Todd McFarlane had this to say about independent comics: "I want to get on a panel one day with some of the independent people...where's the fine line between 'your book is selling only 12,000 copies because it's high art and people don't understand it' and it's just a piece of @#$%'? Where's that line? The answer might be, the reason the public's not buying it is 'cuz it sucks! They don't want it! You're not giving the public anything the public's interested in." He goes on to repeat the word "sucks" about five times like a 3rd grader.
A reader wrote in and asked if I might cover my response to McFarlane's statements, as well as similar ones that he made about Acclaim. Since I'm a big fan of indies and some of Acclaim, it sounded like a good idea. Then the real world went and changed the focus when Acclaim downsized to near-extinction, Awesome went under and the Image non-line folded, all within about a week of one another. It's like a mini comics apocalpyse, and I've got something to say about that too.
First of all, for those reading who haven't figured it out yet, Todd is full of it. He doesn't know what he's talking about, and as usual, he's talking out his ass. Todd has had the good fortune to create a property that appeals to adolescents, he was gifted with decent artistic skill, and none of his readers care that he can't write at all well. He's deluded himself into thinking that because he got some lucky breaks with HBO and New Line, he now knows everything about the comics industry.
He doesn't. Money doesn't equal quality. Spawn is a top seller, Lobdell on X-Men was a top seller...Marz on Green Lantern is a top seller. Now, those books may be okay (I don't think so, but people are welcome to their opinions) but they are not by any stretch of the imagination the best writing or art available in modern comics. If money equalled quality, Quantum & Woody and Kurt Busiek's Astro City should be outselling everything on the shelves. The Copybook Tales would be making J. Torres and Tim Levins rich. Peter David would still be on Hulk and Aquaman because the profits would be keeping Marvel unbelievably happy.
So why aren't they? Do they all suck? Hardly. There are forces in the market beyond money. Acclaim publishes Q&W, which is one of the huge problems that title has encountered. Acclaim/Valiant burned most of its goodwill by ousting Jim Shooter and then eventually doing "Birthquake," which consisted mostly of launching titles with top talent and yanking them after about two issues to fill in with third-rate writers and artists. So when Fabian relaunched, he was fighting a negative image. Worse, his books only had a few solid hits, with most of them being just okay. Now, with Marvel or DC, there would have been time to retool. But Fabes only got one shot, and although it all sounded good on paper, it didn't work out the way it should have. You can't blame him for that. *I* would have launched almost every title Fabian did, because they sounded so strong and featured top talent. But even the ones that weren't dead-on hits didn't "suck" for the most part. They just missed their mark and needed retooling. If Fabian and his editors can be faulted for anything, it's for waiting too long to retool. A shame, because at least one of the retoolings (Dwayne McDuffie's X-O) has been exceptional.
On the independent front, I'd bet McFarlane doesn't read black and white titles because he automatically considers them to be doofy art type stuff. I know that was the attitude I had when I was 12, and that seems to be a good measure of McFarlane's mentality. Sadly, he's not alone. A lot of people won't pick up a black and white book, whether it "sucks" or not. Image's non-line was really helping in that regard, bringing black and white titles more into the mainstream view, and I'm really sad to see it go. Thankfully, smaller companies like Slave Labor/Amaze Ink and Caliber are still around. Not to mention the numerous small press and self-publishers who do a book that sells "only 12,000 copies" or less for a few things Todd couldn't possibly understand, like love of the medium, love of their characters, artistic integrity and the joy of creating. All that Todd seems to understand is the joy of raking in money hand over fist.
So, in short...comics don't die only because of low quality. They die because of previous problems with their publishers. They die because their founder is having tax problems (Hi, Rob Liefeld!) They die because they aren't reaching any audience but the comics mainstream, which is fascinated only with superheroics. They die because short-sighted, narrow-minded greedy fools in the industry bad-mouth them for no reason other than to assert their own false belief in their own superiority.
Randy W. Lander
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