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Story length, production studios and a general rant.
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ragtag
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2001 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm new to this forum, so I just have a few thoughts I'd like to share with you all.

First up is one thing I've never been able to understand. Why do studios produce comics? Why not just individual writers, like with novels?

I work in animation, and there it's quite clear why you want a whole bunch of people to make a film. It would take a single animator a minimum of 7 years to produce a feature film, and that with very limited animation and cutting corners everywhere (plus it would cost him a fortune).

But a comic book, with a script the length of a feature or a novel wouldn't have to take an author/artist more than a year or two of full time work to create. What do you need a team of colorers, inkers, writers, artists and suits for to create comics. I would think a system more like the one used for old fashion books would be more interesting. Where authors bring their books (or proposal for a book) to a publisher, and he either publishes or not (yeah, I know comics get published like that too...I just want more of it).

The first thing that pops to my mind of companies comparable to Marvel in the books industry, are things like Miles&Boon that produce monthly crappy love stories, written by different people on conveyor belts.

So maybe one of the problems with the comics industry is SERIES. I think series don't work that well in any medium, be it books, tv or comics. Partly because too many people are stiring in the pot, and partly because most stories only have a certain limited scope, a certain ideal length. Trying to make them go on and on, will eventually just water them down to nothing. The greatest work in other media is not in series form. The best films produced are not episodes of a tv series, and the best books written are not part of mass produced book series. Might this apply to comics too?

I know there are a pile of good comic books out there, written and drawn by a single author or an author/artist team. But at my local comics store these are kind of overshadowed by comic series in pure volume. When I go to a video store, I might fiend a few episodes of Friends, and a couple of South Park episodes, but all the rest will be feature films. At the library there will be thousand of novels, and they won't even bother with the series stuff. Perhaps that's what the public wants, perhaps having more comic books that express the voice of a single author might help attract new readers.

Phew....

And now that I'm on the subject of new readers. I noticed when I published my online comics Tim last year, that it was attracting a lot of people that generally don't read comics. The reason was simple; the subject matter. It's about being young and gay, and a lot of the people that read it were young and gay (McClouds 9th revolution...was it?). I'm not saying that you have to write minority group stories to attract new audience (though it does help . Someone who likes crime novels would possibly be interested in reading good crime comics too. A rom-com movie fan, might like rom-com comics too.

Which sort of brings me back to my local comics store. Say someone likes my comics (hey it might happen), and figures he'll go to his local comics store and check to see if they have any more gay comics. If he digs deep into the back shelf of the store he might find something like Stuck Rubber Baby or Ariel Schrags great quirky comics, but the first thing he will see as he enters will be piles upon piles of superhero comics.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I don't mind too much that the big comics companies are not doing that good. They belong to the past anyway, with the pulp adventure book publishers of the 30s. Maybe it's a good thing that the comics world gets turned a little upside down, maybe we need a revolution...be it in the form of graphic novels or web comix or whatever may come. A new way of thinking.

That's all folks....

Ragnar
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rcar
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2001 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As for why it takes a studio to produce a comic. It takes a lot of work to put one out on a monthly basis. One person couldn't do it. As for being water down. Yeah that happens. A good story can't last forever.

It sounds like you are talking about a graphic novel. One book, one story. There are plenty of those around. I have to agree about comic book stores. I used to collect comics a long time ago. I had my favorites that I read. Recently I went to a comic book store to see about buying some comics. There must have been over 500 titles. Way too overwelming. Where do I start? I started picking some that looked good and before I knew it I had over fifty dollars worth of comics in my hands. So I put them all back. I did buy a couple that I used to get and you know what, ten years later, the stories were just about the same as when I left off. I might as well go back and re-read what I have.

Randy
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2001 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

warning: broad generalizations follow!

Let's keep in mind, though, that the video store movie vs. TV analogy doesn't work perfectly for this situation. The fact that there are far more movies in video stores is due more to the fact that (in most cases) a movie can only make money through people paying to see it (either at the cinema or on video/DVD/whatever), while television is paid for by the advertisers and later syndication. A television show's production costs, by the time it is broadcast, have already been paid for, while a film is still in debt until the audience pays to watch it. Therefore, there is much less need on the studios' parts to issue videotape/DVD/whatever copies of any given TV show unless it proves sufficiently popular (Star Trek, Buffy, Sopranos, etc.).

With this in mind, it's useful to understand that these days both Marvel and DC as corporations exist more to maintain awareness of the characters that they own so as to license those characters out for films, TV, toys, paper plates, bedspreads, etc. and this need requires a monthly comic and (as Randy pointed out) a monthly comic often requires a studio. The quality of the comics-- from the corporate standpoint-- are not as important. Circulation (perversely) IS important, as it affects how much the companies can charge for advertising. Ideally (as with TV) advertising should pay for the cost of creating the comic before a single copy is sold.

Therefore, the film/TV analogy applies better when viewed from a business standpoint, since a lone artist must toil for months or years to produce an original graphic novel which (like a film) can only recover costs through sales of itself, while monthly studio comics (like TV) should be able to appear regularly regardless of who's working on them.

hmmm... I'm rambling so much that even I've lost track of my point. Maybe somebody else can run with this.

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John2two
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2001 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To summarize my wholehearted agreement with Ragnar:

..WANT...MORE GOOD COMICS!...

Flippancy aside, I'd say that the series get established when one author has a vision for a good story and does it. But because of the serial publishing angle, the publisher keeps it going beyond the exhaustion of that vision. Eventually, circulation trickles off to the point that the publisher either (a) recruits a new writer/artist to inject fresh vision, or (b) cancels the book. Then if the character still has life, eventually a new creator comes along and convinces the publisher to let him start a new serial with the character. The cycle has happened several times to my fave, Green Arrow. Thank dog and Kevin Smith that we're currently in an upswing of the cycle.

John
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Jack Masters
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2001 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

I think series don't work that well in any medium, be it books, tv or comics. Partly because too many people are stiring in the pot, and partly because most stories only have a certain limited scope, a certain ideal length. Trying to make them go on and on, will eventually just water them down to nothing. The greatest work in other media is not in series form. The best films produced are not episodes of a tv series, and the best books written are not part of mass produced book series.


Well, regardless of the "best" works in any medium, hundreds of bad and mediocre works exist both in series form as well as single works. I think many factors contribute to the split between stand-alone works and series, but I do not think the "ideal length" of the average story really has much impact compared to say, cost, or difficulty. It takes a huge amount of time and energy to make a good series, but once you have created a good series, you have something that interacts with its audience on a whole different level then a single work.

Besides, not all works of art come in the form of stories at all. Scott McCloud's I Can't Stop Thinking, for example.

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Tim Mallos
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2001 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know, what I like about this forum is that everybody is pretty level-headed. Folks generally have a live-and-let-live outlook, which is cool. I don't care at all for the staple DC and Marvel-type serialized super-hero things. I've only come to comic books in my late 20's, because I found out there were other things being done.

But, those books are fine by me- you know, whatever. Other things don't have to be wrong for what I choose to do / enjoy to be right.

Tim
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Greg Stephens
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2001 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good attutude, Tim-- I think we mostly share that here (or try to, anyhow).

I must agree with what Mr. Masters said about mediocrity abounding everywhere. In comics, as elsewhere, it's a clear case of Sturgeon's Law.

I think I'm going to start another thread for people to list their current favorite comic stories (in any format).

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glych
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2001 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comic books are great...there's no denying that....Super Hero stories aren't bad, just...boring....at least to me...Captain X saves the day by his super secret magic breath of power and everyone lives to tell about it. But, you have to admit that there are excellent exceptions to the average superhero comic that stand alone. Preacher, Marvels, and Watchmen are just some examples. The reason why? not because the focus was on the powers or abilities like in (most) Superman, Spider-man, or Batman comics (Batman doesn't have powers, but he's still a superhero), the focus was on the people involved and not involved...To canabalize a line from a dark horse book, it's the human factor.

in Preacher, the main focus is on the relationship between Cassidy, Tulip, and the precher himself, with (irinically) a subplot about Cassidy being a vampire, the preacher being possesed,etc....

Marvels was told from a normal human beings perspective of superhumans... It was his story that intrigued us, not theirs.

Watchmen takes superheros out of their little safe world of "I'll always save the day" and slams them into ours where politics, and bad luck rule. The hero's lost...and they were crucified for it. It made them beleiveable as people who were screwed up.

That's three SERIES also available as graphic novels...the best of both worlds...

But- there is hope...buy your comics on the internet! That's the only way to really find what you want... I luckily have a bitchin' comic shop near me with half the store as "askew" as they come....

In fact, I learned of Sam and Max, David Boring and even -*gasp* Understanding Comics on the store owners recommendation...

You gotta' love the independant lovers, don't you?

-glych

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