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You may have noticed that a lot of Indie books have been getting some good/decent reviews lately and probably think we/I’m am being biased. That these little books aren’t that good because you’ve seen the art and thought that it looks like crap compared to the two big multi-million dollar companies that you’re used to. Well maybe I don’t see comics like that. I don’t see art like that. Each and every comic I personally review is judged on its own merits, but granted there are times when similarities or past creators work is brought up.
But what aggravates me the most is that comic book fans are so unwilling to give a comic a chance if it’s not from the big two. You can make an argument here that Image and Dark Horse are part of the big league too, but they’re not. They may not worry about going out of business anytime soon but they are far from being the top dogs of Comics. I can’t even remember the last monthly book I saw from Dark Horse as they’ve mostly moved into releasing Manga and are making a killing there. Otherwise Hellboy and B.R.P.D. is the only thing coming out on a regular base. Buffy was promising for a while, but it seems that once Joss leaves a book it can’t stand on its own.
Now with Image they pump out a lot of books and some of them become hits like Morning Glories, Invincible or the up and coming hits like Echoes and Who Is Jake Ellis. But the fact is that even their top books like Spawn, The Walking Dead and Invincible don’t sell nearly as many books as some of the low level Marvel or DC titles. In fact Image is more like the minor leagues for Marvel and even Kirkman can contest to that since that’s basically why he stopped working for them. Personally I don’t think he did anything at Marvel that was note-worthy or “classic” by any means. If you look at another Image writer turned Marvel, look no further than Jonathan Hickman one of Marvel’s top dogs. In fact if DC wasn’t so stubborn and stupid they too would pick from the good stuff that is Image. Granted they may start doing so more in the future after picking up Nick Spencer for Thunder Agents, but who’s to say since they just lost him to Marvel.
Then there are companies like Boom! Studios, Radical Comics, Moonstone Books and Archaia Press to name a few, that consistently put out quality books that are completely different than what you get at the large companies and for the most part are completely over looked. So much so that if a review is done I feel the need to mention that you will have to pre-order or special order the title if you’re interested. Why? Because comic shops A) Don’t carry them and B) Don’t know how to promote them within the stores. If only there was a website that did this for them.
One of my favorite series of the year, Cyclops is damn near impossible to find in the L.A. market in which I live. This is one of the largest comic markets in all of North America and I struggle to find one of the best comics because it comes from an Indie publisher. I wonder how long the comic book market can survive with the recycled stories from the Big Two, which by the way I hate calling them that. If you look to Image comics which are basically the largest Independent publisher in comics the biz, you’ll be largely disappointed by their monthly titles. They make their bread and butter on mini-series because their easier to produce and collect. In fact the only monthly titles that I’m aware of are: Spawn (sometimes), Savage Dragon, Morning Glories, SkullKickers, The Walking Dead, Invincible and the main stays from Top Cow although I'm sure there are others.
So what’s the point of all these ramblings? The point is that when I give Kill Shakespeare # 7 a ten out of ten, it’s because it’s earned it. It’s a modern masterpiece and frankly the series reminds me a lot of Fables. Sure not everyone is going to love the art, but if you slapped Jim Lee on the book it wouldn’t work. Lee is a great superhero artist, but he is a horrible storyteller. The art for Kill Shakespeare is powerful enough that it’s conveying emotions and details that the characters aren’t saying and that’s why it’s powerful. Is it always the prettiest? No, but then not everything has to be in comics.
In the case of Cyclops, Jacamon has literally changed the storytelling style for each and every issue, but I’m sure this has been missed by people because they didn’t care for his style. It’s a shame because it shows that comic fans are becoming just like TV and Movie watchers. They accept mediocre shit because it’s safe and familiar to them. Jacamon has a great style and is an amazing colorist that would never make it at a major comic company, because his art is just that ART!
Comics may have started out as funny books for children, but they’ve completely engulfed the mainstream market. I just hope that people take off their blinders and look at a book for its quality of writing, its art style and the arts ability to tell a story and really look at these things individually and as a whole; instead of just reading X-Men because they have every issue of the series, or buying a Batman mini-series just because it’s Batman even if the story is horrible and the art generic.
Sadly those last two examples happen all the time. So many Fanboys and Fangirls buy issues because of the characters not realizing that it was the writing or the art that made them fall in love with the character in the first place. Brian Michael Bendis constantly says in public that he follows creators not characters, but even that is flawed. I enjoy Warren Ellis’ body of work and will always love Planetary, but his work on Astonishing X-Men (especially the last mini-series) was bad. The story/plot were forgettable and generic and the characters were so self-aware of themselves being characters that it became a struggle to read.
How do we fix comics, if comic fans can’t see that they’re broken? Well you can’t. No one’s going to change a multi-million dollar business that’s approaching the billions, just look at the movie industry. There are always going to be fans that only care about superheroes and will not get into anything else. And you know what? God bless them, because they keep the power on for the comic industry. Personally, I take the approach of finding something new each week to read and if I had more money would pick up every Indie that I saw instead of just a few; but I’ve moved away from that collectors mind set of having every issue of a series and buying Superman just because I’ve always bought Superman. That doesn’t mean I won’t give it a shot here and there, what it means is that I’m quick to drop the title if it isn’t up to snuff. If there’s one thing to take away from this article, don’t just buy a comic because you always have and struggle through the bad issues waiting for the good. You vote with your wallet and these companies are quick to listen if sales drop on a title. Image how quickly “Grounded” would have ended if everyone stopped buying it once JMS left the book? We would have moved on to something else instead of getting fill in writers and artist trying to figure out what he was trying to do with the character.
You’ll still see the Big Two on the site because that’s the nature of the beast, but I hope that when you see a book like Cyclops, 27 or Kill Shakespeare get a ten you take a moment and read the review and give the book a shot. Hell if you skip the review and just pick up the book that’s even better, because you’re taking a risk that you might like. It might just change the way you read/buy comics forever which in turn could save the comic industry from turning into the Movie or Music industry, trust me, we don't want that.