You’re going to think this is one thing, but it’s not. It’s another.
There has long been a drum banging for comic book readers to support creator owned comics. In the last year or two, that banging has become more exuberant. There is nothing wrong with creator owned comics, mind you. It is, in principle, a good thing that the person or persons who created something benefit most from its exploitation. It is right that they should promote their work and the good that it does for the creators involved. Many creators have been quite vocal about making sure readers know they should be supporting creator owned comics. The most vocal of these include Robert Kirkman, Eric Powell, Steve Niles, and many others. As well they should.
But the thing is this. If you’re a comic book consumer, you should really only care about one thing. Are you entertained? That is, after all, largely the point of comic books.
I bristle at the idea of a moral imperative being implanted in my weekly stack. That isn’t to say I don’t like when a creator owned comic succeeds. I do like it very much. But I like for it to succeed on its artistic merits, rather than the fact that customers are buying it out of the same need that has them texting donations to the Red Cross. Simply put, if you want your creator owned comic book to sell very well, you should make it very good, because you’re behind the eight-ball in the comics scene. Something being creator owned shouldn’t be a selling point, and it’s just one more problem with how visible the back end of the direct market is, and how tiny the market is that everyone left buying comics is exposed to the nuts and bolts.
There’s nothing wrong with being an educated consumer, and wanting to support the little guy, obviously. But when it comes to comics, the creative people working on big company books are often from the world of indie comics, and are also very often the best they are at what they do. That’s why they have those actual paying jobs. There aren’t that many livable wages to be had in comics, and by eschewing Marvel and DC comics in favor of creator owned comics is to stop supporting a separate group of people who also love comics and have made them their life. Yes some nickels might get kicked up to Disney, but most than anything, those books are supporting people who are also making a living from making comics. Very few of them are driving Porsches.
It’s a small world, this comics thing, and any comics sold is a good thing.
Now it is time for an ugly truth, and I’m sorry, but it must be said. There are an astonishing amount of terrible indie comics out there. I see a lot of them. Many, many, many of them are just not good. If you’re used to comics produced by highly skilled professionals, they’re often nearly unreadable. This is the gauntlet of the comics creator, and the challenge is high. If you want to stand out, you must, at some point, be incredibly excellent. If you’re an excellent writer, you’d better find an equally excellent artist, or you’re hosed. Then, if you manage to get some great art with your finely crafted story, more likely than not, you’ll dig up some awful colorist who heard the concept of color theory in the background while playing with Photoshop filters. That’s, sadly, most indie comics I’ve seen. So it’s no wonder they’re not flying off the shelves.
Hold on a second, readers. You’re not off the hook yet.
Seriously, what is wrong with you? Stop doing one thing. We’ve been talking about amazing alternatives to DC and Marvel for years. More of you need to try more things out. Not because there’s a moral imperative about it, but rather that many readers are ignoring the good for the familiar. But it’s not a reach to figure out that if you really like Uncanny X-Force, you’re probably going to really like Fear Agent. I’m not saying to buy it because it’s the right thing to do, I’m saying it because you’ll probably really like it, since it suffused with the excellence of creative drive and hunger. I’m never going to recommend that you buy Terry Moore’s books because they’re creator owned. That’s impressive yes, but you should buy them because you really enjoy the creator’s skill, and they entertain you. But most of you don’t. Most of you feel some need to “keep up” and you keep buying comics you’ve always bought, but don’t particularly enjoy. You shouldn’t keep buying a 3 star comic. Just OK is lame. If you’re on this site, and if you’ve watched our videos, or listened to our podcasts, we’ve talked about plenty of stuff to try, and you should try it. You deserve the pleasure of seeing what else there is out there. We’re all guilty of it, myself included, but when you vary the menu, you’ll be glad of it. Out of the shell you! If someone’s making great comics, they should be selling. They should be able to make a living from it, and very often they can’t, because the few remaining readers just won’t try something new, and the retailers make no effort to learn about or inform their customers about what’s out there.
If those comics happen to be creator owned comics, hey, good for the creators. But that’s not why you should buy them.