One Fan's Opinion: Issue #1

Thu, August 11th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

Send This to a Friend

Separate multiple email address with commas.

You must state your name.

You must enter your email address.

I'm going to start off with your basic disclaimer. I'm a comic book fan. If you're reading this, chances are that you're a comic book fan as well.

I buy a ton of funnybooks-- you may very well do the same-- or not.

Chances are that we don't buy the same comic books.

It's true-- there is no single comic book being published now or ever that we can all agree on as being the cat's pajamas-- or even the bee's knees, for that matter. We (the collective "we" here-- not just you and me in particular) can't even agree that a specific creator is talented. Look at any comic book poll-- sure, one guy comes out on top, but plenty of others get votes and if there were an "over-rated" or "awful" category, I'm sure that you'd find the winner of the top spot would get a number of votes there as well!

"We" can't agree on who's good or even what's good.

And yet, week after week, month after month I've got to decide what Image Comics does and does not publish. I've got to decide who's good and who isn't even though we've already established that we can't all agree on who's good and who isn't!

So-- does that mean that I read and enjoy every book that Image Comics publishes?

For the most part, sure, but there are exceptions.

We do a lot of cool books-- ones that I love dearly-- and sure, I make an effort to make sure each and every book that we publish is of professional caliber, but if I worked things out so that everything Image published was to my taste-- there would be a damned good chance that I'd be severely limiting the appeal of Image Comics for the rest of the masses.

And so-- on occasion-- I'll approve books that I'm not crazy about. And that doesn't mean that I don't think that they're good-- that they're professionally executed but rather, it means that they're not my cup of tea.

I don't think there's a publisher in the business that can truthfully say that they love everything that they publish. We put out a number of books that aren't aimed at me and I think that's terrific.

The ultimate goal is to make it so that no individual can honestly say that they don't buy Image Comics.

And just because I'm not fanatical about a title-- it doesn't mean it's not good. Generally it's a situation where somebody at the office is enthusiastic about the book or somebody whose taste I trust is.

I'll give you an example.

"Kabuki."

I like David Mack-- I think he's a swell guy. There are few people I'd rather hang out with than David Mack (especially after he decides it's time for some lively river-dancing), but his book gives me a headache. All the twisting text and experimental layouts make it difficult to follow and the book itself just doesn't draw me in. It just seems like a lot of effort to read.

But I understand that people love it and when Colleen Doran recommended we take it on, I made a few calls and suddenly we were in the "Kabuki" business.

Which doesn't mean that you should pester the piss out of Colleen Doran. That won't work for everybody.

And Colleen is another example, actually-- her book ("A Distant Soil") was recommended to me by Keith Giffen.

Don't pester him either.

But it works that way often-- creators will recommend books by other creators and if it all looks good and reads well-- we're off to the races.

Not everything is for me.

And not everything is for you, either.

I've gotten calls from creators saying, "What the hell are you publishing that for? I don't like that! It's going to hurt the whole line!"

And it's not going to hurt the whole line-- not really. It's just a different book-- and it's one that isn't for them. And that's fine.

I want people coming into the stores and buying comics and enjoying them. I think the more variety, the better. If we can get teenage girls reading comics and middle-aged women reading comics and burly bike riders reading comics and your parents reading comics and everybody else-- that's a good thing.

Which is why it bothers me to hear anybody encouraging people to stop buying comics.

And I think you know what I'm talking about. I've never been into a grocery store and had the proprietor try to talk me out of buying the groceries that he stocks. I've never had a grocer say to me, "Why are you buying green beans? Brussels sprouts are the vegetable you ought to be buying."

And yet-- I can't tell you how many times I've been in a comic book store and heard a store employee browbeat some poor kid for wanting to pick up some book that he enjoys because it isn't one that this employee finds worthwhile.

That's insane.

Storeowners pay for every book, which is sitting on their shelves, good and bad. And it's just poor business practices to discourage readers from purchasing books, which the storeowner has paid for. Now, I'm not saying employees ought to be encouraging people to buy books that they feel are inferior-- far from it. If an employee recommended books to me on a regular basis, which I found to be lacking, that employee would quickly lose all credibility with me. But there's a big difference from sneering at every book I'm attempting to purchase and recommending ones that I might find enjoyable in addition to the ones I'm already getting.

And I should emphasize that not all comic book store employees do this. A good number of them are friendly, articulate and helpful. There are few people I'd rather chew the fat with. It's nice to talk comics with people with a genuine passion for the subject.

Overall, I think we all tend to let our passions get in the way. If we hate a book-- we'll let everybody know it stinks. If we think one's great-- we'll let everyone know it's terrific.

And I'm not saying that we should all praise books that we think are crappy just to understand that somebody out there gets some serious enjoyment out of that comic and that just because you don't like it-- it doesn't mean that somebody else doesn't like it. It just might not be for you. And not every book should be for you. Let there be comics for other readers. Let them have something.

I don't enjoy fishing-- but I don't wish ill on the publishers of "Field & Stream" magazine. Let them read all about fields and all about streams. What do I care? At least they're reading.

If a reader is buying some crappy comic-- let 'em buy it! Over time, their tastes will mature and soon they'll move on to other books and there's always the chance that they'll be helping keep alive a book, which you enjoy. Humiliate them for reading crappy comic books and they may stop reading comics entirely and who's the winner in that scenario?

So--what am I doing here?

I'll be sharing my opinions on a variety of subjects-- often comic book related and sometimes not. I'll be singing the praises of Home Run Pies and "Captain Marvel Adventures" and "Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth" and "Automatic Kafka" and "The Amazing Joy Buzzards" and the "Walking Dead" and "Invincible" and "Death Jr." and "Ferro City" and "Pigtale" and "Gdland"-- and possibly even "Savage Dragon."

Sometimes I'll bellyache about books you enjoy and you can feel free to tell me that I'm full of beans. Sometimes I'll sing the praises of books you can't stand and, again, you can feel free to disagree.

Most often I expect that I won't be sticking with one theme, but I'll ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness manner about any number of subjects. If I don't have much to say, I won't say much. If I do-- I'll jabber on for pages and pages.

Often when I go to comic book conventions, I'll end up hanging out and talking to my fellow fans more often than I do my fellow creators. And it's not because I don't like my fellow creators-- it's because I have more in common with fans! Often creators don't make the weekly pilgrimage to their local funnybook emporium to purchase comics. Often they don't read comics at all or they're more interesting in talking about their movie deal or-- whatever. I got into comics because I love comics and the opportunity to talk comics with other people who love comics is high on my list of reasons it's worthwhile to get on an airplane and fly across the country to take in a comic book convention.

I was just in Chicago for a few days and I had a blast searching the show for back issues that I missed, looking through stacks of original art, talking to fans and trekking off to an out-of-the-way rib joint that Frank Fosco hauls me off to every year.

My Dad bought comics when he was a kid so my tastes tend to run from the early days up through the latest modern masterpieces. He was a big "Captain Marvel Adventures" fan and I got bit by that bug, big time. I'm actively trying to piece together a complete run (or nearly complete run) of that book. I also picked up some art by Ashley Wood, whose work I enjoy a great deal.

And I talked to a lot of folks about doing books at Image. And a lot of new books will be coming our way. Some of them, you're bound to love-- others, not so much.

And it'll be the same with me.

And that's just as it should be.

One Fan's Opinion Home | One Fan's Opinion Archives

 
One Fan's Opinion