Robot 6

Quote of the day | ‘Indie’ vs. ‘Creator-Owned’

Mark Andrew Smith, writer of Sullivan’s Sluggers and Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, challenging the vocabulary we use to refer to comics not published by Marvel or DC. It’s not a new notion that “independent” isn’t the best way to describe a comic; is Powers not “independent” just because Marvel publishes it? Is G.I. Joe or Star Wars independent because they don’t have a Marvel or DC logo on the cover? I like the notion of using terms like “creator-owned” and “creator-driven,” although I don’t see them as interchangeable. Creator-driven, for instance, could be any book that was “driven” by the team that created it; so Starman and The Sandman could fall into that category as easily as, say, Bone. But Bone obviously is creator-owned while those other two are not. Then there are books like Prophet and Haunt that are owned by creators, just not the creators currently “driving” those titles. Navigating, maybe, but not driving. Obviously there’s always room for debate on the internet and the shared lexicon we use is always open to it, but it’s hard to argue with Smith’s sentiment at the end.

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20 Comments

I definitely appreciate the mentality, but if we’re going to argue vocabulary, I’m not too fond of “creator-blank comics,” either. The emphasis isn’t on me, it’s on the story, and the final product that is the comic itself. I’ve never held firm to “indie comics,” but at least that implies that I’m an independent creator, doing my own thing, free of any corporate obligation.

How about “self-published comics?” That way, you can still mention the self without saying it’s YOURself, and the term implies the initiative still needed to be independent?

Nice . . . this was a classic topic for debate over at the Indie Spinner Rack podcast.

Personally, I’ve always used “indie” to describe any book published without corporate support. So, at Papercutz for instance, we publish many big-media-supported titles like Power Rangers and LEGO Ninjago, but we also publish several indies, like Ernest & Rebecca and Sybil the Backpack Fairy. Even though Papercutz is itself independent, it’s not useful or accurate to label everything we publish as independent.

Indie has never implied “less than” anything; it simply means it’s INDEPENDENT, meaning NOT CORPORATE OWNED. There’s no need to change anything (and it’ not like “Created Owned Comics” rolls off the tongue any better…).

Indie comics works. Big 2 works. We get what it means, because it reflects movies etc. The Big 2 are the BIGGEST. It’s like a Warner Bros. or a Disney studios. No one would argue that an indie movie with little distribution that gets screened at Slamdance and other small festivals is on par with a studio film.

It may be, (or likely, probably is) better than a Studio film, but that doesn’t reflect how far it goes in market share, distribution, readership.

It’s still being produced “independently”. That’s what the “Indie” means.

Yeah, I don’t see independent cinema or independent music getting that bent out of shape over the terminology, even though there’s just as much risk for confusion. (For example: are Modest Mouse or the Flaming Lips “indie” even though they’re on two of the biggest record labels out there?)

And being “indie” certainly does NOT imply that that something is “lesser.” If that’s how Mark Andrew Smith feels, that’s his sentiment, not the prevailing one.

‘And being “indie” certainly does NOT imply that that something is “lesser.” If that’s how Mark Andrew Smith feels, that’s his sentiment, not the prevailing one.’

this sums it up pretty well. thats like implying going to a DIY show is worse than somehow inherently worse than seeing Muse play in some huge crappy arena.

Matthew Halteman

June 18, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Yeah, “indie” is shorthand for “independent”. That’s all. Nothing derogatory about it. Much ado about nothing.

Any time someone says “this isn’t us vs them” they very much mean “this IS us vs. them”

I don’t think it’s a bad term, but maybe it’s becoming a little dated?

I always feel that way whenever some modern person or other is termed an “underground cartoonist.” For some reason “underground cartoonist” always seems like a label that only applies to someone you hear about afterward, and beyond that may not even really work for today’s creators at all. Maybe the internet has killed the concept, because as soon as I read about someone on a mainstream online site like CBR I always think “uh, how underground can you really be?”

Maybe “indie” and “big two” will go the same way in time, i.e. lose relevance except in a historic sense.

C Michael Hall

June 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Discarding the term “indie” in favor of “creator-owned” is kind of silly. There are plenty of indie books that aren’t creator-owned. For example, I’ve done quite a bit of writing for Ape Entertainment; most recently, the Helldorado: East Eats West mini-series. I may have written that script from the ground up, but I do NOT own the work; Ape Entertainment does. My contract says so in black-and-white. That said, Ape is still very much an indie company…it isn’t owned by some massive, faceless corporation that treats comics as advertisement for film properties. So in this light, “indie” remains applicable while “creator-owned” does not.

The phrases “creator-driven” and “creator-centered” aren’t really applicable in this kind of situation, either. Though the guys at Ape aren’t likely to replace me as the writer on the series (I’m working on the sequel right now), they could if they decided it was time to do so, or if I chose to leave the series. For example, the book IS changing interior artists, with Martin Coccolo having moved on to work at IDW. So while Helldorado remains an indie title, can it be called “creator-driven” when there’s been a major change in the creative team? You could argue that yes, since I’m the co-creator and original writer and I’m still on-board, the work is “creator-driven,” but that sequel I’m working on wasn’t something I pitched: I was *asked* to write it. The *publisher* drove the creation of the book; they just chose to use the same authorial voice–mine–to make the project happen.

There’s no need to ditch the term “indie.” The term has no negative connotations, and remains descriptive without excluding certain kinds of titles (the likes of which I just described). I’m sure Mr. Smith’s heart is in the right place (and I love his work!), but this is hardly manifesto material.

Cannot wait to meet Smith one day and thank him in detail for all the work that he’s done for indie comics.

I’ll stick to “Indie” as the “Big Two” counterpoint, thank you…

(Just as I’ll keep “Alt/Art” to distinguish Comics works NOT “Super Hero”[tm MARVEL/DC].)

Adam Staffaroni

June 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

“Indie” is an imperfect term whose meaning has shifted over time, just like the term “graphic novel” has changed over time. I use “Alt”, “Art”, and “Lit” all as subsets of “indie” to describe different things — let’s face it, there’s too much diversity in what’s out there to lump it all under a single banner.

The “Big 2″ as a term will only go away when Marvel & DC aren’t so clearly dominating market share anymore. The term is just a reflection of realities in the market — let’s talk about changing the reality instead of masking it with terminology shifts.

Wait, how does the word “indie” in any way imply inferiority? I always just take indie to mean comics that aren’t controlled by corporate interests. How does that make them seem inferior to Big 2 comics?

And they’re called the “Big 2″ just because they make the most money and tend to have the most power in comics culture. These seem like very pedantic linguistic complaints to me.

I think that Indie are treated as inferior to Big 2 comics. There are a lot of people, who care only for their Marvels and DCs. Indie means less money, and thus is perceived as less quality.

Money in movies means something. You can build larger set pieces and pay more for special effects. Money is not affecting a final product in such a way in Indie Comics. They can look visually better than corporate comics.

@Chris Jones
The point is indies should make more money and have more power in comics culture. Because that’s where the new ideas are. It may seem like pedantic linguistic complaints, but it has a serious point at its core.

^I’m not disagreeing, in fact at this point I’m a far bigger proponent of independent work than corporate comics, but how would not calling them indie comics in any way further their cultural clout? It seems like the only person who actually thinks the term “indie” demeans independent comics is Mark Andrew Smith himself.

I do see your point.
However, I do also have some friends who don’t read indie, because it’s indie.

I see Mark Andrew Smith point as suggesting that, right now, the only difference between corporate and indie comics is the publisher. And it should not affect in any way our enjoyment of the final product. And really in the end it does not.

Yet Indies sell worse than Big 2. I think we can agree it’s not a matter of quality. So it must be a matter of something else. Smith argues it’s the terminology that entraps creator-owned comics in low top 300 of Diamond.
I am not saying he is absolutely right, but maybe there is something to it. I think it’s an interesting point of view.

But I mean…why would someone who doesn’t read indie comics just because they’re called “indie” start reading them if they were referred to as being “creator owned?” If the problem is that these people aren’t reading them because they aren’t Marvel or DC then changing their terminology isn’t going to do anything one way or the other to sate those people.

Funnily enough I usually use ‘comics’ to describe anything that ISN’T a superhero comic and ‘superhero comics’ for, well, superhero comics.

@Chris Jones
Short-term it won’t, but maybe long-term it would.
I believe in that guys good intentions :)

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