Every week you step into a comic store, you see more new energy and storytelling than in any other medium – take that movies and video games. But this wouldn’t happen if not for the people that make it possible – the creators. We’ve seen veteran creators re-up their game, reclusive icons return to form and enterprising newcomers step up to the plate.
As we enter day 2 of our third annual look into the new year, we turn to the people behind it all. Over the past few weeks, we’ve cast the bones and asked the simple question – which creators are going to break out in 2011? From mainstream creators going from big to biggest to unknowns set to burst fully-formed on comic shelves, we’ve identified eleven talents worthy of a second – and even third or fourth – look in the new year.
In many comics circles, Stuart Immonen is known as the comic artist’s artist. With his work most recently on the Marvel series New Avengers, he’s shown an ability to balance the realistic and action-packed super-heroics that the House of Ideas is known for while also demonstrating an amazing ability to illustrate expressive emotions that other artists would overlook. With news that he’ll be illustrating Marvel’s 2011 tentpole event Fear, Itself, Immonen has been positioned as one of Marvel’s pre-eminent artists – achieving the hierarchical equivalent to Brian Bendis’ lofty position as Marvel’s chief writer. And while he’s become the go-to guy for super-heroes, he keeps a healthy and creative aim into creator-owned projects with several recent projects and the upcoming Russian Olive to Red King graphic novel with his wife, Kathryn. 2011 is shaping up to be a banner year where is popularity finally caught up with his innate talent and yeoman-like draftsmanship.
Like a shot in the dark, writer Ben McCool debuted on the comic scene in 2010 with the Image miniseries Choker. Partnering with industry vet Ben Templesmith, McCool come onto the seen as a weathered writer that isn’t afraid to push buttons, and both DC and Marvel have took notice with several one-shot, miniseries and anthology assignments. With his next creator-owned miniseries Memoir set to hit in early 2011, the new year is shaping up to be a busy one for both fans and the writer himself.
After years working in the independents, Portland-based artist Chris Samnee found himself a critical darling with his work on the Marvel series Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Although the series was ultimately cancelled due to low sales, it put this under-rated artist on the radar of critics and creators like few other people have. Known for his impressive work ethic and versatility, Samnee’s next announced project is an issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man - and hopefully widestream acclaim from readers far and wide.
After years as the public face of Marvel’s public relations department, writer Jim McCann has stepped away and into a successful career as writer. With the recent release of his creator-owned book Return of the Dapper Men and frequent work on the characters Hawkeye and Mockingbird for Marvel, he’s quickly defined his voice as well as his knowledge of the industry. While his full plans for 2011 remain underwraps, this humble Newsarama writer looks forward to more creator-owned work and more high-profile gigs at the House of Ideas.
Some might say Robert Kirkman can’t get any bigger – but you’d be wrong. After becoming the modern face of creator-owned comics with the success of comic series Walking Dead and Invincible, Kirkman doubled down and became the proud father a TV series with the blockbuster debut of The Walking Dead on AMC. In 2010 we saw him establish his own imprint at Image called Skybound, and heard the first rumblings of an all-new all-ages series called Super Dinosaur. But knowing Kirkman, he’s bound to have a few more aces up his sleeve, from new comics to new comics-to-film adaptations, and even the chance of him developing a new concept going straight to TV – or the big screen.
I can’t blame you if you haven’t heard of Annie Wu yet – not many comics fans have. But if you’ve been paying attention to online forums, women’s magazines or the bumpers of AdultSwim you might know her work. Although her comics credits are slim as of yet, she did artwork for a motion comics serial with Elle magazine and TRESemme called “Dirty Little Secret” and recently completed her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Degree in hand, Wu has already been snapped up to work on a creator-owned series for the Big Two with a well-known industry writer.
A former student of David Mazzucchelli, writer Ivan Brandon first made his name in comics with robots on the series NYC Mech and the anthology series 24Seven. In recent months, he’s picked up the writing gig on DC’s Doc Savage series, and has done several one-shots and miniseries for both Marvel & DC. Brandon’s writing evokes a post-modern pulp sensibility, ranging from Viking adventures to straight superheroes with a flair for dialogue. Look for more from Brandon on both the company-owned and independent front.
J.H. Williams III
Coming off a well-deserver Eisner win for his work on Detective Comics, J.H. Williams’ next book may be his biggest challenge yet. While the 16-year comics vet is best known for his evocative and inventive art style, Batwoman sees the artist taking on the writing duties – with help from friend Haden Blackman. Although Williams has written comics on a few previous occasions, this is undoubtedly his biggest writing gig to date. But given the immense forethought and design put into his art, can you doubt his writing won’t have the same attention to detail put into it? If what we’ve seen in Batwoman #0 is any indicator, J.H. Williams III could blossom into one of the foremost writer/artists in comics since Darwyn Cooke or Frank Miller.
Although he’s been in the comics industry for little more than 18 months, writer Nick Spencer has attained a pitch-perfect career path any aspiring comics writer – and most working ones – would dream up. Starting with the Image series Existence 2.0, Spencer built a reputation as creative and deliberate writer with an ear for high concept, racking up several more well-received miniseries on the independent front. Both Marvel and DC took notice, penciling him as writer for numerous ongoing series from Supergirl, a revamped T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and two new series for Iron Man and War Machine respectively. But instead of turning into a company man, Spencer redoubled his creator-owned efforts and launched Morning Glories at Image which has sold-out at the distributor level on several occasions. 2011 sees Nick Spencer on a precipitous point – with a massive comics writing workload for such a new talent, can he keep delivering what his fans in comic stores and NYC editorial offices saw in him in the first place.
Coming out of the motion graphics industry, writer Matt Fraction has quickly turned from indie comics darling to Marvel Comics architect. He currently works as one of the most diverse writers in Marvel’s talent pool, writing the primary series for Iron Man, Thor as well as the X-Men – and with the recently announced 2011 event Fear, Itself, he’s being positioned as one of the few writers Marvel has given the keys to steer their line as a whole. Although his Marvel work has grown by leaps and bounds, 2010 saw him return to creator-owned comics with Casanova joining the Icon imprint. For 2011, it’s all about Fraction doubling down and showing readers just what he can do.
Although Skottie Young has spent years in the comics industry, it wasn’t until his collaboration with writer Eric Shanower on Marvel’s adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s Oz books that readers saw him for what he truly was. Arguably one of the most unconventional modern artists working for the Big Two since Jae Lee or Michael Golden, Young’s expressive line owes as much to Chuck Jones as Jack Kirby and demonstrates how diverse comics can be. With work currently underway on the third book in the Oz series and a healthy list of covers each month, Young is also developing a creator-owned book and has even begun writing comics with a story in the upcoming Deadpool Team-Up #883. Although his work on the Oz books have shown how explosive his creativity can be, it seems as if he has a lot more to share in 2011.
IN THE CORNER OF OUR EYE
Jeff Wamester: Although he has little more than a handful of comic book issues to his name, California-based artist Jeff Wamester shows a very unique and dynamic style well beyond his page count. In much the same way that Francis Manapul and Sean Murphy wowed comics fans in 2009 and 2010, on the right book Wamester could be a break-out star.
Amy Reeder: Coming into comics by way of TOKYOPOP’s OEL manga of the mid 2000s, Amy Reeder came into her own illustrating the Vertigo revamp of Madame Xanadu and was tapped by DC to act as the alternating artist on JH Williams 3’s upcoming Batwoman series. A heady assignment, but with veteran writers like Gail Simone publicly chomping at the bit on twitter to work with her, Reeder’s got skills that will take her far.
Tonci Zonjic: Although he’s done several miniseries for Marvel in recent years, it’s his upcoming creator-owned series Who is Jake Ellis? with writer Nathan Edmondson that has gotten heads turning. This Croatian-born artist comes from the Alex Toth school of thought, with careful thought put into line, shape and form.What other creators do you have your eye on in 2011?