The Most Interesting People in Comics, Right Now

People love lists. It’s a verifiable fact at this point, even if the reasons for that adoration isn’t always the same. Some people delight in seeing favorites getting some rep. Others bask in the ability to roast a particularly egregious ranking or selection. And comics are no different, as it’s impossible to avoid articles that examine anything from the “best” or “most successful” in comics to whatever exactly a “power” list might entail. Those are typically catnip to fans, if only because they’re often a) ranked, which offers a sufficient mix of joy and anger, and b) very specific in what they’re looking at. 8 That specificity is an important factor, as comic fans already do things like rank “the ten best X-Men artists” or “the five most definitive Batman runs” in their heads, so why not capitalize on that by leaning into it?

Specificity is typically my jam, but when it comes to talking about people in comics, that isn’t always the case. That’s especially true at a time like this, one in which the comic industry is going through great change — even if that’s partially obfuscated by incredible performance within both the book and direct markets as well as cataclysmic global supply chain issues. Ideas like “success” and “best” aren’t the most appealing adjectives to me in a time of change; instead, more nebulous terms like “interesting” are. When someone describes another person as “interesting,” my ears perk up, as I’m compelled to learn why. There’s a certain implication with a word like that, as if a person isn’t just thriving within today’s environment but doing something that’s intriguing people with how they’re positioning themselves for the future or even inadvertently creating playbooks for others to follow. 9

And because this is such a fluid, potentially defining moment in comics history, I wanted to really try and examine who some of the most interesting people – not just creators, but retailers, people at publishers, or whomever – in comics are right now. Ones to watch, if you will. I’ll admit, though, I had a list in my head from the jump. But I’m only one person up here in Alaska. What the heck do I know? 10 So over the past few weeks, I reached out to some folks I know in comics – again, creators, retailers, people from publishers, journalists, whomever – to get perspective outside of my own on whose efforts are catching their eye right now. And then I factored that in to this exercise.

Now, this isn’t meant to be a definitive list, as it’s still a pretty limited perspective. Nor is it ranked, as that’s not the kind of exercise I’m going for here. It’s just meant to be a list of people in comics who seem to be finding new ways to do things during a time where that’s become increasingly important to do so, and a look at what they’re doing that makes them someone worth watching in this moment. Or, simply put, a look at some of the most interesting people in comics right now.

It’s worth mentioning that quite a few people were brought up to me. They ranged from creators like rising YA star Alice Oseman and team supreme Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss 11 to broader groups like editors and the general entity that is Substack, with that email newsletter platform’s difficult to define public face taking it out of the running. 12 Every good list does need an artificial cap to its size, though, and because this whole exercise goes against the grain, I’m limiting it not to five or ten, but six, because why not. And to keep things clean and clearly unranked, everyone’s going to be ordered alphabetically by first name.

That’s it for qualifiers. Let’s get to the list!

Christina Merkler

The state of direct market distribution was a consistent theme amongst some of the folks I talked to. That was for very understandable reasons. It’s just a big topic of conversation in the industry these days. With Penguin Random House’s initial deliveries of Marvel product generating a chilly response from comic shops and Diamond Comic Distributors facing a rather cloudy future, the way comics retail actually acquires its product hasn’t seen more uncertainty since the oft reviled and frequently mythologized Distributor Wars in the 1990s. 13 It’s been a chaotic time for everyone involved because of it. But chaos breeds opportunity, and that’s something that might prove to favor Lunar Distribution and its co-owner, Christina Merkler.

You might not know Merkler, but she’s the person who co-owns Lunar, Discount Comic Book Service (or DCBS, as you might know it by), and In-Stock Trades, making her one of the few folks who exists on both sides of the retailer and distributor divide in the direct market. On her position within comics alone, Merkler might make the cut on this list, as all three businesses under her umbrella are immensely important to comics both today and tomorrow. But it’s how Lunar is set up within this chaos that makes her so interesting.

Diamond is in a tenuous spot and Penguin Random House is failing in a major way, with Lunar seemingly recognizing the weakness in the market by signing up additional publishers – ranging from direct market focused ones like Scout and Ahoy to small press joints like Floating World and Uncivilized Books – and looking to add Marvel’s line on as a wholesale distributor through PRH. Lunar being the sole distributor of DC Comics ensures the vast majority of shops will order through them, and with a limited (but expanding!) portfolio, there’s a lot of merit for publishers to align themselves with Lunar because of the exposure it offers. That’s a powerful position to be in, and based on expansion efforts at the distributor and my recent conversation with Merkler on Off Panel, my read is that’s only the beginning.

From a comic shop perspective, you could make an argument that if you ignore the “you’re ordering from your competition” wrinkle – some shops are not fond of putting money into the coffers of the sister company of DCBS, as they view the mail-order giant as a primary competitor – Lunar might be the best long-term bet right now. While they’ve earned some retailer ire for inconsistent delivery dates, 14 their ace packing and seemingly lower rates of error makes them uncommonly appealing in this collector heavy era. While I’m not as pessimistic as some are about the future of Diamond and I’m fairly certain Penguin Random House will not eternally be a disaster, this window of change will likely result in a real shuffling of the deck in terms of distribution. Could it result in Lunar at the top in the same way many thought might happen with PRH? I’m not sure, but it feels considerably more likely today than it did a month ago.

Whatever happens, Merkler’s spot as the head of the top comics’ mail-order company – a valuable position during a pandemic – and the leader of one of the direct market’s primary distributors at a time of great turmoil within that field makes her an unusually interesting figure. Both DCBS and Lunar feel well-positioned to play a crucial role in whatever comes next for comics, which means Merkler will be right there too.

The rest of this article is for subscribers only.
Want to read it? A monthly SKTCHD subscription is just $4.99, or the price of one Marvel #1.
Or for the lower rate, you can sign up on our quarterly plan for just $3.99 a month, or the price of one regularly priced comic.
Want the lowest price? Sign up for the Annual Plan, which is just $2.99 a month.
Already a member? Sign in to your account.

  1. Maybe not the power one, though.

  2. A good example here would be Dav Pilkey. Hyper successful, but I wouldn’t say he’s particularly interesting, as he’s just doing Dog Man books right now. Of course, one could argue selling millions of books is pretty interesting, but that’s not what we’re doing here!

  3. That Stilt-Man is truly the most interesting person in comics, that’s what!

  4. Whose deluxe, 7” record-infused editions of their upcoming Image series What’s the Furthest Place from Here? opened some eyes in the creator space.

  5. Both creator-turned-Substack employee Nick Spencer and co-founder Hamish McKenzie came up, but as per usual, splitting the vote gets you nowhere.

  6. This was the stretch in which the direct market went from several distributors to a single one, with it resulting in Diamond Comic Distributors taking on the singular task of delivering the industry’s comics to shops for decades until DC made its big change in 2020.

  7. Which mostly have been found in the state of California, it seems, which is bizarre.

  8. Maybe not the power one, though.

  9. A good example here would be Dav Pilkey. Hyper successful, but I wouldn’t say he’s particularly interesting, as he’s just doing Dog Man books right now. Of course, one could argue selling millions of books is pretty interesting, but that’s not what we’re doing here!

  10. That Stilt-Man is truly the most interesting person in comics, that’s what!

  11. Whose deluxe, 7” record-infused editions of their upcoming Image series What’s the Furthest Place from Here? opened some eyes in the creator space.

  12. Both creator-turned-Substack employee Nick Spencer and co-founder Hamish McKenzie came up, but as per usual, splitting the vote gets you nowhere.

  13. This was the stretch in which the direct market went from several distributors to a single one, with it resulting in Diamond Comic Distributors taking on the singular task of delivering the industry’s comics to shops for decades until DC made its big change in 2020.

  14. Which mostly have been found in the state of California, it seems, which is bizarre.