The idea of predicting trends for the next year in the comic book industry is at once a simple task — both Marvel and DC will continue to try and strengthen their superhero lines with events and relaunches of underperforming series — and impossible. (Who really saw the sheer dominance of the Star Wars line this year coming?)
It’s easier to suggest some the names of some creators who are primed to break out in 2016, however. The five writers and artists below have all enjoyed good 2015s, and are ready to make even more of a splash over the next 12 months. Whether or not these are the people who’ll create the biggest comics of the next year is, of course, impossible to predict, but if you’re simply looking for some great reads, then these are the names to keep in mind.
Few writers have had as strong a year as Rob Williams, whose projects have included a much lauded Judge Dredd run for longtime British anthology 2000AD, the critically praised relaunch of DC Entertainment’s Martian Manhunter and the debut of his social media thriller Unfollow. Able to switch between revisionist tendencies and the ability to offer straight-ahead excitement with ease, Williams feels like a writer perfectly equipped to deal with the current comic mainstream — as demonstrated with his recent Darkseid War: The Flash issue, which seamlessly plugged into another writer’s ongoing narrative while adding depth to the character and story. Expect to see his star continue to rise at DC in 2016.
In a sense, Marguerite Bennett has already arrived. She’s writing Bombshells and Angela, Queen of Hel for DC and Marvel respectively, as well as InSeXts for AfterShock Comics and Beauties for Rosy Press, showing that she can straddle the mainstream and indie divide with the best of them; past credits already include working on Avengers, X-Men and Batman franchises, as well as the comic book versions of Sleepy Hollow and James Patterson’s Max Ride series. Not bad for someone who’s only been in the industry for a handful of years — and enough to raise the question: where does she go next?
David Walker is on the rise. This time last year, he had a reboot of Shaft for Dynamite Entertainment under his belt, and now he can add a critically acclaimed Cyborg series for DC Entertainment and an upcoming Power Man and Iron Fist revival for Marvel Entertainment. Bringing a sadly needed awareness of race to mainstream comics, Walker’s strength is that his stories never become overwhelmed by that awareness, with it instead becoming part of well-rounded, smart stories that make entertainment their primary goal. It’ll be fascinating to see where he goes once he’s given toys to play with outside of each publisher’s established “black characters.”
It’s possible that Ron Wimberly is best known by most comic fans at this point for his artwork on Marvel’s She-Hulk and related covers, but 2016 is likely to be the year to change that: in addition to his Image Comics series Sunset Park — which deals with the gentrification of Brooklyn by actual vampires — he’s also working with musician and poet Saul Williams on a project called Martyr Loser King, as well as a second Image series (Slave Punk) and Gratuitous Ninja, an upcoming webcomic (A medium where he’s already found success). It’s a heavy workload, but expect Wimberly to be a name everyone is familiar with by the time everything has dropped.
Quietly, Lucy Knisley has spent the last few years becoming one of the most charming autobiographical cartoonists around. Her breakthrough book was 2013’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which mixed memoir and cookbook, and she’s followed it up with both Age of License — a coming of age travelogue about a summer in Europe — and Displacement, about her relationship with her aging grandparents. 2016 brings Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, which details the lead-up to Knisley’s 2014 wedding. In a genre often dominated by male cartoonists offering a particular take on life, Knisley is an increasingly welcome breath of fresh air.