The state of American comics as of 2014.

After reading a great article by David Harper

http://multiversitycomics.com/columns/diminishing-role-of-artists/  (Please visit, read and comment)

I started musing about the state of comics in the US, and his statement about the lack of transcendence given to the artist.

 

And it seems to me that somewhere between the late 1980’s and now, we have given up on art.

The medium that is supposed to use visual narrative to tell the story, has given a secondary role to the artist. 

I do agree that reading the original works penned by Garth Ennis, Mark Waid, Mark Millar or Grant Morrison are exquisite experiences in of themselves. I hate to say this but the series “Crossed” by Garth Ennis, many times the soft point has been the art.

Mark Millar get first credits

Garth also gets first Credits.

On the other hand, I’ve bought (and almost read) Neal Adams’ Batman Odeysy solely for the art. I still look for works illustrated by Brian Hitch or Mike Davis, solely for the exquisiteness of the art.

Neal, the master Draftsman… writing very muddled scripts.

This has made me arrive to the conclusion that what is lacking in the US is a strong independent market, outside from the Big Two.

 

We should push our audiences to start their love affairs with comics by introducing them to the light and fluffy aspects of the Big Two that make comics easily accessible to newcomers to the medium. The branded characters, whether Superman, Bats, Spidey or Thor, have to be the introduction to the love of reading and the love for story telling. The new reader has to understand that there are long-spannign story arch that can reach many months and years, and there will be different interpretations of the images based on the styles of the artists.

If you introduce a young child to music, usually you don’t start with Roger Redgate.or Philip Glass. You usually start with children’s songs, and them move forth towards pop and eventually towards more obscure genres.

But only the casual listener stays in Pop music for ever.

Real lovers of any genre of the arts advance, and crave more sophisticated works.

One of the disadvantages in the US is that the field that should allow us to grow and provide diversity and maturity is constrained by the need to make a buck, to be profitable, and in order to be profitable it has to imitate and sometimes compete with what the big two are offering.

That’s why it is so hard to find a Lieutenant Blueberry like figure in Image, or Dark Horse, or Avatar.

Page from Giraud for Mr. Blueberry

They still have to compete with Superman and Spiderman.

And don’t you dare blame this solely in the independents. It is cultural problem as it is well documented on Rambo II,III, IV and our love for sequels.

 

Here is looking at you, Todd McFarlane!

Like children in a candy store where the parent is absent, we continue to clamor for “MORE MORE MORE OF THE SAME PLAESE!!! More empty flavor and empty calories, and more of the same nothingness….”

 I mean, I am guilty of this myself. After having struggled translating the amazing work of Spanish Comic Master Carlos Gimenez in Paracuellos, I tacitly meander back to Superman in the new 52 or The Superior Spiderman story-line that has enthralled me.

 

Carlos Gimenez in his Album Paracuellos, not available in English. A MASTERPIECE!!

Then I eventually come back and find some other masterworks in the American market, but all have to carry some “sugar”. All have to involve some hero, some costume, some gimmick, some monster, some pneumatic woman in barely a bikini…in order for sales to register, and be something more than a critic’s success. Something that the authors love, but the mass audience still hasn’t embrace.
That is the only explanation as to why Richard Corben is such an illustration God overseas, and here is almost an unknown.

America: There are great artists out there. Problem is they usually can’t live with the page rates you pay them, and they can’t go a year without money, the time it may take to put together a decent graphic novel of 80 plus pages.

And we haven’t created a market for albums. Sure we like to collect our superhero archs in Paperbacks instead of floppies, but we don’t have a market like they do in France, where Hermann or Jean-Claude Mézières, can publish a luxurious album every 6 months or every year, and people flock to buy it.
Why not? Partially, because we still want more candy! We want more Batman and more Spiderman (How many titles these two guys alone have out there currently? I lost count),  and partially because if we are going to buy into that market we want to do it with something familiar to us, and all we have known so far is candy….

But lets not despair. The fact that Image, and Avatar and Dark Horse, and Dynamite and others are putting good titles out there is a good sign of things to come.

Maybe in 5 or 10 years we may have market receptive to the concept of Direct to Album or Graphic Novel. And by this I mean a competitive market, not an exception-to-the-rule market.

But sad truth is that so far, the current gamut of artists that are breaking into the field are seen usually as complements to the writers. In many times they could be considered interchangeable. They are vehicles to tell the story of these great writers, and that, my friends, needs to change.

In the 70’s Batman had a revival because of Neal Adams, illustrating Dennis O’Neill scripts. Now the O’Neills of the world have taken over, but haven’t been paired with their Neil Adams.

Someone has to take up the mantle of the Great Will Eisner, and start merging the both.

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