10 Things About the 2000s that Wizard Forgot – Part Two

As you may recall, last week I mentioned how I picked up issue #219 of Wizard, which was described as "The Decade Issue." It purported to highlight and celebrate the world of comics over the past 10 years.  In the pages of this issue I saw a lot of what was to be expected: praising of Marvel and DC, kissing Hollywood's butt, and various odds and ends.  But what struck me was what was missing from this issue.  It just felt…incomplete.

Then I thought to myself, "Self, you're an internet comics pundit! Put some virtual ink to virtual paper and tell the world!" and so I put together my list of the "10 Things About the 2000s that Wizard Forgot" and shared the first five with you last week and today I will be revealing the next five.  But before I do that, I have two things I'd like to say.  First, I want to thank everyone who shared with me their feedback and thoughts on the first five.  I heard from many people with both positive and negative comments about the piece and that's just rad.  It's great to get everyone thinking.  Second, I want to remind you that I am not doing this to shit on Wizard.  Far from it.  I've bought Wizard since issue #1, and I've watched it grow and evolve (devolve?) into what it is today.  Do I agree with everything they do and say? Of course not, but I both respect Wizard as an institution and have a deep love of magazines.  It's just that sometimes…I just want Wizard to be more, and that's why I felt the need to share what I thought was forgotten in their "Decade Issue."  With that said, enough of the pussyfooting around – onto the list (which, as I disclaimed last week, includes both good and bad things, depending on your point of view)

10 Things, Good and Bad, About the 2000s That Wizard Forgot – Part Two

6.  The Industry Evolves a.ka. Diamond May Be the Death of The Industry
The comics industry entered the new millennium on tenuous ground.  Marvel Comics was emerging from bankruptcy, the industry as a whole took a huge hit with distribution wars, and the bottom fell out in the mid-1990s when the speculator bubble burst.  No one was quite sure what the future would hold.  And yet, somehow the comics industry survived and even grew.  Perhaps it was the attention that Hollywood was finally paying to comics, or the need for escapism in the never-ending war on terror.  Regardless, comics did indeed flourish in the 2000s.  Now, sales have never achieved what they were in the early 1990s (Bendis hasn't appeared in a blue jeans commercial or anything), but not only were the major publishers on a roll, but so was the independent world of comics.  It seems as if small press publishers were popping up left and right.  As I mentioned in the last piece, we saw bigger indies like Oni and Top Shelf rise, but we also saw it become much easier for a burgeoning creator to make a comic and get it out the public.

So if things are going so great, why is this titled the death of the industry? Well, the recent events of the past year have gotten many concerned beacuse Diamond — the seemingly monopolistic distributor of comics to the direct market — has made changes to their distribution practices that spell certain doom for many independent publishers.  In early 2009, Diamond changed the order minimums for publishers to a higher dollar threshold.  This decision seemed insignificant to the average reader.  But if you buy PREVIEWS every month, have you noticed how it's getting thinner and thinner? That's right, it has, and it's because of this policy change.  The world of comics, that had once been growing, has gotten way smaller as many small publishers have now found themselves with nearly no way to get their books to comic book stores, and that's just sad.

Who knows what the 2010s holds in store for Diamond and the world of comic book distribution, but with the purchase of Marvel by Disney coupled with some other industry factors that could influence it, it's a safe assumption that the comic book distribution industry, the direct market and the world of comic books as we know it, could be in for a bumpy ride.

7. Comics Enter the 21st Century
Don't get too depressed by #6 on this list, there is indeed a future for comics and that future lays in embracing technology and other wonders of the 21st century.  While web comics didn't start in the 2000s (many began in the late 1990s when the Internet came to prominence), it definitely matured and became accepted in this decade.  Comics like PVP, Penny Arcade, Achewood and many others proved that web comics were not only a viable format for comics, but one that could be very profitable for the creators as well.

In addition to web comics, we saw may attempts for comics to go "digital" as publishers and other companies have attempted to bring comics to a digital platform.  If you asked anyone in 2000 if comics would ever be on a computer, we would have probably laughed, not being to imagine a world where DC Comics has a digital comics imprint (Zuda), or where Marvel as a library of their comics available at a subscription service.  In addition to this, there are hints of what's to come with other digital comics platforms gearing up for release, which would continue the comics industry's growth in the digital format.  And that's a growth that's already been hinted at by the emergence of comics on the iPhone and Android phone platforms.  

It doesn't matter how much you love your issues or books, or how "old school" you are — the writing is on the wall.  Comics are going digital and it's just a matter of time before it's widely accepted format.  Now this doesn't spell the death of printed comics — not at all, there will be room for both digital and print — but the comics industry, like every other media indutry, is going to have to change or die in the digital age.  

8. Creator of the Decade: Darwyn Cooke
The Wizard decade issue did do a very good job of highlighting many of the creators who have made some of the comics that we've read and loved for the past 10 years.  The usual suspects like Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Lee, Alex Ross, Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr. (and many others) were mentioned.  But I couldn't help but notice they failed to mention one creator.  One creator they even highlighted as being responsible for the "Top Graphic Novel" just 7 issues ago.  Darwyn Cooke.

If I had to pick one creator that defined both the 2000s and what it means to be a modern day comic creator, it would be Darwyn Cooke, hands down.  He didn't release nearly as many comics as a Brian Bendis or a Geoff Johns.  Nor did he sell as many as a Jeph Loeb or a Jim Lee.  But what Cooke was able to do was piece together a decade of project after project that not only changed how we looked at comics, but were also created with such care and precision that the level of his craft is undeniable.  

Beginning with Batman: Ego in 2000, Cooke's retro style finally came back into favor and became something that could be appreciated and marketed in today's comic market.  From his character defining design work on Catwoman, to his epic masterpiece DC: The New Frontier (which Wizard awarded the "Top Graphic Novel" in issue #212), which is, hands down, one of the greatest collected editions in its Absolute form, to his year long run on The Spirit which took the classic Will Eisner character and introducing him to a new generation, to the adaptation of DC: The New Frontier to an animated DVD, to finally, this year's Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter, the first graphic novel adaptation of Richard Stark's (actual name: Donald Westlake) classic crime novels.  

The evolution of Cooke as an artist, to an artist/writer to a graphic novelist, veering a little to the side to oversee the animated adaptation of his work along way, for me sums up what it means to be a creator in the 2000s.  His attention to quality and the pureness of the artistic vision positions Cooke almost as an Ayn Rand-esque character, who stands up for his beliefs and his art, no matter what.  I have yet to meet a creator who doesn't respect and marvel at Cooke and his work.  If you ask me, Wizard, Cooke warrants at least a mention in your "Decade Issue."  Just sayin'

9. Image Re-Invents Itself
One of the most important moments in the comic book industry in the 1990s was the creation of Image Comics.  Top creators leaving the Big 2 publishers and starting their own company, and then finding tremendous success, was unheard of.  But as the days of the 1990s waned, it became apparent that Image desperately needed a second act. How would they be able to live up to the hype of the days of the megahits of Youngblood, Spawn and Cyber Force? Well, they were able to put together a second act that no one could have predicted.

First, under publisher Jim Valentino, Image began taking chances on new creators.  They took chances on indie creator veterans like Brian Michael Bendis and his new book Powers, or a young kid named Robert Kirkman and his super hero Invincible and his black and white zombie book The Walking Dead, among others.  Image was able to create a place where creator owned work could not only get published but thrive.  As Valentino transitioned to Erik Larsen as Image publisher, there almost became two Image Comics.  One still centered on it's original focus: the books of its founders like Savage Dragon and Spawn.  But another Image emerged, an Image where just plain ol' good comic books were made. Some were super hero books, but many others weren't.  Historical fiction, crime, supernatural, zombies, satire, they all found a home at Image Comics, and with the move from Larsen to current publisher Eric Stephenson and the addition of Robert Kirkman as a partner, Image Comics is the go-to publisher when one thinks of creator owned works.  And they've done this all at the same time while maintaining and continuing their founders creations and success.  No easy feat.

Some of my favorite books of all time have been published at Image, books like Savage Dragon, The Maxx, Powers, Invincible, Godland, Proof, Madman, Phonogram, and most recently Chew.  Books that would never stand a chance at the bigger publishers because their ideas were too out there or risky get to become a reality because Image Comics is made to support just that.  I can't imagine the comic industry without Image, and I think we're all better for it.  It's been a great second act and I look forward to the third.

10.  Graphic Novels…Finally!
I remember being on the now legendary Warren Ellis Forum in the early 2000s, where there were many discussions about the future of the comic book industry.  Warren Ellis and others often posed the question about whether or not we even needed the issue format anymore and wouldn't the graphic novel, or trade paperback format, eventually rise to replace the single issue.  10 years ago, many argued against that idea.  Comics ARE issues – it's how it's done!  And now, just like with Digital Comics, the grahic novel as dominant force in the industry is coming closer and closer to being a reality.  In each year of the 2000s there has been a landmark single volume release that bucks the standard issue format.  Be it Scott Pilgrim, or Brian K. Vaughan's Pride of Baghdad, or many of the books published at Top Shelf and Oni Press, the time of the graphic novel is upon us.  Further cemented by this past year (which I think many will one day look back on and consider the Year of the Graphic Novel) with the already classic releases of Asterios Polyp (by the master Dave Mazzuchelli) or the aforementioned Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (by Darwyn Cooke) along with many others.  Those who were skeptical in 2000 about the future of graphic novels would probably have a hard time arguing against them now.  

And thus ends my list of 10 Things, Good and Bad, About the 2000s That Wizard Forgot.  If I were self indulgent, I would add an 11th all about the rise of the Internet media within comics, the emergence of comics podcasts, and the adoption of social media, all of which make it easier than ever to connect with your comic book heroes, but I know I'd be preaching to the choir about that one. 

It all boils down to the fact that I love comic books.  I have grown to love the comic book industry, warts and all, and I found it upsetting that Wizard could try and sum up 10 years that have meant as much as they have to a dedicated fan and wannabe journalist like myself and leave out such wonderful things, as well as ignore the unpleasant realities of the industry that affect all of us.  But this is just one man's opinion.  I'm sure that combined together, Wizard and myself, forgot something that meant a lot to you, so feel free to share in the comments below and thanks for reading.


  1. I have greatly enjoyed #’s 8 and 9.  Thank you for reminding me.

    I also feel #11 may be partially responsible for many of the positive aspects of the other 10 things on your list. 

  2. Great article Ron. I only started reading comics a few years ago and it’s interesting to see how the industry as changed in just the last 10 years. Keep up the great work.

  3. "sales have never achieved what they were in the early 1990s (Bendis hasn’t appeared in a blue jeans commercial or anything)"–I don’t get the reference.  Was there an early-90s creator who appeared in blue jeans commercials?

  4. Excellent article Ron, and I agree almost 100% on those additions to the Wizard list. Which, for the record, I haven’t read, seeing as I haven’t bought an issue of Wizard in…4 years? 3 years? Something like that.

    Also, I was trying to think of who I’d go for in creator of the decade, and after pondering for a few minutes I really can’t think of reasons good enough to dis-credit Cooke as that creator. Such fantastic work from both a writing and artistic standpoint, which is more than can be said for a lot of other creators out there.

  5. I would also add the emergence of podcasts and a much stronger sense of (internet) community amongst comics fans.

  6. @mrlogical – yeah…there was a spike lee directed commercial featuring Rob Liefeld "So you created Youngblood?"

  7. I personally wouldn’t expect Wizard to mention some of the more subtly significant events of the past ten years, them being a magazine that started in ’91. I didn’t read this "decade" issue, but Wizard always seemed to be more about the glitz and shiny stuff when it came to comics. The covers of the first 15 issues are populated mostly with soon to be Image founders and Valiant characters (with the occasional Sam Kieth break inbetween). This is why I turn to iFanboy and great articles like this one for content with substance!

  8. Great list.I think given their size constraints these days and constantly trying to figure out what they want to be – a news magazine, Previews-lite, whatever – they do a decent job.

    I also haven’t jumped on the ‘Let’s burn Wizard to the ground’ bandwagon, and think it is still a good read. Sure, I’m not interested in the 20-page Top Cow preview or the spread about Blue Devil, but there are still good articles in there – the recent Bill Mantlo piece comes to mind. Every once in a while, I’ll roll my eyes at the ‘look, it’s a hot chick (drool)’ cracks, but there is at least one – most times more – articles in there worth reading.

    Although ignoring Cooke as one of the decade’s best creators? That’s a crime.

  9. @finbarbat thanks

  10. re you guys going to do a decade show or a feature in the year-end wrap up?

  11. Wizard sucks. There aren’t even any wizards in their issues!

  12. What is the deal with the perspective on Wolverine’s claws on the cover?

  13. @ron are there any magazines that you think are more aimed at emcompassing the entire industry?

  14. Great article. Interesting points, all. I would add the following modifications:

    I’m not sure it’s right to single out Previews/Diamond as being the single biggest threat to the life of the industry. I think what the real issue has been, all decade long, is that there seems to be this huge mysterious invisible threat called "The Death of the Comics Industry" that many people feel is haunting the comics landscape, hiding behind certain corners or doors. Some people feel this ghost is everywhere, while others feel this ghost doesn’t really exist. Is the "monolithic" nature of Previews/Diamond as good a potential "death" candidate as any other? Sure, in a sense that "monolithic" nature if very troubling. If something happens to Previews/Diamond, the whole industry would potentially be finished as we know it. It’s sort of the equivalent of finding out that one corporation supplies all of the world’s drinking water or something (this is just a ficitious example), and so we better hope that nothing goes wrong with that corporation or else life as we know if is over.

    The thinning of Previews is also an excellent point to bring up. However, personally, I strongly feel the real cause of all of his is the gradual erosion of single issue sales, period. Previews would have more pages if it were still profitable to print pages advertising comics that sold enough. But it’s no longer profitable. In other words, the remaining comics that you find in Previews? They are the only comics that sell enough copies total to justify even printing a freaking page LISTING them.

    Unlike the ’90s, in the ’00s there were no watershed moments where the "bottom fell out" or distribution drastically changed. Instead the ’00s have been a gradual decline: a decline in single issue sales and thus a decline in comic shop profitability aka brick-and-mortar direct market profitability. This decline has been so slow that many people hardly notice it. Instead it’s easier to point to modest sales successes (Batman: Hush, Civil War, Batman & Robin, Watchmen trades, Scott Pilgrim and the like) on the one hand or comic film successes on the other hand, but the real constant element going on in the background of all of this has been the fact that average comic sales have continued to decline and, in general, the industry keeps losing readers no matter what. The remaining readers are approaching 40, and on average each one of them is responsible for buying over a dozen $3-$4 titles a month (comics which have to be sold at higher prices because it’s no longer profitable to sell them at lower, more reasonable prices; they’re not really sold or produced ‘en masse’ anymore). That’s how the industry is being supported. In terms of demographics, we’re at a radically different place than we were 10-15 years ago, but the change has happened so gradually that it never really became a big, out-in-the-open issue.

    You know what would be an interesting % chart? To somehow figure out approximately what % of industry revenue EACH READER is responsible for these days. Because I’m pretty sure that in the ’80s or ’90s there was probably around a million kids who read comics, and they maybe only bought 2-3 $1 issues a month from the grocery store rack. Whereas today there are a lot fewer adults, who put down $100 a more at the comic shop (on comics and on things like statues). I mean, the figure’s got to be something like "Today the average (adult) comic reader is responsible for a % of industry revenue equivalent to the % gleaned from 30 kids in 1990."

    As far as Darwyn Cooke goes: Look, he’s a great creator. Fantastic. But again I think the real issue is the RETRO nature of his art. How can the representative Creator Of The ’00s have a style that seems to invoke the spirit of the ’40s or ’50s? Answer: because the ’00s were the decade in which RETRO became a big, huge movement in itself. This again, I feel, has to do with changing demographics. We as adults who are still very invested in superhero comics, like it when our hobby is wedded in imagery that suggests history. It legitimizes our entertainment in a sense; it makes it (seem?) more culturally important. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that. It’s a strange situation, though, and I think it leads to a lot of misplaced hope for the industry. I remember hearing an interview with Darwyn Cooke–again, I love the guy–in which he talked about how the driving force behind his work was a spirit to get younger readers into comics. He said that’s why his stories were relatively simplistic and optimistic, because he felt that these were qualities that suit younger readers. The problem with this, however, is that his look is very retro; his look is actually the complete opposite of anything that would attract young readers who aren’t already invested in comics. So while he’s doing things to attract younger readers fresh off the street, what he’s really doing is attracting older readers like us who already know these characters very well–and we’re actually charmed by his work as it is "retro" and old, NOT as if it is something new for new readers. See how strange the situation is?

    Anyway, just my thoughts. In general, I really have enjoyed your articles on this.

  15. Well, I’m glad you’ve straightened that out.  Seriously great article which really puts the "original" (from what little I read of the Wizard nonsense) in the shade. 

  16. @flapjaxx – I disagree with your point about Cooke’s art not being able to attract younger reader’s because it’s "retro". You forget that younger readers don’t KNOW that it’s retro, unless someone tells them so. I have personally handed some of Darwyn Cooke’s work to "younger readers" and they ate it up! It most certainly appeals to them. I think this is because his work has less in common with older work, and more in common with the DC animated style that so many kids are used to.

  17. Now I cannot defend a magazine that doesn’t include Darwyn Cooke in a discussion. I mean the first couple of things you had a problem with, I can sorta see on their side. But not having Cooke on the list of big name creators of the decade? That’s bullshit.

    New Frontier is one of the biggest things to come out quite possibly of all time in the industry. It got made into a film for god sakes! That’s ridiculous.

  18. Silly man! Movies don;t affect comic book sales! Everybody knows that. So basically, you’re stupid.

  19. i recently read the Fountian Head after Ron’s numerous references to the book. it seems to be about how people who sell out suck.

     Anyway, Darwyn Cooke does represent that idea… kind of… 

  20. i certainly agree about Darwyn cooke. i discovered his work on the ed burbaker run on catwoman and just feel in love.

  21. Thanks for posting the second half, Ron.  I was keen to hear what you had to say following that great first half.  I’m sure there will be some equally good comments this time, too.

    6. I don’t know much about the current distribution system, but the fact that Diamond won’t list certain comics below a certain dollar threshold, while superficially a dick move, is probably rooted in business and common sense.  I don’t know how the economics of listing/distributing works, but I do know the history of independent publishing, and if that’s anything to go on, their decision makes sense.  For every “Echo” and “Glammourpus” out there, there are probably 10 or so independent publishers who don’t ship or ship late.  This has been the way since the direct market was introduced.  I remember when retailers would joke that the only reliable thing about independent publishers was their unreliability.  Those publishers did a great disservice to retailers (and fans) who had to keep funds allocated somewhere in the hopes that those independent titles would someday ship, thus preventing them from purchasing titles that actually shipped on time.  Independent publishers do not have a good track record, and if that in any way impinged on Diamond’s shipping or business model, then their decision was one that was forced upon them, and those unreliable publishers share the blame. 

    Of course I could be completely wrong on this, and then it is just a dick move.

    7. I don’t really consider comics like “PvP” or “Penny Arcade” true digital comics.  They’re just free comic strips on the web.  I can read newspaper comic strips like “Dilbert” on the web.  What’s the difference?  I don’t think the digital part of it is that revolutionary.  It’s like the difference between op/ed pieces in a newspaper and blogs that talk about the same stuff.  In one case someone gets paid to write their opinions, and the other they’re doing it for free; but the person who gets paid gets his work in print as well as on the web.  The internet is just a new outlet for these people; it’s not a revolution so much as they’re reaching a wider audience then they could with the fanzines of yore.  There’s a saying that each generation thinks it invents sex and music, but those in the internet age think they’ve invented everything!  It’s not new, it’s just the scale is different.

    Now Marvel and DC distributing their IPs over a digital medium?  That has the potential to be revolutionary, although it has to be way better than that Kindle schlock.  Just replacing the paper with a screen that’s not accessible to everyone and is, for the money, an inferior product isn’t the way to go.  I don’t know what IS the proper way to go, but downloading comics on your computer isn’t revolutionary.  You’ve been able to do that with video games for years, and that hasn’t replaced actual game packaging, bricks and mortar shops, or home consoles for that matter.  The majority of gamers still prefer a proprietary device to play games over something universal like the PC! What you gain in accessibility (it’s easy to download a comic versus going to the store), you lose in freedom (you can’t take your desktop on a bus or read it in bed) and other ancillary conveniences.

    8. I can’t recall reading anything by Darwyn Cooke, but based on the accolades the iFanboys give him, I believe Wizard should have named him as an important creator.  From what I’ve seen of his art style, it strikes me as very Bruce Timm, which isn’t bad, but there are a lot of (bad) imitators that detract from that style.

    I’m surprised they mentioned John Romita, Jr.  Indeed, I’m surprised by the extent people love his work, so much so that I often wonder if I’m getting the same comics.  I liked his Punisher stuff back in the day, but his stuff on “Kick-Ass” and “Amazing Spider-Man” is just awful in my opinion.  Harry Osborn, Jr. looks like one of those house elves from Harry Potter, and everyone’s hands look like they’re wearing oven mitts.  And let’s not even talk about how everyone has a flat face with big ears and even bigger lips.  His Spider-Man is OK, but it’s not something that makes me drool.  I think he’s getting worse with each book.  I don’t know if he’s overextended or what, but I’m not a fan anymore.  Even back in the day I never thought his stuff was great, so I was shocked to find when I came back to comics that he’s considered a hot artist, at least according to Wizard.  But they think Ed McGuinness is good, and I still don’t get people who criticize Rob Liefeld’s depictions of anatomy and praise McGuinness’ in the same breath.  But to each his own.

    9. This also surprised me when I came back to comics, and I think it’s a great thing for the industry as a whole.  I’m glad to see Image expand beyond just what the founders were doing.  More variety in comics is always good.

    10. I love this trend as well.  It’s nice to be able to get hardcover and softcover versions of past stories without having to hunt down back issues.  The only problem is when new stuff is released only in hardcover (a la DC’s upcoming Universe 1); how’s a kid supposed to afford that?  I guess those are for adults and the kids have to be satisfied with a few monthly titles.  Although given the prices these days, I don’t even know how they afford those!

  22. @jumpingjupiter Wow!!

  23. I would have added digital coloring, and specifically Dave Stewart, who really puts the work of guys like Darwyn Cooke over the top.  Comic book coloring is so much more beautiful than it was was a decade ago.

  24. Excellent take! You reminded me about quite a few things that I have been taking for granted these last few years.

    If you want some real food for thought, try to write the one for 2019 today. Or maybe I’ve just given away an article idea.

    Most importantly, you prompted me to rediscover– and gave me an excuse to post– Rob Liefeld’s Levi’s commercial.

  25. I agree with #11. I didn’t really leave comics, but you guys brought me back in full force. Thanks, iFanboy. LOL.