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Comic art outsourcing?

Folks complain about the price of comics today. The majority of that stems from the increase in price does not seem to keep pace with the entertainment value.

Stories drag on forever so that they can be collected into TPBs or HBs. The arguement for this extended form of storytelling is that it gives the writer more room for characterization. I. Don’t. See. It.

Brian Bendis is perhaps the most extreme example of this. Now, I enjoy his basic plots, but his idea of characterization is to burn a couple of pages with people going “uh” a lot in between actual words. It’s like he wants to be the David Mamet of comics. No matter who you the character is or where they come from, they’re going to hit that awkward patch in every other issue written by him. (This is not to imply that Mamet uses “uh” a lot. He just has a certain way with words and this seems to be Bendis’ attempt at setting up his universe’s equivalent.)

However, a decent writer can bang out a few books a month. The real cost seems to come from the eye candy that accompanies the prose. The paper stock is supposed to be better. (Kinda) The printing process is supposed to be better. (Kinda) And, while I’m all for paying artists what they’re worth; the funny thing is that comic companies never have historically. (That’s why so many of them leave or work sporadically. They get other gigs to bring in the large cheddah.)

The 70’s brought an influx of Spanish and Phillipine artists into American comics because of the wage disparity and work ethic. Quite a few of those guys were excellent artists and helped envigorate that time period. (it didn’t hurt that B&W magazines were part of the mix of most comics companies back then. This gave many, including American artists of the time, an opportunity to show some wonderful techniques off. Brush work, intricate pen work, pencils, washes, you name it.)

I’m suprised none of the majors have gone this route now in an effort to offer some bargin books. Recently some independent $1.00 comics showed up with artwork that looks to come from and Eastern Block studio. The basics are a little rough, but the finishes are passable enough to say you’ve got a fully painted comic for that price.

Is this a new opportunity for the major comic publishers? After all, the branding associated with the characters they publish has maintained a somewhat steady readership regardless of the creative team. If you can tout at least one familiar name as part of that team, then you can probably start to cut costs elsewhere.

Something to look forward to, or something to dread?

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