Robot 6

The Middle Ground #47: (Red) Winging It

Maybe I’m just being a little too sentimental about what may be, at heart, business practices, but I can’t help but find my heart a little warmed by the news that Jonathan Hickman is not only returning to creator-owned work, but publishing it through Image.

Maybe I’ve become a little too cynical for my own good (Please not: The “cynical” was just me being polite), but I’ve started expecting the “Writer starts at Image, gets a Marvel exclusive, then pushes their creator-owned material through Icon” chain of events after the examples of Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and many things right – Not least of which the increased profile of said writer because of the Marvel work, which more than likely translates into increased orders of creator-owned work because of that and just the surreal (if, in many cases, unearned) confidence that comes from appearing in the Marvel Previews each month. But every time that happens, I always end up feeling a little… sad, maybe, about the publishers left behind (Normally Image, judging by the cases of Bendis, Millar and Fraction). Besides not being Marvel Comics, what did they do wrong to be jilted in such a way?

That’s why there’s something great about Hickman’s Plus. I’ll admit to not being the biggest fan of Hickman’s work – There’s always something interesting there, but not always something that I can emotionally latch onto, I’ve found – but once he had become “The Man Who Killed The Human Torch” and was named as one of Marvel’s “Architects” for the next year, I’d pretty much just mapped out a Fraction-esque path for his future, where he would become more and more involved with the internal workings of existing franchises and shift away from his own creations, so the news that Hickman was not only creating a new four issue series called The Red Wing for Image with artist Nick Pitarra, but that it was the first part of an ongoing line for the publisher came as a surprisingly welcome surprise. I know, I know; it’s possible/probable that Hickman just hasn’t been given the Marvel Icon invite yet, but my sentimental side is choosing to ignore that idea and go with the much more pleasing one that he’s sticking with Image because Image believed in him when no-one else did, and because he, in turn, believes in their model of creator-ownership and risk-taking.

(Being a child of the 1990s as I am, it still kind of tickles me to think of Image as such an adventurous publisher; I think back to the earliest books, and the feeling that they were all Marvel and DC pitches with a new paint job. But somewhere along the line – as the original creators opened the doors to others, and both Marvel and DC became more interested in franchise maintenance than new ideas – Image has really ended up representing a fascinating slate of books and creators. Clearly, there’s hope for everyone.)

The whole thing makes me wonder whether Hickman will become some kind of next generation Robert Kirkman, in a weird way; someone who can make mainstream Marvel books work and find success there, but sees that – and Marvel as a publisher in general – as a small element in a much larger game. Nonetheless: Everyone who likes Hickman’s FF, go out and buy The Red Wing this summer. Give the man some support in doing his own thing when it’s so easy to follow the herd.

For those waiting for the second Top Cow column: They’ve moved offices, and so are holding off on mailing the books until things are less chaotic. Do not worry: It will come, just not immediately.



Is ‘franchise maintenance’ a common term? It should be.

It is if you know where to look.

Probably my favorite writer at the moment with honorable mentions going to
Grant Morrison and Paul Cornell.

Looking at it, it makes a lot of sense for Bendis/ Millar/ Fraction/ Brubaker to
shift all the work under the Marvel umbrella.

When someone looks to write about the history of Marvel, they will have to include a chapter
focusing on Bendis and Millar.

Bendis has essentially been THE guiding voice for the Marvel universe for nearly a decade now.

He has landmark runs on Daredevil, Alias, and Ultimate Spider Man.

For whatever ones opinion of his time as the writer on the Avengers books, he has a dominant run.
I’d compare it to Claremont on the X Men.

Millar was the event guy who, along with Bendis, made many pay attention to the Marvel U again.
His work on the Ultimates was one of the major reasons that we’ll soon see the Avengers assemble
on movie screens.
His “What If” approach was much needed for a company that was in the midst of an “anything goes” direction
for its storytelling.

Brubaker helped solidify that Captain America book and follow up Bendis on Daredevil by injecting some
of his own noir/pulp sensibilities to Marvel mainstays.

Fraction has been the go to man for the companies’ biggest IPs.
When Iron Man was getting ready to make his big screen debut, he
got the call.
After JMS took himself out the impending crossover game, he was the one Marvel tapped to
guide the Thunder God as he flies ever closer to his Hollywood close up.
He also took on th monthly editorial mandate that is known as Uncanny X Men.
More of his quirky style, which caught the eye of readers and editors, can be found
in his creator owned Casanova, his double duty shift on the sorely missed
Immortal Iron Fist, the memoir writer of Frank Castle in Punisher: War Journal.

Perhaps after a sold solo run on Uncanny, Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mclevie
can continue on with Phonogram.

Maybe after Rick Remender pulls off the great 90’s remix on Venom and Uncanny X Force,
there will be a new Icon published issue of Fear Agent.

I wouldn’t be suprised if Hickman does put a book out through Icon.
I just don’t think he has to wait for the invite to do so.

Like Morrison on Batman and Cornell on anything, it feels like Hickman has stories he wants to tell and will make sure he tells them as soon as possible.

Was very pleased to see this announcement from Hickman and company, and this will probably one of my few exceptions to my nascent ‘no floppies-all trade waitin’ rule.

For most of these creators (Brubaker, Hickman, Fraction) I generally prefer their creator owned work. That’s why I always tend to support Icon releases just because I’m glad these guys still have a venue to continue telling something new. If Hickman hasn’t gotten the Icon invite yet (which I always assumed would happen sooner or later), it’s Marvel’s loss.

I think Hickman is great at plotting and pacing and handling action, which is why I respect him as a creator and read his work when I can. I agree with you, Graeme, that his weakness is emotional connections – it feels like he’s always holding the reader at arms’ length (and in something like The Nightly News, or in shepherding characters like Nick Fury or Reed Richards, that’s an unexpected strength, maybe).

I’m definitely looking forward to the Red Wing, though, and happy to see another big name go to Image as their publisher for their personal projects. I can’t help but think of Icon as a carrot dangled in front of creators to nab an exclusive for Marvel.

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