14 for ’14: Comic Book Creators To Watch In The New Year
2014 promises to bring a flood of amazing work from a raft of talented cover artists, writers, web cartoonists, interior artists and mangaka. ComicsAlliance has looked at the new projects on the horizon and made a pick of 14 comic creators who we think will make an impact in 2014. Our hope is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, that there are 140 amazing creators on the cusp of creating something great in 2014 — but these are our picks of the creators to keep an eye on.
G. Willow Wilson
G. Willow Wilson was a journalist in Boston and Egypt before she wrote her first major comics work in 2007, Cairo (Vertigo), with art by M.K. Perker. The same team reunited for the Vertigo ongoing series Air, and Wilson went on to write Superman, Vixen and The Outsiders at DC Comics and the CrossGen revival Mystic at Marvel. In 2012 she published her first prose novel, Alif the Unseen.
2014 should be Wilson’s biggest year in comics thanks to the launch of her most high profile project, a new Ms. Marvel series with art by Adrian Alphona. A new female teen hero with a legacy name wouldn’t usually be cause for fanfare, but a Pakistani-American Muslim hero with her own title will grab attention. Wilson, herself a Muslim, is certain to bring her own perspectives and experience to the series. Wilson’s voice as a writer is about to reach a whole new audience.
Annie Wu is one of a new generation of illustrators who we’re grateful to see doing more work in comics when she could so easily dedicate herself to commercial illustration. She has an electric style, a strong personal voice, and a gift for character.
Wu’s first full-length comics work appeared in the Batman Beyond digital series. She also contributed to an issue of Hawkeye alongside series artist David Aja and writer Matt Fraction. Now she and Aja share art duties on the title, with Wu telling the story of Kate Bishop in the even-numbered issues and Aja telling Clint Barton’s story in the odd-numbers. There aren’t many artists who could go toe-to-toe with Aja, but Wu’s work on Hawkeye is exhilirating and should make her a star.
Kevin Wada belongs in the same category as Wu; an exceptional commercial illustrator whose overriding love of character sees him working in the much less lucrative world of comics! Wada first gained the attention of comics fans with his unofficial high fashion makeovers of the X-Men, and has continued to inject magazine couture into the lives of familiar characters.
Wada landed his first Marvel cover in 2013, a variant for X-Men #1 that put the women of the relaunched X-Men in the finest 1920s Downton Abbey gowns. That led to a full-time gig as the cover artist for the new She-Hulk ongoing from Charles Soule and Javier Pulido. Wada’s glamorous aesthetic is a welcome addition to Marvel’s great roster of cover artists.
Felipe Smith’s career has taken an unusual path; he was one of the few Western artists to establish himself as a mangaka working in Japan, first with his series MBQ (commissioned by US publisher Tokyopop and translated for Japan) and then with Peepo Choo (commissioned by Japense publisher Kodansha and translated for the US).
Smith transitioned to US comics with the short-lived but promising action comedy Freelancers for BOOM! Studios, co-created with Matt Gagnon. 2014 sees him take on a new gig at Marvel as the writer of Ghost Rider, with art by Tradd Moore. The series introduces a new Latino hero, Robbie Reyes, and reimagines Ghost Rider as a street racer. It’s a risky reinvention that we hope has an impact and puts Smith on the mainstream map.
Inio Asano is one of the great emerging voices in manga, having already made a major impact with Solanin, a two volume manga about the uncertainties of youth. The book took home an Eisner and a Harvey and was was adapted for the screen in 2010.
Fans are eagerly waiting for Asano’s next major work, especially as the author has suggested that future work may focus on his personal questions about gender identity. Fortunately we’re guaranteed to see more from Asano in 2014, with Fantagraphics publishing the 2003 work Nijigahara Holograph in English for the first time. It’s guaranteed to be one of the books of the year, and should help cement Asano’s reputation.
[Edited 2/22/2014: The original version of this article stated that Asano was considering gender reassignment surgery. In fact Asano has ruled out surgery, and has stated that his preferred pronouns are he/him.]
EK Weaver is a web designer and technical illustrator by profession, but she’s been working diligently on her gay romance road trip web comic The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal since 2008. This labor of love has been building an audience ever since.
In 2014 Weaver will bring this story to a close and publish the third and final collected edition (with possible plans for an omnibus edition somewhere on the horizon). Our hope is that having the whole story available to readers should raise Weaver’s profile and get her work out in front of a wider audience, and while she may want to take a breath after such an undertaking, we’re enthusiastic to see what she does next.
Ron Wimberly grabbed our attention with his 2012 Vertigo graphic novel Prince of Cats, a street gang take on Romeo & Juliet set in 1980s New York City. Since then he’s been busy working as a fine artist, a contributor to Adult Swim’s Black Dynamite, and an illustrator for commercial clients like Nike and Criterion.
We didn’t see much from Wimberly in comics in 2013, but we were excited to see him contribute to Brandon Graham’s Prophet and create a Blaxploitation variant cover for Mighty Avengers #3. In 2014 we hope and expect to see a lot more of his work, including some of the fruits of his contributions as a writer and character designer for Darryl “D.M.C” McDaniels’ new Darryl Makes Comics imprint.
Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Mariko Tamaki is a writer and performance artist. Her cousin Jillian is a freelance illustrator. They brought their talents together for their 2008 debut graphic novel Skim, a coming of age story that received widespread praise and an Ignatz award.
The cousins have reunited for This One Summer, a story about summer friendship that will debut at the 2014 Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Advance word is that this book will be every bit as impressive as Skim, and may emerge as one of the standout books of the year.
Nimit Malavia is a fine artist and a commercial illustrator with only a handful of comic book cover credits to his name, including a Once Upon A Time spin-off and the 2011 Wolverine And Jubilee series. In 2014 we expect his profile in the comic industry to jump considerably.
That’s because he recently landed one of the industry’s plum cover gigs. He’ll follow James Jean and Joao Ruas — two exceptional talents — as the cover artist on Bill Willingham’s Fables, published by Vertigo. Malavia takes over in the home run as the book heads for its final 150th issue. That should give him plenty of opportunities to make his mark.
Mahmud Asrar got his major break through Image Comics, teaming with writer Jay Faerber on their creator-owned family superhero series Dynamo 5. He followed that 26-issue run with work on DC titles like Justice League of America and Marvel titles like X-Men and Nova before landing the full-time Supergirl gig with the New 52 reboot.
In mid-December Marvel announced they have signed Asrar to an exclusive. He’s now the artist on the relaunched Wolverine & The X-Men, with new series writer Jason Latour. It’s a huge vote of confidence, and the start of the next chapter of a very promising career.
Emily Carroll won the Joe Shuster Award in 2011 for Outstanding Web Comics Creator thanks to her inventive and chilling fairy tale stories, including His Face All Red and The Hare’s Bride. She continues to create the sort of stories that readers love to pass around, including Margot’s Room, Anu-Anulan & Yir’s Daughter, and this year’s terrifying Halloween hit, Out of Skin.
Carroll is one of the best and most original comic creators working online; she makes great use of the medium to control and pace her stories and involve the reader in her stories. In July 2014 she makes her print debut with Through The Woods (McElderry Books), a collection of new horror fairy tales from Carroll’s imagination. It’s guaranteed to be one of the must-have books of the year.
Gabrielle Bell is not new, not unknown, but she is a perennially underrated talent. She self-published her first comic in 1998 and was published by Alternative in 2003. She has since been published by Drawn & Quarterly, Buenaventura and Fantagraphics, and her 2012 work The Voyeurs was published by Uncivilized Books.
Uncivilized will also publish Bell’s next book in 2014, Truth is Fragmentary: Travelogues & Diaries. The book collects Bell’s diaries of her travels through France, Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia and more, and it promises to be Bell’s most engaging and accessible work to date. We think it will bring Bell to a whole new audience.
Rico Renzi is both the creative director of HeroesCon and one of the rising stars in the world of colorists. He’s been working as a colorist since at least 2002, but he had an especially good year in 2013, when his work appeared in Oni Press’s Stumptown, DC’s Batman ’66, Marvel’s Winter Soldier, 12-Gauge’s Loose Ends and others.
His standout work was on FBP (formerly Collider) at Vertigo. FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics is a book with a powerful visual style, and while that obviously owes much to series artist Robbi Rodriguez, a fair share of the credit is also due to Renzi. The importance of great color artists to the industry is more widely understood now than ever before, and within that context Rico Renzi is set to be one of the standouts.
Spike Trotman has been writing and drawing her own webcomics since 2005 — most notably Templar, Arizona, the story of the diverse inhabitants of a weird, wild town in an alternative Arizona — but in recent years she stepped up as an editor and publisher. In 2012 she revived Smut Peddler, a series of erotic minicomics primarily by woman cartoonists, as an anthology.
Trotman published her first Smut Peddler anthology that same year; now she’s hard at work on the second, due for publication in 2014 with a line-up that includes Jess Fink, Megan Rose Gedris, Kate Leth, Blue Delliquanti, Faith Erin Hicks and Erica Henderson. Trotman is not only a great editor, writer and illustrator, but also a fearsome fundraiser – her first Smut Peddler Kickstarter raised over $80,000 against a $20,000 target. Trotman has helped established the model for getting anthologies made — and diversifying comics’ talent pool as a result.