The time has come to close on one of the biggest years in comic books we have seen for a while. Companies saw massive shake-ups to connect with new audiences, while some sadly didn’t survive the year. Countless news stories hit our TV screens and computer monitors that would affect every comic book reader out there in one-way or another. This is the top ten comic book news stories of 2011.
10) Draw The Line At $2.99
This may seem like a meaningless point now that the New 52 is in full swing but in January of this year comic readers were in glee when DC announced their new “Draw The Line at $2.99” campaign, one that would return all of their monthly books to a $2.99 price point (while moving from 22 pages to 20, per issue to balance production costs).
In the past few years the comic industry has seen a strong escalation in ongoing books being priced at $3.99, this caused a huge amount of turmoil between fans that were feeling the pinch during the recent credit crunch. Come this announcement, companies like Marvel quickly followed suit with this decision and fans across the world who were finding more and more $3.99 books in their stacks could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
9) Movie Wildfire
2011 was a busy year for comic book movies: The Green Hornet, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Captain America and Cowboys & Aliens all saw release. Some were widely successful in the eyes of critics and the public alike (Captain America & X-Men: First Class) while others under-performed with damaging results. Green Lantern received fairly unfavorable reviews, the public spoke with their wallets and the film under-performed, much was the same when Cowboys & Aliens saw release to a lukewarm reception and lets not forget the Wonder Woman Pilot that crashed and burned.
Big news also came from behind the scenes, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises & The Man Of Steel all started production this year with a slew of internet gossip and spoilers following it with every step. In January it was confirmed that Henry Cavill, a British actor, would play Superman in the upcoming Man Of Steel (the first official image of Henry in the blue tights was released in August to avoid spy pictures spoiling the reveal). Tom Hardy & Anne Hathaway would be set to play Bane & Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and in the following months, spy pictures, trailers and viral campaigns hit the internet like mad. Clearly, this year was a defining moment in comic book movies and 2012 is sure to top it in every way.
8) Joe Quesada Steps Down As EIC At Marvel – Axel Alonso Takes Over
For the past 11 years Joe Quesada has been Marvel’s go to man as Editor-in-Chief (the second longest EIC tenure Marvel has seen, just under Stan Lee’s 27 consecutive years). His tenure saw Marvel return from near bankruptcy and become the most successful comic book company in the industry today. His involvement with creating Marvel imprints such as Ultimates, MAX & Marvel Knights helped focus the company far beyond expectations. However, in recent years it became clear a shake up was required to reinvigorate the company and its team.
In January, Quesada stepped down as EIC (while keeping his title of Chief Creative Officer at the company) and the baton was passed to Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men editor Axel Alonso. Since his tenure began Alonso has overlooked a re-launch of the Ultimates, X-Men and the “Big Shots” initiative which brought focus to Marvel’s darker heroes such as Moon Knight, Punisher and Daredevil. Alonso however has still only started his tenure and in the following years we are sure to get a clearer idea of how strong an impact he will leave on the company.
7) Deaths By The Dozen
When the general public think of comic books, shock deaths are a quick subject to follow. 2011 is was no different, Johnny ‘The Human Torch’ Storm met his demise in January, Hellboys heart was plucked from his chest in August, May saw The Green Lantern Mogo assassinated while Bucky ‘Captain America’ Barnes and Thor were both killed in battle during Marvel’s summer event Fear Itself.
Some were criticized for being nothing more than cannon fodder and shock deaths during summer events (The death of Bucky was highly controversial upon release) while some were critically praised and with the of the 90’s craze of sealed polybagged issues making a return to comics, they sold like wildfire with the general public. However no matter how successful or saddening all the deaths listed above may have been, none can compete with the sheer level of shock and publicity that came with the next contender on our list…
6) Peter Parker Out, Miles Morales In
The biggest death and re-birth of this year has to go to Ultimate Spider-Man aka Peter Parker in June. It may not have been the most surprising death to be found this year (“Death Of Spider-Man” was first announced back in November 2010 and then used as an event boarder on multiple Ultimate books) however it was the most shocking and heart wrenching death of the lot to be found (I’m looking at you Ultimate Comics Fallout #1).
What makes this death so special is the aftermath; Spider-Man was to become a Legacy character much like The Flash, Green Lantern & Robin. The title of Spider-Man would now go to another character in the universe. A new character by the name of Miles Morales, a half-Black, half-Hispanic teenager who received spider-abilities after Normal Osborn tried to recreate the conditions that gave Peter his powers. Some saw the race decision as a PR stunt or PC gone mad, however the true reasons behind the change was to help reflect the modern world and culture we live in, something the Ultimate line was specifically created to achieve. Things are looking good for Miles’ future in the coming years at Marvel and it seems he will be around for a good long while.
5) Wizard Magazine Closes
This is most likely the saddest beat on the countdown. January 2011 saw the final issue of Wizard Magazine hit our stands. For just under twenty years of release Wizard had been The comic book magazine and held a successful monopoly over the market which the public happily ate up, until recently… In the past few years Wizard seemed to have lost its way, suddenly the magazine seemed to be reaching more to the people who read Wizard in the 90’s with a somewhat odd throwback approach, while forgetting about new audiences craving their fix of comic news, effectively alienating their next generation of readers. Sales dropped and printed news seemed to be slowly dying. The growth of the Internet obviously didn’t help matters
Seeing any company cease publication within the comic industry is a sad day. Even Manga Publisher Tokyopop shut down their North American publishing branch. Instantly ceasing any publication of their products in America and Europe. It’s clear that the current financial climate is a tough one to survive for any publisher and that they must evolve to survive in the digital age of the 21st century.
4) Action Comics #900’s American Citizenship Controversy
This year saw Action Comics hit the momentous issue #900 and to celebrate a 96 page issue was released. However one story caused quite a stir in the public and medias eye. “The Incident” By Batman Begins & The Dark Knight screenwriter David S. Goyer saw Superman visit Iran’s capital of Tehran to support protestors in a non-violent manner. He returns to America and in a conversation with the President’s national security advisor, announced he planned to renounce his U.S. Citizenship to ensure his actions are never mistaken as policy of the US government.
This was one of the most controversial and criticised comic book stories of the year and for good reason. Not only did this story take place alongside a sister story titled “Grounded” by J. Michael Straczynski in which Superman walked across America to reconnect with his adopted country and planet, but certain news networks took the idea of Superman renouncing his American citizenship far too seriously and brought the whole situation to boiling point, so much so that DC quickly release a statement clarifying that “The Incident” was an out of continuity short story and that “Superman will remain as American as Apple pie.”. This controversy is something every comic reader and employee at DC would happily pretend never existed.
3) Day and Date Digital Comics
Digital comics aren’t a new thing, ComiXology was formed in 2007 however it is only in the past six months that you can truly feel the lasting impact it has had on the industry. For the past few years Marvel has been busy with its “Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited” package, which focused on mostly archive stories and freebie catch-up issues being released digitally for a monthly subscription. For years DC Comics seems to have been left in the dust when it came to Digital Comics, but all of that was about to change. In June it was announced that come September, all of DC’s single issues would receive a day and date digital release via ComiXology, even going as far as including digital copy codes in issues of Justice League, DC’s new flagship book. Marvel quickly followed suit by announcing that they would soon release all X-Men & Spider-Man books day and date digitally and would also experiment with including digital copy codes inside various hard copies of books.
ComiXology quickly became the top-grossing App in iTunes for several weeks after this push by DC & Marvel. With day and date release of digital copies becoming the standard for major comic companies and with a rise in Smartphone users across the world no wonder we have seen a sudden surge in sales across the board. With digital comics now getting the publicity that they deserve, a whole new generation of readers (who may have never dreamt of walking into a comic store) are now being introduced to the wonders of comics. Job well done guys, now lets really get the ball rolling.
2) Comic Code Authority Reborn
Since the 1950’s onwards, comic readers became more than familiar with the “Approved By The Comic Code” stamp featured on every book they would most likely buy.
Originally used to censor comic books from “offending” subjects during the 1950’s (a time in which comic books were accused of corrupting children, much like how videos games of today come under fire), the Comic Code Authority became the point of self-regulation within the industry. In 2001 Marvel removed the Comic Code from its publications in favor of its own rating system. In later years, less and less companies would use the code until in January 2011 DC Comics announced it would no longer participate with the Comic Code, in favor of its own rating system. A day later Archie Comics (the last company to carry the stamp) announced it would also be dropping the Comic Code at the beginning of February, leaving the Comic Code unused by the entire industry.
On September 29th it was announced that The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has purchased the Intellectual Property rights to the Comic Code where it would be revamped to its core. CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein released this message upon the decision “It’s a progressive change that the Comics Code seal, which is yesterday’s symbol of comics censorship, will now be used to raise money to protect the First Amendment challenges comics face in the future.”
A weapon once used to control creators and their work had now been changed into a shield to defend every person working in this industry. If this isn’t big news I do not know what is.
1) DC Comics: New 52
From September onwards this was the only choice for #1 spot on the list. Even if you are for or against the decision, you can’t deny the sheer impact felt throughout the comic medium (and even mainstream news) after this announcement hit. In June it was announced that come the finale of their most recent event “Flashpoint” DC Comics would undergo a company wide re-launch under the banner “The New 52”. The entire DC universe re-launched on August 31st with the release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice league #1 followed by 51 more titles throughout September.
The re-launch would see a mix of continuity continuing over from the previous universe but condensed (over a span of 5 years in-story) and some characters being completely re-written from the ground up (superman being a prime example) in aid to give the DC universe a younger and more contemporary feel for new audiences. The DC creative team made the decision after sales dropped to a worrying level in January (a time usually of raised sales), something needed to change and a way to introduce new readers to comics was needed to reinvigorate the industry.
The re-launch was an overall success, with well received books by critics and the public alike almost left right and centre (with the odd hiccup along the way…), DC went on to top the charts at Diamond (something they would have only dreamt of in recent years), earning highest retail and unit share of the market every month straight since the re-launch (even Marvel saw a boost in sales from The New 52). Even if you disagree with the decision to re-launch the DC Universe, you can’t deny the sheer impact and energy it has brought to the industry in such an uncertain time.
This article was first posted on December 31, 2011