While 2017 may have been a mixed bag, at best, for the world, it was a great year for the world of comics. As we review our “Best Of” lists and check them twice, the quality of mainstream and indie books from January to December is apparent. With new series like X-Men: Grand Design debuting at the last minute, it’s hard to complain. So we won’t even try to complain; instead let’s celebrate what made this a great year for comics.
There are lots of reasons to celebrate, and we’ve picked out four of the best ones from the past year. They include new and returning talent, positive changes to how comics are published and sold, and a very important celebration. If you’re looking for a positive pick-me-up in the final days of 2017, then look no further. All of these reasons and more should serve as a reminder that we just had another great year for comics, and that’s cause to toast for more to come.
Each year there are new voices added to comics, and some very exciting talents have risen to prominence in 2017. The most obvious example must be Emil Ferris, the creator of My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. This massive volume containing spiral notebook pages of a young woman growing up in 1960s Chicago and investigating the murder of her neighbor has been buzzed about all year, and for good reason. It’s an immensely complex work that utilizes the medium in a unique fashion. Even incomplete, the story is enthralling and challenging, making it clear that Ferris will be celebrated for a long time to come.
Tillie Walden, another indie artist, also had a breakout year with the publication of her memoir Spinning. While Spinning is the first mainstream success experienced by Walden, fans of her work in small volumes like The End of Summer and I Love This Part already know she’s just at the start of a long career.
It was also a big year for David Rubín. His work with Jeff Lemire on Black Hammer and its companion series Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil was honored at the Eisners and continues to be celebrated by fans. In the meanwhile, he had a strong intro and outro to 2017 at Image Comics with the publication of the OGN Beowulf and now the return of Rumble just a few weeks ago. He is one of the strongest emerging artists in the medium and comics is lucky to have him.
The Continuation of the “Pop-Up Imprint”
DC Comics has continued their new brand of pop-up imprints with the launch of a new Wildstorm brand and changes to their Young Animal line. Both collections reflect a unique approach to existing IP guided by clever individuals like Warren Ellis and Gerard Way. They are producing comics unlike anything else at the DC Comics line and are geared towards a collected market that is likely the future of comics. Young Animal specifically proved the company’s dedication as they maintained existing creative teams and announced new series while developing new methods to maintain and grow readership.
IDW Publishing also showed interest in this concept with the launch of Black Crown, a line of comics guided by former Vertigo editor Shelly Bond. This pop-up within the larger IDW brand is just beginning, but has already launched two series, one of which features the inimitable Gilbert Hernandez. Taken as a whole these brands are oriented towards developing new concepts with top-level talent and their continuation is a good sign for how the direct market can be improved and revitalized.
Christopher Priest Truly Returns
Christopher Priest may have returned to comics in 2016, but he made it clear that he was sticking around in 2017. Deathstroke remains the creative highlight of the Rebirth line of comics as it builds on more than 25 issues of interwoven stories for increasingly impressive payoffs. While that title switching from a bi-weekly to monthly schedule may be disappointing, it has resulted in a broader swath of offerings from Priest.
Priest’s mini-series Inhumans: Once and Future Kings offered a thesis statement for the floundering Inhumans brand, making it clear that this concept could and should work. There are rumors of a sequel, and Marvel Comics would be lucky to have the man return. In the meanwhile, Priest has taken over Justice League , offering big adventures that utilize the complete team along with a very character-driven, human approach to them as individuals. Taken as a whole these three series show why Priest is one of the best writers working in comics today. We should consider ourselves lucky that he seems to have decided to stick around.
The Jack Kirby Centennial
One of the highlights of 2017 in comics was the celebration of its past. Jack “The King” Kirby would have turned 100 years old on August 28, 2017. Creators and publishers alike came together to honor his immense legacy, recognizing that comics would be unrecognizable without him and the superhero genre might not even exist. DC Comics assembled an impressive roster of projects, including affordable reprints of almost all of his work at the publisher, The Kamandi Challenge maxi-series, various one-shots, and relaunches of series like Mister Miracle. Marvel Comics offered up a wide variety of reprinted #1 issues and variant covers.
Creators and fans alike also spent much of the year celebrating the stories that Kirby was integral to founding. Tom Scioli initiated a biographical comics and a new edition of Mark Evanier’s essential biography Kirby: King of Comics was released. These are in addition to thousands of articles, blog posts, and other tributes all commemorating the incredible artistic output that reshaped an entire medium.
This celebration of the past offers good cause to anticipate the future, as well. The wide array of voices creating their own comics or discussing the legacy of Jack Kirby shows that the medium is still filled with inventive and ambitious creators. Those working on Kirby’s own superhero properties, like Christopher Priest, bring new ideas and angles. Others like Emil Ferris and Tillie Walden are crafting comics that Kirby would never have seen in his own lifetime. Smaller brands and pop-up imprints are helping these unique ideas find funding and an audience. While it’s important to honor the past, the best way to celebrate Jack Kirby is to make new comics.
And all of the fantastic new stories made this year are the reason 2017 was a great year for comics.