Comic Books 2018: The Year In Review

How much did you spend and how many books did you get last year?

The Cost

Happy New Year! No matter where you live, 2018 wasn’t a dull one and comic books certainly offered a welcome respite from the real world. Here’s hoping that 2019 is a little calmer. Let’s take a look to see if you spent all I did to keep up with this hobby.

There were 451 new books I purchased last year, which is 18 less than the previous year. This works out to just over 8 books a week. It didn’t seem like a lot less, that’s for sure. This does not include the books I reviewed from companies that sent me digital previews, for which I’m eternally grateful. I will say that several of the books I was sent electronically by some of those publishers had me picking up physical copies. I prefer printed copies to digital. I’m one of those fans that enjoys turning pages more so than flicking a finger.

The breakdown by publisher is as follows:

Marvel Comics 135, AfterShock Comics 76, DC Comics 53, Dark Horse Comics 52, IDW Publishing 44, Zenescope 33, Image Comics 16, Archaia 13, Dynamite Entertainment 13, BOOM! 12, Aspen Comics 3, Joe Benitez Publications 3, and Ahoy Comics 1

Marvel Comics shot to the number one spot this year for me for one simple reason: Star Wars. This was the title that got me into seeking out a comic book on a regular basis back in the 1970’s and it’s the one film franchise that I’m obsessed with. Having these books as canon has me chasing down all the books.  I am “that fan” that Marvel loves: the one that will buy anything with Star Wars on it. Yeah, that’s me. Add on to that the Variant covers that I really like, the Action Figure Variants and Galactic Icons Variants, leading me to buy the same issue more than once. Yeah, I’m that kind of fan. I also began following the Avengers this year, before and after the number change, and am enjoying it very much. Another jump up was AfterShock Comics, from the fourth spot last year to my second. I love the variety of books from AfterShock and they seem more willing to try new books. If this publisher puts out a new number one, I’m going to try it, because more often than not, I’m going to like it. Dropping from last year’s number one spot is DC Comics. The price point got to me. I was all over their books for $2.99, but I’m not willing to go $3.99 for many books. I wasn’t happy with Batman’s 50th issue, so that burned me on the monthly Bat titles, though Batman: Kings of Fear has me following it. I’m also not a fan of the Green Lantern’s new visuals, so that has me dropping one of my go-to books. Dark Horse Comics dropped from third to fourth, with several titles I had followed winding up (Buffy, Groo, Harrow County). The Mignolaverse books have me picking every one of them up. IDW Publishing jumped up a spot for a familiar sounding reason: Star Wars. With their acquiring the rights to do kid friendly Star Wars books, and publishing some limited series weekly, I’m purchasing more from them. I’ve also become a rampant Ghostbusters fan of their four colored adventures, so I’m grabbing every new issue of that franchise. Zenescope dropped a spot because I couldn’t get them at my local store. I picked them up when I could at other stores, but finding physical copies became difficult. I’m still very impressed with what this publisher offers and look forward to what they’ll have available next year. Image Comics remains at the same spot as last year. Savage Dragon is a pick up every month and I tried a few more books from them this year. Archaia is new to my pull list due to my decision to pick up their Jim Henson titles. I have really enjoyed the new stories involving the Dark Crystal and the Labyrinth and will continue to do so. Dynamite Entertainment drops one position to number eight simply because several of its titles are being reviewed by Ian Cullen here at SciFiPulse. I continue to follow Red Sonja and will continue to do so. BOOM! Studios went down a spot with me purchasing only Planet of the Apes books from them. I’ve found these books amazing and will continue to pick them up. Aspen Comics shows up on this list because of Artifact One. I spotted this one in my local comic book store and they’ve been able to get me a copy of the three issues that have come out so far. Joe Benitez Publications ties with Aspen because of their publication of a three issue Lady Mechanika limited series. Ahoy Comics makes the list with one copy because I was able to nab a copy of Wrong Earth #1, but couldn’t find the other issues anywhere.

Totaling up all that I spent this year on new books comes to $1814.81. This is a negligible drop of $6.74 from what I spent last year. This shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to me because I purchased only 18 fewer books this year. I don’t purchase the majority of the books at cover price as I receive 10% off new books from my local comic book store for being a “member” in their subscription service. Living in California, the state tax almost pushes the total back up to the cover price. Additionally, I’ve been going once a month to a weekly comic book warehouse show (where comics, toys, cards, video games, etc. are sold) and have been picking up books two or more months after they’ve come out for fifty cents to a buck each. I’ve listed these books at cover value to simplify sorting.

The breakdown for what I paid is as follows:

0.25: 1, $2.99: 8, $3.99: 408, $4.99: 27, $5.99: 6, and $7.99: 5

This works out to about $4.02 a book 

I spent 30 cents more a book this year than last year. I knew this was going to happen because DC Comics dropped their $2.99 books for $3.99 cover prices. Several one-shots and first issues upped their prices to $4.99 or more, which also hit my wallet. I’m definitely becoming a lot more selective of new books I pick up monthly and want to try. I want to go back to Marvel, because I bought practically every title in the 80’s and early 90’s, but the art puts me off. I find myself not wanting to read dark superhero tales. This keeps me from returning the Bat-titles I once treasured. I spent quite a bit of money this year hunting down hardcover collections, Marvel Masterworks or omnibuses, of books I had in my younger days. I didn’t include those in this totaling, as they weren’t technically new books, but I’m finding the older books much more enjoyable. This could be due to new material published or my nostalgia for what’s gone before. My students at the high school I teach at know I read comics and always ask what happened in the newest comics. I ask why they don’t pick them up and I get the same answer: too expensive. One of the biggest issues I see in the industry is the price of new books. If I didn’t have the day job I do, I wouldn’t be able to afford these books.

 

The Best In Comics for 2018

Best Cover Artist: Once again, I was set to give John Tyler Christopher the win for his superior Action Figure Variant covers for the Star Wars books published by Marvel. I’ve loved each of them and frantically try to track down each copy, but there was another Star Wars variant cover artist whose work hit me harder: Rod Reis. The Galactic Icons Variant cover for Marvel’s Star Wars books are stellar. They contain bust shots of the iconic characters of this film series. They were beautiful. I would love to have each as a poster, print, or tee shirt. I was sad to see them finish up this year, though I hope they get revived at some point, with Reis doing them, showcasing characters in their original series personas, rather than from the Episodes VII and VIII.

Best Letterer: Taylor Esposito clenches this win for the second year in a row. He’s able to insert his text without stepping on important elements of the art, his sounds are second to none, he differs narration from dialogue, characters that aren’t human get unique fonts to separate them from others, and even his scene settings — the scene settings — are visual treats. Esposito ups the visuals of any book he works on.

Best Colorist: Because of the wide variety of colors the story requires in Ghostbusters: Crossing Over, Luis Antonio Delgado deserves this title. The number of different characters and settings had Delgado constantly changing up what was required to have the characters remain consistent to their original incarnations. To go from a Sunday comic strip’s colors to that of Bergman film was insane, yet Delgado pulls it off seemingly effortlessly. His sounds are bright explosions on the page, as are his supernatural wails. The colors also directed the reader where to look in the detailed art of the series. It’s impressive work and should be recognized.

Best Inker: Marc Deering earns this win for his sensational work on Kev Walker’s pencils on Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. The work put out by Walker is detailed so it falls on Deering to use his skills to highlight some elements more so than others and translate that work into a completed piece. The setting for his series of stories is on a derelict jail in space that’s free falling into a planet’s orbit. There are huge numbers of characters, lots of action, explosions, and complex settings. Deering is the perfect compliment to Walker’s work. For an inker to make sense of what is provided by a penciler and then use their inks to bring them to life is impressive. With all that there is in this series, I was always in awe of his work. I am highly interested to see Deering’s inks on other artists.

Best Artist: This was tough. Comic books are a visual medium and if I don’t like the art, I won’t pick the book up. There are several books I pick up simply because of the artist. I was attracted to the title this artist worked on simply for the combination of two franchises, but his visuals kicked Kong on the Planet of the Apes into the stratosphere. Carlos Magno’s artwork is astonishing. The level of detail is staggering. His apes that inhabit the book look just like their likenesses in the beloved film franchise. His Kong was as emotional and as strong as that of the classic film. His dinosaurs were vicious and beautiful. The settings were lush. I enjoy detailed artwork and Magno more than delivered. His name is one I will seek out on other books.

Best Writer: I didn’t have to think long about this choice. Charles Soule was a like a bolt of lightning to Darth Vader. The best equivalent I can make is when Timothy Zahn began to write Star Wars novels. Soule took a forty-year-old character and took him on a journey into his soul. In the process he created his own lightsaber, sought out Jedi, and fought the librarian of the Jedi Library. These seem like typical Star Wars tropes, but Soule made the pure evil, even the struggle against what was left of Anakin Skywalker, come to the forefront of this monster. Each issue left me wanting more and fearful of what new horror this Sith would commit. It was gold.

Best Mini-series: The series that had an incredibly engaging mystery and had me in fear for a long time supporting character was Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden. Stan Sakai has his ronin stumble into a story involving a murder, a theft, and the shogun’s law. Each issue built sensationally upon the last and I didn’t think any character was safe. This story isn’t just a serious tale, there’s tremendous heart, plenty of humor, and great action. The ending was a stunning. I miss the monthly adventures of Usagi, but if Sakai is going to deliver longer stories over fewer issues, I’m in for much more. This is a saga you give someone who doesn’t read comics to hook them into becoming fans.

Best Title: There were several titles I looked forward to each month and week, but there was only one that really shocked or thrilled me: Darth Vader. I’ve been a fan of the franchise since it came out when I was nine-years-old and to for it to contain so many surprises with such incredible imagery was staggering to me. If you had told me that the librarian — the librarian — of the Jedi, who’s on the screen for less than a minute,  would be an jaw-dropping character I would have said there’s no chance. To have such an outstanding justification for Vader’s castle on Mustafar and then have him use it, in the series’ final issue, was brilliant. The visuals were to use the Dark Lord’s term “impressive.” Every panel was a masterpiece, with even a conversation between Vader and the Emperor visually riveting. I was sharing with anyone I knew to be a Star Wars fan how amazing this title was. This was the best title of the year easily.

Best Publisher: Based on the number of comics I purchased this shouldn’t be a surprise. AfterShock Comics consistently puts out the widest variety of comics. They have no franchise books based on film or television properties — it’s all original words. It’s impressive the number of books they put out with every genre hit — science fiction and horror being my two favorites. Several books feature writers and artists I’ve grown to follow. I’ve been so impressed with what AfterShock does, I’ll buy any number one issue they publish just to see if it’s something I like. Chances are better than not I’ll like it. I can’t say that of any other publisher. I look forward to what they’ll be publishing in the new year.

Those are my picks for the best of 2018. There are many other creators and comics that are worth following. Something new is always out on Comic Book Wednesday and I hope you’ll go to your local comic book store to pick a book or two up.

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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