In comics, the artists comes first.

There are some battles I gave up fighting.

  • Paying the salary of a waiter plus the cost of my meal/drink consumption, instead of expecting the employer to pay them a fair wage. (Tipping is almost mandatory in the US, my foreign friends)
  • Not having a say where my taxes go, thus black budget projects.
  • Not having a say on when politicians do not meet their campaign promises.
  • Not having a say on having GMO’s labeled in my food products

The list can go on and on.

In the last 15 years, when comics in the US had finally gone a somewhat reluctant resurgence in quality, I’ve also given up on a trend I’ve noticed:

In the credits, the writer goes first.

The Beauty 005 (2015) 01Darth Vader (2015-) 009 001Hellbreak 009 (2015) 002
Well, I always attributed this to a common courtesy, like you let the slow kid first, or you let the old folk get in the bus first, you know?
Comics, being a graphical medium, we wanted to extend the courtesy to writers, and give them credit first.

But then I keep reading more and more in forums how people keep expecting the writer to get the highest credit and always to go first, just like an entitlement, or a god given right.

Let’s deconstruct this idea and see if it makes sense, shall we?

  1. Comics are consumed mainly for its graphics.
    1. I completely agree that story are important. But in theory, the story could still be told as a story, and it would be able to see the light of day as a short-story, novella, novel, or book. When you rely on graphical storytelling, on fluidity, tempo, graphic design, etc, then the published work can’t be filed under Novella at the bookstore. It goes under Comic or Graphic Novel. So the art is what makes the difference, not the writing.
  2. As a consumer the art makes a heavy decision on my purchase.
    1. Again, I have a large collection of comic-related volumes that are taking up space in my shelves because of the Graphical Story Telling, not because of who wrote them.
      I refer you back to Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond. The stories couldn’t be more prosaic, but the art… still amazing. Move forward in time, and check out Canon, by Wally Wood. Story couldn’t be more mundane and unoriginal, but the art… mouthwatering. And recently, we get Batman: Odyssey, by Master Neal Adams. I haven’t met a single human being who has finished reading it from beginning to end, but that doesn’t stop us from buying it and salivating over the pretty pictures.
    2. Are there writers who have a following? You bet!!! Garth Ennis, the master of the talking heads, and the master of “Three guys are sitting talking in a bar” scenario has a large following who will eat what he dishes, no matter who draws it. I put in that category Brian Michael Bendis, Niel Gaiman, Mark Millar with a few others that I neglect to mention. And this is all well and dandy, and they should get credit for their work. But these few exceptions to the rule are masters of their craft who also happen to know how to market themselves extremely well. Notice how Millar has changed the domain of his website to .TV.  They are the exception to the rule. The rule in the millions of floppies that get published monthly should be Artists in the cover and first on the inside credits.
      Unless its a jointed creation.
    3. Deadly Class 017-003
      Deadly Class title has gone the Co-Creator route on their titles.

Then you are completely justified to put them together and pay no attention to the order.

And I’ve seem more and more titles take this route which is fine, giving kudos to the tight collaboration between writer and artists that goes into creating a graphically narrated tale, but at some point the reader may want to find out who is who, so they can follow future works.

3.   We still want to put the writer first.
A.  More power to you. I just understand this unwritten rule about having to credit the writer first, and making an expectation out of it.
Think about the implications of putting the writer as the most prominent figure in the creative process. You are implying (Like Garth Ennis and Mark Millar and Alan Moore do, that the artists are just interchangeable ink-monkeys that you can replace easily.

And that is just not the case. Remember “From Hell” from Alan Moore? I found it somewhat enjoyable, but the art… forgive me Eddie Campbell, but some parts made my eyes bleed.

Reading this was “FROM HELL” due to the art, with my sincerest apologies to Eddie Campbell

It took me four (4) attempt to get to finished it. I even watched the awful movie with Johnny Depp between attempt 3 and 4. And will not EVER read it again. But now, let me direct your attention over here, to Batman: Odyssey. Every month since I bought the paper back I spend an hour or so perusing the pages and marveling at the art.

And I guess this final point is what bothers me the most.

Artists are the whole point of comics. And writers are secondary. Why? Because an artist can still captivate us with his/her amazing art.  The caves of Altamira don’t have attempts to put together witty phrases. They have visual narratives of offerings and stylized renderings of their dreams and expectations.

That’s why Pablo Picasso had to say “after Altamira, everything is decadence.” after staring at those formidable renderings in the caverns of Spain.

The publishing industry should regain a sense of pride (don’t see it happening anytime soon) and by default list the artist first and then the writer. When the writer gets to a degree of fame he/she can pick artists and set up TV shows, then the writer can choose to come first.
But even then, I would expect them to extend the artists the same courtesy we have been extending writers for more than a decade.

If we are going to make it a rule, then the artists come first.
If credits are going to obey to a courtesy, then we should agree to put first the contributing artist that could benefit and needs more exposure.

I will still be checking the artists first when it comes to credits, and keep wondering under my breath…. “Why they keep pushing the important guy to the back?”

Gerald Dean, The ComicWatcher.

 

 

 

 

 

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