Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Exit 2008

Everyone makes lists this time of year. Best this, Worst that… it becomes the only way anyone can communicate in December. So in the spirit of keeping this blog entry relatively brief – and because IDW actually celebrates its tenth anniversary next year -- I’ll take that same shortcut here and offer up what I think were IDW’s 10-ish Notable Events for 2008. This is presented in no particular order, just as they occur to me here:

  • LOCKE & KEY: In just six short issues (plus the three so far completed on the follow-up, HEAD GAMES, launching on January 14), Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, along with colorist Jay Fotos, have become such a cohesive unit that their book has become the yardstick by which I measure everything else we do. Gabriel has long been among my favorite artists ever, and the work he’s doing here continues to define a career that has improved by great amounts every year I’ve worked with him (since 2004). And Joe’s story is so fun, clever, inventive, thrilling and full of unexpected turns that it’s hard to believe he’d never written a comic series before this. The fact that I got to meet Joe this year and realize that he and Gabe are also two of the nicest guys in all of comics make this project that much more special. WIZARD Magazine recently named Joe “Best Horror Writer 2008,” and just today, Fangoria named the comic #2 on its list of Top Screams of 2008. And I'm hoping these will just be the start of additional and well-deserved accolades for this fantastic book. If ever I need a reason I do this job every day, this book provides it constantly. Probably my favorite book we’ve ever published, and I’ve taken great care to never pick favorites when asked before. I’m biased, but it’s also that good.

  • G.I. JOE: After having a few great years of partnership on THE TRANSFORMERS, it was gratifying that Hasbro liked working with us as much as we’ve enjoyed things with them and awarded us the G.I. JOE license this year, too. Having a shot at offering up the best possible version of comics I loved as a kid, and with that getting a chance to work with someone like Larry Hama, is a great trust and a helluva lot of fun so far. Seeing the fans quickly respond to the books that new Senior Editor Andy Schmidt has put together for us is a nice bonus, having me look even more forward to next month’s official series launch. And speaking of Andy…

  • New Hires: When I first started at IDW in June 2004, there were eight of us and we were publishing around 13 titles a month. Now, not quite five years later, we have upwards of 20 people putting out around 40 books a month. This also meant new office space this year, our first dedicated IDW building rather than a shared space (and finally room for Ash Wood’s 6’ tall robot). It’s been great to see us grow like we have, and we’ve never experienced more growth than we did in 2008. We hired people that have made a big difference, and even signing Ben Templesmith to an exclusive and getting him to pack up his life and wife in Australia and come to San Diego, has really given the company a united front as we keep pushing forward. To where? Read on.

  • Four! This year, for a few different months, we moved into the Number-Four spot, supplanting Image Comics as the fourth-largest publisher in the country. And we’re poised to do so on an even more consistent basis next year, which is especially nice because it becomes a testament to not only the work everyone in the office does, but also to the fans and to the retailers who support us. So everyone shares credit for this one.

  • Our First Eisner Award: We’ve had some nominations before, but we’ve never collected an Eisner Award before. That changed this year, thanks to the great Dean Mullaney, the godfather of our Library of American Comics line. Dean, who formerly headed up Eclipse Comics, has done masterful work on our collections of TERRY AND THE PIRATES, LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE, SCORCHY SMITH AND THE ART OF NOEL SICKLES (and, soon, DICK TRACY). We won for TERRY but Dean’s work on SCORCHY is even more stunning and award-worthy (we’ll see if the Eisner folks agree at next year’s Comic-Con). It was great to get the win and even better that Dean got to collect it for the work he’s been doing.

  • ANGEL: We started ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL in late ’07, but it was really 2008 when the book really took off. Brian Lynch, a good friend as well as a great writer, has taken the story he and Joss Whedon developed it and turned it into a truly epic story. And he managed to blend humor, pathos, horror and a huge cast of characters into a story for the ages. That he’s done so largely with Franco Urru on art (on this book as well as a spin-off title, SPIKE: AFTER THE FALL) -- as well as valuable contributions from Nick Runge, Alex Garner, Stephen Mooney, David Messina, and a few others – makes the book even better for me, since all involved have been such a pleasure to work with. And again, the fan support for this book makes the efforts on this title, our best-selling comic month-in and month-out this year, even better.

    There have been lots of other things that stand out this year: getting the movie prequel to STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN rolling, launching the children’s picture-book like Worthwhile Books, my monthly radio guest-spot on Philadelphia radio show Fictional Frontiers, the PRESIDENTIAL MATERIAL comics and all the press those books received, Scott Dunbier signing Darwyn Cooke to adapt the Parker novels for us… and so many others. But the above list are the things that really stand out in my mind as I type this. Which means I’ve no doubt neglected to mention other worthy books, creators and events, but it’s the end of the year and after a long year of blog posts (over 300 this year), I think my brain’s had enough. Well, after mentioning two other things from this year, anyway…

  • COMIC BOOKS 101: I spent pretty much every late night of the first six months of this year co-writing with Scott Tipton a book called COMIC BOOKS 101, a visual and verbal primer to the comics industry coming from IMPACT Books. The book deal came about in late late 2007, only a few weeks after Scott and I both lost our mothers within three days of one another. So the timing of things – a book deal for a book we first started shopping in late 2003 – was curious and welcome at the same time. And getting contributions from folks like the above-mentioned Hill, Lynch, and Rodriguez (who did the book’s cover), as well as pieces from Gene Simmons, Joe Casey, Marv Wolfman, Paul Dini, Mark Evanier, Clive Barker, and Mark Waid, a 1,500-word outro from Harlan Ellison and an intro from none other than Stan “The Man” Lee. The book comes out next June, but it’ll always mean more as an ’08 thing since that’s when we actually put the whole book together. Yesterday, I got the above image from LOVE AND CAPES creator Thom Zahler, who showed me that the book's cover will be making a cameo in his Free Comic Book Day issue #10 next May, too, a nice, unexpected plug. And now, plug aside, a final note for the year:

    Stan Lee turned 86 three days ago. And there’s nothing that makes me happier than to know that Stan is still here and making contributions to comics and the world of entertainment. Stan, who has better things to do than to answer my 10 PM e-mails and come back two hours later with a fully finished and very fun introduction for COMIC BOOKS 101 book, nevertheless elected instead to do just that for me this year. He’s still such an inspiration to so many people, including me. He’s the reason I want to contribute to the industry I’ve loved my entire life. He’s not only still a great cheerleader for the industry but also is personally encouraging, helpful and pleasant to deal with. He’s more than earned the right to rest on his laurels but I’m really happy to know that he instead chooses to keep working to make this business and the people in it that much better. And I fully expect to be typing this same paragraph on December 31 next year and far beyond that, too.

    Happy new year, everyone, and thanks for reading. I’ll see you in ’09, IDW's 10th Anniversary (and my 5th anniversary with IDW). We’ll talk more comics then.

    M said...

    I loved Locke & Key, loving Welcome to Hoxford and looking forward to Groom Lake. I'd put All Hail Megatron up there on your list, but I can see how that's been a mixed bag for you.

    All the best to IDW and you for the New Year!


    Chris Ryall said...

    Oh, ALL HAIL hasn't been a mixed bag for me personally--I love it. I know some fans are split on it, but when isn't that the case? I just didn't want to get into a full list of everything good this year, but instead note some of the new things for the year like L&K and GI JOE. That's always the one drawback to lists, not having the space to run through everything.

    Anonymous said...

    hi chris. happy new year.


    BobbyNash said...

    Happy New Year, Chris.


    ANDY KUHN said...

    good luck in the new year, chris.
    you guys have a slate of really interesting projects announced. i'm sure you'll be putting a wide crimp in my wallet again this year! stay awesome!!! :)

    Anonymous said...

    thanks for not simply doing a top 10 or worst 10, there's so many around it's annoying me.
    Great to see your personal picks from the year. always a little more insightful, one of the best things about you and your blog Chris.

    Happy New year,
    Luke (bassbot)

    Anonymous said...

    I really can't believe you love a book where nothing's happened for 6 issues (yes I mean AHM). No, I just can't. I guess you'll delete my comment but I can't resist saying it. You guys started so well with TF... and having Van Reyk and Knowler write a Spotlight issue feels like the final insult (to the fans who still expect some quality writing).

    Anonymous said...

    I feel insulted as one of the original Mosaic contributors that you'd slurr Van Reyk and Knowler like that.
    They're good writers.

    The Mosaics have given a number of good writers a chance, like Oliveross and Worsley, or artists like Mas.

    If any of them were given a chance to write a Spotlight I'd support it in a shot.

    Anonymous said...

    Well, there hasn't been a single Mosaic piece by Van Reyk that I could find entertaining. To me, it just looks as it really pays off to kiss corporate ass).

    (Uhm... Believe me when I say I'm not the same guy who posted his comment before but I'd rather keep this anonymous or I could get censored in the IDW boards, lol)

    Chris Ryall said...

    >To me, it just looks as it really pays off to kiss corporate ass

    Kiss ass? More to the point, "corporate"? Wow, you're way off.

    Anonymous said...

    Obviously I haven't kissed arse enough ;)

    Anonymous said...

    Wow, when you said "not very constructive" I had imagined a different thing, Daniel xD

    by the way if I can kiss arse and get some japanese TF published by IDW, that sounds good :D

    (oh and thanks to one of the anonymous who called me "good writer", I'm flattered!!)

    Well sorry for my english, Happy New Year and all that

    Anonymous said...

    All the best Chris, looking forward to 2009 with more Max dinobots and AHM that series is really picking up BTW...

    Keep up the good work, especially the spotlights they are cool.

    Unknown said...

    Congrats on a great year, Chris.

    Bring on 2009!

    Anonymous said...

    GOOD LORD more arse kissing.
    Do you have no shame?


    Anonymous said...

    Yes, actually, Spotlight: Jazz is about how he got into special ops by kissing the arses of Chris Ryall and Denton Tipton. 11 pages of one arse, 11 pages of the other!

    Suggested for Mature Readers.

    Andrew Griffith said...

    Well just wait til they see my cover, then the real trashing can begin. I'll be "cover" for Josh and Shaun.


    Seriously, Happy New Year Chris and IDW!

    Tony Lee said...



    Chris Ryall said...


    You sound like you had the same thing I came down with in '08, the TonyLeefluenza. Luckily, I think I've shaken it now. Whew!

    Anonymous said...

    Very belated Happy New Year (Hey, at least it's still January, right?)! Anyhoo, just wanted to drop by and congratulate IDW on great work. I just picked up Angel: ATF (the first and second volumes) and I will be buying the Spike books and the NFA and Smile Time adaptations. You guys have me hooked! I was a huge fan of the series, and I was hesitant to jump aboard for this expansion of the Whedonverse, but you guys do great things, and I will keep coming back for more. I'm glad the series is doing so well!

    Regarding Doctor Who: I'm glad you're keeping Tennant for now, since he's my favorite Doctor.

    My wish for 2009: a Wesley story. Pretty please, with a cherry on top?