13 June 2012


I came across an interesting* comment yesterday:

"A lot of these creator owned indy books are little more than story boards for a movie pitch IMO."

The Internet is largely fueled by anonymous opinion, very typically of the uninformed variety, but despite the fact I take issue with the validity of this particular statement, I'm going to leave that alone for now. Instead, I first want to address the pejorative nature of the comment, because the point being made here is that creator-owned books are somehow less worthy of attention because they're just pitches for movies.

So, let's play along and assume that actually is the case. Let's pretend for a moment that virtually everyone writing and drawing creator-owned comics is only doing so because they want to shop their ideas around to Hollywood, so they can be turned into television shows and movies. Or both. Let's say these creative people are so driven by ambition that selling comic books simply isn't enough. They don't just want their stories to reach comic book readers – they want them to reach the world. They want as many people as possible to read their stories, to look at their artwork, to experience their creativity.

Is that so wrong?

Is wanting to expand the audience for your creative endeavors beyond the  relatively limited horizons of the comics market really a bad thing?

And have we seriously arrived at a place where it's okay to cheer corporations on as their comic book properties are adapted for film and television, but any and all attempts by individuals to do something similar is scoffed at?

Because here's the thing: Disney and Warner Bros. do not put money into Marvel and DC because they want to make a bunch of great comics for the fans. They do it because they want more Bat Man movies, more Iron Man movies, more Avengers. They do it because they want more cartoons, more video games and more toys. They do it because it's easier to sift through the decades worth of creativity in Marvel and DC's back catalogues than figuring out how to come up with something new. 

I mean, do you really think it was a coincidence that Avengers vs. X-Men launched right before Avengers hit movie theaters in May?

Somehow, though, it's okay to cheer for Marvel when Avengers makes millions at the box office – not even the smallest amount of which is shared with the estate of the series' co-creator – but comics by independent writers and artists who want to retain control of their creations and profit from their the mainstream exploitation of their work "are little more than story boards" for movie pitches?

Even if all anyone producing creator-owned comics wants is to have their comic book stories turned into movies, that's a pretty disgusting double standard.

Guess what, though? The vast majority of the men and women creating their own comics are doing so for one reason: They're storytellers.

And that's not "IMO," I say that from experience. 

I'm not discounting the existence of creators who generate work with the express aim of having it optioned – I have met some of them, I know some of them, I have worked with some of them – but they're in the minority. Most people in comics simply want to tell stories and develop their ideas, either through words or pictures. They aren't that fussed about the movie part. If it happens, great; if it doesn't, so what? The main thing is making comics.

And making a living from comics.

Everybody in this business, regardless how much we all love comics, is here because we want to make money. From the most noble amongst us to the most craven, we all want to make money telling and selling stories, and the writers and artists doing work for hire at Marvel and DC are no different from the writers and artists creating their own characters – they want to make a living doing comics. No matter how you cut it, comics is a job, and whether it's measured by comic book sales or ticket sales, everyone is aiming for appreciation and success.

But like I said, it's a double standard, and worse, it's a double standard primarily applied to the men and women in comics who actually have the guts to do something original without working for someone else. I don't think John Layman would disagree that it takes more courage to bring something like Chew into the world than it does to write a Godzilla miniseries. Far from being "little more than story boards" for a movie pitch, Chew was an idea John loved so much he was willing to try it, even though he fully expected it to fail.

If you look outside comics, there is original new fiction of all stripes – and novels are adapted into films and television shows even more frequently than comics – but are the writers behind those books being accused of generating new ideas simply to pitch to other media? 

Or is it just that certain comics readers somehow feel threatened by the fact that not all writers and artists want to filter their creativity through someone else's characters and ideas?

Ultimately, a good idea is a good idea. If that idea takes on a second life a film or a TV pitch – where is the harm? And if it passes all the hurdles it has to in order to actually wind up on in a movie theater or on a television set, how is that a bad thing? It was a good idea and those came up with it deserve to profit from it, not be denigrated for wanting to exploit its success.

* = By "interesting," I mean, completely ill-informed and somewhat douche-y.