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COMICS AND THE UNCOMFORTABLE FIT WITH ART

Comics as an entertainment medium depends on art. Otherwise they’re prose Pulp Adventures; perhaps at best SF or Action serials. So, regardless what writers will tell you (and there are some great writers) it will always come down to the sequential art.

Here’s where the problems with comics lies. Artists are then divided into who is competent visually and dependable deadline-wise vs. visual dynamite and deadline out-the-window. This is not a new problem. Even as a kid in the 60’s I would look at the paintings on paperback covers (especially Bama’s Doc Savage or anything Frazetta.) and wish that those could show up as covers and interiors for my “funny books”.

Warren was an early predictor of this as they provided painted covers for their B&W comic magazines beginning in the 60’s also as well as raiding some of the best old school and new artists for their interiors. As they were short stories and were not dependent on continuing storylines (at least until the late 70’s when competition from Marvel forced them) blown deadlines didn’t effect an issue.

Marvel and DC were different though and lead by Neal Adams, art and deadlines did become an issue. Adams was hot, but he found advertising money too good, so comics occassionally (all right, more than occassionally) took a back seat. Worse, there was a whole new generation of artists coming up influenced by him, Steranko, and various other illustrator gods. They were not Great Depression or WWII era artists, looking at the work as just work. It was being looked at as real art at best, if not at least their “personal brand”. (Before they knew what a brand was, but it meets the current definition in personal marketing terms.)

This group was intent on personal growth and you could often look through your back issues and chart it. To compound things, they all generated cults who bought their work and the publishers knew it. They couldn’t just dismiss them as they would have in the past. There was money there.

That continued into the direct market, the start of original graphic novels and the holy grail; TPB & HC collections. Now the market had caught up to other media such as prose books and video. Money could be reaped constantly for completed work.

Still, monthly pamphlets were the mainstay and that still means deadlines. Those continue to be blown by setting unrealistic constraints on people who not concerned so much by time as by quality. Publishers continue to disappoint consumers and themselves by placing their creators and product in this predicament. Nobody thinks to put off soliciatation until the product is finished (or practically there so).

Lead times appear to be problematic. (I know there’s a school that says that artists are procrastinators regardless of lead time, but they will get motivated if they want to get paid, so leverage that.)

So, (Now that the monthly pamphlet finally seems to be winding down in the product life-cycle.) publishers can embrace artists for their art and the extended profit stream it generates by being the best they can bring to this particular American medium. Evolution and diversity will keep the publishers afloat. They already license out the characters to everybody and their brother with a product. Their main job now is just to be the custodians of these characters so that they can reap the real money doing just that.

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2 Responses to “COMICS AND THE UNCOMFORTABLE FIT WITH ART”

  1. I never thought about that. Very well put. Now I feel a little better I never pursued my childhood dream of being a comic book artist… I’m not much on stringent deadlines! Ummm… ah… I think I feel a little better. ***looks around quizzically***

    • I believe that things are different now though and that publishers need to take that into account. If you’re doing work for anyone but the big two there’s a real chance do something more artistic and not necessarily deadline driven.


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