Looking to the Future

Comics creators are the lifeblood of comics. Literally, you couldn’t have comics without them, at least until our robot overlords take over and start randomly generating new adventures for our favorite characters. Anyway… 2013 has been a banner year for comics creators, between debuting newcomers to seasoned veterans surprising readers, bucking what’s expected of them. 2014 looks to be more of the same – much more, in fact – with a bumper crop of talented rookies and established creators looking to defy expectations. But the question is: who? <p>Once again, Newsarama comes to you with our picks for the top 10 talents to watch in the year ahead. This year’s group comes from all corners of the globe: Croatia, Turkey, Ireland, and even that strange place known as California. In the past we’ve called out the impending rise of talents like Sean Murphy, Sam Humphries, Nick Bradshaw and more; today we present you with what’s next. <p>We'll note, this list got widdled down from at least 20 candidates, and is by no means exhaustive. But these are ten creators to keep an eye on in 2014.

Stjepan Sejic

Croatian artist Stjepan Sejic has quietly risen through the ranks to be the well-known art-centric publisher Top Cow’s premiere working artist, following in the likes of David Finch, Francis Manapul and Kenneth Rocafort. And now in 2014, Sejic looks to be preparing for a breakout year of creator-owned, work-for-hire and various other works. <p>Sejic, who currently illustrates the monthly Top Cow series <I>Aphrodite IX</I>, is also working on a new installment of his creator-owned graphic novel series <I>Ravine</I>, as well as a third project titled <I>Death Vigil</I>. If that wasn’t enough, the Croatian artist has been posting some fan art of various Marvel and DC characters that has gotten many comics fans’ eyebrows raised and shown another side to the digital painter that Big Two editors should pay attention to. <p>We’ve got no announcements to make on behalf of Sejic’s plans for new series in 2014, but consider this an advance warning of a comic creator to watch in the new year.

Mahmud Asrar

Cartoonist Mahmud Asrar has come a long way from his birthplace in Ankara, Turkey. Asrar has spent the last three years as one of DC’s hot young talents drawing <I>Supergirl </I>before and after the “New 52” relaunch, but he’s recently decided to make his Marvel drawing a short run on <I>Ultimate Comics X-Men </I>and now the upcoming <I>Wolverine & The X-Men</I>. <p>Asrar, who recently signed an exclusive with Marvel, looks to be cashing in on the years of hard work on the undercard of Big Two titles and is out to prove himself as one of the superhero genre’s preeminent graphic storytellers. Asrar, who recently drew an issue of <I>Indestructible Hulk</I>, evokes a reminder of another former Hulk artist – Stuart Immonen. Although their styles and linework are distinctly different, Asrar’s work is reminiscent of Immonen’s during his final years at DC before he made his breakthrough on <I>Superman: Secret Identity</I>. With the cast of <I>Wolverine & The X-Men</I> and noted artist-turned-writer Jason Latour (ahem, more on him later), it looks like he could be given just the story to hit a similar homerun.

James Harren

No one has a better barometer on the qualities and virtues of a comic artist than another comic artist. And Brooklyn-based artist James Harren has been one of Mike Mignola and Dark Horse’s most trusted artists since he joined the Hellboy family of creators in 2011. The artist is already planning a return engagement in March’s <I>B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #117</I>, but 2014 could be the year Harren expands his horizons and takes his work to the next level. <p>Artists Newsarama have spoken to for 10 To Watch in 2014 compare Harren’s place to that of <I>Batman Inc.</I>’s Chris Burnham before he was recruited by DC for that book, and likewise Harren seems like the epitome of a vibrant artist for editors wanting to make a book stand out. But is that what Harren wants? That remains to be seen. <p>Harren, whose personal interests lean towards dramatic manga-ka storytellers and European artists over traditional superhero artists, looks to have an uncommon amount of talent and personal style just waiting to be taken advantage of by a publisher.

J.H. Williams III

The previous three entrants in Newsarama’s 10 To Watch in 2014: Comic Book Creators have all been up-and-comers looking to make a name for themselves. But in the case of J.H. Williams III, 2014 looks to be a year of taking his already well-known name recognition and utilizing it for broader creative freedom and rewards. In November, Williams opened up with Newsarama his plans to delve into creator-owned work for the first time upon conclusion of <I>Sandman: Overture</I>. <p>Williams, who has worked with everyone from Alan Moore to Alejandro Jodorwsky, expanded his horizons to becoming a writer/artist upon the launch of <I>Batwoman</I> in 2010. Although his and co-writer Haden Blackman’s run on that ended this past summer, Williams continues to pursue that line of creative thinking with new creator-owned projects, in both comics and fine art. Williams has talked about re-teaming with Blackman, as well as working with other artists such as Lauren McCubbin, and 2014 looks to be the time it all falls into place.

Declan Shalvey

The time has come for Declan Shalvey. The Irish artist who cut his teeth on UK indie books has gone from being one of Marvel’s most versatile utility players to becoming a name in his own right. The artist, who in 2013 drew fourteen full issues and segments of three others, is receiving a big platform to step up when he joins with Warren Ellis on 2014’s <I>Moon Knight</I>. <p>Shalvey’s grown by leaps and bounds since his debut with the 2006 indie series <I>Hero Killer</I>, and in the past years he’s come into his own as in-demand cover artist at Marvel and even elsewhere at DC for <I>Forever Evil: Rogue’s Rebellion</I> and Boom!’s <I>RoboCop: Last Stand</I>. His covers for Winter Soldier made people stand up and take notice, and Shalvey and colorist/partner Jordie Bellaire have promised two covers for each issue of <I>Moon Knight</I> when it launches in 2014. <p>Between his prodigious output and the talent shown in both his interiors and cover art, Shalvey is the kind of artist Marvel, DC and loves value immensely – but that doesn’t stop me from wondering what Shalvey could do creating his own book someday.

Rags Morales

2013 is a great year to be a comic fan – and a great year to be a comics publisher. The American comics industry has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talented writers and artists to choose from, and a fan-favorite name that’s been tied to one publisher for over a decade has just entered the market as a free agent, and his name is Rags Morales. <p>Morales, who spent 15 years almost exclusively with DC drawing top books like <I>Infinite Crisis</I> and Grant Morrison’s revamp of Superman in <I>Action Comics</I>, found out in August that DC wouldn’t be renewing his exclusive contract. DC’s loss is Marvel’s game, as the House of Ideas quickly scooped up Morales to work on <I>All-New Marvel NOW! Point One</I> and an issue of the new <I>Avengers World</I> series. In addition to this, Morales has been burning up the original art market, doing a number of lush commissions to private collectors. <p>Marvel’s stated that they have “big things” planned for Morales in 2014, but we’d wager than Morales has plans of his own for comics that are more than just Marvel.

Kris Anka

The way a comic artist’s career usually works is that he cuts his teeth doing interiors and, if fortunate and talented enough, he gets a plush job illustrating covers. But for California artist Kris Anka, it was the other way around. But after being an in-demand cover artists for things like <I>Uncanny X-Force</I>, <I>New Mutants</I> and independent books like <I>The Hypernaturals</I>, Anka endeavored to try his hand at actual comics work – jumping straight to the head of the line illustrating an issue of <I>All-New X-Men</I> with writer Brian Michael Bendis, and now taking on his first monthly comics assignment with Brian Wood’s <I>X-Men</I> in February. Not bad for someone who’s only drawn three full issues of published comics work. <p>And Anka’s more than just a cover artist or an interior artist; he’s also become a go-to person when it comes to designing costumes for superheroes. Anka was tapped to redesign the <I>Uncanny X-Force</I> team in 2013, and will reportedly be giving the girls of <I>X-Men</I> a makeover when he begins in February. Anka has long been a favorite in the online comics community for his redesigned superhero fan-art, and he looks to be just getting started when it comes to parlaying that into official work. <p>Although Anka is relatively new to comics storytelling itself, given the immense talent already shown in his covers and rare interior comics appearances, as he gets more experience under his belt he eschew being the latest hot newcomer into being a big force in the world of comics.

Jason Latour

Jason Latour earned high praise and high accolades for his artistic ability on works like <I>Scalped</I>, <I>Sledgehammer 44</I> and some great short stories in Marvel’s playground. But Latour isn’t “just” an artist, but a storyteller… and he’s parlayed that into several well-received gigs writing comics and not drawing them like <I>Winter Soldier</I>, <I>Infinity: Against The Tide</I> and his creator-owned series <I>Loose Ends</I>. And now after several years of doing that on his own and on the undercard of the major publishers, Latour is coming into the big time as writer of the soon-to-be relaunched Wolverine & the X-Men. <p>If that wasn’t enough, Latour isn’t letting the ink in his inkwell dry when it comes to being an artist either. Latour and frequent collaborator Jason Aaron are coming to Image in 2014 with a new creator-owned series titled <I>Southern Bastards</I>, which sees the two admitted Southern boys doing some redneck, deep-fried drama. <p>The trajectory of an artist growing to be a writer and artist is a rare but celebrated thing, with names like Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker springing to mind. For our interest however, we don’t want him to be the next Frank Miller – we want him to be the best Jason Latour.

Ryan Stegman

For the past seven years, editors inside the offices of Marvel Comics have known who Ryan Stegman is; in 2013, the comics fanbase began to catch on. After years spent bouncing around on various Spider-Man books and the odd one-shot or mini like <I>Incredible Hercules</I> and <I>Sif</I>, Stegman has been tapped as one of Marvel’s star artists by putting him to work on a relaunched <I>Wolverine</I> series with Paul Cornell. <p>With the number of exclusive contracts dwindling at Marvel and DC, the Detroit-based artist is one of the rare few roped in to an exclusive commitment. Stegman, whose work evokes inspirations of popular late 1980s and 1990s artists like Art Adams and Todd McFarlane, has recently made tremendous strides at creating a style of his own in a recent run on Scarlet Spider. In 2014’s <I>Wolverine </I> relaunch, Stegman will be on his biggest stage yet to turn Wolverine fans into Stegman fans.

Charles Soule

They called James Brown “the hardest working man in show business,” and it’s looking like NYC-based writer/lawyer Charles Soule is becoming the James Brown of comics. In 2014, Soule will be writing three series for Marvel (<I>Inhuman</I>, <I>She-Hulk</I>, <I>Thunderbolts</I>), three for DC (<I>Superman/Wonder Woman</I>, <I>Swamp Thing</I>, <I>Red Lanterns</I>) and a creator-owned series for Oni titled <I>Letter 44</I> – for a total of seven ongoing, monthly books. And that’s while balancing a full-time career as a New York lawyer and a part-time rock band member. That’d be bad if Soule weren’t so good. <p>The recent announcement that Soule would be taking over for the departing Matt Fraction on the high-profile <I>Inhuman</I> series put the icing on the cake for Soule’s meteoric rise, officially making him the most in-demand superhero comics writer not tied down to one company exclusively. Soule has picked up admirably for Scott Snyder on <I>Swamp Thing</I>, carving out some new life in the Green of Alec Holland, while showing a multi-faceted approach to the “villains” of <I>Red Lanterns</I> and <I>Thunderbolts</I>. His <I>Superman/Wonder Woman</I> has one over a large contingent of critics fearing a <I>Twilight</I> approach to this superhero romance, and his upcoming work on <I>She-Hulk</I> and <I>Inhuman</I> looks to be highly anticipated. <p>While we wouldn’t be surprised if Soule pulls back on some of his seven monthly books to keep his focus, 2014 looks to be a year the writer could define himself for the long-term. And with his law credentials and negotiating ability to back him up, he looks to be much more than a fresh-faced amateur navigating the business practices in the comics industry.

10 To Watch in 2014: Comic Book Creators

Date: 26 December 2013 Time: 06:00 PM ET