Editor’s Note: With the recent discussions going on around the comics community about creator-owned comics, we’re pleased to welcome one of the voices in those discussions, 30 Days of Night and Mystery Society creator Steve Niles, to Robot 6 for a series of columns on creator-owned comics. A big thanks to Steve for agreeing to do the column, as well as to artist Stephanie Buscema for creating a killer image for it.
by Steve Niles
Welcome to the first installment of my new column, Creator-Owned Spotlight. I tried to think up an amusing title, but then decided to just settle on what it was: a spotlight on creator-owned comics, publishers and retailers who support the need for more creator-owned books.
I guess the first order of business is to define what I mean when I say “creator-owned comics.” I’m talking about ANY book where the creator has ANY ownership in their book. So basically, if you sign a work-for-hire agreement, you don’t generally have ownership. It doesn’t make those books bad, or the enemy, or anything like that. We’re just not talking about them here.
Why am I doing this? I’ve been called insane for wanting to promote my competitors’ work. All I have to say to that is: it isn’t a competition. And yes, I am crazy. I’ve drawn a line in the sand for myself to be positive. I hope you’ll try, too.
First up is such an obvious choice; I really don’t need to write much at all. His name is synonymous with creator-owned books, because he’s one of creator-owned comics’ greatest success stories. He’s also a friend and hero of mine.
There’s some disagreement about where it started, but it couldn’t have been much earlier than Steve Niles’ blog post, which is where I first heard about it. Some credit Eric Powell and it’s true that this is a drum that he’s been beating for a while now. As has Robert Kirkman and others. But Niles’ post last week called for specific action (that doesn’t necessarily require walking away from well-paying corporate gigs) and inspired a flurry of opinions and commentary about supporting creator-owned comics and what that really means. Readers and creators alike have been talking so excitedly about it that some have called it a revolution. But is that really what it is? And if so, a revolution of what? Since most of the books this column covers are creator-owned, these are good questions to try to answer here.
When Kevin quoted Niles’ post for Robot 6, he pulled this piece of it: “Can I say something I’ve wanted to say for a long time? If you like something, tell your friends. If you love it, tell the world. But if you hate something, just throw it away, don’t buy it again and move on. We spend way too much time tearing shit down. I just want to try the other direction for a while.”
The commentary on that quote was split between defensive and supportive. “I don’t get that logic,” wrote one person. “That’s like going to see a movie and finding out it’s really, really horrible. Then you hear that a dozen of your friends are going to see that same movie. Wouldn’t you want to warn them about what they are about to endure, the time they will waste, the money they will lose, etc, etc?”
“Can I say something I’ve wanted to say for a long time? If you like something, tell your friends. If you love it, tell the world. But if you hate something, just throw it away, don’t buy it again and move on. We spend way too much time tearing shit down. I just want to try the other direction for a while.”
–30 Days of Night and Mystery Society writer Steve Niles, who has started a simple grassroots networking campaign to support his fellow creators in their publicity efforts around creator-owned books.
“Fun fact! NINE of the TOP TEN graphic novels in 2010 were creator-owned books! Walking Dead, Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim among them.”
–Savage Dragon cartoonist Erik Larsen, speaking the truth. Of course, the flip side of this is that NINE of the TOP TEN graphic novels in 2010 had major Hollywood properties to thank for much of their notoriety, Walking Dead, Kick-Ass, and Scott Pilgrim among them. (The tenth was a Superman book that got over with mass audiences largely on the strength of a fortuitous press comparison to Twilight.) I don’t mean to short-change the success of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, Mark Millar, John Romita Jr., and Bryan Lee O’Malley, but proponents of creator ownership and creators’ rights probably ought not break out the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner just yet.
“The best part of owning your own work is no one can stop you from trying your most stupid ideas. Cuz sometimes those are your best ideas. I’ve made a lot of mistakes marketing Beanworld over the years but they were MY mistakes. And It’s in the best shape its ever been.”
In an interview with Mike Malve from Atomic Comics in Arizona, Image’s Robert Kirkman discusses upcoming Invincible stories and also throws down the gauntlet, so to speak, for writer Jeph Loeb.
In reference to the challenge Kirkman made to Todd McFarlane a few years ago to start drawing again, which resulted in the comic Haunt, Atomic Comics asked Kirkman if there were any other creators out there who he wanted to “challenge to push their limits.” Kirkman responded:
What’s that Bendis guy done lately? All kidding aside, I’d love to see Jeph Loeb try his hand at an original creator-owned book. Millar has proven that when top-flight talent take the plunge it has the potential for massive success, and Loeb does the most commercial books out there with only the highest caliber of artists. I’d buy a creator-owned book by him in droves and I know he would excel at it. But sadly, I think he’s too comfortable on that fat corporate teat. Still, I hold out hope. Don’t you know that guy, Malve? Tell Loeb how many copies you could sell of his own Kick Ass. I don’t even care if he does it at Icon–I just want to read it.