The 2023 Golden Issue Award for Best Cartoonist

Transformers writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson brings home the Golden Issue.

This year, comic readers were treated to some incredible visuals thanks to a number of very talented cartoonists. From Peach Momoko's gorgeous work on Demon Days: Scarlet Sin, to Tradd Moore's stunning sequences in Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise, comic fans had no shortage of books to look forward to every Wednesday. Some of these creators delivered work based on brand-new franchises, while others tackled existing properties. 

And the winner for the 2023 Golden Issue Award for Best Cartoonist is…

(Photo: Hasbro, Skybound)

Daniel Warren Johnson, for Transformers

The Transformers brand is entering its 40th year of existence in 2024, and the last four decades have featured a number of different takes on the robots in disguise. Some of the most talented artists in comics have offered their take on the Transformers over the years, from industry legends like Bryan Hitch and Andrew Wildman, to fan favorites like Don Figueroa and E.J. Su. In 2023, Skybound's Transformers relaunch featured story and art by Daniel Warren Johnson. While the book is only a few issues in, Johnson is already leaving his mark on the Transformers, delivering a take that immediately feels familiar, yet significantly different. 

The setup for Johnson's Transformers should be familiar to anyone that watched the 1984 animated series: the Autobots and Decepticons crash landed on Earth, and after waking up and being given new forms, their war begins anew. It's a tale that's been told in comics since Marvel's first issue was released, but Johnson has already found several ways to make the book feel unique. His transformation sequences have been a highlight of the early issues, with visuals that look mechanical and realistic, while also channeling the original Takara toys. Anyone that has ever played with the original Optimus Prime or Starscream figures can see these details captured in the book, but it never feels like something that would be out of place for new fans. 

(Photo: Skybound, Hasbro)

In fact, Warren Johnson's Transformers has already done an impressive job providing new ways to introduce these characters and concepts to unfamiliar audiences. The book's second issue opens with a sequence where Optimus Prime discovers the fragility of Earth when he accidentally kills a deer. It's an important moment, as it shows not just the kind of being Optimus is, but it also gives us a chance to see him struggling to acclimate to his new surroundings on Earth. 

While Optimus is clearly bothered by the fragile nature of his new home, Starscream and the Decepticons can be seen reveling in it, using their superior strength to kill the planet's inhabitants with little difficulty. The Decepticons aren't just settling for human targets; they managed to kill off two of the most popular Autobots in just the first issue. The number of human and Cybertronian casualties this early is unusual for a Transformers comic, but Johnson is setting some high stakes for future stories. 

Three issues in, Daniel Warren Johnson's Transformers feels like the closest thing the brand has ever had to an "Ultimate Spider-Man" style relaunch. The book's story and visuals take things back to the brand's earliest days, while still offering a modern sensibility. Under Johnson's singular vision, it will be interesting to see where the book goes, what stories it adapts, and if it can continue this kind of momentum. Regardless of what transformations the series undergoes, things are off to a terrific start, and that's why Daniel Warren Johnson is's Cartoonist of the Year. 

The nominees for the 2023 Golden Issue Award for Best Cartoonist are:

  • Peach Momoko (Demon Days: Scarlet Sin)

  • Tradd Moore (Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise)

  • Steve Skroce (Clobberin' Time)

  • Tillie Walden (Clementine: Book Two)

  • Daniel Warren Johnson (Transformers) — WINNER