Comics! 101 Creators to Watch in 2014
We count down 101 folks in the comic business who have momentum on their side in 2014.
Welcome to Den of Geek's 101 to Watch in 2014: The Comics Edition, where we picked 101 folks engaged in the business of making comics who we think will make waves over the next year. Spanning a range of talent from webcomics to the biggest major publishers, our 101 To Watch is as much a celebration of what we love as it is a look at who we expect (or hope) will have maximum impact in 2014. As any look at the internet can tell you, getting a group of comic fans to agree on anything is extraordinarily difficult, but we did our best to come up with a framework in which to put such a staggeringly talented group of people.
How did we do it? For starters, we had to like their work, of course. But the real questions we had to keep asking were: What made 2013 a special year for this individual? What kind of momentum does that give them for 2014? Are there upcoming projects we're aware of that might help propel them even further? If they're already well-established in the field (as quite a few of them are), are they stretching beyond their usual limits or innovating in some fashion? While all of these are not that much more subjective than saying, "We like the stories they tell," we figured they were worth asking. These criteria, as open to interpretation as they are, were the source of much hand-wringing, discussion, general editorial consternation, and one heated argument between two otherwise friendly individuals (don't worry, we're all cool!) around the DoG offices.
We didn't exclude folks with star-power, but there are definitely a number of big names noticeably absent from here. This doesn't mean we don't love their work, we just felt that, for example, writers like Scott Snyder and Jonathan Hickman are so firmly entrenched as the architects of some of the most recognizable franchises in comics at the moment that it's hard to imagine them scaling even greater heights in the immediate future. We'll be quite happy to be proven wrong on that one, though!
In addition to the contributions of Den of Geek regulars like David Burszan, Marc Buxton, Mike Cecchini, Chris Cummins, Gavin Jasper, Vinny Murphy, John Saavedra, and Jason Tabrys, we sought some invaluable outside help from fans, comics professionals, retailers, and other comics journalists to nominate folks for inclusion and/or submit ballots to assist in the ranking process. Some of these folks preferred to remain anonymous, but we'd like to thank comic artist and scholar (and 2014 Eisner Judge!) James Romberger (who not only helped with the nomination process, but wrote several entries on this list... but in sportsmanlike fashion declined to participate in the actual voting when he saw his name on the ballot!), Jack Kirby Museum founder (and occasional Den of Geek contributor) Randolph Hoppe, former DC and Dynamite editor Sarah Litt, Tony Davis (who, having worked at DC and comiXology, might know a thing or two about comics), and Cheese Hasselberger, cartoonist and founder of the House of Twelve collective.
Once we had a suitable number of names (there were far more than the 101 that finally made it here), we set about the difficult task of putting them in some kind of order. We accomplished this by the efficient (if imperfect) method of having everyone take the names on the list and put them in the order they think they belonged, based on the criteria already established. When all the ballots were in and the results tallied up, this is where everyone ended up. While we aren't overly fond of ranking a group of immensely talented artists, writers, and colorists as if they're baseball players, we think it turned out alright. So, if you find that particular element of these kinds of lists distasteful, at least allow yourself to scroll through here and check out the links to their work, especially any of them that you may not have heard from before. Really, all we want to do is talk about comics!
Like fellow list-occupier Steve Lieber, Evan “Doc” Shaner walks that line between realism and cartooning just perfectly. Not since Kevin Maguire’s glory days have heroic figures been rendered with such perfectly everyman expressions and body language, and his comedic timing on the page is second to none. The artist of such Dark Horse gems as Blood Brothers and Buddy Cops also has an Adventures of Superman story coming in 2014 (with words by Ron Marz). We're positively thrilled with the recent announcement that Doc will be partnering with Jeff Parker for Dynamite's brand new ongoing Flash Gordon series. Go check out his Tumblr to see the parade of sketches he turns out involving characters you probably know and/or love. Hopefully there's more great things in store!
Joe Hunter is the best artist you’re not following. He frequently posts warm-up sketches (often fully colored) online that could easily sell as finished prints at a convention. His sketches are always fun and tend to focus on geeky characters he loves (like El Generico and Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel) to mash-ups that aren’t tired and overplayed (like Batyoncé and Kamen Skater). There’s also one of rapper Tribe One riding Devil Dinosaur which is absolutely amazing. Recent work has included Not So Super, a one-shot comic featuring an everyman who tries to balance his mundane life with a newly acquired bevy of superpowers, a story in Monkeybrain’s BOO! anthology series, alternate album covers for CHOPS’s Strength in Numbers, and colors for Let’s Be Friends Again. 2014’s shaping up to be a big year for Hunter. Not So Super is being reworked in to a full length graphic novel, and he will digitally self-publish his and Andrew Ihla’s Paradoxicals, and Radical Guardian Skater X with Chris Sims.
In 2012, J. Gonzo unveiled La Mano del Destino, a comic about the struggles of an aging luchadore...with a Kirby-esque visual flair. While only three issues have been produced so far, Mr. Gonzo (Jason Gonzales) has promised that the final three issues will see print in 2014 from Castle & Key publications. With any luck, that won’t be all we see from this writer/artist in 2014!
After establishing Locust Moon as Philly’s best comic store, shop co-owners Chris Stevens and Josh O’Neill have spent the past couple of years branching out. Stevens produced Dark Horse’s twisted fairy tale anthology Once Upon a Time Machine, and they both have been hard at work on the upcoming Winsor McCay tribute Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream (which will feature talents like Peter Bagge, Neal Adams, Jeffro Kilpatrick, and Roger Langridge). Next up for the pair? The third installment of the Locust Moon Comics Festival, an event that is quickly becoming the East Coast’s coolest con.
Reminiscent of the Noah Baumbach film Kicking and Screaming, Caleb King's webcomic Surreality follows a group of aimless – and pop culture-loving -- twentysomethings attempting to figure out their lives. But don't expect any twee Garden State-style pretentiousness, these characters are real and raw, and their lives jump vividly off the screen thanks to King's writing and the gorgeous ink-heavy art of Carla Wyzgala. Those new to the art, music, and geeks that make Surreality so original can catch up when the Otherworld graphic novel compiling the story so far is published in early 2014.
Erica Henderson’s dynamic art in Subatomic Party Girls is the only original comic page owned by Den of Geek's David Burszan. Take a look at her Tumblr and you'll find much more. Check out her Greatest Movies poster series focusing on characters in beloved 70s/80s/90s films in action; the posters range from Harry Dean Stanton seconds before being killed by the Alien to John McClane’s bathroom penance to Pee-Wee dancing to “Tequila.” And then there’s her recent Kickstarter success, Baby’s First Mythos: Learning with Lovecraft (a combination of Golden Books and Cthulhu) and her follow-up comic adaptation of Re-Animator (done in haunting black and white). Or how about her sillier side with her X-Men redesigns, pages of Bartkira (the Akira reinterpretation featuring the cast of The Simpsons), and adorable birthday present drawings featuring fellow comic professionals. Just one of those would make her worth including on this list; all of them combined got her here!
For years, Christopher Hastings has delighted many with his webcomic Dr. McNinja, which is about a ninja who is also a doctor. It's funny, charming, and incredibly creative, which would explain why he's recently caught the eye of Marvel Comics. In 2011, he got his foot in the door with a three-issue miniseries depicting what Deadpool was up to during the Fear Itself event. In the last year, he's gotten more work out of them, such as writing a story in A+X about Hawkeye teaming up with Deadpool (and more importantly, Deadpool showing off his trick arrow where the arrowhead is replaced with exploding Hulk Hands). After his four-issue romp on Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe, it'll be interesting to see what other characters he'll be able to get a crack at. Not only that, but while Ryan North is on words, Hastings has been working on the art for ShiftyLook's Galaga adaptation webcomic.
While it's easy to admire Ian Flynn's writing, it's even easier to envy his current role at Archie Comics. He's a man who gets to play with his toys on a major level as the writer for Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man. When brought on to take over for the Sonic franchise, Flynn was considered a breath of fresh air who slowly but surely brought the series back to greatness. Mega Man is a series he's been with from the very beginning and has been able to make it one of the more exciting and fun comics on the rack. He's also written a 12-issue crossover between the two video game heroes, a script I can only imagine has been sitting in his sock drawer since he was ten. It isn't just that he's able to have access to these characters, but he's also able to write some great comics with them, which will continue on in 2014 as he continues to live the dream.
Kowalchuk has a frontloaded 2014 coming up; he has two trades coming out over the course of three weeks. The Mysterious Strangers (written by Chris Roberson) comes out at the end of January from Image and Down Set Fight! (written by Chris Sims and Chad Bowers) is finally coming out in February 2014 from Oni Press. What the rest of his 2014 looks like depends on how well The Mysterious Strangers sells; if it does well, Roberson and Kowalchuk have said that they’re willing to do another volume. Kowlachuk made the list because of his ability to handle anything that’s thrown his way. The Mysterious Strangers has him drawing an alternate '60s with stories and subjects that change every two-issue arc; for the first volume he’s drawn temples, pop bands, and bizarre oddities. Down Set Fight! offered a new challenge; mostly, how do you fit a mascot’s head in a panel? The graphic novel focuses on a former football star fighting off a horde of costumed mascots; few artists can pull off a human on mascot pile driver as well as Kowalchuk.
All you have to do is read High Crimes. This tightly-wound and atmospheric crime thriller from Monkeybrain is set at the very highest of elevations, and it raises the standard of what you can expect from a crime comic. But Mr. Sebela also had the fun of bringing back Ghost for Dark Horse (along with Kelly Sue DeConnick who he also did some Captain Marvel writin' with), did some pinch hitting on Fantastic Four (with Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley) and contributed some voodoo magic to an anthology issue of Valiant's Shadowman. He's versatile...and he's really good.
Paul Kupperberg is the lead writer for the greatest comic soap opera of the 21st century, Life with Archie. The monthly magazine examines what the married adult lives of Archie and the gang are like: in short, full of tumult and drama…along with the occasional parallel universe and other sudsy/batshit diversion. Kupperberg’s work here (along with the touching 2013 young adult novel, Kevin) illustrates that he understands what longtime Archie fans want for the gang’s future: for these characters’ lives to be as complex and strange as their own.
Spanish-native Victor Santos is already a force in the comic book world, an undeniable talent who’s been making his presence known in recent years with collaborations with Brian Azzarello and Bryan JL Glass. In 2013, Santos wrote and drew one of our favorite graphic novels of the year, Polar: Came From the Cold, about a retired spy named Black Kaiser. Full of sex, guns, and mystery, Polar is a neo-noir spy thiller that will leave you wanting more. Mr. Santos, along with Mice Templar collaborator Bryan JL Glass, has just released Furious, from Dark Horse, which you can read our full review of right here!
We first beheld Josh Simmons' fearless horror in his 2012 Fantagraphics collection The Furry Trap, which assembled his Mome stories and other bits of grue. Now he is producing terrifying minicomics such as Flayed Corpse and Training as well as a squirm-inducing collaborative anthology title, Habit for Charles Forsman's Oily Comics.
Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Grey kinda knocked us out when it hit stands in March of 2013. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones. Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham’s Five Ghosts went from successful Kickstarter to Image Comics mini-series...to Image Comics ongoing series when fans and critics took notice. Combining the brisk pacing of the pulps and Mooneyham’s rough hewn, atmospheric art (that at times conjures the specter of greats like Neal Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Denys Cowan), these two are a hell of a team. Barbiere’s White Suits, featured in Dark Horse Presents is getting its own mini-series in 2014, and the two will collaborate on some RoboCop tie-in books from Boom! Studios in the new year, as well!
We really, really loved Good Dog, Graham Chaffee's 2013 return to the comics world after a (too long) hiatus. He's got more coming, too! Check his Tumblr for regular updates and pages from his upcoming To Have & To Hold from Fantagraphics!
Nate Bellegarde has been delivering crystal clear linework on books in Robert Kirkman's Invincible orbit and others for quite a bit, but he came to our attention in the last year with Nowhere Men for Image. Combining the more far out elements of silver age superhero concepts with elements of body horror and hard sci-fi, Mr. Bellegarde's work skips easily between the title's action elements and the expressive character work needed for Nowhere Men's diverse cast. It's easy on the eyes, and a joy to read.
Sloane Leong is laying the colors down on some great comics, including Prophet and Change. More than just a colorist, she's spent plenty of time telling some wonderful stories of her own, such as the horrific and surreal Clutch (which you can read in its entirety right here), and The Softest Shadow. It seems we're fans of whatever she's involved in, and would like to see even more!
Comfort Love and Adam Withers are a married couple who make comics. They just finished up their magnum opus Rainbow in the Dark by releasing it in a special omnibus edition and we absolutely loved it. In 2014, the duo will go back to their other major series, The Uniques, not only introducing the first new issues since Rainbow in the Dark started, but remastering the previous issues and giving them a fresh coat of paint. They won't be working alone, as they plan to get a bunch of other writers to help tell the tales of what those teen heroes have been up to during the hiatus. All that, plus Comfort and Adam will be joining Corinne Roberts in a webcomic called The Kitty Game.
Manhattan Projects can’t be an easy title to visualize. The book combines real-life historical figures with over the top satirical sci-fi drama and elements of intense horror to create one of the most visceral graphic experiences on the market. These differing genre elements could make an artist crazy, yet Pitarra pulls it off with a beautiful simplicity that delights, informs, educates, and disgusts readers. Pitarra, and his partner in crime, writer Jonathan Hickman, have turned the volume up on history and real world scientists in a book that is part Lovecraft, part Mark Twain, and part peyote nightmare. Pitarra’s visual imagination makes him one of the most innovative cartoonists working in comics today, and any company would be lucky to have his talents.
Cartoonist Vanessa Davis had a fine year. Her telling of Puss n’ Boots landed in Fairy Tale Comics, her short story, "In the Rough" was featured in the Best American Comics 2013, and her work appeared in Tablet, The New York Times, and other fine publications. She also illustrated David Lewman’s "Squid’s in Love" in SpongeBob Comics #26. If you haven’t yet been exposed to Ms. Davis’ funny and very honest comics yet, she puts a ton of cool work up on her website, and you can find plenty of links to purchase stuff from there! We're looking forward to more in 2014...
Since 2008, Ed Luce's unforgettable Wuvable Oaf has chronicled the misadventures of the titular character, a hulking gay bear of a man who divides his time between worshipping cats and his skinny would-be musician love, Eiffel.The biggest strengths of Wuvable Oaf are its subversion of gay stereotypes, a guffaw-inducing sense of humor and a lead character whose struggles are as universal as they are offbeat. (There's also Oaf's universe building through diverse characters and an impressive array of spin-off merchandise. Take that, Simpsons!) The hirsute hilarity promises to continue in 2014 with the release of the comic's fifth issue and the Oafanthology, a collection of new stories from Johnny Ryan, Vanessa Davis, Tom Neely, and others.
Better known as Gisele, this one-named wunderkind has brought a touch of anime to Riverdale with her delightful art for various Archie titles (Perhaps most noticeably the gender-bending 2012 Archie story Reversedale). Her whimsical takes on Jughead and company aside, Lagacé also is the creative force behind the ongoing webcomics Eerie Cuties and Ménage à 3. Although stunningly different, the skill on display in each demonstrates how Gisele is one of Quebec's premiere writer/illustrators.
Matthew Petz launched War of the Woods at Zuda Comics, which then proceeded to fold just as the comic was starting. Undeterred, he’s continued the series on Comixology where it’s grown in scope and size (and benefits from Comixology’s Guided View). War of the Woods is your classic War of the Worlds scenario, but told through the point of view of animals living in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens (which are not far from Grover’s Mill). The story focuses on a young otter, his dad, and the turtle he wears as a helmet (which starts off as a silly joke but ends up being the series’ defining image) as they try to save the world. The art is a mix of classic children book illustrations mixed with Mouse Guard (especially with the dark inking and color scheme). The series is wrapping up its second “season” (volume) out of a planned four or five. Petz’ other series, Lordless, an ultraviolent D&D inspired comic, will be out later in 2014.
Damion Scott is an exemplar of a cartoonist doing superhero comics with a hip hop edge to his style. Particularly impressive is the innovative, elastic design and unique tonal approach of "Hall of Mirrors," Scott's short contribution to the third issue of DC's Batman Black and White anthology title in 2013. It gives us hope that we'll see more from him this year.
A film student who popped to comics with a love of Moebius, Paul Pope, Brandon Graham, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Bill Sienkiewicz, Keske's work with Ales Kot on 2013's Change is certainly a sign of great work to come! In a recent post on his Tumblr, Mr. Jeske promised that "I'm making more comics next year and they will be a bit better." They're already damn good, though!
The Madefire stable is so impressive that any one of their artists or writers could qualify for a place on this list. But why is Madefire as a whole listed on here? It’s because, true to their word, they’re “redefining the grammar” of comic storytelling with their line of motion books. Co-founders Ben Wolstenholme and Liam Sharp are also creating their own groundbreaking works for the company, while Editorial Director Ben Abernathy has the enviable task of wrangling an increasingly impressive stable of creators that includes Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz, and many more. Forget about standard digital comics, a Madefire comic is a reading experience first and foremost, but with just enough interactivity, subtle animation, and sound to bring the reader into the page. Ever wonder what it would be like to get a 360 degree view of the inside of a comic panel? Madefire will show you. And with more and more publishers and top notch creators getting on board with what Madefire is cooking, well...we expect very big things from them in 2014 and beyond.
Writer of the Eisner Award-winning Adventure Time and the hilarious Dinosaur Comics, Ryan North is poised to have a hell of a 2014. Why? Check out The Midas Flesh, written by Mr. North (with art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb). It hit comic shops in late December and it’s one of those “everything we love” scenarios, full of time-travel, rocket ships, mythological figures, and talking dinosaurs. The Midas Flesh will be blowing minds well into 2014.
Best known for drawing Runaways, Alphona is returning to teenage superheroes in the upcoming Ms. Marvel series. With Young Avengers ending, Ms. Marvel will be Marvel's (and Tumblr’s) new favorite teen superhero book. Like Young Avengers' Jamie McKelvie, Alphona has an eye for clothing; but where the former goes for cutting edge fashion, Alphona perfectly nails what you might see at a grocery mart in New Jersey. Even with his exaggerated style his clothes have a sense of realism and look worn in; they don’t all fit perfectly because no one has a perfect figure. It’s a welcome (and well done) change from the form-fitting spandex that too many characters have. He also draws an amazing porcupine wearing Hulk hands which should be enough of a reason to check out the new Ms. Marvel series.
Two words: Private Eye. The sci-fi detective story from Brian K. Vaughan (ever heard of him?) and Marcos Martin is the very definition of cool...and they’re giving it away as a pay-what-you-want webcomic. So, you CAN get it for free...but really, it’s worth throwing these guys a few bucks. Martin’s art speaks for itself, and the world of Private Eye is a familiar, if skewed one. It’s difficult to think of another artist who could do it quite as well.
If there’s a constant in the work of writer/illustrator Jess Fink, it is an appreciation of the fractured whimsy of everyday life. Having previously won acclaim for her brilliant robot love story Chester 5000, Fink released her “time travel memoir” We Can Fix It! through Top Shelf in 2013. What’s next? Hopefully another year full of the hilarious, honest work that has endeared her to us.
Maybe you thrilled to Mr. Kuder's linework on The Amory Wars in 2011, or on DC's Green Lantern: New Guardians, or Legion Lost. But when he's part of a high-profile creative refresh on the first superhero title of them all, Action Comics (along with writer Greg Pak), it's safe to say that the best is yet to come for Aaron Kuder. While only a couple of issues have hit shops so far, anyone else notice that he's one of the few artists who have made Superman's New 52 costume look not all that awkward and pointy? It's a small thing, but it counts. We're looking forward to seeing what new designs and additions Mr. Kuder makes to the Superman universe on the big stage.
Mr. Lieber won an Eisner in 2007 for his work on Whiteout Volume 2: Melt (with Greg Rucka), but why is he in our hearts right now? Well, he’s done some fine work on Hawkeye, filling in ably for David Aja without breaking stride, but that’s not really it, either. No, it’s his fantastic and thoroughly funny linework on Marvel’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man that have us enthralled these days. Mr. Lieber showed he could handle fantasy and horror with Alabaster: Wolves from Dark Horse, and his refreshingly humanistic approach to superheroes (and supervillains) has made him a favorite around here.
Mateo Scalera has one of the best-looking, dynamic styles in Marvel and it's served him well in the past few years with story arcs for Secret Avengers, Journey Into Mystery, Indestructible Hulk, and that one Deadpool Team-Up issue where Deadpool and Captain Britain magically switched nationalities. In other words, the best issue of Deadpool Team-Up. Not only does the future have a place for his unique, cartoon-shrouded-in-darkness designs when it comes to the Marvel Universe, but he's rocking out with Rick Remender in their new series Black Science, which has started out strong.
Cavallaro’s had a fun year working on numerous all-ages comics. His comic, Nico Bravo, has been running in The Phoenix Weekly Story Comics, the all-ages comics that Time Magazine listed as the second best comic of the year (right behind the adults-only comic Sex Criminals). Nico Bravo is about a young assistant working at a supply shop for mythological gods. Cavallaro has also been working at Archie lately; he just wrapped up a four-issue stint on Mega Man and is currently supplying back up stories for The Fox. Along with being an artist, Cavallaro is the co-chairman of the National Cartoonist Society’s Manhattan Chapter.
In 2013, Ryan Browne ran a massively successful Kickstarter campaign to self-publish God Hates Astronauts (which is now being published by Image Comics). The series, which he writes and draws, is supposedly about a team hired by NASA to stop farmers from becoming astronauts, but he’s more interested in bank robbing owls, RoboCop references, and drawing Reginald VelJohnson with bear arms and calling him Gnarled Winslow. You could describe God Hates Astronauts as the pure essence of Browne’s hilarious scatterbrained mind, but Blast Furnace takes that spot. In order to make sure he was actively creating comics, Browne started Blast Furnace, a year-long project where he’d spend an hour each day writing and drawing a complete page. Because he never planned ahead, the comic speeds all over the place, focusing on whatever he felt like drawing that day. Browne also worked on some comic called The Manhattan Projects with some dude name Jonathan Hickman or something. No big deal.
Although Dan Parent has been writing and illustrating Archie Comics since 1987, it wasn’t until he created Kevin Keller in 2010 that his work garnered international acclaim. The first openly gay character in Archie history, Keller is an army brat whose sexuality isn’t an issue amongst his peers. The character has become such a sensation that GLAAD chose him as their 2013 Spirit Day Ambassador, the first time a fictional character has ever been given the honor. Parent’s effort to show how gay characters don’t have to be victims or villains is inspiring. Count on more of the same from him in 2014.
Colleen Coover's charming style first came to light on Small Favors, and then in all-ages work like Banana Sunday, Gingerbread Girl, and even some Marvel riffs in X-Men: First Class. She works quite a bit with writer/husband Paul Tobin, and their Bandette webcomic was recently collected in hardcover by Dark Horse Comics, which should help expose one of the most fun series out there to a whole new audience in 2014!
Frank Santoro's 144-page Pompeii was one of the "art comics" highlights of 2013. Meanwhile, his comics correspondence course is gaining interest, and its Composition Competition is fostering a "hero's journey" for many aspiring cartoonists. Maybe we should sign up, just to see more from him!
We were first drawn to Federal Bureau of Physics by its trademark acid-trip covers. Little did we know that the physics, the foundation on which this series is built, would leave us tripping for hours. Along with series artist Robbi Rodriguez, Simon Oliver presents Fringe on ‘shrooms. As if you’ve stuck your head in a jar, you flip through the dizzying pages as first a wormhole appears out of thin air and then an entire “Bubbleverse” to counter our entire universe. The striking thing about this series is how ordinary this all is to the main characters, who still go through the normal domestic woes, sit around drinking coffee, and struggle to keep their jobs. Oliver is writing one of the best new series under the Vertigo banner, and we suspect it’ll only get better.
Chad Bowers and Chris Sims are like a Constructicon of ridiculous comic book storytelling ideas. The two have partnered up many times over the years, mainly in their co-creation of Action Age Comics, where Bowers writes Monster Plus, Sims writes Dracula the Unconquered, and they've joined forces to bring us Awesome Hospital. Currently, they are two issues into their series for Monkeybrain Comics, Subatomic Party Girls, with more outer space rock girl antics promised in 2014. Also notable is how in February, they'll be releasing an Oni Press collaboration called Down Set Fight!, telling the story of a disgraced football player who has to beat up team mascots because of reasons.
Rugg's versatility as a cartoonist and storyteller on such past gems as Rambo 3.5 and Afrodisiac. His Master's-level teaching of "visual narrative," as well as his co-hosting of the podcast Tell Me Something I Don't Know make him a force to be reckoned with.
Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's awesome webcomic Bandette got the print treatment from Dark Horse in late 2013, and Bandette, in general, is so cool that it's probably enough to get him on our radar. But Mr. Tobin also wrote the horrific Colder for Dark Horse, the less horrific but much more fun Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon (also for Dark Horse), The Bionic Woman for Dynamite, and more. This is clearly a guy who is perfectly at home in any number of genres. We're rather fond of him.
Ronald Wimberly is a fiercely talented narrative artist who also displays the influence of urban culture. His art for Percy Carey's 2007 Vertigo memoir Sentences and his own hyperkinetic 2012 reenvisioning of Shakespeare, The Prince of Cats served to whet the appetite for more. We're anticipating his upcoming issues of Prophet with fellow listmember Farel Dalrymple!
Katie Cook is an artist you need to look for because otherwise it’s impossible to see her through the line at Artist Alley. Some of this notice has been because of her work writing IDW’s highest selling comic, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Think about that for a moment. Doctor Hooves outsells Doctor Who), but most of it comes from her watercolor work. Cook sells 3x4 ink and watercolor paintings at conventions; fans will wait hours to get a mini-painting from her of their pet cats. Along with the paintings, she sells adorable Star Wars artwork (some of which was commissioned by the official Star Wars website) and drawings of Lantern Corps members as cats. Not all her work is cat related though; she’s worked with the Jim Henson Company on Fraggle Rock and The Storyteller comics and her art frequently appears as chase cards in trading card boxes.
Reeder’s been somewhat out of the comic spotlight in 2013. After great runs on Supergirl and Madam Xanadu she was scheduled to alternate art duties with JH Williams III on Batwoman, but left during her first arc. Since then she’s mostly done one-shots, including Halloween Eve which she funded on Kickstarter. But now she’s working on what might be the highlight of her career: Rocket Girl, an ongoing series at Image with Halloween Eve collaborator Brandon Montclare. The series focuses on a member of the New York Teen Police Department investigating time crimes in the utopian future of 2013 being sent back in time to the present – 1986. And then it gets crazy. Reeder’s work is full of great expressive figures, interesting female characters, and an impressive eye for detail (the first page in issue 2 sets up the 80's by featuring details like the Waverly Theatre (now the IFC Center) screening Rocky Horror and a shot of the Twin Towers in the background). It’s simple stuff, but those details keep you aware of the recurring theme that this isn’t quite the world you know.
Lauren Weinstein's 2008 Goddess of War tabloid was a hilarious Aline-Kominsky-Crumb-meets-Jack-Kirby tour de force. Beware of her current adult gagzbylauren single panel cartoons - there's a spit-take in almost every one! You can also catch her on stage with experimental performance rock band, The Flaming Fire!
An accomplished illustrator, Annie Wu first caught our eye with her punk rock JLA and Jackson Publick/Doc Hammer "portraits" a few years ago. In 2013, she stepped in to pencil Kate Bishop's Hawkeye adventures, making her the latest impressive artist on a title that has featured nothing BUT impressive artists since it started (David Aja, Francesco Francavilla, Steve Lieber) AND she co-created the new Batgirl for DC's ongoing Batman Beyond Unlimited title. Ms. Wu's art is killer, and we want more of it every month, please.
Faith Erin Hicks has been thrilling webcomic fans since 1999 with work like Demonology 101, Ice, and Superhero Girl, and in the “physical realm” with work for First Second and Dark Horse. The prolific writer and artist has been telling stories for a devoted audience for ages, but 2013 saw her step into the light as the illustrator of the graphic novel companion to the ridiculously popular Last of Us video game from Dark Horse, and she’s got some comic work set in the Avatar universe coming in 2014, too. Both of these should bring her independent work to an even wider audience in 2014. It’s well-deserved.
Just recently, Scioli and Joe Casey's finale to their trip-tastic Godland was published. On Free Comic Book Day this May, Scioli and John Barber will be previewing the Transformers vs. G.I. Joe series - the first issue will be published the next month. Sure, Scioli's obviously a no-holds-barred Kirby-phile, but that's only part of the fun. Den of Geek US says, "Don't ask! Just buy Scioli!" Oh, and how about this image from Mr. Scioli's Twitter? You need 5 copies of the Godland finale to view the full spread.
Michel just finished his herculean effort of 12 monthly issues of Copra, something of a love letter to Suicide Squad, Doom Patrol, and Frank Miller's Batman. Fiffe wrote, drew, colored, lettered, and self-published a full-color 24-page adventure comic every month. It's a trip and it's great. Get the collections here. Keep an eye on his upcoming work for Marvel, too! Get whatever Michel Fiffe does next. You won't be disappointed.
Tim Gibson’s Moth City is a brutal comic. Part horror, part noir, part spaghetti western, and all gross, it’s the story of an American tycoon running a manufacturing island in China doing whatever he has to do (and Gibson gives him plenty of queasy things to do) to protect his family. Moth City can be purchased as a pdf or read for free online (thanks to a grant from the Arts Council of New Zealand). The free version loads a new panel (or a change in the panel) each time you click the next button, which helps build suspense by keeping you from peeking ahead and also allows you to see the art without any word balloons covering it. The series is also being rereleased weekly on Thrillbent.
Farel Dalrymple did absolutely incredible art on two of the best issues to date of Brandon Graham's version of the Image title Prophet. He has also been popping up with beautifully drawn and colored webcomics like Pangs on Aboutabull.com and It Will All Hurt, which is also in print from Zack Soto's Study Group comics.
Ales Kot burst on the scene with his graphic novel debut Wild Children in 2012. In 2013, fans got a taste of his innovative character work and masterful pacing in three issues of DC’s Suicide Squad. He was a victim of DC creative shuffling but DC’s loss was fandom’s gain as his new book for Image, Zero, and his work on Marvel’s Secret Avengers proved. Iron Patriot from Marvel will debut early in 2014, and if books like Change and Zero are any indication, look for huge things from Ales Kot in 2014.
With color pastel drawings of the ravaged landscapes of New York City's Lower East Side in prestigious collections around the world, Romberger's devotion to comics storytelling becomes even more impressive. In 2013, he offered up the mostly "silent" Post York (a multi-media piece with son, Crosby) and a re-issue of his 1996 Seven Miles a Second with artist David Wojnarowicz and Marguerite Van Cook. The Late Child and Other Animals (with Marguerite Van Cook) is coming from Fantagraphics in 2014, and we're definitely looking forward to that.
At 19, Lovell is probably the youngest person on this list, but you wouldn’t be able to tell it based on her talent. Ms. Lovell has created a unique art style for herself that would take some artists years to build, and her work tends to focus on her two biggest passions; magical girls and pro wrestling. Lovell makes the bizarre blend work, creating pictures of The Undertaker that make you want to go, “Aww!” and hug the big ol’ adorable deadman. Not all of her work is wrestling-related though; she’s designed a cast of magical girls with different body types and UDON better be paying attention to her Street Fighter art. Her work is becoming popular not just among the comic community, but in the WWE as well. Superstar Big E Langston is a fan (he’s used her artwork as his twitter avatar and retweets her art) and a drawing of The Wyatt Family has appeared on the WWE app.
Hardman's work on titles like Hulk and Planet of the Apes might not have made it obvious that his Kinski (from Monkeybrain) would be full of such noirish Alex Toth-ian goodness...but it is. The accomplished writer and artist also has made his mark in film, having done illustration work for movies like Superman Returns and Inception, not to mention having directed his own short film, Wrong Way Up. We look forward to anything he's got cooking this year!
While Andy Diggle is no newcomer, he had quite a year in 2013. Notably, just as Snapshot was wrapping up (to wild acclaim) he was all set to take over from Grant Morrison as regular Superman writer on Action Comics, when he simply walked away from DC Comics before his first, superb issue hit the stands. While his Astonishing Captain America is currently releasing from Marvel, Mr. Diggle is making waves at Dynamite with his crime book, Uncanny, with artist Aaron Campbell. I think we can safely just let Mr. Diggle do whatever he wants, yeah?
Prolific, thy name is Brian Wood. Mr. Wood is the writer of monthlies as diverse as X-Men (starring a virtually all-female squad), Conan (for Dark Horse), and the creator-owned books The Massive and Mara. He's also the man writing Star Wars comics set during the most beloved era of the entire franchise. Brian Wood produces a staggering amount of work every month and it’s consistently good. Image, Dark Horse, Marvel... give this guy another few books, because clearly he can handle it.
Ed Piskor has previously worked with Harvey Pekar on The Beats: A Graphic History, and has produced his own Wizzywig - but right now his Hip Hop Family Tree is online and a collection is available. Piskor's comics version of hip hop history featuring, among others, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Moe Dee, and Kurtis Blow is one of the best things out there. Fresh for '14, you suckas!
Like Brian Wood, Charles Soule is the very essence of quality AND quantity. Letter 44, the Soule-penned political sci-fi thriller for Oni Press would probably be enough to land him on this list. He’s done solid work for Marvel with the Thunderbolts monthly, and he was just tapped as Matt Fraction’s replacement on the high-profile Inhuman. Over at DC he’s got projects as diverse as Red Lanterns and Swamp Thing to contend with every month. But when he’s also writing the adventures of DC’s premiere power couple over on Superman/Wonder Woman, in a year where DC/WB have a decided interest in making sure these two characters are front and center in all media, it means that he’s got some clout in 2014 and beyond. Maybe we’ll even finally get to see the sequel to his lucha libre comic, Strongman, if things keep going his way!
Robert Venditti has been quietly writing some of the best superhero comics around. In 2013 he was tapped as Geoff Johns’ replacement on Green Lantern after that writer concluded his legendary, nearly decade-long run on the title, which is the very definition of a tough act to follow. He’s stewarded X-O Manowar for Valiant, one of the cornerstones of the publisher’s superhero line, as one of the most consistently good titles around. And as Valiant prepare to make their move in 2014 with a huge event called The Armor Hunters, it’s Robert Venditti who is taking the reins of their first ever company-wide crossover story.
An accomplished artist and writer, Kevin Colden's work on IDW's The Crow: Death & Rebirth got the collected edition treatment in 2013, and his Eisner-nominated crime story Fishtown is finally getting reprinted, as well. In early 2014 he's self-publishing a two-years-in-the-making grail romance: Ἀντιόχεια. We can't wait!
Gabrielle Bell is quite possibly today's premiere comicbook memoirist. The series Lucky and graphic novel The Voyeurs are two works to seek out. Her ongoing diary series is posted a page at a time on her website, and her July Diary earned her a 2013 Ignatz nomination for Outstanding Online Comic. Check her website early and often for more brilliant comics!
If you haven't taken note of the whacked-out Heavy Metal-styled interpretation of Rob Liefeld's Prophet that Graham has been working on with Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, and Giannis Milonogiannis, or his King City, or Multiple Warheads, you haven't been paying attention. Sit up! Take note! Buy Brandon Graham comics!
Murphy seems to be Vertigo’s go-to artist for daringly different projects. Currently working on the undersea horror title, The Wake with Scott Snyder, Mr. Murphy's unique narrative sensibility along with his impeccable eye for visual storytelling are a combination that make him a creator to watch moving forward. The Wake is a modern horror classic and Murphy’s next project will certainly be as exciting and innovative as everything else he's done!
It’s not like Mr. Fialkov is an unknown. 2013 saw him writing IDW’s Doctor Who and famously saw him walk away from a high-profile gig on Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns to pursue his own work. But it’s the buzz on his digital-exclusive The Bunker (available on comiXology) that carries him in to the new year, and there’s a bright future ahead for this brilliant writer.
Hark! A Vagrant is currently one of the biggest webcomics, especially among non-webcomic readers. What readers may not be so familiar with are Beaton’s Tumblr comics. These short comics, usually four panels long, tend to be autobiographical and focus on her daily life or slice of life comics about jus’ folk. Many of them are quick doodles; the lettering is hastily done, the panel borders are wobbly and they look like they’re done with graphite. For most artists, this would be private; for Beaton, this is a fun experiment to share. She gets to try new storytelling techniques (and move away from historic characters) and fans get a constant stream of comic work from her. 2014 will be filled with comics by her about great literary and historic figures, but the most interesting figure she’ll write about is herself.
Gone are the days when you were either a corporate stooge, toiling away at other folks’ intellectual property OR a vibrant creator injecting new ideas and stories of your own into the comic book world. Rick Remender has made it his job to keep busy with both ends of that equation. He has done some mind-bending, reality altering, timestream warping work on books like Uncanny Avengers and Captain America for Marvel in 2013, but he also just launched his own wild sci-fi title Black Science (with Mateo Scalera on art) to considerable critical acclaim, which should only pick up as 2014 rolls on. Add to this his more earthbound Deadly Class, about a high school for assassins (read our review of the first issue here), and Low, his collaboration with Greg Tocchini and this is one writer who shows no sign of slowing down.
Wilson is one of the most prominent Muslim writers in comics; she’s written Cairo and Air at Vertigo and two issues of Superman. This past year her debut novel, Alif the Unseen, won the 2013 World Fantasy Award. 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for her; she’ll be writing Ms. Marvel, her first ongoing superhero comic. Ms. Marvel is the only comic published by the Big Two to feature a Muslim woman as the lead; this series has everything it needs to take Tumblr by storm (a great writer, different art, a unique lead character, teenage superheroes, and a Carol Corps connection) and should bring in new comic readers like Captain Marvel and Young Avengers did!
Chris Roberson is more than just a writer, he’s a publisher. And if you haven’t seen the incredible creator-haven that’s being built over at Monkeybrain Comics, you’re missing out on some of the best comics on the web. His Mysterious Strangers series at Oni Press is getting its first trade paperback collection in January 2014. What’s more, over at Dynamite, Mr. Roberson is currently the steward of the comic book adventures of The Shadow and Doc Savage, the spiritual precursors to Batman and Superman. And with I, Zombie in development as a TV show, expect more folks to know Chris Roberson’s name very soon.
In March of 2014, Irish artist Declan Shalvey will team up with bearded wunderkind Warren Ellis and colorist Jordie Bellaire for the latest revival of Marvel’s Moon Knight. With any luck, this high-profile title will earn Shalvey new followers for his stylish work, which has included stints on everything from Deadpool to the 28 Days Later movie tie-in comic.
Emma Rios' pages in Pretty Deadly, her Image Comics collaboration with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, are really gorgeous. The drawings are raw and delicate at the same time. There's something about her layouts and inking that just scream fabulous, like a cross between Steranko and a refined feathering that recalls primo-era Berni Wrightson. With the incredible buzz that Pretty Deadly is building, it looks like Ms. Rios has a very bright immediate future.
While it may seem wrong to take two singular talents like Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul and combine them, let’s face it, they’re one hell of a team. After redefining The Flash with one of the DC New 52’s more distinctively good books, the two are moving on to even more high-profile work with Batman on Detective Comics. The pair certainly knows how to write a good superhero yarn, but it’s the colors that Mr. Buccellato adds to Mr. Manapul’s unique, dynamic pencils that make their collaboration such a unique one. If anyone can make Detective Comics, the title that gave DC Comics its name, a real contender (and not just the sideman to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's lead guitar tandem on Batman) in 2014, it’s these two.
Read just one issue of Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Go on, we’ll wait. Yeah, best comic you read this month right? That’s Nick Spencer. Spencer is at that same stage of his career that Brian Michael Bendis was when he first launched Alias or Robert Kirkman when he first published a little black and white zombie book for Image. Marvel knows it too, as they chose Spencer to co-write Avengers World with Jonathan Hickman. It seems Spencer’s work on Secret Avengers showed the House of Ideas that Spencer truly deserves the keys to the nicer cars in Marvel’s parking lot. Spencer is also kicking butt at Image with the continuing Morning Glories, and Bedlam, one of the most daringly disturbing books on the racks. As if that's not enough, Spencer announced three new projects for Image Comics: Paradigms, Cerulean, and The Great Beyond.
23. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Hey, remember when Afterlife With Archie was first announced and everyone thought the whole concept of “Archie vs. Zombies” was ludicrous and a joke? Yeah, well... Afterlife With Archie #1 turned out to be one of the best comics of 2013, and a good chunk of that has to do with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s absolutely flawless grasp of iconic characters, even when they were in decidedly NOT iconic situations. What’s more, he’s in charge of bringing the Archie gang to the silver screen. Is Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to Archie Comics what Geoff Johns has been to DC? Perhaps. And this could make him a very powerful man, indeed!
22. Sholly Fisch
Battling Roger Langridge for the honor of being the 21st-century equivalent of Carl Barks, Sholly Fisch has spent a career creating smart kids’ comics. His work on DC titles like Batman: The Brave and the Bold demonstrates how young adult titles can appeal to all ages, an ethos that is fully explored through his work on the new Scooby-Doo! Team-Up comic. Mr. Fisch even held his own crafting back-ups in Grant Morrison's Action Comics, where he managed to not get swallowed hole by that formidable writer's trademark voice. You can read one of our interviews with Sholly Fisch right here!
Ming Doyle has had an impressive last few years. After working with Kevin Church on The Loneliest Astronauts (one of the best webcomics of 2011) and occasionally contributing to their Star Trek fancomic, her work has been published by almost every major American comic company. She’s worked on multiple issues of Adventure Time, a Vertigo anthology, and was a contributor to Womanthology. Jonathan Hickman admired her work so much that he personally selected her to be one of the artists on Fantastic Four #600. This past year she drew Mara at Image Comics, transforming a Hunger Games pastiche into one of the best looking comics of the year. Now she’s a part of the Valiant family and is working on the second arc of Quantum and Woody. Doyle’s grown a lot as an artist with Mara (her work rarely featured actions scenes) and Quantum and Woody is another step towards that breakthrough she deserves.
Sure, Fred Van Lente has already done some fine work for Marvel Comics (his long run with Greg Pak on Incredible Hercules was loads of fun), and he’s got plenty of other projects under his belt, but 2013 was the year he kind of stepped out into the spotlight a bit. His work on Archer & Armstrong for Valiant has been not only smart and funny, but an integral part of the world that they’re building over there, and his own creation, Brain Boy, for Dark Horse is turning some heads, as well. If you’ve read any of his work, you’ll recognize his impeccable sense of pacing and trademark sense of humor. Did we mention he’s bringing back classic sci-fi comic Magnus: Robot Fighter in 2014 at Dark Horse? Well, he is. It will probably be really, really good. Just a hunch.
If comics were rock n’ roll, Paul Pope would be David Bowie. A genre-hopping, storytelling chameleon, equally at home with hard-boiled crime, science fiction, or mythologically-infused superhero action... sometimes all at the same time. But we all knew that. So why now? Battling Boy, that’s why. Mr. Pope created a fully-realized superhero universe in one neat little graphic novel package from First Second books. We could go on at length about how great it is, but there’s no need right now...but the fact that a sequel and some spinoffs were promptly promised for 2014 seem to indicate that Mr. Pope is ready to really immerse himself in his own expanded fictional universe. Rock n’ roll.
Best known for Strangers in Paradise and Echo, Terry Moore had a busy 2013 which saw Strangers in Paradise rereleased in a massive two-volume softcover omnibus collection. However, his major comic work this past year has been Rachel Rising, a series is about a woman that wakes up in her own grave and has to find out who murdered her. It’s a rewarding comic, packed with detail that rewards multiple readings (assuming you’re brave enough to reread the unsettling black and white nightmare). The stories continue from one volume to the next, building a larger, far reaching story. 2014 should see resolution to the mystery of her death, but that doesn’t mean the series has to end. Moore sees the mystery as the set up and has years’ worth of stories to tell, but only if sales pick up. Hopefully this series will last longer than Echo’s 30 issues and have a run that will rival Strangers in Paradise’s 106. Rachel Rising was picked up by Alcon Television Group to be adapted for television, although there haven’t been any updates about a pilot since July 2013.
Thanks to Eric Stephenson, there is now a Big Three. Doubt it? Don't. Just look at the list of titles they announced in January! Image has become a haven for A-list creators' dream projects, where the biggest names in comics can leave the confines of corporate controlled superheroes to realize their visions. It seems that every month, someone is delivering the work of his or her life for Image. Stephenson has an eye for talent and for innovation. Look no further than books like Saga, Fatale, East of West, Manhattan Projects, Pretty Deadly, Satellite Sam, Sex Criminals, and Lazarus, all written and drawn by a whos who of the very best in comics, and all greenlit and nurtured under Stephenson’s watch. Did we mention that he writes the almost unbearably cool Nowhere Men, as well? Well, he does!
Zdarsky was a major breakout star of 2013. While he's done his share of work in the past decade with Monster Cops and Prison Funnies, as well as a couple of Dark Horse titles, he really caught everyone's attention this year with the Image series Sex Criminals. Widely-enjoyed outside of those who can't get past its perverse outer layer, Zdarsky's art brings endless charm to the story's characters and the never-ending porn jokes that get increasingly surreal. As of this writing, the series is only on its third issue, so the trade bump has yet to kick in yet. With all eyes on him, Zdarsky has the ability to make the world of comics in 2014 his to win. Or maybe he'll just spend the year excitedly commenting on Applebee's Facebook page.
Isn't raving about Saga so very last year? We suppose so. Surprisingly enough, Saga isn't even really what got Mr. Vaughan on this list. Since it's clearly not enough for BKV to write an incredible, sprawling, epic piece of comics storytelling every couple of years, he went ahead and started Panel Syndicate with Marcos Martin. What's Panel Syndicate? Glad you asked. It's the website where Mr. Vaughan and Mr. Martin release their own comics on a "name your price" scale. The first of these, Private Eye (which is, unsurprisingly, fantastic) will likely conclude in 2014, and then who knows what these two will get up to next? We'll be eagerly waiting.
In 2014, Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley will set out to prove that he is much more than a one-trick pony with the July release of his new graphic novel Seconds. While the details about the storyline are, at this point, vague, expect the restaurant-set Seconds to be crammed with the sort of offbeat insights on life that made his previous work such a sensation.
We can hear you asking from here: How is Mark Waid, one of the most accomplished comic writers of the last twenty years, one to watch in 2014? Well, let’s look at his 2013. Aside from having what may have been the most prolific year of his career, it was also fairly diverse. Never mind the heights that Daredevil continues to scale on a monthly basis, don’t forget the intriguing Green Hornet for Dynamite, the manic brilliance (with Dean Haspiel) of The Fox at Archie, or his work on The Rocketeer for IDW. All this while Mr. Waid continued to maintain his digital publishing label Thrillbent (which continues to expand with more creators, and more FREE comics), AND he bought a comic shop of his own. What DO you do for an encore, Mark?
It just happened to work out that Kieron and Jamie were virtually tied when we tallied up the votes. And while we don’t want to distract from their individual accomplishments, the Phonogram team delighted fans with a surreal, reality-warping Young Avengers title all year long that was so completely and gloriously out of step with any other superhero book in Marvel’s stable that it made us dizzy. They broke everyone’s hearts with the announcement that they were shutting it down. While there's still no word on whether we’ll finally see Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl in 2014, Gillen and McKelvie are bringing us The Wicked and The Divine for Image! We can't wait.
In a company that's been short on new blood with the ability to stick around, Matt Kindt is one of DC's outliers. He hit the scene in 2012, where he took over for the too-beautiful-for-this-world Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE. He's been tossed various comics that have been doomed for failure from the beginning, such as My Greatest Adventure and Men of War, but has since been given the keys to bigger projects, such as Suicide Squad and Justice League of America. He's also been hitting the Marvel side of the comic world, recently being given a three-issue stint on Infinity: The Hunt and the brand new Marvel Knights: Spider-Man series. He took charge as writer of Valiant's first superhero team book with UNITY. All the while, his Dark Horse series MIND MGMT keeps going, having only hit its halfway point. Word is that it's currently has its own movie adaptation in development.
Italian artist Francesco Francavilla had one hell of a 2013. He helped redefine Riverdale with his work on Afterlife with Archie, continued his reign as the comic industry's go-to guy for variant covers, did some stunning space opera on Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and released the first volume of his Black Beetle saga for Dark Horse. Meanwhile, Francavilla's blog became a treasure trove of wonders like his regular Breaking Bad illustrations and concept art for imaginary projects like Batman 1972 (why Dan DiDio hasn't commissioned this yet is anyone's guess). Expect 2014 to be crammed with more of the visual genius that has become Francavilla’s trademark.
David Aja has certainly made his mark at Marvel, that’s for sure. He’s an integral part of the magic that is Hawkeye month in and month out, and was recognized for that with TWO Eisner Awards in 2013. We just can’t leave this guy alone. If you somehow doubt his prowess, pick up a copy of Hawkeye #11, a story told almost entirely from the perspective of a dog, and one mostly without the benefit of dialogue, and witness an absolute master of visual storytelling at work. Whatever he does this year, even if it’s just more Hawkeye, it’s going to be worth settling in for.
Saying that Matt Fraction is a superb writer won’t surprise anybody. We’ve all known it for years. And it’s not like he’s exactly under-the-radar. As one member of our advisory board put it, "Matt Fraction is going to be one to watch for the next two decades." The continued success of recent creator-owned work like Sex Criminals and Satellite Sam aside, we’re just pretty damn curious about what else he’s got cooking in 2014. And then there’s Hawkeye, about which enough good stuff has been said about all over the place, but it doesn't change the fact that it's still just impossibly great month after month. After leaving both Fantastic Four books to work on Marvel’s Inhuman series, he was replaced by Charles Soule. Then there's the matter of Mr. Fraction writing the comic book sequel to Fight Club with Chuck Palahniuk plus the return of his Cassanova and Tech Jacket books for Image Comics. Which leaves us wondering: just what else has Mr. Fraction, one of the most gifted writers in comics, got up his sleeve?
You know you’re good when you start calling the tune at a company like DC Comics. While DC has taken some flack over the last year from creators (and fans) among cries of editorial interference, Jeff Lemire seems to have things going his way. After announcing that he would be ending the popular Animal Man series on his terms, his upcoming run as writer on the upcoming Justice League United comic, not to mention his gorgeous work as writer and artist on his own series, Trillium, for Vertigo, he’s got a full plate. The writer/artist double threat is an increasingly rare phenomenon over at the Big Two, and Lemire may be the comics auteur to watch out for in 2014.
In 2013, Fiona Staples won two Eisners, a Hugo, five Harvey Awards, and a British Fantasy Award and was nominated for a sixth Harvey Award and two Joe Shuster Awards for her work on Saga (along with one of the issues briefly being removed from the comiXology iOS for being too risqué). We could drop the mic right there, but we'll keep going. Along with co-owning and co-creating Saga, one of the biggest independent comics, she designed everything in the book (from characters to ships to planets), paints the covers, and hand letters the book. She also doesn’t know the meaning of “20-page comic” as Saga ignores regular page counts, with each issue going for as long as she and writer Brian K. Vaughn feel it should go. 2014 should see Saga through to its fourth arc and possibly the start of the fifth volume, and a virtually unlimited amount of success for Fiona Staples.
Michael Allred has been a fan-favorite for about twenty years now, but 2013 was pretty special, and 2014 looks like it might be moreso. His rollicking, quirky take on FF (with Matt Fraction), was every bit of fun we've come to expect from the writer/artist of Madman and Red Rocket 7. What's next? In March 2014 Mr. Allred is teaming up with Dan Slott on Silver Surfer. If there’s one Marvel character that Allred was born to draw, it might very well be Norin Radd, and it's hard to remember the last time a Silver Surfer comic was this hotly anticipated. We’re looking forward to whatever cosmic, psychedelic shenanigans they get up to. Now, if only he could find the time to give us some more Madman...
Mr. Haspiel already has an impressive portfolio, with a comics career that spans 25 years, an Emmy award (for the Bored to Death main title sequence), and a couple of Eisner and Ignatz nominations to his name. But late 2013 saw the launch of The Fox from Archie’s Red Circle superhero imprint to much fanfare, and Haspiel’s brand of cool jumped off every page. This along with the unveiling of his PsychoTronic Comix anthology (which featured another dynamic superhero by the name of the Red Hook) from Hang Dai Editions (which he co-founded), and his engaging, fans-first presence at conventions and signings, all make Dean Haspiel one of our absolute favorites.
How cool is Jeff Parker? This isn’t a rhetorical question, actually. Jeff Parker is the writer currently translating the batshit insane world of the brilliant 1960s Batman TV series from the screen to the page in DC’s Batman ‘66 digital comic... and he’s doing it brilliantly. Mr. Parker is no stranger to superhero work, as he tended to be the guy Marvel would throw a lot of their titles that were destined not to last, only for him to write the holy hell out of them. While he has done plenty of solid superhero and non-superhero work in the past, taking a nearly 50 year old TV show that was, in itself, a translation of a comic, and then translating it BACK into comics, while nailing all of the strange tics of each actor’s performance is quite a feat. And then there's King's Watch over at Dynamite, an updating of the old Defenders of The Earth concept that brings together classic King Features comic strip characters like Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake. If that's not enough, there's also his upcoming Flash Gordon ongoing with entry #101 on this list, Doc Shaner. So, how cool is Jeff Parker? So cool that DC then decided to name him as Geoff Johns’ replacement on their improbably popular Aquaman ongoing series in 2014. So, again, how cool is Jeff Parker?
Marvel has made it clear in recent months that Captain Marvel is a character to watch in coming years, and the first step in positioning the character for big things was letting Kelly Sue DeConnick reinvent the character back in 2012. Ms. DeConnick put Carol Danvers (formerly Ms. Marvel) front and center in her own book that became a fan favorite, although not an overwhelming sales success. That's alright, though, as Marvel is giving Ms. DeConnick's vision of Captain Marvel a fresh chance in 2014 with a new first issue and a more prominent place in the Marvel Universe. How much of a fan-favorite is DeConnick's Captain Marvel these days? Did anyone ever think that a character like Carol Danvers would develop a following so devoted that they would earn their own name? Meet the Carol Corps! And that's only the start. In October 2013, Ms. DeConnick (with Emma Rios on art) launched Pretty Deadly, a dense, complex, challenging mythic western title for Image Comics. Pretty Deadly debuted to overwhelmingly positive reviews, and you will absolutely be hearing more about it, and about the brilliant Kelly Sue DeConnick, throughout 2014, and far beyond it, we'd wager. We're rather looking forward to Bitch Planet, too.
And then there are the honorable mentions, of which there are quite a few. If you're still looking for folks to check out, we could also heartily recommend these for you...all of whom were on our minds at various points while ranking this list.
Honorable Mentions: Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque, Inio Asano, Josh Bayer, Jordie Bellaire, Laura Braga, Box Brown, Aaron Campbell, Bryce Carlson, Emily Carroll, Victor Caylo, Anthony Clark, Tony Cliff, Eleanor Davis, Roberto de la Torre, Vanessa del Ray, Catie Donnelly, Steve Downer, Steve Ellis, Joey Esposito, Charles Forsman, David Gallaher, Victor Gischler, Brett Gurewitz, Chris Haley, Sammy Harkham, Ben Hatke, Lea Heinrich, Tom Kaczynski, Keren Katz, Kate Lacour, Jonathan Lau, Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughan, Andrew Maclean, Ibrahim Moustafa, Anders Nilsen, Jeremy Owen, Greg Pak, Laura Park, John Pham, Cody Pickrodt, Curt Pires & Dalton Rose, Mimi Pond, Fabian Rangel Jr., Robbie Rodriguez, Daryl Seitchik, Gail Simone, Greg Smallwood, Zack Soto, Matthew Southworth, Patrick Spaziante, Kyle Starks, Des Taylor, Giovanni Timpano, John Upchurch, Sean von Gorman, Jeremy Whitley, Kurtis Wiebe, Josh Williamson, Brian Winkeler and Robert Wilson IV, Jordan Witt...we could go on and on, but you get the point!
And there you have it. Did we leave out some of your favorites? Are there others you'd like us to be aware of? Tell us in the comments and link to more cool creators!