Comics Alliance Best of 2015: Breakthrough Talent of 2015
Our judges have adjudicated; our readers have voted. We’re proud to present to you the breakthrough talent of 2015 — and four exceptional runners up.
Marguerite Sauvage perhaps first came to popular attention thanks to her bouncy work on Sensation Comics, itself one of the best things to come out of comics this year. She has spent the last twelve months being the brightest talent around.
From DC to Marvel to Valiant, Sauvage's work has appeared with increasing regularity; she’s an artist who makes work to complement a character, but never through sacrificing her own particular style and tone. Her covers have a glorious sense of bubbly personality to them, offering a succession of female characters with elegance and class. She’s hugely in demand as a result, both as interior and cover artist. Her storytelling was spotlighted in a recent issue of Ninjak, where it’s become clear that she’s becoming more confident in her style and sequencing. This time next year, she’ll be in charge of this industry. [Steve Morris]
For a few years now, a growing number of people have been noticing Erica Henderson. For a while, it was readers of Atomic Robo. Then Subatomic Party Girls. Even Quantum & Woody. But she somehow escaped the widespread notice she deserved. That changed in 2015.
This was the year Henderson became a star. First, with Ryan North, she launched The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, one of the year’s best books thanks in part to Henderson's tremendous eye for physical comedy, fun expressions and fashion. Then she had another wildly successful launch with Jughead. As only the second artist to draw stories in Archie Comics’ line-wide reboot, Henderson has helped redefine the visual language of one of North America’s longest-lasting and most beloved comic book worlds. With Jughead, she’s not only expanded what this new Riverdale looks like; she’s also drawn some fantastical dream sequences with other genres to explore. So in addition to drawing teen comedy, she’s also given us Game of Thrones-esque fantasy and the sci-fi of “Jughead’s Time Police.” That is a lot to do, and she does it all perfectly. [James Leask]
Zodiac Starforce is inspired by anime and manga, but Paulina Ganucheau’s art is at least as influenced by western comics and animation. There’s even something Disney-esque about her faces, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. Ganucheau’s world mercifully lacks hyper-realistic grit, but it has its share of suffering. When someone is distraught, their face so perfectly conveys their pain that it’s upsetting. When we see the physical effect of a mystical injury, it’s unsettling. These moments are not lessened by a colorful animated style; they’re strengthened by that juxtaposition.
Then there are the monsters. That Ganucheau both draws and colors the series feels very evident in the monsters, who are more defined by the swirling colors within them than by their blobby shapes. They’re voids of muddled darkness amid the colorful environment. Kevin Panetta’s writing is excellent, but it’s the art that won me over to Zodiac Starforce. A year ago I’d never head of Paulina Ganucheau, and now she’s one of my favorite comics artists. The very definition of a breakthrough. [Elle Collins]
Sophie Campbell’s been making incredible art for years, but this was definitely the year she catapulted to another level of skill, and achieved another level of recognition and acclaim. Her work on Jem and the Holograms has shown some of her strongest character work, mixed with her already staggeringly excellent character designs. Jem, the Holograms, and the Misfits’ pop star outfits are as bright and bursting with personality as you’d hope, taking the original show’s ideas and designs and expanding them beyond what the animators could accomplish at the time. Each panel of Jem is packed to the brim with Campbell's designs and detail work, without being cramped or taking attention away from the core story.
At this point in Campbell's career, having drawn everything from Wet Moon to Glory to Jem and the Holograms, the one constant in her work that you can always be sure of is her undeniable excellence. [Ziah Grace]
Twelve months ago, you might have spied King's name on the first few issues of Grayson or... well, that was about it. In the past year, though, his body of work has grown considerably. In addition to more Grayson with Tim Seeley and Mikel Janin, he kicked off the Robin War crossover with a surprisingly compelling #1, had his sci-fi series Omega Men uncancelled due to popular demand, and launched his first Vertigo and Marvel books with Sheriff of Babylon and The Vision respectively, both to great critical acclaim.
That's a remarkable body of work for a single year. Even more impressively, there's no single throughline to those books. You might be able to spot the influence of King's previous career as a counter-terrorism officer in the CIA — Grayson is a spy story, albeit an unusually inventive and female gaze-y one; Sheriff of Babylon is set during the Iraq War; at its heart, even Omega Men is a story about religious extremism and terrorism — but then you pick up The Vision, a story about a suburban family of robots desperately trying to fit in, and you see how inventive and original King can be. What really unites King's work is that he's an exceptional writer, and he's had an exceptional year. [Alex Spencer]