More of the same discussion

in reply to this:

if you don’t know what to look for, you won’t be able to find it.

I agree. There’s plenty of work to be done. But slowly, slowly, the leviathans are turning. And the little fish have been doing it right for years – and slowly becoming bigger fish. This (i.e. continuously-in-print comics) is the direction the industry is heading, unstoppably. It’s a healthy direction. And as a result, “keeping these properties alive for a new generation” is becoming less and less valid a reason to make comics. It’s currently somewhat valid, but the clock is ticking, and we (you and I) can encourage it to tick a little bit faster by admitting (and propogating) the truth: that some of the great stories have already been told, and they can be had without too much money or hassle. And then demand from the publishers that they work to make that statement more true.

What do you if a friend is interested in X-Men? Say “well, Peter Milligan’s New X-Men isn’t too horrible…” Hell no. Say “most people think the peak X-Men period started in 1975 and runs for about a hundred issues. You can read them in The Essential X-Men vol. 1-5. If you like team soap-opera superhero stuff, consider the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans run, or Peter David’s Young Justice, or New Warriors, or The Intimates or even Love & Rockets. If you like action and explosions, try Authority or Sin City…” Buy the good stuff, and recommend it tirelessly to friends. Let each month’s “new” garbage rot on the shelves, and the publishers will get the message.

And really, just-came-out single issues aren’t really much easier to find than trade paperbacks. If you’re arguing that “we have to publish things as single issues or no one will ever know they exist,” I’m gonna point to Full Metal Alchemist, Fruits Basket, and InuYasha.

(the reprinting comics in trade is just the comic companies doing the same thing you described radio doing. “playing” the same thing over and over again to get new “listeners”.

No, it’s comic companies doing what record companies do: keeping great works of art in stores, so that new fans can find and enjoy them years after their original release. Imagine if the Beatles’ record label decided that the LP wasn’t a viable market, and the only way to hear a Beatles song was to find somebody who collected the singles when they came out in the 60s! The closest we could get would be hearing the latest Oasis song on the radio! Or, more accurately, the guys from Oasis, plus Ringo, releasing singles as “The New Beatles,” playing shallow imitations of Sgt. Pepper! Luckily, Sgt. Pepper and Revolver and the rest can still be found in CD stores, and we can play them for our children and our children’s children, when Oasis will be merely a footnote in history.

no-one makes any creator work on a book at gun point… they have a story they want to tell with those characters.

A fair point. But isn’t there something wrong with a system where the absolute best thing some creators hope for is to figure out a new way to have Spider-Man save the world? I’m sure there are a million writers who would love to tell stories set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Or Rowling’s HP universe. Many of them actually do write these stories. But they have no expectation of getting paid to do so! They consider those stories practice for the real writing, with their own characters and ideas. To many comic book fans, it works the other way around: Lapham’s Stray Bullets was just a warm-up for his work on Batman.

Even a creative force of nature like Frank Miller is hampered by his upbringing. When the only concept of “comics” you have known is “playing with other people’s toys,” that’s what you aspire to. And when given the opportunity to make your own toys (300, Sin City, etc.)? You f*cking blow people’s minds. He’s returned to DC since then, but still I suspect out of a combination of greed and nostalgia (among other reasons). Are there some stories that work best using established characters? Probably (like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). But for such stories to be the dominant force in the market? Ludicrous. And I think Miller, Morrison and Ellis would agree.

Really, I just want comics publishers to stop acting like Underoos-and-movie-licensing-corporations and start acting like book publishers. Is that too much to ask? (Ellis has an old column on this)

the quote i posted before was him responding to a fan asking him if he felt there were things you shouldn’t do with a company character. as in, if he felt he owned the long time fans of that character anything.

Right. I think his “never write out of a sense of obligation to the fans” runs directly contrary to your ideas about writing derivative comics because it might be somebody’s first exposure to the character. Why not let someone’s first exposure to the character be the masterful story that’s already been told with that character? Meanwhile, make comics for yourself. You can make fanfiction too, but… don’t settle for that.

Things were cleared up somewhat in the comments thread to this post.


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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).


Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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