Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in
I’ve been following Robert Kirkman’s manifesto and I’m all for saving the comic book industry and like the way he wants to go about it, through a new proliferation of creator owned comics. A large part of what made the 80s at the very least a Gilded Age of Comics (and it really was; I should know, I was there) was not only the notion that a creator should own his creation but that said creation should be something other than what was already readily available.
Growing up I never had enough money to buy all the comics I wanted but when I got to college and finally had enough disposable income to support my comic habit there weren’t enough comics I wanted to buy. Then, suddenly, there was Aztec Ace, Nexus, Badger, Grimjack, American Flagg, Sable, Ms.Tree, Mr. Monster, Fusion (good enough to be mentioned on its own but even better was the back up The Weasel Patrol), Sabre, Flaming Carrot, Marvel/Miracleman, Concrete… the list could literally go on for pages. As reader as well as a retailer I’m all over a return to these glorious days of yesteryear, but have a question. Who, exactly, will buy these creator owned comics?
I’m not saying there isn’t a market for good creator owned comics (just off the top of my head there’s Hellboy, Atomic Robo, Mice Templar, Rasl, Echo, Freak Angels, Glamorpuss, The Boys, Gravel, Cross, Doktor Sleepless), but retailers only have so much shelf space the same way their customers only have so much money. And right now both seem more interested in licensed titles like Highlander, Lone Ranger, Conan, Zorro, Man with No Name, Ghostbusters and of course the literal deluge of titles from Blue Water Productions.*
As someone who was there I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell Mr. Kirkman there were a few minor problems with creator owned comics. Like when the fans want more material than the creators could produce--the price of success means having to produce, even when there’s so many cool video games you’d rather be playing, a new issue every month. You can’t keep it up forever, meaning the inevitability of late shipping issues, maybe fill-in artists and, inevitably, declining retailer/reader interest. And of course there’s the flipside; just because you’re incredibly passionate about your new concept or character doesn’t mean anyone else will be.
Still, I say “go for it” (if anyone still said that); for instance, now that nobody at Marvel or DC seems willing to talk to John Byrne (and he’s all snuggly with IDW) now’s the perfect time for him to produce more stories about his group of adorable super kid robots, Prototykes. And it’s been under-remarked upon, but Mr. Kirkman’s proposal, as reported over at Newsarama, also contained this tidbit:
“DC and Marvel should gear their main titles and stories on the younger end of the comic reading audience, and should leave more mature stories to smaller publishers. He's calling on the industry as a whole to come together and figure out a new publishing strategy for the entire comics business.”
You’re preaching to the choir Mr. Kirkman.
Since we’re on the subject of creator owned comics here’s the most appalling idea I’ve heard in a long time: MILF Magnet, written by Tony Lee and drawn by Daniel Sampere, soon to be released by Moonstone. It’s about what you’d expect it to be (a quick Google search reveals there’s an adult movie with the same name). The subject matter doesn’t bother me (like Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall, I have great respect for filth) as much as the gratuitous intrusion of a superhero into the mix. I can definitely see cellar dwellers who ventured outdoors to see Grandma’s Boy (a 2006 movie about arrested development cases having sex with extremely old women, which will forever share a title with the sweet, heartfelt 1922 Harold Lloyd film of the same name) wanting to buy this comic but why the superhero? Didn’t the creators think the concept high enough as is?
I noted with dismay if not exactly surprise what appears to be the death of anime on Adult Swim and Toonami -- I kept waiting for Cartoon Network to issue a press release about their new plans for anime but so far the network has been silent on the subject. I’d like to think this is further evidence of my theory that manga and anime can only penetrate so deep into American society but I’d guess it’s more a matter of economics. Ultimately it’s about the bottom line; no matter how good the ratings were Anime doesn’t make as much money for the network as (a) cheap Flash animation Adult Swim shows, and (b) filling timeslots with ever more reruns of material they own outright like The Misadventures of Flapjack and Chowder.
Especially since so few of their titles come even close to meeting my (admittedly subjective) standards of what constitutes a professional comic book. I submit into evidence this random page from Back to Mysterious Isle #3. None of which has stopped them from signing licensing deals with both William Shatner and director Roger Corman.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.