<i>By <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/>Newsarama Staff</a></i> <p>Decades from now, the comic book world will remember 2011 as the year that DC Comics pulled one of the boldest moves in the history of the medium: Scrapping their entire existing publishing line and launching 52 new #1 issues this past September, a sweeping revamped dubbed "The New 52." <p>The repercussions of that move will be felt for years, and readers will likely be debating the merits of the headline-grabbing decision for many tweets to come. Yet as big of news as that was, it was actually one of several reboots and relaunches seen in 2011 and the undeniable early sales success of The New 52 could certainly mean there might be more to come in the future. <p>Other major trends comic book industry trends in 2011 include an increased importance placed by publishers on digital comics, a continued rise in the use of teaser images, '90s nostalgia and a widespread change to long-held format standards for single issues. <p>Newsarama has polled their staff and devised the top ten comic book industry trends of 2011. Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to see what was making news in the past year. <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>
Writer/artists aren't a new thing in comics, but this year saw a growing number of people being given the chance to write comics at DC who had formerly been known just for their pencils. It seemed to start with the Batman office, where Tony Daniel went from getting a writing test a few years ago on one mini-series (<i>Battle for the Cowl</i>), then was given the regular gig on <i>Batman</i> and now <i>Detective Comics</i>. Then J.H. Williams went from just drawing <i>Batwoman</i> to launching the character's new series as a writer. <p>With The New 52 this year, DC revealed even more examples, including established "artist-but-also-writer" names like Dan Jurgens, George Pérez and Keith Giffen, but also newer names like Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato, David Finch, Ethan Van Sciver, Scott McDaniel and more. Next year looks to continue the trend, with Jerry Ordway and Rob Liefeld both slated to write DC titles.
<i>Amazing Spider-Man</i> has been shipping multiple issues a month since 2008; first thrice-monthly in the "Brand New Day" era, before (slightly) cutting back to two issues a month (sometimes more) in the current "Big Time" status quo. <p>Apparently, that type of schedule works for Marvel: January 2012 will bring two issues each of <i>Uncanny X-Men</i>, <i>Uncanny X-Force</i>, <i>X-Men: Legacy</i>, <i>Deadpool</i>, <i>Daken: Dark Wolverine</i>, <I>Thunderbolts</i> and <i>Secret Avengers</i>. <p>Looking ahead a bit to February 2012 and the list only grows, with <i>Winter Soldier</i>, <i>Avengers</i>, <i>Avengers Academy</i>, <i>New Avengers</i>, <i>Secret Avengers</i>, <i>Ultimates Comics X-Men</i>, <i>The Twelve</i>, <i>Wolverine and the X-Men</i>, <i>Uncanny X-Men</i>, <i>Uncanny X-Force</i>, <i>X-Factor</i>, <i>Deadpool</I>, <i>X-Men</i> and <i>New Mutants</i> all getting in on the double-shipping fun. <p>But the comic book industry can be a feast-or-famine proposition, and Marvel also cut back on their line fairly dramatically this past fall, canceling lower-rung titles such as <i>Ghost Rider</i>, <i>X-23</i>, <i>Daken: Dark Wolverine</i>, <i>Herc</i> and <i>Iron Man 2.0</i>. <i>Alpha Flight</i> was upgraded to an ongoing before being reverting to an eight-issue maxi-series, <i>All-Winners Squad</i> was trimmed from eight issues to five, and miniseries <i>Victor Von Doom</i> and <i>Destroyers</i> were both scrapped before their respective first issues even came out. <p>Ultimately, it looks like the still-fragile national economy and the flagging direct market has created an environment where publishers have to rely on proven commodities, and more esoteric fare has an even harder time than usual.
2011 was the year where the webcomic business model came to print comics with the arrival of Kickstarter.com. The crowdfunding site that allows anyone to contribute money towards a listed project has actually been around since 2009, and has been used by comic creators and organizations since its beginning, with San Francisco's Cartoon Arts Museum and artist Kody Chamberlin having been amongst the early adopters. <p>The success of the much-publicized <i>Womanthology</i> project - which ended up making more than four times its costs by the end of its time on the site - brought the site, and its potential, firmly into the spotlight. What made <i>Womanthology</i> stand out for many was that the project actually had a distributor - IDW Publishing - that stood it apart from the other creator-owned, small-press efforts being funded at the site. The crossover between crowdfunded small press and "real" publishing became even more blurred when BOOM! Studios turned to Kickstarter to fund <i>Tampopo</i>, a hardcover collection of Camilla d'Errico's webcomic. With some publishers finding themselves forced to cut back on more offbeat projects due to a poor economy, Kickstarter may provide a new way for them to offload a lot of the financial risk before the book even hits stores. Could this be the way forward for more niche books?
The teaser image has been a staple of comic book marketing for years, with perhaps the high water mark coming a couple years back during Marvel's I Am An Avenger advertisements, a campaign so successful that Robert Kirkman lampooned them in the promotion of his own superhero team book <I>Guarding The Globe</I>. <p>But 2012 was the year the advanced teaser became practically ubiquitous, especially at Marvel Comics, where the publisher launched multiple multi-week campaigns, all designed to pique the curiosity of readers and get the buzz going on the Internets.
Soon after Diane Nelson and the new regime at DC Entertainment took over, they began making broad changes to the face of DC Comics. One of the most surprising was the appointment of former Marvel editor-in-chief Bob Harras as DC's new editor-in-chief. While at Marvel, Harras was one of the key proponents of Jim Lee's rise to fame, as well as the rest of the Image Seven. Now working under co-publishers Lee and Dan DiDio, Harras orchestrated the nuts and bolts of The New 52 and with it, the return of several notable names from the '90s. <p>Artists such as Rob Liefeld, Brett Booth and Greg Capullo were among several key appointments as artists in launch titles for DC's New 52, with that group later joined by names such as Scott Clark and Norm Breyfogle. On the writing side, Harras drafted in two of his most trusted writers during his Marvel tenure, Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza. When DC announced that fellow former Marvel E-i-C Tom DeFalco would be writing <I>Superman Beyond</I> it became a who's who of '90s comic creators.
It actually started in October 2010 DC Comics announced that they were "drawing the line at $2.99," meaning that they would commit to a standard price point of $2.99 for typical single issues, at a time when several titles at the publisher were creeping up to $3.99 <p>With that news came the concession that DC's single issues at a nearly universal standard of 22 pages of story for years would drop down to 20 pages of story. <p>Over at Marvel, essentially the inverse happened, with their $3.99 comics beefing up to 30 pages of content, with back-up stories appearing in <i>Amazing Spider-Man</i> and a Brian Michael Bendis-written "oral history" of <i>The Avengers</i> appearing in that franchise's titles. <p>That didn't last long, though, and gradually, Marvel began switching to 20 pages of story for both their $2.99 and $3.99 comics, signifying at least a temporary demise of the long-held 22-page comic book at the Big Two. <p>Publishers like Dark Horse and Image are still holding strong at 22 pages, and in occasional instances, Marvel and DC titles like this month's <i>Uncanny X-Force #18</i> get bumped back to the old number. Still, it's a new way of making comics for the two biggest publishers in the industry, and as Matt Fraction said in an interview with <a href= http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/11/07/matt-fraction-defenders-interview/>ComicsAlliance</a>, "I think you're going to see people rising and falling on this. It's a very different world, a different format, a different time signature."
Along with the race to have comics come out more regularly, this year also saw indications that the comic industry's larger publishers are giving freelance writers less creative control of licensed properties. <p>More than one writer has informed Newsarama off-the-record that their stories have been rewritten (sometimes without their knowledge) at Marvel and DC. And readers have noticed that DC even tossed a couple scripts by writers like Ron Marz and Sterling Gates because they wanted a "different direction." Editorial demands also inspired Gail Simone to leave her New 52 book because she had (in her words) "creative differences with editorial." <p>Add this to the practice of replacing artists who can't keep up with the new digital schedule, and it's looking like 2011 may have started a trend toward writers and artists losing a degree of creative control at the larger comic publishers.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. <p>Last year, very few comics were published digitally on the same day as print. But this year? More than 50 percent of the comics you can buy any Wednesday in a physical comic shop are also available the same day digitally. <p>If you're looking for a Spider-Man, Batman, Walking Dead or Archie comic, there's no reason to rush to the store (unless you want to hang with your fellow comic book readers). Thanks to the trend that really took hold in 2011, those comics and many, many more are available digitally on the same day as print.
To the relief, no doubt, of retailers and anally retentive fans across the comics' world, 2011 may go down in history as the year when comics started shipping on time. Marvel's Tom Brevoort and Matt Fraction hailed this year's <i>Fear Itself</i> as the first on-time Marvel event book in recent memory, and DC's <i>Flashpoint</i> could possibly lay claim to a similar crown by dint of finishing its own (albeit shorter) all-on-time run a couple of months earlier. <p>With DC's New 52, the trend became more prevalent; the line is built upon 52 regular books that don't just ship in the month they were announced, but on the same week within that month no matter what. Over at Marvel, the shift towards hitting shipping deadlines on a regular basis was much less sweeping, but just as serious, leading to multiple artists sharing a book to ensure it comes out on time a definite change from the days when <i>Civil War</i> was delayed three months in order to keep Steve McNiven as the sole artist on the series. <p>The real story about this may not be what it means for the publishers (who will, of course, enjoy the increased revenue of more issues being released per year if schedules don't slip), but what it means to creators, particularly slower ones; as Brian Michael Bendis <a href="http://blog.newsarama.com/2011/12/01/on-deadlines-fill-ins-and-changing-markets/">tweeted at the end of last month</a>, "writing's on the wall guys, if you can't hit a deadline in mainstream comics, you're going to be out of work."
If comic fans will remember 2011 for one thing, it will be the restarting of several titles at #1. Long-running numerical runs like <i>Uncanny X-Men</i>, <i>Detective Comics</i> and <i>Action Comics</i> all got a new start at #1 this year. But another trend was launched when DC went a step further and completely rebooted their universe, making it only five years old and erasing much of its more convoluted history. Everything from the origin of Superman to the formation of the Justice League has been freshly rewritten. <p>While Marvel has (so far) opted to just "shake things up" a bit this year in places like the relaunched Ultimate and X-Men lines, rumors abound that a hard reboot might come next year after the <i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i> event. Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso <a href="http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=35979">acknowledged yet didn't deny the 2012 reboot rumor</a> in an interview last week, meaning the reboot trend that started this year could possibly continue at Marvel next year, perhaps giving the company a younger, more streamlined X-Men universe.