T Campbell says we should do an episode on a Year in Review, so we did! He guest hosts this episode with Thom Revor, Fes Works, Adam Smithee, and a return of Rosscott! Thanks to Content Producer Eric Kimball, for helping to set this up; along with T Campbell for creating the list of 16 discussion points.
Top 16 Topics Over the Last Year
16. GENDER IN WEBCOMICS VS. COMIC BOOKS.
Yeah, Eric, it IS the same damn profile reprinted 50 times, but it does really say something that Kate Beaton– and other female cartoonists like Danielle Corsetto and Meredith Gran– are treated as representative webcartoonists in the press, at the same time DC Comics struggles to explain why it hires so few female creators and Womanthology is considered a step forward. The only reason this one’s so low on the list is… it doesn’t feel like that much has changed, this year.
15. MARVEL’S SUMMER AT THE MOVIES.
This year was the strongest argument yet for Marvel’s overall film strategy, with Thor clearing a tidy profit and both X-Men: First Class and Captain America topping the $150 million mark. Reviews have generally been positive, and Marvel’s identity as a film studio seems on increasingly solid ground. What does that mean for the comics? (Again, this would be higher if it were newer.)
14. Special Mention
“The year in review” lists are always unfair to anything that happens right at the end of the year– there’s not always enough time to gauge the significance. This is especially true of The Adventures of Tintin, due out December 21. While I’m concerned the film’s motion capture may submerge its appeal within the Uncanny Valley, Tintin is the most popular comics property ever to emerge from Western Europe, and international film success could have implications for other Euro-comics.
13. THE DEATH OF STEVE JOBS.
Jobs’s release of the iPad 2, early this year, cemented the tablet medium as a growing field of opportunity for comics. The loss of his sometimes controlling influence will likely mean a loosening of Apple’s restrictions upon digital content in the long run, though probably not soon enough to satisfy individual comics creators.
12. FALLEN HEROES.
Cartoonists have been alienating their fans with ugly beliefs for ages (Dave Sim, Johnny Hart, Al Capp). But this was a very bad year for two former populist heroes of cartooning: Scott Adams and Frank Miller. Adams served up a meal of sexism garnished with smug verbal gamesmanship, and Miller howled against the Occupy movement in ways that seemed not only unfair, but woefully out of touch.
11. GENRE DIVERSITY IN PERIODICAL COMICS.
While DC Comics’ “New 52” comics series were still a population dominated by superheroes, the percentage of superhero books– and kinda-sorta, borderline superhero books– was somewhat less than it had been in the past. Maybe 73%, depending on how you count. Could this be the first sign that the age of superhero dominance in comic books is coming to an end, as its market shifts (see #3)?
The little publisher you thought would be out of business by now continues to impress,. It’s partnered with Random House, and beat Marvel and DC to a digital strategy. It continues publishing an unbelievably complex, sci-fi-tinged tale of its characters’ possible future lives. And, continuing its pattern of grabbing headlines with stories actually worth reading, it’s announced upcoming stories about interracial marriage and the first gay marriage in comic books. An accompanying quote from a representative sums up the company’s gutsy stance: “We don’t care if bigots don’t like our comics.” But the company is also plagued by a bitter struggle between its co-CEOs, including accusations of sexism and sexual harassment way out of line with Archie’s wholesome image.
9. WEBCARTOONISTS JUMP TO OTHER MEDIA.
While this trend has been building for a while, 2011 saw it out in force. Dr. McNinja’s Chris Hastings landed a high-profile Marvel assignment and Dinosaur Comics’ Ryan North will write comics adaptations of the TV series Adventure Time. Last Blood and an offhand idea from Penny Arcade are both in development. Most promising of all, Cyanide and Happiness looks to be coming to Comedy Central.
8. MARVEL TAKES BROADWAY.
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark was the musical every entertainment critic loved to hate, and its early weeks were almost a literal disaster, with repeated injuries on-set. But a funny thing happened after the laughter and the pain died down: the show was retooled. While critical response never rose above lukewarm, it has recouped its costs and is now running at a tidy profit, unlikely to close anytime soon. Comics and Broadway have a history together (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; Li’l Abner; Annie) but that history hasn’t included any recent landmarks. If Spider-Man begins to be hailed as a late bloomer, we could see more such comics-Broadway crossovers.
7. DEATH OF THE COMICS CODE.
With Archie’s rejection of the Code at the beginning of the year, a 56-year era came to an end. The Code was a symbol of censorship for many, but also self-policing for some. And while individual publishers have created new guidelines to their works’ age-appropriateness, such guidelines are self-imposed and self-enforced. The universality of a “PG-13” rating, for good or for ill, is no longer a part of any comic’s marketing strategy.
6. SUSIE CAGLE AND OCCUPY.
Political cartoonist and daughter of the renowned Daryl Cagle, Susie got involved with Occupy protests in Oakland, unfairly arrested, then released with charges eventually dropped. Though she’d prefer to be considered a journalist rather than a cartoonist, her story shows how the two occupations can blur, and the courage that sometimes requires.
Though founded in 2009 and gaining a following in 2010, Kickstarter seemed to be everywhere this year, funding several high-profile projects. According to one study, it was the third largest “independent publisher” of graphic novels– for a loose, but important, definition of “publisher.”
4. THE CONDENSATION OF PRINT DISTRIBUTION.
This year saw, in fairly rapid succession, the bankruptcy of Borders and the complete closing down of United Media Syndicate, the latter of which surrendered its business to Universal Uclick. The distribution of printed graphic novels, and especially of comic strips, therefore edges closer to monopoly.
3. DIGITIZATION OF PRINT PERIODICALS.
After a glacial pace in the first decade of this century, nearly every publisher announced some digital-content strategy over the last two years, and this year saw the standardization of “same-day digital release” among DC, Marvel and many other publishers. Distributors have started to respond, with even major bookstore chains getting involved. Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million refused to sell printed copies of DC Comics they couldn’t sell online. Meanwhile, Diamond Comics Distributors faces reports that put its founder in severe debt, leading to questions about the company’s stability. And unlike Borders and UMS, Diamond has no competitors that can do what it does for comics. New developments on this front seem likely in 2012.
2. NET NEUTRALITY.
Important news stories in comics can get depressing, can’t they? These last two aren’t. On September 23, the FCC issued directives for a “free and open” Internet that insisted upon the transparency of network practices and equal access to lawful content, two principles that continue to make the Internet what it is today: a place where individual cartoonists can be heard. While some politicians are still trying to overturn these rules, they lack support. Also unsupported is the “Protect IP Act,” which would criminalize YouTube, never mind webcartoonists. Controversy is swarming about the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” but it seems unlikely to prevail over Google in the current presidential administration.
1. RAGE COMICS.
Quickie image-manipulation has been part of the Internet for years, but the “rage comic” is a special, and wonderfully expressive, mutation of memes that only branched out from the larger culture this year (at least according to Know Your Meme, which has tracked its development obsessively). As expressive as the original emoticons, with the playfulness of the later lolcats, the “rage comic” sub-genre shows that sometimes the most remarkable work in cartooning is still done anonymously.