Pipeline - Nov 6, 2012
's Augie versus Hurricane Sandy, writers versus artists, and DC Comics versus alternate cover starvation as Augie hunts for gas, reads "Groo"and weighs in on 52 "Justice League of America" covers.
Full article here.
The "THE WRITER/ARTIST BALANCE OF POWER" section makes some good points, but I think the biggest problem is the lack of attention the artists get in articles on comics sites and publications. The writer will be profiled in paragraph after paragraph, but the artist is lucky if he gets one whole paragraph to himself. Sometimes they're not mentioned at all. I love CBR, but it happens on here all the time and I'd like to hear much more about the artists and from the artists.
Each creator is as important as the other and neither should be shortchanged.
Offensive Canadian Joke
I wonder how many Canadians will stop reading your column after your offensive joke? I'm one.
A few random thoughts:
Regarding the whole Sandy/Walking Dead thing: Why do northeasterners have to be such drama queens over every little problem? Southerners, especially Gulf Coast residents, deal with these problems a couple times every single year. Well, except for the whole house not heating up above 57 degrees thing. We're lucky if we can get our houses below 90 degrees (most hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast decide to visit during the height of summer, when the temperature and the humidity are both in the 90s).
From the "Gas the Groo" paragraph: "Stop, start, read a page, roll the car forward, read a page, roll, read, roll, read, read, read, etc. etc." Now you know how Sergio worked during his heyday. Except instead of "read a page," his pattern was "draw a page." (I don't know about the trades but I remember the single issues would routinely have a city's name at the bottom of the page which indicated what city Sergio was in when drew the page--this was especially common when he'd go to some of the European comics shows.) Also, were you able to find the hidden messages? Looking for those was as much fun as looking at all the detail Sergio put in his drawings. And it could be incredibly frustrating when you looked for a message but it turned out there wasn't a message in the issue.
On the writer/artist balance: "Let more artists write their own work." This was so funny, especially when you mentioned how Liefeld "ran screaming from [DC]." Yeah, because using Liefeld as an example of letting artists write their own stuff is actually the best way to make the case for just the opposite. Also, I'd note that both Kirby and Ditko's best work came when they let OTHER people write the stories--due, in no small part, to the fact that, after both men became "superstars," no one was willing to sit down and actually edit their works.
"Writers: talk to your artists and give them some of what they want." Well, this should be a no-brainer, but this should depend on who decides who's doing the art. You noted PAD's own history, but look at what he's dealt with on "X-Factor" and then compare it to his "Hulk" run. With "X-Factor," it seems that as soon as a *good* artist comes along and things seem to be clicking, the artist gets pulled for some other project and PAD gets someone new.
"This is inside baseball and it's a title-to-title thing, but let's let artists choose the writers they want to work with more than writers approving artists." Since your next sentence was an admission that you don't really know how the writers and artists are paired, it seems a bit specious to make such a suggestion. I'd be willing to guess that MOST writers have very little say in who does the artwork--the exceptions being, of course, the "superstar" writers.
"Stop producing more than 12 issues a year of superhero monthly titles. Make those extra issues into spin-off miniseries. Let artists have a chance at creating a "run" on a title, which is something that just doesn't happen in the current market." Wholeheartedly agree with the "stop more than 12 issues a year" notion but no so sure about the "spin-off miniseries" part. I can't really comment on this too much, especially since this is more a Marvel thing than DC's doing and, thanks to some of Marvel's decisions with which I've not agreed, my Marvel pull-list has dwindled to almost nothing (presently it's just "X-Factor" and "Astonishing X-Men" plus the Dark Tower books--when they come out) but the >12-issue-per-year titles that I've read haven't really allowed for "spin-off miniseries"--the extra issues have been a part of the main storyline. (As an aside, that "New Mutants"/"Journey into Mystery" Exiled crossover SHOULD have been done as a spin-off miniseries--both titles were released as bi-weekly books for the story so that the whole story was released in a single month. Normally, when there's a crossover, I generally only buy the books I normally get--as with the mutant "Necrosha" storyline--and ignore the other titles, and I'm not usually thrown for too much of a loop by not having read the other books. With Exiled, I *had* to get JIM in order to make any sense of what the heck was going on--as well as the "Exiled" one-shot; it was either that or have two books of a series that I would never read and hope the next issue didn't refer back to the events from those unread issues.)
"Don't publish something until you have enough in the can to guarantee the fourth issue won't be a fill-in artist or a series of guest inkers. Take consistency seriously, for once, and that goes straight down to the colorists and letterers. Keep a consistent look and feel to a book at all levels." OR, you could pull a page from how "Saga of the Swamp Thing" was handled in the Moore years, and find TWO art teams whose work bears a remarkable similarity and let them switch out. You had Bissette and Veitch on pencils and Totleben and Alcala on inks, and the teams interchanged (Bissette/Totleben, Veitch/Alcala, Bissette/Alcala, Veitch/Totleben) to keep the book on a solid monthly schedule. And when you look at the trades of these books, the flow is incredibly consistent. Yes, you do have the occasional "Now, THAT's a Veitch moment" or "Yep, that's Alcala's inkwork" bits, but, by and large, it was a pretty solid 2 or so years of a consistent look by different artists. But now, there seems to be too much of a demand for standout pencillers with their own individual styles doing work for months on end and then outrage when the penciller can only do 2 issues before needing a fill-in artist or letting the book fall off-schedule to keep the trade-buyers happy. Well, you know what? F--- the trade-buyers. Without the regular MONTHLY book buyers, the trade ain't gonna happen. (Then, of course, even having "enough in the can" won't necessarily be enough. As has been noted, both "Watchmen" and "Camelot 3000" fell behind schedule as they both neared the ends of their respective 12-issue runs; the only way both books would've been fully on-time would've been if both books hadn't released a single issue until the whole work was done. And, then, of course, there's Millar and Gibbons' current work, "Secret Service." The book had 4 issues solicited on a monthly basis and before #2 had even been released, issues 3 and 4 were both pushed back to accomodate the new NON-monthly schedule. Granted these examples aren't really the best representatives since they're far more "creator-controlled" than most regular books but I don't think that "creator-owned" titles should be held to a different standard than mainstream books.)
"Schedule your fill-ins. And then make them top of the line fill-in artists. CrossGen did this, and had some amazing artists in those issues." Okay. Reasonable idea but who are these "top of the line fill-in artists" supposed to be? While Leonardi and Wieringo made you happy, Leonardi's artwork doesn't float everyone's boat, and, of course, Ringo's no longer with us. Basically, one person may applaud the fill-in artist while someone else may find the choice to be disappointing for the book. Also, it's worth pointing out that CrossGen filed for bankruptcy following some financial problems after just 6 years in business. Was it too many titles being published? Maybe. Was it problems in paying freelancers? Maybe. Was it mainstream bookstores returning too many unsold TPBs? Again, maybe. CrossGen probably isn't the best example for your fill-ins point.
"Readers: Vote with your wallet. Buy only the good looking comics." Well, this is really NOT a helpful notion. As I noted above, the book that YOU think is "good-looking" may not be someone else's cuppa. And I have to say this, having worked on the retail end, it's a nightmare when you're trying to sell the books. You end up with a lot of utter dreck that "looks good" with no story there but sells out the wazoo while you have top-of-the-line quality stories with average- (or even below-average) looking art that ends up being cancelled because no one's picking up the book. I had a customer with a pull-list who would drop a book because he didn't like the issue's artwork and then have us put it back on his list because he liked this issue's artwork. Now, do *I* prefer "good looking comics" over "ugly comics" (I presume those are the only choices)? Well, it depends on how you define "good looking comics." Let's take a quick quiz: Of the following artist pairs, whom do YOU prefer? Berni Wrightson or Bryan Hitch? John Byrne or Joe Kubert? Jack Kirby or Ivan Reis? David Mack or Michael Avon Oeming? John Romita Jr or Dan Jurgens? Mark Bagley or Yanick Paquette? I realize some of those pairings may not really be fair but as long as reprinted volumes are around, even the retired and deceased artists are still around for their artwork to be seen and compared. But, can you REALLY pick out one artist over the other in each pairing as being responsible for more "good looking comics" than the other? I know I can't. (Admittedly, I'm not really that much of a Kirby fan so I'd probably go with Reis over Kirby but there was some Kirby work that I enjoyed far more than some of his other work.)
To continue from my previous post:
"Artists: Don't blow it. Give the readers something awesome to latch onto. Make readers won't to look for your work. Don't be afraid to push the boundaries or do something different." First off, I'm guessing you meant "Make readers WANT to look for your work." But, bear in mind that the advice to "push the boundaries or do something different" could also conflict with the previous advice to "buy only the good looking comics." Look at Bill Sienkiewicz as a prime example. The man started off with a fairly traditional, classic style that was pretty derivative of Neal Adams but soon created his very distinctive style--a style which certainly "pushed boundaries" and was definitely "different" but it was also very off-putting to a lot of readers. I did grow to respect Sienkiewicz's style but I was close to dropping "New Mutants" during his first few months on the book. And while I can respect Skottie Young's art, it doesn't really do anything for me. As a "variant" cover artist, his work is charming. As an interior artist, though....the charm wears off.
"In the end, this won't happen. All of the suggestions mentioned above at the publisher level are too long range. They don't provide immediate sales boost and profits. They're long-term outlooks meant to steady the ship and provide more consistent results. This is a market that abhors those links, dominated by two publishers who are owned by larger companies that only want short term viability and research and development of their "properties" for their "brands." Their customers follow characters instead of creators, by and large, and live in the culture of "now" and "what's new?" They want big splashes and, ironically, they want the same old, same old. Look at the negative responses to, say, Eric Canete drawing an issue of Spider-Man in his own style. Remember that one?" And with this, you pretty much undermine all your previous suggestions. First, some of your suggestions actually DO "provide immediate sales boost and profits." That "vote with the wallet" suggestion? How does that NOT boost sales and profits? "Their customers follow characters instead of creators?" And this is news? At the same time, a number of your points argue for the creators, the artists especially, to develop long runs on single titles. Isn't that basically calling for the customer to follow the character while he's working on that character then dumping the character when the creator leaves? (The corollary, of course, is that the reader starts following the character because of the creator and, even when the creator leaves, the reader continues following the character.) And that "live in the culture of 'now' and 'what's hot'" point? Well, just look at "Walking Dead." Yes, the book did come about during a "high point" of zombie films but the book's sales--both as single issues and TPBs--have been so much bigger since the TV series came out and there's been a bit of a "zombie craze" in other media since the book's debut. And would we have actually had zombies become a part of the political landscape if it hadn't been for the current post-Walking Dead atmosphere? And then, there's your comment about Eric Canete doing Spider-Man in his own style. Doesn't that conflict with a few of your other points? If you tell the customer to "vote with his wallet" and only buy the "good-looking comics," then you can't condemn the customers who don't agree with YOUR definition of "good-looking comic." That is exactly what those "negative responses" were. People bought the book because of the character but, if they'd "voted with the wallet," then the sales would've dropped on that issue and Canete quite likely would be blacklisted from Marvel's main books.
Overall, your "Writer/Artist Balance of Power" bit had some good bits, but some pretty not-so-good bits as well. On the not-so-good, you're simply rehashing the pre-Image crap that Erik Larsen (anonymously) started in the pages of "Comics Buyers' Guide" by claiming that the artists were more important than the writers. When Image was founded, you had a lot of "good looking books" that were almost impossible to actually READ because the artist-creator-founders felt their art was the top priority. Tons of splash pages (and double splash pages), lots of stuff that was visually stunning, and a lot of delays. And of course, Marvel and DC started pushing artists to follow the "Image style" (there was even one of Marvel's "Old Guard"--I can't recall his name--who got work in the early 90s but only after he changed his style to mimic the Image stuff to help the books "sell").
Crusader of Justice
Crusader of Justice
I know many would disagree, but I'm not sure there's something that needs fixing.
There are still plenty of people who buy their books for the art and there are others (me included for the most part) who buy them for the writing. If their are more of the latter then who's to say they're wrong.
When Marvel label their TPBs "Captain Superduper by John Writerman v2" then that's helpful because generally the writer provides a narrative that runs through their run on a title. Obviously it's ideal if a single artist manages to stick around for a whole writer run (and I'd be happy for books to come out as slowly as necessary to achieve this) but if the artist does change the narrative is still consistent.
Augie, you badly need a proofreader. I would be ashamed to submit an article with this amount of spelling and grammatical errors.
Have you stopped visiting the Royal Ontario Museum, as well?
Originally Posted by canadian_fan
But I like Canada. I go with this definition from Wikipedia:
"In the United States, the term "the 51st state" when applied to Canada can serve to highlight the similarities and close relationship between the United States and Canada..."
So please take it as it was meant, not in a pejorative sense.
Let's see what I missed:
* Yup, there is a "mjuch" in there.
* There's a "mounts" instead of "amounts."
* Oops, the next sentence has a "they're" in stead of "their" in there.
* Ouch, there's a "usig".
This is getting ugly.
* "totla mayhem"
* MAYBE "short-term" could be done without the hyphen, but that's nit-picky. I'll give myself a pass on it.
* Crap, Liam Sharp doesn't have an "e" at the end of his name.
* There's a reference to the "Spider-Man" comic that should be in quotes, per the CBR Writing Style Guide, but isn't. That's because I forgot to fact-check that. Meant to go back and look up the issue in the ComicBookDB.com to get the exact title and issue number. I forgot.
So, yes, perhaps you're right that this week wasn't my best performance in that regard. The column ran 2600+ words, and I admit that I was half asleep when I sent it in. Next time, I'll just wait until the morning to give it one last proofread before sending it in. I was rewriting parts of this column up until the last minute, and didn't properly triple check some of it.
Thanks for keeping me honest. I'm not ashamed, though. Embarrassed to be human, perhaps, and &^%^$ happens, but it's a good kick in the ass to do better next time.
Let's see what I can cover quickly here before I fall asleep. (After midnight already? ARGH!)
Yes, the cities of origin for the pages still show up in the margins at the bottom of the pages. And I didn't drive myself crazy looking for the Hidden Messages. I actually forgot about them until I started reading the blog I linked to last week. Even then, it's too much work for me. ;-)
Originally Posted by BamaRainbow
I was thinking along the lines of Alan Davis writing "Excalibur" or "Punk Rock Jesus" with Scott Murphy or the recent writing works of Skottie Young. And, yes, I'd include Erik Larsen on that list.
Originally Posted by BamaRainbow
I'm not saying that letting an artist write his own work is any guarantee of comics genius, and I fully admit that there are likely more superstar teams of Artist and Writer. I'm just saying that one of the ways to boost artists' profiles would be to give more of them the CHANCE to write. Not a guarantee and not free reign.
This goes back to the whole thing about letting an artist stick with a single book for a longer period of time, having regular fill-in guest artists as need be, and not publishing 15 books a year or having rotating art teams.
Originally Posted by BamaRainbow
Yes, I admit when my points MIGHT be weak. But I'm adding it in there to be more complete.
Originally Posted by BamaRainbow
Yes, yes, and maybe yes. But CrossGen's bankruptcy had NOTHING to do with fill-in art teams. I'm merely referencing their model here for giving art teams a breather at regular intervals so that the long-term run on a title is more regular and more palatable to readers. CrossGen had a few problems, not the least of which was publishing too many titles. That's something Alessi mentioned at least a year before bankruptcy at a lunch I attended in Wizard World: Chicago one year. He joked that everytime the company got close to being profitable, he'd start a new title and sink the company further. Ultimately, I think the biggest problem with the CrossGen model is that it expected the Hollywood money to roll in. It didn't come in fast enough, they had cash shortages, and the whole thing floundered and sunk. There were obviously other problems with management (Alessi being a bit of a bully, to put it nicely) and even the core idea of funding an operation with everyone on site that was based on a model that never existed in the first place (the classic Marvel Bullpen.)
Originally Posted by BamaRainbow
But CrossGen's bankruptcy doesn't impact my point here at all.
But of course. And it goes without saying that a good story needs to factor in, too. I'm just saying that life is too short to suffer through ugly comics because you think the story underneath all that drek might be good if only it looked any good. I try more and more to be selective in what I buy and what I read. If it looks like crap (and you should see the stuff people ask me to review), then I won't be bothered with it. Comics have a visual component. I think people forget that sometimes.
Originally Posted by BamaRainbow
Just for fun, though:
>> Berni Wrightson or Bryan Hitch?
Hitch, just because he's drawn more stuff I've been interested in than Wrightson. As a pure artist, Wrightson might win in some cases, though. When Hitch goes overboard with the phototracing, it grates on my nerves.
>> John Byrne or Joe Kubert?
Probably Kubert, though I'm quite fond of some particular eras of Byrne's art, like the DuoTone look on NAMOR.
>> Jack Kirby or Ivan Reis?
Reis. We agree on this one.
>> David Mack or Michael Avon Oeming?
Oeming. Mack's stuff never did anything for me.
>> John Romita Jr or Dan Jurgens?
Jurgens' entire art style is dependent on his inker. With Kevin Nowlan or George Perez, it's beautiful. I'd likely go with JR JR in this guess, citing the law of averages.
>> Mark Bagley or Yanick Paquette?
Bagley's drawn more work I've been interested in though I think Paquette is likely the better artist. But Bagley could drawn 15 issues of "Ultimate Spider-Man" a year, so seeing him on a book is a good sign that I'll more consistently enjoy a book in the long run.
OK, time for sleep.
I agree. Drives me nuts, too. And when I congratulated the creative team on "The Walking Dead" for hitting the Top Ten in Diamond sales for the month on Twitter this weekend, I was sure to include Rus Wooton and Cliff Rathburn's name.
Originally Posted by Mister Moo
I try to spotlight artists as much as I can in Pipeline. Heck, I spent half my recent "Excalibur" review talking about Tom Orzechowski's artwork, it felt like.
But as a reviewer, it can be hard to review them equally all the time. Sometime, one shines over the other, or one piques my interest more than the other. It's a natural tendency. I do hate the number of reviewers who can't speak about art, though, because they've never studied it in any way, nor know any of the language. Those people you can safely ignore.