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Quote of the Day | Mike Richardson on creator-owned comics

hellboy-mignola

“I know there’s a certain appeal for creators to work on the classic characters like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, but I’ve said this before: I asked creators who have worked on those books who the people were doing the books ten years ago, and they don’t know! But I can say, ‘Who worked on Sin City?’ and they’ll go ‘Frank Miller.’ Who worked on Hellboy? Mike Mignola. Who worked on The Goon? Eric Powell. They know it instantly. So to me, the lure of creating your own character and owning it — owning your own universe and being associated with that — in the long run for talented writers and artists makes me question why someone would toil away on a company owned character for years and years of their lives.”

– Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson, discussing his company’s commitment to publishing creator-owned work

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Let’s flip it around. In ten years if I ask you what Mark Waid was working on, will you say Empire or Irredeemable, or will you say Flash and Justice League and Fantastic Four? If I ask you what Frank Miller was doing, do you really say Sin City, or do you say Batman or Daredevil? We might not know the exact dates that the greats were working on DC or Marvel books, but for a lot of us, we will think of them for those and not for anything else.

Of course, it would help if writers or artists stayed on books longer. The lengthy runs that Claremont or PAD had on X-Men and Hulk guarantee that if you ask me who was writing those books in 1990, I will know.

Greg Rucka said this on an interview for this very site:

“I was talking to another creator yesterday; he made the comment, “The thing is, I could write other stuff” — I’m sort of paraphrasing here — “but I genuinely love this.” You can’t diminish that. These are characters and stories and books that have had huge impact and meaning on my life, personally, not to even begin to talk about what they mean to other people.”

Now, I love creator owned books…but, I can also understand why creators also like to work on established corporate characters as well…

Perhaps it isn’t about being remembered…

But isn’t that sad Simon? Mark Waid will be remember for characters he didn’t even create, toys in someones elses toy chest. He will be defined by what he did what someone elses work. It will never truly be his. But some don’t care and as Lot49 said it’s not about being remembered it’s about making up stories about your favorite characters that you grew up with!

“So to me, the lure of creating your own character and owning it — owning your own universe and being associated with that — in the long run for talented writers and artists makes me question why someone would toil away on a company owned character for years and years of their lives.”

It’s an argument I’ve heard many times before and it never fails to sound monumentally stupid and ignorant because the answer is so freaking obvious on top of having been explained why by pretty much every creator who’s ever worked for the Big Two. Or by creators working on Dark Horse’s Star Wars. Or Predator. Or Aliens.

Here are a few reasons: The chance to work on your favorite characters or universes, to create stories you’ve always wanted to read starring those characters, to become more widely recognized by the critics and fans at large so your creator-owned stuff will have a better chance of survival in the market, to create a character of your own to interact with characters you love or that have been around for decades or both, to fix “mistakes” made by previous creators. A steady paycheck.

“Sin City?’ and they’ll go ‘Frank Miller.’ Who worked on Hellboy? Mike Mignola.”

I should add that those are the success stories, la crème de la crème. Not everyone has their talent or their luck. Not to mention they were big names BEFORE Sin City and Hellboy thanks to their Big Two work. That probably helped. :p

Agree with akkadiannumen.

the main reason the great creator-owned works have survived is because their creators made their name in the mainstream. Miller, Lee, McFarlane, Larsen, Busiek, Mignola, Brubaker, Millar, Morrison, Rucka. not a one would have had their own personal work published if they hadn’t written/drawn someone else’s first.

The Kirkmans, Hickmans Jeff Smiths and Terry Moores of the industry are few and far between. they will never be the exceptions that prove the rule.

nb.

i’m not gonna lie, i’m NOT a big fan of creator-owned books, why??? well, Image Comics soured me on creator-owned, i’ll make it short and simple, just because you create and own a character doesn’t mean you will bring the BEST out of that character!!! take Spawn for example, the best of that book has come from talents OTHER than Todd McF, i could list other examples but i won’t, don’t get me wrong, the big two should give proper and fair credit to the creator of a character AND a FAIR piece of the pie on money made from that character!!! the major flaw of the creator-owned movement today is i believe ultimately, creators are doing it for the wrong reasons… cashing in!!! let’s be honest with ourselves, Marvel and DC are PROOF that these characters BECAME great because GREAT stories were told by others that got the best out of these characters, quite frankly, if the big two started out like Image, i DOUBT we’d still be reading comics today!!!

@Nerdy Bird,

Isn’t Brubaker’s “personal work” (Lowlife, Scene of the Crime, et cetera) what got him recognized by the Big 2 in the first place? I’m not sure on the timing, but I think the same could be said of Rucka’s novels and Oni work, too.

“Miller, Lee, McFarlane, Larsen, Busiek, Mignola, Brubaker, Millar, Morrison, Rucka. not a one would have had their own personal work published if they hadn’t written/drawn someone else’s first.”

This statement is incorrect for a couple reasons. First, several of the folks on your list actually started out doing creator owned books … Rucka’s first comic book (he was a novelist before that — and still is!) was Whiteout, which went on to become a feature film. Ed Brubaker did Lowlife, Mark Millar did Trident, Erik Larsen did Vanguard (where a version of Savage Dragon first appeared) … so several of your examples don’t really work.

Second, I don’t buy that “not a one would have had their own personal work published if they hadn’t written/drawn someone else’s first.” These are some very talented guys you’re talking about here … do you really think that if Jim Lee hadn’t gone to work for Marvel he wouldn’t have had a career in comics? That he couldn’t have started out on a creator-owned book for Comico or Eclipse or Dark Horse or some other company that was around at the time? It would have been a different career trajectory, but the dude has skills, as they say.

And let’s not forget all the guys who started out with creator-owned books before they went to Marvel or DC. In addition to the corrections above, don’t forget Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, Jeff Lemire, Warren Ellis, Kieron Gillen, Becky Cloonan … it’s more of the norm nowadays for someone to work somewhere else before going to Marvel and DC, and in a lot of cases they were working on creator-owned books first.

It boggles my mind that some fans are distinctly anti-creator.

@eric:
No, they’re pro-creator, just “anti-anything new.”
“‘Casanova?’ Who’s that? Did he ever fight Dr. Doom? No, I’ll just stick with Fraction’s Thor.” (or whatever Fraction’s working on now for Marvel)

@Nerdy Bird: “The Kirkmans, Hickmans Jeff Smiths and Terry Moores of the industry are few and far between. they will never be the exceptions that prove the rule.”

What about Clowes, Spiegelman, Los Bros Hernandez, Crumb, the Allreds, Burden, Edlund, Eastman and Laird, Sim, Vaughan, Bechdel, Doran, Ellis, O’Malley, Cruse, McCloud? What about Will freaking Eisner? Those are just off the top of my head. I could go on, and I’m not even including France, Belgium, or Japan.

I think successful creators are the exception and not the rule in every medium and genre — I can’t say I buy your premise that it’s any more true in creator-owned comics than corporate-owned comics.

I would go one step farther and suggest that, of characters and comics created post-1980 that have gone on to be major financial successes, a majority have been creator-owned. Spawn, The Tick, The Walking Dead, Hellboy, TMNT, while DC and Marvel continue to primarily mine characters created in the 1930’s and the 1960’s, respectively.

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