Robot 6

Looking at DC’s move to expand artists into writer/artists

Although Marvel currently seems to outpace DC in terms of large-scale talent relations (which DC seems to be aiming to fix), DC has a long history as a proving ground for creators starting a new chapter in their career as well as giving the break to some of the industry’s biggest talents like Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns. And recently, the stalwart NYC-based publisher broke with previously established rules to encourage a burgeoning crop of artists turned writer/artists.

Up until recently, individuals doing both writing and art duties simultaneously was relegated to special “outside the DCU” projects like Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier, Ben Caldwell’s “Wonder Woman” strip in Wednesday Comics and a large majority of Frank Miller’s DC work. Whether that’s to avoid potential delays from relying on one person to keep the deadlines of a series, or from some contractual issues from one person being the primary creator of a book — which I remember both Evan Dorkin and Mike Allred referring to once. Regardless, it’s uncommon… or it used to be.

In 2010, DC began actively promoting several of its artist to write their own material with artist Tony Daniel both writing and drawing arcs in Batman and recently hired artist David Finch to write & draw a new series titled Batman: The Dark Knight – reportedly one of the reasons Finch jumped from Marvel. And arguably one of the biggest promotions is J.H. Williams III taking over the writing chores of the Batwoman character for her eponymous new series from former collaborator Greg Rucka. And curiously enough, this is all occurring under the auspices of the Bat titles which are under the purview of editor Mike Marts.

With the competing war to get the talent heating up like no time before, could these moves by DC be away to combat Marvel’s upper hand in the sales charts while also trying to find the next Frank Miller? We hope so! Many of today’s biggest writers started out as artists — Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Ed Brubaker and Rick Remender, to name a few. But what artists would you like to see write their own comics?

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To be fair, I wouldn’t say DC gave Frank Miller his “big break.” He had already made a name for himself on Daredevil by the time he did Ronin and his Batman work for DC.

And from what I’ve seen of Tony Daniel’s and David Finch’s writer/artist stints at DC…well…all I can say is that they’re not going to make anyone forget Frank Miller or John Byrne any time soon,…

how on earth is joe quesada considered a “biggest writer”???

I think this is a dumb idea and offensive to writers. Why do people just assume writing a good script is just that easy, or that if you’re really good at drawing, then you should also be able to write as well? You never hear of writers thinking they can draw a 20-page comic month in and month out — that would be plain silly! Sure, there’s a handful of guys out there that can pull double-duty on a book (and it be legitimately good), but they’re few and far between.

In addition to the artists identified in the article, DC has also given writer/artist gigs to:
Kevin Maguire, Aaron Lopresti, Scott Kolins, JG Jones, Lee Bermejo, Andy Kubert (writing and drawing a Damian miniseries) and Ethan Van Sciver, plus Cameron Stewart, Karl Kerschl and Cully Hamner for now-defunct Wildstorm titles.

While DC may have been reticent to join the early-90s writer/artist craze, they did have George Perez, Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway and John Byrne pulling double-duty on Superman titles for long runs (and Wonder Woman as well for Perez).

Of the new crop, I’m most excited for JH Williams, but I thought Hamner did a great job with Red: Eyes Only. He really let his art propel the story rather than rely on heavy exposition.

If I remember correctly, Eddie Campbell talked about it being difficult because DC requires writer/artists to be incorporated for some reason.

I asked Walt Simoson about this a few years back when he was doing Orion and a the time he didn’t seem aware of there being any problems doing both.

Just because some artists can write doesn’t mean that they should write and I think David Finch’s first issue of Batman proof of that. Batman: The Dark Knight was just another case of Todd MacFarlane syndrome, it featured very good art and very poor story telling. At first I had my doubts about Batwoman #0 but I was proven wrong after I read the first issue.

I think the industry should be more open to more writer/artist opportunities because when it works, it works so much better (Darwyn Cooke as an example). However, when it doesn’t work it often ends up being a hideous mockery of a story (Todd MacFarlane for example).

This is fair enough, because when I think of the last time mainstream comics was in a big period of creative expansion, it was fuelled by a generation of artists becoming writer/artists (Miller, Chaykin, Grell, Byrne, Simonson), so maybe it’s a good thing.

(Scratches head)

And the last time comics was in a big period of massive sales expansion, it was fuelled by a generation of artists becoming writer/artists (McFarlane, Liefeld, Lee), so, uh, maybe it’s going to be a sodding disaster.

this at least solves the problem of a book having crappy writing and crappy art, and in some cases(dan jurgens) it works out pretty well, so i’m glad to see DC doing this.

And don’t forget that this is the format that works for the Japanese and lots and lots of great stories have come from writer/artists while the writer and artist duo is usually an anomaly. If some great stuff ends up coming out of DC’s plan to let artists try writing, then great! But I’m not holding my breath on anything that isn’t done by JH Williams.

“comics writing” is one of the falsest and most artificial ideas in the medium

I always wanted DC to use JSA & JLA Classified to be a showcase for indie and alternative artists to do characters, stories outside of continuity that are really, really fun. Matt Kindt said he would love to do a Alan Scott story. Also, with this explosion od Batman stuff coming out of the woodwork, it would be a good time to restart Batman confidential for this very purpose.

As for artists I want:

Peter Bagge: Legion of Superheroes
Dash Shaw: Dr. Fate
Aaron Reiner: Capt. Marvel or Aquaman
Chris Weston: Phantom Stanger
Joe Ollman: The Specter
Dean Haspiel: Wildcat
Walt Simonson: Orion

Another possible factor I wouldn’t underestimate is that one high-profile creator is cheaper than two. Both Quesada and DiDio seemed to be keenly aware of that in 2009:

http://comiksdebris.blogspot.com/2009/07/its-budget-stupid.html

I don’t imagine the situation has improved since then, looking at the market.

“comics writing” is one of the falsest and most artificial ideas in the medium

Thank you.

Comics writing is generally done by folk who realize that ‘falsest’ isn’t actually a word.

As has been said, there are, and have been, some great artist/writers, but those who can hit the ground running on a series are few and far between; I’d prefer to see them tested on fill-ins and shorts prior to being given a regular gig.

Eddie Campbell discusses the writer/artist restriction at DC and the workaround he used over here. Kyle Baker shows up in the comments and mentions two other ways that are used to get around that (the most commonly used seems to be the “become an employee for the duration”, which I assume includes creators under exclusive contracts, which is probably what most of the current examples fall under). That restriction was also apparently why everything in the BIZARRO COMICS and BIZARRO WORLD anthologies is done by separate writers and artists, despite the fact that most of the creators usually work solo on their own comics.

I think this all stems from a strict reading of the definition of work for hire in the 1976 copyright law, which defines works that can qualify as work for hire, and the only way a comic book qualifies is either as “a work prepared by an employee” or “a contribution to a collective work”.

“Also, with this explosion od Batman stuff coming out of the woodwork, it would be a good time to restart Batman confidential for this very purpose.”

Better still, relaunch the title that was canceled to make way for Batman Confidential: Legends of the Dark Knight.

Then again, given the state of DC of these days, restarting LotDK would just point out that it’s a shadow of what that book was in its early days. Amazing how Batman’s popularity has been sky high thanks to two great movies from Chris Nolan & Co., and yet I’ve no interest in reading any of the Batman titles right now. 20 years ago, I bought them all. Not now.

I’m not big on writer-artists a lot of the time. And I’m certainly not big on giving unproven writers, whether or not they also draw, high profile books. David Finch wants to write? :Let him learn the trade on a miniseries or on something besides a Batbook. We’ve seen the rather limited results of having Tony Daniel writing Batman this past year. As a writer, he’s a good artist.

I don’t want to see to see any artists writing. Not on a main title, and especially not the slow ones. Finch and Williams III can’t handle a monthly schedule. The way to fix it? Lets get them writing it too! I don’t understand the logic. I would much rather see Rucka back writing Batwoman than what is happening now.

Tony Daniel is another that springs to mind. His Battle for the Cowl was unreadable, so i am staying way clear of the Batman monthly. However his pencils are great.

Batman is DC’s flagship character/franchise. Why are they settling for mediocre writing? I mean just look to the past as an example – Brubaker, Rucka, Moench, Dixon, and Grant. At least I can READ and enjoy back issues…

I was just reading the above posts and and I have to make an exception for Dan Jurgens. His Booster Gold was (and I’m sure will be again soon) an amazing read every month. And always on time!!!!

But them again he’s been doing both writer and artist his whole career. He hasn’t just woken up one day and decided he’s now a writer.

I’ve also heard that these Bat artists (and JG Jones) have demanded it from DC or they will jump ship. I say let them go.

It’s funny, but outside of licensed books, Marvel, DC, and a few other titles, the default in comics (as in ‘manga,’ ‘indie,’ ‘artcomix,’ etc.) seems to be writer-artist as a sole creator rather than a team.

I’ve always assumed a lot of that has to do with the regular schedule demanded by the major companies–it might be too tight for some people to both write and draw within 30 days. (Unless you’re Jeff Lemire and quite clearly insane.) While there is a handful of ‘just-writers’ whose work I’ll always consider seeking out (Moore, Morrison, Azzarello), for me, the writer-artist (or ‘cartoonist’) is the ideal. I think having one brain in charge of the visual narrative of the page just makes more sense in terms of speaking to the medium’s unique strengths.

Yes, there are a few artists who may benefit from collaboration, but no one writes for Mignola’s art like Mignola. Nothing maintains the frenetic pacing of Paul Grist’s art like Paul Grist’s writing. See also: everyone from Chris Ware and Jeff Smith to Dave Lapham and Terry Moore to Seth and Kyle Baker to Cathy Malkasian and Carl Barks to Los Bros Hernandez and Naoki Urasawa.

“Comics writing is generally done by folk who realize that ‘falsest’ isn’t actually a word.”

Really? They must not own any dictionaries. Because all of the ones I own list “falser” and “falsest” as acceptable. It seems to slip right through spell check as well.

And just for fun a few minutes on google turned up these.

“The iridescent bubbles were beautiful. But they were the falsest things in the sea and the old man loved to see the big sea turtles eating them” The Old Man and the Sea –Hemingway

“Biography is the falsest of the arts.”–F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I can forget black eyes and brows,
And lips of falsest charm,
If you forget the sacred vows
Those faithless lips could form.”

Last Words –Emily Bronte

“She is the falsest of the false,” The Lamplight –Charles Dickens

Alas, not a comics writer in the bunch, though.

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