iFanboy’s 2011 Publisher of the Year: DC Comics

The Nominees

Ron:

Image Comics

In a year that’s been filled with “events” and “number ones” and other industry trends that essentially much of what we’ve already seen, when I think about the one publisher who is truly innovating, it’s Image Comics. The sheer number of unique series that span across a wide range of genres is staggering. From superheroes, to horror, to crime, to all ages, to thrillers, to comedy, to drama, Image Comics is delivering constantly. While they could sit back and benefit on their stable of hits like The Walking Dead, Invincible, Chew, and Morning Glories, they’ve chosen to keep putting new material out there. Just this year alone we’ve gotten new series like Butcher Baker, Who Is Jake Ellis, Reed Gunther, Mud Man, Heart, Super Dinosaur and tons more, all the while their legacy titles like Savage Dragon (175th issue came out in 2011), Spawn (shipped 15 issues in 2011), Witchblade (Ron Marz wrapped his epic 70+ issue run with issue #150) and other skeep rolling on, as strong as ever. As everyone is making a big deal about their digital plans, Image was one of the first publishers to truly embrace digital, releasing titles same day as print long before other publishers announced their plans. I could sit here and rattle off more titles and examples but if you’re looking for simple proof, when Brian K. Vaughan came back to comics with Fiona Staples and Saga, it was with Image Comics. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips next creator owned project, Fatale? Being published at Image. Jonathan Hickman’s creator owned work? Not at Icon/Marvel as you’d suspect, but rather at Image Comics. There’s something brewing here at the I and people should take notice. 2012 is Image’s 20th anniversary, and by all rights it looks like it’s going to be even bigger than 2011, which was a monster year for the best publisher for creativity, innovation and creator owned comics.

 

Conor:

DC Comics

The turn around was so fast, I almost got whiplash. Earlier this year, DC Comics was floundering. Consistently number two to Marvel in the market, and for a while, consistently number two to Marvel in the storytelling department, things looked rough for DC Comics as 2011 was nearing the mid-point. And then, with a simple press release, DC changed… well, just about everything. Not only did they announce a line-wide shake-up (call it a reboot if you want, call it a relaunch if you want; they are both accurate to a degree) that restarted every DC Universe book back at number one and de-aged and restarted most of their characters, but they pretty much dragged the whole industry (some kicking and screaming) into the digital age when they announced that they were going to offer their single issues digitally on the same day that comic book stores got them. And this was all in the same press release! The comic book industry and the fans, as you might imagine, went bananas. Those who predicted doom and gloom have thus far been proven wrong as, since the New 52 began, DC Comics has not only dominated the sales charts, but published some of the best and most buzzworthy books on the market. Its hard to believe that all of this has happened in so little time–the press release that changed everything only hit seven months ago.

 

Josh:

Archaia Entertainment

While so many other publishers are claiming to do new things, but really just doing slight variations on old things, Archaia is actually taking a different tack. They’re positioned between art house publishers and typical mainstream comics, but taking a note from both. They hardly bother with issues at all, and therefore, they don’t seem to deal with the direct market all that much. Instead, they produce quality books that appeal to a mainstream audience. By mainstream, I don’t mean a lifelong reader of Batman. No, these beautifully packaged books go into bookstores, and places where they actually have a chance of growing the market. At the same time, the content isn’t super academic intellectual musings. They’re stories. They’re stories for people who like stories. Yes, that simple. This year, Archaia made one of the most prescient moves imaginable, by releasing several books sure to appeal to the masses of new and renewed Muppets fans. They put out Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand, a comic book adaptation of an unproduced screenplay by the Muppets auteur, as well as Jim Henson’s Storyteller, based on a forgotten television series. They also managed to release material from creators as diverse as Marjane Satrapi and TV’s Chad Michael Murray. Finally, regardless of the fact that their books are consistently some of the best designed and best looking in the entire industry, Archaia have always been ahead of the ball in terms of digital, available widely, and on every platform they can put themselves. As a small company, hungry and light, they have adapted their direction in order to take advantage of their best strengths, and looking at their offerings over the past year, they’re in the best position they’ve been in yet.

 

The iFanboy 2011 Publisher of the Year:

DC Comics

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but there’s no denying the facts and the fact is this: no single comic book company was more important to the comic book industry in the year 2011 than DC Comics. The landscape of comics looks different now than it did before the New 52 were released. Try to name the last time that a single comic book company made such a seismic impact on the industry with a single publishing move. You might have to go back to the formation of Image Comics in 1992. From the audacity of the relaunch that many thought no major comic book company had the guts to attempt in the modern age, to legitimizing digital comics with its line-wide day and date strategy, DC Comics set the tone in 2011. And it’s been fun! As reporters and reviewers and pundits and fans, we cannot remember a more fun year in comics. From the initial frenzy around their bug announcement in May, to the anticipation of the release of the New 52, to actually reading the books themselves, you’d be hard pressed to name a more fun year to be talking comic books in the almost 11 year span of iFanboy and it was all because of DC Comics, the iFanboy 2011 Publisher of the Year.

 

Comments

  1. I’d go with Ron and say Image is my publisher of the year, although that’s not saying much since it’s my favorite every year. I do understand the choice to put DC as number 1 though.

  2. wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

    wow, Archaia, never would have expected to see them on this list.

  3. Great choices. I’d go with Ron’s choice of Image. I really found myself picking up more and more Image books during the year.

    I actually thought that Archaia was a bit below their excellent year in 2010 but were still solid and well worth they’re place on the list.

    The only other publisher whose work really impressed me was IDW. They had a lot of really excellent books and their profile really grew this year.

    • Yeah! IDW has really been building itself up these past couple years. I’m really interested to see what they’ll be putting out next year.

    • Bendrix Bendrix says:

      Years ago, I was more impressed with what IDW did. Recently, they seem to mostly put out licence book, wich are not my cup of tea.

    • Klabberjass Klabberjass says:

      Yeah, I would have to agree with Ron as well. The first comics that I bought were from Image (Spawn and Savage Dragon), and they continue to be the publisher I buy the most comics from. I can’t wait for their 2012 stuff though (I am sincerely hoping that Feel Better Now comes out in 2012).

  4. Walter Walter says:

    IDW has does fantastic work with the G.I. Joe comics.

  5. drdeeeznutz drdeeeznutz says:

    Dc all the way- Dc rebooted my love for comics- Thumbs Up also to Image who is my second favorite publisher with the Walking Dead, Witch Doctor, Xenoholics, and Chew

  6. IroncladMerc says:

    I’ll nominate Marvel as worst publisher of the year, with their refusal to drop prices on older digital comics (stuff released months ago is still full price!) and their short sightedness of not being able to use their Digital Comics Unlimited service on anything but a PC. They are an arrogant company who thinks they don’t need to change. They begrudgingly started going day and date on some of their comics, only because DC started doing it.

    So here’s to you Marvel, worst publisher of the year!

    • KillTheG1mp KillTheG1mp says:

      I second that… They still price digital issues from the 90′s at full price! I mean… come on, it would be cheaper for me to a) hunt down some of the issues on ebay, b) buy it in trade and have the complete story arc…

      I guess they still think like a big company and money is the only goal no matter what, at least DC comics show they care for the industry and want to deliver quality comics for fans and new readers alike! They want to make money, but it’s not a slap in the face to fans like Marvel does…

      I wonder if being bought by Disney changed that for Marvel?

    • TA TA says:

      Although I like many Marvel books, I agree with you guys. I’m hoping that they’ll improve in 2012.

    • DeadpoolFan1 DeadpoolFan1 says:

      If you don’t think DC did the New 52 to get more money, you are mistaken.

    • kmob181 kmob181 says:

      Did Marvel also go down to 20 pages of content this year?

    • BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

      I agree with this vote as well – Marvel has lost me as a fan and I avoid them like the plague.

      @kmob181 And yes, many of their books went down to 20 pages of content this year (or less), oftentimes at higher prices.

    • filippod filippod (@filippodee) says:

      I agree with most of what you say about Marvel but as a subscriber I have to say that Marvel Digital Unlimited is quite good, for what it is. Sure, the interface is old and clunky. Sure, it doesn’t stream to tablets, but I believe that it has more to do with the now aging technology they employ than anything else (Marvel is currently running a survey which hints pretty heavily to their desire to reach the iPad & Android public so I really can’t see the limitations as an arrogant stance). On the plus side: for a reasonable flat fee (I paid a $47 yearly fee with a discount coupon which I found by simply googling for it) you got access to a humongous back catalogue which currently extends to January 2011. And it looks great on my 19″ 4/3 screen (reading quality and experience is overall better than Comixology’s). Only this Holiday I have read $150+ worth of stuff (proce calculated with Amazon’s corresponding TPB prices) and I’m enjoying it a lot. That said I agree that Marvel need to change some of their ways and I believe that the market will eventually force them to.

    • MrSethypants MrSethypants says:

      This was Posted by Nova2814.2

      To bring this back to Marvel’s cut in page counts for one last time, I’ve finished a tally of November’s books (here).

      This month 87% (68 out of 78) of all regular sized Marvel books had fewer than 22 pages. Of those 68, 3 had 19 pages, 2 had 21 pages, and the rest had 20.

      For the first month since I started tracking the page counts, all of the $2.99 books had fewer than 22 pages. Up to this point, there was usually one or two $2.99 comics with 22 pages, so it’s not as if there was a massive drop, but it’s worth noting none the less.

      The percentage of $3.99 books with fewer than 22 pages increased again this month, and now stands at 74%. When I started tracking those books back in July, the percentage was 38%, so the percentage has virtually doubled. In July, 12 out of 32 $3.99 books had fewer than 22 pages, in November it’s 29 out of 39.

      When you look solely at the ongoings (at both price points), 92% of books have fewer than 22 pages. It was 85% in September, and 89% in October.

      So there we have it. Despite a number of Marvel reps telling us that page counts fluctuated wildly, that they weren’t cutting pages, or that it wasn’t a policy to do so, roughly 10 out of every 11 regular-sized Marvel books now have an average of 20 pages.

      That started back in May and fairly quickly affected all the $3 ongoings, and most of the $3 minis. The $4 books were able to hold off a bit longer, but at this point, all their ongoings ($2.99 or $3.99) have had at least one issue cut back in some shape or form.

      Generally, the only comics that usually have more than the new 20-page standard are Amazing Spider-Man (itself cut from 30 to 22 pages during the summer), Invincible Iron Man (which might yet drop back on a regular basis), first issues of ongoing series (e.g. Captain America, Hulk, Wolverine & the X-Men, Avenging Spider-Man), a handful of mini series (namely Annihilators: Earthfall and Wolverine: Best There Is, both ending in December), and most of the literary/licensed lines (e.g. Dark Tower, Halo, Oz). Even then, all of those have $3.99 cover price; the $2.99 books show very little variance in page count.

      One thing that should be remembered is that Marvel has refused to say that 20 pages is the lowest they will go. In fact they have been very reticent about confirming any kind of page cut at all, by continuing to claim that any cuts weren’t an overall or line wide policy. The most direct answer I’ve gotten is from Marvel’s SVP for Sales & Circulation, who said he couldn’t give out any information when I asked him if 20 pages is the new minimum.

      While I can appreciate Marvel not wanting to set an expectation that might change unexpectedly (which is what happened last year), I think there should be some minimum that readers can expect. And if that changes in the future, then let customers know.

      So that’s my last update. I started this to establish a pattern, and I think it’s fair to say that we’ve done that. If anyone else wants to keep this going, you have my blessing . In the meantime, thanks to everyone who helped and contributed (constructively) to the discussion.

    • KillTheG1mp KillTheG1mp says:

      @ filippod, you make a good point there also. One of my friend is a die-hard fan of Marvel Digital Unlimited and I wish that DC or other comic publishers would have a similar service! Though you might save money now, you’ll need glasses eventually if you don’t already have some as reading on a computer screen is like staring at the sun (not really, but I like imagining melted eyes and someone coming in to yell “I TOLD YOU SO!”) ;)

      I also hate how Marvel plays with the page count numbers inserting devious previews halfway through a book…so a 3.99$ 40 pages books is a 3.99$ 20 pages book in disguise… :(

  7. Firevine Firevine says:

    I’m siding with Ron on this one. In the past year, Image has completely changed my perception of them. I grab a ton of stuff published by Image now, when I completely ignored them for years. I had a lot of bad blood towards Image to be honest, but I’m glad I gave some stuff a shot. Even if it’s books I ended up dropping, I’m glad I read them. My current most anticipated title for 2012 is an Image title.

    DC pulled one big stunt and while I like a number of the books, and a few of them even made it into my top 10 series, the overall quality is still the same, and I feel that it’s already old hat. We got very few new ideas or characters, and a ton of rehashing, along with some of the same writers that just couldn’t hack it before. Plus, they STILL have no idea what to do with Green Arrow. Yes, the stunt was huge, and sold a lot of books. It’s still the same old DC though.

    Archaia can be a HUGE game changer. Huge. As the digital shift keeps increasing, people who buy hard copies are going to search for extras and nice production in their books for a perk to not just get digital, and Archaia can be a driving force for that. Those guys do great work.

    Marvel: Step it up next year guys. Brush Fear Itself under the rug and keep cranking out Daredevil quality books. You have an overall better quality than DC by far, so step it up.

  8. boosebaster boosebaster says:

    Well deserved for DC!

  9. The obvious, yet correct choice is DC. I came back to comics early in the year when the prevailing discussion was about the coming end of days. And this prediction was EVERYWHERE I read websites and publications alike. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing then, the New 52 came out and the conversation has shifted to one of a sigh of relief and renewed interest (at least for the foreseeable future). I also have to believe that this move has prompted the other publishers to up their game. So, DC is the publisher of the year.

  10. rocknrolla says:

    Cheers DC!

  11. Image gets my vote for content, but at the end of the day they haven’t figured out a way to get out of the Previews/DM Ghetto. That’s the next innovation we really need….When creators can make an actual living from their own original ideas as the rule and not the exception.

    DC changed the industry for the better this year with the same day digital. Thats epic.

  12. player1 player1 says:

    IDW has done some great things this year.

    I like quite a bit of what Marvel has been trying lately.

    Good for DC, it’s cool to see them trying some new things.

  13. BCDX97 BCDX97 says:

    My buddy at the comic shop says he’s been really busy lately. He’s doing more sales and even slow days like Monday and Tuesday he’s making decent money. And he said it’s because of DC’s new 52 books. For that reason alone, DC gets my publisher of the year award. I love this business and want it to succeed.

  14. Abejarano12 Abejarano12 says:

    Awesome pic DC Comics out did everyone this year the idea of relauching the entire line of heroes, took balls and it worked. I have not read, Superman, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman and Supergirl for extended amount of time. I have got every issue of these titles so far and have been very surprised delighted. My Marvel pull list is now just down to Captain America and Bucky, Captain America and the Avengers. DC Comics is back in a big way. Great job DC!

  15. stasisbal stasisbal says:

    Next year may end up belonging to Image between the books they have announced so far and the 20th anniversary. This year I don’t see how the choice could’ve been anything but DC Comics.

  16. MrSethypants MrSethypants says:

    LOL. Marvel didnt even get nominated.

  17. jholdahl jholdahl says:

    Opinion: Marvel put out the two BEST story arcs this year with UXF Dark Angel Saga and Daredevil.

    Don’t get me wrong, Marvel is no more publisher of the year than I am knowledgeable of the “industry” ins/outs, but it’s all quality versus quantity to me. Page count only matters if you feel like your comics are short. Daredevil and UXF routinely hovered around 20 but didn’t have to be any longer because they were so well crafted. Even at a 3.99 price point.

    As far as DC/Vertigo goes, I’d trade 48 of 52 (Batman, Animal Man, OMAC, and Wonder Woman excluded) for two books as beautiful and thoughtful as the first issues of Spaceman. This is why I will never be a sales genius.

    Archaia is amazing for what they do. If they figured a way into the single issue market while maintaining the high standard of design and craft used on their OGN hard covers/collections, I would be all over it.

    • Firevine Firevine says:

      I can name more quality Marvel books than I can DC without even thinking about it. Yeah, what DC did took a giant pair, but I think after a while, we’ll look back on it about as fondly as we do Zero Hour. The fact that DC cancelled quality books for this makes it a wash, creatively. Outside of spurring sales, which is great, it ultimately did nothing. I get what I think are the cream of the crop of them. DC’s best book is still a Batman book written by Scott Snyder, just like before. The Batman and Green Lantern families basically made it through unscathed. Everything else was a known quantity, with established characters, even if they are awesome like Swamp Thing and Animal Man. There’s nothing “New” about this New 52.

  18. DC? Meh…

  19. Firevine Firevine says:

    People I see here who constantly bash Marvel are missing out on great, great books. Rucka is killing it on Punisher. It’s the best Punisher I have read in years. Daredevil is amazing, Avenging Spider-Man is fantastic. The return of Fantastic Four had me doing backflips off the couch it was so good. (Not really, I’d break a hip) Jason Aaron has taken a character I can’t stand, and a team I just did not care about, and turned it into one of my favorite books. Yet, all I hear from the Anti-Marvelites is “Boo hoo, $3.99 books Fear Itself waaahhh” ad nauseum. Get off it. Hell, at least Fear Itself was BAD, best I heard about Flashpoint was “Pointless”. It was just DC cribbing House of M (Which was also bad). You’re worse than Republicans and Democrats bickering back and forth, pointing fingers and pouting. If you’re not American and don’t get that, just trust me that it’s an unkind comparison. Yeah, Marvel has $4.00 books. Heaven forbid they put them at a price point where they can pay their creators, employees, post a profit, have Diamond make their money, and have comic book retailers profit too. Why don’t you complain to your LCS about that price? It’s recommended retail. Depending on discount they get, your retailer could sell it for $2.50 and make a tiny profit. Maybe not enough to keep the doors open (Unless they were moving truckloads of books), but they’d make something. I’ll spend $4.00 on an issue of Avengers long before I’d spend $3.00 on half the crap DC shoved out in September. DC came out with some killer books, for sure, but there was utter junk in there too. Lots of it.

    Christ, fuck it. http://www.superstupor.com/sust02132009.shtml

    You want actual innovation and creativity in your comics? Look at Image, look at Dark Horse, look at Boom!, Archaia, hell, even 12 Gauge. Loose Ends is great. Make those guys some money.

  20. Flash923 Flash923 says:

    I have been a DC fan since my first day of reading comics back over 30 years ago and still going strong! I am very proud to see that they have taken the top spot and what I would love to see is them keep it for more than a few months. I would like to accept this award on behalf of all DC comics fans and thank the fans for our dedication and to all of our new fans that have finally jumped on board. 2012; I hope will be an even bigger year for our beloved heroes of the DCU and hopefully there will be more things to celebrate and DC taked advantage of this new found success ie… JL and Flash movies!!
    As for the other companies; Image and Dynamite Press have been outstanding runner ups in my book. Marvel has seemed to lose its way for some reason? The quantity is out waying the quality for Marvel unlike thier movies which are kicking serious arse. I hope they can re-group and have a better year in the comics end of things.

    K

  21. skrulldave skrulldave says:

    I read more DC regular monthly issues, but enjoyed more graphic novels from other companies like Paying For It by Chester Brown, The Great Nothern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonist by Seth, and Stop Forgetting to Remember: The Autobiography of Walter Kurtz, as well as: Imaginative Realism by James Gurney, and Stan Lee’s How To Write Comics.

  22. DCBlueDevil DCBlueDevil says:

    No contest at all. DC was the best. Brave, gutsy moves. The first of the biggies to shift to same day digital alone makes them #1

  23. I don’t care much of who publishes who. it’s all about the books for me. Marvel had great titles in CA and Bucky, Uncanny X-Force, Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man and DC put out great titles as well in Batman, Animal Man, Action Comics, Frankenstein: Agent of Shade, Wonder Woman, etc. So everybody just quit trollin’ and just start reading.