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Over at iFanboy, Jim Mroczkowski points out that the battle between Good and Wednesday has been very clearly won by Wednesday, with both Marvel and DC sticking to schedules even if it means the artist rosters are in constant flux:

“This is the greatest outrage in the history of human endeavor!” people cried. “We need to take a stand against these fat cat comic book creators, sleeping until noon while the rest of us camp out in the cold rain for books that will never come. We must vote with our wallets and punish these layabouts for their hostile disrespect for the audience. They knew the schedule when they signed up for the project. They should have prepared for this somehow. Stand up and be heard, reader! We want our comics, and we want them like clockwork!”

I was idly reflecting on those days when I realized I hadn’t heard anyone trying to start that rally for a long time now. It had been ages since I heard anyone complain about delays. In fact, the only complaints I could remember seeing lately were “who’s this clown drawing issue #6 of my DC book?” and “why is Marvel trying to kill me by double shipping all these series and shifting the artists around so much?”

For sure retailers are very happy that the trains are running on time—late books means lesser profit and we all need every penny. But the “Artist of Minute” isn’t really doing anything to boost brand loyalty either, is it?
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  1. It’s editorial incompetence that says you need to have subpar artists in order to have books come out on time. You might need to have good artists switch off on arcs, but that’s night and day from what Marvel and DC are doing (for the most part, I’m quite happy with Wolverine & The X-Men and Uncanny’s plan).

  2. I wouldn’t put it quite that strongly, but the basic point is correct. There is no reason why you can’t have good work AND ship it on time, as long as the schedule was achievable to begin with. It’s a question of setting a realistic lead-in time with a suitable margin of error.

    For that matter, “slow” and “late” are not the same thing either. A quarterly book which was always solicited as a quarterly book is slow, but it’s not late. If you want to ship a book eighteen times a year then it’s going to need multiple artists. If you want to use a single artist then you’ll have to ship fewer issues. But that’s a question of frequency, not lateness.

  3. If you’re going to publish periodical comics, you need to get them out on a consistent schedule. If books and movies and TV shows can keep schedules, there’s no reason comics can’t. Imagine if Disney just announced, “You know that John Carter movie that’s supposed to come out this Friday? Yeah, it’ll actually be in theaters next Friday. Sorry about that.”


  4. This “Good vs. Wednesday” debate is pointless. Marvel and DC are throwing a bunch of fill-ins to keep schedule these days because popular books not being on the rack on time are lost sales and they also still pay for the printing presses even if they’re not printing anything.

    Their parent companies probably told them to stop those late book losses lest heads roll.

    Further, there’s a debate no one seems to be willing to touch and that is the question of why modern artists are so consistently late despite having less workload, less panels to draw, and more computer-aided design than any of their deadline meeting predecessors.

  5. Speaking only for myself, I read books for the artist. When the artist is replaced I drop the book.

    I know my perspective is different from the retailer’s, but I’d rather a book be late and have a consistent artistic vision throughout. My interest is in the eventual collected edition, and there’s nothing more annoying than to have the art style change mid-way through a story when a new artist takes over (this is the one reason why I never purchased the “Children of the Atom” book from Marvel–if Steve Rude had illustrated the entire thing I would have bought it in a second).

    I believe others have said this before, but when the art team changes on a book it’s like watching a TV show in which the entire cast is replaced by all new actors. It’s jarring.

  6. In defense of the modern artist: you fans demand MUCH ore detail and “nitty grim and gritty” than was present in the work of, say Sheldon Moldoff, to name the most comic booky artist who ever lived. Modern art styles are not conducive to “shortcuts”, unless you are Greg Land.

  7. The biggest problem with the switching out artists for deadlines is the reliance on foreign talent to make up the deadlines that were blown by editorial and writers. In DC’s case, they have foreign studios doing all the non-writer creative jobs. In Marvel’s case, they’re hiring non English speaking artists to save money. In both cases, this outsourcing is destroying the ability to follow an artist’s growth or career, to read interviews or engage with them at conventions, and generally hurting the overall appearance of comics, which look more generic with each fill in. I wish comics were more like Broadway–superior foreign talent are welcome, but most jobs should go to American talent.

  8. Mroczkowski’s write-up is awful.
    “Oh,” I suddenly realized. “They haven’t stopped complaining. They’ve just shifted their complaints to complain about the exact opposite thing. They’re complaining about getting exactly what they said they wanted five years ago.”
    Or it’s different people complaining about different things?

  9. Yes I am happy. I have a fill in issue if needed for the regular artist to catch up. Maybe this will encourage everyone involved to keep to the deadlines.

  10. i don’t care about lateness. I do care about quality and consistency. I would rather have late books with one solid creative team doing great work, than rushed crap with 20 people inking and coloring the thing.

  11. Yeah, I saw this coming when I was reading “Sandman”. Look how many people complained when Neil Gaiman kept switching artists each issue! Boy, did his sales suffer!

    [Insert Gaiman quote about George R.R. Martin here.]

    I just finished reading “X-Men: First Class, Volume 1”, and the various artists (and writers?) didn’t affect the storytelling. Perhaps it was because each issue/chapter was self-contained.

    Even for an ongoing series such as Spider-Man, I don’t think it’s a concern, so long as the storytelling is good. I believe the author should be consistent on a story arc, but the art can vary.

    If you mix authors, then it becomes problematic, just like in cinema (two or more screenwriters is a warning bell). Sometimes it works, like DC’s 52 maxi-series.

    There’s also the monthly memory to consider. When you read an ongoing series, do you remember what happened in the previous issue you read four weeks ago? Do you remember the creative team? How about the title of that previous chapter?

  12. The fill ins make sense, particularly for ongoings. More attention should be paid though to WHO is being assigned to what book.

    Comics have an embarressment of riches in terms of talented artists around today.

    Making use of them is a good thing.

    This makes me ponder one question: when’s the last time you saw an editor getting complaints thrown their way by fans as opposed to the more common targets of writers and artists?

  13. Apollo, I think editors get it the worst. Everyone is super critical of Didio/Harass/Lee/Johns, Quesada and Breevort get a fair amount of hate, Steven Wacker regularly responds to criticisms people make of him, etc. I think people are likely to either a writer/artist as someone whose style they don’t like, whereas editors are more likely to be considered incompetent.

  14. It’s amazing how little things change over the past few decades. I was reading some fanzines from the 1980s the other day and noted a lot of complaining about various “filler” issues and late titles. Anyone here remember the “Album Issue” of Howard the Duck #16? Or how incredibly late the final issues of Camelot 3000 were running?

    I recall reading that, years ago, Marvel and DC kept a stockpile of “filler” comics to run just in case the current artist or write crashed and burned and the issue wasn’t ready on time. Of course, at DC that wasn’t such an issue because their continuity in the 1960s and even the 1970s wasn’t that important to carrying on the story.

    But back to the issue at hand… I am not a fan of filler issues or pinch-hitter artists, but they are necessary to keep the books on schedule. It’s just an unfortunate fact of life when you’re creating a collaborative form of mass entertainment like comics.

  15. One aspect of scheduling, which leads to scheduling problems when someone falls behind (and by the way, writers fall behind, too–if they’re late, it eats into the artists’ work time, it’s all dominoes) that I haven’t seen discussed is Big Events.

    By which I mean that Marvel or DC will schedule big interrelated event storylines that connect several books. Scheduling then becomes dependent upon this large event–NOT on where the creative team is on the schedule at this point. So if the book is shipping on time but for whatever reason the penciler is now doing his work in two and a half weeks, and the event book is coming up, then A) you get a subpar book, B) they get a fill-in artist, or C) the whole stack of “Event Books” falls out of rhythm.

  16. There are a few recent titles I’ve read, Scalped and YLTM, where the fill-in artist had a style very similar to the regular artist. It was a less jarring transition and they did a great job IMO.

    Marvel’s rotating art teams on Daredevil also have similar styles, which I love…

  17. I was thinking back at the industry a couple years at what some call a very healthy time, which is also the time everybody was complaining on lateness. I noticed at that time in my comic shop that a person would come in for the new Ultimates or All-star. Civil War and Crisis were big books also. The thing that alway stuck out at me was people paying with credit or debit cards. Of course then the comic shop retailer would let them know it had to be a purchase of at least 10 dollars. Then the customer picks up 2-3 more comics. In the end the guy came into the store to buy 1 comic that week, to walk out with 3-4 to use his debit card. Yes those books were late , but I have the opinion that I doubt the people who were buying those blockbuster late books had exact change. Which leads me to a crazy theory that those late books, that were so cutting edge that pulled people into the store, actually put other comics in the customers hands.

  18. “In defense of the modern artist: you fans demand MUCH ore detail and “nitty grim and gritty” than was present in the work of, say Sheldon Moldoff, to name the most comic booky artist who ever lived. Modern art styles are not conducive to “shortcuts”, unless you are Greg Land.”

    What garbage. Theres a lot more detail in Kirby’s work than the majority of modern artists. And why are artists being defended for being late when the majority of the rest of us would be fired for the same thing?

  19. Jasmine, I agree re Kirby but do you really think someone who drew like him could get a job drawing Marvel OR DC comics these days?

    The house styles are very very narrow.

  20. I appreciate that a monthly comic can be published monthly. It seems like the system is working.

    Periodicals are a deadline business. If you want to create a comic that is published when you want it published, create a graphic novel.

    But then we get into the presolicitation aspect, where you must predict the book’s publishing date a number of months in advance in order to advertise, promote and presell the book.

    Darn those demands, they never really go away, do they.

  21. @Jasmine–nonsense. Total nonsense. Kirby was a fantastic cartoonist, obviously, and I hold his work in very high regard.

    But it’s not that it’s “detailed”. Kirby spent virtually no time on backgrounds, his costume designs were simple (thank goodness–Kirby’s costumes were designed so that they communicated quickly, not so that they overwhelmed the reader with pouches and seams and buckles and spikes and other nonsense that have plagued superhero costume design since 1993), and his work was produced with very specific shortcuts in mind.

    This is not to denigrate him at all, it’s to celebrate how he was able to develop an identity, style and process that allowed him to produce thousands of pages of art. A big part of being a working comics pro is about figuring out how to streamline your process to pump those pages out.

    Kirby also didn’t ink his own work. He didn’t color his own work. He did write much of it, even things he wasn’t credited as writing. But to compare the level of detail to that of modern comics, where the reproduction quality is much much higher and where modern consumers demand lots of detail (needlessly, in my opinion), one can easily see that modern cartoonists are held to a different standard.

    And on top of that, there aren’t an awful lot of Kirbys in any period. He was a force unto himself, so to use him as the example of how in the golden days of comics everyone was able to draw several books at once and stay on schedule is selective reasoning.

    And FINALLY, there have ALWAYS been fill-in issues. Alex Toth drew X-Men #12. Brent Anderson drew X-Men #144. Walt Simonson drew X-Men #171. And those are just the first three examples that popped into my head.

  22. Another perspective on the level of detail in Kirby’s artwork:

    I love the detail in Jack Kirby’s art. I love how he fills his panels with an almost promiscuous number of real and imagined objects, and I’m perpetually amazed by his ability to visualize and draw people and things from any angle in 360-degree space. My fascination with Kirby’s detailed, stylized, three-dimensional spaces has led me to write a few tentative ideas about how Kirby’s images—particularly in the 1966-67 heyday of the Fantastic Four, for me the visual apogee of Kirby’s art—structure a reader’s attention, and how backgrounds generally function in comic art.


  23. Many of the comics I buy these days are ones that have had their problems being on time (Powers, Batman Incorporated, Kick-Ass), so its like I’ve been trained not to expect them. I check out Comics This Week every week and if there’s something on the list I read, off to the comic shop I go. I started buying Brilliant and the bi-monthly schedule makes it seem like it rarely comes out, even if it does stick to the schedule!

  24. “The house styles are very very narrow.”

    Right. Because Jim Lee to George Perez to Travel Foreman to Kenneth Roccafort are all “house style”.

    Generalizations get you nowhere. About the only generalization that “you fans” demand is GOOD artwork.

    “You fans” – what more do we need that the Beat clearly thinks of herself as above and beyond the rest of us.

  25. I still say the only fans demanding that much more detail are really the only ones who have the money to go buy the original art.

  26. The person who draws a comic is more important than the person who writes a comic.

    That statement assumes that the writer and the artist are both at least minimally competent and makes other assumptions. It’s possible, I suppose, to read a comic for the artwork, but I’ve never bought a superhero comic just for the artwork. Each and every page is commercial artwork which serves the purpose of the story; it isn’t pure art which is a statement in itself. If someone buys a comic for the story, he can be deterred from buying it by the promotional blurb, which describes an uninteresting situation; by seeing that the story has, say, Iron Man vs. the Mandarin yet again; or by knowing that the story is in a genre that he’s uninterested in. In any of those instances, the prospective reader is reacting to the writing; what the artist does is irrelevant.


  27. A story without art is a novel or short story. You can’t have comics without art. And the big companies are making moves to make the art as generic as they can get away with. I think the art brings most readers in at first–then the reader can get hooked on the stories, characters, color, etc. If the art is dull, outsourced studio hack, it won’t draw people in and the format will die.
    Wake up readers–outsourcing is going to kill comics as we know them!

  28. Comics are a visual medium, just like movies. While a great director and a great actors can overcome a bad script to make a decent film, the greatest script in the world can’t survive a bad director and cast.


  29. Words are nothing but abstractions, just like drawings.

    Just as readers fill in the gaps between panels, they also fill in the gaps that words create.

    As Garfield Minus Garfield” removes one character, so too could one remove all of the characters, leaving just the word balloons within the panels. Letter those balloons to denote specific characters, blank the scenery, and one could read a comic without pictures.

    For example: Alpha Flight #6, “Snowblind”.

  30. >> The person who draws a comic is more important than the person who writes a comic. >>

    The comic is more important.

    The end result is the end result, and who contributes to that and in what percentage is something that changes from issue to issue and even panel to panel.

  31. Who is more important is a silly argument, as Kurt points out.

    The melody is more important than the lyrics. The chords are more important than the melody. The rhythm is more important than the chords.

    All silly arguments when the point of a song is the synthesis of those elements, just like comics is words+pictures and in many cases more like pictograms or “wordpictures”.

  32. Aren’t books more monthly now, ‘cos of the digital thing? I might have this totally wrong, but doesn’t Apple need digital comics 3 months upfront or something? I read something like this, with regards to pre-New 52, when DC artists were told they needed to get their first few New 52 issues done by a certain date. So, are books only monthly because of an outside party pressuring them (like Apple)? If it weren’t for Apple, would we be back to irregular shipping like we all know?