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A funny thing happened while listening to a recent Word Balloon interview with Robert Kirkman; Kirkman talked about his desire to see Invincible continue with different creative teams after he’s done with the book, and I ended up thinking about the nature of work for hire in independent books.
Okay, so maybe “funny” wasn’t the right word.
For those scared that Kirkman talking about this meant that he was planning to leave his Image Comics superhero title anytime soon, you can relax; he was talking about an imaginary distant future when he’s senile, and said that he planned to stay on the book until #300 or so. But it got me thinking: For some reason, I tend to imagine indie comics as bastions of creator-owned work, like Cerebus and Bone, where long-running series just end when creators are done. For some reason, the idea of work for hire seems… well, more Marvel and DC’s thing.
It’s a ridiculous attitude, of course; independent comics are under no requirement to concentrate on creator-owned projects, and if nothing else, the prevalence of licensed titles (IDW, Dark Horse and Dynamite alone could keep creators afloat on these kinds of titles) disproves my bias without breaking a sweat.
But, still. At its heart, there’s really nothing that wrong with Robert Kirkman wishing that he could read new Invincible when he’s 60 years old; it’s that whole “I love these characters so much I wish I could be a reader like you!” thing, after all, and which supporter of creator owned work hasn’t made the argument that owning your creations is like having a retirement plan in some sense? It’s just that… Well, I didn’t really think that the retirement plan would necessarily come at the cost of other creators following in their heroes footsteps so literally, I guess.
There’s something about the idea of Invincible, or Haunt or similar projects, superhero titles where the selling point really is that certain creators are working on it rather than the characters themselves – The entire Image launch books, for example – that feel as if the very idea of their being turned into WFH books is missing the point of their very origin. It’s enough to make you want to invent a time machine and go back to those characters’ creators at the point of origin and say “You know how you’re inventing new characters because you feel really strongly about creator rights and that you want to own your own work and that kind of thing? Can I steal you into your future so that you can remind your future self of that fact?” Maybe it’s just youthful idealism meeting more mature reality, but do so many people really have to try and become that thing they rebelled about years earlier?