Sunday, March 9, 2014

Glass Houses

Last week, Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson gave a speech at the 4th annual ComicPRO meeting, in which he said a number of very silly things, basically blaming the industries problems on every other company besides Image, the beacon of light and hope for retailers everywhere.

Other, wiser folks than I have taken Stephenson to task for some of what he said.

But I wanted to deal with one aspect of what Stephenson said:

Superheroes are great.

I grew up reading superhero comics.

But over the years, when the writers and artists and editors and publishers I looked up to talked about advancing the medium, about producing more challenging content, and creating comics that appealed to adults, never once did I mistake what they were saying to be, “We need to find a way for superhero comics to appeal to more adults.”

This is the comic book industry, not the superhero industry, and if we want to stick around for the long haul, we need to recognize that and capitalize on that, because as much as I fond as I am of the superhero comics I read when I was younger, the full scope of what comics are and what comics can be is what will ultimately bring the world into your stores...
There is a vast and growing readership out there that is excited about discovering comic books, but as long as we continue to present comics to the world in the Biff Bang Pow! context of Marvel and DC, with shop windows full of pictures of Spider-Man and Superman, we will fail to reach it.

Stephenson is not the first to note that perhaps the medium is too dependent on super-heroes...folks have been saying that for decades.

But just for illustration purposes, let's just take a look at what comics Image is releasing this month:

Well, I guess if one of our partners wants to do super-heroes, that's OK. Plus, he brings in the Walking Dead dollars, so we have to humor him. (Also from Kirkman, Super Dinosaur, which has no issue out this month).
Again, McFarlane is an Image Founder, so he gets a pass on "presenting comics to the world in the Biff Bang Pow! context of Marvel and DC" thing. See also Image founder Erik Larsen, still publishing Savage Dragon, which has no issue out this month.

Oh, and Millar is pretty popular, so we're giving him a pass. Him, he's allowed to do super-heroes. Hell, we're going to publish an entire super-hero "universe" from Millar. Which we expect you retailers to carry even though I'm up here dissing companies that sell super-heroes.

Again, the Millar exception. Flash Gordon pastiches don't count, do they?

Same thing for Galaxy Quest rip-offs, right? Just because it has heroes in the title, and just because it is about actors who have to become super-heroes, that's not really a super-hero book. Besides, HITCH!!

Look, JMS is special--he wrote Babylon 5 16 years ago!! Of course we're going to publish multiple super-hero series from him. Besides, these comics "deconstruct" the genre--that obviously doesn't count!

Legion Of Super-Hero pastiches don't count, either--everyone has to publish one of those!

This series is tough to describe, but we even though we did solicit it as "the ultimate slacker superhero for the 21st Century" and "the new feel-good hero of the decade,'' that doesn't mean you should consider this a super-hero comic! Please don't stop buying it!

Just because she's a teen cop from the future who uses a rocket pack to fight crime, that doesn't make her a super-hero, does it? Does it?!?

In any given month, about 20% of Image's output is super-hero comics. And I have no problem with that. Any apparently, neither does Eric Stephenson, despite his "our shit doesn't stink" speech in which he castigates other companies for publishing super-heroes.

Oh, another thing Stephenson said? He dislikes "constantly re-launching, re-numbering, and re-booting series..." Because Image would never do that...



ShadowWing Tronix said...

Actually there IS a Super Dinosaur comic out this month (just bought it), just not solicited since they're trying to catch-up after their second unplanned hiatus.

snell said...

That issue of Super Dinosaur was out last week (at least hereabouts it was), making it a February release. Regardless, the point remains the same...

Dan said...

You didn't even mention Prophet. My absolute favorite book by any company. Image is publishing a lot of fantastic stuff. Credit it where it's due, I say.

snell said...

Prophet I leave in the "could be considered a super-hero but not a clear enough case to be on my list" category. If you consider it a super-hero book, that just makes my argument stronger.

And Image is publishing a lot of fantastic stuff, much of which I buy, but that doesn't change the fact that Stephenson's speech was a load of fetid dingo kidneys, a "do as i say, not as I do" hypocritical jeremiad.

Dan said...

Fine, fine, I do think they're doing pretty well though evn if I ultimately consider a lot of Dynamite's books the more legit grown up ones.