, and finishing up Book Three (for release in 2020).
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? Cody Pickrodt suing Whit Taylor and her supporters.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? Cody losing his suit, I can only hope.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Finishing up my trilogy and finally getting time off to read some freaking books!
Who inspired you in 2018? Whit Taylor and her supporters. They’re going through a lot right now, stuff that nobody should have to go through, and keeping strong, fighting back. That’s really inspiring to me.
Brian Hibbs, Retailer
2019 Projects: We love and joy these days is hosting the Graphic Novel Clubs — I adore talking to smart and talented folks about exciting new work and the nuts and bolts of craft!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? The increasing weariness (and wariness) that the average Direct Market retailer is feeling about the market leaders: Marvel, DC, and Image. We’re ending 2018 with the lowest confidence in the future of comics that I can ever remember among my peers. And I lived through two crashes! The odd thing is that the numbers aren’t really that bad — but we’re being asked to work harder and harder (and more speculatively) for the same reward. Virtually every comic published now has 2+ covers, and the worst publishers out there are offering five or more for most every title they publish. The system is getting too stressed, sucking almost all of the “joy” out of running a store.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? I keep expecting Barnes & Noble to collapse at any moment. I also expect an increasing number of “I’ve had enough of the industry nonsense” closures in the DM. At what point do these changes coupled with the utter lack of faith most retailers (in both markets) have in the most of the product make it so that AT&T and Disney decide it isn’t worth still publishing the comics? Everyone “in” comics can be working at 150%, and we’re now at the whims of souless multi-national corporations to keep the engines humming.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Despite me putting “breaking news” first in the survey, I actually look forward to Heidi rants a whole lot….. man I miss that period when you, Spurgeon and Dirk Deppey all had daily rants….
Who inspired you in 2018? Honestly, just talking to creators about craft keeps me going: we’re well past a hundred hours of interviews now. Go dig through the video archives at https://www.comixexperience.com/archives
Henry Barajas, Writer, Director of Ops at Top Cow Productions
2019 projects: I’m working on La Voz De M.A.Y.O. and La Loca: Via Con Diablo! Brush up on your spanish, gringos!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? Batman Damned #1 no doubt. It swept every news outlet. Every comic book shop whether they liked it or not, had to talk about the pink, fleshy elephant in the room.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? Someone has to create an app that will make ordering comics from your local comic shop easier. It’s the year of Bladerunner for crying out loud!
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Burnouts by Culver, Geoffo, and Dwonch. Stoners killing aliens. It’s mindless fun.
Who inspired you in 2018? Joe Illidge. Joe stuck to his guns, helped make some amazing comics, and raised profiles for some marginalized voices. I don’t know anyone that can leave two editorial gigs in one year, brush his shoulders off, and say “I can’t wait for you to see what’s next.”
Randy Reynaldo, Cartoonist
2019 Project: Rob Hanes Adventures #20 — I’ll be at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con for my 21st appearance, following my receiving the Inkpot Award at the 2018 show!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? Passing of Stan Lee
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Avengers: Endgame — gotta see how it concludes!
Kat Kan, Librarian/Comics Reviewer
2019 Projects: I write the Graphically Speaking column for Voice of Youth Advocates, and the February 2019 issue will mark my 25th anniversary of writing about comics for the library world.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? For libraries: the new Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards created by the Pop Culture Classroom. And the creation of the Graphic Novels & Comics in Libraries Round Table as an official part of the American Library Association.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? Continuing growth in the use of comics in schools and academia.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Getting back to “normal” after Hurricane Michael devastated most of my city (Panama City, FL) in October.
Who inspired you in 2018? I admire my friends and colleagues in libraries and schools who have worked so hard to gain recognition of comics as a valid form of literature for study and research. I’ve pushed so hard for this since 1983, when I first started working in libraries, and I love seeing so many more people take up the banner over the past several decades.
J.T. Yost, cartoonist/publisher, Birdcage Bottom Books
2019 Projects: We’ll be publishing two new books and at least one minicomic this year. “Blood & Drugs” – a story of fall & redemption by Lance Ward, “Rooftop Stew” collecting lots of uncollected autobiographical and fictional weirdness by Max Clotfelter, and “Future Corpse”, a collection of new short work by Eva Müller (we published her death obsessed “In The Future, We Are Dead” last year). See previews below.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2018? Annie Koyama moving away from comics publishing.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2019? President Trump implementing a new Comics Code Authority that only censors work critical of the president and his administration.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2019? Probably some dumb tv show or something
Who inspired you in 2018? Avi of Silver Sprocket
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.