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#478298 - 10/31/01 08:35 PM Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
Zeus Thrillkill Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/31/01
Posts: 17
As a comic reader for some twenty odd years, I wanted to start a discussion about the current state of the industry. My opinion is that there are some good comics out there today, but there are no great comics. Looking back at the comics I have read in my life: The Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing are the three series that stand out as being great comics. The thing is that these comics came out over ten years ago. In over a decade, there has been nothing, not a single comic to rival the three titles mentioned above.

Why is that? Why are there no great comics anymore? My theory is there is an overwhelming lack of new creators and new ideas going into the industry. It seems like there are only a couple writers out there that every publisher wants writing their characters. Now, I will be first to admit that I pick up whatever Kevin Smith's latest series is, but what about the guy out there who we have never heard of that writes as good as Kevin Smith (or even better)? What publishers are bringing new talent, new names into the field?
Zeus

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#478299 - 10/31/01 09:38 PM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
Charles Brownstein Offline
Member

Registered: 03/31/99
Posts: 94
Loc: Northampton, Massachusetts, US...
Quote:
Originally posted by Zeus Thrillkill:
Why is that? Why are there no great comics anymore? My theory is there is an overwhelming lack of new creators and new ideas going into the industry. It seems like there are only a couple writers out there that every publisher wants writing their characters. ...What publishers are bringing new talent, new names into the field?
Zeus


I would contest your statement that there are no longer great comics. First of all, greatness is a value judgement formed over time. Moby Dick ruined Melville's career and is now acknowledged as one of the great American novels. The reason we regard Maus, Dark Knight, and Watchmen as "great" is because they had good initial PR and stand up as solid creative works over time. That may or may not last. Could be the next generation views them as sub-par.

But certainly there have been exceptional comics in the last fifteen years. It can be argued that Jimmy Corrigan, Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde, and Ghost World are the offspring of Maus as great literary graphic novels. While they have not earned a Pulitzer, I believe those books have enjoyed critical acclaim, press, and sales similar to that of Maus when it emerged.

Since the appearance of Dark Knight and Watchmen, DC has taken the next step by developing a functional economy to support the graphic novel series model, allowing storytellers like Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and Grant Morrison to tell 2,000 page stories. Any of these authors may have created work that will be viewed as great with the benefit of more time. Sandman is certainly part of the popular fiction comics pantheon.

In the period between 1986 and today a vast amount of small publishers have been bringing new voices to comics. In the mid-nineties the self publisher boom brought Jeff Smith, Paul Pope, David Lapham, Terry Moore and other new voices into the field. In the same period Fantagraphics was bringing in Chris Ware and showing Clowes, Sacco, and Bagge at top form. D&Q brought us Adrian Tomine and mature work by Seth, among others.

Even DC, corporate monolith that it is, was cultivating a generation of new voices that included James Robinson, and the aforementioned Mssrs. Ennis and Ellis, among others.

Maybe today it looks like the eighties are back, but I'd argue that we're seeing the eighties creators entering their middle age period of creative life. Miller and Moore were the young turks when they made those books you cite, today they are creating their work as mature authors. Kirby wasn't yesterday's news in 1961, even though he'd been around for 20 years.

Creatively, comics is in the best shape its ever been in because right now the avant garde and mainstream are both healthy and taking chances. Marvel has scooped up the post-journeyman work of the 90s generation of new voices with Bendis, Mack, Horn, and others. They're hiring established guys like Morrison, Ennis, Allred, and Milligan to do challenging new work in the context of their superhero marks. DC has scooped up Rucka, Lieber, Jon Lewis, and Gilbert Hernandez to do new stuff. These directions indicate yesterday's alternative has become today's mainstream, which in itself is a sign of growth.

Meanwhile Highwater, Top Shelf, Alternative, and others are breeding a generation of authors who are making charming, cartoony, personal comics.

It's not the lack of new creators and creative directions that's killing the comics industry. It's an insular view of marketing that fears growth and investment beyond the direct market that's keeping us in this slow to no growth holding pattern.
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#478300 - 10/31/01 09:49 PM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
Troy Little Offline
Member

Registered: 07/17/01
Posts: 46
Loc: Ottawa, Ont. Canada
Hey Zeus,
I think it all depends on what you like. Personally I think the medium itself is doing much better now that it ever has before. The superhero days are over. Look at Adrain Tomaine, Craig Thompson, Dave Cooper, Eddie Campbell, Kyle Baker... I could go on and on. This is (in my opinion) what makes comics now a days so great. Unique art, interesting story telling driven by creators who love the medium and want to see it grow.
It takes some effort to find it, but I think there's a lot of great things happening in comics.

Troy
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Troy Little
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#478301 - 10/31/01 10:49 PM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
Zeus Thrillkill Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/31/01
Posts: 17
Charles,
Thanks for your reply. It was exactly the kind of debate I hoped to stir. You made several good points, and hopefully alerted people to some of the better stuff out there. I know there are a couple titles you mentioned that I haven't read so I will have to seek them out.

I do however still stick to my original point. While not denying there is some good stuff out there if I had to name my all time favorite "The Watchmen" still is at the top of the list, and if I start going down the list most of my other favorites are still from that time period. Now, I do enjoy reading much of the stuff Bendis, Gaiman, Morrison, and others are putting out. But in my opinion it still pales in comparison to "The Watchmen".

One very interesting point you made is "Miller and Moore were the young turks when they made those books you cite, today they are creating their work as mature authors." Moore is still one of my favorite writers. Yet I will state I don't think he has even come close to recapturing the brilliance of "The Watchmen". Moore is a great writer, in my opinion probably the best in the business, but "The Watchmen" was his greatest work. Perhaps it was his one great work, his one great idea, and he will never top it. I keep hoping he will top it just so I can enjoy the read but I doubt he ever will. In my opinion, if Moore walked into DC or Marvel for that matter today with The Watchmen comic pitch as a young turk with no name then neither one of them would publish it.

You see great writers no doubt in Bendis, Smith, etc. but they are predominantly churning out stories of pre-established characters. None of the established talent seems to be of mind to generate an epic original story with original characters on par with "The Watchmen". It seems like the current recipe for success in comics is take an established name and have him makeover an established character which don't get me wrong has made for some good reads. But what about a new writer with new characters. Other than some of the small press, do you think that either of the majors would touch "The Watchmen" if it came to them today. I would be curious to learn what your and other's favorite comic work of all time is. I assume I would get a lot of different answers, but if I get a hundred replies I bet "The Watchmen" would make up 50% of the replies.
Zeus

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#478302 - 10/31/01 11:00 PM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
Chris Medellin Offline
Member

Registered: 07/08/99
Posts: 943
Loc: Dallas, Tx, Dallas County
Well, to be fair Alan Moore was given the old Charlton characters, Judomaster, Peacemaker, Blue Beetle,et cetra, but after he turned in his proposal DC realized they wouldn't have anything left. So he retooled them into Watchmen.

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#478303 - 11/01/01 12:22 AM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
Charles Brownstein Offline
Member

Registered: 03/31/99
Posts: 94
Loc: Northampton, Massachusetts, US...
Zeus,

A lot of your discussion is veering into areas of personal taste. You say Watchmen is the apex of Moore's output, I say From Hell. Tomato, tom-ah-to, let's call the whole thing off.

Quote:
Originally posted by Zeus Thrillkill:
It seems like the current recipe for success in comics is take an established name and have him makeover an established character...


Nah, that's just the history of the comics business, especially over the last 20 years. Publishers are forever enticing the "name" talent to work on their top characters.


Quote:
But what about a new writer with new characters.


This is happening, though less and less of it is wholly owned and controled by the companies. The generation of creators working in the 90s and today are savvier about owning their work, which is owed in large part to the creators rights battles fought in the eighties.

Now you're less likely to see creators behaving as "custodians of the legend" by creating new pillars of a superhero mythology. They know what a character can be worth, they've seen their predecessors get screwed in creating characters, so they're not gonna make anything new without a piece of the action.

In the 80s the end-all of an artist's career was to pencil a book like X-Men or Batman. Today many creators view those books as stepping stones to creating their own properties.

This is where you're seeing new authors and new characters. From Spider Jerusalem to Cassidy to Goldfish to Kabuki, these are strong characters from powerful series created by 90s authors. But unless they sell or get screwed out of the rights, you're not likely to be seeing stories with those characters by authors other than the original creator(s).

Quote:
Other than some of the small press, do you think that either of the majors would touch "The Watchmen" if it came to them today.


Sure, they'd take Watchmen. But be sure to reduce Watchmen to its component parts. It was a novel approach to an established milieu by a very popular and innovative writer and a top shelf artist. It's doubtful that anyone knew what impact Watchmen was going to make when the book was approved. When the book was green-lit, no one expected it would still be selling over 25,000 units per year 15 years later. It was a risk that is paying off handsomely in the long term. Sure they'd probably take that risk again.

But what's different is that Watchmen and the other GNs of 1986 were a new kind of risk. In hindsight they were like the discovery of agriculture, but I'm not sure anyone knew it at the time. If publishers take another earth-changing risk like that we won't understand it except in hindsight.
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#478304 - 11/01/01 09:59 AM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
D.R. Merrill Offline
Member

Registered: 06/18/01
Posts: 35
Loc: Doraville GA USA
This reminds me of the discussions we used to get back in the early 90s, concerning Japanese animation - People would see AKIRA, and they'd ask "Hey, what can I watch that's as good as AKIRA?" And we'd be stumped.

Using a high-water mark as a measuring stick is bound to lead to disappointment.

ANYWAY, my theory is: you're not seeing as many comics because the people who make the comics aren't seeing as much money. It is, indeed, all about the Benjamanz.

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#478305 - 11/01/01 12:07 PM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
JackieEstrada Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 516
Loc: San Diego, CA 92115
Zeus:

From the examples you give, it sounds like you are really addressing the output of the major comics companies, especially since you say you haven't read several of the books that Charles cited, most of which were from smaller publishers.

I agree with Charles that there have been numerous outstanding series and graphic novels in the last ten years whose contributions will be longlasting. I certainly rate "From Hell" as up there with "Watchmen" in Alan Moore's achievements. And "Jimmy Corrigan" has to be in the top ten comics works of all time, not just the last few years. If you look at the titles nominated for Eisner and Harvey awards in the last decade, you will find dozens of quality titles that will stand the test of time.

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#478306 - 11/01/01 01:04 PM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
flying pig Offline
Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 277
Loc: Denver, CO
I don't think that it is the lack of stories, art or combination of both that is hurting the industry. There are some fantastic stories in the last fifteen years both art wise and commercial success.

The Death of Superman - very commercially successful. In my opinion, it started the early 90's boom by bringing in new readers because of the press.

A Funeral for a Friend - not very commercially successful but a great story as well as nice tribute the man in blue.

Preacher - Slow start but a great finish.

The Vertigo line - Great stories, so-so art (my opinion).

Frank Miller's Dare Devil (first run)- Awesome story.

400 - One of the best stories that Frank Miller has ever done.

Spawn - Semi-commercially successful. The first two years of the comic was great.

The Savage Dragon - Not a commercial success but a fun book.

Mark Waid's run with Captain America, JLA and Super Soldier.

Men In Black - Commercially successful but a failed comic book.

Harsh Realm - Bad TV show but great comic book.

Those are just a small sample of what is out there. Each is subject to people opinions.

The problem is that comic book publishers, storeowners and fan tend to think that finding the magic bullet can solve the downslide and the industry is saved. That's not true. The following is just a few things that are needed to bring back the industry.

1. The comic book industry needs to find way to bring in and keep new readers. If you say that kids don't read anymore, I have just two words for you, "Harry Potter." The last book was a major novel. How many adults read a book that big? But kids ran to it in droves. The industry must find ways to bring in new readers and keep them. If they don't, the industry will die.
2. Publishers have to realize that the Internet isn't going to be the savior of the industry. The Internet is a good tool to help sell comics but it will never be a replace the comic book. Take newspapers for an example. They should all be on the Internet and not a single paper being printed. But that's not true. Why not? Because people like to read the paper at the breakfast table, on the bus to work, on the toilet, etc. The Internet isn't there, yet. Fans still want the comic in their hands to read it.
3. There needs to be more than on comic book distributor. Diamond accepts what Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse demands and passes it without regard to the impact on the retailer and in the long run the fan. That needs to be turned around. The publishers need to LISTEN AND REPLY to the retailers on what they need and not the other way around.

Those are just a few of the things that need to "save" the industry. I don't think that it is the stories or art.


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"Weaseling out of things is important to learn"
Homer Jay Simpson
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#478307 - 11/01/01 07:57 PM Re: Is a lack of new ideas and new creators killing the comic's industry?
Zeus Thrillkill Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/31/01
Posts: 17
Chris,
Good point! I think I did confuse my issues. One issue is that I think there is a lack of new talent in the comic industry. The other issue is that there are a lack of new characters for the most part with the biggest two publishers. Outside of the Vertigo line, I don't see new characters coming out of DC and Marvel. Even with the Vertigo line, there really hasn't been a superhero created since probably the X-men that have become household names. (You could make a strong argument for Spawn but one in the last twenty years or so compared to the number of characters created in the thirties and forties still around today isn't a good track record.)

Charles,
Yeah From Hell was good. Maybe I would have a easier time convincing you if I said that no superhero comic can measure up to The Watchmen. Most of the titles you list are non-superhero.
I disagree with you that the majors would touch The Watchmen today. I think the comics industry has grown more conservative. Obviously, in great part due to the downtrend in sales. Neither of the majors is going to take the risks that they took 15 years ago. They are reluctant to venture away from established talent and established characters. The reluctance to take risks also makes it less likely that some great stories floating around out there might never see the light of day.

D.R. Merrill,
Good theory. That could be it.

JackieEstrada,
I will admit if it isn't a major publisher most of the comic shops around me don't carry it. Their money is tight, some of them have even gone under recently. Many of the titles that I haven't read from the independents, I have to wait and hope to find at a con or buy off ebay. I miss the day of First, Pacific, and Eclipse. I know we have Image now, but outside of Savage Dragon I can't say much holds my interest there.

Flying Pig,
I agree with much of what you say. In particular, the lack of good comics to get kids reading. This was before my time but I read them as reprints when I was a kid. Carl Barks Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, in my mind stand above all others of that genre. Just like I put The Watchmen above all other superhero titles.
Zeus

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