In the comic book landscape there are peaks and valleys, and while there is always room for improvement it is important to give credit where it’s due. So, in that vein, here are some things that contemporary comic creators are doing well that are worth emulating.
Within that last two years I’ve noticed an increase in the number of self-contained creator-focused miniseries. Whether the story is out of continuity like Batman: White Knight or in its own corner of continuity like Mister Miracle or Martian Manhunter, miniseries allow creators to do their own definitive interpretation of a legacy character.
I believe this approach yields the best results for new readers and comic creators. With miniseries, new comic readers are guaranteed a complete story with artistic consistency, free from cross-overs and continuity. Miniseries allow creative teams to make the character their own without worrying about tarnishing the brand.
Batman: White Knight may not be the version of Batman everyone wants to see, but that’s ok. People who read White Knight want to see Sean Murphy’s interpretation and go along for the ride. Instead of doing line-wide reboots and renumbering, publishers could just release creator-focused miniseries stories that allow the author total creative freedom.
Another creative approach I have noticed is telling one story across multiple books. Donny Cates has recently become a fan-favorite and what’s great about his writing is that you can follow the story from book to book. It’s like there’s one epic story being told from the perspective of individual superheroes.
New Legacy Characters
While I have been focusing on superhero comics, there are shifts in indie comics as well. While indie comics have been excelling at self-contained creator-focused stories, I’ve felt that too many indie comics fail to make a lasting impression. Longevity is a challenge, but I’m glad to see that some independent characters have weathered the storm.
Hellboy, The Goon, TMNT are just three examples of independent comics that have created legacy characters. By this I mean the comic has endeared itself to multiple generations, been adapted into multiple mediums, and had multiple artistic interpretations in the comics form. The fun thing about superheroes is seeing the different artistic renditions over time and I’m glad that this mentality is being applied to indie comic characters. We can all recognize Hellboy no matter who draws him and that says something.
In a world where people who identify as Marvel fans may have never picked up a Marvel comic, we need to be producing content more intelligently. I wanted to draw attention to what comics are doing well because they represent steps in the right direction.
Introducing new characters, cross-overs, and costumes may get peoples’ attention in the short term, but I truly believe that by focusing on telling complete, quality stories is best for readers, creators, and publishers in the long haul.