Well this conversation has come up many times in the past, I have no doubt it will continue to be a conversation had by many. I’m of course talking about the lack of recognition given to artists by many news outlets, whether they be conducting interviews, writing reviews or discussing previews. Often artists are excluded from this side of comics completely, something I can’t seem to wrap my head around at all. I get why people are so invested in the writing side, without writers we wouldn’t have comics. But without artists, you guessed it, we wouldn’t have comics. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s efforts in making comics, there’s a huge amount of talent in all corners of the industry, even those not published on paper. Hell, go take a look on DeviantArt, there’s a phenomenal amount of talent on there and a lot of those guys and girls can write some damn fine stories too.
The reason I’m delving into this one myself is the topic came up again on Twitter a few days ago after a tweet from Declan Shalvey showed some shocking statistics. Have a look.
My order of preference from these choices would be Artist, Writer, Price, Star Character, Overall Importance to Universe, Publisher, Issue Number, Other. What the hell is “other” anyway? And how in the world is this ranked higher than artist?! Now, I have no idea how far stretching this questionnaire was, for all I know they could have asked fifty people or five thousand people, I don’t know but it seems odd. Comics are, after all, a visual medium and how good that visual aspect is done is surely extremely important. Every aspect of that visual side needs to hit the right notes to go along with the story, we’re not just talking about incredible pencillers here, top quality inkers and colourists are just as important to the overall equation. Everyone involved in a comic has a job to do, an equally important job and a comic can live or die based on how well any one of these folks are doing their job. For me, poor art is a huge turn off for a comics, you could have Grant Morrison, Mark Waid or Ron Marz write a perfect story but you put a shitty artist on it and I’m not buying it. On the complete flip side, you could get a hack writer to knock out any old rubbish and put someone like Mahmud Asrar or Emanuela Lupacchino on it and you’d better believe I’d be picking it up. That’s just how I am, I’ll follow artists on to books I wouldn’t normally consider buying but if a writer moves to a book of the same type I’d more than likely skip it.
Now, as far as my preferences go, there is one exception to the order above, that being any book featuring Supergirl is an instant sell for me but outside of her, the art team is pretty much the most important thing for me. When DC relaunched Suicide Squad and “New Suicide Squad” a year ago I picked up the first issue after flicking through the book in my local store and seeing the work of the art team, Jeremy Roberts and Blond. I was impressed and while unfamiliar with Sean Ryan as a writer I went in for it anyway, based purely on the art.
By issue 5 I’d dropped it, since Roberts mysteriously departed without any word and Rob Hunter was brought in and while I fully appreciate the art is totally subjective, the switch in styles was both jarring and I felt a down slide. A shame since I thought Ryan showed some promise with the book, but take a look at this page from issue 5, specifically the seventh panel with the close up on Harley, and you may well see why I jumped off.
Sure, I have favourite writers and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of them. Would I follow any of them on to any book? No. That’s the simple fact for me, the aforementioned talents like Morrison, Waid and Marz, other incredible writers such as Geoff Johns, Dan Slott, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jeff Lemire, Matt Hawkins, J Michael Straczynski, Gail Simone. There’s a slew of writers that have put out work that I’ll never forget it was that bloody good, whether it be creator owned work or freelance, but there’s a lot of books all of them have done that I won’t read, have no interest in reading and I have no doubt that all of them will do work in the future that I won’t be bothered about too. That’s not a slight against any one of them, or a whole number of other writers I think are fantastic, it’s just that some books don’t jump at me and my tastes like others do. That’s the way of personal tastes. But I can give you a large number of artists off the top of my head right now that I would follow on to any book they do, no joke. The previously mention Mahmud Asrar and Emanuela Lupacchino, Stjepan Šejić, Jason Fabok, Amanda Conner, Cliff Chiang, Humberto Ramos, Tony S. Daniel, Kenneth Rocafort. All these artists (and no doubt more that I’m forgetting right now) have put out work that I absolutely adore. There’s a bunch of artists that are on the cusp of joining this list too, but right now every one of those could go work on a book entirely populated by characters I hate and I’d still go buy it.
On top of that, you’ve got wonderful artists in their own right like Klaus Janson, Matt Banning, Danny Miki bringing solid line work and laying the foundations for colourists with their perfect ink work and the colourists themselves, Hi-Fi being my absolute favourite right now. Without these talented individuals there is no comic, can we please give them the credit they deserve? I’m not asking everyone to shift their focus to align with mine, that would be totally ridiculous. If your buying preferences lie primarily with writers, or even just favourite characters, fine. Please, carry on and enjoy what you enjoy. Just remember the amount of work that goes into bringing these stories to life in front of your eyes, take a little longer to look at the backgrounds of scenes and really appreciate what artists bring to books. An journalists and reviewers, interviewers and bloggers, commit to bringing artists into the spotlight more often. Make sure they know that we love their work, we appreciate their effort. Even as a fan that doesn’t blog or anything like that, if you tweet out to a writer that you loved their new issue and you enjoyed the art too, find the artist on Twitter before you send the tweet and include them too. Where applicable do the same with inkers and colourists. Let them know they’re doing an awesome job. To close out, here’s an beautiful piece from Mahmud Asrar, enjoy!