Writer Steve Niles Bangs a Drum Over the Reboot

Do you remember a few months back when there was a bit of a burble over the importance of creator owned comics? Then the news about the summer crossovers, and the movies, and the reboot happened, and they got drowned out? Steve Niles wrote something on it, which we highlighted here, and he's done another post regarding the DC reboot, titled A Creator-Owned Call to Arms, that I wanted to call to your attention.

One thing nobody is really talking about, at least not in public, is the fact that the announcements of all the new books and teams also served as a massive pink slip to hundreds of writers and artists. Like many I’ve spoken to their reaction to the news was, “Guess I don’t have any work at DC. ”

Now that said, what can we do? Should we get mad and fume all over the Internet? Sure, but what would it achieve? Nothing. Screaming about the decisions of a giant entertainment corporation will do about as much good as yelling at a brick wall. Besides, like I’ve said before, if I’m going to protest the acts of a corporation, Warner and or Disney are about dead last on the list.

I’m not saying don’t be mad. What I’m saying is maybe we can use that anger and disappointment and use it as fuel. This can also be seen as a great wake-up call to creators, publishers, retailers and fans alike.

He goes on.

Creators- Right now independent comics are surging and I don’t think it’s a fluke. As the big 2 become more and more corporate, ignoring the wants and needs of the market for a few bucks and sack of headlines, the market is also primed for new, original material. I know it’s tough out there and sacrifices must be made to do creator-owned books, but the time is now for us to position ourselves. I can’t make any solid announcements yet, but I am working with IDW, Image, Dark Horse and under Bloody Pulp Books to come up with ways to get books out without breaking the bank.

And for most of you reading this:

Fans- You’re the biggest piece of the puzzle here, and you’re taking the most punishment too so my message to fans is a simple one… thank you for sticking with us through some pretty rough times. Like retailers, your purchases make or break most comics. My one request to any fans out there is to try something new whenever you get the chance. Don’t underestimate the power you have in comics. What you buy says a lot.

There's a whole other world going on with this DC news, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with moving things around, and trying something new, there are consequences. I'm of the mind that DC had to do something, and respect the fact that they've made big moves. It was totally called for. Yet, it has an effect. There are hundreds, if not more, creators who make their living from comics, and there are only a handful of publishers paying for that kind of work. There are several creators out there who have been working for DC steadily for years, and aren't attached to any of these announced books. I haven't seen Mike Norton, or Jamal Igle, or Matt Sturges on any of the new DC books. They'll have to go find work elsewhere, and that's getting harder. Should we feel bad for them? I don't know. They made their decisions to work in a very tough industry (as did I), where opportunities are few, for the very talented, and the very lucky, and it's gone like this for years.

As far as this affecting the state of creator-owned books in the comic book industry, I don't think it changes a thing. I do think the outlet that was Vertigo Comics will have closed in that respect, and it will be even harder to make a living from creator-owned books on the front end. If you're one of a lucky few who happened to be named Kirkman or Millar, you can do it, but other than that, it's about as tough a road as you can find. Most can't raise a family on the living you'd make from a moderately successful Image series. More and more, to make a living in comics, you'd have to struggle and scrape to get a creator-owned series published and noticed, and use that to get regular paying work from the few people who are paying for it. But that's not very likely for most of the hopefuls. That doesn't mean there aren't successes, and people who are living the dream, but Niles used the word "sacrifice" and that's exactly what it requires.

But the fact is, Niles is right about the readers. What you buy is what counts. In the end, it's all that counts. I'll beg and plead for peole to try out new series and concepts, and step away from their comfort zone as I have for all these years. Not only will you be supporting someone almost directly, but you might find something you really like. In the end, it isn't the reader's responsibility to save comics. It's the reader's responsibility to read and buy what they like. That part is totally up to you.


  1. Well said sir!  I do feel one area of growth for creator owned work is the realm of All Ages titles.  There seems to be more and more of a hankering for smart books for the younger set….and such hybrids as Diary of a Wimpy Kid show that there is a hunger for relatable original work.  Does not have to be Tiny Titans or Darkwing Duck (both good) to be successful.

  2. So has anyone come up with a list of people that were doing DC work that are no longer attached to books? I bet Marvel has that list!

  3. i think the time is also here for creators to put on their entrepreneurial hats and figure out new and innovative ways to promote and sell their books to new customers that doesn’t depend on a random discovery in the back of Previews. The Direct Market is not kind to indies and many stores won’t stock anything from back there. There is no reason why you have to play by the same rules as the big 2.  

  4. @wallythegreenmonster  – I was in a suburban DM shop a little while ago. It was when the first TPB of Morning Glories was set to come out. When I asked the store owner if he was getting it in, it took him a moment before he even realized what book I was talking about, then said “No”. He said he could order it for me, but that was all. Looking around at the shop, I realized it was pretty much nothing but mainstream fare from the Big 2. That was the first time I realized how indie unfriendly some shops can be, and finally drove home what I’ve been hearing. Living in Philly and the surrounding burbs I’ve taken a well-stocked store for granted.

  5. While on the subject of Steve Niles and creator owned comics…check out some of his books with the amazing Bernie Wrightson such as “Dead, She Said”, “The Ghoul” and “Doc Macabre.”  All are fantastic stories with a cool horror theme and there’s cool little connections between the stories.

  6. @NaveenM  –yeah i basically had the same realization. I used to shop at one of the top comic shops in the country and didn’t even know it. Then i moved to another city for work and realized that with the current state of the economy a lot of comic shops aren’t very friendly towards indie stuff…its just not a moneymaker for them and sometimes the shops just suck.

    I know people hate the comparison, but in music successful indie bands do innovative things to grow their fanbase..they understand they are not Lady Gaga, so the same approaches and strategies won’t work for them. I feel that way about indies and the Direct Market.    

  7. @iFanboy: Would it be possible to list, in addition to the Pick of the Week and Book of the Month, a top creator owned book every week/month?
    This might help stir up interest from those who only read titles from the Big Two.

  8. @supertrackmonkey  –ooh good idea. I second that notion. =)

  9. @wallythegreenmonster and that definitely seems to be one hope attached to digital comics. I hope it thrives and helps bridge that gap for indie creators.

    I’ve always been into indie comics, love Steve Nile by the way-Horror comics are a sweet spot for me, and it took me a long time to dip my toes into superhero comics. I picked up on vertigo way before trying any of their main universe titles. Now I have an appreciation for both, but I generally find the big two’s business practices to be groan inducing at best, because…well most large companies have people to report to.

  10. @itsbecca –yeah i’m hoping that things like what graphic.ly is doing will help bridge that gap. You can’t sell whats not available so y’know…make it avaliable! =)

  11.  I feel this site does an excellent job with letting us know about books outside of the big 2.  I remember an article promoting DHP.  Also Sam Costello has a monthly feature called Indie Comics Coming Attractions.  I know I’ve pick up a book or two each month from that list. 


    For me, I don’t want to give up an indie book that I am buying in order to pick up a new DC book.  I feel that DC will have to work extra hard to make me want to spend more on their product.  I much rather spend more money one issue of DHP then buy 2 extra Batman books. 

  12. @eL355 Agreed. My indie shelf is so healthy because of suggestions and reviews on iFanboy.

  13. I know I’ve read a lot more indie comics since I started visiting Ifanboy.

  14. ANY entertainment-based industry worker should know that security is a gamble.  And espeically when it relies on skill AND can be measured in units and sales.
    Plus in the digital age, there are more outlets than ever and self-publishing can be done by anyone… heck, 16 year old girls are making thousand of dollars selling ebooks on Amazon.

    I respect Niles, but all he’s really saying is ‘don’t put your eggs in one basket’, which last time I checked isn’t exactly a new idea.  Trying to twist it into some anti-corporate ‘call to arms’ almost seems over dramatic. 

  15. I’ve realized that I love the medium of comics much more than I previously would have given credit to, and everyone who knows me knows I’m a comic-aholic.  However, I dersperatley need to branch out beyond the big two and the Mignola-verse.  This was more of a wake up call that comics exist for me outside of Spider-man and Superman.  I mean I’ve always appreciated indie’s but sacrificing dollars away from favorites to try something new has been hard.  I really am looking for the industry and myself to break into the digital age.  I’ve got too much paper in my house as is.  Except Spidey!  Spidey has to happen for me in paper. :  )

  16. Is anyone sad to see Sturges go? I kid. Isn’t this an increase in books DC is putting out though? I see a lot of people on this list I’ve never heard of, wouldn’t they be responsible for employing more people in the comic industry now? Also, why does DC let so many artists write, with the rare exception, they’re not very good at it. Take my wife – Please… I’m so tired.

  17. I feel bad for the creators that lost their jobs, but that sort of thing happens all the time in comics.  In another comments section I read someone complaining because DC just shuffled too many creators around and didn’t bring in enough fresh blood.  You can’t please everyone, but I’m sure that the creators who were kept or cut was based heavily on the sales of the books they were producing.  I can’t really complain about that, it’s just business.

    I do enjoy hearing about indie books on this site, and a few others.  Sometimes if they are interesting enough, I’ll order them for the store or myself, but they always have a very small chance of selling.  The reason the “Big 2” are the “Big 2” is because they are selling the most books that people want.  Anything else is just, by nature, targeted at a smaller segment of the audience.

  18. Living in Greece where the demand for comic books is really low, I’ve been forced to go through the whole Diamond Previews catalogue every month to make sure I get stuff that most guys in the States will find in the racks every Wednesday. This has had the up-side of letting me see quite a bit of the creator owned work that is out there and to pick up anything that looks interesting. In a little over three years I went from a Marvel Zombie who picked up a few DC titles as well to buying more than half of my stuff from Image, Boom! and IDW.
    It wasn’t a concious decision to move away from the Big Two. I simply found a lot of interesting stuff out there until my pull list outgrew my budget. But when the time came to trim the list, I found it much easier to drop things like Uncanny X-Men or Justice Society of America than Irredeemable or Criminal (yes, Criminal is published by Icon so it’s technically Marvel but it is creator owned and you know what? It’s not Super Secret Avengers Academy: Now With X-TRA Cheese!) It’s come to the point where the only mainstream titles I follow are Astonishing X-Men (which I’m thinking about dropping because I feel it’s lost its focus), New Mutants, SHIELD and some Ultimate stuff. I only get a couple of titles from Vertigo to round out the DC side although I will be picking up Action Comics because of Morrison. On the independent side I have Halcyon, Infinite Vacation, Irredeemable, Red Wing, Scarlet… and the list goes on.
    However, I will not hesitate to drop something from the indie stuff if it dips in quality, like I ditched Incorruptible (which I feel is something Waid has been doing with his eyes closed). My point is: Flip through the Previews. Note the stuff you like. Take some time to talk with someone at you LCS and ask for suggestions. Follow writers or artists (whichever you prefer) and not necessarily characters. Remember that if the creative team changes, the characters you read about will change too. Don’t stick around if you don’t like the direction. Vote with your money. And if in a few years Marvel and DC wake up to find a chunk of their fan base has migrated away from their titles, they will be forced to change their business plan.

  19. I agree that iFanboy does a great job promoting/reporting on indie and creator-owned books.  We can do the same.  Anybody want to name their favorite indie book and give a few sentences as to why?

  20. i love when people say its just buisness when people get fired.when profit becomes more important then the welfare of your employees then you become no better then any of the to big to fail banks.

  21. @NaveenM  I am lucky in that way, too.  My local comic shop (note: in a suburban area) is very much about indie comics.  They have the DC rack, The Marvel rack, and two racks of indie comics.  Given, my definition of indie is pretty broad, but the stor stocks twice as much indie as it does any one of the big two.  

     @wallythegreenmonster I always thought this was at least one of those ways indie comics could get their stuff seen, ifanboy.com.  That’s one of the reasons I am here, I love the news about upcoming events, and the indie comics news.  Don’t get me wrong, I mostly buy the big 2, but I am always looking for new stuff.

  22. I agree in some terms. But if the industry or DC keeps losing share and drowns they would end up the same. Unemployed. I’m a freelancer and struggle with this always, as most freelancers must do. So, let’s hope this reboot will work in favor of DC and they can have more FOR-HIRE work to the freelancers, the good freelancers (as temporary as this work may be). On the other hand and no relation with the core of the subject, it’s a shame that the quality names like Niles are not included on the reboot.

  23. I am a former comic reader , who would love to get back into reading but the sorry state of comics everywhere , indie included precludes me from doing that . For every Hell boy and 30 Days of Night ,there at least three differrent badly written copies of it on the stands . It is’nt just DC and Marvel that needs to improve , its all of them .