It’s a sick world

I have been thinking a lot lately about the delicate nature of the human body and the effect of illness on productivity.

I have been thinking this mostly because for the last few days I have felt like someone has had my head in a slowly tightening vise and my nose has ceased allowing for the passage of oxygen into my lungs.

These days one of the biggest topics of discussion is late shipping comic books. It seems to be the thing on everyone’s lips. Everyone knows about The Golden Age, The Silver Age, and The Bronze Age. I posit that perhaps now we are in The Resolicited Age.

This is a busy couple of days for me at iFanboy. I’ve got a lot to do. I have to finish up editing an upcoming video show and… well, I am supposed to be writing this. I tell you all of this not because I want to sound cool or important but because it directly relates to the subject of illness and its effect on creative productivity. Simply put — as soon as I started to get sick my work came screeching to a halt. It is really hard to sit in front of a computer and write or video edit and try to be creative when you cannot breathe or when you can feel every bone in your skull and it does not feel good.

I have not drawn anything in any kind of serious way since high school but I do remember being sick is even worse for an artist. There is a lot more physicality involved in drawing that can be impeded even worse from illness. Your concentration is not as sharp when you are sick, and concentration is pretty important when it comes to putting pencil to paper.

If you think about the really tiny window that an artist has to get their book drawn in any given month, it is no wonder so many books are late. If you are a comic artist and you get the flu and you lose like a week well then you are basically screwed. It is part of the price we pay for the high level of art that we as consumers demand. Artists are human and they get sick and then books are late.

That is part of the reason why I do not tend to get very bent out of shape when books are one or two months late; things happen, that is life. Beyond one or two months, though, and there is no excuse for late book from one of the Big Two. That is why books like The Ultimates and All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder and Ultimate Wolverine vs. The Hulk piss me off and why I stopped buying them. There comes a point where a minor delay because life gets in the way becomes a complete disregard for professionalism and a lack of respect for the customer base.

Of course, the customer base does not help the situation any by continuing to buy super late books even while they complain about them as they walk to the comic book store register, late books in one hand and money in the other.

So what it the solution? Is there even one? As things stand now comic books have to come out every month with the high standard of art that readers expect. And that is a tall order. At the moment the system relies on the monthly book. The creative team relies on the monthly paycheck and the companies and stories rely on the monthly revenue. So until that glorious day when someone shoves a stick of dynamite into the monthly comic book apparatus and we move to an all trade paperback way of life, something must be done.

One thing that we have seen lately in Marvel books is that very quietly there have been a few books that have featured two artists. Captain America has alternated Steve Epting and Mike Perkins and that has worked out pretty well, mostly because their two styles are almost indistinguishable. Another book is The Immortal Iron Fist whose gimmick lately has been to feature B-story flashbacks done by someone other than A-story artist David Aja. Having two artists on one book is certainly an idea worth exploring, especially if it means timely releases.

Or perhaps we need to develop android artists who do no get sick and require no sleep and can draw twice as fast as any human artist — except Sergio Aragones, who would still probably be faster than the androids.

Okay, I am off to die now.


  1. I always thought it was really lame how exposed our wrists are. Seriously, just stop to imagine the thousands of ways you could accidentally slit your wrists.


    You’d think we’d have developed some kind of retractable plate armour by now. Intelligent-design my ass!

    … Stinkin muties… They get all the breaks!

  2. Good points and I agree with you on pretty much everything. For me, multiple artists is not a bad thing as long as there is a reason for it. Using it as a technique to advance the plot, a la Iron First and the flashbacks, I feel works and if it’s a way to keep things on schedule then great. On the other hand, random artists to keep a title on schedule feels too much like a big disconnect. I’ve always been a more visual person anyways so even the slightest change seems odd. At that point I don’t mind the title being a few weeks late.

    Maybe the answer is to split artist duties. Have a main artist and then have an alt who does a specific, integral part of the book. That way if one starts missing deadlines the other can fill in and there wouldn’t be such a disconnect because you know who the players are.

    My job is very specialized and if I do not meet my deadlines, there is really no one else around to step in and see things through. So, even if I’m sick I have to pull myself up to my computer and finish the job. It helps that I can work remotely from home, but it still needs to be done. I could be wrong, but do artists commute? I feel that if I never had to commute I could hit my deadlines every time… maybe =).

  3. Multiple artists have been utilized in animated features for years. Everyone is taught how to draw in a specific “stylized” way and then every artist is assigned a single character.

    I’m sure some plan in this same vein can be executed as well.

    The Tiki

  4. Preach on, Hunter. I am so tired of the lack of professionalism among comics artists and writers. Ultimates is a total joke at this point. The sad thing is, for FF readers, that same slow as molasses team is headed to your book.

    Personally, I think there are so many guys looking to break into comics, the big 2 should fire the Hitch’s of the world and find some of these hungry young guys and put them to work.

    When the money runs dry, lazy artists and writers like Hitch, Miller, Cho, and will get off their butts and get to work.

  5. I’ve said it before, but I’m gonna repeat myself just because.

    Ongoing series can be late sometimes, though I support any effort to avoid that (multiple artists, major lead-time, etc).

    Mini-series should never be late, however. The last issue oughtta be at the printer by the time the first one’s on the shelf.

  6. Two artists on a book is not a bad idea – it sounds like that is what Mighty Avengers is going to do. As long as both artists compliment each other – you don’t want Scottie Young and Bryan Hitch alternating arcs (although that would be pretty interesting) – this may be the way to go.

    I’m more interested in a decent story than I am in how late a book is, and that’s mostly the reason I still buy late books. When the next issue of Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk comes out, I’ll buy it because Lindeloff put out a great first two issues (I’ll have to dig those out of a long box before #3, but I’ll do it). I can’t remember a book I dropped because it was late. Quality moreso than quantity.

    Hope you feel better Conor. Try some zinc or Airborne.

  7. I was just spazzing out about this on the iFanboy forums, because Frank Cho told Fanboy Radio on Sunday he was still pencilling the Mighty Avengers issue that’s supposed to be out in a week. His attitude seems to be, “Just got too much stuff to do, ho ho ho!”

    I contend that part of actually qualifying as a good comic artist is getting the work done on time. Comics are serial, they are structured to leave you craving the next issue from the edge of your seat. Every artist can get a mulligan or two for personal reasons (though comics people seem to be the sickliest bunch of delicate buttercups since scarlet fever) but after a certain point there has to be some accountability. If anyone I know in any field applied the Frank Cho Work Ethic, they would be fired, and they’d have it coming. And they probably wouldn’t be actively costing their employers monthly income to the tune of $3 x 100,000 issues sold.

    I dread “name” artists. I dread them like the Angel of Death. I’m not even sure I’m exaggerating. They have the exact opposite of their intended effect on the marketplace of Me.

    “All eyes are on Runaways next year; we’re pulling out all the stops.”

    “Get down! I love Runaways!”

    “Yeah, we’re hiring Jim Lee for the pencils and–”

    “NOOOOOO! Please, no! Goddammit.”

    The thing about liking books, you see, is that I want to read them. Remembering what’s going on is also helpful, I find.

    I have pondered this problem for a while, and I have an insane solution that just might work. It goes like this: the company hires an artist to draw a monthly book. If the art is late more than twice, they fire that artist and hire another one. I know what you’re thinking: “But Jimski, aren’t there only ten artists in the comics industry? What happens when they run out?” My theory: there are other good artists eager to break into the industry who can do their jobs. I call it my “The Way Every Other Industry In The Entire World Works” theory of comic production.

  8. These guys waste too much time surfing the web and playing video games. Fire there asses. What the crap would guys like Cho or Hitch do if the big 2 quit putting up with thier crap.

  9. Don’t jump to the conclusion that a creative person is lazy until you see their schedule. Comics today are more about art, written and drawn, than they are about mass production.

    Yes, companies could easily produce monthly titles using an animation system. Distribute model sheets to new artists needing production experience. Perhaps have an overal art director to suggest layouts for key dramatic pages. Use the same inker so the book has a consistent look. It could work I guess, but the chances of getting something memorable go down.

    DC is using an animation system for the writing of Countdown. Paul Dini is the equivalent of an animation story editor, a role he’s had for years. I like his Detective comics but it sounds like Countdown is getting mixed reactions.

    I think the writing setup on 52 was much better. Top creators working out the story in a writer’s room. That could definitely work on a monthly book if you cast the right writers. That might be a good template for a family of books like Batman or Amazing Spider-man. It’s not much different than the way some of the best dramatic television is written.

    But art? Seems like a recipe for blandness. Mini-series should not be solicited until one issue is pencilled and inked and the second pencilled. I don’t know why publishers feel obliged to announce so early, well before a Previews solicit.

    On an ongoing, monthly book, schedule should be king. It’s SHOW BUSINESSS!! THE SHOW MUST GO ON! If an artist gets behind and editor should ask if he needs help. If the artist is sick or slipping behind — pages are given to another artist. It might be jarring but the story goes on. The artist should start a month ahead so he starts his run with a 22 page lead. One issue worth of salary is a good tradeoff against not missing sales due to late books.

    Bleh. It’s probably all been said before. Hope you get well quickly, Conor.

  10. I agree with everything that has been said, esp. the entries by Jimski and Tad. But Conor also made another good point. As frustrating as it is with the way it all works with the late books, why should the Big Two force a change. Yes the books are late, exceptionally so in some cases, but when they do come out…people still buy them. So what is their motivation for changing aside from some moral commitment they feel they aren’t currently meeting for the fans?

    Until something prompts them to change I wonder if they will ever institute a tighter rein on these comic creators.

    That aside, these kind of delays make me happy that I read stuff in trades.

    Get well Conor…RIIIIICOLA

  11. “At the moment the system relies on the monthly book.”

    I don’t think that’s really true. Especially since “the monthly book” hardly exists anymore.

    I would love to see some sort of comparison between tpb and single issue sales. I would expect that once sales to bookstores are taken into account, tpb sales dwarf regular issues.

    Marvel (and DC too, I suppose) would rather have a nice, consistent, high-quality tpb that they can sell forever through every single bookstore on the planet. They would rather have that than six (or whatever) single issues that they can only sell to a small number of specialty comic shops, each issue of which only has a four-week shelf life.

    “At the moment the system relies on the monthly book.”

    No, if this was the case then Marvel would hire even more fill-in artists to make sure that the issues actually came out on time. They don’t care. Everyone is writing, and drawing, and scheduling, “for the trade”.

    And I don’t think we can discount at all the multitude of DISTRACTIONS that interfere with the work of anyone who doesn’t have a 9-5 job. As everyone who’s ever been a student after 1995 or so knows, having the internet in one’s living quarters leads to a lot of mindless hours.

  12. I think I can understand when an artist or creator gets sick or has some tragedy and a book is delayed. That makes sense to me because, as Conor put it, life happens.

    I think the thing that really frosts me is when an artist or creator takes on too much, thus putting delays on everything else. Jim Lee is an artist who tries to do too much. Back when Wildstorm relaunched, he was drawing two books for that plus his responsibilities with DC. It’s no wonder those books are by the wayside now, trapped forver in the “when it’s done” hell that often envelopes comics.

    I also dislike when writers take on too many projects to successfully finish or continue the ones they are working on. Every creator always talks about how much they love their original books, yet they’ll put those on the back burner because Marvel or DC throws a fat check at them. If they’re going to turn their backs on these books, then they should end them, not put out an issue every 6 to 7 months. Or they could just put together a trade once a year or something.

    I really like Jimski’s suggestion only because it makes artists and writers alike accountable. There is a severe lack of accountability going on in parts of the world, be it in politics or something as minor as comic books. There are definitely plenty of young artists and writers out there trying to break it into the biz, and they should be given a chance if someone isn’t up to the task of their assignment.

    I do want to note that I respect Cory Walker a lot. When reading the goodies at the end of the Invincible trade, Kirkman notes that he left the book because he couldn’t keep up with it. I really respect that because he made the choice that benefited the greater comic good. He stepped aside so that the fans could regularly enjoy the book. While I miss his art regularly, it also makes it more special when he does a fill in issue for Marvel, Image or DC. I love him for that because if he hadn’t done that, Invincible may only be on issue 12 by now.

    But, in the end, the comic machine will keep on turning, and most of us will continue to buy stuff late or not (except me, who avoids late things in order to buy them in trade). I think this is an “issue” that will be around with us until one of the big companies tries to do something about it.

  13. I agree with Ted. The comics we’re getting these days, especially the ones that are late, have put a premium on highly artistic work. yes, Kirby could regularly put out a monthly book or three, but the production process and techniques were a lot different then. And as beautiful as his work is, some of it wouldn’t cut it in today’s market.

    Do we complain when it takes a year or more for musicians to complete a new album? Or when some movie sequels take 3 years to complete? Well, yes we do, but that’s because we’re complainers, that’s what.

    I think it pisses me off more when it’s a writer’s delay than an artist’s. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe because I’m a better writer than an artist.

  14. And as beautiful as his work is, some of it wouldn’t cut it in today’s market.

    Your argument is flawed in this instance. Without Kirby’s work, there wouldn’t be most of the artists today. But the rest of what you’re saying is spot on.

  15. Your argument is flawed in this instance. Without Kirby’s work, there wouldn’t be most of the artists today.

    We might not be here without them and their libido, but Cromagnon-man probably isn’t going to win second-prize in any beauty contests anymore.

    Not that I’m saying Kirby is that far behind the ball, or behind the ball at all. It’s just a little crass to say historical importance has any baring on viability in a contemporary market shaped by contemporary interests.

  16. Totally not trying to defame Kirby’s art. I was more thinking about the comparison between what he had to do to put out his monthly comics versus what modern comics artists have to do. The kind of work that Aja, Cho, and others are doing now has a higher standard to achieve. More realistic and varied backgrounds. More anatomically correct figures. Interesting, unique, and striking compositions. To say nothing of the coloring process, which is at the very least more intricate, if not more time consuming. We’ve come a long way, and some of the best comics look like page after page of fine art (or nearly so).

    Of course there’s something to be said for the journeymen. The guys that can quickly slap down some layouts that help tell the story. Like good lettering their artwork may be just as quickly forgotten, but it serves its purpose and moves on. In returning to comics the past year I’ve noticed that there are fewer of these guys, or at least they get less notice. And I have to admit that in my time away from comics the things that did draw me in from time to time was the work of the “superstars” be they artists or writers.

  17. On this issue, concurring with the vast number of comments here, I nominate the “Jimski-Conor” ticket to be declared “Comics Production Czar and Vice Comics Czar-In-Chief.”

    On the Freaky Tiki Proposal, you can actually see “the product” of such a plan — it’s called Japanese Manga, 20 pages produced once per week, and it all kind of…looks alike. Manga has a very limited range of “factory” styles, definitely too much (in my humble opinion) on the complete opposite extreme end of what we have with American comics.

    I would also like to propose an interesting experiment – People have been bashing particular artists, but TRY THIS —

    Go into your stacks, pick out books that have been irregular or habitually late, and books that come out like clockwork. Instead of checking the name of the artist, check the name of the EDITOR instead, and the Assistant Editor. And I don’t mean Joe Q. — he’s too high up on the chain. It’s the editor of a book who is probably more responsible for keeping the creators to deadlines, just like our immediate supervisors are the ones that deal with us plebians at work. I would be interested to see what people come up with.

    And an editor will of course have a huge say in what has been a very good solution to this problem that’s been noticed – using multiple artists in one book, but doing different parts of the story. 52 is a really incredible testament to how this can work, and I bet that a large chunk of credit should go to the editors that kept everything running on time, and everyone in sync.

  18. Connor,

    I think we have seen a shift in the way books are published. We are seeing Books like “All Star Wonderwoman” being held until all six issues are drawn. “Ultimates 3” is another book that has been held until there is a significant run ready. We can argue if they should have announced these titles until they had em done, but I think that “Green Arrow: Year One” is one that they kept under wraps until all the books were done. If not, way to go Jock!

    I’ve also seen books like “Action” rotate artists, so there is a monthly that makes it. I think it’s a good idea to rotate teams for arcs on some books. I guess this is how they are going to do “Amazing Spiderman”. How about doing it like they are with “Countdown”? A head writer and whole team putting together every issue.

    I for one am willing to wait and pay for late books if they are super good. It still pisses me off, but it being late doesn’t decrease the quality.

    Stay healthy and you gotta get your sinuses to drain. I ended up with an infection that took 20 days of anti-biotics.

  19. It’s the editor of a book who is probably more responsible for keeping the creators to deadlines,

    It’s an interesting theory. For sure, it’s an editor’s job to keep everything moving, keep the parties informed, make sure everyone has what they need to proceed in their work, and pester, plead, pamper, cry, whatever it takes to get poeple to stay on schedule. But if it is a big name that is holding things up, that editor is going to have to go to his/her superior to get approval for any staff changes.

    Imagine this scenario: pages 2-12 and 16-22 are done and pages 13-15 are “almost there” says the artist and it’s 8 days to press time. Do you pull the artist off the unfinished pages? Hire another artist to fill-in only the pages he hasn’t started yet? Or scrap the issue entirely and set a fill-in?

    As an editor on several (non-comic) books I know what it is to scramble and hope and pray that my creators will come through on time and it’s also my job to tell my superiors when things are not going the way we hoped and the schedule has to be adjusted.

  20. I don’t think I should have to not buy a book I like just to make the point that I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t had an issue in two years.

    I just don’t care enough to bend myself out of shape for a late book that I enjoy, but don’t love (like ASBR)

    I will say however that the three month Criminal/Captain America break nearly killed me. 🙂

  21. “I think we have seen a shift in the way books are published. We are seeing Books like “All Star Wonderwoman” being held until all six issues are drawn. “Ultimates 3″ is another book that has been held until there is a significant run ready.”

    Here’s the thing that gets me:

    Here’s the thing:

    Issue #3 of both these books will be late anyway.

    Yes, it will. They might make it as far as #4.

  22. Jimski,

    You don’t know that yet. Adam Hughes has said that they are done up to issue 3 and he doesn’t want “All Star Wonderwoman” released until issue six is in the can. I think I saw this on the “San” episode of the video podcast.

    I do agree though, if they are going to be late on these books after all this wait then we should be pissed.

    I think it’s a good idea to rotate artist on a series, like they are doing right now on “Action”. You could have stories that are accentuated by that artist, like the current Bizzaro story by Richard Donner.

    Frankly on special projects that are creator centric, like “All Star Batman”, I think they should skip the single issue all-together and just release a book. That way the arc is done and you get a whole story.

  23. The funny thing is if they are getting to the point where they have to wait until 6 issues are done before releasing the book…why not just go directly to the TPB to begin with. That is like the perfect amount of issues…and instead of announcing a project and then have the consumer wait and wait for the first issue to come out just have them wait and get a big chunk (or sometimes all) of the story at once.