Thursday, December 30, 2010

What to Watch 2011

After looking back at my predictions for the hottest titles, trends, and creators of the comic book industry for 2010 last week, I’m looking ahead to 2011 at nine items that I expect to be buzzworthy topics next year. We all know that comics like Marvel’s new event Fear Itself or DC’s Flashpoint will be huge stories, but I’m digging a bit deeper as I look at up-and-coming creators, big comic book media items, and more. Hit the jump to see my predictions for what you should be watching (and why) in the coming year!


Over the last several years, some of the most profitable films coming out of Hollywood have been based upon DC and Marvel superheroes. Blockbusters like The Dark Knight and the Iron Man franchise have made superheroes the hot commodity for the film industry, while lesser films like Incredible Hulk and The Spirit have cast some doubt on the universal appeal of spandex clad four-color titans. Banking on the former and hoping to avoid the latter, the 2011 summer film slate begins the biggest push for superhero films yet. Next year we’ll seen the next two films in Marvel’s Avengers franchise—Thor and Captain America—as well as DC’s first post-Dark Knight offering, Green Lantern, and the mysterious X-Men: First Class.

To many, the success of these films seems guaranteed. Thor and Captain America will tie-into the Iron Man films and have the added advantage of being fairly familiar properties to those unschooled in comic book lore. The X-Men are a household name that have already produced four hit films in the last decade. Green Lantern is the least well-known hero, but has the most bankable star in Ryan Reynolds.
On the flipside, 2011 is poised to be one of the biggest years in recent history for film. Aside from those movies listed above, a number of blockbuster franchises will be releasing films this spring in summer. These include the newest Pirates of the Carribbean, Cars 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover 2, and, perhaps most importantly, the final Harry Potter film. Not too mention the wildcards of Rise of the Apes, Super 8, and Cowboys & Aliens. These superhero films will be contending for moviegoers’ money against an impressive slate of mega-films.

We already know that the success of the last few years have created a slate of blockbuster superhero films for not only 2011, but 2012 as well (new Spider-Man, Batman, and Avengers). But what happens if the stiff competition means smaller box office earnings for our heroes? How will that affect the superhero films of the future?


Young artist Amy Reeder is poised to have the biggest year of her career in 2011 and that makes her one of the easiest choices for What to Watch 2011. Reeder burst on to the scene a few years ago as the debut artist on the Matt Wagner-written Vertigo series Madame Xanadu. She earned a spot on the series after winning a Tokyopop Rising Stars competition that led to the release of her manga series Fool’s Gold (which was a lot of fun) in 2006. Her work on Madame Xanadu has been extremely well-received and even led to multiple Eisner Award nominations in her most high-profile work to date.

This past summer, it was announced that Reeder would alternate arcs drawing Batwoman with J.H. Williams III (who is also drawing the series). This long-awaited series will provide her with her largest audience to date and is sure to make her one of the most talked-about artists of the year. In the meantime, Reeder will continue to wow comic book fans with her dynamic covers on Supergirl and other titles. With her only drawing Batwoman part time, expect to see Reeder on other side-projects next year as she takes the industry by storm. Believe me, Reeder is going to be huge and now is the time to get in on the ground floor.

THE $2.99/$3.99 PRICE WAR

One of the biggest stories of the last few years is the rising costs of comics. While just five years ago, $2.99 comics were still a minority, today it seems that more and more comics are being priced at $3.99 or above. In the middle of a massive recession, comic book buyers are being forced to pay more per issue and the entire industry is feeling its effects. The Top 10 books month-to-month are seeing sliding sales while lesser known characters are being pushed away into cancelled on-goings or monthlies becoming miniseries.

Earlier this year, DC Comics announced that they would be lowering the price on nearly all of their comics to $2.99 by eliminating the co-features that were starring lesser characters and reducing the original stories pages from 22 pages per issue to just 20. That means increased ad revenue and reduced creator costs, which would allow the price reduction. Despite the sacrifices that had to be made to make this happen, the reaction has largely been positive. Marvel, on the other hand, appears to be holding steady with its current pricing structure by making their best-selling and most prevalent books at $3.99 and reserving the $2.99 for mid-level books and non-marquee miniseries. Not surprisingly, the reception to this has been less than enthusiastic.

With the rise in digital distribution weighing heavily in the background and pressure from fans to reduce the price, one wonders if Marvel can continue to hold steady at their current plan into 2011 or if rising costs and an unfavorable economy will force DC to raise their prices once gain. Caught in the midst of this are the independent publishers who are already fighting desperately for shelf space, but cannot compete with lower prices due to the smaller profit margins that come along with lower print runs; your average Image or IDW book needs to be priced higher to stay afloat.

As the Price War rages on in 2011 it will be interesting to see how these factors shape the landscape of the industry. Will DC finally overtake Marvel in profit share of the industry? How will smaller publishers react? Will digital distribution finally start making a difference? How will your buying habits be affected?


Few writers had a bigger breakthrough year in 2010 than Nick Spencer, who started the year with critically acclaimed work on multiple projects with Image before launching the hit Morning Glories and then catapulting over to DC Comics with the Jimmy Olsen backup stories in Action Comics and his own ongoing series, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Spencer’s ability to mix a strong character focus with complex plotting has already earned him a strong and loyal fan base that has been steadily growing throughout the year. Needless to say, Spencer is already on his way to becoming a major player in the comics industry.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Spencer would take over writing duties on Supergirl; even more recently, however, Spencer was removed from the title to write as-of-yet-unannounced projects for DC that are surely more high-profile than the Maid of Might’s ongoing. Additionally, Image will be releasing his next creator owned series early next year, Infinite Vacation with Christian Ward, and Spencer will release his first series with Marvel, Iron Man 2.0 starring War Machine. Spencer’s stock on the rise and 2011 will only see that trend continue as he rockets into the upper echelon of comic book writers. By the end of the year, Spencer is likely to headline at least one major title for Marvel and/or DC and will be working his way towards being a major architect for either universe while maintaining a focus on his inventive creator-owned titles.


Without a doubt, one of the biggest comic book media news stories of 2010 was the success of AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic. The television show, spearheaded by producer Frank Darabont, loosely interpreted the first storyline of the comic, which follows recently comatose police officer Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) as he struggles to survive in a post-zombie apocalypse world in search of other survivors, including his wife and son. The show was an immediate success, watched by 5.3 million viewers in its debut (the highest rated premiere ever on AMC) and steadily gained reviewers before its finale ended the season with roughly 6 million viewers. The show was critically acclaimed and was recently nominated for the Best Television Program (Drama) Golden Globe award.

Not surprisingly, Walking Dead was renewed for a second season after its high-rated debut and fans anxiously await the new season to begin in 2011. While everyone hopes that the show can continue its success, there are a number of big questions that loom over the show that could steer the fate of season two:

1. Key writers of the show’s first season have left the program to pursue other interests and will be replaced with freelancers. Will this mean less episode-to-episode continuity? Does this open the door for Robert Kirkman (or any other comic industry writers) to write more scripts?

2. By the end of the final episode, all of the survivors are now aware of the fact that the rest of the world has succumbed to the zombie infestation and almost nothing is known of any survivors. One of the key elements of the comics success is the fact that there is always the hope of survival and a cure dangling just beyond the characters’ grasp. With this hope now dashed, how will this affect the humanity of show?

3. Merle Dixon, brilliant played by Michael Rooker, is still missing at the end of the first season, having sawed off his own hand after being handcuffed on a roof by Rick and abandoned by the survivors. Will he return? If he does, could he be the Governor, as guessed by many anxious fans?

4. Walking Dead was a runaway success for AMC, but was expertly timed to be launched on Halloween at time when zombies are making a major cultural surge. Can AMC capture lightning in a bottle for the second time? Is the television viewing public really prepared for more horrific and grotesque television? We are all hoping for the best, but what if the success of the first season was just a fluke?


This one is a bit iffy as I’m stretching it a bit in suspecting a huge year for the villainous Red Skull. The villain has been a major part of the Marvel Universe for decades as the main nemesis of Captain America and has seen a bit of a heyday as a major player in Ed Brubaker’s critically-acclaimed run. Most recently, the original Red Skull, Johann Schmidt was re-killed and his daughter, the villain Sin, took his place after being badly scared during the best-selling Captain America: Reborn miniseries.

The reason why I’m suspecting a big year for Red Skull is two-fold. First of all, there is rumors that the new Red Skull will play a major part in Fear Itself, Marvel’s 2011 major event storyline that is said to heavily revolve around both Captain America and Thor while bleeding out to the rest of the Marvel Universe. The main rumor is that Sin will discover the Asgardian God of Fear, launching the entire event. Being in the midst of this will mean that 2011 will see the biggest Red Skull story in years as the villain’s role will no longer be centered upon Captain America, even if it is the new Red Skull and not the one most often associated with the mantle.

The second reason is that the Red Skull is set to be the primary antagonist in next summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger film. In the movie, Red Skull (the original) will be played by the extremely popular and extremely talented character actor, Hugo Weaving. Weaving’s role is one of the biggest selling points for the film amongst hardcore fans and is sure to be a show-stealing performance. As Marvel has a tendency to spotlight characters when they have a major film being released, you can surely expect Red Skull to make major appearances outside of the film as well. While Sin may be taking center stage in Fear Itself, expect the original Red Skull to pop up in big ways this spring and summer.


Founded in 1998 by Mark Alessi and launched in 2000, CrossGen Comics quickly became a major player in the comic book industry. As the biggest start-up company since Image Comics, CrossGen was turning heads with its wide variety of launch titles that were all intricately connected. Titles like Sigil, Scion, Ruse, and Sojurn were big hits amongst comic fans and the creators behind them went on to be some of the biggest names in comics. Unfortunately, the success was short-lived as poor-management, unpaid creators, and unreliable scheduling led to the demise of the company. CrossGen filed for bankruptcy and ceased publication in 2003, just a few short years after it became one of the hottest publishers in the industry.

In 2010, Marvel Comics announced that it would be reviving the CrossGen Universe as a separate imprint. The first titles, Ruse and Sigil, will launch in March 2011 as four-issue miniseries. High-profile creators Mark Waid and Leonard Kirk will be amongst the first to work on the new CrossGen titles. Marvel is approaching the imprint with caution, but one has to wonder how successful the new imprint will be. It has been years since CrossGen has been on the radar. Will CrossGen once again find success or will it be a spectacular failure like DC’s recent relaunch of the Red Circle comics?


In 1998, Dark Horse Comics released Frank Miller’s epic retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, 300. The comic was a hit both commercially and critically, earning three Eisner Awards in 1999 including Best Limited Series. Despite being controversial for numerous reasons, including historical inaccuracies, the comic is considered one of Miller’s finest works. Zack Snyder adapted the comic book into a hit film in 2007, which not only boosted sales for the hardcover collected edition, but also helped Snyder earn the directing gigs for Watchmen and the upcoming Superman reboot.

In June 2010, it was announced that Miller would be returning to 300 to write and draw a prequel series focusing on Xerxes, the Persian king that served as the villain of the original 300. Miller’s representation of Xerxes in 300 (and the subsequent portrayal in Snyder’s film) attracted much controversy as the figure was presented as a power-mad despot of androgynous nature in contrast to the hyper-masculine portrayals of the Spartans. With the new series centering around Xerxes, you have to wonder if Miller will take a different tone on the character to present him in a more positive light. Miller has never been one to shy away from controversy, so it is difficult to imagine him backing away, but it’s also hard to imagine an enjoyable comic that centers around such an unsavorily portrayed character.


The last few years have shown a lot of promise for artist Chris Burnham, who I suspect is going to have a huge year in 2011. Burnham first came to my attention way back in 2008 with a short story in X-Men: Manifest Destiny, but really hooked my in early 2009 with his first issue of the incredible Elephantmen. Since then, Burnham has been building his resume with books like Hack/Slash and the incredibly over-the-top Officer Downe with writer Joe Casey. Burnham’s biggest work in 2010 would have been as the artist on The Armory Wars for Boom! Studios, based upon the music of Coheed and Cambria had he not secured a surprise gig in the closing moments of the year. To close out the year, Bunham’s art was seen alongside superstars Frazier Irving and Cameron Stewart in Grant Morrison’s final issue of Batman and Robin, which conclude Morrison’s multi-year epic story of Batman’s battle against Dr. Hurt and the Black Glove.

Burnham drew seven pages in Batman and Robin #16 and, in the eyes of many, stole the show aesthetically by taking full advantage of the opportunity to draw the best work of his career. His work obviously made an impression on the folks at DC as he has already been tapped to draw Batman, Inc #4, filling in for regular artist Yanick Paquette. It’s not often that an up-and-coming artist like Burnham is used as a fill-in for someone with such a high profile on one of DC’s biggest titles. With that in mind, I think it is safe to say that it won’t be long before DC places Burnham on a title regularly and I don’t believe he’ll start on anything lower tier. You may not know Chris Burnham’s name yet, but by the end of 2011, you won’t be able to forget it!


Looking ahead at 2011, I think that comic fans are once again in store for an exciting year of hot new creators, exciting new titles, and fantastic uses of the four-color characters we've come to love.  As you look towards next year, what creators, comics, and concepts do you think we should look out for?

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Klep said...

As ever, I'm going to be highly interested in anything and everything Brubaker does, but something I really intend to keep an eye on is the Fantastic Four. Hickman has been shaping as much of the Marvel Universe as he can around what he's doing with Marvel's First Family, and I'm really excited to see where it leads.

quietomega said...

I'm looking forward to the release of both Craig Thompson's Habibi and the next installment of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. If the former gets released next year, I'm really sure it'll be huge, since Thompson's batting average has been phenomenal (even if he's only really released a handful of major work), while the latter is going to be notable because it's one of Moore's final works as a comic book writer and that it's been ridiculously delayed.

Daryl Tay said...

Most looking forward to Crossgen for sure! Really miss Scion, Negation, Route 666 and even the other stuff like the First, Sigil etc.

Space Jawa said...

I'll be totally honest and say I'm being selfish with this one (it's just as much wishful thinking as a real prediction), but I'm hedging a bet on the comic project I'm working on finding it's way into stores at some point before the end of the year in one form or another.

Also, I'm eagerly anticipating the meaning behind "Death of Spider-Man" in the Ultimate Comics universe, since I can't possibly imagine they'd actually kill off ultimate Peter Parker.

That, and what might be in store for Marvel Cosmic after the Annihilators and Rocket Raccoon & Groot Mini-series and whether DnA will have anything else they'll be working on besides Heroes for Hire.

Finally, I'll be keeping my eyes open to see what might be in store for Brian C. beyond more Atomic Robo and his upcoming Captain America series.

Radlum said...

I'll be keeping an eye on Nick Spencer; I love the Jimmy Olsen backups and I have yet to read Morning Glories, but I'm guessing it will be good.
Also, I will never understand why people want Merle to be The Governor instead of an original villain/character, I hope the writers don't listen to those people.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

The Red Skull is an awesome call. Though it's not rumour, Fraction confirmed on Word Balloon that it's all about Sin in this one, but I think he will have a very big year.

As for the rest of the picks, kind of feels like you're not exactly calling them from the shadows as dark horse selection to keep an eye on as they're all already pretty much guaranteed a certain amount of hype for the coming year. If you had called Reeder for 2010 I would have been impressed but now she's already breaking out. It feels too late to call.

Either way, looks like 2011 is going to be one hell of a ride!

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