Since the dawn of the medium, comic books largely have been the creation of writers and artists working hand-in-hand to produce the characters, stories, titles and universes you follow each week. Recently, however, lawsuits by comic creators against publishers — and sometimes other creators — have raised the question of where, when and how a comic is truly created. Are they the product of the writer, with the artist simply tasked to illustrate the story based on instructions laid out in a script or outline? Or is it a communal effort, with writer and artist both providing unique contributions to the creation of the character and setting, each serving as a storyteller in the planning, coordination and draftsmanship of the actual comic pages? In recent years, comics have become a writer-centric medium, for better or worse, but artists continue to play a crucial, if sometimes overlooked, role in the design of characters and transformation of the writer’s scripts into, you know, comics.
In an interview with ICv2.com, Howard Chaykin relayed a story about how an unnamed writer views an artist’s contribution as “absolutely nothing to do with the creative process in comics.” “I am of the belief that the artist does 50 percent of the ‘writing’ in comic books,” said Chaykin, who’s worked as a writer and artist for decades. “I think the guy is plum crazy. It staggered me in its limited understanding of what comic books are about.”
Creators | iZombie writer Chris Roberson discusses his recent public announcement that he would no longer accept work from DC Comics and his subsequent dismissal from his last writing job for the publisher. “Well, this has been building over the last few months, and mostly had to do with what I saw DC and Time Warner doing in regards to creator relations. I think the first thing — you have to understand that when I first started working for DC in 2008, the Siegels had just recaptured half of the copyright for Action Comics #1 and I felt very good about that. That seemed like a very positive step. And then over the course of the last few months there has been the counter-suit against the Siegels’ lawyer, Marc Toberoff, and I was less sanguine about that, and starting to get a little itchy about it, and then there were just a few general things about the way that it seemed that DC regards creators now that are working for them — and I can talk about that more in detail — but the real kind of proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the announcement at the beginning of February of Before Watchmen, which I just thought was unconscionable. And so I had already signed a contract by that point to do six more issues of iZombie, of which three of them had been turned in, and so I just made the decision to go ahead and turn in the remaining three, not wanting to jeopardize the livelihood of my collaborators Mike and Laura Allred. But once I turned in the last one, even though I had other work lined up, I would have to at least — if only for my own peace of mind — let people know that I wasn’t happy with it.” [The Comics Journal]
While fans and retailers at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo were given a first glimpse at interior art for DC Comics’ sprawling Watchmen prequels, BuzzFeed now provides the best look yet at pages and character designs from Before Watchmen in the form of photos of a binder at the DC offices. Among the images are interiors from Rorschach, by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, Silk Spectre, by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, Ozymandius, by Len Wein and Jae Lee, and Curse of the Crimson Corsair, by Wein and John Higgins. There are also character designs by Bermejo, Conner, Cooke, Higgins, Andy and Joe Kubert, and Lee.
Before Watchmen debuts in June.
“Some really good people are working on Before Watchmen and it saddens me to see that. I won’t be supporting it in any way. I just can’t. And in all honesty — I can’t help but feel a little bit less for every creator who works on these books. Have you no decency?”
– Erik Larsen, wading into the continuing controversy surrounding DC Comics’ sprawling prequels
to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Chris Williams, editor of the web series The Variants.
To see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
“If Alan and I had done another major project together after that, the thing we had talked about was doing something bright and dreamlike, a Captain Marvel kind of thing that was kind of mythic and close to a fairy tale in a way. Alan did go on to do that with Supreme and other things. It was never really our idea with Watchmen to say, ‘Here is how superhero comics ought to be.’ It was just, ‘Here’s a possible way to tell this story that you haven’t seen before.’ After that we were ready to see other ideas that we hadn’t seen before but instead we saw our own idea come back to us again and again. Watchmen sprang out of a love of superheroes too, we wouldn’t have spent so much time on it if we didn’t love the whole thing in the first place. But something was lost in the translation and some people thought, ‘Ah, black leather, stubble and a bad attitude, that’s the future of superhero comics.’”
– Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, on the unintended legacy
of his 1986 collaboration with Alan Moore
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d first snap up a book I’ve been trying to track down for years: Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky (Marvel, $4.99). This 1986 lost classic features Bernie Wrightson drawing a webhead story featuring monsters and alternate worlds – looks like a real gem. Now to convince Marvel to republish John Paul Leon’s Logan: Path of the Warlord… Next up would be Secret Service #1 (Marvel/Icon, $2.99). I’ll buy pretty much anything Dave Gibbons puts out these days, and seeing him with Mark Millar is bound to be a unique experience. Next up is Saga #2 (Image, $2.99); Brian K. Vaughn is really setting up a world – like a sci-fi sitcom here, with loads of direction to go in. Lastly I’d get Conan the Barbarian #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50). Can I admit I might like this more than Northlanders? Brian Wood’s definitely expanding how people think of him with this story, and Becky Cloonan is making a lot of editors look foolish for not putting her on these kinds of books sooner.
If I had $30, I’d start out with Secret #1 (Image, $3.50). Manhattan Projects seems more up my alley than this story, but Jonathan Hickman’s built up some credit in me to try anything new he puts out even if I’m not too interested. Next up would be Northlanders #50 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), which I’m sad to see go. I think this will be one of those series that achieves more popularity after it’s over, and it’s a shame DC can’t find a way to continue it. After that it would be Glory #25 (Image, $2.99). I was a bit shaky on the story after Joe Keatinge’s first issue, but everything after has really put the pieces into place and Ross Campbell seems to be finding his footing to really land the superheroics of this story. Last up would be Secret Avengers #25 (Marvel, $3.99); Rick Remender’s clearly put his own spin to this series, so much I’m surprised Marvel didn’t use this as a chance to renumber the series… but I’m glad they didn’t.
If I could splurge, I’d throw money at my comic retailer for Pete and Miriam (Boom!, $14.99). Big fan of Rich Tommaso, and he seems to be honing his craft like a knife, creating more pointed and poignant stories here. And Miriam, she’s a real gem.
In what very well could be comics’ answer to Texts from Hillary, cartoonist Jon Morris has launched Ron Sworschach, a blog that combines “the words of Alan Moore’s doomed objectivist vigilante Rorschach with images of Parks and Recreations‘ lovingly stern libertarian Ron Swanson. Or sometimes maybe the other way around.”
Why it’s taken this long for a Ron Swanson/Rorschach mash-up is one of life’s great and frustrating mysteries …
“Alan Moore has earned his frustration, his suspicions and his occasional flashes of anger. He should be listened to and learned from, not dismissed and certainly never mocked.” — Tom Spurgeon
When the comic book industry first coalesced in the late 1930s, it adopted a business model that, to put it lightly, did not put an emphasis on ethical behavior. These were publishing companies run by greedy, exploitive people who had questionable connections to gangsters or had been indicted for mail fraud. They cared little about the quality of their product, the well-being of their workers–sorry, freelancers–or seeing that anyone who contributed to their success was fairly and duly compensated.
Here we are, roughly 80 years later, and everything has changed. Whoops, I’m sorry. I mean nothing has changed. It’s still an ugly, cutthroat industry where publishers are all too happy to grab as many rights as they can to artists’ hard-won work whenever said artists are willing to take those sucker bets. It’s an industry dominated by cynical publishing ventures and easy cash grabs rather than an interest in creating long range, sustainable business models. Perhaps the worst thing about our current era is that those who have legitimate reason to complain about their mistreatment are the ones most frequently shouted down by a certain cross-section of their fans, a mercenary bunch who seem to care more for ensuring that they never, ever lose the chance to get more of the same in a timely fashion than if the people producing that same are treated with a certain amount of decency and respect.
Along with the official announcement of Before Watchmen, its long-rumored prequels to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, DC Comics trotted out several of the creators involved to talk about the legacy of the original work, their approach to the new project, what they expect from initial reactions — and, of course, Moore’s objections to the undertaking.
Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting quotes:
J. Michael Straczynski, who’s working with Adam Hughes on Dr. Manhattan, and Andy and Joe Kubert on Nite Owl: “Ever since Dan DiDio was handed the reins (along with Jim Lee) over at DC, he’s been making bold, innovative moves that might have scared the hell out of anyone else. At a time in the industry when big events tend to be ‘Okay, we had Team A fight Team B last year, so this year we’re gonna have Team B fight team C!’ Dan has chosen to revitalize lines, reinvent worlds and come at Watchmen head-on. It was, I think, about two years ago that he first mentioned that he was considering the idea, and he’s to be commended for fighting to make this happen.”
Brian Azzarello, who’s collaborating with Lee Bermejo on Rorschach, and J.G. Jones on Comedian: “I think the gut reaction is going to be, ‘Why?’ But then when the actual books come out, the answer will be, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ ”
Following years of rumors, DC Comics announced this morning it’s revisiting the characters introduced by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in the seminal 1986 miniseries Watchmen with seven inter-connected prequels collectively titled … Before Watchmen. What’s more, the project now has the blessing of Gibbons, who as recently as last summer seemed resistant to the idea.
“The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell,” the artist said in a statement. “However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire.”
Moore, however, isn’t as generous, describing the prequels as “completely shameless.” “I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago,” he told The New York Times.
The writer, who stopped working for DC in 1989 following disputes about Watchmen royalties and a proposed age-rating system, revealed in July 2010 that the publisher had at last offered to return the rights to his most famous creation, if he “would agree to some dopey prequels and sequels.”
“So I just told them that if they said that 10 years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked,” he said at the time. “But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.”
Designer and letterer Todd Klein continues his artistic trek through the alphabet with another art print, as he and Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons team up on one called “It Is.”
“Dave has written a poem focusing on the ever-changing nature of our internal perception, that which makes up our own personal ‘I.’ I’ve designed and hand-lettered it,” Klein says on his blog. The print can be purchased from his website for $20 plus shipping.
Note: The artwork originally accompanying this post has been removed following a cease-and-desist letter from DC Entertainment’s legal affairs department.
Any doubts regarding the accuracy of reports about DC Comics’ long-rumored plans for Watchmen prequels may have eroded over the weekend with the emergence of character art by J.G. Jones and Joe Kubert and Andy Kubert.
Bleeding Cool characterizes the illustrations of Nite Owl and The Comedian as cover art for the projects, purportedly being assembled under the code name “Panic Room,” but considering the characters’ names are written on the pages, it seems more likely they’re concept designs.
The four prequels to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are said to also involve Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, John Higgins and even Gibbons himself. Cooke, however, seemed to dismiss reports he was working on one of the miniseries, telling CBR News recently, “Ah, get out, man. That’s like three years old.”
For a while now, Bleeding Cool has repeatedly linked Eisner Award winner Darwyn Cooke with the hotly rumored Watchmen 2 from DC Comics, driving the world’s Twitterati into a Walter Kovacs-like frenzy.
But if that’s the case, Mr. Cooke is unaware of his connection.
When I spoke with the Canadian cartoonist in a recent interview about his artwork for an upcoming issue of James Robinson’s The Shade, I asked Cooke point blank if he would be working on Watchmen 2.
Cooke responded, succinctly, “Ah, get out, man. That’s like three years old.”
Now if DC Comics was planning Watchmen 2, the publisher would not want the sure-fire hit to be announced as a throwaway line during an interview for an unrelated series, so Cooke easily could have been smoking out CBR News with a red herring.
And his answer did lean toward the question being “old” news and not “no” news, so DC Comics may very well be prepping a sequel to the groundbreaking maxi-series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It just doesn’t appear that Cooke will be playing a role.
Which is too bad, because Cooke writing, drawing or even thinking about the characters from Watchmen, especially The Comedian, would qualify as about as pitch-perfect as you could get in terms of a creator getting on board a project that would certainly come with equal parts praise and ire, if and when it is ever announced.
Bleeding Cool contends it’s been “informed quite conclusively from a reliable source” at the publisher that the artist is among the A-list talent involved in the secretive project, which reportedly will use key characters from the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Other previously mentioned creators include Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, J.G. Jones, John Higgins and even Gibbons himself.
Murmurs of DC’s desire for a Watchmen follow-up gained steam in 2010 after the departure of President Paul Levitz, believed to be the last in-house obstacle to using the Moore-Gibbons characters. The writer seemed to confirm as much last year when he revealed the publisher finally had offered to return the rights to the property — copyright and royalty issues form the roots of his legendary feud with DC — in exchange for a concession: that Moore “agree to some dopey prequels and sequels.” He refused.
Then-newly minted Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said at the time that DC “would only revisit these iconic characters if the creative vision of any proposed new stories matched the quality set by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons nearly 25 years ago, and our first discussion on any of this would naturally be with the creators themselves.”
As recently as August, Gibbons addressed perennial rumors of a sequel and the possibility of the characters being transplanted into the DC Universe, telling Comic Book Resources, “It’s not something that I’d personally like to see happen. [...] What I would say is, intrinsic to the whole idea of Watchmen is that they existed in a world that was the way it was because of their existence. And I think to transplant them into another world actually removes a huge part of what is the essence of Watchmen.”