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Got to be another way

Daniel Way is writing a column for CBR now, and in his latest, he writes this:

Three or four years ago, I was writing two ongoing series for Marvel; "Wolverine: Origins" and "Deadpool." I was also co-writing (what would become) "Dark Wolverine" with Marjorie Liu. In addition, I was picking up random gigs here and there at the company -- things like my arc on "Astonishing X-Men." As is the case with almost every ongoing series at a mainstream publisher, I had at least two art teams for each series (sometimes, with "Deadpool," I had three). Having multiple art teams can be a real challenge, as not all artists work at the same pace and, even more challengingly, not all artists "maintain" a pace that can be accurately scheduled. Every day, five to six days a week, I'd wake up knowing only that I had to write at least five pages of "something" that day; I didn't know which series it had to be, which story arc or even which issue.

I never read Way's titles, but that sounds exactly like what's happening in Uncanny X-Force right now, among other books. And what's frustrating is that not only does it lead to disjointed stories, but it's not like we're getting great art to balance it out (as you can see from that Bishop scan halfway down the page).

Tom Brevoort has said the problems with artist timeliness are threefold (paraphrasing from various formspring/tumblr responses):

1) Modern readers demand better quality than we used to. (If so, i again wonder about the comparison between the Bishop and Wolverine panels below.)

2) Artists worry more about the fact that their art will live on forever (e.g. in trades) whereas older artists were willing to bang things out to meet a deadline.

3) Artists are paid more, obviously a good thing, but which means they don't have to meet deadlines to survive.

I absolutely don't want this to look like artist bashing. I'm not saying artists are perfectionists or lazy or anything like that. I think the business model is screwed up. Incentives should be based on meeting deadlines or series should be designed based on the artists' pace.

But the model is only "screwed up" based on my desired outcome. Marvel seems happy with it, and as long as they're meeting their numbers, they are not going to change anything. Never mind that it's really just die hard fans buying their books. Johanna Draper Carlson has a couple of posts showing that about 40% of the market is based on selling variant covers (as she acknowledges in the comments, the analysis is a bit off the cuff, but even if it's really 25% you'd think it would be alarming to publishers).

Tangentially related, Caleb at Every Day Is Like Wednesday points out a discrepancy in Marvel's ads for current issues. On one page they're advertising gritty, bloody novels to adults, and on another they are advertising the Hulk Smash cartoon show. Now, there isn't really a conflict there. I think Marvel knows that they are selling to adults, but adults watch those cartoons too (don't judge us!) and many have kids. In fact, Marvel has been running a Share Your Universe campaign that i think is really about telling their adult readers that, hey, your kids might like to read comic books too.

But i think kids would rather watch the cartoons than read comics that have scratchy art and incoherent stories. And, increasingly, so would i.

By fnord12 | August 23, 2013, 9:16 AM | Comics


The problems with artists taking their time has been going on a long time. As we've seen in your project, many of the Graphic Novels and other special projects from the Shooter period were delayed and one of the reasons for that was the artists taking a long time to draw them. (Although the writers were also sometimes to blame- Archie Goodwin said the delays in the Scorpio Connection were his fault, not Chaykin's.) And as we've seen, letting the creators take their time often led to confused continuity. (A more recent example of this kind of problem is the Children's Crusade- it's difficult to figure out when it's taking place with Steve as Cap and Colossus not the Juggernaut.) So sometimes designing the series on the artists' pace just leads to more problems.

All true, Michael, but those are *continuity* problems with special project books. I'm talking about basic quality issues on regular titles. I'm saying if Uncanny X-Force needs to be bi-monthly to let Ron Garney draw it and let Sam Humphries be able to plot a book in a way that it doesn't require him to abandon a storyline midstream to jump to something completely unrelated, let that happen. I'm not even thinking about the fact that, say, Storm and Psylocke are in this book and Adjectiveless X-Men at the same time.

Bi-monthly books did run into continuity issues too, but looking at Way's column and my own observations, i'm seeing a more basic problem here.

While I think that the rotation Daniel Way describes can lead to problems, I think it's worth pointing out that the first 25 issues of Wolverine: Origins were all drawn by Steve Dillon and, in my opinion, are some of the absolute worst stories in the history of the character. Along with the rest of his run, of course. 17 out of the 19 issues of his Ghost Rider run were drawn by Javier Saltares, and again, are some of the worst stories in the history of the character. (And we're talking about Ghost Rider here.) Meanwhile, his Deadpool run with its multiple art teams, while overly long and repetitive, is easily his best work and brought the character to new levels of popularity.

I guess my point is that maybe you shouldn't listen to Daniel Way about what makes a quality book. Even that column was just plain awful with his "every day I write the book" and "suck it, void."

I feel exactly the same way about Uncanny X-Force as you but I definitely don't know that you can blame the artist for the book's terrible anti-plotting, where interesting things seem to pointedly not pay off in any rewarding way.

I am, by the way, a totally different Michael than the person who made the first comment. Sorry for any confusion; please feel free to consider me Michael 2 if responding. :)

Surely, you should be Uncanny Michael, then.

Thanks for the details about Way. I wonder what he's even talking about, then. I haven't read most of his stuff and i know reviews have been mixed, but i thought his Thunderbolts was pretty good.

I didn't enjoy his Thunderbolts that much, although I think they're on the higher end of his bibliography quality scale, so perhaps you'll come away from his work with a different impression than me. What I liked about his Thunderbolts was the premise (Punisher, Deadpool, Elektra, and Venom on the same team? Yes, please.) rather than any actual plotting or scripting, and anyone could do that premise.