We’re about to go into an afternoon retreat and don’t have time to look at the discussion of work-for-hire vs creator-owned that has been going on across the blogosphere. We definitely have some thoughts and comments on the most fundamental question in the comics artform and business, but in the meantime, we suggest you start with this post by Noah Berlatsky and work your way backwards:

Just to be a little clearer…I think the relationship between work-for-hire and quality is tricky to establish. There are a lot of great work-for-hire comics, and a lot of bad independent ones. The work-for-hire argument usually goes “if we get rid of work-for-hire, we’ll have more original, more creative comics.” That seems to be where Moore is headed with his argument. I deliberately didn’t make that argument because I think it’s hard to sustain. (I think there is a relationship between work for hire and low quality, but I think it’s a bit more circuitous than the one Moore seems to be advancing here.)


  1. Re: Berlatsky’s observation on the mutability of the creations in America due to the “replaceability” of the creators:

    Well, yes and no. The salient difference between American comics and manga/mahnwa etc. is that in the former continuing characters are expected to be ageless and never reach a conclusion, while in the latter said characters are expected to reach a conclusion, however episodic the progression toward the conclusion. Because there is a “novelistic” expectation in manga, it makes a great deal more sense to keep the characters “on model.”

    That said, there have been periods where American comics remained “on model” for whole decades without much fluctuation– the Weisinger SUPERMAN books, the Thomas/Buscema CONANs. During Jim Shooter’s editorial reign I believe that all the X-books were overseen with an eye toward keeping them as internally consistent as possible.

    However, in America we have more of the phenomenon of the “star creator,” who comes down as from heaven to bless this or that creator with his liberating creativity. Neal Adams is the obvious prototype; I dare ya to think of an earlier one. The fetishizing of the short-lived “star turn” means a lot of potential to get “off model,” and then leads to editors not knowing where to go with the plotlines that worked well only for the “star creator.” Note the ghastly decade of the SUPERMAN books following the exit of John Byrne (not that Byrne’s stuff was so great IMO, but it gave his then-audience what they wanted).

    I might link all this to the “creator/work-for-hire” thing, but I’m winding down today.

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