Comic Books 2017: The Year In Review

Do your choices match mine?

The Cost

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s now 2018 and there’s a lot to look forward to in comics, but let’s see what you had to spend if you bought books like I did last year.

2017 had me purchasing 469 new books, which is 36 less books than the year before. This averages out to 39 books a month or about 10 books a week. Looking at all the books I bought, which take up a full long box and half of another, it looks a lot less. This does not include the books I reviewed from companies that sent me digital previews, for which I’m eternally grateful.

The breakdown by publisher is as follows:

DC Comics 142, Marvel Comics 98, Dark Horse Comics 61, AfterShock Comics 47, Zenescope 41, IDW Publishing 25, Image 14, Dynamite Entertainment 12, Titan Comics 8, Oni Press 8, BOOM! Studios 8, Joe Benitez Productions 3, and Avatar Press 2

DC Comics remains the number one publisher I’m purchasing from because I’ve been a fan of their characters since I was little and the price point of $2.99 for some of their titles helps immensely. I’m more likely to try a comic at that price than $3.99. Rebirth continues to be entertaining and it’s keeping me with this publisher. Marvel Comics overtook Dark Horse Comics this year for one reason: Star Wars. I am a Star Wars junkie and have been buying them since they started publishing them in ’77. That said, I’ve been sampling some of Marvel’s hero books, with Marvel 2-In-One encouraging me to seek out other Legacy books. Dark Horse Comics came in third with all the Mignolaverse books, Whedonverse books, and Usagi Yojimbo. Jumping up to number four was AfterShock Comics. I like the wide variety of books they publish and I’m willing try any new series out. More times than not, I find myself continuing to purchase a series once I start it. Zenescope dropped to fifth because my local comic book store doesn’t get all of their new offerings. In fact, this was the first time I purchased digital comics and that was to get a Zenescope series.

The grand total of all the books I purchased, if I had purchased them at cover price, is $1821.55. This is a drop of $110.04 from last year. I didn’t purchase the majority of the books at cover price as I receive 10% off new books from my local comic book store for being a “member” in their subscription service. Living in California, the state tax almost pushes the total back up to the cover price. Additionally, I’ve been going once a month to a weekly comic book warehouse show (where comics, toys, cards, video games, etc. are sold) and have been picking up books two or more months after they’ve come out for fifty cents to a buck each. I’ve listed these books at cover value to simplify sorting.

The breakdown for what I paid is as follows:

0.25: 1, $2.99: 100, $3.99: 338, $4.99: 24, $5.99: 6, $7.99: 1, and $9.99: 1.

This works out to about $3.88 a book. 

This was surprising to me because this is just a few cents off what my average was from last year. Most comics cost $3.99 and I purchased just 8 fewer of these books this year. The two higher priced books were Star Trek: New Visions, which I’m purchasing again, and an anniversary issue of Savage Dragon. Both of these books were worth the cover price, so I didn’t mind. The same problem remains from last year, though: How are kids supposed to buy comics? The market is still geared more towards adults with deep pockets than kids on a allowance.

The Best In Comics for 2017

Best Cover Artist: I was all set to give this to John Tyler Christopher this year for his continually impressive Variant covers for the many Star Wars books which resemble carded Kenner Action Figures. Another Star Wars cover artist that stood out was Phil Noto, whose Poe Dameron covers are poster, print, and tee shirt worthy. However, the best cover artist of the year is Scott Fischer for his staggering work on the Angel: Season 11 covers. They contain so much detail, one cannot simply glance at the cover and proceed to the book’s contents. One falls into his work and there’s always something new to see. The covers also wonderfully combine the beautiful and the terrifying and I am always drawn to covers that can do this.

Best Letterer: My go-to answer is usually Dave Sharpe for his work on the Green Lantern books, but another letterer really leapt up at me this year. Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios created an incredible amount of varied fonts for his work on several Zenescope titles this year. Esposito’s work is always easy to read and the fonts he creates for inhuman characters are fantastic. His scene settings are also designed to drop the reader into the story. And his sounds are always a perfect match for the actions occurring.

Best Colorist: I often go with Hi-Fi for the exceptional job done on every cover and book their work graces, but there were a pair of colorists that perfectly matched their artist: John Ercek and Tom Luth on Groo: Play of the Gods. I love big, bright, bold colors on a comic and Groo is the perfect venue to use them. Ercek and Luth don’t just give the cartoonish comic one tone, they put as much depth into their work as other colorists, making each page stand out strongly. Combined with the art, the pages are magical.

Best Inker: John Dell with Walden Wong on Jim Cheung’s pencils on Marvel 2-In-One really stood out. I’ve seen Cheung’s work on other books and I enjoyed it, but Dell and Wong made Cheung’s art look like the best of Marvel from the 1980s, when I was an unabashed Marvel Zombie. Yes, I’m basing my choice on one comic, but it looks sensational.

Best Artist: I had heard and seen of Lady Mechanika for some time but never picked up an issue. I finally picked one up this year and fell in love with the art of Joe Benitez. His work is staggeringly detailed and I’m stunned that there isn’t more said about his work or this series that he created and publishes. The character work is fantastic and the Steampunk flavor he gives to certain elements in each panel is wonderful. Once you pick up a book he’s illustrated you’ll be unable to stop looking at everything he puts in a panel. A recent hardcover collection of the early issues of Lady Mechanika came out and it’s a must-own for every comic book collector.

Best Writer: Again I found myself thrilled by the works of Corinna Bechko and Marguerite Bennett this year, but the work done by Robert Venditti on the Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps was as strong as anything Geoff Johns did on Lantern books. There is one writer, though, who worked on several series I enjoyed this year and all were undeniably fun. Cullen Bunn wrote Monsters Unleashed!, Darth Maul, Dark Ark, Unholy Grail, Conan the Slayer, and the fantastic Harrow County. The variety of genres he can write in is amazing and he has been successful in all of them. I’ve only discovered Bunn’s work when he did Terrible Lizard for Oni Press, but I’ve learned that if he’s the writer of a book, I have to pick it up because it’s going to be an entertaining story.

Best Mini-Series: I predicted this just a few issues into the this saga and nothing came close to Batman/The Shadow, jointly published by DC Comics and Dynamite Entertainment. This incredible series co-written by Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando tied Batman’s training to the Shadow and featured a new villain teaming up with the Joker to make life hell for the heroes. The artwork by Riley Rossmo was excellent with both heroes looking amazing and the villains, especially the Joker, looking absolutely insane. This is another must-own series.

Best Title: The one title that seemed to get better with every issue was Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, written by Robert Venditti and illustrated by several different artistic teams. Highlights included a battle with Larfleeze, the return of Saint Walker, Kyle Rayner returning to the fold, and a breaking with the Sinestro Corps after partnering up with Corps. This is the only title I’m glad comes out twice a week because the heroics, the adventure, the drama, and the visuals make this the best super hero/sci-fi comic on the market. If DC is smart, they’ll keep Venditti on this book for as long as they can.

Best Publisher: This is a new category I’m creating and it’s to single out the one publisher whose entire line needs to be singled out. AfterShock Comics has the most varied books on the market; they have sci-fi, horror, alternative history, and comedy. There is literally something for everyone from this publisher. It seems as if they have a new series debuting each month and I always give each title a try. More times than not, I’m hooked and buy every issue of that series. Series that I’ve enjoyed this year include InSEXts, Animosity, Animosity: Evolution, Rough Riders (which has a third series premiering this year!), Pestilence, World ReaderMonstro Mechanica, Alters, Dark Ark, Unholy Grail, and Brilliant Trash.

These are my picks for the best of the year. There’s a tremendous variety of comic books out there, so support your local comic book store by checking out some of these creators and titles.

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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