Wednesday, July 28, 2004

San Diego afterthoughts: At Comic Book Resources, Steven Grant returns from Comic-Con in a surprisingly upbeat and optimistic mood:
For a long time factionalization has torn and weakened the comics industry. This is natural enough, and it's been going on pretty much ever since fandom was founded. DC vs Marvel. Independents vs mainstream. Black'n'whites vs color comics. Superhero comics vs. autobiographical comics or funny animal comics or whatever other genre. A little over a decade ago, a number of writer-artists got together and issued "the Creator's Bill Of Rights," a manifesto with the unintended effect of alienating many of those – the comics talent pool – it sought to win over, by implying comics written and drawn by the same person were inherently superior to those with the disciplines performed by different people. I still hear that argument, heard it this weekend as a matter of fact, and it's specious nonsense. The person I talked to cited Will Eisner as the exemplar, going back 60 years to THE SPIRIT and earlier works, but THE SPIRIT, one of the most influential strips in history, was a gang bang if there ever was one.

There are economic reasons for freelancers pursuing creator-owned work, and economic reasons why most companies prefer company-owned comics, but nothing makes creator- or company- comics inherently superior to the other creatively. As a group, I mean. Specific comics, sure. But PLANETARY isn't inherently superior to most other superhero comics because it's a creator-owned comic (or is it company-owned? I forget...) but because it's usually a better comic book. Likewise, other comics from other genres or publishers aren't inherently superior to PLANETARY because they're not superhero comics or not published by DC. There's no criterion that makes any group or type of comic inherently superior to any other group or type. French comics aren't inherently superior to American comics because they're French. Manga aren't inherently superior to X-MEN just because they're manga.

I mean, come on. There are crappy superhero comics, crappy French comics, crappy manga, and great superhero comics, great French comics, great manga. There are great company-owned comics and creator-owned comics that wouldn't qualify as toilet paper. Fantagraphics is one of the great publishers out there, but even Fantagraphics has published its share of crap; you can't expect a comic to be good just because Fantagraphics puts it out any more than you can expect any comic with the Marvel name to be good. Because genres, publishers, designer labels, modes of creation, target audiences, characters, nations of origin, title affiliations, size, print style and even talent names don't matter.

The only thing that makes a comic book good or bad – the only thing that matters, that really matters – is the work.

Everything else is marketing.
He also discusses the integration of Comic-Con, responds to emails about the debt DC owes to Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and asks for some financial help.