10 To Watch in 2013: Comic Book Creators

<i>by <a href=http://www.chrisarrant.com/>Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>For the past few days we've peered forward into the year 2013, and outlined the odds-on favorite for biggest characters and series. And now, just mere hours a new year dawns, we turn our attention to the men and women who'll make those characters and series come to life: the creators. <p>A mixture of men and women from all walks of life and all corners of the world, today's <B>10 For 2013: Comic Creators</B> pinpoints the writers, artists and even editors who are primed to be in the driver's seat to take you, the reader, to new places in the new 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>


While she might be an overnight success to some, eagle-eyed comic fans know Kelly Sue DeConnick has put in a lot of time, sweat and comic scripts to suddenly become a big-time writer with two ongoings at Marvel. Currently writing <B>Avengers Assemble</B> and <B>Captain Marvel</B> while reinventing Dark Horse's <B>Ghost</B>, DeConnick is also working on her first feature-length creator-owned work, the western series <B>Pretty Deadly</B> at Image, with her <i>Osborn</i> collaborator Emma Rios. Though still a relatively new name on the scene, DeConnick seems like a real writer's writer and has earned fans in fellow writers Warren Ellis and Brian Michael Bendis. <p>2013 should be significant for DeConnick as <B>Pretty Deadly</B> debuts, and we see how her work at Dark Horse and Marvel fares long-term. If DeConnick's work takes off in 2013 as we expect, she could truly cement her reputation between Marvel, Dark Horse, Image and beyond.


Conventions may be a staple of American comics, but you have to be a conventional artist to become a star. Canadian artist Riley Rossmo may not be the next Jim Lee or Cory Walker, but that's not the goal he seeks. Instead, Rossmo is deliberately being different different from other artists, and also different from his prior work. <p>Originally debuting back in 2007 with the graphic novel <B>Seven Sons</B> at AiT-PlanetLar, the same publisher where Matt Fraction and Brian Wood made their big breaks in comics, Rossmo has gone on to be a bit of a staple of Image Comics with back-to-back series <B>Proof</B>, <B>Cowboy Ninja Viking</B>, <B>Green Wake</B>, <B>Wild Children</B>, <B>Debris</B> and the current series <B>Bedlam</B>, with writer Nick Spencer. Rossmo is also expanding to lead projects with his anthology series <B>Dia De Los Muertos</B>, and the artist remains a unique commodity that Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and others could likely see as someone they should bring into their fold.


Malaysian artist Zid (real name, Mohammad Yazid Kamal Baharin) has been working for years in comics but essentially making his first major comics debut this February when his series <B>Son Of Merlin</B> debuts from Image in February. But despite all that, the few in America that do know Zid's work are impressed. Now it's just matter of getting his work in front of everyone else. <p>Zid has popped up here and there in comics going as far back as a pin-up in 2004's <I>Misplaced @ 17</I> and 2006's <I>Planetary Brigade</I>. Zid illustrated Steve Niles' <B>City of Dust</B> series for Radical in 2008 and 2009 but failed to really catch on anywhere, so <B>Son of Merlin</B> is a second chance for the artist to make a first impression.


This list isn't just a place for thriving newcomers, but also comic veterans who look to be making strides to the next level. And for our money, writer Gail Simone embodies that to a tee. <p>With a fanbase so popular it made DC flinch when they briefly took her off the <B>Batgirl</B> series, Gail Simone is one of DC's top writers whether they realize it or not. After being closely associated with the publisher for years writing <i>Birds of Prey</I>, <I>Secret Six</I> and <I>Wonder Woman</I>, Simone only has one DC title the aforementioned <B>Batgirl</B> and 2013 looks to be the year she truly explores creator-owned work. <p>Last year she contributed a short to the <I>Thought Bubble Anthology</I>, and this year she and artist Jim Califiore are going ahead with a creator-owned superhero graphic novel <B>Leaving Megalopolis</B>, thanks to a Kickstarter drive that raised over four times their intended goals. 2013 looks to be a big year for Simone.


Some creators make a big impact in their debut in comics, while others ease their way into the industry... quiet, methodically, and patiently. Tampa-based artist Paul Pelletier has quietly worked the past 20 years in comics with stints on top tier books like <I>The Incredible Hulk</I>, <I>Green Lantern</I>, <I>The Flash</I>, <I>Fantastic Four</I>, <I>Guardians of the Galaxy</I>, <I>Fear Itself: The Fearless</I> and most recently on <I>Wolverine</I>. Just recently he made the jump back to DC to take over <B>Aquaman</B>, and in doing so seems to have broken some personal walls and pushed his style to be more visceral and engaging. <p>Pelletier's recent work on <I>Wolverine</I> and now <I>Aquaman</I> are really showing a new side of the artist a side that DC would do well to take advantage of and get readers aware of. Pelletier's long been a trusted artist for Marvel and DC, now it's time for him, like Ivan Reis and Stuart Immonen before him, to step out of the shadows and become recognized by fans for it as well.


Another industry vet showing a new side of himself, Wildstorm alum Pete Woods recently departed the <I>Legion Lost</I> series to try something different way different. Woods' long-time exclusive with DC recently ended, opening him up to do a stint on <B>Avengers Assemble</B> at the same time he's coming back to DC to re-invent the most surprising next star of DC's New 52: Vibe (cover, here, by David Finch). <p>Seeing Woods stretch his legs outside of DC (and inside of DC with the offbeat Vibe revamp) really gives off a re-invigorating vibe (pardon the pun), and plays into the artist's recent decision to stop inking his own work in order to work faster and allow time for side projects. DC and Marvel are always looking for consistent, top-notch artists to secure with exclusive deals, and Woods has become one of the industry's top free agents at this point. <p>Either way, 2013 is a year to watch out for Pete Woods.


Some comic creators have a steady trajectory from their debut to their rise to fame, but for J.H. Williams III he's all about transformation. Recently, he's transitioned from being one of the most celebrated artists working in superhero comics today to fully engaging himself as a writer as he works on DC's <B>Batwoman</B> series. As we enter 2013, Williams' run on <B>Batwoman</B> enters its second year (third if you count <I>Detective Comics</I>), and the writer/artist has announced he's stepping back from illustrating the series except for covers to focus on the writing with co-writer Haden Blackman. Why? Because he's joining with Neil Gaiman to bring back <B>The Sandman</B>. <p>In a career full of projects which were proclaimed as his biggest project ever!, this upcoming <B>Sandman</B> series tops even <B>Batwoman</B> and the previous work with Alan Moore on <I>Prometheus</I> and Grant Morrison on <I>Batman</I>. Although he's not contributing to the writing of this new series, imagining Gaiman's writings being developed, conjured and illustrated by Williams seems like some dream super-group of musicians that would never ever meet. But they are.


Creator-owned comics are often the proving ground for a number of creators who've gone on to become the top stars at the Big Two of Marvel and DC. And the next writer seemingly being groomed for a spot at the table is the spy-savvy writer of <I>Who is Jake Ellis</I>, Nathan Edmondson. He's already made small steps at both DC and Marvel with <I>Grifter</I> and <I>Ultimate Iron Man</I> respectively, so at this point you could see him doing more with both or potentially going in a different direction in 2013. <p>Edmondson's already announced as writing a graphic novel based on the secret-ops video game franchise <I>Splinter Cell</I>,and he's rumored to be working on several new creator-owned projects which could crop up in the new year. He seems like an ideal choice to expand his profile at Marvel and DC in their continual quest for new voices (and voices that sell), but no matter where he ends up in 2013 it'll be something to look for.


Although not known as a writer or artist, New York-based editor Karen Berger has without a doubt been one of the biggest forces in forward-thinking comics in the past three decades. On December 3, 2012 she announced she was leaving her post as founder and executive editor of DC's Vertigo line, with an uncertain future. But given her track record, whatever Berger decides to do next in comics could be one of the biggest moves in the industry. <p>With an unparalleled resume and contacts within the industry ranging from Neil Gaiman to Sean Murphy (whose <I>Punk Rock Jesus</I> will be the last Vertigo book she personally edited), Berger would be an ideal hire for an existing company to radically change their existing line or conceivably be a perfect editor to launch a new line or new company. Berger was the person who hired a young journalist named Axel Alonso for his first job in comics, working and mentoring him for six years before he left for Marvel and eventually became that company's editor-in-chief. When a contemporary of hers, Bob Schreck, left DC he ended up being headhunted by the film company Legendary to spearhead a boutique comics line of their own. <p>Wherever Karen Berger ends up next, it's easy to see a long list of creators who'll be pining to join her.


How can someone who's never actually had interior pages professionally published land the top spot on our list? It's all about promise. And the Japanese artist who goes by the moniker Ricken has that in spades. <p>Coming up in the industry as a fan artist, Ricken caught the eye of former Image PR person-turned-writer Joe Keatinge, who quickly enlisted the female artist to do covers on his creator-owned series <B>Hell Yeah</B>. Those handful of covers, and a variant for another Keatinge-written title <B>Glory</B>, is all the work Ricken has published but that didn't stop DC from quickly scooping Ricken and Keatinge up to do a one-off story in the upcoming <B>DC Universe Presents</B> #17. Scheduled to hit February 20, it's an extra-sized and auspicious place to make a debut, but if all the potential we've seen in Ricken's covers and fan-art shows through in her actual comic pages, Ricken could very quickly become comics' next big thing.

10 To Watch in 2013: Comic Book Creators

Date: 31 December 2012 Time: 08:12 PM ET