It’s time for the annual selection of the Comics Industry Person of the Year for 2022. (See below for methodology.) It was a fascinating year for comics, as platforms and outlets boomed – from webtoons to manga to bookstores and comics shops. Comics were in your email, on your phone, on your shelf and everywhere else.
So it was a wide swath to choose from for the Person of the Year. We’ve had occasional ties, and this year is another one. Both recipients received wide based support, and both of them encapsulate this moment of comics – a moment of greater acceptance than ever, now coupled with greater controversy.
Despite the two clear winners, many others had wide support and made a huge impact on the year.
And the winners are:
This is Beaton’s SECOND win for person of the year (she previously won in 2011) and it finds her career in a very different spot. Winning in 2011 as an upstart web cartoonist, Beaton’s signature 2022 achievement is Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands, an unforgettable memoir of her time facing harassment and hardship working in Alberta’s dehumanizing mining operation. The book is widely admired – Obama chose it for his year-end reading list – and it was clearly the graphic novel of the year. Contacted for comment she told The Beat:
“I’ve had a wonderful, fortunate year. I worked on this book for a long time, through many ups and downs in my life, and with a lot of starts and stops, and the births of two children. Sometimes – and I am sure Drawn and Quarterly can attest to this – it felt like it would never be finished. So to have Ducks finally come out to a response such as this, in high esteem by readers and peers, it is all I could have ever asked for. You always worry that stepping out of your wheelhouse will be a misstep, or that the thing you’ve worked on for ages will land with a dull thud. So at first I was just relieved not to have messed the whole thing up, but now, I’m feeling grateful to have better earned my space in comics I guess, if that makes sense. I’d like to stick around. This seems like one of the most difficult things to do in comics. Thank you for making me feel like I can.”
And voters concurred:
• Kate Beaton – her graphic memoir DUCKS is amazing and hard-hitting – a departure from her usual comics. I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins some major awards for this book.
• Kate Beaton – when you create the book of the year, you get to be person of the year. DUCKS is a signature achievement and an amazing creative reinvention in terms of voice and style.
• Kate pivoted from being a beloved comics humorist to digging deep into her own personal history and more importantly international issues like the human toll of capitalism.
• Kate Beaton! Ducks has been the most talked about book of the year for good reason — it’s complex, empathetic, and incisive as it explores some of the most urgent issues of our time. An instant bestseller, a New York Times Notable book, it’s already topping a million best of the year lists.
• Kate Beaton. Her memoir DUCKS: Two Years in the Oil Sands took the autobio comics genre to new heights with its skill, intelligence and generosity. The book is about Kate’s journey in life, but also so much more. As Kate’s editor when she told me six years ago, that she wanted to do a story about her time at the camps, and how she wanted it to be a statement on class, gender, environment, addiction, workplace safety, and more. I never doubted she could do it, but the best part of being a publisher is seeing a cartoonist push themselves and achieve what they set out to do.
Kobabe endured threats, legal action and notoriety as one of the most censored authors in the US for eir memoir, Gender Queer. A gentle, open-minded autobiography of self-discovery (the kind of thing comics do so well), Kobabe’s book is now The Most Banned Book in America, according to the LA Times, targeted by organized scare groups that claim it is pornography. (Spoiler: it isn’t.) Fortunately, the comics industry has stood by Kobabe, and CBLDF head lawyer Jeff Trexler helped win a landmark decision for the book in a Virginia court. The comics industry has been fearing a “new Wertham” for a while, and it’s here, but this time the industry is fighting back. And Kobabe has used eir platform to advocate for queer rights, authors and stories.
Reached for comment, Kobabe wrote:
“This year has been such a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The storm of book bans swept Gender Queer into national headlines in a way that I never could have anticipated. I’ve been trying to use the new platform this situation has given me to speak out against censorship, especially the censorship of queer and BIPOC stories, and speak in defense of the librarians who are frequently on the front lines of book challenges. I am very grateful for all of the support I’ve received from the comics community, from friends reaching out to check on me to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund representing Gender Queer in court. This year has only increased my desire to write and draw stories centering queer, trans, and nonbinary characters.”
• Maia Kobabe – No one had a greater impact on the past year’s surge in book challenges than Maia Kobabe, the author of Gender Queer. Communities around the country are rallying to debate, to condemn, to criminalize, and to save this one book.
• Maia Kobabe, whose smart, thoughtful, and honest memoir GENDER QUEER was the most banned book in America this year. Read it. It’s good stuff.
• Maia Kobabe, whose work has weathered the brunt of high-profile, ongoing censorship and intimidation campaigns from reality-averse fascists.
• Maia Kobabe – for handling a terrifying situation with grace and patience.
Of course many other comics figures had support. Here’s who else made an impact on 2022’s year in comics.
From Substack to crowdfunding to the indies, writers continued to drive sales and acclaim with innovative work.
- It feels like James Tynion IV is just crushing it, which makes me very happy. I’ve loved all of his creator-owned work since The Woods, and I just can’t get enough of his writing. He also manages work seamlessly with the perfect collaborators for each of his stories, giving them each such depth. Reading his work always inspires me to keep creating!
- James Tynion IV. Creator-owned projects, the most mainstream of superhero projects, indie projects, self-publishing, comics for young audiences and comics for mature readers–he writes everything, and he writes everything very, very well.
- James Tynion, probably? Banner sales and leveraging of the Substack platform.
- Alex Segura – with the knockout release of SECRET IDENTITY and the proliferation of projects and stories he’s released in 2022 and will be arriving in 2023, Alex Segura
- I’m gonna say that Alex Segura had a heck of a year, and kudos to him.
- Greg Pak does so much to keep things positive and focused on creativity that he deserves it.
- Kieron Gillen just delivered the best Marvel crossover even I’ve ready in nearly a decade. And he did that while dealing with the sky high expectations fans (rightfully) have about the Krakoa X-Men storyline. So he and the entire creative team for Judgement Day are my person(s) of the year.
- Ram V. for breaking through to an even wider audience with Detective Comics. He continues to create top-notch work both for established IPs and his own creator work.
- Steve Orlando – The most stand up creative in the business, whose career has purpose, humility and grandeur.
- Chip Zdarsky
- Tradd Moore. There’s no one else out there quite like him, he has the world at his feet.
- Tatsuki Fujimoto, creator of Chainsaw Man. After winning a second Eisner, and finally getting his smash hit an animated adaptation, Chainsaw Man has been lauded as both a critical and commercial success that regularly tops the NYT’s Graphic Novels and Manga Bestseller list. This surge in popularity has also led to his older and newer works also getting print releases and reprints, such as his series Fire Punch, and oneshots like Look Back and Goodbye Eri. Chainsaw Man is all anyone has been talking about this Fall Anime Season, as its bombastic, gorey, and stylized but rooted-in-reality character designs are constantly praised as a “departure from standard Shonen Jump fare.” I don’t personally agree with this take, but it generates more buzz regardless, fueling the perpetual hype machine that consistently attracts new fans who are anime-only or new to manga alike.
- Aimée de Jongh is a Dutch comic artist and is now taking over the world as a superstar. I’m super proud of her. And she’s sharing her success with other Dutch artists as well by organizing projects and trying to professionalize the business.
- Daniel Warren Johnson. To me he’s setting the pace of what you can do as an artist in a given year and really seems to be expressing his true talent of being able to sling ink and burst with creativity. He’s done Beta Ray Bill for Marvel, Jurassic League for DC, a lot of covers across the board, and he’s still been able to produce a monthly book over at Image, Do A Powerbomb!, that delivers on the thrills and family heart at the story. To me he is the master of 2022.
- Jeff Kinney, because I think despite his tremendous success, he’s under-appreciated as a cartoonist and comics creator. In 2022, he released a new book (of course) that was a best seller (of course), and the second Disney+ Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie will be released.
- Megan Kelso. She put out the best book, Who Will Make The Pancakes?, which re-established her as one of the very best cartoonists in the world and certainly one of its best thinkers about comics.
- Sloane Leong – Every convention organizer who plunged forward this year into the ongoing mess.
- Sloane Leong-– prolific creator as well as behind-the-scenes organizer.
- Jerry Craft
Just because they’ve already nearly done it all didn’t mean these superstars weren’t still having an impact
- Annie Koyama, for her generosity, intelligence and genuine care for the medium and its practitioners in personally awarding her Koyama Provides grants to alternative cartoonists.
- Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez. 40 years and counting, and earning a well-deserved victory lap in the media for their unprecedented and monumental contribution to the comics medium.
- Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. Where would literary comics be without the 40-year series by Gilbert and Jaime?
- Neil Gaiman – Not that he needs any more fame, but Neil Gaiman really dominated the landscape, as much as anyone can. The Sandman on Netflix was massive, he oversaw a line of Sandman books and he had great adaptations running of his Norse mythology book.
- Neil Gaiman – Sandman is smashing hit on Netflix and Audible, he’s owned the trolls on Twitter, had the final word in the side hustle conversation, won another Eisner, and even created a new Lord of the Rings show 😉
- Todd McFarlane. I personally think Todd McFarlane is the man of the year being hyper focused on his publishing and expanding his company and character line at the same time.
- Todd McFarlane. The resurgence of Spawn as a top seller across many titles and McFarlane himself as a massive influence in the industry was hard to miss. Just this month, thanks to the Batman/Spawn crossover and Image 30th anniversary celebration, we’ll be seeing his character on hundreds of covers across both DC and Image.
- Stan Sakai, who finally had Usagi adapted for animation – but is still the same super nice, genuine creator, plugging away making heartfelt funny comics like he always has
- Wendy and Richard Pini. ElfQuest is coming up on 45 years as a creator-controlled property. They recently wrapped up one decades-long epic and continue to tell new stories in their universe. They just completed an “audio movie.” The Pinis have been important independent creators for a long time, working with intention and integrity, and this seems an apt moment to pause and appreciate that.
The Publishers and Editors
The people who keep the trains on the tracks were recognized for their accomplishments.
- Marie Javins. Javins did the impossible. She made it look effortless. Not only did she make the “Big Two” work together, but it was for a creator that has given so much to the industry. This is at a time where comic book creators have held the highest positions at both companies have little to nothing for the aging comic book veterans.
- Dan DiDio – it’s great to see Dan energized and enthusiastic about bringing great comic stories to the market again without the burden and bureaucracy of a massive entertainment conglomerate getting in the way.
- Spike Trotman made a lot of big and bold moves this year, navigating the mire of new technologies creeping into the industry and using them as a springboard to expand the Iron Circus.
- David Saylor of Scholastic. He’s setting the pace for the rest of the kids OGN biz.
- In 2nd place, Charlie Kochman of Abrams. He’s right behind David, but he’s also made some great inroads in other bookstore OGNs.
- Kiara Valdez, editor at First Second
And two folks who hung up their publishing hats in 2022…but will be much missed. WE definitely haven’t heard the last from them, however.
- Patrick Crotty– designer at RHG and one of the leads of PEOW press. PEOW’s books are uniquely stylish and fun, but the real secret is the eye for finding talented creators and amplifying what’s unique about their voice through platform and presentation. PEOW is closing this year, sad to see it go!
- Zainab Akhtar for running ShortBox Comics Fair 2022. She shared that the fair “sold over 35,000 digital comics and took in over £150k in sales — all of which goes directly to our artists.” This is a wild success and I am excited about where it might go from here.
Other movers, other shakers
There are always some folks who are hard to classify:
- Jenn Haines of Comicspro. She’s really gone to bat for retailers in expressing shipping and data issues to PRH & other distributors, lots of room to improve, but she’s made some nice inroads for the distributors to understand what retailers need.
- Stu Colson of Comichub, created a Point of Sale software service makes retailers lives much easier in dealing with ordering and selling of items.
- Charlie Stickney
- Melissa Meszaros and JACK DeMayo
- James Gunn, though I wish I could think of someone more on the publishing side… I know, Spike Trotman!
- George Pérez, hands down. That was my answer last year, and it’s the answer again this year as this was the year he passed. What a titan of comics, and a tremendous loss.
- George Perez. As divided as this industry has become, the sadness of his passing was a unifying moment for just about everyone.
- George Perez. For showing everyone that The Comics Industry can have a heart when needed.
- Diane Noomin, a pioneer (sorry for that lame noun) in the process of expanding the comics world to include women.
- Kim Jung Gi. His sudden passing united the comics industry in a celebration of his life and work like I have rarely seen it celebrate anyone. There have been far too many greats who passed this year. But Gi’s passing in particular got to me as more interviews of his teaching, tutorials and mentorship circulated. This was someone who could’ve treated retreated into a cocoon, and treated the rest of the industry like an afterthought. And instead he became a global ambassador for the artform, and took every moment he could to educate and inspire those who wanted to reach their potential.
- Aline Kominsky-Crumb – truly one of a kind.
And that’s a wrap, folks. Many thanks again to all who voted, and shared their thoughts. Who will be the break out star of ’23? Let us know in the comments.
PREVIOUS PERSON OF THE YEAR WINNERS:
2021: Judy Hansen
2020: Gene Luen Yang
2019: Dav Pilkey and Tom Spurgeon
2018: Stan Lee and Olivia Jaimes
2017: Emil Ferris
2016: Gene Luen Yang and the March Trilogy Team
2015: Noelle Stevenson
2014: Raina Telgemeier
2013: Kim Thompson
2012: Eric Stephenson
2011: Kate Beaton/Jim Lee & Dan DiDio
2010: Robert Kirkman
Methodology: Person of the Year is voted on by participants in the annual Creator Survey. Not all PotY voters take part in the survey. Candidates chosen by the greatest number of people are selected as the winners.