Even if someone doesn’t know it, everyone cares about comics even if they don’t know it. The 2010s were the decade when everyone really cared about comics. Because of comics, pop culture had a big impact this decade, no matter if they were New York Times bestsellers or the source of a box office-breaking trend.
Because of the bright Hollywood sun, as well as other local issues, the American comics industry itself was shaped by both of these things. For the first time in 2011, Marvel and DC Comics started releasing digital copies of their monthly comics on the same day as they were released in print. Publishing projects like the New 52 and Marvel Now! have changed the way superhero comics have looked for years to come. When social media came around, it helped webcomics grow and break down barriers between fans and the people who make them, like superheroes (for better and worse).
Comics that could only be written in this decade are on this list. They are the best comics of this decade.
1. Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man
Writing by Brian Michael Bendis, art by Sarah Pichelli
Bendis, Pichelli, and their editors were trying to make a “sequel” to Spider-Man with Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. You can read more about the creative goals of the book in our Miles Morales piece. This is like walking out into a busy street and announcing that you’re making a sequel to Jesus in comic book terms.
But they did. The success of last year’s Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is proof that Bendis and Pichelli gave Miles Morales a clear goal from the start. We already knew that we were going to talk about Spider-Man in 2019. It was Bendis and Pichelli’s job to make sure that people will be talking about this Spider-Man in 2059. They said that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Miles and his series were a preview of the decade to come. They started a trend of younger Marvel characters taking on classic roles. Miles and his series were announced in 2010 and first came out in 2011. (a female Captain Marvel, Thor, and Hulk; a black Captain America). And the backlash against a “black Spider-Man” was just the start of a wave of backlash against “progressivism run amok” in comics that would keep coming.
Writing by Scott Snyder, art by Greg Capullo
At the start of the 2010s, Scott Snyder was a rising star in the indie comics world. He had a well-known run on Detective Comics. These days, he’s one of the main people who come up with ideas for DC’s superhero universe. In the New 52’s Batman, he worked with a well-known artist named Greg Capullo to make it.
Few times has a creative team been able to make a character as old as Batman their own without completely changing him. There haven’t been very many times when a creative team has gone so far with a superhero archetype without ever breaking it. I mean, the Joker wore his own skinned-off face as a mask, and there was an arc in which Batman lost his memories and had to be replaced by a clean-shaven Commissioner Gordon in a robot that looked like a bunny. I think that’s a bad example.
Batman was the start of Snyder’s rise. He became a showrunner for the Batman books that were linked together, then Dark Nights: Metal changed the world, and finally Justice League. There are a lot of different ways that comic book fans think the New 52 has changed the world. People will probably agree that Batman was one of the initiative’s most important successes, changing the DC Universe in a way that would last for a long time to come.
3. Hark! A Vagrant!
Writing and art by Kate Beaton
I think it’s fair to put Hark! A Vagrant! on this list, even though the webcomic started in 2007. The first print compilation didn’t come out until 2011, when it spent six months on the New York Times bestseller list.
On the strength of Hark! A Vagrantmeme !’s power, I could write this entire entry. It has led to such hits as “I had fun once.” It was terrible, “Old as balls,” “Aww yiss, Motha. I love you.” Fuckin. You can also see Edgar Allan Poe looking suspiciously at a letter in that picture of him. There are many things about Beaton’s work that we don’t get enough credit for: her beautiful illustrations, her great sense of humor, her love of history, and how well she can condense and communicate it all.
Writing by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
During the 1970s, Star Wars was a movie. In comics in the 2010s, there was Saga, which set the stage for a new kind of big Image Comic.
From Y: The Last Man to Ex Machina, Brian K. Vaughan has written many serial epics. It feels like he has been working on that skill for a long time for Saga, which is also his most personal work. It’s also a great example of Fiona Staples’ skills. Before this book, she was mostly known for her work on book covers.
If you read a Saga, you never know what will happen next. It could be a field full of huge fire-spewing tortoises. It could also be the vulva of a princess, as she gives birth to the heir of the Robot Empire, which is a robot.
Redefining space opera: Vaughan and Staples focused on one family, but they made the universe so unique that Saga will never be mistaken for any other space opera in its genre. Nothing that tries to copy Saga will ever live up to it.
Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)
Three years ago, time moved very quickly. When things that seem important happen, then they are forgotten four hours later. People don’t know where trends come from, fads are localized without geography, and whole 24-hour news cycles fit into the space between weathers on the 1. If you look at this collection of short comics, you might think that they were drawn in 2016, but they still feel very relevant and timely today. If you want to learn about the characters, Tamaki tells short stories about things like a mirror Facebook that shows you what might be in another world; a Twilight Zone-like cultural phenomenon mp3; and a porn sitcom that has become a cult hit 25 years later. He then uses the characters to say something interesting about them, us, or our world. It’s a good book.
Joshua Dysart, Doug Brathwaite, Scot Eaton, Cafu, Khari Evans, Ulisses Ariola (Valiant Entertainment)
Toyo Harada is a great villain who isn’t getting enough attention. Imperium is the story of him trying to make the world do what he wants. Valiant books have been pretty closely linked since they came back in the early part of this decade, but Harada has been the main character in most of them. You should pick him for that. Unlike Lex Luthor or Dr. Doom, he lives in a world where the political rules are more like our own, which makes both good and bad things about him even better. It’s a great story about megalomania that Dysart and the art team have written and drawn for us.