Saturday, 28 July 2012

10. Updated thoughts

Here are some general thoughts which have occured to me since I last blogged. They re-visit various subjects which I've already covered.

Licensed comics erode the function of the editor as the person with the final say on the material is someone who works in a licensing department. This person will more often than not have absolutely no experience in comics. It is no wonder that in many cases an editor on a licensed comic becomes little more than a traffic manager, whose main job is keeping the work flowing through the system, with no time to make changes which in turn have to be approved by the license holder.

When I was a lad I always thought that the job of an editor was to improve the work of writers and artists by offering them advice based on his or her experience. Under the strict time constraints placed on licensed comics there seems little opportunity for an editor to do this.

I also used to think that there was a fairly natural progression from freelance professional to editor in the US market. As the freelancer got older they became less inclined to chase assignments and would opt for the more secure position of editor. I thought this would lead to a gradual evolution of comics as writers and artists whose ideas were considered too avant garde would allow those ideas through when they became editors.

However the welcome introduction of royalties made the job of a freelancer far more lucrative in many cases, and this has stopped the flow of editors from freelance positions. The industries loss has been the individual's gain.

For many months I was stumped by two contradictory thoughts concerning the US market. On the one hand I believed that the large number of titles published in the 1940s lead to the discovery of new trends and a vibrant, growing market. On the other hand I believe that the large number of self published comics today, whilst being very laudible in their own right, have done little to create new trends and a vibrant, growing market. How to explain this contradiction?

I believe that the missing ingredient is editorial input. Even if in the 1940s comic publishers were hiring whoever they could get there were still editorial standards and creators were given a brief to follow. Today self-published creators produce whatever takes their fancy, often emulating other books which haven't succeeded. The publishers in the 1940s were operating in a hugely competative enviroment and constantly on the look out for something new which would capture an audience. The self publishers of today are not interested in entertaining readers and are often just self-indulgent.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


While there are many great comic creators out there, I have formulated a rule of thumb that for me signifies an outstanding comic creator. For me a truly great comic creator inspires a school of comics, by which I mean a way of producing comics which has its own distinctive methodology ranging far beyond the mere aping of the original creator's style. These are creators who have influenced many other creators and therefore had a lasting effect on the medium.

Here are some examples of creators who have founded "schools"...

Herge didn't just create Tintin, he established a way of creating comics, consisting of complex plotting, well defined characters, international locales and meticulously researched clearline drawings.

Stan Lee created the soap opera superhero comic where characters evolved and storylines continued from one issue to another and characters occupied a shared universe. The fact that he wrote so many books led to a greater reliance on the storytelling skills of the artists. Stan Lee would recount a basic plot to his collaborators who would then draw the entire issue from his outline and Stan would return to add dialogue to match the pictures.

Jack Kirby personified power and movement in an art style perfectly suited to the superhero, his drawings seem simple yet they are dynamic and when he moved to DC comics in the 70s he developed his own storytelling style which perfectly suited his art. Vast inter-dimensional dramas played out by all too human protagonists.

Osamu Tezuka is the godfather of manga, having established the styles and working practices for two media – manga and anime. He synthesized the American approach and suited it to post war Japanese tastes giving fantastic cartoony characters and dynamic action scenes their own distinctive flavour. Tezuka laid the foundations for manga and anime which eclipsed their American inspirations (newspaper strips and Disney animation) in Japan.

Tune in for more Classic Creators in future blogs.