2014 is a good time to be a comic book fan, for a variety of reasons. Superheroes are everywhere in popular culture, and have been for over a decade now. It seems you can’t throw a stone in Hollywood these days without hitting a comic book adaptation: Marvel Comics had four released this year alone. DC Comics have been preparing the world for the impending debuts of their new television shows Gotham, Constantine and The Flash, all ready to join the already hugely successful Arrow on the air. Add the buzz for the next Batman video game, Arkham Knight, and it’s clear that the general populace love superheroes almost as much as we hardcore fans do. But what of the industry that birthed these heroes to begin with? Naysayers have been decrying the death of the industry for years, but if anything, the comic book business in 2014 is in rude creative health and sales seem steady, with the advent of the digital comics market proving successful. Both DC and Marvel began grand movements in their universes a few years ago with The New 52 and Marvel Now respectively, focusing less on stories bound to years of continuity and more on innovative, invigorating storytelling. Image Comics have launched a genuine offensive against the big two publishers, with a number of critical and commercial hit creator-owned series’. There are also innumerable smaller independent publishers producing quality work, from Dark Horse to IDW to Boom! Studios to Oni Press and beyond. Creators such as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, with their generation defining Batman run, Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera with their science fiction odyssey Black Science and Dan Slott with his acclaimed Superior Spider-Man series are all creating the kind of scintillating material that will inspire and influence aspiring creators of the future. But what are the comics and creators that influenced them whenever they were fans and fledgling writers and artists? These are the 10 comics that changed everything and helped shaped the landscape of comics today.
10. The Walking Dead (Image Comics)
The Walking Dead is not only a long running and massively successful comic book series, but a viable franchise in many different media forms. The television show, which first aired in 2010, is a ratings juggernaut for the AMC network, and the series has birthed a prequel series of prose novels. There have been two different video games, one based off the comic continuity and one set in the world of the TV show. Fans can also buy Walking Dead t-shirts and hoodies and action figures. Basically, The Walking Dead is a very big deal. Series writer Robert Kirkman couldn’t have had any conception of the future unprecedented success of his black and white zombie comic when it was first published by Image in 2003. Along with artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, Kirkman wisely focussed the stories on the human survivors in this post apocalyptic world, as they fought and clawed every day to survive in a land overrun with ‘walkers’. The Walking Dead is influential not because it launched a thousand different zombie related imitators (although Kirkman did write Marvel Zombies in 2005), but rather that as Image Comics’ flagship title, the tremendous revenue generated from it can be funnelled into other creative ventures. Image may not have been able to produce so many quality series in 2014, from so many creators at the top of their games, if Kirkman’s zombie opus hadn’t hit so big. Kirkman himself is now a partner at the company and runs his own imprint, Skybound. Image is clearly on an upward trajectory, with many of their trade paperbacks routinely cracking The New York Times Best Seller lists for graphic fiction, and this sort of mainstream respectability might not have been possible without The Walking Dead.