<i>by <a href=http://www.chrisarrant.com/>Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>Whether it's comics, movies, television or video games, a story can't be good if it doesn't have good characters. <p>In the long history of comics, characters like Superman, Charlie Brown and Tintin have proved to be the lifeblood from which the industry flourishes. And now in the final days of 2012, we look ahead to the new year, and who could be next year's breakout characters. <p>Some are cult favorites who are finally getting their shot at the big time, some are iconic heroes who are shaking off years of malaise. Whoever they are, these are the stars that Newsarama think will be headlining the biggest comic stories of the upcoming 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>
For ardent Marvel fanboys, Captain Universe has always been that last-ditch savior that's never been called up to save the day but those days may be coming to an end. <p>Originally created by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden as part of Marvel's <I>Micronauts</I>, the persona and Uni-Powers of Captain Universe haven taken hosts as varied as Arcturus Rann, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Spider-Man and even Aunt May. Rarely seen and never involved in the biggest Marvel events, that looks to be changing as <i>Avengers</i> writer Jonathan Hickman promises an all-new Captain Universe within the pages of his series in 2013. <p>Power-wise, Captain Universe ranks up there as a game-changer on par with Silver Surfer, the Hulk or Thor it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right creative team on your side.
This coming year G.I. Joe is looking to have a banner year, between the second live-action movie and IDW's relaunch of their licensed titles, spearheaded by Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth's <i>G.I. Joe</i>. Whether you're fans of classic heroes like Duke, curious about new heroes like Hashtag, or interested in the original Joe himself, 2013 is the year to dust of your G.I. Joe File Cards and get ready to reenlist to fight the forces of Cobra. <p>The long-delayed <i>G.I. Joe: Retaliation</i>, out in March 2013, is shaping up to make up for the indiscretions of the first movie, thanks in no small part to the Rock and director Jon M. Chu, paving the way to enter a whole new era in for the Real American Heroes. And IDW's <i>G.I. Joe</i> looks to do the same with their more realistic Special Forces team trying to fight Cobra while in the public eye.
The robotic tyrant known as Ultron is making his return to comics in 2013, and doing so in the long-promised <i>Age of Ultron</i> miniseries by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco. So far, all we know is that Ultron's consciousness has been downloaded into the vacant body of a Galadorian Spaceknight, the same race as the cult comics hero Rom. Spaceknight or not, Ultron has repeatedly shown himself capable of tearing down the Avengers one by one. <p>First teased back during Bendis and John Romita Jr.'s "Heroic Age"-era <i>Avengers</i> run back in 2010, <i>Age of Ultron</i> promises to show the errant Hank Pym creation dominate the world and all its heroes like never before. And who knows, this could be a testing ground to show how great he could be as a villain in a future <i>Avengers</i> movie.
People see the epic storyline of <i>The Walking Dead</i> as a story about a group of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, but it's also increasingly focused, both in the comics and the television series, as seeing the devastated world through the eyes of the young Carl Grimes. While the zombie hordes have drudged out the darker sides of the adult characters, for Carl it's given him a skewed view on life and made him a shell-shocked, distant child with no compunctions about killing. <p>And that was before he got shot in the face. <p>With the second half of season three of AMC's <i>The Walking Dead</i> debuting in February and the comic series in stores every month, 2013 could very well be the year Carl Grimes snaps and evolves into something far, far more horrific than the zombies he and his father fights.
With 2011's New 52, DC repositioned the Justice League front-and-center in its comics line. Coming up in 2013, they're franchising it with a second A-list title, and going back to its roots with the extended name <i>Justice League of America</i>. The February-debuting book has a high-profile creative team in writer Geoff Johns and artist David Finch, and they're bringing together the darker side of DC's heroes with the likes of Green Arrow, Catwoman, Hawkman and Katana. <p>Meanwhile, the flagship <i>Justice League</i> title is delving into the Throne of Atlantis," maturing as it expands the horizons on DC's New 52. Former <I>Aquaman</I> artist Ivan Reis is getting his shot at the prime time, elevating him into one of DC and the industry's top artists. <p>And that's not to forget potential teases for a <i>Justice League</i> movie in this year's <i>Man Of Steel</i>, only a few months away at this point.
A new crop of Marvel heroes are joining some <i>Young Avengers</i> upperclassmen, as Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie relaunch the book this January. Long-time members Wiccan, Hulking and Hawkeye are welcoming an all-new Miss America, the alien hipster Marvel Boy/Noh-Varr, and the impetuous Kid Loki. <p>Described by Gillen as "a superhero comic that uses the metaphor of powers to explore the sensation of being 18 in <a href="http://www.newsarama.com/comics/kieron-gillen-young-avengers-marvel-now.html">a Newsarama interview</A>, <i>Young Avengers</i> looks to entrench itself into what it's like to be a teen hero in the Marvel Universe.
From one Kieron Gillen-guided character to another, 2013 looks to see the armored Avenger enter new territory on three separate fronts: movies, technology and outer space. <p>In Gillen's <B>Iron Man</B> series Tony Stark is seeing his transhumanist tendencies meet hard sci-fi and a 21st century version of the Armor Wars. And while Iron Man continues to fight in the Avengers, he's joining a different kind of team when he earns his space wings fighting alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. Acting as Earth's de facto ambassador among his alien teammates, Tony acts as a peacemaker both with the team and inside it. <p>And on the Hollywood side, director Shane Black takes over the <i>Iron Man</i> movie franchise just in time to see Stark take on his most storied foe, the Mandarin. As the first Marvel hero film post-<i>Avengers</i>, it'll be interesting to see how Robert Downey Jr.-as-Tony Stark plays in the new landscape.
Could there be a new hope for the storied franchise that launched with 1977's <i>Star Wars</i> film? Now more than ever. With Disney picking up the property lock, stock and barrel from George Lucas earlier this year, we could see the heights Marvel achieved after their buyout replicated and even expanded upon given the fertile <i>Star Wars</i> playground. <p>Although the now-official <i>Episode VII</i> won't be out until 2015, rumors abound about the <i>Star Wars</i> comics being pulled, tractor beam-style, to Disney's in-house comics company known as Marvel. But at the same time, Dark Horse is ramping up their long-running licensed titles with January's <i>Star Wars</i> title by Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda. The series delves full-on into the classic characters of the original trilogy with the realistically minded Wood bringing new stories and facets to the time period between <i>A New Hope</i> and <i>The Empire Strikes Back</i>.
Marvel's space-faring heroes are on the cusp of getting their due in comics, a little more than a year prior to their big screen movie debut. Originally created by comics legends Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, the current version of the team (that audiences will see in both the 2014 movie directed and written by James Gunn and the 2013 comic series by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven) features the likes of Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Groot and Rocket Raccoon. <p>Although never a top tier hit series in comics, it's a beloved franchise that Marvel have revisited several times in various forms over the course of the team's 40-plus year history and one that Marvel Studios and Disney see big-time potential in.
Superman has always been the genre's most iconic superhero, and DC is pushing for 2013 to be the Last Son of Krypton's biggest year in decades. Between the <i>Man of Steel</i> movie in June and Scott Snyder and Jim Lee's as-yet-untitled new comic series, Superman could become comics' best-selling hero, as well as the most recognizable. <p>Snyder and Lee's untitled series, rumored to be titled <i>Man Of Steel</i> to tie-in in with the movie, is promised by the writer to be an intimate exploration of the character within an epic-sized story comparable to his acclaimed Court of Owls story arc in <I>Batman</I> with Greg Capullo. <p>If these plans come to fruition the way the various interviews, movie trailers and promos have promised, Superman could fly to new heights in 2013.