Creator owned or not – what’s the verdict?

To go fully creator owned – and make a living from it – you need to establish an audience for the type of work you intend to produce.  A big audience. There are two ways you can do this: start from scratch with an idea of your own and build a life in comics for yourself (what I am doing), or work on mainstream books for the big two, building in the sensibilities and themes into issues of the Fantastic Four which you will explore later, in more depth, in works of your own (what people who don’t live in padded cells do).

I admire the roots of Robert Kirkman’s argument: we need more comics and we need different comics about wider subjects if we are to bring in more readers. Nothing new about that. Full flag salute. But it’s the notion that going creator owned will automatically deliver the size and scale of rewards that working for DC and Marvel will overnight.

Bendis’ line about how everyone who worked in a video store the year Pulp Fiction came out thought they were the next Tarantino is a solid jab against Kirkman’s argument. Going wholly creator will pay-off for the few and they are the ones whose names you and your mother already know.

Take a look at the top 300 sales list for July over at CBR. Notice anything? With the exception of maybe Buffy and Kick-Ass you have wallets showing nothing but support for company franchises. This isn’t likely to change (sadly) in the next decade. Superheroes are bread and butter for retailers.

Therefore, what these properties represent for the creators working on them currently is a stage – a stage where they can make their name very quickly with a lot of readers.

It does take time to build that following and working at Marvel and DC can help speed it up. If you can build a following, you too can pull a McFarlane. Spider-Man #1 sold 2.5 million copies. On the back of that success, McFarlene realised his own value, founded Image with his co-creators, and proved the point by selling 1.7 million copies of Spawn #1.

That said, I’m more than happy with the route I’ve chosen, even if it does feel like banging my head against a brick wall sometimes. Building a comic on a set of values and beliefs – out of necessity – seems a bit more honest than building an audience first. It just takes longer, that’s all.

posted by admin at 9:53 pm  

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