Welcome to Den of Geek’s 101 to Watch: the 2015 Comics Edition. This is our best attempt at compiling 101 talented individuals working in the comics business who not only did exceptional work in 2014, but who might be poised to take another big step in 2015. From smaller talents to bigger stars, it’s both a celebration of folks we loved this year and a prediction for the future.
Criteria for inclusion started with: we had to love your work. Then it got a little tricky. We feel that there are some giants in the field who are so comfortably hitting home runs on some of the biggest franchises in comics, and will be until further notice, that it’s tough to imagine them climbing even higher in 2015, and we also wanted to leave room for smaller creators, too.
In addition to the contributions of Den of Geek regulars like David Burszan, Marc Buxton, Mike Cecchini, Chris Cummins, Gavin Jasper, John Saavedra, and Jason Tabrys, we sought some outside help from fans, comics professionals, retailers, and other comics journalists to nominate folks for inclusion and/or submit ballots to assist in the ranking process. A few preferred to remain anonymous. But we owe considerable thanks to: Jack Kirby Museum founder (and occasional Den of Geek contributor) Randolph Hoppe; comics artist and scholar James Romberger; former DC and Dynamite editor Sarah Litt; Cheese Hasselberger (cartoonist and founder of the House of Twelve collective), Chris Barchuk (owner of Funny Business, a wonderful comic shop based in Nyack, NY), comic artist and founder of the Asbury Park Comic-Con and East Coast Comic-Con Cliff Galbraith; and Dan Greenfield (editor of one of our favorite comics sites, 13th Dimension).
We ended up with well over 200 candidates, that we then had to try and narrow down to the more “reasonable” number of 101. And that’s where the dreaded spreadsheets came in. Our core contributors, as well as several of our outside advisors, ranked their favorite choices in roughly the order they’d like to see them appear. When the results were all tallied up and analyzed, this is what we ended up with.
If you’re not too comfortable with the idea of ranking individuals like they’re Pokemon or something, we understand. It wasn’t our favorite part of the job, either, and we’d like to not have to hear the word “spreadsheet” for at least a week. Don’t get too hung up on the actual rankings, though. This is just the amalgamation of the preferences of a fairly small group of people, and it’s far from a perfect system. It’s not really a “power ranking” (although there are plenty of big names on the list), but we also know that an alphabetical directory of artists, writers, and colorists we like would be boring. We just wanted an excuse to go on about the comics that brought us joy in 2014, spotlight some creators we might not ordinarily have a chance to talk about, and give you an idea of who generated the most buzz when we put out heads together. If nothing else, click the links below each entry to enjoy their work!
We did break this up over a few pages, so please forgive us…but 101 images is a lot of page loading time! Now, on with the show…
101. Matt Miner
Blending politics with genre comics, particularly superhero comics, is always a tricky business. Fortunately for all of us, there’s Matt Miner. It started with Liberator, on the surface a superhero book, but one where the vigilantes are dealing with very real animal rights issues. This was promptly followed by Critical Hit, exploring many of the same themes. His punk rock zombie odyssey (yes, you read that right), Toe Tag Riot (with the also excellent Sean Von Gorman) contains plenty of gleeful “screw you” moments to the more intolerant, ridiculous elements of American society, too.
100. Michael Walsh
Secret Avengers is a faintly ridiculous comic, and that’s meant as a compliment. With Ales Kot providing the biggest of big ideas, and a cast of characters that includes Agent Phil Coulson in his most prominent (for now) starring comic book role, alongside Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, and, ummmm….MODOK, it’s more than a little eclectic. It’s also action-packed, very funny, and surprisingly touching. Michael Walsh manages to switch gears between all three, often in the space of a single panel. Walsh’s We Can Never Go Home is coming in 2015 from Black Mask Studios.
99. Evan “Doc” Shaner
There are few artists out there who communicate the pure joy and physicality of superheroics like Doc Shaner. His Flash Gordon at Dynamite (with Jeff Parker) was an absolute gem, his Adventures of Superman story (with Ron Marz) was possibly the highlight of an already terrific series, and his upcoming Shazam mini-series for looks like exactly what fans of that character need.
98. Claire Folkman
Over the past decade, Philadelphia has become a hub for comics talent. One of the most interesting creators living in the City of Brotherly Love is Claire Folkman, co-editor of the all-girls comic anthology Dirty Diamonds. Each thematically linked issue is further proof of how girl power is thriving within the comics industry.
97. Marguerite Van Cook
Marguerite Van Cook’s writing and coloring on The Late Child and Other Animals, her Fantagraphics graphic novel with James Romberger, are beyond gorgeous and should place her in the ranks of high-end British-born comics talents.
95/96. Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb
The Midas Flesh was a wonderful comic (from BOOM!) and Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb provided the visuals for Ryan North’s story. The wonders of their work on the Adventure Time comic are many and well-documented, but putting this team on a different kind of story, especially one as sideways as The Midas Flesh was inspired. Greek mythology, dinosaurs, flying saucers, dinosaurs piloting flying saucers…this book had it all. Buy everything they put out in 2015, please.
94. Tula Lotay
We’ll confess to not being aware of Tula Lotay before 2014, but that changed in a hurry thanks to the spectacularly dreamlike art on display in Supreme: Blue Rose from Image Comics (written by Warren Ellis). Ms. Lotay will continue with Bodies for Vertigo into 2015.
93. Jeremy Whitley
Whitley has several series coming out this year. There’s a new volume of the Eisner-nominated Princeless (this volume involves a pirate princess) and and Illegal, a new series he’s launching with artist Heather Nunnelly. Princeless is an all-ages adventure comic about a princess (of color) that decides to rescue herself instead of waiting for a prince and then travels around the world helping other princesses save themselves (also, she has a pet dragon). Illegal is a sci-fi series about undocumented members of society surviving in a world obsessed with documentation; think Black Mirror, but with a Mexican-American lead and skyscraper parkour.
91/92. Kel Symons and Mathew Reynolds
If you like cape-free high adventure that recalls classic cinema, then The Mercenary Sea is for you. Lushly illustrated by Mathew Reynolds, and with a sense of pace and urgency that recalls the best of the Indiana Jones films (or the movie serials that inspired it), The Mercenary Sea practically plays adventurous music as you turn the pages. Pat Brosseau’s lettering deserves a shout, as well. Add Symons and Reynolds to your comic reading diet as soon as humanly possible.
89/90. Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson
One of the most talked about indie hits of the2014 has been Lumberjanes. Co-written by Ellis and Stevenson, Lumberjanes is about a group of girls at a scout summer camp and is the only comic on stands where someone can exclaim, “Holy bell hooks!” at a pack of evil Velociraptors popping in and then a few pages later another teenage girl is riding a dinosaur she tamed and everything makes sense. Lumberjanes was originally planned as an eight issue mini-series, but by the second issue it was picked up as an ongoing series. Stevenson has several other comics coming out this year; she’s continuing doing backup features in Sleepy Hollow, is working with Marguerite Sauvage on the upcoming Thor annual, and HarperCollins is printing Nimora, her fantasy/sci-fi/comedy webcomic about a shapeshifter and her supervillain boss.
88. Joshua Williamson
Joshua Williamson has been taking up a big piece of the pie at Image and Dark horse these days, writing such series as Birthright, Ghosted, Nailbiter, Captain Midnight, and Predator. Man, he’s giving Charles Soule a run for his money. To give you an idea of what the man can do, he’s currently writing the BOOM! Studios RoboCop comic and he’s found himself in the fraternity of the very few writers over the past several decades who has been able to pull off a follow-up to the original movie that doesn’t feel lame and off-model. Bully to you, man.
87. Ming Doyle
Over the past few years, Doyle has worked in sci-fi (The Lonliest Astronauts), superheroes (Quantum & Woody, Fantastic Four), and cartoon comics (Adventure Time), but now, she’s doing something new; The Kitchen, a crime drama set in the ‘70s. Although the setting may be different, her signature style is still there. Doyle can build characters and worlds during simple conversations and her realistic designs fit the muted world of New York City in the ‘70s. Like Mara, Doyle’s work (and Jordie Bellaire’s colors) is the star and we look forward to seeing more in 2015.
86. Josh Simmons
On the heels of the genuinely disturbing horror on display in his 2012 collection The Furry Trap and his 2014 Oily minicomic “Daddy,” drawn by James Romberger, Fantagraphics will release the cartoonist’s fearsome new solo graphic novel Black River in 2015 .
85. Joe Hunter
Last year we mentioned Hunter’s Kamen Skater sketch as a reason you need to follow him; that sketch led to him collaborating with Chris Sims to launch Radical Guardian Skater X, a loving tribute comic to Kamen Rider Fourze and Power Rangers. Hunter’s detail and love of tokusatsu elevate the comic in to one of the best homages of the genre. The demons’ design and movement is based on rubber suits actors would wear and the suits are made up of material related to the character (the first issue features a student turning in to a monster because of test anxiety, so his costume is made up of Scantron paper, a pencil bandolier, and a skull). Along with Skater X, Hunter drew the best album cover for a podcast in 2014 and has several upcoming projects including Paradoxicals with Andrew Ihla and a heist comic with Ken Lowery for Ziah Grace’s Steal the Show anthology.
83/84. Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
Bechko and Hardman are like modern day Alex Raymonds, two writers who understand classic sci-fi. In 2014, the co-writers penned Deep Gravity for Dark Horse as well as one of the last Dark Horse Star Wars tales in the pages of Star Wars Legacy. Bechko and Hardman know their way around a beloved licensed property as their past success on Planet of the Apes is a testament to, so look for big things from the duo in 2015. Marvel would be wise to look to these two amazing writers to guide some Star Wars books as we move closer to The Force Awakens. Hardman also knows his way around a good dog crime story, if you haven’t yet read Kinski…
82. Rick Spears
When you’re given a big Marvel event written by Rick Remender and the best part of it is a tie-in miniseries about Carnage of all people, you know you’re dealing with a miracle worker. Rick Spears wrote Axis: Carnage and dear Lord was it a hoot. It still doesn’t hold a candle to the visceral weirdness that is Spears’ Oni Press series The Auteur about a movie producer who’s gone over the edge. There isn’t much word on what Spears’ future holds, but publishers would be insane not to give this guy more opportunities.
81. Scott Koblish
Scott Koblish has proven himself to be the new chameleon of comic book art thanks to the Deadpool flashback issues. Merged with his own expressive style, he’s been able to pull off making his issues resemble the decades they pretend to have been released in. His Deadpool issues sadly only tend to come once every several months, not counting his miniseries Deadpool’s Art of War. Whether on his own merits or as the comic artist version of Taskmaster, it looks like Koblish is only getting started.
80. Kevin Shinick
Kevin Shinick knows his way around villains. The writer, actor, producer, director, voice artist, turned comic pro’s Axis: Hobgoblin was one of the few highlights of the ponderous Axis crossover. In it, Shinick crafted a new Hobgoblin for a new age without ever turning his back on what came before. I truly hope Shinick gets to explore the Spiderverse some more in 2015 because when he does, magic happens.
79. Christopher Sebela
Portland based maven Chris Sebela is one of the hardest working scribes in comics today, having contributed to a diverse assortment of titles that include Alien vs. Predator, High Crimes, and Captain Marvel. He’s currently scripting BOOM! Studios’ new Escape from New York comic, which has the difficult task of adapting the cinematic (and often monosyllabic) adventures of Snake Plissken for the printed page.
78. Ryan North
Adventure Time. Yes. Dinosaur Comics. Yes. The Midas Flesh, though, which arrived late in 2014 was a real mind-blowing piece of comic book perfection. So, what’s next for Ryan North? That would be The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for Marvel with Erica Henderson. If only he would stop choosing such interesting projects…
77. Jim Zub
Jim Zub became Mr. Fantasy in 2014 thanks to his awesome work on Skullkickers, a book that any fan of Dungeon and Dragons will eat with a spoon. Zub also saw his creation Wayward arrive on the shelves in 2014 as well as doing some work for the Dungeons and Dragons Universe proper with Baldur’s Gate for IDW. In 2015, Zub with co-writer Gail Simone will present the finale the Conan/Red Sonja crossover. Skullkickers and Wayward have garnered nothing but the highest critical praise as Zub is keeping the fantasy genre alive and well, and most importantly, accessible and fun in mainstream comics. If it has swords, wizards, and dragons, Zub is the man and we look forward to seeing him grow as a creator in 2015.
76. Jess Fink
There’s a lot of immense talent on this list, but only one creator who has crafted a work described as “An erotic comic set in the Victorian/Edwardian age about a woman and the robot who loves her.” Thus we have Jess Fink’s Chester 5000 XYV, a mind-bogglingly original and deeply affecting romance that deserves to be on your bookshelf immediately.
75. Frank J. Barbiere
Five Ghosts first brought Frank J. Barbiere to our attention. Thankfully, that piece of supernatural pulp madness became an ongoing series from Image. Since then, Mr. Barbiere has been everywhere, with White Suits (for Dark Horse), Doctor Solar (for Dynamite), Black Market and RoboCop: Memento Mori (for BOOM!), and some work at the Big Two, including a wonderful Doctor Strange story in New Avengers Annual #1. A prolific writer, but also a versatile one, and a name we’re always happy to see.
74. Caleb Goellner
Formerly the Senior Editor at Comics Alliance (thanks to them for the above photo), Caleb Goellner left the site in May to focus on his own work, namely the comics Task Force Rad Squad (co-created with Buster Moody) and Mermaid: Evolution. Through these inventive and fanciful works, Goellner is illustrating how online journalism’s loss is the gain of comics fans everywhere.
73. Paul Pope
Never the most prolific creator, Paul Pope sure does makes ‘em count. After knocking us dead with Battling Boy in 2013, turned right around to deliver another winner for First Second in 2014 with a prequel, The Rise of Aurora West. Battling Boy and The Rise of Aurora West are the kinds of books you can hand to non-comics readers who like the mythology and action associated with comics, but who might be wary of superhero continuity.
72. Tom King
Who could ever imagine that a comic about a former super hero sidekick becoming a secret agent could be so darn good? Grayson has become one of DC’s best books, a genre-bending superhero/espionage comic that reads like if Jim Steranko and Dick Sprang had a baby…a really, really awesome baby. This success is thanks in large part to Grayson scripter and co-plotter Tom King, a writer relatively new to mainstream comics. DC would do well to spread King’s talents to the rest of its universe in 2015 because Grayson is a pure delight, an unexpectedly original title published during an age where DC Comics have become rather predictable.
71. Ryan Browne
In a parallel universe where smaller comics imprints are key, the biggest film of the year is based on God Hates Astronauts. Ryan Browne’s deliberately insane space saga presents visceral thrills to readers thirsty for comic thrills off the beaten path.
70. Adrian Alphona
We loved Adrian Alphona when he did Runaways for Marvel years ago, and we love him on Ms. Marvel with G. Willow Wilson. Striking a perfect balance between sensitive, funny, and heroic, just as he did on Runaways, he is the perfect artist for the breakout character of 2014.
69. Amy Reeder
Real talk: We’ve been fans of Amy Reeder since her work on Fool’s Gold years ago. So we were, um, truly outrageously excited when we heard that she’ll be scripting IDW’s upcoming Jem and the Holograms comic. It’s showtime again, Synergy, and we love it.
68. Joanna Estep
Joanna Estep made news earlier this year as the artist for 100th Anniversary Special: Fantastic Four; the issue featured the first all-women creative team on a Fantastic Four comic. Taking place in 2061, Estep’s future version of the Fantastic Four has a light touch to it. The linework is crisp and thin and her coloring is full of light. Literally. The comic frequently features white inking. Along with her work in Smut Peddler, we’ve become fascinated with her linework and hope to see more of it in 2015.
67. Greg Tocchini
Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s Low is the underwater space opera you never thought was possible. Sci-fi like this is often only as good as the visuals in the world that surrounds it. Fortunately, Greg Tocchini is very, very good.
66. Katie Cook
Bronymania remains alive and well, thanks largely to the efforts of IDW’s My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Writer Katie Cook ensures that the book is smarter and funnier than it has any right to be, making it consistently one of our favorite reads–and we are not ashamed to admit it!
65. Tonci Zonjic
The Croation artist’s refined adventure storytelling and electrifying color made his two Image Jake Ellis series with writer Nathan Edmondson memorable; his well-rendered Lobster Johnson arcs for Dark Horse provide further proof of his skill.
64. Ed Luce
Wuvable Oaf creator Ed Luce made this list last year, and he returns again thanks to an upcoming Fantagraphics hardcover that compiles all of the character’s indie comics that should propel both the character and his creator into the mainstream spotlight. (For those unfamiliar with the Oaf, think Bluto from Popeye but gay and really into kittens).
63. Christian Ward
No not Agent Ward’s dead senator brother from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, we’re talking the brilliant artist of Image’s ODY-C. Along with writer, Matt Fraction, Ward produced the most standout single issue of the year, ODY-C #1, a surreal journey into sci-fi, gender expectation, and classic Greek myth. Ward’s lush art brought the complex world of ODY-C to life. Look for ODY-C to win all the Eisners in 2015 as Ward takes his place in the contemporary pantheon of artistic greats.
62. Alex de Campi
Comics’ leading lady of horror and mayhem. Ms. de Campi’s anthology title for Dark Horse, Grindhouse, is a throwback to the EC template of old as De Campi proves herself a master of atrocity and viscera month after month. One hopes that there will be more de Campi styled chaos in 2015 because this writer knows how to balance on the line of good taste and when to plunge over it with aplomb.
61. Brenden Fletcher
Along with the rest of the Batgirl team, Brenden is helping to revitalize the DC Batman line. He’s a co-writer on Batgirl with Cameron Stewart, and is also writing Gotham Academy with Becky Cloonan. That’s a heck of a resume. The buzz on Batgirl and Gotham Academy is red hot — two books injected into the DC lineup that are like nothing you’ve read in the New 52. If you see his name on a book, we suggest you purchase it.
60. Carey Pietsch
Properly conveying the fractured whimsy of Adventure Time on the printed page is a daunting task to say the least. However, if her joyful art is anything to go by, it’s one that illustrator Carey Pietsch is clearly up for. We eagerly await her work on BOOM! Studios’ upcoming Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift.
59. Jason Fabok
Justice League is DC’s flagship title. It’s the book they used to re-launch the entire line several years ago, and it’s the concept that they’re banking on bringing in Avengers money at the box-office in a couple of years. In short, as the Justice League title goes, so goes the rest of the DC Universe. Jason Fabok is the latest artist to get the nod, and may as well have been crowned the new standard bearer of the current DC house style. He delivers clean, slick, big-screen ready superheroics on the page. We believe DC’s flagship title is in good hands.
58. Seth Kushner
Seth Kushner is the miracle man of indie-comics, free and clear of cancer and hospital beds after an 8 month journey to the very edge of things. Now the gifted photographer and comic book writer is home with family and friends, enjoying pizza and Star Wars with his wife Terra and their young son. Kushner is also getting back to work with Costumed Characters photo comix from Hang Dai Studios that Kushner and Dean Haspiel have teamed up for, a September release for Schmuck, and more work on Roman Nose with George Folz. What’s more, Kushner posted a portrait of Santa Claus with the following message on his Facebook page earlier this week:
“The first photo I’ve taken with a “real” camera and equipment in over 9 months. Getting back on that horse.”
Keep riding, sir.
57. Kyle Starks
Kyle Starks is a happening dude and rocking cartoonist who draws some crazy stuff, like a short story about Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair trying to survive the apocalypse. While he tends to throw some cool stuff up on his Tumblr regularly, the main thing to pay attention to is Sexcastle. Sexcastle was a Kickstarter-based project Starks created in 2014, but Image has taken interest and will be giving it a bigger release in 2015. It’s the ultimate love letter to ’80s action movies and you need to see what this guy is capable of.
56. Cullen Bunn
On Magneto, Cullen Bunn took a book that could have been lost in the glut of mutant titles and created a fantastic and chilling meditation on the nature of villainy and ego. Bunn did this while maintaining an impressive amount of original ideas through his brilliant creator owned work such as The Sixth Gun and The Damned. Bunn is a constant presence in the DC Universe as well with his work on Sinestro and his reimagining of Lobo. The writer even launched his own Vertigo series, Wolf Moon in 2014, proving that the prolific writer is comfortable in any genre.
55. Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor is a guy who makes the best of what he’s given, although he needs to spend 2015 shaking off being typecast. Taylor was tasked with writing the prequel tie-in to the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game and turned what could have been a forgettable digital project into one of the biggest must-read comics in DC’s library in the last several years. Between writing about a jerk Superman in Injustice and a jerk Superman in Earth 2, Taylor’s been brought in to write Superior Iron Man where famous jerk Tony Stark is an even bigger jerk than before!
54. Jason Latour
Southern Bastards artist and co-creator Jason Latour created the character find of 2014, Spider-Gwen. In Spider-Gwen’s introduction, Latour created a character that worked on so many levels, shocking the industry into falling in love with a character that could have/should have been gimmicky and redundant. In Edge of the Spider-Verse #2, Latour brought Spider-Gwen to the page fully realized and ready to conquer the hearts of Marvel fans. It might have been the best single issue of the year. In 2015, Latour will be able to guide his creation through her own title and that is very exciting. Plus, he will continue his brilliant art on Image’s Southern Bastards with Jason Aaron. Latour already gifted fans with one awesome character in 2014, what will he have in store for the new year?
53. Derek Charm
Derek Charm’s comics tend to fall in to one of two categories. On one hand, books like Powerpuff Girls are all-age accessible romps that combine the feel of Batman: The Brave and the Bold with kids cartoon properties of the ‘90s and early ‘00s. On the other, Trip Fantastic is a garish nightmare about a stuntman high on cocaine that uses a child as a human shield and is highly influenced by crappy ‘90s syndicated shows like Baywatch Nights and Thunder in Paradise (Hulk Hogan solves crimes using a super-boat). Although now that we think about it, both of them are full of action, excitement and neon pink, so maybe his work isn’t so different after all.
52. Brooke Allen
Lumberjanes has been one of the biggest successes of 2014 and that’s due in part to artist Brooke A. Allen. Her character work shines in every panel; even when someone is in the background, their personality and character is in action. There’s a page where there are two panels with the five leads are trying to escape a death trap room; Allen draws ten different ways of running based on their personalities and reactions to different scary events. The lumberjanes have become characters that will be loved and talked about for years, and we look forward to seeing more of them and Allen in 2015 (and beyond).
51. Nick Dragotta
It’s hard to select only one of the people responsible for Image’s incredible comic East of West. Writer Jonathan Hickman and the remarkably consistent art team of Dragotta and colorist Frank Martin have set up a very disturbing vision of an alternative America that embodies the worst of what our country’s fanatics would like to bring about.
50. Christy Blanch
Christy Blanch is comics’ true renaissance woman. She’s a comic shop owner (that would be Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Indiana with Mark Waid) and comic writer (Thrillbent’s The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood). But most importantly, she’s an educator, teaching weighty subjects using comic books as texts, and making these courses available online. We can use more like her.
49. Joshua Dysart
Dysart has been Mr. Valiant since the company relaunched a few years back. His work on Harbinger has been an intense and compelling read and the writer recently launched Imperium, a new book spotlighting the villainous Toyo Harada. But we are here to commend Dysart for his humanitarian heart as the writer has recently traveled to Iraq to help Kurdish refugees as they flee from ISIS. Be safe Mr. Dysart, you are an inspiration.
48. Alison Sampson
Alison Sampson is the winner of the 2014 British Comic Award for emerging talent, Sampson’s art for Image shows an inventive graphic sensibility, from Genesis, her graphic novella with Nathan Edmondson to her designs for a poem written by Ales Kot in Thought Bubble, the tabloid of the Leeds Comics Festival.
47. Matteo Scalera
Image’s Black Science is one of the most compelling reads on the stands today. Every month, with writer Rick Remender, Scalera visual presents a world of endless possibilities. Scalera’s layouts are always a treat as he literally has to imagine anything that Remender can dream up in Black Science, a comic that spans multiple dimensions and realities. Scalera never fails to surprise and as his talent grows, Black Science could very well become one of the coolest sci-fi books in recent memory. Scalera is an artist of boundless imagination, one the industry is lucky to have.
46. Lisa Hanawalt
The woman behind I Want You and My Dirty Dumb Eyes should be getting more exposure than ever. On top of her brilliant comics work, she also gave Netflix animated original series Bojack Horseman its distinctive look. If you’ve enjoyed that show, you should check out her comics (and if you haven’t checked out Bojack Horseman, you probably should!)
45. Box Brown
Box Brown’s graphic biography Andre the Giant: Life and Legend for First Second is his most ambitious and successful work yet; its spare, precise form and style capture the substance of a tragic icon of performative wrestling. Den of Geek reviewed it here.
44. Kyle Higgins
Kyle Higgins is known to denizens of Gotham City as a Nightwing writer extraordinaire, but it’s COWL from Image Comics that really showed us what he’s made of. It’s an inventive book (with terrific art by Rob Reis) about a superhero labor union in the ‘60s, and it doesn’t lean on the usual post-Watchmen tropes. To go from the strict confines of the Batman universe into a creator-owned book like this was a big step, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
43. Dash Shaw
Dash Shaw’s two issues of Cosplayers and the graphic novel Doctors, all from Fantagraphics, display his deadpan humor and continue his fiercely experimental assault on line, color and narrative in comics.
42. Nick Spencer
Superior Foes of Spider-Man was one of the hippest and funniest books of 2014. Nick Spencer reimagined some of Spidey’s lesser known villains and took what were essentially blank slates and spun storytelling gold. Sadly, Superior Foes is over, but Spencer will soon turn his attention to Marvel’s latest film star, Ant-Man, in what is sure to be one of Marvel’s biggest books of the new year. Spencer has also worked his story magic on such creator owned books like the horrific Bedlam and the cult smash Morning Glories. If any future projects from Spencer are half as good as Superior Foes, we are looking at comics’ next superstar.
41. Erica Henderson
Erica Henderson spent the past year drawing several small press comics (Subatomic Party Girls and a short for Smut Peddler) and started working for major print publishers like IDW (Super Secret Crisis War), Valiant (Quantum and Woody), and Marvel (Original Sins). 2015’s going to feature a lot more Marvel output from Erica as Unbeatable Squirrel Girl debuts in January. Squirrel Girl is the perfect fit for Henderson; it’s full of upbeat enthusiasm, confident women, comedic action that works for all ages, the lead singing her own theme song, unique character designs/costumes that match personalities (Kraven’s lion vest is the cosplay I’m most looking forward to seeing at cons this year), hunky dudes, and space gorillas on the moon. 2014 was the year of Ms. Marvel; 2015 will be the year of the Squirrel.
40. Francesco Francavilla
Is it laying it on a little too thick to call Francesco Francavilla a once in a lifetime horror artist because of his work on Afterlife With Archie? Our only problem with Mr. Francavilla’s work is simply that there isn’t enough of it every month. Follow him on Twitter or Tumblr to see the ideas he drops from time to time, whether it’s sketches, imaginary movie posters, or whatever else comes into his mind…he’s at home in any genre. His fill-ins on Guardians of the Galaxy, which couldn’t be any further thematically from Afterlife With Archie, proved that!
38/39. Chris Sims and Chad Bowers
Together, Chris Sims and Chad Bowers wrote Down Set Fight!, a comic about not-SuperPro German suplexing sports mascots. Obviously, it was one of our most praised OGNs of 2014. Sims is currently working with Joe Hunter on the self-published Radical Guardian Skater X, a loving homage to Kamen Rider. There currently aren’t any other upcoming comics being promoted, but there’s always hope for more Subatomic Party Girls, Dracula the Unconquered, and MonkeyBrain holiday specials. Plus, now that IDW is publishing everything Hasbro, we’re one step closer to Sims writing some truly outrageous Jem comics.
37. Zack Soto
It’s not just that Zack Soto’s “The Secret Voice” is a wonderful comic, filled with kung fu, world-building, art comics stylings and sundry mayhem. It’s that Zack also runs Study Group Comics, where he publishes an array of great looking comics from the likes of Farel Dalrymple, Nick Bertozzi, Dash Shaw, and more. Zack’s working hard using Kickstarter (Study Group) and Patreon (The Secret Voice) to support his works.
36. Adam McGovern
Image’s Nightworld, Adam McGovern’s poetic and morbidly fascinating Jack Kirby pastiche with artist Paolo Leandri, honors the King’s sensibilities in text and art more eloquently than any other homage to date has.
35. Al Ewing
With Mighty Avengers, Loki: Agent of Asgard, and some Doctor Who comics under his belt in 2014, writer Al Ewing proved he could do it all. The end of 2014 saw Ewing tackle the relauched Captain America and the Mighty Avengers and the scribe handled the transition to his new team led by the new Captain America, Sam Wilson, with aplomb. Ewing’s Avengers book is currently the title that most feels like the classic Avengers and his Loki and Doctor Who tales captured the magic and voices of those characters perfectly. Look for Marvel to give Ewing some higher profile projects in 2015 as so far, everything he has touched has been an absolute blast.
34. Jeff Parker
God, Jeff Parker. Where do you even begin? We could talk about a lot of things. His rocking graphic novel Meteor Men. Being the writer synonymous with Flash (ah-AH!) Gordon. The way he has been able to write a respectable Aquaman run without having to get all try-hard about it (“No, guys! Aquaman is really cool! Look at how cool he is! He’s not lame at all! Believe me, please!”). The dude will be writing Shazam in a time when DC really needs to make Shazam a household name to plant seeds for the upcoming movie. But the biggest thing about Jeff Parker coming up? Not only is he still going to be writing Batman ’66, but he’s going to be writing a storyline about Lord Death Man. The Batman ’66 version of Lord Death Man. Holy crap.
33. Annie Wu
Annie Wu knocked everybody over with her Batgirl stories for Batman Beyond Unlimited, and guest spots on the ridiculously (and deservedly) acclaimed Hawkeye ongoing, dropping in to provide the visuals for Kate Bishop’s adventures. There’s still one more issue of Hawkeye coming with Annie Wu art before that series concludes. We’re greedy, though, and want more…on any book.
32. Adrian Tomine
The short story “Go Owls” in 2013’s Optic Nerve #13 from Drawn and Quarterly was Adrian Tomine’s best work ever. In 2015, patient fans with taste should eagerly anticipate the release of Optic Nerve #14.
31. Miss Lasko-Gross
Miss’ new 168 page graphic novel Henni is being released in January by Josh Frankel’s Z2 Comics, where she’s in good company with Dean Haspiel and Paul Pope. The first of three volumes, Henni tells the story of a young, cat-like female character who has too many questions in a society that demands obedience, so she heads outside on an adventure. Miss’s more autobiographical works, “A Mess Of Everything” and “Escape From “Special” were published by Fantagraphics, with “Escape..” being nominated for YALSA’s “Great Graphic Novel” in 2008.
30. Fiona Staples
What else could Fiona Staples, brilliant artist of Saga, about which fans have exhausted all superlatives, do that makes her “one to watch” in 2015? We’ll tell you what. She just got you really excited about two words you never expected to see next to each other: Archie reboot. It’s happening (with Mark Waid, no less), and with Ms. Staples on art, it can’t miss. Meanwhile, may Saga continue on forever…
29. Fred Van Lente
Fred Van Lente spent 2014 away from the Big Two to make waves elsewhere, most notably with the critically-beloved series Archer and Armstrong. He’s co-written a play about Jack Kirby with his wife Crystal, did a book on writing comics with buddy Greg Pak, had a hand in some fantastic GI Joe stuff, and so on. Keeping the momentum going, Van Lente will be releasing a graphic novel Made Man with Dennis Calero early in the year. Starting in January, Van Lente will be releasing the first issue of Valiant’s new series Ivar, Timewalker, which will probably be confusing as hell because time travel.
28. Nathan Edmondson
Between Black Widow, Punisher, and Deathlok, Nathan Edmondson has carved out his own little dangerous section of the Marvel Universe. Edmondson is one of the great action writers in comics today and he seems to be the writer who finally found a way to deliver compelling Natasha Romanov stories on a monthly basis. And then there was his haunting Genesis for Image to consider. In the new year, we greatly look forward to seeing what mayhem Edmondson can come up with as his creative stock rises at the House of Ideas.
27. Duane Swierczynski
Fresh off of the release of his gripping novel Canary, longtime noir/comics writer Duane Swierczynski next sets his intense sights on The Black Hood. The character has been kicking around since MLJ introduced him in 1940, but the new version will be anything but dated under Swierczynski’s brilliant guidance. Illustrated by Michael Gaydos, the Philadelphia-set dark cop story will anchor Dark Circle’s new superhero line.
26. Kate Beaton
The greatest thing to come out of Canada since Rick Moranis, Kate Beaton truly deserves to belavished with overused adjectives like hilarious and innovative. Her ongoing Hark! A Vagrant! continues to inspire laughs, and if you don’t follow her Twitter you are missing out on the wittiest force on social media today.
24/25. Ben Acker/Ben Blacker
The ridiculously-named writing team of Ben Acker and Ben Blacker got a little mainstream attention in 2014 with the final arc of Thunderbolts, but 2015 is about going back to what got them into the game in the first place. For years, the two have won over many with their podcast The Thrilling Adventure Hour. Now Image will be giving them the chance to put their stories in comic book format with The Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents… Beyond Belief and The Thrilling Adventure Hour Presents… Sparks Nevada: Marshall on Mars. In terms of playing in other people’s sandboxes, the two will also be taking on Flash Gordon with the miniseries King: Flash Gordon.
23. Brian Posehn
Famed comedian Brian Posehn may not be as prolific as his writing partner Gerry Duggan, but he’ll be remaining on the Deadpool ongoing and that’s good enough for us. Have you been reading Deadpool? One could make the argument that it’s the best take on the character in years, possibly ever. At the very least, the Posehn/Duggan run will find itself in the top 3 of best Wade Wilson writers yet. Keep that love going.
22. Ales Kot
Between his creator owned work on books like his Jim Steranko inspired Zero for Image and his work for Marvel on such projects as Secret Avengers, the late, lamented Iron Patriot, and Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier, Mr. Kot has proven that espionage and military action is his realm and like a certain British super spy, nobody does it better. If you haven’t done so, please check out Kot’s Secret Avengers as he is combining classic Marvel super hero story telling with a sense of the absurd to deliver an Avengers tale like no other. Seriously, there’s a sentient bomb who loves dessert and simply the best MODOK tale you will ever read.
21. Emma Rios
Certainly by now you’ve experienced Pretty Deadly, by Emma Rios and Kelly Sue DeConnick, right? If you haven’t, you’re missing out on one of the most beautifully drawn comics on the market. It’s hard to think of another artist who blends the beautiful and the horrific as expertly as Emma Rios, and may 2015 bring her even more acclaim. For those with more traditional superhero tastes, seek out her 2012 Doctor Strange graphic novel with Greg Pak.
20. Tom Scioli
Scioli is the artist and co-writer of what might be the most transgressive comic you can find in a comic shop: Transformers vs G.I. Joe. Scioli and co-writer John Barber took multiple corporate licensed toy properties with a clichéd and over-done premise, ignored all branding/conventional wisdom/rationality, and turned it in to an auteur comic. If you had a temperature and spent a sick day watching Saturday morning cartoons and reading Fourth World comics and then hallucinated an unholy mash-up of them, it still wouldn’t come close to Scioli’s Jack Kirby fever dream art and layouts. The first collection came out in the beginning of January and the next issue, which he drew as part of a 24 Hour Comic Day, will be delivered to you soon by your Space Coyote spirit guide.
19. Jordie Bellaire
Jordie Bellaire’s prolific efforts for Image mark her as one of the most exciting colorists in the medium: from Nowhere Men by Stephenson and Bellegarde, to Pretty Deadly by Deconnick and Rios, to Ales Kot’s rotating-artist bookZero, she elevates and unifies the art of every title she touches.
18. Matt Kindt
The creator of the mind-bending and ultra-popular creator owned series, Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt is ready to take his place as an upper echelon creator in 2015. Let’s face it; he already is as Mind MGMT has garnered all sorts of praise and love, even receiving copious amounts of mainstream love from non-comic reading sci-fi fans. Kindt was all over the DC Universe in 2014 and we greatly look forward to watching him reach the next level with his creative owned works of genius and with DC’s pantheon of heroes.
17. Jason Aaron
It’s hard to imagine Jason Aaron as an up and comer as the brilliant Southern scribe already conquered the world in 2014 with his work on the gender bending new Thor title and the mega-crossover the actually delivered the goods, Original Sin. But it was his creator owned work that has us so excited, books like Southern Bastards from Image and Men of Wrath from Marvel’s Icon imprint. These books are some of the ballsiest, hard hitting works to come out of mainstream comics in a long time reminding fans of the heyday of Preacher. Combine these brilliant self owned works with Aaron’s coming already pre-sold over a million copies work on Marvel’s Star Wars, and you can see that 2015 will be even bigger for the bearded mad man who owned 2014.
16. Steve Lieber
Superior Foes of Spider-Man was such tremendous fun over the last couple of years, and that wouldn’t have been possible without Steve Lieber’s wonderful blend of superhero comic storytelling and genuine comic timing. Next up is Quantum & Woody Must Die for Valiant (with James Asmus), something that should play perfectly to his strengths. He does more than superheroes, though, the horror book he illustrated, Alabaster, got another collected edition in 2014, and continues to generate buzz.
15. Sean Murphy
The multitalented Sean Murphy is the increasingly rare example of an artist/writer who leapfrogs from one innovative project to another. He remains best known for his work on the biting graphic novel Punk Rock Jesus, but in 2014 he branched out to help develop the world of Interstellar by illustrating the Christopher Nolan-penned prequel comic Absolute Zero.
14. Cameron Stewart
Cameron Stewart is no secret, but he is consistently one of the very best pure comic book creators out there. The end of 2014 saw the release of his collaboration with Grant Morrison, Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures, the most note-perfect Shazam/Captain Marvel story of at least the last twenty years. But what’s even more remarkable is how Stewart (along with Babs Tarr and Brenden Fletcher) injected new life into Batgirl, thereby giving everyone hope that DC might be willing to take more chances like this with their line in the near future. It was more than just a great costume design, it was a genuine breath of fresh air.
12/13. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
It’s not too often that a major superhero publisher lets a creative team end a book how and when they want, but that’s how it went down with Young Avengers, which happened to showcase Marvel’s first LGBT superhero team. And that was just how 2014 started for the duo. We figured maybe a Phonogram revival was next. We were wrong, and that’s fine, because The Wicked + the Divine for Image is quite possibly their best work. Both are brilliant talents on their own (and Gillen will soon be writing a Darth Vader book for Marvel), but there’s a very special music they make together.
11. Joshua Hale Fialkov
Stepping away from the big two in 2014, Joshua Hale Fialkov created some of the best works of his career. The former writer of such titles as I, Vampire for DC and Ultimate FF for Marvel presented his new creator owned works which discerning fans lapped up in 2014. Books like The Bunker and The Life After really took the horror genre by storm and if this is the level in which Fialkov has reached, we can’t wait to see what scares he conjures up for 2015. Horror comics are in the midst of quite a resurgence at the moment with books like Afterlife With Archie and Wytches, so Josh Fialkov should thrive.
10. Kelly Sue DeConnick
We considered leaving Kelly Sue DeConnick off the ballot this year, since she has seemingly conquered the world over the last year or so. Then Bitch Planet #1 came out and we realized, no, Ms. DeConnick is only getting started. This is in addition to her usual ongoing brilliance on Pretty Deadly and Captain Marvel. Give it just a little more time, and Ms. DeConnick will be a genuine household name once Carol Danvers gets her own movie.
9. Michel Fiffe
Michel Fiffe’s self-published superhero comic book Copra shows an unusual storytelling talent who uses a unique coloring approach; it has been collected by Bergen Street Comics. Subscriptions for the third volume of Copra (getting these single issues is tricky) are now available at this link.
8. Ed Piskor
Ed Piskor’s oversized, old-school ben-day-colored Hip Hop Family Tree volumes 1 and 2 have been breakout hits for Fantagraphics. Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 3 is nearly done and promises to continue his roll.
7. Babs Tarr
It’s been a big year for Babs Tarr. After Gail Simone’s wonderful run on Batgirl, Ms. Tarr and Cameron Stewart gave the book a new look, a new direction, and gave Barbara Gordon a wonderful new costume design. Babs’ art introduces youth, bubble gum, and a bit of manga influence to the normally stodgy DC Universe. Add some pretty big social media concerns and intense hipsters, and we’ve got a book that’s really a treat for DC readers looking for something new.
6. Dean Haspiel
Deano’s art on Dark Circle’s The Fox: Freak Magnet was a recent fave around the Den of Geek offices (as is pretty much anything he touches), so it’s something of an understatement that we are champing at the bit to see where he takes the character next when he and writer Mark Waid team up on February’s The Fox: Fox Hunt.
5. Chip Zdarsky
You know Chip Zdarsky as Matt Fraction’s people and thing drawing running mate on Sex Criminals, aka the best fucking comic book on the market (you take that how you like). But 2015 is going to be the year that Zdarsky pierces the stratosphere thanks to his sweet new gig as the man who puts words in Howard the Duck’s mouth for Marvel’s upcoming monthly series. If you follow Zdarsky on social media, read about his escapades with the Applebees Facebook page, or you’ve read his interview with us from April, you know that Mr. Z (trying to make that stick) has a sharp wit and the right kind of sense of humor to breathe life into a cartoon duck and create a Marvel book that is a fiercely unique as Fraction’s Hawkeye run.
4. Gerry Duggan
Gerry Duggan started 2014 as the less famous guy overshadowed by sharing co-writer credits on Deadpool with Brian Posehn. Then he really started making a name by taking over for Nova and Hulk (and following up on Mark Waid is no easy task) as well as starting up his own DC series Arkham Manor. The man has been piling on the quality and the momentum shows no sign of stopping.
3. Charles Soule
Charles Soule has become a running gag in the comics community as the guy who appears to be writing every single comic on the stands. They gave him the ball so many times that he was practically juggling. It proved his work ethic is beyond reproach and it’s earned him a Marvel-exclusive contract. Most importantly, he’s in charge of what’s going on with the future of Wolverine’s legacy after being the one to end his life and he’s also the driving force behind the Inhumans franchise. We’re certain he’ll be less about quantity in the new year, but don’t be surprised to hear about some major comics to be attached to his name.
2. G. Willow Wilson
This entry could be two words long: Ms. Marvel. Possibly the most daring superhero book published by the big two, the first collection of stories about the adventures of the Muslim-American superhero has connected with readers of all stripes (and has outsold some serious heavy hitters), proving once and for all that superhero comics can stray pretty far from their usual comfort zones. Ms. Wilson just signed an exclusive deal with Marvel, which just proves they know they’re on to something good. Here’s to much more from Ms. Wilson, and more books like Ms. Marvel.
1. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Not merely content to unleash a zombie apocalypse in Riverdale with his stellar continuing work on Afterlife with Archie, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa furthered Archie Comics’ streak of peerless horror titles by writing Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and being named the company’s first-ever Chief Creative Officer. Expect more of the same in 2015, along with his scripting duties on Fox’s upcoming Riverdale series. We can’t wait.
There are so many more that warranted inclusion, that we would barely even know where to begin, and even naming a few. It probably goes without saying that we missed some of your favorites.