10 To Watch in 2012: Comic Book Creators

<i>By <a href=mailto:chris@chrisarrant.com>Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>For the past few years, it's been a Newsarama tradition to give you a who's who and a what's what to the coming year and this year is no different. We're kicking things off with the lifeblood literally of the comics industry: the creators. Last year we tipped you off to Nick Spencer, Chris Samnee and Jim McCann, and this year we have a whole new crop of creators set to break new ground. <p>Some might be enterprising unknowns set to break out in their first major series, while others might be familiar faces poised to turn a corner and become something more. And there's one who sits in the upper echelon of current comic creators that could very well make 2012 his most surprising year yet. Presented to you in no particular order, these are all creators you should get to know for the year coming up. <p>If these creators were stock, this is who we'd be investing in so invest your time in getting to know them! <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

Francesco Francavilla

Coming up through the ranks of the independent scene, Francesco Francavilla could be on the precipice of a video-game-style level up in 2012. Following a similar career trajectory to that of Chris Samnee, Francavilla has quietly become a trusted hand for 'Big Two' editors and delivers with both professionalism and excellence that isn't overstated or boisterous. <p>In 2012 he drew over 13 full issues as well as a number of covers for Marvel, Image, Dark Horse and Dynamite. Dynamite has relied on him for years now as a confident and stylized cover artist on the levels of Alex Ross and John Cassaday, and don't be surprised if DC and Marvel tab him for more covers in the New Year. Francavilla's 2012 promises more issues of <I>Captain America & Bucky</I>, and his big break as writer <i>and</i> artist of a serial inside <I>Dark Horse Presents</I>. <p>Francavilla is quickly become a triple threat comic artist, versatile in sequential storytelling, evocative cover illustrations and as a concept artist. If all that wasn't enough, his forays into writing put him over the top as one to watch in 2012.

Brian Michael Bendis

Some might say Brian Michael Bendis reached the top of the mountain when he successfully turned <I>Avengers</I> into the best-selling franchise in comics, but with the recent announcement that he's leaving Marvel's flagship team in 2012 this could be the launching pad for his boldest move yet. Comparing Bendis' Avengers run to Chris Claremont's legendary run on the X-Men isn't far off, but the big question on everyone's mind is this: what will he do next? <p>Bendis could double-down and attempt to revitalize another corner of the Marvel <I>Disassembled</I>-style, or perhaps even join the Marvel staff as a creative overseer of the comics, movies and television it might seem far off, but he's said that Marvel's offered him a staff job before. Or what if Bendis bucked Marvel completely, Mark Millar-style, to go full-time into creator-owned work. There's even a chance DC could write a blank check to bring Bendis on-board with them. <p>What we do know is this: Bendis is still writing <I>Ultimate Comics Spider-Man</I>, <I>Moon Knight</I>, <I>Powers</I> and <I>Scarlet</I>, and we've been promised a second <I>Takio</I> volume, the long-delayed <I>Daredevil: End of Days</I> series and even a teased Ultron-centric series with Bryan Hitch. He's also got his writing work on the upcoming <I>Ultimate Spider-Man</I> animated series, as well as the potential opportunity should FX give the <I>Powers</I> television show a chance on the air. <p>Only time (and Bendis) will tell what 2012 will become for the writer, but both readers and professionals will be looking on with heightened interest.

Amy Reeder

After ranking on the short list for last year's 10 To Watch in 2011, the former Social Sciences teacher Amy Reeder has been promoted to the top of the class. With her proper debut on <I>Batwoman</I> coming in February 2012, Reeder is being cultivated by J.H. Williams 3 and DC to be a star artist. The glimpses of her work in preview images and 2011's <I>Batwoman #0</I> issue show she can readily fit into the world Williams' has created without aping his style. <p>Reeder is one of the few artists of the TOKYOPOP world manga line to successfully segue over to mainstream super-hero comics work, but she's done so with aplomb just look at the three Eisner nominations she received for her work on DC's <I>Madame Xanadu</I>. Reeder's manga-influenced style has expanded by leaps and bounds from her debut in 2006's <I>Fool's Gold</I> manga to those pages in <I>Batwoman #0</I>, and when her first full issue of <I>Batwoman</I> February's #6 hits shelves, it could be another leap in quality and talent.

Sam Humphries

Contrary to what you might think, being an overnight success doesn't happen in one night. Although former MySpace marketer Sam Humphries might have burst out of nowhere with the buzz surrounding his recent releases <I>Our Love Is Real</I> and <I>Sacrifice</I>, it came about after years of self-publishing and grass-roots marketing. His name has popped up in mainstream comics back earlier in anthologies like Boom's <I>CBGB: The Comic Book</I> and Archaia's <I>Fraggle Rock</I> comics, and 2012 should see his name in more places beginning with an adaptation of a sequel to <I>John Carter Of Mars</I> for Marvel. <p>Humphries could easily wind up being a regular writer for DC or Marvel in the very near future, but given his small business entrepreneurial drive he could also knock out a vibrant series of creator-owned work if given the chance. He's got big ideas, but with a keen understanding of the interpersonal relationships all we have to do is step back and wait for him to show us what he's got.

Michael Broussard

Some artists burst onto the comics' scene and into our Yearly 10 To Watch feature on their own, but many others do it with guidance from a veteran artist at their side. Marc Silvestri has mentored a number of future superstars like Michael Turner, David Finch, Francis Manapul and Kenneth Rocafort, and it looks like the next star pupil is Michael Broussard. After coming to Top Cow in 2007, Broussard has gone from doing background work for other artists to being the lead artist for the publisher's recently launched <I>Artifacts</I> series and being Silvestri's go-to guy when he needed help finishing the new <I>Incredible Hulk</I> series. <p>So far, Broussard's plans for 2012 remain shrouded in mystery. He could easily continue on at Top Cow, or perhaps transition to working at Marvel thanks to his game-saving work on <I>Incredible Hulk</I>. DC could especially use Broussard right now as we've seen their New 52 rely on pinch-hitters to get the books out on time. Wherever he ends up, Broussard is poised to go to a big title and have a big impact.

Brian Wood

Rising through the ranks of Independent comics do become a stalwart at Vertigo, Brian Wood was on a career path to become a staple of DC's mature readers line. But with the cancellation of <I>Northlanders</I> and the finale of <I>DMZ</I> forthcoming, Wood went a different path and returned to the world of freelancers doing work for various companies. He's quickly set up at Dark Horse writing the relaunched <I>Conan The Barbarian</I> series as well as doing a creator-owned series called <I>The Massive</I> that was originally planned for Vertigo. Meanwhile, he's doing his first Marvel work in over a decade with <I>Wolverine & The X-Men: Alpha & Omega</I> with more rumored to be in the offing. 2011 has been a year of big changes for the NYC-based writer, and 2012 is the year readers will begin to see fruit of this new chapter in the former designer's career. <p>In the area of the exclusive agreement, Brian Wood has become one of the most prized free agent creators in comics; but it remains to be seen if he'd settle down with another publisher or simply play the field for awhile. He seems like just the kind of creator Marvel would be headhunting to bolster their line, but one could also see DC going back on its previously cold-shouldering of Wood to employ him for the inevitable next stage after the New 52 sets in. 2012 is a big year for Wood, and no doubt we'll all be watching.

Ross Campbell

Cartoonist Ross Campbell has quietly become a veteran in the world of comics but if you primarily by comics in single issues you'd have never heard of him. The SCAD grad has drawn ten graphic novels in the past eight years, but has waited until 2012 to make his first full-length comic issue debut with the revived <I>Glory</I> series. The outside-the-box creative casting for the revival of Rob Liefeld's line of comics has catapulted the buzz around the book to be far more than what you'd expect, and Campbell's muscle-meets-monster art is at the center of that. <p>Although he's done minor work for the Big Two in anthology shorts and a book for DC's defunct Minx line, <I>Glory</I> will be Campbell's debut on a major superhero series. Although the first issue hasn't even shipped yet, Ross' work on <I>Glory</I> could have the Big Two clamoring to give the East Coast-based artist a chance on a major in-house series. Campbell himself is an admitted superhero fan, especially of Marvel's X-Men line and DC's Milestone characters just imagine what he could do with those. <p>Whatever path he takes, Campbell is going to have a big 2012 with <I>Glory</I> hitting shelves and a new volume of <I>Wet Moon</I> planned for later this year.

Nick Bradshaw

It's just a matter of weeks before people will get to know Nick Bradshaw in a big way. In early 2012, Bradshaw will join Jason Aaron's <I>Wolverine & The X-Men</I> (taking over from Chris Bachalo) and bring his Art Adams-inspired line to his biggest stage yet. It's a big break for an artist who only recently resumed his comics career after years working in video games, but from the looks of his recent work (including the pin-up in the back of <I>Wolverine & The X-Men</I> #1) he could be tailor-made for mutant-dom. <p>Bradshaw first popped up on the comics scene years ago as the artist for a 2004 <I>Army of Darkness</I>series, and was quickly snapped up by DC/Wildstorm to draw <I>Danger Girl</I> due to his similarities with the book's original creator, J. Scott Campbell. After doing some other licensed comic and a short-lived creator-owned series named <I>Rokkin</I>, Bradshaw left comics in 2007 to work for a video game company until recently. Bradshaw's been preparing for his upcoming <I>Wolverine & The X-Men</I> gig with some one-shots and fill-ins on other X-Men titles, and drew one of the expansive team pin-ups used to promote X-Men: Regenesis. <p>A lot of people will be seeing Nick Bradshaw's work for the first time when he begins <I>Wolverine & The X-Men</I>, and considering the pantheon of artistic heavyweights that's come before him he'll be in good company.

Sean Murphy

Our sole repeat nominee from previous year's 10 Creators To Watch, Sean Murphy has been building up a groundswell of acclaim and he's set to cash it in with a controversial creator-owned series from Vertigo. 2011 saw him finish up his collaboration with Grant Morrison, <I>Joe The Barbarian</I>, and do a spinoff mini of <I>American Vampire</I> with Scott Snyder, and 2012 will see him step up to the next level with the religion-meets-celebrity inspired <I>Punk Rock Jesus</I>. <p>Worked on in his spare time between projects for the past few years, <I>Punk Rock Jesus</I> follows a ex-IRA bodyguard protecting genetically cloned Jesus Christ created for a reality television show. Although Murphy's written comics before, this serialized graphic novel will put him on his biggest stage yetcomparable to Frank Miller's star turn on <I>Ronin</I> years ago. Murphy is reportedly drawn almost half of the limited series thus far, and has been eager to show off work from it at conventions and online. <p>At the same time, Murphy has entertained offers from Marvel and DC to do work on their superhero stalwarts with everything from Batman to Doctor Strange. Murphy's recently done some commercial art for DC Direct, and is exclusive to DC through 2012. It'll be interesting to see how <I>Punk Rock Jesus</I> is received once it comes out, and where it will take him next.

Rick Remender

Although Marvel might not call him an Architect, writer Rick Remender has emerged as one of the publisher's breakout A-list creators. After doing a swath of memorable creator-owned work in recent years, his relaunch of <I>Uncanny X-Force</I> caught people by surprise with its creativity and sales strength. That success surged on through the title's first year, leading Marvel to tap Remender to work his magic on the dynamic new <I>Venom</I> series earlier this year and a similar black-ops squad <I>Secret Avengers</I> set to begin in the new year. In 2011, readers also saw Remender send his most popular creator-owned series <I>Fear Agent</I> into the sunset (literally). Not bad for 2011, but 2012 looks like it could be even bigger. <p>It's an interesting career path for Remender, who started the 21st century working not as a writer but as an inker for Kieron Dwyer's run on <I>The Avengers</I>. In the past decade he segued from being an artist working on everything from <I>The Iron Giant</I> to comics with Bruce Campbell and Brian Posehn to making his name anew with a string of creator-owned books at Image and Dark Horse. Both Marvel and DC took notice of Remender, the writer, with Marvel synching him up to an exclusive and putting him to work on <I>Uncanny X-Force</I>. <p>An overlooked facet that plays a big part in Remender's success is the camaraderie he has with the artists he works with. Owing somewhat to his work as an artist himself, Remender has surrounding himself with pool of artists such as Tony Moore, Jerome Opena that other writers could rightly be jealous of. Remender's connection with the artist goes both ways, allowing him to more fully understand who'll be drawing his scripts and fine-tuning his work to take advantage of each artist's unique strengths. <p>2012 is shaping up to be a banner year for Rick Remender, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's part of at least one new major series from Marvel and perhaps even a return to creator-owned work as well.

10 To Watch in 2012: Comic Book Creators

Date: 26 December 2011 Time: 05:00 PM ET