Comic Books 2016: The Year in Review

Less purchased, more spent, and some surprising ties.

The Cost

The year’s been over for a few days, but let’s see how much you would have had to spend to read the books that I reviewed last in the last twelve months.

2016 had me purchasing 505 new books this year, which is down 41 books from last year. I took two months off reviewing, so that’s probably where I dropped off. This averages out to 42 new books a month. This does not include the books I reviewed from companies that sent me digital previews, for which my wallet and my marriage are eternally grateful.

The breakdown by publisher is as follows:

DC 157, Dark Horse 91, Marvel 58, Zenescope 55, AfterShock 30, Dynamite 27, Image 25, Titan 20, Icon 6, IDW 6, Avatar Press 5, BOOM! 4, Oni Press 4, Blue Juice 3, Action Lab 2, Archai 2, Antartic Press 1, Aardvark-Vanaheim 1, Bongo 1, Dark Circle 1, Devil’s Due/1First Comics 1, 1First Comics 1, Graphic India 1, Overground Comics 1, and Scout Comics 1

I was a DC fan before their titles began to go through Rebirth and the rebooting of their books has made me curious to try other titles. I’m not loving everything they’re doing, but at least they’re giving readers a jumping on point to understand what’s going on in their massive universe. As long as they keep the majority of their books at $2.99, I’ll continue to see what they’re offering. Dark Horse Comics passed up Marvel this year because of all the events happening in the Mignolaverse. I enjoy the Hellboy books and all its offshoots, so I’ve been purchasing all of those. They also publish Usagi Yojimbo and Groo, which never have a bad issue. Marvel produced the third biggest batch of books I bought because of Star Wars. Yes, I’m that fan: if it’s Star Wars, I’ll purchase it. Zenescope dropped to fourth this year because I didn’t buy everything that was published because I couldn’t find some of the titles, and I hate to start at Issue #2. That said, I did enjoy the majority of what I purchased and, like DC, they’re rebooting their titles and I look forward to seeing what they’re going to do. AfterShock is my number five publisher this year because I’m willing to give anything they publish a try, with most of them being books I’ll follow forever. Rough Riders, Animosity, InSEXts, and Alters are terrific books.

To purchase all of these books at cover price would come to $1931.59. This is an increase of $72. 52 from what I spent last year. However, I didn’t spend that much. I, like many readers, am a “member” at my local comic book store where I receive 10% off new books, but in California the sales tax pushed it back up to almost cover price. I’ve also begun visiting a local comic book warehouse where recent books are fifty cents. Many of these books I picked up were Dark Horse and Titan titles. I’ve listed these at cover price because I can’t recall which books I’ve purchased at the discounted price. Needless to say, this location has saved me several dollars.

The breakdown for what I paid is as follows:

$1.99: 2, $2.99: 115, $3.50: 13, $3.99: 346, $4.00: 1, $4.99: 14, and $5.99: 14.

This works out to about $3.82 a book. 

I thought I was being a more frugal buyer this year, but there were several books I wanted to try, so I did. The going rate of a comic is $3.99 which is something I’m willing to pay, but I see this as a really troubling problem for teens and children. Comics are being priced out of future readers’ means. If a kid can’t afford to follow a book now, why would they want to in the future?

The Best In Comics for 2015

Best Cover Artist: I’ve become addicted to one publisher’s variant covers and they’ve all been illustrated by one artist: John Tyler Christopher. His Action Figure Variant covers for the many Star Wars titles are nothing short of spectacular. I’m old enough to have purchased Star Wars figures when they were new in 1977 and seeing covers that mimic the Kenner carded figures just makes me smile to no end. Christopher has begun creating carded figures for original characters that have begun to pop up in the Marvel titles. I hope there’s no end in sight for Christopher’s work.

Best Letterer: Dave Sharpe time after time makes the Green Lantern books sound impressive. He’s able to squeeze in volumes of text into a panel without overshadowing the art, his sound effects are second to none, and the flair with which he creates a story’s title is superb. There is nothing as good as a Sharpe scream from a character. His work is always flawless.

Best Colorist: This is the third year in a row that I have to praise the work done by Hi-Fi. Their work can be found in several publishers’ titles, with them absolutely radiant on Scooby Apocalypse and select Doctor Who titles. I’ve said this for the last two years and I have to say it again: They are the gold standard in comic book coloring.

Best Inker: Wade von Grawbadger easily takes this for the year after his exemplary work on Empress from Icon. I’ve been a fan of Stuart Immonen since his Legion of Super-Heroes‘ days and his work has never looked as good as it does with von Grawbadger inking it. The work looks like Immonen’s but von Grawbadger really helps to direct the reader’s eye to the key elements of each panel. I’m going to have seek out earlier work by this talented artist.

Best Artist: I admit it, I completely wimped out for this category, I chose two. Meghan Hetrick and Rebekah Isaacs were the best artists of the year. I looked forward to every issue of Red Thorn to see what new wonder and atrocity Hetrick could create. Her characters are stunning, whether they be beautiful people, like Thorn or Isla, or monsters too numerous to list. Likewise, Isaacs brings the same sense of wonder and beauty to Buffy’s characters and grotesque creatures. Isaacs can make a character say so much to the reader with a silent panel. Both of the these artists have made me a fan for life.

Best Writer: I’m double downing on being unable to chose, because I have two exceptional writers whose work I could not pick over the other. Corinna Bechko and Marguerite Bennett are unquestionably the best writers of the year. As far as I’m concerned, Bechko is a writer’s writer — she can write anything. Vampirella/Aliens, Lords of the Jungle, Miss Fury, and co-writing Invisible Republic comprise the different characters, universes, and genres she can write in. She’s soon to be taking over Angel at Dark Horse and I can’t wait to see what she does. Bennett is also incredibly varied, doing DC Comics: Bombshells, InSEXts, and Animosity. I am enthralled by each issue of InSEXts and Animosity is deserving of all its praise. I will follow both of these writers to any book fortunate to have them.

Best Mini-Series: Groo: Fray of the Gods is a much shorter series, only four issues, compared to last year’s 12 issue Friends and Foes but is just as wonderful. Sergio Aragones has the mendicant wanderer helping and hindering a leader who considers himself a god, while the actual pantheon of gods make comments on their status as well as of the impudent king who fancies himself a deity. The story is incredibly humorous and appropriate for all ages (and there aren’t many comics that can do this!) and the artwork staggeringly detailed. For people who have never read comics, you show them Groo to convert them into avid readers.

Best Title: I love the drama and cannot resist Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10. I’m a huge fan of the television series and this title continues to put the characters and the reader through an emotional wringer. Buffy’s relationship with Spike hit some major hurtles, as did Xander and Anya’s (!), all while the fate of magic in the world was fought over. The writing is amazing and the art stunning. I’m currently enjoying Season 11 and there’s no reason to think that its run won’t be as thrilling.

These are my picks for the best of the year. You should find books by these creators and check out some of the titles I’ve mentioned. There’s a tremendous variety of comic books out there. 2017 looks to be just as good.

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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