There was quite a buzz on the internet last week following a post by comic veteran Jerry Ordway on his personal blog.
The gist of Ordway’s post was that despite his long and illustrious history in comics, particularly with DC, he’s found himself marginalized as of late, by a company who continues to make money off of his work while paying him very little in royalties. He wasn’t being bitter at all, merely pointing out that there isn’t a lot of respect given to the comic veterans today, and a lot of talented veterans are finding it difficult to get work. He was also asking comic fans to be vocal about wanting to see these veterans on Marvel, DC and other big publishers’ books. The blog post was very candid, and it seemed to be very eye-opening for a lot of fans who had no idea this was going on.
Following Ordway’s post, there was a lot of condemnation of DC (and big publishers in general), and a lot of head shaking about what a tragedy it is that this is happening to these great comic creators.
And that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Because we as comic fans are a big reason why this stuff is happening. It’s not a mystery, or a conspiracy--it’s a business. A business where publishers need to make money by selling stuff to us, the consumers. And when we buy the things they sell us, that tells them they should keep doing what they’re doing. When we don’t, it tells them they need to change. And when we tell them what we want and follow through with our spending dollars, we can actually get what we want.
But we don’t do that. Well, maybe you, the one jumping up and down all angry and self-righteous right now, does that, but not most comic fans. Most comic fans support brands, not creators. Most Batman fans bought Batman comics before Scott Snyder came along, and they’ll keep buying Batman comics when he moves on. Ditto for the Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man. Sure, it’s nice when a creator you like is on a book and they’re doing a great job, but for many mainstream comic fans, what matters is the character/brand, not the creator.
Case in point--how many people have been buying the Human Bomb miniseries that Ordway has been drawing? It’s written by Palmiotti and Gray, as well. According to the January numbers, Human Bomb #2 sold 8,152 copies and was 193rd for the month. You could make the argument that with a creative team like that, no matter what character they were working on, the book should easily be in the top 100. In order to do that, the book would have needed to sell more than double what it did in January (#100 was Green Arrow at 19,888, a book that has been mediocre to just plain awful since the relaunch).
So, a book with an all-star creative team cannot hold a candle to brands like Superboy (another book that has gotten less than stellar reviews throughout), Before Watchmen (the books no one was going to buy because they’re outraged they even exist) and Teen Titans (which, despite being almost painfully bad from the start sells 60,000+ a month). I’m not picking on the books I just mentioned (I bought both Green Arrow and Superboy for several issues), I’m merely pointing out that people follow brands, not creators when it comes to mainstream characters. You can bet that if the Human Bomb miniseries was selling at least 20,000 copies an issue and people were raving about Ordway’s art, you’d see him on another project very soon. (On a side note, Palmiotti and Gray have already figured out the key to success--diversifying. They’re doing fine with DC now, but they have plenty of irons in the fire for the day the DC stuff dries up.)
So, if you’re sad about the fact that many of the creators you grew up with aren’t getting work anymore, do something about it. Stop buying crap every month just because it has your favorite superhero logo on it, and start buying up everything your favorite creator works on, not just the books with your favorite characters. Keep creators relevant with your dollars. Facebook and Twitter comments are not going to put food on their tables.
Except for that one time with Gail Simone and Batgirl--that was pretty amazing.