Ten Things I’m Excited For in Comics in 2021

In lieu of this week’s edition of Comics Disassembled, I’m running a remix here because Friday falls on the new year. And that’s because it’s 2021 now, a year of potential and possibility and please god no more disasters. It’s the year that could be anything, if we want it to be, and that could be the case in comics as well. So instead of sharing what I liked or didn’t like from the past week today, I’ll be sharing what I’m excited for in 2021.

The problem with that of course lies in the fact that we really only know what’s happening up until March, so little is known. But that doesn’t mean I can’t share some of my faves and some hypotheticals in the mix. So let’s get to it, and hey, let me know what you’re excited for in 2021. Let’s start the year off with some positives, if we can!

John Allison and the G.O.A.T.

I’m on the record as stating – completely seriously! – that Charlotte “Lottie” Grote from Scary Go Round, Bad Machinery, and the broader world of John Allison’s Tackleverse is my favorite character in the history of fiction. And I was actually being completely sincere! While everyone knows me for my love of Stilt-Man, I’d take Lottie over Stilty seven days out of seven, especially if she became her own version of Lady Stilt-Man to solve crimes.

We’re moving away from the point, though.

Needless to say, Lottie appearing in a new comic – especially after 2020’s delightful Wicked Things – is going to be high on my to do list of reading, and the good news is John Allison has chosen to bless us with additional Lottie right off the top in 2021. It’s a Scary Go Round release, meaning it will be free to read on John’s site starting January 4th, called Circus Windows, and let me tell you, it’s great. I’ve read the first issue (or equivalent of an issue for a webcomic), and this team up between Lottie and old Bad Machinery pal Mildred “Mildew” Haversham is a wonderful follow up to Wicked Things and the bringer of some A+ action featuring Lottie the G.O.A.T. It has some genuine laugh out loud moments, and the revelation of one hell of a poster in Lottie’s bedroom.

Even better? John’s writing and drawing! I know Max Sarin is “incredibly talented” and “unbelievably gifted” and that I “love their art” – I say this all in quotes but it’s all true – but there’s just something about John drawing his own characters that feels right to me. This is sort of the inverse, but it’s like me swearing that The Specials’ version of “Pressure Drop” is the correct one rather than Toots and the Maytals original. If you know you know. And like Lottie says all of the time in her head, I know.

Saga’s return?

I mean, it has to, right?

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about there being a fair amount of set up happening for Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga and its eventual return, and what I’d wager happened in 2020 – as they famously planned on it coming back this year! – was that they and Image viewed the uncertainty within the direct market and decided to punt a year so Fiona could get even further ahead on the book, buying them even greater cushion to help prevent her death from overworking.

So I’d wager we’ll see #55 – if they choose to number it in that way after a nearly three year gap, but I imagine they will – some time in the first half of the year with some sort of big promotional push and a low cost return (maybe not the quarter issue they did before, but something to make it lower risk for both readers and retailers to hop back onboard). I could be wrong, but I’m betting May. Book it!

DC’s grand experiment

2020 was a year of change for everyone, but maybe no entity in comics changed more than DC Comics. They went from beginning the year with Dan DiDio at their head and plans for a massive refresh to their line to closing it with DiDio and many of his former employees gone and an outlook that included far fewer titles per month than before. Oh, and they left Diamond, kind of sort of created their own distributors, leaned even heavier into the digital world, and might have completely changed their print format focus to one of single issues with backups and anthologies.

Other than that, it was a pretty normal year!

While much has been written about the losses they had in 2020, I do wonder if people are sleeping on potential gains they may have made as well. People in comics are always handwringing about publishers never changing things up, but you know who did that? DC! In an absolutely enormous way! And I think those could have real benefits. I like the new print focus. I like the digital lean. I don’t think fewer titles is a problem, especially with so many of them being larger $4.99 issues and even beefier anthologies. I think Future State is bringing in a whole bunch of exciting new voices after really leaning into the tried and true in recent years.

In short, I think this grand experiment of DC’s has real potential. Will it succeed? I have no idea. I think there’s a chance. But maybe more than any other direct market publisher, I’m excited to see how 2021 goes for them because their success – or lack thereof – could have a far wider impact than just what we see from them. If it works, maybe the single issue format shifts ever so slightly towards what they’re doing. If it doesn’t, maybe we see…let’s say…less ideal changes. I’m leaning toward the former, but you’d be a fool if you didn’t think the potential for the latter was there as well. We’ll see.

Conventions, I guess?

This might be the biggest question mark of the year. Will conventions happen? Many creators’ livelihoods rely on them happening, but given the speed of the vaccine rollout, the potential downside of one of the big events actually taking place is enormous. I think the writing is on the wall with ReedPop moving both ECCC and C2E2 – typically America’s two earliest big conventions – to December, as there’s little faith in them happening in the normal timeframes.

Then beyond that, what will attendance from creators and celebrities be? If you’re Joe Q. Nerdlebrity, are you going to spend three days signing pictures and taking photos if you haven’t been vaccinated? Boy, that’s a tough question to answer, but I have to imagine it would be no. I imagine some conventions will force it in the first half of the year – none of the big ones, but maybe more local style events – and that the final quarter of the year will become the depository for all of the big ones. The battle for guests will be an absolute bloodbath.

The question for me becomes, “Would I go to a convention this year?” If vaccinated, maybe ECCC in December? I’d love to go, of course – even if I’m not a huge fan of conventions, to be honest – but not with significant personal risk attached to it. We’ll see. Conventions, like everyone else, is reliant on a quick and safe rollout of preventative measures.

Good luck, everyone, and stay safe!

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