Robot 6

Quote of the Day | ‘That’s not a trend … that’s the job’

“… the sentiment he’s complaining about is invariably the oldest one there is: ‘The first issue has to give me a reason to buy the second issue, and it didn’t.‘ Yeah: that’s not a ‘trend’ or a ‘meme’ or a ‘fad’— that’s the job. That’s always been the job. That ‘trend’ started at the dawn of the enterprise.”

Abhay Khosla, responding to Eric Stephenson’s commentary on the “trend of expecting the first issue of a comic to explain every single thing about where a series is going.”

I haven’t read Nowhere Men, the comic that Stephenson was defending, so I’m not commenting on that. In fact, neither is Khosla (not directly anyway). His point is a general one about whether audience expectations (however unrealistic) should be seen as a.) a trend to be complained about or b.) something that professional comics makers should understand and know how to take advantage of. In other words, whose fault is it that a reader didn’t enjoy the comic: the reader’s or the creators’?

It’s a fascinating question, and I’m not sure that the answer is as clear as Khosla makes it out to be. Maybe it is if we’re only concerned with how entertaining a comic is, but what if we’re talking about artistic merit outside of the plot? In the rest of his interview, Stephenson talks about Nowhere Men as a work that he and Nate Bellegarde put a lot of creative energy into, including the design as well as the story. And while I can’t speak to how successful any of that is, I think that when I’m looking at a piece of art, my thought process should be deeper than how compelling the story is. It seems like there are some other factors I should be considering as well.



I think that comics are way too expensive for the reader to constantly gamble on whether or not the second issue will be good. If the first issue isn’t in someway interesting I’m not going to bother picking up the next one. If later on I hear that the series is actually good I’ll pick up the trade. I did that with Saga. I thought the first issue was overly cliched and had the depth of a mud puddle. After hearing how great it was three months later I picked up the trade when it came out and found that I do like the series. It took two or three issues but I did like it. So bottom line for me is a book doesn’t have to show it’s whole hand in the first issue but it has to be interesting on some level. If it isn’t I’ll wait to see what is being said about it three or four months down the line.

Well, I think there’s two different things here. There’s “Is this interesting and compelling and do I want another issue?” and there’s “Does this answer all my questions?”
A comic book could certainly be compelling as hell, and not answer any questions or explain much of anything. But, it could also be compelling as hell, by setting up everything you need to know, and not leaving much to imagination. And, of course, it could be awful in either scenario.

NOWHERE MEN is deliberately vague in a lot of ways. My REVIVAL book too. Your level of enjoyment may vary. But it isn’t the job of a first issue to answer every question. It’s job is to make you buy and read more issues.

A comic professional’s job is not to make everyone happy. It is to make enough people happy so they will keep buying the book. Unless the creators involved are willing to do the work without pay, expanding the readership is always on the creators, not the audience. If the audience demands that they at least understand why they should plunk down another $3.99, then give it to them. Otherwise, don’t complain when you can’t scrape enough together to publish #2 or even #12. Eric Stephenson has been willing to not always get paid on Savage Dragon to keep the book going. Not everyone can do that.

I’ve seen message boards and even comic book bloggers that will really call out those readers that don’t enjoy a particular comic, especially if it’s critically acclaimed, that winds up getting cancelled. I call them the “Shame On You” posts. If a comic doesn’t appeal to mass audience then it will more than likely be cancelled. It’s not a reader’s fault that they didn’t recognize the brilliance of the comic. It’s the creator’s fault for not making a comic that more people want to read. Don’t get me wrong, distribution can be a factor but there’s no reason to blame that if the comic is from the Big Two, Image, Dark Horse, or IDW.

I posted my response to Abhay here:

Part 3) specifically addresses the above quote.

Morning Glories.

The first issue didn’t explain a damn thing, but I would have knocked over my grandmother to read the second one.

A first issue doesn’t have to lay all the cards on the table, no, but Khosla is right. The first issue has to make me want issue two, or I don’t come back.

Realy? I thought Morning Glories set up the very basic plot well. Kids recurited to attend a mysterious private school that other kids want to escape from with an evil/mysterious faculty. Possible otherworldly elements in said school. All in one issue. While depth and twists have sprung up in the 20-odd issues since then (and it’s amazing) that’s essentially the gist of the series.

For me all of the campaign materials and covers had a really col, compelling sense of design aesthetic to them, but the actual interior pages of the comics itself don’t have that stylish feel both in the illustrations and in the colouring (ESPECIALLY in the colouring).

As far a story goes, I think it’s important issue one develops a prologue or opening to a first act, by the end of which some form of Macguffin or major plot point is established so that the reader is following the main characters on a journey (not necessarily a literal “Hobbit” journey), but a narrative path nonetheless that can obviously have a lot of mystery, and question raising events along the way if the creators want it to. But yeah I agree with many others here; a first issue needs to end with some form of basic mission statement.

Morning Glories is a perfect example, because even after 20+ issues there are still a plethora of things that we only kind-of understand, but that’s because it’s an unfolding puzzle, and it won’t be until the whole series has run its course that we shall completely appreciate just what it is that the kids see when “first their eyes were opened”. The job of the first issue isn’t to explain everything; rather, it’s to make things interesting enough that you look forward to having everything explained, eventually. Books where the first issue consist of “Here is my super-power, and here is my origin story, so now you know everything you need to, and I can spent the rest of the series just disemboweling my enemies” aren’t really very compelling at all.

Does a first issue need to explain everything? No. Does it need to explain enough for the reader to come back? Yes. It sounds like this failed to accomplish the latter, so it’s being spun as if it was the former people expected.

Without having read the articles or book referenced I will say that it’s a pretty common trend to somehow blame the consumer for not consuming correctly. Often times if it’s not at the LCS level it’ll be at the publishing level.

Enough with the shame. That’s how you treat a religious following…not a paying audience. If your book didn’t sell then it was either marketed incorrectly or just didn’t click in the format it was presented. Don’t try to put it on your customer.

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