Robot 6

Creator-Owned Spotlight #1 by Steve Niles

Editor’s Note: With the recent discussions going on around the comics community about creator-owned comics, we’re pleased to welcome one of the voices in those discussions, 30 Days of Night and Mystery Society creator Steve Niles, to Robot 6 for a series of columns on creator-owned comics. A big thanks to Steve for agreeing to do the column, as well as to artist Stephanie Buscema for creating a killer image for it.

by Steve Niles

Creator-Owned Spotlight

Hello everybody!

Welcome to the first installment of my new column, Creator-Owned Spotlight. I tried to think up an amusing title, but then decided to just settle on what it was: a spotlight on creator-owned comics, publishers and retailers who support the need for more creator-owned books.

I guess the first order of business is to define what I mean when I say “creator-owned comics.” I’m talking about ANY book where the creator has ANY ownership in their book. So basically, if you sign a work-for-hire agreement, you don’t generally have ownership. It doesn’t make those books bad, or the enemy, or anything like that. We’re just not talking about them here.

Why am I doing this? I’ve been called insane for wanting to promote my competitors’ work. All I have to say to that is: it isn’t a competition. And yes, I am crazy. I’ve drawn a line in the sand for myself to be positive. I hope you’ll try, too.

First up is such an obvious choice; I really don’t need to write much at all. His name is synonymous with creator-owned books, because he’s one of creator-owned comics’ greatest success stories. He’s also a friend and hero of mine.



I doubt there’s a person reading this who doesn’t know Mignola’s creation Hellboy. And because of the films, Mike’s work and Hellboy have made the jump to the mainstream.

Like many creators, Mike got his start working for Marvel and DC. First as an inker at Marvel, and then later DC hired him for some of the most memorable Batman images and stories out there. I remember buying some titles just for Mike’s covers. Then, after a healthy stretch of work for the Big Two, he set out to create his own character: Hellboy.
To me, that has to be one of the scariest prospects: having a healthy career and making the decision to create something new. Putting everything on the line.

For Mike, it worked out because of his incredible skills as an artist AND a writer, but success was never a guaranteed thing, not even for someone as talented as Mignola. That may seem silly now (and when Hellboy first hit in Seed of Destruction, reaction was mostly positive), but it still took years of putting out stories and building the character and the world before it became the hit title it is today.

Another reason Mignola is the ideal choice for this spotlight is because he continues to do new and original properties to this day. He’s also created B.P.R.D, The Amazing Screw-on Head (my personal favorite), and the illustrated novel Baltimore. Mike has created his own universe, and using that universe, he has helped the comic industry incredibly. Hellboy has spawned multiple titles, and Mike has brought in talents like Guy Davis and Duncan Fegredo to illustrate his books as well as allowed other writers to write new series.

Bottom line: Mignola has created not only a universe, but also jobs in comics. That’s about all you can ask of a creator in my book. If there were more stories like Mike’s in comics, we’d all be better off. Check out Mike Mignola’s website, where you can learn about his new and old work, and buy from the creator directly.

B.P.R.D.The Amazing Screw-on Head

Next on this week’s list is:


I was first exposed to Joshua when he wrote a book called Elk’s Run, a truly original and terrifying coming-of-age story. The story is well-paced and unpredictable. The art by Noel Tuazon and Scott Keating suits the story perfectly.

What I liked best about Elk’s Run was that it defied being defined by any one category. It sure as hell wasn’t superhero. It was horror, sort of, and yet also a coming-of-age story. A great combo of ideas made this one work, and it’s still a great read today.

Story continues below


But Joshua’s best work is one of his most recent. Released in a 240-page, black-and-white hardcover, Tumor stands out as one of my favorite creator-owned books. Again illustrated by Noel Tuazon, Tumor tells the hauntingly gritty story of Frank Armstrong, who is dying of a brain tumor but trying to make the most of his last days alive.

Try Tumor this week if you have a love of Noir and crime stories. Or if you just like holding a gorgeous book.

Also from Fialkov is the current series Echoes, which I have not only recommended, but also had recommended to me. That’s always a good sign!

To learn more about Tumor and its creator, visit Joshua’s site as well as the sites for Echoes and Punks, the comic that Joshua did with Kody Chamberlain and is getting a new re-release. You can also read Tumor for free at and get a daily dose of Echoes right here on Robot 6!

Those are my first two creators for the week, but I’m not done. I also want to put a spotlight on one of the best webcomics out there, The Loneliest Astronauts by Kevin Church and Ming Doyle.

The Loneliest Astronauts

Thanks so much for checking this column out. I have a lot of reading and learning to do, so bear with me and I’ll get it together.

See you next week!




Great first column. Looking forward to many more and hopefully learning about some new (to me, anyway) creators.

Great list! I adored Tumor–I think it was one of the best books I read last year. I’m excited to hear more of your picks.

Great article. Your sentence about work-for-hire:

“It doesn’t make those books bad, or the enemy, or anything like that.”

Thank you for putting that in perspective. I love comics. I love the medium. If it was from the Mouse or printed from kinkos, it’s still a comic book. People work hard to make it.

I can’t wait to hear what you say about The Lonelist Astronauts, Ming Doyle is one of my favorite artists.

Truly a necessary column.

I write this from my working cubicle at a videogames retailer HQ, and hold in my head the dreams/projects of being a comic book creator.

Hopefully, some years from now, I can be one of the authors you talk about.

Greetings from Mexico City!

Josh and Noel create magic when they work together. Go buy Elk’s Run and Tumor.

Fialkov is awesome. Love him to death. Got to meet him at C2E2 and he’s a true class act.

However, saying Mike Mignola is a bit of a cop-out…

Well done. Well said. I will be back for more.

“However, saying Mike Mignola is a bit of a cop-out…”

Why? This column is called “creator-owned spotlight,” and Mike Mignola’s work on his CREATOR-OWNED property is, as Steve noted, the sort-of ultimate example of how far one can go with their own creations. It’s an inspiration, not a cop-out to include him.

Will check out Tumor. Great start.

Amazing column, this is exactly the kind of column I need – Creator owned are about the only comics I get truly excited about these days, but I still find it hard to get a good understanding of what’s out there and the creators involved. For example, I just picked up echoes the other day and loved it, but I had no idea what other work the writer had done – so something like this, which points me in the direction of Tumor is excellent. Looking forward to the next column!

dear CBR, can we have more columns of this calibre and less of whatever hannibal tabu’s column is supposed to represent?

Ha, agreed Matt d.

Nice job Steve!!!

A little confused Adrian B…can you explain???

I’m going to have to third Matt D. (on all counts). This is a great, refreshing idea to help people discover new titles that I would say are by and large invisible to the majority of those that come for your mainstream capes and cowl coverage.

There’s lots of great stuff out there, and the world needs more navigators.

Good will column. Thanks, Steve!

Very nice articles and good to know more about authors. There’s just so much comics out there, and nowadays it’s great to find them easier than it was 10 years ago, it’s also easier to promote and talk about guys who deserve recognition.
Can’t wait to read more articles.

Great spotlight from mr Steve here.

My own time and attention seems much a competition, but it should best be positive.

How people would love opera or Shakespeare, Meatloaf or Marvel, I like me Mignola as well as other distinctly identifiable creators or creatives. I also like taters and buff metal music, as well as banjo and Erik Satie. Although I can’t eat brie for some reason. I’m not gonna apologize for such (sorry).

Thanks so much for the kind words, Steve! And everyone in the comments, too!

Made my day!


I love this idea. Great picks!

I love the idea behind this column.

However I have a problem with the implementation here. Yes, Mignola does own his own titles, but the dude has had a movie made out of one of his titles. It’s gone beyond, what I feel this article should be about. You really should be doing the lesser known titles out there. Stuff the masses haven’t heard about. I think that is what Adrian B is meaning.


Well, Mignola’s sort of a given. Shame you didn’t expand from Mignola to Guy Davis’ long standing history in the creator owned stuff off of the BPRD stuff. I trust you will rectify that in the near future and promote Guy’s self-owned body of work, as he has several projects worthy of discussion.

I’ll give you credit for picking Joshua’s stuff. He is fairly underrated and I’ll admit I seldom see him receiving the buzz others have been getting. So kudos there.

Good luck with future editions.

Great start. Looking forward to more.

@ mschmidt:

Mignola is just gonna be ‘the creator-owned poster boy’, excusez-les-mots, even with being to have instigated Del Toro-movies which service towards quality cinema, rather than just your average Hollywooden cash-cow-thing.
Having success doesn’t equate to copping out necessarily. I should think.

Agreed that Mignola is an inspiration, not a cop out; and you may as well get him out of the way right up front.

If you’re done with Mignola, I highly recommend an indy web comic called The Path, by James Riot. You can find his stuff here:

(I’m not above pimping myself out, either. Click on my name if you’re at all interested in a brand new creator-owned series. Just sayin’.)

For veryone wanting CBR to do more of these, how many actually read them and follow the links therein? They post them all the time here (and on the front page sometimes), and nobody comments on them!

I’d like it if Steve did a little bit on Mezzo & Pirus’ work from Fantagraphics, King of the Flies. It’s the best comic of the year so far.

Great stuff. I hope this column continues as the effort is not just worthy, it can be very effective to raise awareness on titles that need it. Now, Mignola’s stuff is known big time (and thus doesn’t really “need” the exposure)… but the fact that it started out like all the rest of us – an unknown property scraping by trying to survive – is a good message.

I know it is frustrating for me, having produced 15 titles and over 600 pages of material in the last year with 60 artists, to see how truly hard it is to get attention – most comic-related websites will only look at the big boys and that’s that. Doesn’t matter how interesting or different your stuff is, if it ain’t rubber stamped, they ignore it.

This is why efforts like this are important!

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