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  1. #1
    Astonishing Member mathew101281's Avatar
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    Default Why are comic book writers more famous then comic book artists?

    I think itís because more people read comics for the stories then for the art. The internet has cheapened the appeal of visual imagery to a certain extent. Their is no shortage of professional level fan art you can view on the internet for free these days. The web has cheapened writing to but less so. People are still willing to pay for stories.

  2. #2
    Ultimate Member Mister Mets's Avatar
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    I wrote about this for another website an year ago, noting the absence of star artists.

    https://www.spidermancrawlspace.com/...e-star-artist/

    There seems to be a change in the power of the star artist as a force in comics. Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man wasn’t a top 80 comic with Adam Kubert on art. Looking at recent sales charts, it’s tough to find a book that’s mainly there due to a star artist. The top ten of November 2018 and the top ten of December 2018 have some books that seem to be there due to the combination of writer and character, but very little that’s obviously elevated by an artist. If you pick a random month in the 1990s—like January 1996—Gen 13 is in third place, and Witchblade in 11th place, both books mainly notable for the artist. The top two books that month were Greg Capullo’s Spawn, and you can certainly make for his sustained popularity as artist.

    CBR polled its readers on their favorite artists in 2010 and 2018, and the difference is telling. The 2010 list included younger artists JH Williams and Frank Quitely in third and second place. In the 2018 list, they fell to 20th place and 9th place. It would be one thing if they were replaced by newer talent, but they were supplanted mainly by artists who have been popular since at least the 1980s, which points to less interest in the most popular newer artists.

    So, why aren’t artists that popular any more? This is largely speculation. It’s entirely possible that it’s going to be a combination of several reasons, and that some of the things I’m considering as potential factors won’t matter at all.

    The first potential explanation to address would be the idea that artists just aren’t that good any more for whatever reason—Social Justice warriors hounded out true talents, skilled artists are seeking other industries like film or video games, etc. I’m not particularly convinced of the idea that the explanation is simply to bash newer artists like Juann Cabal, Rosi Kšmpe or Javier Garrůn, and it doesn’t really address the question of why artists who were once quite popular no longer move sales charts the same way.

    A related possibility is that new artists don’t appeal to modern fans the way Todd McFarlane did to the fans of the 1990s. Perhaps a daring new take on characters is on the horizon ready to make someone the most popular artist in decades. But you would need someone who has a distinctly modern sensibility.

    A flipside is that increased nichification in the entertainment industries may make it less likely for someone to appeal to a broader audience. Readers are so splintered that it becomes harder to find out about a newer artist than in the days where there was just one version of Spider-Man. The comics media is also more diverse, which means readers aren’t going to learn about new artists from a handful of gatekeepers. In the days of Wizard, readers might have flocked to the artists promoted in that magazine. Now, there’s no one on that level guiding the conversation. Instead, readers are splintered between different titles and fan communities, so they might never learn about the fantastic art in a title that another groups likes.

    The production end has changed. One potential factor for the decline of the name artist is the increased role of others in the production team. Digital coloring has really taken off in the 21st Century, and become a bigger part of the emotional resonance of a comic book. Mattia De Lulis showed an example of a panel from his Jessica Jones story before and after the colors, which highlights just what a colorist brings to the material in terms of tone, mood and detail.




    With colors more important than ever, the individual penciller no longer matters as much as they used to. It gets tougher to distinguish between various good artists elevated by exceptional colorists, especially when dealing with pencillers with relatively similar styles.

    Companies may also be promoting writers more than artists, and the people writing about comics often make the same mistake. When Y The Last Man was announced as a TV series, some in the press credited writer Brian K Vaughan but not artist Pia Guerra. Covers for comics collections will often prioritize the writer over the artist. In most cases, the penciller did more work as it takes longer to illustrate 22 pages than to write it.

    These oversights can be understandable. Popular writers tend to be more prolific than artists, so it is more useful for companies to use their finite resources to increase awareness of the writers than it is of the artists, especially since the artist can jump to a competitor for their next project. If someone draws six impressive issues of Fantastic Four, Marvel’s efforts to promote that person as a rising star might end up increasing sales of that person’s next twelve issues of Superman. This could also occur with writers, but there will typically be more TPBs in the backlog for the company to keep selling. People who write for a living may also be better self-promoters.

    Because writers are more prolific, they’re more likely to be involved in multiple projects. Brian K Vaughan has Saga, Runaways, and Ex Machina to his credit, while Pia Guerra doesn’t really have anything else on that level, so the writer may have more name recognition. When someone known outside of the comics industry tells a comics story, it tends to be as a writer, either someone from Hollywood (Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith) or someone known for prose (Neil Gaiman, Brad Meltzer.) The point of a cover or a headline isn’t to promote a talent; it’s to get someone to check out the work, and if a company thinks that’s more likely to happen when it’s only the writer’s name being emphasized, that’s what they’ll do.



    A related factor is that a notable comics run will often have more than one artist. On Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man, writer Chip Zdarsky worked with pencillers Adam Kubert, Chris Bachalo, Joe Quinones, Michael Walsh, and illustrated his own final issue. Recently, Marvel and DC have realized that their major books will sell pretty well at twice a month, so even an artist who can draw 20 pages a month isn’t going to be prolific enough to tackle every issue. Amazing Spider-Man has Nick Spencer as the one writer, and Ryan Ottley and Humberto Ramos as rotating artists, with Chris Bachalo also coming on-board. The run is going to be referred to as Nick Spencer’s Spider-Man, rather than Spencer/ Ottley/ Ramos/ Bachalo’s Spider-Man.

    Companies may have trained readers, consciously and unconsciously, to see artists as disposable. This may intersect with colorists becoming a more significant part of the process, as well as the way the same story may have more than one penciller, especially if it’s long enough.

    There is now more emphasis on getting the comics released on-time. When Joe Quesada was Editor in Chief for Marvel, there were some delays on major series like Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates (and its follow-up The Ultimates 2), Josh Whedon and John Cassady’s Astonishing X-Men, his own One More Day crossover, and the Mark Millar/ Steve McNiven event mini-series Civil War. The argument was that it mattered more that the work was as good as it could possibly be, and that it would be inexcusable to hire someone else to finish it, with the example given that a classic storyline like the Avengers Kree/ Skrull War was diminished because Neal Adams wasn’t given enough time to draw the last issue. Priorities have changed lately, with greater stress on getting books out on time. This doesn’t mean that work that is late is better, or that artists shouldn’t be prized for their ability to get the work in on the time, but it does suggest a change in the perceived value of the artist when the company makes it clear that—from their perspective—artistic unity isn’t essential.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas Mets

  3. #3
    Ultimate Member Mister Mets's Avatar
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    The market has changed, so buying habits are quite different. When the artists behind Spider-Man and the X-Men went to Image, the main way to buy comics was the monthly titles. Now, Marvel keeps a lot of significant trade paperbacks in print, so an artist isnít just competing with whatís on the stands, but with the best work of the past, often available in formats that were unimaginable at the time. A new monthly comic is rarely going to look as nice as an oversized hardcover. The fifty dollar Fantastic Four: BeholdÖGalactus collection includes stories illustrated by Jack Kirby, John Byrne and John Buscema in a 13 41/64″ x 21 1/4″ hardcover. Thatís likely to be better looking than even the best-regarded 12-13 issues published in a given month. Artists will also be competing with their own work. Someone going with thirty dollars to a comic shop might end up buying Humberto Ramosí Amazing Spider-Man with Nick Spencer, but they could also pick up a TPB of Ramosí Spider-Man work with Paul Jenkins, or one of several TPBs of his work with Dan Slott.

    And itís easier than ever to access art without paying a lot for it. If I really like Marcos Martinís Spider-Man (and I do), a simple Google images search gets me double page spreads and splash pages. I would no longer need to buy any of the back issues to get my fix. The ten dollar monthly Marvel Digital Unlimited subscription includes Bill Sienkiewiczís Moon Knight, Jim Leeís Uncanny X-Men, Mark Bagleyís Ultimate Spider-Man, Alex Rossí Marvels, in addition to comics published in the last year.

    Some of the biggest artists are only doing covers. We havenít heard anything about J. Scott Campbellís mini-series with Jeph Loeb in years, but heís consistently producing variant covers for the Spider-Man comics. Alex Ross dominated the style of painted comics like no one else, but heís mainly been a cover artist for the last decade.

    Finally, readers and the media may be looking for different things than they used to. Diversity and authenticity get media attention, so it matters that the creative team of Black Panther is African-American, or that Ms. Marvel is written by a Muslim writer. This ties creative teams to particular franchises, since a background isnít transferable to every franchise. The relevance of having a woman write Captain Marvel or a lawyer write Daredevil isnít going to mean much if their next project is Moon Knight. The emphasis on background does also appear to be pertain more to writers than artists, which may connect to the ways writers get more promotion.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas Mets

  4. #4
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    I have to wonder if the increasing median age of the comic buyer has something to do with it. The story didn't have to be quite as deep and complex back in the day to win and keep readers. That's not to say some of the oldies aren't good. But as the readership grows older, they're probably less tolerant of material that stops at looking pretty.

    The 1990s seemed almost the opposite. Some of the stuff out of Image, and Marvel's Heroes Reborn was really bad as writing went, but for a time, people flocked to it for the look of it.

    Makes one wonder if the pendulum will swing again one day.

  5. #5
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    I believe it is a function of the market.

    It takes a lot longer to produce 20 pages of art than it does a script for 20 pages of comics. The monthly schedule forces many artists to cut corners to meet deadlines or be replaced, and throws out fill in artists as if the art is interchangeable and immaterial to the quality of the product.

    A writer can churn out 4 books a month and build an audience.

    An artist is limited to the number of pages that he or she can produce in a month, so there presence in the marketplace is limited.

    I also think that the craft of visual storytelling has been devalued and some see comics the same as prose stories with pictures or as movies/TV shows on paper. Lots of the things that make comics a unique medium for telling stories, the kind of things you can use visuals to do that you cannot do on screen or in prose, things highlighted in works by McCloud (Understanding/Making Comics) and Eisner (Comics & Sequential Art, Graphic Storytelling, Expressive Anatomy), are overlooked and undervalued by audiences who seem to gravitate towards generic housestyle super-hero art filled with stock poses and formulaic layouts and page design (much of it limited so that it works well with digital delivery and small screens), so much so that the "how the story is told" is not considered, i.e. the actual execution of making comics is overlooked. These are the things often missing in those fan produced art or art available for free, because most don't look at comic art as anything more than producing pictures for the story and don't see it as the act of telling the story itself. Simply put, without artists, you have no comics, and without the mastery of techniques and the craft of visual storytelling all you have is a script. Stories need to be told, and comic stories need to be told visually; it is the artists that are the visual storytellers that make comics comics. But the market itself i geared so that a writer can put out more product than an artist can and gains the extra name recognition and audience identification with the product than the artist gets. It devalues the artistic contribution to the process to keep the assembly line running on schedule.

    Personally I tend to avoid work-for-hire projects where the artists are interchangeable. I find the books that become evergreen sellers are those that have a distinctive artistic voice and a singular artistic vision. Stories thrown out into the marketplace produced in the monthly grind with rotating/interchangeable artists seem to dominate the market in the short term. but in the long term they are quickly forgotten and replaced by the next new shiny thing, while the books with unified artistic identity (Dark Knight, Bone, Watchmen, Preacher, etc. etc.) stand the test of time and gain audiences that perpetuate themselves and remain in print and selling while the run of the mill ground out monthly books are forgotten and clearanced out after a short window for viable shelf life.

    But then, I think the model of the cartoonist rather than a separate writer/artist is the ideal and I am biased on the matter.

    -M
    Comic fans get the comics their buying habits deserve.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member Joker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    The 1990s seemed almost the opposite. Some of the stuff out of Image, and Marvel's Heroes Reborn was really bad as writing went, but for a time, people flocked to it for the look of it.
    This is definitely part of it. In the '90s the artist were the stars. Image wasn't founded by writers.

  7. #7
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    The 90s happened and people got gunshy on the idea.

  8. #8
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    The writers aren't more famous lol.

  9. #9
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    I don't know that writers are across the board more famous than artists. People aren't shelling out big bucks for variant "writer" covers. Having said that, I would say that the rise in popularity of writers like Alan Moore, Grant Morrosion, Neil Gaiman, etc in the late 80's early 90's created the idea of the superstar comic book writer. These guys actually led to an increase in sales of certain titles and led to creator names being featured on the covers of books. Previously, Neal Adams or John Byrne art would increase sales, but kids weren't picking up books just cuz Gerry Conway was writing it.

  10. #10
    Astonishing Member mathew101281's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ed2962 View Post
    I don't know that writers are across the board more famous than artists. People aren't shelling out big bucks for variant "writer" covers. Having said that, I would say that the rise in popularity of writers like Alan Moore, Grant Morrosion, Neil Gaiman, etc in the late 80's early 90's created the idea of the superstar comic book writer. These guys actually led to an increase in sales of certain titles and led to creator names being featured on the covers of books. Previously, Neal Adams or John Byrne art would increase sales, but kids weren't picking up books just cuz Gerry Conway was writing it.
    Their are some well known artist, but their are clearly more writers that the average comic fan can name.

  11. #11
    Ultimate Member Mister Mets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CliffHanger2 View Post
    The writers aren't more famous lol.
    There was a lot more media attention about Bendis heading to DC than there was about John Romita Jr.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas Mets

  12. #12
    Mighty Member My Two Cents's Avatar
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    You can ignore bad art just so far, but bad writing will kill
    Interest in a book/series every time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Mets View Post
    There was a lot more media attention about Bendis heading to DC than there was about John Romita Jr.
    I don't know about that. Romita going to DC was a pretty big deal. When I got to the comic store the issue was sold out the first week. I was surprised and the clerk was acting all matter of factly like "Of course it's sold out it's John Romita's first Batman comic". I don't think the same can be said for Bendis superman, definitely did not have the same impact.

  14. #14
    Ultimate Member Mister Mets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by My Two Cents View Post
    You can ignore bad art just so far, but bad writing will kill
    Interest in a book/series every time.
    I don't know about bad art and bad writing, but what about OK art and OK writing?

    This is largely a matter of individual preference, but even if one found the combination of great writer and ok artist as appealing as the combination of great artist and ok writer, the great writer will still have more output.

    The 9th best writer could have 3-4 titles a month, whereas the 9th best artist is lucky to have ten issues an year.


    Quote Originally Posted by CliffHanger2 View Post
    I don't know about that. Romita going to DC was a pretty big deal. When I got to the comic store the issue was sold out the first week. I was surprised and the clerk was acting all matter of factly like "Of course it's sold out it's John Romita's first Batman comic". I don't think the same can be said for Bendis superman, definitely did not have the same impact.
    I was thinking purely of the media reaction.

    One complicating factor is that even though Romita Jr is one of the most prolific artists out there, when he's working on something that isn't going to sell well (I doubt anyone expected Silencer to be a hit) it limits his ability to work on other stuff. Bendis could write an obscure title, and also have room for two Superman books and an event book.
    Sincerely,
    Thomas Mets

  15. #15
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    ...also because writers can craft books and screenplays. Illustrators that can't write, can't do that.

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