Today in 2014 in Review, we kick off the main categories that we’ve been running for the past five years with a look at which publishers impressed us the most in the calendar year. And we’re at an amazing point, as a record (for us) ten publishers earned votes as we attempted to develop a consensus answer to the “which publisher had the best year?” question.
But there can only be one, and our winner was one of the most dominant category winners of the year. Find out our top three publishers of the year below, and please share your favorites in the comments.
Note: All of Multiversity’s 2014 in Review awards are based off of all of the contributing writing team voting to decide each rank. Every list is combined with equal points for every voter, and the results are what you find below.
Looking for the rest of our 2014 in Review entries? Find them all here.
3. DC Comics
Why they made the list (Keith Dooley): DC has been the whipping boy for the last few years because of some readers’ disdain for the New 52. But you can probably thank the company’s current ranking on this list largely to the talents of Mark Doyle and Scott Snyder for making the Batman corner of the publishing line one of the most exciting and refreshing surprises of the year. New books such as “Grayson”, “Gotham Academy”, “Arkham Manor”, “Gotham by Midnight” and the reinvigoration of “Batgirl” are all examples of Batman Group Editor Doyle shepherding books of varying tones and genres. There is a title for every taste. Snyder and artist Greg Capullo are lauded as well, with their “Batman” receiving commercial as well as critical acclaim. Spinning off of ideas and guidance from both Doyle and Snyder, writers and artists of Batman and Bat-related books are allowed to bring their unique perspectives and a sense of the “new” that was promised with the New 52. That diversity has permeated through other books in the DCU.
That diversity and the sense of the “new” extends to other books in the DC line as well, whether they have just ended, are continuing, or just beginning. Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, et al brought their epic tale of Gods and Goddesses to a fitting end. Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier built off of Geoff Johns’ run and continued to make Aquaman cool. Grant Morrison brought the idea of the Multiverse to prominence with the instant classic “The Multiversity” miniseries. Jeff Lemire beautifully brought his amazing runs of “Animal Man” and “Green Arrow” to an end, while going in a vastly different (and fun) direction with the diverse team of “Justice League United”. The main reason titles such as these were huge artistic successes was because the creators were given freedom to mine their imaginations and mold the characters in ways that excited them. It appears that DC has been progressively more open to fresh ideas and allowing their rich stable of talent both old and new to experiment and tell tales that excite both the creator and the reader. All it took, naturally, was for Batman to come in and save the day.
2. Boom! Studios
Why they made the list (James Johnston): This time last year, Boom! Studios had my curiosity. Now it has my full attention.
In a comics market that’s slowly transitioning from being defined by the Big Two to the Big Three (Hey, 2014’s #1 publisher!), Boom! has carved out a niche for itself with its stellar cartoon tie-ins which have become as integral to the show’s fan bases as the animations themselves. Hell, this is a publisher that put out an Adventure TIme comic book that was just a punk rock zine. Your move, Bongo!
Beyond the comics from kaBoom!, Boom! proper has put out some real critical darlings like “Lumberjanes” from Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke Allen as well as “The Woods” from James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas. The quirky charm these comics have, among the plenty of other titles Boom! offers, bring a quirky type of charm to comic stores that isn’t often found elsewhere.Continued below
I mentioned earlier how the comics market’s been slowly transitioning from the Big Two system to the Big Three, what with the massive success Image has had. In a few years time, don’t be surprised if we begin talking about how it’s become the Big Four.
1. Image Comics
Why they made the list (Matthew Meylikhov): Image Comics have changed the face of comics.
That may seem like a hyperbolic statement to begin with, perhaps even one you’ve seen stated elsewhere in similar words, but it is never the less true. Ever since Image came bursting back into the world of comics, they’ve slowly upended pretty much every steady tradition we’ve had and forced comics to grow up and embrace the new — whether this was with their stance on the treatment of creators, the way they distributed digital books or simply their intense focus on putting quality over quantity. And every time Image did something new, they pulled out all the stops in terms of production and promotion, from over-sized comics at non-inflated prices (Did you read “Tooth and Claw?” Because holy shit, right?) to their Image Expos that drop so many mics I’m surprised RCA doesn’t sue them at this point.
And 2014 was a huge year for Image, with some of the biggest comics around. “Sex Criminals” and the brimper community is literally insane, filling up convention halls and helping to produce an actual book of sex advice that one printer refused to put together. “Saga” continues to absolutely dominate sales charts and award shows, pulling in audiences of comic readers and non-comic readers alike. “The Walking Dead” continues to churn along as one of the biggest comic phenomenons of our times. “Casanova” came home, Warren Ellis really started churning out new hits, Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips got carte blanche to literally do whatever they want — and that’s not even getting to mention new titles like “Deadly Class” and “Bitch Planet” already destined to be future classics, or “Morning Glories” and “Chew” continuing to prove why Image blowing up five years ago was such a noteworthy event.
There is so much great stuff going on at Image that it’s hard to really sum it up in a few paragraphs, but you get the point. (Thankfully we have a website to track it year round.)
Of course, all the great things that Image has done for itself could very well be the millstone around their neck. Image has a big 2015 ahead, as now they not only boast some of the highest numbered comics around (I believe they’re only the company with a series in the 200s, let alone a couple in the 100s) and some of the biggest/best creators producing work at the company, but they have to answer the question they once used as an answer: what is next? For a company that has helped drag the entire industry kicking and screaming into the future, what will do they do help us all continue to improve? I have no doubt they’ll continue to put out great content, but I really want to know what’s next for comics?
And that’s a question I can’t wait to see them answer, because I know that whatever it is, it’s going to be great.