The Ongoing Conversation About The Perception of Artists in Comics

August 1st, 2013 Posted by david brothers

There’s a conversation going on in comics right now that I think is very interesting. It’s about the role, responsibilities, and perception of the artist—mostly pencillers/inkers, but colorists and letterers as well—in the comics industry. It’s wide-ranging, and I thought it would be beneficial to gather most of the posts to date in one place, both for any journalists who are thinking about writing about it and other people who are curious, but don’t know where to start. A lot of these posts are responses to or build off other conversations.

I don’t have everything. Twitter’s a big part of the conversation, as is tumblr, but it’s impossible to stay on top of everything, especially as more voices start talking. This is just the beginning. If you see a link I haven’t posted, drop a comment below.

Declan Shalvey, comics artist, answers a tumblr question about comics reviews before talking a bit about how reviewers talk about art.

Andy Khouri, writer about comics, explored Brian Stelfreeze’s work on Day Men, and what that may mean for comics artists in general. He talks about how we credit artists, how we credit writers, and how basic logistics often forces artists into complicated situations.

Dennis Culver, artist, rounded up a few tweets he made on the subject of critics, artists, and comics. It spins from how critics do their job to why artists should be considered co-authors/storytellers, and why talking about art is vital.

I wrote about Andy and Dennis’s posts, quoting Dennis’s in its entirety, and added my own thoughts on how we appreciate artists in comics from the perspective of a fan and critic.

Amy Reeder, artist, responds to and builds on my post and talks about what drives her to buy comics, and talks about the greater trend of undervaluing artists.

Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare, collaborators, discuss their experience at San Diego Comic-con 2013 and also the role of the artist in production.

Sarah Horrocks, artist, talks about her frustrations with certain aspects of the comics industry, springboarding off this Steven Grant essay at CBR.

Nolan T Jones, writer, takes issue with a few of Horrocks’s points and speaks from the perspective of a writer on the subject.

Sloane Leong, artist, talks about comics industry logistics by way of a Pacific Rim graphic novel, and talks about why the assembly line method of making comics actually hurts the artform.

Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare, collaborators, talk specifically about the role of artists in comics, with plenty of frank talk from writer Montclare and artist Reeder on their expectations and frustrations.

Podcaster Pat Loika gathers artists Gabriel Hardman, Reilly Brown, Declan Shalvey, and Nick Pitarra to talk about the subject du jour in a conversation that’s as pointed as it is funny.

Dennis Culver, artist, gathers more tweets, this time discussing the economics of being a comics artist and the relationship between writers and artists.

Costa Koutsoutis, writer, replies to Dennis Culver’s recent post about economics and discusses the effort writers put forth in creating scripts.

Leia Weathington, writer, talks about her position when it comes to working with artists and honor. Weathington’s response was sparked by a tweet conversation that I believe begins here before fracturing all over the place. This was packaged into Storify from Weathington’s tweets by Erika Moen, an artist.

Declan Shalvey, comics artist, discusses working as an artist in the comics industry.

Michael May, writer about comics, builds off a statement from Declan Shalvey and talks about why reviewers need to talk more about art.

Sloane Leong, artist, discusses the differences in responsibility between writers and artists and looks at the various options creators have for deals.

Paul Allor, writer, talks about writers and artists from the POV of a working & aspiring writer, in addition to talking about the ways writers view working with and paying artists.

Paul Allor, writer, talks about the unique aspects of comics collaboration and explores ideas about the way credit is divvied up or displayed.

Bryan Hitch, artist, talks to Kiel Phegley at CBR about working on corporate comics and feeling underappreciated, despite his history with the company and position in the industry.

Pat Barrett, artist, talks about the New Yorker improperly crediting a drawing of Iron Man and (briefly) their history with comics.

Shea Hennum, writer about comics, looks at the idea of visual consistency, particularly in terms of Prophet, a comic with a fistful of artists on regular duty.

Val Staples, colorist, speaks to Steve Morris at The Beat about life as a colorist, including details on how long books take and vacations when freelance.

Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 takes a close look at writer Jeremy Holt’s comments on Twitter about pay & artists, and the large comments section discusses journalistic standards, paying in comics, and personal experiences.

The Beat (no specific byline) talks about writers paying artists and the varying responsibilities of each creator in the comics-creating process.

Antony Johnston, writer, talks about the debate in general terms and the specifics of making comics, including advice for how to do better as a reader and creator.

Amy Reeder, artist, on what artists actually do with a writer’s script, and the varying difficulties both sides have in getting work.

David Fairbanks, writer about comics, on the idea of cheapening your art by working for free, and collaborative partnerships.

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Fourcast! 79: What David Read

March 7th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-David bought comics!
Heroes for Hire 4, by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Robert Atkins
Power Man & Iron Fist 2, by Fred Van Lente/Wellington Alves & Nelson Pereira
Thunderbolts 154, by Jeff Parker & Declan Shalvey
Joe the Barbarian 8, by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy
-You’ll never guess which one he wasn’t too fond of.
-Esther only bought a single book, so David gets to do most of the reviewing.
-Luckily, the Fourcast! is your number one source for digressions… so this one’s an hour.
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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Know the Ledge: Verisimilitude, Race, & Comics

November 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Verisimilitude is what makes stories go. Blah blah blah, you know this already. I talked about it a while back, pay attention. In short, getting close to the truth makes your story feel real. One way you can get close to the truth is by including little details and touches that hint at real life. They’re shortcuts, things meant to make you imagine a world beyond what you’re reading or buy into the world of the book in your hands.

Two examples.

Antony Johnston, Wellinton Alves, Shadowland: Blood on the Streets

Jeff Parker, Declan Shalvey, Thunderbolts 148

These two scenes have a lot in common. More than I realized when I picked them as examples, honestly. (I was just going for two that stuck out in my head as being fairly recent.) They’re both written by white dudes, though I think Johnston is British. Both scenes are set during Marvel’s Shadowland event, which features a Daredevil who has been possessed by the Beast from Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Elektra Assassin. They both feature black characters who rose to fame, or at least not-obscurity, by hanging out in the same general area. Misty and Luke are probably also the foremost street level black characters in the Marvel Universe, too, come to think of it. I mean, I like Nightshade and Shades & Comanche, but they couldn’t heat up the sales charts with a lighter and a can of gasoline. I’m not 100%, but both scenes came out in the same calendar month, too. September, yeah?

(The artists are Brazilian and Irish, respectively. I don’t think that’s the same at all, unless I massively misunderstood World History.)

One of these scenes is crap. One of them is pretty straight. I’ll get there, though. (It’s the Misty Knight one, spoilers.)

Another thing that the scenes share is that they’re trading on race for the purposes of a punchline. The Blood on the Streets punchline is about how effective the (nonexistent) race card is. Misty knows it, and consciously uses it. She flips on her Loud Black Woman switch, her dialogue drops out of the Queen’s English and into some flavor of black vernacular (“black woman can’t have no degree now, can she?”) and the awkward white guy has the stereotypical response, which is to give whoever is yelling about how racist you are whatever they want so that they shut up and go away. She doesn’t mean it, though, it’s just that it’s an effective tool. Ha ha ha!

The Cage scene plays around with racial politics for a bit of (honestly facile) wordplay. A ninja is impersonating his friend in an attempt to gain some intelligence. Cage’s response? “Ninja, please.” It’s a play on “nigga, please,” a bit of classic black slang (one, two, three, pause) that’s got a number of uses. Scorn, disbelief, whatever whatever. It’s flexible, and the joke here is the substitution of ninja for nigga. They look kind of similar, same number of syllables, and as used here, they are functionally the same. That’s the joke. Cage is always cool and collected, and this is just him showing that he saw right through the ninja. Two words that say a lot. Not funny ha ha, but funny heh.

Okay, so why is the Misty scene crap? I don’t have any science to explain why. I flipped through it in the store and put it back on the shelf. I saw the Cage scene in one of the online previews, went “heh” and continued purchasing the series. Both hit me in more or less the same spot. It’s fair to call that spot whatever part of me that likes racial jokes, I figure.

It goes back to verisimilitude, I think. Both of these scenes are hinting at some sort of truth. Misty Knight is using racial history to get her way. Cage is using a reclaimed racial slur to show how cool he is under fire. Both of these scenes depict theoretically black things. A kind of ownership of a very specific facet of American culture, or a freedom to express yourself about race in a certain way. Step back a level and Johnston and Parker are both depicting a culture that isn’t necessarily their own, which definitely requires at least a little bit of research and hoping for the best.

The truth they depict is the difference, though. Luke’s truth is simple and short. Two words and out. Rather than reminding you of a specific thing (“Boy, I sure do love listening to music on my Apple™ iPod MP3 Player!”), it reminds you of a general thing (“black guy you know that says nigga sometimes.”). Misty’s scene is much more specific, and therefore much more likely to be not-truth. Honestly, the race card as depicted always felt like a myth to me. Like, sure, ask somebody if something is because you’re black, and maybe, just maybe, in very specific situations you’ll get the results you want and be sent on your way. Any other situation, including basically anything between professionals, will get you scorned, mocked, and dismissed. In this situation, you’ll get noticed, which is a pretty crap thing to do when you’re illegally infiltrating a building.

And if I know this… Misty should know this. She’s ex-NYPD, currently a private eye, and most of all, a black woman in her late ’20s. I mean… c’mon. It works in movies, not in real life. Everybody knows that.

So the truth that the Misty scene is portraying felt false to me, and false in a way that actively conflicted with my ability to enjoy the story, or even take it on its own terms. It popped my suspension of disbelief like a balloon. The Cage scene felt right. It felt natural. I read it, kinda laughed at how corny it is, and kept it moving.

There’s no science, no hard and fast rules, no nothing. You have to swing for the fences and hope your details make the grade. It’s just like anything else to do with writing, I guess.

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