Comic Books in the 21st Century

The period of 2000-2009 was a rebuilding of the comic book industry after the collapse of the 1990s

Comics took on more of a storytelling role and less of a “collectable” role. 

Many of the stories developed in the 2000s went on to become the basis for successful TV shows and motion pictures. In fact, the existence of the “books” from the two major comic book companies received major scrutiny. DC Comics was purchased by Warner Brothers years earlier. Marvel was purchased by Disney in 2009. In both instances the corporations that own the properties see more income from merchandising as well as the film and tv rights. The publishing arms ofd those companies have to continuously defend themselves. The major argument for their existence is to be a laboratory for creating stories to be mined by the film/tv productions.

Marvel in the 00s

Brian Michael Bendis – Alex Maleev – Daredevil – basis for the Netflix TV series.

Ed Brubaker – Steve Epting – Captain America – basis for the Captain America Films

Mark Millar – Bryan Hitch – Ultimates – basis for the Avengers film

While Marvel was able to make this argument convincingly for a time, DC has had less success with that argument. However, there are a few stories from the 2000-2009 period that were highly critically acclaimed and sold very well. It is surprising that they have not had significant film/tv adaptations yet.


Bryan K Vaughn – Pia Guerra – Y the Last Man: A masterpiece of the comic book form.

Bill Willingham – Mark Buckingham – Fables: Rumors abound that the ABC series “Once Upon a Time” is actually “Fables” in disguise so ABC/Disney doesn’t have to pay for the rights, but the storylines and premises are remarkably similar.

Darwin Cooke – DC: The New Frontier – Tells the origin of the Justice League as a period piece set in the mid/late 1950s. It is the strongest adaptation of that story created to date.

Meanwhile the independent comics of the 21st century have been rising in sales. By creating longer form narratives these “Graphic Novels” (a term arguably coined by Will Eisner in the 1970s) with complete stories contained in single volumes have become increasingly more popular than the comic book periodical format.

This is a selection of the most important volumes from the 2000-2009 period

Independent Comics

Stan Sakai – Usage Yojimbo – Sakai tells stories from Japanese history. Strongly influenced by Kurosawa films

Chris Ware – Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth – Ware created a litany of new visual language strongly influenced by graphic design to create a unique comic reading experience.

Blankets – an independent comic by Craig Thompson, the beginning of popular auto-biographical comics.

Asterios Polyp – David Mazzucchelli – Mazzucchelli came to prominence by drawing Daredevil and Batman stories written by Frank Miller, after which he famously said he had nothing more to say in regards to super-hero comics. Asterious Polyp is widely considered one of the greatest Graphic Novels ever created. It uses the design of the characters, the design of the pages, and the design of the physical book itself to communicate the ideas contained within.

Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis – Award winning auto-biographical comic in the tradition of Blankets about a muslim girl growing up during and after the Islamic Revolution.

Jason – Why are You Doing This? – Jason is a Norwegian cartoonist who uses line claire, a drawing style developed by French cartoonist Herge, years earlier, to tell short clear narratives involving anthropomorphic animal characters in situations punctuated by visual reversals.