Yesterday’s retailer poll results, as revealed at Sktchd, made for fascinating reading, but at least one statistic—only 4.8% of retailers order a book based on the artist—got familiar questions being raised about why artists seem to get the short end of the stick so much in today’s comics industry. Declan Shalvey, currently of Injection, written by Warren Ellis, kicked some things off with a tweet and you can check his twitter feed for more conversation on the topic.
— Declan Shalvey (@declanshalvey) July 21, 2015
The decline of the artist has been getting a lot of play on the twitterverse of late, with Steve Morris also showing a watchful eye for it, even checking interviews to make sure they credit the artist.
Which to be fair, many times they do not.
The entire “decline of the artist” phenomena has been discussed many times, sometimes at this very blog, and even by Sktchd’s Harper in the past. As I’ve said before, the decline of prestige for comics artists seems especially counterintuitive in an era which is so visually driven by Tumblr, Pinterest and the like. And given the past dominance of artists from Neal Adams on, it seems even odder. The beauty of the comics image has never been more prominent. But the makers of those images aren’t always given the credit they deserve. I have a few more thoughts, which I’ve expressed before but let me throw ’em out there again.
There’s a LOT of emphasis on cartoonists these days, the Rainas and Piskors who offer a tightly focused worldview and esthetic. And aside from the VERY rare Tamaki/Tamaki, Morrison/Quitely, Lee/Kirby teams, collaborative comics rarely offer that. I think if you were to ask graphic novel readers they might value the artist more, but might prefer the “creator” category.
Also, as we’ve all been saying, the Big Two, especially have been dead set on promoting the Editor-driven era of comics, and even the finest artists have been cogs in an ever grinding machine. Marvel had a few breakouts along the way, mostly on Hawkeye and Daredevil, but DC’s relentless parade of Jim Lee clones during the New 52 era reduced the role of the artist to interchangeable drone. And as fine an artist as Ivan Reis is, he’s no mold-breaking stylist.
The good news is, the Nü DCYou seems to have thrown house style out the window and allowed more idiosyncratic things to creep in. The bad news is Marvel’s new universe is starting to look as blandly homogenized as the New 52. Always a pendulum, this must be.
What do YOU think? Some wondered if casual readers would reflect the same ratios as retailers. With David Harper’s permission, I’ve recreated his questiosn in an open, public poll which will stay open for two days so hop to it! And as a final plug. Sktchd has a followup podcast with Patrick Brower, owner of Challengers in Chicago which I’m sure is worth a listen.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.