The Year that Was/The Year that Will Be: Comic Pros Look Back on 2001, Ahead to 2002

Stanley Kubrik and Arthur C. Clarke may have made the year 2001 a cultural touchstone in the 1960s, but their vision of the future ended up being a little off. We will remember the staggering, awful events of September 11 in years going forward, and not the appearance of mysterious monoliths or manned missions to the outer planets.

For the comics industry, it was mostly an up year, one in which the gloom and doom of recent years was spared, although it was also marked by the passing of a number of professionals, most recently legendary artist Dan DeCarlo.

"What I'll most remember about 2001 is the biggest surprise," Marvel Comics editor Axel Alonso told CBR News, "That Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada turned over the reins of a book called 'X-Force' to a guy who'd never read X-Men (me), who quickly enlisted the aid of another guy who'd never read X-Men ([Peter Milligan]), whose affiliation with the project enticed the involvement of a guy who hadn't read it in 10 years ([Mike Allred]) ... and it all turned out to be a hit."

"Personally, 2001 was probably the busiest year I've had so far professionally," artist Jamal Igle told CBR News. "With the exception of this summer I was working almost constantly, and as 2002 peaks over the horizon, it looks as if I'm things are going to get busier. I'm writing again and working on a couple of different projects now which will hit during the next year. For myself, I hope the projects I put my heart and soul into bear the fruit I believe they will.

"I think the year, creatively, for the industry has been OK. There are a lot of things certain high profile companies have done over the year which I disagree with but that's their prerogative. I've certainly been very vocal about the sudden creative team changes, useless talent searches at conventions, changes in policy and the abandonment of tradition in an industry (I hate the term) which doesn't seem to value experience, real talent or loyalty.

"My only wish for the industry is that we get more attention from the rest of the world, that we stop treating ourselves like a fringe society. I want the companies with the financial backing to do mass advertising and marketing to get off their asses and get out the word that 'WE LIVE. WE THRIVE. WE CREATE!!!'"

"The Business of comic books in 2001," writer Beau Smith told CBR News. "For the last couple of years the comic book industry was as stable as a drunk fat lady on a small bar stool. This year I finally saw the top 10 comic books get sober and find a stool that fit. Sales picked up for the top 10. The weak and gimmick ridden were thinned from the herd. Signs of progression were spotted along the way. Granted, anything below the top 10 is still in need of better days. The problem isn't fixed yet. It's just got a better Band-Aid. I hope that we don't fall off the wagon and start buying rounds for the house yet. We've still got a lot of work to do. I don't drink on the job. Neither should you.

"From The Ranch in 2001. I found myself parting company with my old friend and employer Todd McFarlane after almost 10 years. It was smooth change. Much smoother than I thought it would be. I truly feel that we both got a great 50/50 split from our long business relationship. We gave as good as we got. Like a marriage sometimes does ... we started going in different directions. We were lucky and smart enough to see it changing and make the best of it. We were both growing in different ways. There wasn't any right or wrong. Just two rights. Right for me and right for Todd. We're still buddies. We still talk about the same things, comics, sports, family, whose better looking ... me or him ... that kinda' stuff. I just don't get paid as well to argue with him as I did. I now work as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Idea And Design Works -- a creative service company out of San Diego. I'm looking to do for them what I did for Todd McFarlane Productions/McFarlane Toys. Except for loaning them money to buy million dollar baseballs. I'm through with that. I write a regular column in Sketch Magazine on business and writing. I also freelance my marketing and promotional gun slinging skills out to the highest bidders.

"As a word wrangler I've gone from writing comics as a fun side thing to writing for fun and paying the bills. It's rough and crowded waters to try and swim in right now with so many other creators out of work. Not to mention the legion of new writers that are springing up looking to challenge the present day Alpha males of writing. As always, I intend to do my best, write to my strengths, get the work in on time, and make it fun. It's the only route I have ... after all ... I'm not British (Thank God.) I haven't written a bad screenplay, I haven't written a worse novel, and I've never been on a really bad reality TV show ... all the things that seem to be on an editor's 'Must Have' list right now. I have chose to be pretty. Maybe that'll help.

"In 2002 I'm looking forward to doing my best work. I finally get to show the world that I'm not just a tough guy writer. My 'Wonder Woman vs. Xena: The Princess Diary Wars" will prove that. (DC Comics/Dark Horse Comics) I'm also very proud of the 9-11 story that I did for DC Comics. That one came from the heart.

"I still plan on helping those that need it and punishing those that beg to be dope-slapped. Some things never change.

"God bless you and America."

"The year started off slowly for me," "Mr. Monster" creator Michael T. Gilbert told CBR News. "My bread-and-butter account, Egmont, was hit by the recession ­­ so there were fewer Disney comics scripting assignments than usual from that company. I used the extra time to learn Photoshop (a major triumph!) and do more of my fan work for Alter Ego magazine, which I find very satisfying. During 2001, I wrote an article on Wally Wood for Alter Ego (at 20 pages, my longest prose piece to date) and a long tribute to George Evans, which should be out next month in Comic Book Artist. This was in addition to my 'Mr. Monster's Comic Crypt' column in every issue of Alter Ego. I also had the great pleasure of putting together my third Mr. Monster book collection (Mr. Monster: His Books Of Forbidden Knowledge--Volume Zero!) for TwoMorrows.

"The trade tower incident horrified me, as it did most of you. I drew a two page strip for Jeff Mason's 911 benefit book, but for some reason Jeff rejected it and it remains unpublished.

"Professionally, things took a good turn shortly after. Egmont asked me to do a couple more long Mickey Mouse stories, so I wound up very busy at the end of the year (and equaled my pay from the previous one ­­ something I wasn't sure would happen!). I've been working up a few ideas for Marvel and DC, and I look forward to seeing if anything positive happens on that front in 2002. Overall, I feel better about the comic industry this year than I have in a while, and I'm cautiously optimistic about the coming year. My goal in 2002? To do more good stories, learn more about computer graphics and get a web-site going. For now, I'm going to wish you and the readers a Very Merry Holiday season, and my hopes for a safe, prosperous New Year!"

"It's kinda tough to get all excited about some comic book or other with all that's happened over the past few months," artist Matt Haley told CBR News. "I was pleased to see the comic industry come together to do the benefit books, but I also expected it. Should things remain as they are, I think the new year will bring a renewed interest in comics as people look to things that remind them of their childhoods, and the onus will be on us as creators to stop doing the same tired old comics and really break some new ground, with stories and art.

"I would also like to see the industry pull together and create some kind of association to promote comics in general to the country at large, rather like the 'Got Milk?' ads, but I know that's wishful thinking. I'd like to see comics advertised on the radio, it would reach a lot more people and is far cheaper than publishers think it is ...

"... here's to a better New Year!"

"For the most part, 2001 stands out as the year the mass media's perception of comics really seemed to change," Eric Stephenson, Image Comics' director of marketing, told CBR News. "The rest of the world is finally beginning to recognize the tremendous diversity offered by comics and that's incredibly positive for every single person working in this industry. 2001 is also memorable for the continued growth of the trade paperback and graphic novel market, and if we were forced to narrow Image's success over the past year down to a single thing, we'd have to say that our commitment to growing our backlist is something to be proud of. What's more, we've offered special discounts to retailers in an effort to help them grow their trade paperback business and we've worked tirelessly to ensure our the books fans and retailers want remain in print long enough to satisfy demand. Having the books on the shelf and available for purchase is often the best way to advertise them, and that's a philosophy we've been committed to, not only with our trades, but with best selling comics like 'G.I. Joe' #1 as well.

"2002 should be an interesting year. Comics have regained some ground within the Direct Market and continue to break new ground in the mass market, so it's crucial that we capitalize on that in 2002. It's not enough to just start the ball rolling -- we need to gain some serious momentum if we really want to go places. It's our aim here at Image to continue to diversify our slate of books over the next year. We're a very different company than we were 10 years ago and we haven't stopped changing."

"Without a doubt, the best thing about 2001 was the couple of issues of 'Planetary' we got," writer Mark Millar told CBR News. "My hopes and dreams for 2002 are several MORE issues of 'Planetary' and more stuff from Humanoids and Tony Millionaire. That's my little Christmas wish to Santa and the baby Jesus.

"Also, it was just bloody great seeing everyone's sales going UP for a change. After the downward spiral on just about every book since 1995, it's nice going into Christmas feeling that the industry isn't going to have any more lay-offs or cut-backs as we expand into 2002. God bless Marvel Comics and all those lovely royalties I plan to drink over Christmas and New Year."

"2001 was good for Studio Foglio," artist/writer Phil Foglio told CBR News. "We finally launched the book we've been working on for several years, Girl Genius, and it's doing very well, thank you. The comics industry is, of course, dying, however since it's staging the most protracted death scene outside of grand opera (entering into it's 20th year or so), I'm not too worried."

"The comic industry was pretty good to me in 2001," writer Robert Weinberg told CBR News. "I finished off my run on 'Cable' and went directly from that to writing my creator-owned series for Marvel, 'Nightside.' At the same time, I was also working with Brett Booth on another series, 'Extinction Event' for WildStorm which hopefully will start appearing sometime in 2002. Marvel's already picked up another mini-series run for 'Nightside' and I have several other comic book projects in the works or being considered.

"Also, I turned in the manuscript for my non-fiction book, 'The Science of Superheroes' and hopefully it will see print in the summer of 2002. It's a study of the science (or non-science) used in comic books and is being published in hardcover from John Wiley & Sons.

"The industry seems to be emerging from a long period of negative or slow growth and things were kicking into high gear as the year came to a close. With all the excitement caused by [Marvel Comics'] 'Origin' and [DC Comics'] 'The Dark Knight [Strikes Again]', I see the comic book field growing at a much faster rate than any time since the boom years of the early 1990's. The release of the Spider-Man movie should serve as another big push for comics.

"To me, 2002 looks to be bigger and brighter. I only hope I'm right!"

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