The Beat’s 2021 Creator Survey Part 4: the year we really missed conventions

And that’s a wrap on our annual creator survey. Reading all these answers if there’s one thing that came through: people really miss conventions. It’s been said a lot that making comics is a solitary job, and going to conventions is a key part of cartoonists’ social life. and community. In fact I’d like to quote something Brian Hibbs wrote in his answer:

“There’s nothing greater and stronger than the communities we build for ourselves.  Everything we do, everything we have, stems and flows from people around us, and being grateful for those connections is probably the most important thing we can do.”

There are also some really heartfelt statements about surviving the last year in all four parts of this survey. Hopefully this brings us together a little more. Thanks as always to everyone who took the time to participate. Reading the answers as I put this together really warmed my heart.

Read the previous three parts here.

Tomorrow: the 2020 Comics Industry Person of the Year!

brian_fies.jpgBrian Fies, Graphic novelist

2021 Projects: Abrams and I are publishing a paperback edition of “A Fire Story” in Spring 2021, with 32 new pages of content! Also working on a new, unnamed graphic novel with Abrams, currently planned for Fall 2021.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? That the transition of mainstream superhero comics from a print medium for kids to an IP-generating machine for film and TV properties appears to be almost complete. I can imagine that DC and Marvel might stop printing comics very soon, but there will be Batman and Spider-Man movies forever.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? No idea. Finding it hard to care.

Guilty pleasure for 2021: Lunch out with friends.

What did you learn in 2020? I have learned that, so far, I am luckier than most. As a misanthropic introvert, I joked that I’ve been preparing to quarantine my entire life. But that joke isn’t funny anymore and I know people who’ve died. I’m doing what I can to help, and am grateful for my health and relative financial security.

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dave_nuss.jpgDave Nuss, publisher Revival House

2021 Projects:  publishing Super Magic Forest by Ansis Purins

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The DC/Diamond split

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? not sure….hopefully a tidal wave of

Guilty pleasure for 2021: whatever Josh Simmons creates

What did you learn in 2020?  maintaining a weekly zoom/skype call with close friends to discuss ongoing creative projects

 

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neil_kleid.pngNeil Kleid, Writer/Graphic Novelist

2021 Projects: SAVOR, a culinary YA adventure graphic novel with John Broglia & Frank Reynoso, out 1/6/21 from Dark Horse Comics; and an announced horror series, a love letter to NYC with Andrea Mutti, coming late in 2021.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? At the start of the year I would have pointed to the #MeToo movement’s unmasking of several high-profile, predatory comic book creators and editors…and I also want to mention the long overdue, increased awareness of not only the lack of diversity / BIPOC creators and editors throughout comic book publishing but the amazing, frustrated, concerted effort to increase their visibility to those in positions to hire, especially due to the unfair gap in pay scales when compared to that of white creators. But in looking back both of those may have suffered under the shadow of the pandemic and how impactful it has been on the industry. Not only for those who have been sick and suffering due to the tragic deaths of family and friends…but also from the Diamond shutdown grinding several publishers to a halt, stopping work, and the lack of a convention circuit forcing an army of artists depending on cons for financial support to explore new avenues for survival…including crowdfunding and creation via Patreon, both of which saw massive spikes in engagement.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? I’d like to be optimistic and say that an impending vaccine will restart conventions, moving us slowly down a road toward “normal” again, but I’m not sure we’ll get back to the way things were (if at all) for some time. It would be nice to say that the biggest story in comics in 2021 might be an industry looking forward and hopeful as a new administration comes in stateside, and (once those on the front lines get it) vaccines are administered in Spring/Summer, allowing for renewed hangouts and high-fives. But it also may be more industry-specific, like the fallout of Random House’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster, how that affects their graphic novel business, and how creators on both sides are affected. Or it may be an industry putting the pandemic behind them to finally realize that a precarious, single distributor solution may not be ideal, particularly in a world where most of the global population is consuming media on their devices. Or, you know, it could be that some plucky Jewish dude finds success with his new graphic novel about adventuring chefs fighting demon pirates with a magic sword? Who can really say?

Guilty pleasure for 2021: Some amazing television shows got me and mine through this pandemic: Ted Lasso, Cobra Kai, The Mandalorian and half the content on Disney+ –and despite them taking me away from my writing, in some cases sitting down together to watch those shows kept our family close and sane. Lots more to come, so bring on WandaVision and the new season of the Flash!

What did you learn in 2020?  You can’t stress about the things you can’t control, and sometimes you just need to disconnect and go for a walk.

josh_frankel.jpgJoshua Frankel, Publisher, Z2

2021 Projects: A lot  – Z2 has 50+ books coming

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? I would say one of two things, though they are intertwined. First is DC scaling back on single issue comics, this move alone will probably lead to a 20% reduction in the direct market. However this leads into the second point which is the financial insolvency of Diamond comics. What no one seemed to notice is that when Diamond suspended payments during the start of Covid it was for sales that had already happened by and large and money Diamond had already received. Later Steve Geppi did an interview with ICV2 where he let slip that they had a credit line that would fund accounts payable for a month.

Now granted I don’t know the inner workings but if you are talking to your bank about fully tapping out a credit line it usually means there isn’t a lot of money in reserve.

Given the rebound in comics and PPP money  the bleeding was staunched , however here lies the big issue DC doesn’t use Diamond anymore and is pulling back on Floppies. Given that DC was around 30% of Diamonds business this is a big issue. The margins on distribution are thin and a company losing 30% of volume isn’t good. In fact I had heard before that Diamond’s margin was exactly 30%.

Now factor in the fact that Penguin Random House just bought Simon and Schuster making them the bookstore distributor for  DC, Dark Horse, IDW, Viz, BOOM and us at Z2 ( As well as many other clients) you suddenly have the main bookstore distributor of comics all under one roof.

That said I actually don’t think Diamond will go out of business. Well-equipped warehouse space has shot up in value and other parts of Diamond are quite profitable,  my guess you’re  looking at an acquisition.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? The Comic Convention Die Off- So while Covid will be over next year and conventions will probably be able to resume late Summer look at  a lot of Comic Conventions getting shuttered. It was already a very crowded field with a lot of conventions set up that had been losing money.

That said I think the ones that make it will do better due to pent up demand but I’d expect 20-30% of conventions in the US to be done for good.

Guilty pleasure for 2021: This is silly but looking forward to going to a terrible chain restaurant so I can get a large glass of soda with refills. This is very silly but it’s the simple things..

What did you learn in 2020?  Weirdly 2020 wasn’t a bad year for me personally. That said still looked forward to it ending.

amy_chu.jpgAmy Chu, writer

2021 Projects:  Sensational Wonder Woman

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? the failed attempt of conventions to pivot online

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? the return of in person cons (hopefully?)

Guilty pleasure for 2021: a boozy mani pedi

What did you learn in 2020? you can have 5 lbs of flour, sugar even cup noodles shipped to your doorstep for free through Target.com

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john_bivens.jpgJohn Bivens, creator

2021 Projects: The Devil’s Red Bride

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Conventions Canceled

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? First shows coming back

Guilty pleasure for 2021: Getting to (hopefully) talk to comic fans at a bar.

What did you learn in 2020?  Take walks & zoom with friends.

maria-ludwig.jpgMaria C Ludwig, Editor (Art by Aline Chau)

2021 Projects:  Marshmallow & Jordan, by Alina Chau (forthcoming from First Second in 2021 – I’m the main book editor & then they have a production editor for dealing with the printer, etc)

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Continued revelations of awful behavior (Warren Ellis; Cameron Stewart being named as a “groomer” & Jason Latour decrying Cameron S & getting called out as a serial harasser / “sex pest” by multiple people within a month of that… it feels like that was eons ago now, but no… still 2020).

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? The continued dominance of Young Adult OGN’s

Guilty pleasure for 2021: Collecting more tarot / oracle decks by amazing comics folks like Becky Cloonan, Yoshi Yoshitani, & Trung Le Nguyen

What did you learn in 2020?  Setting up regular video calls with friends / friend groups has been great, but the 2 people who kept me sane were friends I could see in person (always masked & safe) – getting out of the house and dressing up for each other’s birthdays was a special treat.

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Devaki Neogi, Cartoonist

2021 Projects: I’m working towards preparing two pitches of two separate stories: one horror and another one punk-fantasy. I’m excited to finish them and send them towards their destiny. I have two short stories coming out, the first one probably in the first quarter of the year and the second one in the last quarter. I can’t wait for them to be out. They are going to be a career-defining for me.

Guilty pleasure for 2021: Mini vacations (short breaks) in between projects!

What did you learn in 2020? Having work to do was a blessing, which also meant something to push you to get up and go to work.

justin_richards.jpgJustin Richards, Writer

2021 Projects:  Creator-owned mini series and kickstarter campaigns

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? DC breaking ties with Diamond

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? How will we shift the industry after COVID exposed the fragility of our infrastructure?

Guilty pleasure for 2021: Expanding my creative efforts to more than just traditional comics.

What did you learn in 2020? Surround yourself with others that will lift you up and support you in the toughest of times.

jimmy_aquino.pngJimmy Aquino, Podcast Host/Producer

2021 Projects: Comic News Insider and Comic Beat Insider weekly podcasts!

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Figuring out how to distribute comics during a pandemic.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Realigning and continued adjustments to publishing/distribution/etc.

Guilty pleasure for 2021: More South Korean variety shows because they are hilarious!

What did you learn in 2020?  I’ve found it’s real hard to not let my mind spiral down. However…Doing the weekly podcast, adding more interviews and specials, and starting another podcast with The Beat chief herself Heidi have all been things that I look forward to each week. I started cooking even more and call it my “kitchen therapy”. Zooming with friends has been great just to see other faces and stay in touch.

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Brian Hibbs, Retailer

2021 Projects:  The biggest ongoing project we have is the Graphic Novel Clubs, and curating great books by great creators for great readers each and every month.  The Kids club (for middle readers) is, I hope, growing more “comics literate” readers with deeper tastes and understanding of the form each month.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? DC suddenly withdrawing from the general eco-system of the Direct Market.  The ramifications of that act (in the middle of a pandemic no less!) are going to linger with us for many years to come.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? What is still viable and what needs to be discarded to move comics forward.  I suspect most “conventional wisdom” answers are going to end up very wrong

Guilty pleasure for 2021: It will probably sound like a plug, but honestly all of my pleasures these days come from Interviewing folks about process and craft and comics-making; I’ve got plans for at least thirty-six more great in-depth conversations in 2021, and I can’t wait!  Much of the Video Archives can be found here: https://www.comixexperience.com/archives

What did you learn in 2020? There’s nothing greater and stronger than the communities we build for ourselves.  Everything we do, everything we have, stems and flows from people around us, and being grateful for those connections is probably the most important thing we can do.

 

c168c38a47387a173309243807b8e535_original.jpgA page from Helm Greycastle

henry_barajas.jpgHenry Barajas, Writer

2021 Projects: Helm Greycastle #1

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? The biggest stories were the brave women coming forward and talking about their trauma by the men that used their power and clout to operate with impunity.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? Major comic book conventions and publishers will not bounce back.

Guilty pleasure for 2021: Simon Hanselmann’s CRISIS ZONE on Instagram. Real-time comic during the pandemic. Simon deserves an Eisner. STEENZ and Julez Rivera making Sunday Funnies comic strips cool again are right up there.

What did you learn in 2020? I’m operated in this business on my own dime. I make the kind of comics I want to read. Don’t wait for an editor to get back to you. There is no right time to launch a series. Just make comics.

heidi_macdonald.jpgHeidi MacDonald, editor in chief, The Beat

2021 Projects: Mostly the Beat, but expanding our Patreon and doing more cool things than ever. Also doing more video and live streaming, even when we can do things IRL again. And wait until you see what Therese Lacson and I are cooking  up.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2020? Chickens came home to roost. A kink in the supply line laid all the flaws in the system bare and….comics survived. Thrived even.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2021? We’re not done with shocking changes at DC. At least one major publisher will go under. And yet…comics will survive. Thrive even.

Guilty pleasure for 2021: My 2020 guilty pleasure was ice cream, and I enjoyed every savory bite. In 2021, drinking more salted cream foam drinks from Yaya Tea.

What did you learn in 2020? Even though I spend a lot of time online – a LOT of time – I realized that it’s the 3D times that mean the most to me. As I said in many zooms, I’d give anything to be having this conversation in a grungy convention food hall, sitting at one of those folding tables, on a concrete floor, eating an $8 hot dog. We’re meant to communicate in person, with all our senses, and having to do it over Zoom and Twitter and FB is part of why we’re having a lot of the problems we’re having now. That said, if there was a good thing to come out of 2020 it’s that regular zoom calls helped me connect regularly with people who are important in my life.

 

 

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