Yep it’s the return of an annual Beat tradition that goes back nearly a decade, as comic folk from every level of the industry — creators, reporters, retailers, publshers—talk about the issues of the year past and look at the issues of the year to come. There are always a lot of thoughtful answers in this survey, but this year a LOT of very important and thought-provoking topics are looked at from crowdfunding to harassment.
And as always, there are previews and news scattered in the 2014 projects. So settle in and enjoy—there is so much more to come.
Dylan Horrocks, cartoonist
2014 Projects: The Magic Pen.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Here in New Zealand, the biggest story was Adrian Kinnaird’s book FROM EARTH’S END: THE BEST OF NEW ZEALAND COMICS, published by Random House (NZ) last month. nearly 450 pages of the history and current landscape of NZ’s comics scene. Turns out we had a thriving comics industry in the 1940s-50s that died out partly due to censorship. Plus: stories (or excerpts) from 35 contemporary NZ cartoonists, chapters on the influence of comics on NZ art, writing and film-making – and more! Here’s the book: http://www.randomhouse.co.nz/books/adrian-kinnaird/from-earths-end-the-best-of-new-zealand-comics-9781869799953.aspx and here’s Adrian’s blog: http://fromearthsend.blogspot.co.nz/
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? No idea, but it sure as hell won’t be supehero movies. Maybe crowdfunding? Already seems to have made a huge impact, but the recent Fantagraphics Kickstarter drive suggest to me it will only become more significant to comics publishing.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? It will almost certainly involve food. And definitely *won’t* involve superhero movies.
Russell Willis, owner, Sequential
2014 Projects: For SEQUENTIAL we’ve got special editions of David Hine’s Strange Embrace, with an audio commentary, production sketches, an interview an more — we’re doing the same with some very popular titles from SelfMadeHero, which we’ll announce in the new year, and some deluxe versions of works by some comics greats. Major US publishers are now on board with SEQUENTIAL, and you’ll be seeing plenty of titles from them, too. We’ll also be releasing Infinity, the magazine of graphic novels and sequential art on a monthly basis, free, from February 1st onwards.
As a company we’re working with a large TV company on comics, we’re going to launch more comics for language learning, and we’re going to continue to put out the iPad version of The Phoenix every week, which is the world’s best kids comic (and which, as an adult, I love).
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Overall, I think it was that Britain won comics… Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes won the Costa Biography Prize, and Joff Winterhart’s Days of the Bagnold Summer was shortlisted for the main prize ( both MAJOR literary prizes) – a first. Then Glyn Dillon won the Special Prize at Angoulême for The Nao of Brown whilst John McNaught won the Newcomer Prize for Dockwood. The Phoenix kids’ comic was placed second in TIME Magazine’s Top Ten Graphic Novels and Comics. Paul Gravett had the Tate Gallery publish his Comics Art, as part of their prestigious Art series of books – a major storming of the cultural barricades. Neil Gaiman, whose path to global fame started with comics, got more attention than ever before, and was pointedly proud of his comics endeavours. Madefire, the “motion book” app in the US, is raising millions in VC money, driven by Brits Liam Sharp and Ben Wolstenholme. Two of the world’s best comics events, Thought Bubble and the new Lakes Comic Art Festival (in the UK’s beautiful Lake District) were held to huge acclaim.
New independent publishers such as Great Beast published amazing work whilst more established ones such as Blank Slate Books, SelfMadeHero, Myriad Editions, Knockabout and Jonathan Cape put out quality title after quality title. As I write, Jonathan Cape is getting huge publicity for Isabel Greenberg’s The Encyclopedia of Early Earth which is in Top Tens everywhere, including TIME’s Top Ten for general fiction.
And this was all in addition to the disproportionate representation of Brits in the comics world in general that already exists… I do, of course, expect an honour from the Queen for the above show of patriotism.
In the US, it was the success of the Fantagraphics Kickstarter, showing that there is a very large group of people with great taste ready to support comics that matter.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? I think we’ll see a significant breakout in terms of digital sales of graphic novels of the non-spandex variety. At the same time we’ll see that the notion that digital is “additive” to superhero pamphlet sales in the long term is an illusion. The balance will start to shift as traditional superhero fans move to digital-only purchases outweighing those brought back to superheroes and comics shops by movies and the publicity surrounding digital.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Re-reading Marvelman…err… Miracleman for the first time since I read it as a child in black and white in Warrior.
Alison Sampson, cartoonist
2014 Projects: This next year, I will be working on Winnebago Graveyard with Steve Niles, with a publisher to be announced soon. I’ve completed a short graphic novel due to be released in the Spring, with a US-based writer (which I’m very excited about), and I’m today finishing Shadows, a story for the In the Dark anthology, with Matthew Dow Smith. This year I also started a collective project called Think of a City, with over a hundred artists and writers from all over the world, which will run through 2014 and 2015.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? The rise of the alternative mainstream, i.e. we saw a wide range of non-superhero books become the most popular, and a publisher like Image start to lead the mainstream. This also includes other influential books like March, and the work of Jaime Hernandez and 2000AD getting some Eisner recognition and a wider readership.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? The industry taking a look at its own ethics and finding itself wanting- e.g. treatment of women, exploitation within the creator owned sphere (as that sphere expands), leading to an increasing awareness of business ethics and moves towards professionalising the industry, eg. codes of conduct, the first dealing with harassment at conventions.
That is wildly optimistic. Really, the separation of the Big 2 from the rest of the publishers as they lean towards multimedia work, exploiting IP and double and triple shipping books.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Taking some time out from Architecture to draw one creator owned book, develop another and see a third published.
Laura Sneddon, writer
2014 Projects: Trying to keep up with my mainstream press deadlines, enjoying getting stuck back into my PhD in comics, and starting to focus more on the indie scene in the UK, particularly in Scotland. Oh, and some super secret projects too!
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? At the very beginning of the year, Mary and Bryan Talbot won the Costa Biography Award for Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes. Formerly known as the Whitbread Awards (until 2005), these literary awards have been running in the UK since 1971, and Dotter is the first graphic novel to claim one. Also nominated for the novel prize was Joff Winterhart’s Days of the Bagnold Summer.
Obviously comics have won serious literary prizes before – the special Pulitzer for Maus in 1992 for example – but this was a major milestone for the medium in the UK, and I think informed a growing interest in graphic novels (as opposed to only superhero films) in the mainstream press here for the remainder of the year.
And it was Mary Talbot’s writing debut! A terrific book, and a terrific achievement.
Outside of wishful thinking, I hope that there is continued support for women, fans or creators, who have been harassed, victimised or subject in anyway to sexist or upsetting behaviour to speak out and for the comics community to become a place that is truly welcoming to everyone. No one should ever feel like they have to keep things quiet to avoid further trouble.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Need for Speed, because Aaron Paul and fast cars! The Expendables 3 because Jason Statham! Fable Legends which may require me having to save for an Xbox One, and Dragon Age: Inquisition and Watch Dogs which will remind me that PC gaming is so much prettier.
As for comics (never a guilt to that pleasure!) I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in Ballistic, The Wake, and The Firelight Isle, to reading Wonder Woman: Earth One and Annihilator, and to seeing what the creators of Raygun Roads come up with next. Not to mention what’s next from Howard Hardiman, and the creators of Dungeon Fun.
Ted Rall, cartoonist
2014 Projects: Initial hardback release of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” (Farrar Strauss & Giroux) and the expanded paperback edition of “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?” (NBM)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? I have no fucking idea. I’m too busy working.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? I hope to not be working so fucking hard so I can pay attention.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Sleeping past 5:30 am.
David Macho, agent, translator, writer
2014 Projects: Many, many, with the Spanish Inq crew From Swamp Thing to Pandora to Uncanny Avengers or Ultimate X-Men to Captain Midnight to Unity or Archer & Armstrong… we’re everywhere! :)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? DC Entertainment leaving NYC and moving to Burbank in 2015.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Batman’s 75th anniversary? Marvel and DC’s TV shows…
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? A Batman Black and White hardcover. Heheheeh…
Josh Frankel, publisher Z2comics.com
2014 Projects: We have two books coming out in the spring. Both of them are kick ass, Paul Pope’s Escapo: This is a reprint of Paul’s long out of print Escapo story. Though to call it a reprint doesn’t do it justice it in color for the first time with 50+ extra pages of backmatter/pinups and a new story by Paul. Our second book is Dean Haspiel’s Fear My Dear: A Billy Dogma Experience; this is a collection of Dean Haspiel’s Billy Dogma Comix from activate.com remastered and in print for the first time.
Beyond these two books we are working on our fall slate.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? This is a tough one and I am going to give a three pronged answer. The first involve comics and movies; which is the first look deal 20th Century Fox signed with BOOM. I think you will be seeing a lot more of these deals in the future and it will change the way the comics are done and bring more money into the industry.
The second involves digital comics and the censoring of Sex Criminals by Apple. With the gradual conversion of floppies to digital the rules of Apple will start changing the way comics are made. If something does not change we could have another Comics Code on our hands.
Lastly the third story is the saddest one; the passing of Kim Thompson. I didn’t really know Kim but the man had one of the greatest effects on comics. He and Gary Groth set out with a clear goal to make comics better and they certainly accomplished it.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? I don’t know; one story of import I think you will see though is how D.C comics move out west affects the community in NYC and the industry as a whole.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Probably the new Godzilla movie. Though the guilt will probably come from me eating a massive amount of popcorn and candy watching said movie. That is one that has to be enjoyed with crappy movie theater snacks.
Nat Gertler, Publisher, writer
2014 Projects: I’ve got stories coming up in Kaboom!’s Peanuts, and I’m getting ready to shop around an all-ages female-lead proposal with artist Tess Fowler (if any publishers out there would like to see it, let me know!)
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? It’s a story that didn’t happen: the growth of digital comics did not implode the print market.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Tablet-optimized originals will become a strong market for non-superhero comics.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? A new Bojeffries story from Moore & Parkhouse. I know comics have a bad track record when it comes to creators returning to a respected run, but still, I wanna see it!
Steve Morris, writer
The biggest story of 2013 for me was the collapse of comic criticism – MTV, iFanboy, Comics Alliance, SFX, Q Magazine, Blog@Newsarama and many more. It may not have had the coverage of something like Brian Wood, but it was incredibly noticeable, especially because it meant big publishers had to start fishing out coverage and exclusives to sites like Maxim, Nerdist, and other places run by people who don’t understand comics. With there now being only a small handful of comic sites left, there are fewer places to get an independent view of the comics industry. Everywhere is owned by the comics companies now, it feels. This year saw a whole host of strong independent sites close down, and nobody’s risen up to take their place.
The biggest of next year will be the continuing allegations of sexual harassment and prejudice within the comics industry. With fewer quality websites left, the remainder are going to be less careful about reporting any stories about sexual harassment they can – and that will lead to less trustworthy allegations, more hearsay, and more people being tarred. At the same time it’s going to lead to more real and honest accounts being put into the open, as hopefully those affected will find themselves able to speak openly and safely about their experiences. I want a clean comics industry, with as little institutional prejudice as possible. I hope this remains a big, well-reported story for as long as there are accounts to be told.
Christopher Butcher, retailer, show runner
2014 Projects: UDON Entertainment’s biggest year ever is coming up in 2014, big changes are starting to happen at The Beguiling this year, and TCAF 2014 is gonna be a hoot.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? It’s a bit difficult to weave a narrative through the comics medium and industry in 2013, because of how wide-ranging the medium has become. I feel like it’s very easy to sit in your little corner of the industry and say that the elephant’s tail is the most important thing, but if you can’t see the whole elephant…
I’d say the biggest story is probably the challenging of the status quo from this new generation of comics readers. In 2013 the comics industry was consistently made aware of its ethical shortcomings regarding creators’ rights, sexism and racism, and homophobia.
Certain parts of the industry have spent the last 10-15 years aggressively trying to bring kids back into comics, aggressively trying to bring girls back into comics, and 15 years later these kids and girls have grown to realize that these comics that they love have been produced in a very small corner of an industry that is largely, well, gross. And bless’em, they’re calling us on our shit.
The industry chose not to face up to it a lot of the time (I’m coining the term ‘notpology’ for that one), and the attention didn’t do as much good as I personally would have liked, but there was a time when these topics would have been entirely glossed over, or not brought up at all out of fear of reprisal. I’m happy to see people challenging the status quo because the status quo sucks, frankly, and we should be better.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? I think the biggest story next year will be the mainstreaming of these objections to the entrenchment of comics institutions. A lot of it is happening in predominantly young and very female-friendly spaces, and its easy to write-off objections to serious issues when they’re coming from a place like Tumblr… but Tumblr is getting more mainstream every day, and the ‘mainstream’ media is starting to pay attention. Some big, prolonged, Penny Arcade-style negative attention is coming our way, and I think it’s going to be a very interesting year.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Probably going back to Japan in the fall. It’s amazing how much I’m learning from their comics industry and their events, and even when we don’t have a solid “business” reason to go I find myself getting a lot out of each trip.
Bryan Talbot, cartoonist
2014 Projects: Grandville Nöel and a 260 metres long comic of the history of Sunderland to be sandblasted into granite paving stones.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes winning the Costa Biography Award, the first time a graphic novel has won this prestigious literary award.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Graphic novel nominated for the Man Booker Award!
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? None I’m afraid. That’s the problem with growing old!
Jimmy Palmiotti, writer, industry legend
2014 Projects: Harley Quinn, Batwing, All Star Western, Daredevil Dark Nights, and Denver, an OGN on kickstarter in January.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? I think outside all the TV and Movie news it’s once again the idea of creators using Kickstarter to create personal projects. This year I have backed a ton of newcomers and some seasoned professionals that have been pouring their heart and soul into some very unique projects. I think we will be seeing more and more people getting creative with this money generation format and will see some truly unique projects coming from it.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? I think this is the year that creators step away from almost all the comic companies and start creating material for their audiences exclusively, whether it being Kickstarter or digital content. Each year we have been moving towards this and I think 2014 will be a banner year for this. I also think we will see a change in the bigger companies and realize to keep their talent and have them stay creative and create new properties, they will have to change their ways and start including them in the ownership and profits a bit more because if they don’t, the days of creating a new villain or hero for them will be long gone.
I also think this is the year that conventions will start paying talent beyond transportation and a room, to appear at their conventions. There are a handful of creators already charging appearance fees and with the rise of so many cons, its going to become a normal thing to ” steal” away a guest from another show by offering them a better appearance fee. It is already in place with TV and Film stars and the next wave is treating the comic book talent the same.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2013? For me, taking a month off and traveling with Amanda and building more time around cons to explore the cities we visit. .
Mairghread Scott, writer
2014 Projects: Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, things I can’t mention yet.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? Women in comics finding their own voice (Tess Fowler, Captain Marvel, Red Sonja, Pretty Deadly, Rocket Girl, Hire This Woman, Her Universe in Diamond now, etc).
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? The rise of the female hero.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Bee & Puppycat as a comic series.
Jimmie Robinson, cartoonist
2014 Projects: Five Weapons, by Image Comics
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? I could say the story in 2013 was DC Comics move to California, but that story came and went. Instead I believe the bigger story is sexual harassment in the industry because it is ongoing and affects everyone right on the ground level. Comic conventions have spread to every corner of the country, attendance at shows have spiked, and we’ve gained mainstream popularity. 2013 showed that we really need to put things in order. We learned that we need to police ourselves and get the word out across the industry on all levels. We saw this when blogs, reports, videos, and twitter feeds all lamented the problem from cosplayers right up to industry professionals. I consider this one of the bigger stories of the year because it affects the industry not just now, but also how future enthusiasts perceive us in the future.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? This one is hard because in 2012 a lot of folks said that 2013 would be the year of digital publishing and distribution. Well, that did happen but it wasn’t the biggest story of the year. It seems the industry absorbed and acquiesced to the shifting scene. Things like Comixology Submit, MonkeyBrain, Kickstarter and Indigogo were all seen as game changers, but… they’ve only seem to find their place on the totem pole — which is good. Don’t get me wrong I love all these new avenues to publishing, but the playing field has stayed roughly the same. So what will be the big story in 2014? I have to admit that I don’t know. Things are wide open. Instead of trying to get a new platform launched we find that everything is already aloft and running. All the balls are in the air. Perhaps the bigger story in 2014 might be how we DROP the ball. We are juggling so many things in so many areas (comics, TV, film, games, conventions, Online, news, etc.). We are now in an era where it’s our game to lose. We even got Wonder Woman cast in a film role. Are these the end times? Things are too good to be true?
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2013? Attending smaller shows in different regions around America, and seeing my work displayed in a museum in Norway.
Sean Ford, cartoonist
2014 Projects: Shadow Hills. My new series about telepathy, oil and plague and stuff, coming out in 20pp mini comics issues on a quarterly schedule. Also, Secret Acres is going to be re-printing Only Skin, which sold out its first print run in less than a year. We’re going to print it to more closely mimic the French edition from Rackham, which came out really nicely. Also, one secret book I’m really excited about, but is very much in the planning stages right now.
What was the biggest story in comics in 2013? In my little corner of the world, it felt like Fantagraphics was the biggest story of 2013. The passing of Kim Thompson felt like an earthquake. Then came the aftershock of Fanta needing a Kickstarter to right the ship. Glad to see it went well and they can get back to the business of publishing comics, because they published some of my favorite books of the year: Ulli Lust’s Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Dash Shaw’s New School and Charles Forsman’s The End of the Fucking World and Celebrated Summer. Not to mention more Love & Rockets. The most important independent comics publisher of all time had another big year, but there was a big reminder of how fragile our comics ecosystem can feel at times. Long live Fantagraphics.
What will be the biggest story in comics in 2014? Marvel will issue a full apology to the Kirby estate, pay them fairly for their properties, and open a Jack Kirby museum, celebrating one of the medium’s most important creators, on whose back they built an empire of some of the most profitable properties ever. JUST KIDDING. HAHA.
On the slightly more positive, or at least realistic, tip – shows like SPX, TCAF, CAKE, CAB and newer smaller shows like Seattle’s wonderful Short Run Festival will continue to grow in size and stature and further cement their role as an integral tent pole in the (as we were reminded in 2013) ever fragile non-cape comic book business. But the questions will get louder about whether that’s enough. How do we grow the business so that someone like Dan Nadel can keep the doors of Picture Box open and keep publishing seminal, important work? How do we grow the business so that cartoonists can put food on the table to be able to justify carving out the many many hours it takes to draw comics? How do expand into enough new markets that the question isn’t for publishers and cartoonists alike, publish or have a family? Do we need more stores? Do we need to fix the distribution problem? Is it possible to grow the market share for literary and art comics? Is crowdfunding the answer? These are questions we’ll ask more and more in 2014 – hopefully we can start finding a few answers.
What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2014? Tweeting angrily about the Knicks late into the night and then cleaning up my feed in the morning for anyone who follows me for comics reasons.
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.