9 to Watch in 2009: The Creators

9 to Watch in 2009: The Creators

Blog@: Secret Warriors Gets Viral
Blog@: Secret Warriors Gets Viral
Secret Warriors #2

Part 2 of 5

The New Year is wide open with comics firing on all cylinders in the upper echelons of superhero comics to the vibrant field of modern comics. But who rests at the top? Who are the biggest and brightest – who are the ones who pose to make 2009 a breakout year for themselves? From characters to comics to creators, and even to the wider spectrum of television and movies – who will be the breakout stars?

Newsarama gathered the facts, analyzed the fiction and reviewed the rumors to delineate who we think will the top – the 9 to Watch in '09. All this week, we'll be picking out the 9 To Watch in '09 in five categories: comic characters, comic creators, comic series/books, movies and television shows. The first three are clearly comics-centric, while the last two are wide open.

It's Day 2, and although second in special they're first when it comes to creation – comic creators. From the superhero mainstream to the 'real' mainstream of comics today, they are the engines that make comics work – and make great comics sing.

Jonathan Hickman

How do you guarantee to be considered a hot commodity in comics? Putting out great comics is good, but an endorsement from Brian Michael Bendis sets it in stone. After making a name for himself with his smart modern sci-fi miniseries Nightly News, Pax Romana, Red Mass For Mars and Transhuman, he infiltrated into the realm of superhero comics as the hand-picked co-writer for the flagship new title of 2009 for Marvel, Secret Warriors with Bendis. Hickman isn't just a writer, but a capable designer and artist in the vein of Brian (DMZ, Northlanders) Wood, providing a three-pronged attack that's aiming for your head – and your wallet.

Bryan Lee O'Malley

As poster child of the post-manga generation, the Scott Pilgrim cartoonist has gone from up & comer to resident superstar for his brand of comics. The Scott Pilgrim series has a movie and a fifth volume of its print series due this year, a movie is inching closer to the screen and he's still very early on in his formidable career. In an interview with Comics212, O'Malley characterizes Scott Pilgrim as training for his future works. If Scott Pilgrim is great (and it is!), what could be next?

Sterling Gates

Like Bendis' endorsement for Jonathan Hickman, Sterling Gates can credit Geoff Johns for propelling him to the big leagues of superhero comics. From debuting at DC in December 2007, now he's writing a re-invigorated Supergirl series and is considered a right-hand man for DC comics architect Geoff Johns. Two months shy of his 28th birthday, his stellar work on Supergirl is looking to be a launching pad for a formidable comics career.

Jeff Katz

His transition to a full-time comics career was heralded in The Hollywood Reporter; after all, he was leaving behind a cushy spot as VP of Production for Fox Studios. Definitely the most enigmatic of our 9, he makes this list off the pure potential he possesses. His work in comics has so-far been small; co-writing Booster Gold with Geoff Johns and plotting the miniseries Freddy Vs. Jason vs. Ash (based on his screenplay for a movie that never was). Katz himself has explained his transition in relation to the movie Jerry Maguire - leaving one world for another…but what is he planning? That's still unannounced, but it's undoubtedly going to be big.

The Knaufs on Eternals and More
The Knaufs on Eternals and More
Daniel Acuna

Artist Daniel Acuna burst onto the American comics scene as the high-profile cover artist for DC and later, interior artist for DC's Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters. Talk around the comics water cooler describe him as Ed McGuinness meets Alex Ross, but that only begins to explain how good he is. After his high-profile work at DC his upward trajectory wasn't over yet – Acuna moved across town to Marvel under an exclusive contract. He signed on as penciller of the new Eternals series and he was recently named as one of Joe Quesada's Young Guns for 2009.

Jason Aaron

Writer Jason Aaron is probably one of the most popular writers in comics just itching for a massive breakout to superstar. He works for both DC and Marvel, writing his creator-owned series Scalped for the former and various miniseries and one-shot, and several high-profile projects for Marvel such as Wolverine and Ghost Rider. But the news that pushed him from "possibly maybe" to "definitely" was the announcement that he was writing an all-new Wolverine series entitled Wolverine: Weapon X to coincide with the upcoming major motion picture. His "Get Mystique" storyarc on Wolverine proves he has the chops, and his creator-owned work Scalped and The Other Side show he has a long history ahead in the comics world.

Philip Tan on the Orange Lanterns
Philip Tan on the Orange Lanterns
Philip Tan

The Manila-born Philip Tan has gone from trusted hand to rising superstar after his recent work at DC Comics. The recent Final Crisis: Revelations miniseries shows a new style being employed by the 30 year old, and the recent reveal of his designs for the new Orange Lanterns has set fans ablaze. He's worked on Spawn, Uncanny X-Men and Iron Man, but at DC he seems to have found the launching pad as he becomes an in-demand artist – with upcoming work including an arc on G reen Lantern where he’s designed several Orange Lanterns for the coming War of the Light. His next project is under wraps, but he's definitely excited if you read his DeviantArt account. Described as "HUGE" (all upper caps!), Tan says it is with a writer he would "kill" to write for. But with the star-studded work he's turning out as of late, the only thing he's killing is the art – in a good way.

Francis Manapul

After cutting his teeth on Witchblade, the DC exclusive artist was tapped to revitalize The Legion of Super-Heroes with writer Jim Shooter. And although that series wraps up with issue #50, eager eyes are already looking as to what DC puts him on next. Manapul's art captures the unbridled excitement seen in the classic Image Seven with a solid foundation in storytelling and plot development. On his blog, Manapul has talked excitedly about the project and revealed that he will be doing full pencils, inks and wash for this project. As DC transitions into a post-Final Crisis world, odds are if Manapul is drawing it, it will be huge – and good.

Paul Cornell

Perhaps the lead in the next British invasion of writers into American comics, Cornell is a favored writer at Marvel … and with good reason. After his critically acclaimed work on Wisdom and the currently running Captain Britain and MI: 13 series, he's become one of the new guard in Marvel Comics. He's more than just a comics newcomer – he's one of the key writers in the British television series Doctor Who and a longtime writer for BBC television. With the recent Fantastic Four: True Story miniseries, Cornell has further grown into writing some of Marvel's key characters.

In The Corner Of Our Eye

Narrowing our list down to nine names was no difficult task: there was in-fighting, hair-pulling, name-calling and even some threats to someone's comic collections. Although we whittled it down to 9 names, there are others who are also high on our radar. They are:

Faith Erin Hicks: This Canadian cartoonist broke ground in webcomics, and has transitioned to print with the graphic novels Zombies Calling and The War At Elsmere. Favorably compared by some to Bryan Lee O'Malley, Hicks is one book away from being a household name in comic book stores.

Rafael Grampa: With a relatively short bibliography with only 4 comics, artist Rafael Grampa has made an impact. He's already caught the eye of DC Comics with a stint on Hellblazer, and his recently released Mesmo Delivery one-shot has got critics talking and tongues' wagging.

Sean Murphy: Although he's been under an exclusive contract with DC for some time, the fruits of his work are still mostly under wraps. He's working on a Vertigo series with Grant Morrison, a stint on Hellblazer as well as an unnamed project with Brian Wood. He's Ashley Wood meets Bruce Timm, and has the style and swagger of a real superstar – he just needs the right book to prove it.

Rafael Albuquerque: For two years, Albuquerque has been the primary artist on DC's Blue Beetle. With it, he's gained substantial fan credibility that followed him onto Superman/Batman. His independent work on the graphic novel Crimeland shows a grittier style than that of his DC work, but 2009 could be the year the stars align and Rafael gets pushed up a notch on the comics radar.


Part One: 9 to Watch in 2009: Comic Book Characters

But...that’s just us...and there are many, many close calls to this list. What say you? Who’s poised to make 2009 their year to the largest audience in comics? Not just a name – get your reasons in there as well...

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