Man, what a year it’s been. Another one in the books, time to throw out the old calendar and put up the new one (or, if you still use a paper calendar, just wait until the end of January when they’re all 90% off). What’s that? 2022? Oh no, dear reader, I’m reflecting on the end of the year 2023. You see, by reading a bunch of Kang of Conqueror comics, I’ve found myself a year into the future and want to reflect on the year you’re all about to experience. Yes, I know this gimmick is very tired, just go with it, please? Pretty please?
Alright, dope. Now that we’re all on the same page that I definitely am a time traveler and I just finished the year 2023, I want to talk a little bit about the year in comics. While others might be putting out their Predictions for the Year column (yawn), only I would be so bold as to offer you REDICTIONS, talking about things that have already happened. Of course, due to the nature of quantum physics, some of these redictions may not come to pass. Rest assured that they all DEFINITELY did happen, but by observing the result we might be fundamentally changing the result. But, no matter what actually comes to pass in the version of 2023 I’m definitely correct about all of these, it just was from a different reality. So, with those disclaimers out of the way, let me tell you how 2023 went down.
The Book of the Year Awards are a fight between two books that didn’t come out this year
Much like how the 2022 popular choice for Comic of the Year, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, actually came out in 2021, this year’s Book of the Year awards are a battle between Daniel Warren Johnson’s Do A Powerbomb and Deniz Camp and Stipan Morian’s 20th Century Men. While both showcase amazing art, the two stories tell very different stories, with Powerbomb telling a Power-ful (that one’s just for me) story of family legacy and coping with loss (all while giving the best action scenes on the market) while 20th Century Men tells a dense century-spanning geo-politcal story of an alternate version of the Cold War where the two world Superpowers are led by two actual Super-Powered beings. Both are excellent and worthy of the designation, just comes down to whether you want a more action-packed story that’ll make you cry or a brain-bending story of nations being proxies for the personalities leading them. Both of these comics were told in issue form primarily in 2022, but with the shift towards Collected Editions, people pretend like they’re both 2023 books. Thus, these are the books battling it out for the top prize this year.
Hickman and Schiti’s new Dr. Strange book created a new Strange-Verse of books’
Oh, how fondly I remember those quiet days of the past (aka the time you’re reading this. I’m from the future, remember? What’s that? No, I don’t think this schtick has gotten old at all, why do you ask?) when Marvel was teasing a new title by the amazing team of Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti. While the rest of the world will have to wait until New Comic Book Day 2023 to find out what title they’re teaming up for, I’m here to give you the scoop that these two are writing a Dr. Strange book. It’s featuring the return of Dr. Stephen Strange taking the Sorceror Supreme reins back from Clea Strange and the creative team of Jed Mackay and Marcelo Ferreira. Additionally, this opens the doors to a new Strange-verse of Magic-centric titles, much like Hickman’s previous HoX/PoX did with the X-Men. Also? This book is DOPE. Hickman fulfills the promise of worlds undiscovered he introduced in the pages of his New Avengers run and Schiti renders some of the trippiest visuals we’ve seen since Ditko. A word of caution to this rediction, though. Due to the intransitive properties of magic and the aforementioned quantum mechanics, this rediction is the one most likely to be changed in your version of 2023. Just hope I’m right, though. This book, if it makes its way to your hands, is among the best on the stands.
DC Comics is still making comics and hasn’t died yet, despite everything you saw in 2022
Man, when was the last year we didn’t have a “DC CoMiCs Is DyInG!!!1” storyline? From Warner Bros constant corporate restructuring to a slowdown of new Collected Edition releases (especially of the Omnibus and Absolute format), it seems there’s a new video or article every month telling you why and how DC Comics is going to die. Well, take it from me, an actual Time Traveler, those storylines aren’t going away anytime soon, but DC is still making comics all throughout 2023. They’re also on track to continue doing so in 2024. They aren’t licensing out the comics to IDW, they aren’t scrapping the entire physical comic line to embrace a 100% digital model, they’re still out there doing DC things. All the things that annoys you now about them? That’s still occurring. The things you begrudgingly love? Yep, that’s still happening too. The constant torrent of new headlines about how DC is dying? Oh yeah, you know that’s happening more than ever. Heck, that may be the most eternal aspect of the entire company at this rate. DC can never actually die, otherwise what will all the doom and gloom comics headlines be about instead?
Similarly, physical comics haven’t died yet either
The only storyline more common than “Is DC dying?” continues to be “Are single issues dead?” Both DC and Marvel continue to push further into the digital comics sphere, with the DC Infinite Ultra service becoming more adopted with the general comics community and Marvel decreasing the lag between publishing date and hitting Marvel Unlimited to combat DC Ultra’s one month delay. These shifts will see floppies continuing to be read their Last Rites all year long. Click-bait headlines will continue to quote deceptive sales numbers that only account for one sales platform and try to extrapolate it across the entire industry to drive home the point that comics are dead. But . . . despite the headlines, comic shops continue to exist. Some close, yes, and it was very sad when they did. But other new shops opened, and it was really exciting when they did! We continue to see more publishers try to capitalize on direct-to-consumers sales methods like the WhatNot Comics publishing wing. Comics may be dying, but they continue dying in the same way they have been since the 50s.
Comic Publishers are feeling the effects of writing books to be optioned
While comics may not be dead yet, we do start to see some market fatigue set-in from the glut of titles being written specifically to be optioned by a production company. As a result of streaming companies slashing budgets and growing fatigue of blockbuster comic book movies and TV shows, comic properties are bought up at a much slower rate than in years past. As such, we don’t see any more of the Mark Millar/Image/Netflix type deals from 2021 and a number of smaller publishers feel a lot of financial pain from this loss of revenue stream. We saw a similar thing happen with my beloved Aftershock Comics all the way back in 2022 filing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection (they’re still publishing comics, by the way), this unfortunately is a trend that will continue. Turns out when people aren’t stuck inside all the time and aren’t streaming endlessly, there aren’t endless budgets for IP acquisitions. 2023 was the year we saw that bubble burst.
Comics are still Dope
If there’s one thing you take away from these redictions though, it’s that through it all comics are still dope. Sure, there are still bad ones. And sure, there are some not so great news stories that will make some major traction. But the big takeaway from the year is comics, the hobby that unites us and brought you here to read this stupid, stupid article, are still incredible and that’s not stopping. Whatever your particular brand of book, whether you’re a fan of the capes or you’re a fool for crime noir, there are so many fantastic books and the hobby is still great. And to all of you who stuck out the article this far, thanks for reading. Here’s to 2023 being our dopest year yet.