Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Wash: 04/29/10

o "Survive the Digital Revolution"

At Publishers Weekly, Heidi MacDonald talks to comics retailers about digital distribution. Representatives from publisher IDW and the digital-comics distributor Comixology also weigh in.

The term "cautiously optimistic" comes up, and that seems about right; slowly but surely, retailers seem to be coming around to the ideas that (a) there's no point in fighting digital distribution and (b) the headline doesn't have to be "Digital Comics: Threat or Menace?" if you start thinking about it early enough.

This is good news, I think. Comics retailers won't go away anytime soon—on the contrary, I'm pretty sure those willing and able to adapt to the reality of the market have a bright future ahead of them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

High Canonicity

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Never-Ending Marvel and DC Mega-Narratives

At 4thletter!, David Brothers explains why the notion of "canon" in relation to the Marvel and DC superhero universes, and the question whether something's "in continuity," deserve a horrible death.

As someone who spent a big chunk of his comics-reading career devouring a lot of Marvel books—most of which were rubbish—for precisely the reasons Brothers states, I think I'm coming to the issue from a similar vantage point. I'm sympathetic to what he says, to put it mildly: Yes, it's the story at hand that matters, the things it wants to say and do and the voices of the people who make it.

But there's something to be said beyond that, I think.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Wash: 04/22/10

o "I Adore Superman, and I Hope I Get the Chance to Use Him"

I wouldn't have raised an eyebrow at the quote if it wasn't new Action Comics writer Paul Cornell who said it. You know, Action Comics, the book that used to have Superman in it?

"No, it's Lex Luthor's book, at least for the first story arc. I adore Superman, and I hope I get the chance to use him, but for now I'm pleased to be writing for Lex."

This comes after Marc Guggenheim, previously announced (and solicited) as the writer to take over Action Comics, reportedly threw in the towel because he discovered that his planned story would have to be changed a weensy bit—because the main character would have to be removed from it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Cornell will turn in a good take on Lex Luthor, and I don't mind the notion of cutting down on the number of concurrent Superman titles, given their sales and the fact that it's not the strongest brand in the world right now.

But the kinds of hoops through which DC and Marvel keep forcing themselves for tradition's sake are mind-boggling.

Why not cancel the Superman books that don't, in fact, have Superman in them, and try coming up with a marketing strategy that doesn't ignore the content of what you're peddling?

o "Andy Drew This Beautiful Image of Batman with a Giant Bat on His Head, and I Thought Well I Have to Now Explain the Goddamn Giant Bat"

Grant Morrison talks to Topless Robot's Rob Bricken about Batman. There's nothing new in the interview, but it's always fun to get a peek into Morrison's process, and there are a few nice moments.

Speaking of Grant Morrison's approach to Batman, I should have mentioned the other day that there will be three new Batman comic books by Morrison in July: Batman #701, Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 and Batman and Robin #14. Whatever Morrison happens to be writing has long since become the backbone of what's left of my monthly comic-book purchase—mainly because it tends to be a lot of fun to read.

o "If His 'So What, It’s Comics' Attitude Was a Person, I Would Put On My Steel Toed Boots and Kick It Into a Bloody Pulp"

Heidi MacDonald reports from the convention known as C2E2, including her Media Panel, and doesn't mince words. There was no actual bloodshed, though, as far as I'm aware.

o "Hip Hot-Rodders Take Over a World Gone Crazy, DaddyO!"

IDW's July solicitations are up, and they've got some intriguing material in them. The first chapter of Darwyn Cooke's next Parker adaptation—24 pages for $ 2.00—looks like a pretty good deal, as does Strange Science Fantasy, a new series in which Scott Morse waxes nostalgic, helped by Paul Pope in the first issue.

Also, there are a couple of bulky high-ticket hardcover collections that I wish I had time to read so I could justify the expense, like Mike Grell's Jon Sable, Freelance Omnibus and Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson's X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan strip.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"The Original Hero for Hire"

Erm, dear Marvel?

No, I didn't.

The Wash: 04/20/10

o "One Very Deeply Odd Comic Book Series"

Tom Spurgeon reviews Robert Morales and Kyle Baker's Truth: Red, White & Black, Marvel's rather bleak 2003 miniseries about a group of black soldiers abused as guinea pigs in a proto-Captain America super-soldier program by the American government.

Along with Morales' subsequent seven-issue run on Captain America proper (art by Chris Bachalo and Eddie Campbell), it's one of the most memorable superhero comics of the 2000s.

Whereas Truth came out at the apex of the fearless, frequently nutty Bill Jemas regime, though, Morales' Captain America wasn't as fortunate. Initially meant to be a much longer, much more controversial run with an appearance by Fidel Castro and Steve Rogers as PotUS, it fell right into the phase where Jemas was ousted and Marvel, having finally overcome its financial woes, ended up growing more conservative in its publishing choices again. After a four-issue fill-in by Robert Kirkman, Captain America wound up being relaunched by someone named Ed Brubaker instead.

o "How Can Superman Possibly Continue His Battle for Truth, Justice and the American Way?"

DC Comics' advertisements for its July 2010 publications include the start of J. Michael Stryczynski and Paul Cornell's runs on Superman and Action Comics, respectively—the former with cover art by John Cassaday, as you can see to the right.

In other news, the creative team of Justice League hijacks Justice Society for the duration of a crossover between the two books, writer/artist Neal Adams launches the six-part miniseries Batman: Odyssey, Mike Grell's Warlord is canceled and The Great Ten, formerly a 10-issue series, is now a nine-issue series, no doubt thanks to its less than impressive sales figures. Speaking of which, The Mighty Crusaders is a new ongoing series starring the Red Circle characters; good luck with that. And now that I've seen Andy Clarke's splendid art in Batman and Robin, I'm tempted by Batman: The Bat and the Beast, a collection of the recent Batman Confidential arc Clarke worked on with writer Peter Milligan.

At WildStorm, the Brian K. Vaughan/Tony Harris superhero-turns-NYC-mayor series Ex Machina concludes with its 50th issue, in addition to a lot of other stuff that doesn't look like it's going to do much for the imprint's abysmal direct-market comic-book sales. (Yes, I'm aware of the rumors that they're selling a lot of copies of their videogame adaptations in videogame stores; I haven't heard any hard and reliable facts bout that, though, and in any case, the game stuff is only part of WildStorm's flagging line of comic books.)

At Vertigo, finally, there's Cuba: My Revolution, a new book-length work drawn by Dean Haspiel, who's always worth a look, as well as a whole range of repackaged material that may be worth checking out, including but not limited to the first hardcover collection of American Vampire (note the departure from the usual Vertigo practice of coming out with a cheap paperback first; Stephen King's "writer" credit does that for you) and the second collection of Mike Carey and Peter Gross' acclaimed The Unwritten.

o "The Sort of Team That Reacts to Whatever Is Out There"

Whoever suggested that what Marvel's X-Men line needs is another ongoing monthly series titled X-Men was wrong. Whoever decided that its first storyline should be "The X-Men vs. Vampires" should consider a career in wood-chopping.

I know, I know: Nothing screams "relevance" and "urgency" quite like an X-Men series that starts off with the X-Men fighting vampires for a few issues, so I should not mock. No werewolves, though?

o "Great, Talented Professionals"

I have to admit, the comments by Gail Simone and Geoff Johns quoted and collected in this message-board post, which are in reference to a freshly mischievous Marvel publicity stunt from earlier this year, sound awfully self-important.

Looking at these comments, you could get the impression that DC is a company committed to curing cancer, rather than one which produces comic books about such deeply serious issues as people rising from their graves as zombies.

o "The Droolings of an Idiot"

Not comics: The New York Times has an amusing look at some things Mark Twain used to scrawl into his own books.

I'm not sure I'd call it "literary criticism," but it's hilarious and totally in character for Twain.

o "Probably from Pennsylvania"

Speaking of books Mark Twain loved to mock with a passion: Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett are working on a comics adaptation of the Leatherstocking, evidently.

o "As We Intended to Do It"

At this stage, Matt Fraction is announcing the return of Casanova for the third time in as many years, I think, so forgive me if I'm a wee bit skeptical. I am pondering the addition of the newly colored, newly lettered, newly collected first two volumes to my bookshelf, however.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Wash: 04/16/10

o "Proud to Be Working with Pat"

Pat Lee is back, doing comics for Dynamite Entertainment, but somehow the last four paragraphs of his biography got lost in the original press release. Christopher Butcher, to the rescue.

o "The Only William Blake Poem Comics Ever Quote"

In this week's "Emanata" column, Douglas Wolk examines the storytelling device of the flash-forward.

o "Opens Up with a Baby Bird Getting Its Neck Fatally Broken"

Warren Ellis looks at the present options and prospects of digital comics distribution for independent works.

o "Everyone Will Be Talking About!"

You know, I really like this roster, by this creative team. If Marvel were still in the business of making self-contained comics at reasonable prices, I'd seriously consider buying Secret Avengers.

o "Like the Titanic Sinking"

Over at Comic Book Resources, Kiel Phegley interviews the guys from that animation studio who just found all those drawings, characters and concepts Jack Kirby made for them in the 1980s.

More importantly, the piece comes with more neat Kirby art that makes me jump up and down screaming, Grant Morrison, Grant Morrison, for some reason.

o "Can't Stop Him"

While I'm jumping up and down screaming his name, much to my neighbors' chagrin, Laura Hudson at Comics Alliance talks to Morrison about Batman. No sensational money quotes, but still a pretty good overview of what Morrison finds appealing about the character and what's informing his approach to the material.

o "Not Doing That Anymore"

While we're on the subject of Batman, it's with great sadness that I received the news of Frank Miller's withdrawal from the already legendary Holy Terror, Batman! book he was doing at one point.

o "Psychological Barrier"

John Jackson Miller, who does things with numbers that seem like black magic to me, points out that, as of March 2010, we've got a new standard price for regular comic books.

o "A Punishment Doled Out by a Very Fair Person"

Tom Spurgeon reviews... Rhubarb the Millionaire Cat, evidently.

o "Happening to You as Much as It's Happening to Her"

Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev are doing a new book titled Scarlet at Marvel's boutique imprint Icon.

Bendis says it will be "bi-monthly." I say I'll probably buy the first issue and then switch to the paperback collections. That David Lafuente cover looks fantastic, though.

o "An Odd Mix of Hope and Fearsweat"

Steven Grant suggests that Kick-Ass the film is actually better than Kick-Ass the comic. Paul O'Brien makes a similar point, and The New York Times also has a somewhat favorable review up. The more I read about it, the more I want to see it.

o "Mark Millar, Kick-Ass and the Failure of Criticism"

Speaking of which, here's my take on Millar's shtick in works like Nemesis, Kick-Ass and Wanted, with very naughty language.

o "We Just Make It Look Good"

I review Chris Weston's The Twelve: Spearhead.

o "The State of the X-Men, Circa 2010"

Me, one more time, on what used to be Marvel's top-selling franchise for most of the 1980s and 1990s.

"Weird Undead Fabian Nicieza Thing": The State of the X-Men, circa 2010

At The Savage Critics, Graeme McMillan makes some astute observations about the current state of Marvel's X-Men comics, which have managed to be utterly bland and backwards in the last five years or so, despite the presence of otherwise reliable creators like Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey and Matt Fraction.

"It’s as if Grant Morrison never happened," McMillan says at one point, and I agree. The reason why the X-Men—maybe for the first time in a decade—really worked back when Morrison was writing New X-Men from 2001 through 2003, I think, was because he didn't coordinate every step of the way with five other guys.

The Twelve: Spearhead

Marvel, 38 pages, $ 3.99

Writer/artist: Chris Weston
Co-inker: Gary Erskine
Colorist: Chris Chuckry
Letterer: Jimmy Betancourt
Cover artist: Paolo Rivera

The most entertaining moment in this one-shot special by British writer/artist Chris Weston comes when the prose unintentionally suggests that the original, android Human Torch, Marvel's very first superhero character from 1939, went on to live in a ménage à trois with Miss America and the Whizzer after the war. Now that's a comic I could be interested in: Startling Stories: Miss America, the Android and Me—it would be like Revolutionary Road, only with more superheroes and threesomes. Paging James Sturm!

... but I digress.

I quite like The Twelve, a 12-issue maxiseries by writer J. Michael Straczynski and Mr. Weston that should have long finished by now, but that's unfortunately been in publication limbo since its eighth issue came out in the fall of 2008. It's a story about a group of American World War II superheroes who were trapped in "suspended animation" in a hidden Berlin bunker in 1945, and who have to come to terms with their alienation when they are discovered and reanimated in the present day. It's probably the best thing Mr. Straczynski has done in comics to date—a deliberate narrative with few of his usual tics on display.

This book, alas, set some time before the Allies reached Berlin in 1945, is nothing like that.

I understand Mr. Weston's desire to remind us that he'd very much like to finish the series, but the best way to get people to agree would be to make a good comic, surely.

This one isn't, mainly because it doesn't seem like Mr. Weston has anything to say, about the characters he's putting through the motions here or about anything else. It's a pretty book with solid page-to-page storytelling, certainly, and it's clear that the artist is enjoying himself as he draws the Twelve characters—along with a bunch of other World War II-themed heroes, including Captain America—in some gorgeously rendered European settings, alongside regular soldiers and opposite their German enemies. But that's the extent of his ambition here, evidently.

First and foremost, the story's failure lies with the characters. In Mr. Straczynski's care, they're a diverse and three-dimensional bunch, but they all remain utterly generic here. Captain America seems like a twit when he first appears in the story, which makes him the most intriguing among the book's cast, but even he reverts to his usual bland "Good work, son" mode soon enough. The few character beats that exist (Excello's snobbishness; the Widow's fury; Professor Zog's scruples) never go anywhere. To a degree, that's to be expected, given that any major developments will have to be saved for The Twelve proper. But surely there would have been ways to include some kind of character arc without infringing on that.

The point-of-view character who leads the reader through the proceedings is the Phantom Reporter, a Spirit type who likes to dress up in a costume but doesn't actually have any superhuman powers. And indeed, if there's such a thing as a theme to the story, this would be it: the juxtaposition of fantastic, insanely powerful characters like the Dynamic Man, Rockman or Electro (a big, remote-controlled robot, not the Spider-Man villain) and ordinary soldiers, with the Phantom Reporter serving as a middleman.

But the story deals with this in an awfully jumbled way that doesn't make a lot of sense in its best moments, and that shines a light on the deep conceptual flaws of this type of set-up in its worst. For all the Phantom Reporter's musings that it's the regular soldiers who really put out their necks and get things done, the comic neither supports nor addresses this point in any way.

On the contrary: It's always the costumed guys who drive the story, lead the way and defeat the enemy, at any stage in the plot. It's even explicitly stated at one point that, in the end, it was "the superman" who defeated the Nazi regime.

Right after making that observation, the narration supplies the obligatory disclaimer that "they are the real heroes," referring, of course, to "the average Joe in uniform [...] who spearheaded the Allied advance." Which is a problematic thing to bring up in a World War II superhero comic, particularly if it follows a scene in which a flying, bullet-proof, super-strong man uproots and beats up a German machine-gun nest without so much as breaking a sweat, and goes on to complain that it was no challenge for him. Well, where was this chap in Normandy? He and his friends would have come in handy.

Plainly, this type of story has to struggle even when the contradictions aren't explicitly dragged into the light of day. In the careless way it's dealt with here, the reader's suspension of disbelief grinds to a halt, and the whole thing collapses under its own idiocy.

What little there is of a plot doesn't add up, either. It's repeatedly suggested and never challenged in the story that Phantom Reporter is "crucial to the mission's success." Well, he's not, as it turns out, but it's never addressed or brought up again in the story.

Due to its commanding, high-pitched awe of the inherent bravery and heroism of soldiers ("This is their war... and their moment... We just make it look good."), the book repeatedly leaves the field of storytelling and starts preaching to its audience instead, which isn't just uninteresting, but also stresses the hypocrisy of this type of fiction.

Even as Mr. Weston, for fear of offending his audience's sensibilities, is busy trying to dispel the notion that regular soldiers are useless cannon fodder in the Marvel Universe, his fantasy about supermen on the battlefield wallows in liberal amounts of violence and gore—which obviously poses no risk of upsetting anyone. It never has, after all.

Not that these attitudes are unusual in American culture, but that doesn't make them any more interesting to read about when they're communicated in such an unreflected fashion. Besides, who was concerned about the importance of regular soldiers in the Marvel Universe, anyway? It's a non-issue, raised only to try and put it to rest again, by a piece of pulp that's taking itself far too seriously. Sure, the idea has potential. But here, it feels as half-baked and random as anything else in the story.

For the record, I don't mind unapologetically stupid, trashy comics with a bit of gusto. This effort, however, is a stupid and trashy comic that's boring, pretentious and scared stiff of offending anyone; it's mistaking that huge shiny sledgehammer it's wielding for something to balance with on eggshells. And that's not much fun at all.

Grade: D

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Morally Reprehensible": Mark Millar, Kick-Ass and the Failure of Criticism

I haven't seen the film adaptation of Mark Millar's Kick-Ass, and I wasn't planning to, but the kinds of reactions the movie is provoking from critics like Roger Ebert (who uttered the quote in the headline above) or Dana Stevens ("nihilistic and flip") are making me reconsider.

The amount of hand-wringing as people—even established, experienced critics—try and fail to explain what exactly rubs them the wrong way about this film is nothing short of amazing, and I think that's largely the magic of Mark Millar at work.

I can't stand Wanted (the comic; haven't seen the film, since I didn't think Swordfish was good enough to warrant a sequel), and I could barely stand the three, four issues I've read of Kick-Ass, either. But I have to admire the way Millar's work manages to put its critics on the defensive; and given that both Ebert and Stevens feel the need to qualify their comments by suggesting that they may just be "square" or silly, trying to apply standard concerns of morality to a comic-book movie, it seems that's translating to this film, as well.

Listen: There's no point in bringing morality into the discussion of a Mark Millar work. It's a dead end. It's what he wants you to do. He's expecting you. He's rigged the door knob so you'll get an electric jolt when you touch it. He's put grease and marbles on the floor. And he's booby-trapped the hallway with trip wires and suction arrows. He's prepared, and he is, in fact, counting on you to step right into that trap and get your ass kicked by the two universal cheap excuses for works that test the limits of good taste: It's satire!, and, It's just a dumb, over-the-top comic book!

It's not the former, of course, and it's not "just" the latter, but that won't help you if you engage Millar on those terms, because he's three steps ahead of you: It's the whole point of his work to be reprehensible in precisely the kind of way that appeals to people looking for brainless popcorn entertainment and drives the critics—or, for that matter, anyone foolish enough to stop and think about his work and what it says—utterly nuts.

Mark Millar is the master of that.

So, rather than to go skating on the thin ice of Millar's morality, I think it may be more fruitful to look at his technique.

It's been pointed out that at least some of Millar's work tends to flirt with homophobia, sexism, racism and what have you. I agree with a lot of that, but I don't agree with the conclusions.

I don't for a second believe that Mark Millar is a homophobe, a sexist and a racist. I don't believe that he's "famous" despite the fact that his work displays homophobic, sexist and racist tendencies, either.

I think the reality is much worse than that: Mark Millar's work is popular because he's a demagogic talent who has, like nobody else, perfected the art of appealing to his audience's worst and basest instincts in a way that doesn't just absolve them from experiencing any guilt from the pleasure that comes with it, but even makes them think it's cool, because it comes with just enough of a "plausible deniability" sheen to shrug it off as satire, or as stupid popcorn entertainment that's not meant to be taken seriously.

But, to quote Douglas Wolk, "knowing that you're perpetrating a cliché doesn't mean you've earned it."

Millar's brilliant shtick involves grabbing the reactionary self-loathing you find among many of the predominantly white, male, middle-class superhero (and, possibly, action-movie) audience by the balls and using it to his own advantage. His work speaks to the fears of being an emasculated loser and the resulting resentment against those to whose level you don't want to sink, those who are perceived to be even weaker and lower on the totem pole of society: women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals.

Or, to make a long story short: If you've got a latent grudge against bitches, niggers and faggots—or if you harbor any other urges deemed morally reprehensible in your tribe, for that matter—then Mark Millar is the guy who will gladly scratch that itch for you, who will jerk you off in a way that doesn't make you feel bad about it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Image Firsts: Youngblood #1

Image Comics, 32 pages, $ 1.00

Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Rob Liefeld
Colorist: Matt Yackey
Letterer: Rus Wooton

In theory, it makes sense to release Youngblood #1 as part of Image's own line of promotional $ 1.00 comics—it was the very first Image comic, after all, back when Image was still an imprint of the now defunct Malibu Comics, and it sold a million copies.

Then again, all indications to the contrary notwithstanding, this is not that comic.

I repeat: This is not a reprint of Youngblood #1. The only thing that was kept from the original is series creator Rob Liefeld's art. Everything else, including the colors, the text, the lettering and even the order of the pages, is new. This version of Youngblood #1 is a "remix," of sorts, re-assembled by Mr. Liefeld and writer Joe Casey—who had nothing to do with the 1992 original—for a "remastered" hardcover collection that came out a few years ago.

You'd think that information was worth mentioning, but it's nowhere to be found in the book. Also, somewhat oddly, other names have disappeared from the credits between the original Youngblood #1 and this edition. Rob Liefeld's own input in the story no longer seems worth mentioning; Hank Kanalz, a future Malibu editor and current WildStorm executive*, is no longer listed as a co-writer (although his name is still in the story, as an anagram in the byline of the newspaper on page one); and Erik Larsen's credit for contributing additional inks is also gone. All of which makes this a rather odd document of historical revisionism.

Also Chew co-creators John Layman and Rob Guillory are going to be miffed: "CHEW [...], its logo and all character likenesses are trademarks of Rob Liefeld, unless otherwise noted," the indicia reads.

This being a Rob Liefeld comic, misleading credits and some erroneous copy are the least of its problems. In short: Everything you've ever heard about the shortcomings in Rob Liefeld's art is probably true. His work is laughably incompetent on every conceivable level. His range of facial expressions covers "clenched teeth," "unclenched teeth" and "mouth closed," period. He usually avoids showing feet and draws them badly whenever he can't. Anatomy, proportion and perspective are novel concepts when it comes to Rob Liefeld-drawn characters and settings.

Mr. Liefeld's defenders sometimes explain that these flaws are matters of style. But they're not. They are, quite plainly, the results of fundamental failures of craft and an almost complete lack of control over the work. Clearly, Mr. Liefeld would like to make better comics, if he could; he just doesn't have the talent, discipline or attention span to make that a reality.

But the worst thing about Rob Liefeld's comics, including this one, is their failure to tell the story from panel to panel, and from page to page. Never mind the usual expectation that the action is meant to flow, to a degree, and that the art is meant to guide the eye through the story in a way that doesn't involve the reader staring in disbelief at least once per page—never mind those lofty standards. Frequently, Mr. Liefeld can't even be bothered to keep the look of his characters consistent from one panel to the next.

On page 4 of this book, the protagonist triples his weight for one panel that requires him to be drawn from a difficult angle. In a single fighting sequence on pages 20 and 21, the main character loses his big right shoulder pad, then grows it back with ammo attached, then loses it again; he loses his smaller left shoulder pad, then grows it back to bigger size, then loses it again; he loses the metallic glove on his right arm; he loses the metallic glove on his left arm and then grows it back; and he grows pointy ears!

That's not "loses it" as in, "He loses it in the fight," mind you. That's "loses it" as in, "Um, where did it go? And why is it back now?"

The really fascinating part, though, is that Mr. Liefeld hasn't just been able to get major work from major publishers despite those flaws for more than 20 years now, but has managed to make some of the best-selling comic books of the post-World War II era. He's still one of the more popular and commercially successful artists in the industry, for that matter—whenever Rob Liefeld provides interior pencils on a title, sales tend to increase. And Marvel seems convinced, even in the year 2010, that his uniformly terrible cover artwork helps to sell books—and Marvel may well be right.

And the apparent reason for that is Mr. Liefeld's style.

Whether he does it consciously or not, Rob Liefeld is an artistic genius when it comes to identifying popular, aesthetically pleasing stylistic surface elements and incorporating them into his own work. There's a good deal of Jack Kirby in the way Mr. Liefeld designs and stages his characters, and his line work and details evoke generations of popular artists—Herb Trimpe is in there, as are George Pérez and John Byrne; Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson and Arthur Adams are visible influences; even Mr. Liefeld's peers, fellow Image founders Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Erik Larsen somehow found their way into his style early on.

Lambast Rob Liefeld's art all you want, but he's still one of the most remarkable artists of his generation, simply because he gets by on style alone, with almost no credentials whatsoever when it comes to talent or craft as a storyteller to back him up. I'm not aware of anybody else about whom that's true—certainly not to this extent.

That doesn't change the fact that his comics are rubbish by any reasonable standard, of course; even with all the goodwill in the world for lowbrow comics, the ones of the Rob Liefeld variety are unequivocally terrible lowbrow comics. His characters are ridiculous, uninspired, one-dimensional knock-offs of the X-Men, the Avengers and the Teen Titans; plots and stories often exist only in so far as they can't be avoided if you only string enough pages together that have the same characters in them. And time and again, Mr. Liefeld has shown that he's not averse to just slapping together a stack of old pages when the deadline for a new project looms.

Joe Casey has fun, at least. Actual dialogue from the book:

"Damn... My one day off and I kill some no-name with the ballpoint my supervisor gave me as a gift on my last day at the F.B.I...!"

And when one of the characters confronts a thinly veiled Saddam Hussein stand-in in the Iraqi desert, he utters these words:

"That leaves you and I alone to... talk.

"About life. About sex. About pain.

"In other words... things I'm intimately acquainted with."

As much as I enjoy Mr. Casey taking the piss, though, even his (I hope) deliberately horrible dialogue can't elevate this mess into something that's engaging for even the fraction of a second, so I hope he was at least reimbursed well for his services here.

For Rob Liefeld, meanwhile, Youngblood #1, even in this odd revisionist edition, is one more testament to his unique, paradoxical brilliance; he's the shockingly incompetent genius of American mainstream comics, who's catching lightning in a bottle time and again with his unbelievably awful, bafflingly attractive work.

Grade: F

* Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly claimed that Mr. Kanalz was a Malibu Comics executive at the time he was working on Youngblood #1.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Wash: 04/13/10

o "Just Close Your Eyes and Throw a Dart."

That's some pretty Jack Kirby art The New York Times shows off in this piece by Dave Itzkoff, which says that animation studio Ruby-Spears Productions, which employed Kirby in the 1980s, just discovered 600 production boards the creator produced while working there, and now plans to capitalize on those properties in "movies, television shows, comics, videos games and more—all of which they intend to pursue," according to Itzkoff.

As much as I like Kirby's art, I'm probably just too cynical to muster much excitement. Why not just take all those drawings and publish them in a big, shiny book or two, with the proper historical context? What's the appeal of past-prime Kirby creations executed by people not Kirby? Didn't Marvel try that a few years back, with predictably poor results? Also, even though the Kirbys' lawyer seems to agree that this was work for hire and fully belongs to the studio, the whole thing seems like a rather odd footnote to the current copyright tussle between Kirby's heirs and Marvel.

Then again, I have to admit my inner 12-year-old wants someone to ship all that stuff off to Grant Morrison and see what he comes up with, but that's an unlikely scenario, I should think.

o "The Story He Pitched Began to Evolve Into Something Quite Different"

All the best to Paul Cornell, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, but editor Matt Idelson's comments about yet another last-minute, post-solicitation change of creative personnel at DC make this the most awful press release in recent memory.

o "A Raspberry Jam Diorama of the Soviet Union, a Diorama Inset with Ventilation Piping, an Extended Trilobyte and a Nest of Ugly Sausage"

Ladies and gentlemen: the one and only Tom Crippen is at it again, reviewing Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel's Siege #2.

o "Even Without Marvel"

Heidi MacDonald talks to a Diamond representative Kuo-yu Liang about Marvel's decision to move its bookstore distribution from Diamond to Hachette in December. Liang puts a good face on the development, but his comment is still understandably uncheerful.

In other news, MacDonald points out that in March 2010, Image Comics is not a top-five publisher in the direct market. That group, as always led by Marvel and (with some distance) DC, is rounded out by IDW, Dark Horse and Dynamite this month, in that order.

o "On Its Way"

Sean T. Collins reports that a sequel to Marvel's indie anthology Strange Tales is on its way. Personally, I'm hoping for a follow-up to Unstable Molecules by James Sturm, called "Marvel Day."

I'm not holding my breath for that, though.

o "You Should Learn to Enjoy the Finer Things in Life"

Viewable for free at Marvel this week: Soldier X, by Darko Macan and Igor Kordey, one of the best, most innovative superhero works around. It's never been collected, because Marvel probably figures it's a little too odd for the American market, so this is your chance.

The first two issues are up, so far. Here's my take on the series.

(Found via Sean T. Collins@Robot 6)

o "Until the Night You Died. The First Time."

I review The Question #37, a Blackest Night tie-in by Greg Rucka, Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan.

Also: The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange #1, by Kieron Gillen, Frazer Irving and others.

The Question #37

DC Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99

Writers: Dennis O'Neil, Greg Rucka
Penciler: Denys Cowan
Inkers: Bill Sienkiewicz, John Stanisci
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: John J. Hill
Cover artists: Cully Hamner, Dave McCaig

This one-shot had three major strikes against it in my book before I ever cracked the cover.

One, its motivation—both in plot terms and in marketing terms—is that it spins out of (and back into) DC's "Blackest Night" crossover, which I'm not following. Two, as its numbering suggests, it's a belated epilogue of sorts to Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan's The Question, a series which ran for 36 issues from 1986 through 1990 and which I haven't read. And three, even apart from those two points, a big part of why the comic (and the seven others like it that DC released in January) exists at all comes down to nostalgia, which, for its own sake, isn't something I'm terribly interested in.

Then again, I do tend to like Greg Rucka's comics, and I've been following Mr. Rucka and artist Cully Hamner's current "The Question" strip in Detective Comics, so I thought I might enjoy this, anyway.

I didn't, and I don't think it's a good comic, either.

It's a mechanically sound one, certainly. Mr. Cowan knows how to tell a story with his art, even though his martial arts scenes aren't as convincing as the rest of the book. The rough, scratchy pencil style adequately conveys the mood of a morbid struggle set in and around a lighthouse on the coast, in the dark, in the rain. The inks look more consistent than you'd expect from the fact that they're by two different people one of whom is Bill Sienkiewicz, but he and John Stanisci manage to give the story a consistent look, anyway. I imagine coloring this type of book is not the most enviable job in the world, but David Baron pulls it off solidly, given what he's got to work with—until those moments when the plot forces him to start playing with the color spectrum, that is.

Which brings us to the problematic part: the story.

A couple of years ago, during Marvel's "Secret Invasion" crossover, there were all kinds of miniseries in which Marvel characters fought the Skrulls. It was a terribly repetitive mess, and the fact that none of those comics were in any way essential to the plot of "Secret Invasion" didn't improve matters.

This is the DC version of that, only instead of shape-shifting space aliens, the characters have to fight zombie versions of DC Universe characters who died at one point or other. In this case, it's the current Question, Renée Montoya, fighting the old Question, with help from a supporting cast member she inherited from him and another one that returns from the old series.

The story gets on my bad side right away, because someone thought it was a good idea to front-load the first three pages with information that, as it turns out, is not of particular interest to anything else that happens in it. Says the narration on page two: "Until the night you died. The first time." That's the part when the story stops working for anyone who isn't in awe of what's being recounted for no other reason than because the information refers back to a stack of comics they read, mostly 20 years ago. I can follow the bulk of what's going on, mind you. It's just not something I'm particularly interested in, and that three-page flashback serves as an anesthetic.

From there, it's an uphill struggle, and the story never wins me back.

At one point, there's a faint glimmer of interest when one character suggests they want to quiz their old zombie friend about the secrets of life and death, but as far as I can tell, it comes out of nowhere, and either way, that's where it ends up going, because the plot requires the returning deceased to be unequivocally evil and a hundred percent intent on biting people's heads off or something, because that evidently makes things more interesting—if by "more interesting" you mean it provides the motivation for the characters to punch each other. (Not that they hadn't been punching each other before, for similarly plausible and convincing reasons.)

All of which is to say, this is an awful mess of a story. It's a pointless flashback and two pointless extended fights, strung together by a nonsensical plot and starring a bunch of unconvincing, uninteresting, unlikeable characters who do idiotic or implausible things.

And that, again, is even before you get to the (unexplained) color-coded panels with the inverted, lantern-shaped balloons that say things like "Avarice" or "Fear" or "Compassion" and supply the characters with a ready-made motivation to either start punching each other or to stop doing so.

It's an odd misfire. The point it seems to have in mind is that not much good can ever come from digging up dead old things, while at the same time it fails to realize that it's a product of nostalgia itself, in the worst way imaginable.

If this is the kind of thing we're going to see less of from Mr. Rucka now that he's done with DC, I won't complain.

Grade: D

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange #1

Marvel, 48 pages, $ 3.99

Writers: Kieron Gillen, Peter Milligan, Ted McKeever, Mike Carey
Artists: Frazer Irving, Frank Brunner, Ted McKeever, Marcos Martin
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover artist: Lucio Parrillo

Credit where it's due: With The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange, editors Jody LeHeup and John Barber have made the book that succeeds where the previous Indomitable Iron Man failed—it's another black-&-white one-shot inspired by the similar Marvel magazines that had their heyday in the 1970s, and this one has the proper amounts of weirdness.

The lead story, a 22-page piece by Phonogram writer Kieron Gillen and artist Frazer Irving, perfectly captures the spirit of some of the better and odder superhero books from the 1970s. The plot, about a German psychologist who references Faust and traffics in his patients' souls ("Call me Doktor."), perfectly fits the quirky tone of the story. It's deadpan comedy a lot of the time, but it's got a strong enough center to prevent it from trailing off into silliness. Ultimately, the story leaves Doctor Strange—and the reader—wondering what, if anything, was accomplished by the hero, much like, say, Steve Gerber used to in his period stories.

The characters, brought alive in lush and sensual lines and shades by Mr. Irving, move like they're dancing to something that must be sounding very much like Blondie's "Atomic." (Not exactly, though, since the story is explicitly set in 1975, four years before the song was published; but who knows—it's magic!) Mr. Gillen has some good fun with Mephisto, meanwhile, whose casual, self-consciously grandstanding evilness and fabulously flowery dialogue constantly remind me of Deadwood's Al Swearengen character here. "As the father of lies, I recognize those who are providing my children with fine lodgings," he says at one point, with a diabolical grin on his face. He looks the part, too, come to think of it. (B+)

Written by fellow Brit Peter Milligan and drawn by Frank Brunner, a veteran of the American comics industry and an archetypal 1970s horror and "weird stuff" artist, the second story starts with a cheeky and furious set-up. In the two-page sequence, the creators grab a handful of the worst gender stereotypes and storytelling clichés imaginable and use them to escalate their scene in a way that's laugh-out-loud glorious. The rest of the story is a very disciplined and effective riff on a single, insightful idea, with a suitably clever and ambiguous punch line. This is everything you could hope for from an 11-page Doctor Strange story by two masters of the form. (B+)

Next up is a surreal 11-pager written and drawn by Ted McKeever, which is odd in the way Ted McKeever stories tend to be. As far as I can tell, the piece ties in thematically with Strange's attempts to drown his demons in alcohol right after the accident that damaged his hands and made him lose his job as a surgeon. I can't make heads and tails of it, to be honest, and I suspect it doesn't make a lot of sense as a story. But it's pleasantly arcane, rather than annoyingly pointless, if that makes any sense. (C)

Finally, there's a four-page prose story by Mike Carey, with illustrations by the always splendid Marcos Martin, about Strange's first brush with the Mindless Ones on the "astral plane"—a somewhat formulaic, but nonetheless well-written and solidly entertaining piece. (C+)

Mystic Hands is a fun package overall. This is what we talk about when we talk about good, deliberately trashy 1970s pastiche comics that are worth people's time and money.

Grade: B

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Wash: 04/09/10

o "A Two-Page Spread of Sixteenth-Century Florence So Gorgeous and Imaginatively Precise That It Takes a Moment to Register That It's Also Got Galactus in It"

Douglas Wolk does his twice-weekly-or-so thing at Techland again, talking about the way S.H.I.E.L.D. artist Dustin Weaver and Market Day writer/artist James Sturm root their stories in place and time.

o "An Insanely Responsible and Decent Adult"

I'm very glad that I wrapped up my 6,000-word piece on the evolution of superheroes earlier this week, before I saw David Uzumeri's succinct cross-examination of Astro Boy and All Star Superman; otherwise, I would have ended up on another tangent that would have made the thing wholly impossible, if it isn't already.

Anyway, this is the type of article that makes me glad we've suddenly got sites like Techland (see above) and, in this case, Comics Alliance. I like the thought of this being the type of thing that got them the Eisner nomination. Congratulations!

o "I Want That Sandwich."

Kurt Busiek, inspired by Heidi MacDonald's MoCCA food guide, needs help for what may turn out to be his best work yet.

Also: I want that sandwich, so I hope Mr. Busiek shares his findings. If I ever get to New York City, I suspect I'll just be hopping from one food place to the next.

The Statue of Liberty is nice, but if it came down to the Statue of Liberty or that sandwich, let me tell you, the pale old French lady would have to wait another day for me to mount her.

o "Misunderstood, Undervalued and at Odds with Itself"

Not comics, but quite: New York Times movie critic A. O. Scott provides a rather sketchy, but still worthwhile little essay on what criticism means and does and why it always and never fails at everything it sets out to do.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Wash: 04/07/10

o "Feeder System for Brick and Mortar Stores"

Marvel editor Joe Quesada's comments on distributing Marvel comics on Apple's new Ipad device are probably the most bafflingly wrong-headed thing I've seen this week, in terms of comics-related nonsense on the Internet.

My only question about Quesada's statement is: Does he believe that, or is Marvel just scared stiff of those direct-market, "brick-and-mortar" retailers? Take a wild guess.

o "I Was Just Old Enough to Know I Was Going to Get Hosed If I Let These Guys Drive My Bus."

The Darwyn Cooke panel at Wondercon, as reported by Graeme McMillan for Comic Book Resources, provides another few insights into what's holding American comics and their creators back.

"'You get worried because of how far your readers will go with you. Are they my readers or Green Lantern's readers? I was worried. I sweated that, I sweated that a lot.' Part of [Cooke's –ed.] concern was the rougher style of art, which he said he'd been consciously avoiding since an earlier attempt in the Catwoman prologue that ran in issues of Detective Comics in 2001 met with editorial disapproval.

"[...] This was a symptom of a larger problem, [Cooke –ed.] suggested, as creators try to meet expectations of fans and editors: 'It's hard to explain, and I'm not whining, but in the mainstream direct market, none of us are drawing they way we want to draw.'"

Another report that's well worth your time.

o "It's Not the Size of the Boat, It's the Motion of the Ocean"

Sean T. Collins makes me realize that my decision to wait for the first collection of Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver's S.H.I.E.L.D. was foolish and wrong and in need of immediate correction.

It's been a while (Morrison's New X-Men?) since a serial Marvel comic made me anticipate the "next issue" with something approaching giddy excitement. Maybe this one can pull it off. Unfortunately, I'll still have to wait until next month for the first issue.

o "One of These X-Men Will Die"

I'm very much the kind of comics reader who should care about this sort of promotion, but in practice, I don't give a toss. I haven't read an X-Men comic in a year (apart from Peter David's X-Factor, which continues to be consistently entertaining, at least), and Marvel doesn't give me the sense that I'm missing anything.

I'd love to read a Matt Fraction X-Men series, for instance, but Marvel don't seem to think that's a good idea, for some reason.

Seriously: The last X-Men run I really enjoyed was Grant Morrison's, and I doubt even he could get a good book out of the way these titles have been run since 2004. No wonder sales are in the toilet.

o "Hammering the Resurrection Button"

Whereas the tired old "SOMEONE WILL DIE!" hat is the only creative means Marvel creators seem to have left to try and sell their flagging X-Men line, DC is pulling in the opposite direction right now, as Douglas Wolk points out at Techland, and—not surprisingly—ends up in much the same spot as a result.

o "I Do It Without Thinking."

Robert Kirkman's approach to his characters in The Walking Dead, as outlined by the writer in Monday's Q&A, is a controversial topic in the comments over at The Beat.

The Wash: 04/06/10

o "Not Currently Doing Anything for DC Right Now"

Judging from his work—what I've read of it, anyway—I've always regarded Greg Rucka as one of the most literary writers in the North American market. This brave transcript of his panel discussion with Comics Alliance editor Laura Hudson at Wondercon last weekend confirms that it's not just a trick of the light or something, but the result of talent, insight and a lot of hard work.

Here's a nice excerpt from Rucka's thoughts on his process back when he'd finished the first Whiteout story:

"[...] I got nervous, because [writing –ed.] had become easy. And I sat down for the next [novel –ed.] and said, I have to make sure I'm challenging myself. The worst thing that can happen for a writer is for a writer to start believing their own press. I think the industry and the comics industry in particular is littered with the bodies of writers who believed their own press. And you can see the moment they did, and then the work nosedives."

As far as Rucka's now concluded work for either of the two major comics publishers is concerned, I can't say it bothers me a lot. I've enjoyed the "Batwoman" feature in Detective Comics, but not nearly as much as I've enjoyed Stumptown—or Queen & Country, or Whiteout, for that matter.

I'm looking forward to Stumptown #3 (in May), the third Queen & Country novel (in October) and whatever's next on his schedule.

In the meantime, go read the transcript. It's one of the ones that are worth the effort of being written up and read.

o "I Would Just Suggest to Anyone Who Likes Hyper-Violence and Police Brutality to Check It Out"

Says the aforementioned Joe Casey of his upcoming one-shot Officer Downe, drawn by Chris Burnham, also announced at Wondercon. Always looking forward to new Casey comics.

o "Part of the Overall Batman Mythos"

Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder was announced to return in 2011, renamed Dark Knight: Boy Wonder.

The title change is marketing-driven, obviously. I just hope the comic will still be mad as a bag of sparrows, personally.

For more on Wondercon, Heidi MacDonald has a report that covers all the essentials, Douglas Wolk has some bullet points, and Tom Spurgeon has an extensive, pleasantly subjective report that doesn't have a current photograph of Joe Casey, unfortunately.

o "Of All the Stuff Creators Have to Deal With, Marc’s Column Is Not Even in the Worst 100 Such Things."

The new DC month-to-month column for February went up at The Beat last week. The above quote, which I like tremendously, comes from Gail Simone. I'm a little relieved, to be honest.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Q&A: Robert Kirkman

Writer and Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman is a busy man these days. In addition to writing his continuing signature series, the superhero epic Invincible and the post-apocalyptic zombie saga The Walking Dead, Kirkman has been working on the latest wave of "Pilot Season" one-shots from Image imprint Top Cow, a miniseries called Haunt that pairs him with Todd McFarlane, a reunion project of the seven Image founders called Image United, and The Astounding Wolf-Man, another creator-owned series set to conclude later this year. In the past, Kirkman has also written Marvel comics such as The Irredeemable Ant-Man, Ultimate X-Men and Marvel Zombies.

When he's not doing comics, the writer is also currently involved in adaptating The Walking Dead for television along with filmmaker Frank Darabont. As of this writing, the channel AMC just ordered six episodes of the show, even before filming of the pilot has begun.

For the the tenth German volume of The Walking Dead (which I'm translating), Mr. Kirkman was kind enough to answer a few questions on the series, on storytelling in general, and on his decision to join Image Comics as a partner in 2008. A German translation of this Q&A can be found at Der Tagesspiegel, as well as in The Walking Dead 10: Dämonen, out now from Cross Cult Verlag and available here, here and here, for instance.

There are spoilers up to The Walking Dead, Vol. 9 or issue #54, if you're not caught up on the series.

MARC-OLIVER FRISCH: Looking back at the last six years' worth of The Walking Dead, are you happy with the way things have gone, in terms of the story and how it's been realized? Is there anything that you'd want to do differently with the gift of hindsight?

ROBERT KIRKMAN: Maybe... maybe I wouldn't have cut [protagonist] Rick [Grimes]'s hand off. I don't know, it was such a cool moment that I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it.

Other than that... nothing.

The book is more successful than I ever could have imagined and I'm still having as much fun (if not more) as I did when I started it... so I don't think I'd want to change anything.

Since we last talked five years back, the cast of The Walking Dead has changed dramatically—only a handful of the characters from back then remain. Are there any "right" or "wrong" reasons to let a given character die? How do you know losing a cast member is better for the book than keeping them around?

I don't. I have a rule on killing characters... I do it without thinking. I kind of like that... it seems more real to me. If I ever kept a character around because I thought it would be good for the story, I'd feel like I was cheating. That's not how death works. It's supposed to be quick and sudden and disruptive. So I try to keep that in mind.

Nine times out of ten, I know when a character is going to die many issues before it happens, but I try to never consider "what if I kept these people alive?" Once I think of a good reason to kill them, I put it out of my mind... that's it, it's decided, they're dying.

The only character I've ever given a stay of execution is Abraham, and that's because he was planned to die pretty soon after his introduction, but his character changed drastically shortly before he was introduced in the book... so I changed things around to suit that. 

As the series progresses and the characters—especially Rick—go through radical ordeals, make tough choices and sometimes do gruesome things, are you worried that the audience might get lost trying to find someone in the book to empathize with and root for?

That is a concern. I do try to make sure that I show their humanity as often as possible. I don't think any characters in the book have gotten to the point where they're irredeemable. If I feel I've gone over that edge of making the characters too unlikeable... I do my best to do something to pull them back over as soon as possible.

I try to be very mindful of the fact that readers need someone to root for, but at the same time, this is a dark story and I try to never pull any punches. We'll see.

Do you think the book could work without a recurring protagonist like Rick? Is he expendable?

He could be... eventually. Maybe I've already said too much. Rick could die at any moment. That's a fact.

Nobody in this book is safe. Whether the book could survive without him, or not... I hope to one day find out.

At this point in the story, it seems the real danger for the cast often doesn't originate with the zombies anymore, but with other people—or with themselves. Were you always aware that this was going to be the direction of the series?

Yes. The zombies are something with a fixed set of behavior. They're something you can learn to avoid.

I always knew I wanted to get to a point in this book where people knew how to deal with them. They're still a threat, but it's something our characters are prepared for.

As far as the Governor is concerned, who was the major villain for a couple of years, I think everyone probably expected a western-style showdown with Rick or Michonne—and then when the time came, things didn't go down quite like that. Do you consciously play with these kinds of genre expectations?

All the time. I try to steer expectations one way and then do something different. That's the writer's job, right?

At the same time, I do try to sometimes give readers exactly what they want. I try to change things up as much as possible to keep people guessing.

With serial fiction that's driven, to an extent, by a "big mystery," there always seems to be the danger of disappointing the audience when it's finally resolved, like, say, The X-Files did with the alien conspiracy angle. Is it a concern of yours, regarding the zombie plague, that readers might at one point demand a resolution, or might be disappointed with the one presented to them?

I've always maintained that the cause of the zombie plague is completely useless in the context of this story. I plan to never reveal it. So hopefully people won't be disappointed by that—because I've been saying that since the beginning.

This book is about the characters.

It seems you'd found a great balance between creator-owned work and work-for-hire assignments, with some very successful results on both ends. Why go through the hassle of joining Image as a partner?

The hassle was doing work-for-hire. It just didn't suit me. I wasn't interested in it. All I wanted to do was creator-owned work.

Also, there's that commonly held belief that you have to do work-for-hire to finance creator-owned work... which most people think never makes any money. But I was doing work-for-hire for Marvel, and it accounted for less than a quarter of my income and three quarters of my work load. I'd always wanted to work at Marvel... and I did it. So it was time to focus on what I enjoyed, which is doing whatever I want with no restrictions.

I'm happier than I've ever been, and sales on all my books have gone up since I left Marvel... so things are great. 

From listening to creators, it seems that work for hire is what pays the bills from month to month, whereas creator-owned work is more something that pays off in the long term. Would you say that's a fair way of putting things?

For some, sure... but maybe they're just not putting the same effort into their creator-owned work that they are in their work-for-hire.

I mean, sure... it's hard to start a career in creator-owned work and stay there forever. That's because creator-owned work sells almost entirely based on the popularity of the creator and very few creator-owned books take off like Bone or Strangers in Paradise and allow the creator to stick with it.

I started out in creator-owned, gained some notoriety with it, moved on to Marvel, got my name out there a little more, and now I am able to make a living only at creator-owned books.

I don't agree that you have to continue doing both... especially if it's not something you want to do.

Thanks to Filip Kolek and Cross Cult Verlag.