Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
“I write for my partners. I write with them and to them. I seek collaborators and co-conspirators rather than employees. I share ownership of the books I do (Hawkeye obviously an exception) with the artists for whom I write as a rule. They make more than me, too, as a rule, and they earn it. Comics are a visual medium; to quote Mark Twain, ‘Thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the job.’
It is a high-class problem at all that anyone wants to write critically about a book I write and I understand that, but I find it fatuous at best and disingenuous at worst when any book I write gets referred to as ‘mine.’ These comics result from the work of ‘us.’ One may as well write a restaurant review without referring to the actual taste of a meal, or a piece of music solely by its duration.
“A couple months ago someone on Twitter wrote me that something one of my characters said in my movie hurt him. I’ve gotten hundreds of tweets from people angry about moments in my films over the years, and I just ignore them, or get angry in return. But that one tweet affected me profoundly. The last thing I want to do with my work is hurt someone, especially someone who already feels disenfranchised. That made me think about what I write and what I put in my films, and I will be more thoughtful about situations like it in the future. That is, one honest and vulnerable tweet affected more change in me than hundreds of angry ones.
So, again, it’s easy to be outraged by these tweets. But whatever these angry tweeters are in need of, I don’t think it’s more anger and more rage thrown back at them on Twitter. I actually think that’s what they’re seeking. But what they need is something different. Compassion, maybe? A kind request for boundaries? I don’t know. Maybe you guys have some ideas.”
— Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn, in a longer Facebook post on Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon’s recent departure from Twitter, which came amid criticism and abuse from fans online concerning storylines from the film.
“Over the years, when he heard somebody liked other artists more than his work, he was really non-competitive. The thing, though, that I think a lot of people never got about Jack was that Jack wasn’t really competitive with most other comic book artists, because in his mind, they had a different job description. When John Buscema sat down to draw an issue of Fantastic Four — and, actually, nothing I’m about to say is knocking John Buscema in any way, or any of the artists I’m going to mention here — his goal was to do an issue of the Fantastic Four. When Jack sat down to do an issue of Fantastic Four, in his mind his job description was to create a new universe, three spinoffs and take comics to another level.”
Note: The original version of this post misattributed the comment. It’s been edited to correct that, and to provide a fuller quote.
“As soon as I started getting an allowance, it was for comics. I would just go [to the store]. I didn’t really have a concept of new comic day, I just thought they showed up at any given random time at Golden Apple in LA. I would just show up and was like, ‘Ooh, WildC.A.T.S.!’ It was all that — WildC.A.T.S., Spawn, Cyberforce. I got into it too late to even know that these creators worked on Spider-Man and the X-Men. I just knew that they created the friggin’ Violator. It was huge for me. It got me into comics, straight-up. I think I liked those comics more than I liked X-Men. I just remember being at my friend’s house and he was like, ‘You gotta read this Spawn,’ and I loved it.”
— Say Anything frontman Max Bemis, talking with Comic Book Resources about the ’90s Image comics that inspired his new BOOM! Studios series Oh, Killstrike
“If you get yourself into a grind with event after event, sooner or later, you’re going to be only artificially propping up the sales of your books, and your line itself. Only the event is what’s driving people, not the individual characters, and you’re being forced to add more and more things in just to attract attention. The bigger win for us is to be able to rotate the crops a little bit. Replant the land, grow strong characters, and that way, when we build something else out of it, we have a much stronger base from which all these other stories can be told. And if you look back in DC’s history, and even comics history, most of these characters that exist today, that are all now traveling in a group setting, in every event, from one event to the next — they travel as a traveling sideshow, almost — that wasn’t the case when they were introduced. Every character existed and breathed in its own right, and when they crossed over, it was special. What we want to do is make those individual things special again.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, talking with Comic Book Resources about the company’s post-“Convergence” plans
“I’ve been such a jerk. (Your pull quote.) I used to look down my nose at stores that would order only Marvel and DC Comics and only enough to sate their Wednesday customer base, and now I get it. At Aw Yeah Comics, we’re far more diverse than that, but even still, there’s only so much money we can spend because there’s only so much money our customer base — not just our regulars, but even our potential customer base — has.”
— writer Mark Waid, on what being a retailer has taught him about comics, in an interview with Comic Book Resources announcing that he and partner Christy Branch are reincorporating their Indiana store Alter Ego Comics as Aw Yeah Comics Muncie
I’ve always thought there’s a beautiful eloquence of having a connection to something that was designed 50, 60, 75 years ago, that is essentially undiluted. They don’t need to be over-altered for the sake of upcoming generations. They don’t have to be unified.
If you have to always make characters younger because, ‘well, young people won’t connect with older protagonists,’ well, that is such horseshit.”
– Alex Ross, lamenting the desire of some publishers to remake superheroes for a modern audience, in the same piece in which he says he’s learned not to get too attached to certain depictions of characters: “If you start thinking that your version of a thing is the most popular, beloved version, then when they go a different way, as they have with their version of Superman today, it breaks your heart.”
“You know, I don’t regret my mistakes, but I don’t know that I liked them. I certainly don’t want to publicize them. I did draw my very first comic book, and that was a mistake. I am not a good artist. I spent three months and I was going to write and draw a comic book and I worked on this thing and it was terrible. I sent it to the distributor and they were like, ‘This is not of professional quality, we will not distribute this.’ That was a mistake, but I learned from it and it led to me realizing that drawing comics is a fool’s game. I think it led to good things.”
— The Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman, recalling his “favorite mistake” in a brief Q&A with Playboy. Of course, “I think it led to good things” may be a bit of an understatement.
“To any writers or artists out there trying to decide how best to include a colorist into your creator-owned project: give them a stake in the project and include them as much as possible. The excitement that inclusion generates in someone that’s usually on the periphery of a project will increase their dedication and enthusiasm for the project and enhance the end result.”
— The Wicked + The Divine and Young Avengers colorist Matthew Wilson, discussing the differences between coloring creator-owned work and work-for-hire.
“What keeps this industry alive is creators doing their own work. Once you change a costume or origin enough times, it’s a dead body — you’re just electrocuting it and keeping it sort of shambling on. There is a lot more creator-owned stuff now, and some of it I look at and go, ‘Oh, that’s his pitch for a TV show. That’s his pitch for a movie. That’s him saying oh, this kind of thing sells.’ I didn’t do that. My one piece of advice to people who are saying “‘I wanna do it, but DC and Marvel pay so well …’ is that in between your big paying gigs, just find time just to do one comic! It doesn’t have to be a 6,000-page epic! It doesn’t have to be Hellboy! Ten years down the road, when you’re scrambling for work or drawing some book you hate, at least you did something when you had fire in your belly that’s really you.”
I don’t know if that’s a byproduct of the anonymity there, but when you’re sorta scrolling through looking at Twitter reactions to the show, they exist at the edge of each spectrum. They’re incredibly negative towards some characters. They’re overwhelmingly positive towards others … I don’t think Twitter’s important.
Think of social media like NSYNC. I think that Facebook is Timberlake, OK? And I think that all of the other forums are the other members of the group.
On the Facebook side, connecting with the fans in that way I think holds a lot more value, holds a lot more sway and it’s just been fun. I’m the same person as I was before I got this job, but this job has given me the platform to have fun and do interesting things on Facebook.
I personally haven’t encountered anything negative on Twitter. People I know have. And I think Twitter does a horrendous job of protecting those folks. When they have a better policy, maybe I’ll go back.”
— Arrow star Stephen Amell, who has more than 2.7 million Likes on Facebook, discussing his social media presence and preferences during a set visit
“There’s a loosening up, and this is kind of current, at both companies in terms of what each company considers a comic, which is a ridiculous thing to say, because a comic is basically what sells. That’s a good comic. Dick Giordano hated, hated, hated Lobo — hated the character, hated the book — hated him. But he understood that Lobo was a popular character, not his cup of tea, so he wasn’t constantly after me to change and conform to his way.
That was, for a while, the way comics were being run. If the editor didn’t like the direction a book was going, it didn’t matter how well it sold — they’d get in there and start pinching and tweaking and fucking it up. But lately — and I know this for a fact, I’ve talked to people who actually make these decisions — it’s loosening up. It’s really loosening up. They’re actually saying, ‘You know what? You’re always saying, “If I was left alone, I would do this and this and this. I’d make this book popular.” Fine. The shackles are off. Go.’
I love that. I absolutely love that. I think if you’re willing to go after it, I think comics are loosening up a little bit; the way they approach the market, the kind of stories they’re doing, the kind of characters they’re willing to put in their books. This is just, I’d say, within the last year that I’m feeling this. A couple of years before that — as soon as last year — they were pretty horrible.”
– Justice League 3000 writer Keith Giffen, identifying a relatively recent loosening of the creative reins by DC Comics, and by Marvel
‘How do I write believable women?’ from male writers, is essentially asking how to write characters that are different from you. But all characters are different from you, or should be, unless they’re you. Characters are individuals, not types. If you’re writing them as types, you’re doing it wrong.
All characters are like you in some ways, and not like you in others. How do you write the parts that aren’t like you? Same as you do with any character. You have eyes, ears and a brain. You write from observation, experience, research and analysis.
If you’re writing a woman, you’re not writing a ‘women.’ Write her. That character, that individual. A person, not a category.”
“My perspective is a little different than most because I take so much time in between conventions and when I’m there I’m working… but watching from behind by signing table and seeing people becoming friends online or just having a great time expressing themselves through costume and just sharing their love of whatever they love is amazing. My feeling is if you are a creator and your book or art or whatever isn’t selling that is on you. And I’m talking about myself here as well. If something didn’t connect with an audience, that’s my problem, that’s not the culture’s problem.
“The culture shifts very quickly. Quicker than it ever has before. Most of the time I think for the better. But I think if you are trying to sell something to someone at a convention or anywhere you better take a good look at yourself and what you’re selling and how much you are selling it for. You can’t just show up at your table and drop your portfolio and sit back and wish of the sea to part. (which I see a lot of people doing) You have to have work out there, that is vital. You have to let people know what you have that is special and worth their time.”
– Brian Michael Bendis, responding to a question about the effect of cosplay on comic conventions
“What we are learning is that the traditional idea of done-in-one stories not selling in comics just doesn’t apply to the new audience buying the books, and believe me, most of that new audience are female. I think the problem right now is we have some people running the companies that just aren’t going out and trying new comics or interacting with the next wave of readers and keep pushing things the traditional way they did years ago. The retailers themselves are seeing this happening daily now and I feel it’s the reason Image Comics will continue to grow and eventually outsell the big two, unless they start thinking outside the box and just make superheroes a PART of their publishing plan and not the entire thing and start looking at the different ways a superhero type of book can be done. Harley is one example, Hawkeye is another. The traditional graphics people associate comics with have been changing for years now and the market is embracing different looks and styles that are outside the house style and its pretty cool to see.”