Editor’s Note: With the recent discussions going on around the comics community about creator-owned comics, we’re pleased to welcome one of the voices in those discussions, 30 Days of Night and Mystery Society creator Steve Niles, to Robot 6 for a series of columns on creator-owned comics. A big thanks to Steve for agreeing to do the column, as well as to artist Stephanie Buscema for creating a killer image for it.
by Steve Niles
Welcome to the first installment of my new column, Creator-Owned Spotlight. I tried to think up an amusing title, but then decided to just settle on what it was: a spotlight on creator-owned comics, publishers and retailers who support the need for more creator-owned books.
I guess the first order of business is to define what I mean when I say “creator-owned comics.” I’m talking about ANY book where the creator has ANY ownership in their book. So basically, if you sign a work-for-hire agreement, you don’t generally have ownership. It doesn’t make those books bad, or the enemy, or anything like that. We’re just not talking about them here.
Why am I doing this? I’ve been called insane for wanting to promote my competitors’ work. All I have to say to that is: it isn’t a competition. And yes, I am crazy. I’ve drawn a line in the sand for myself to be positive. I hope you’ll try, too.
First up is such an obvious choice; I really don’t need to write much at all. His name is synonymous with creator-owned books, because he’s one of creator-owned comics’ greatest success stories. He’s also a friend and hero of mine.
I doubt there’s a person reading this who doesn’t know Mignola’s creation Hellboy. And because of the films, Mike’s work and Hellboy have made the jump to the mainstream.
Like many creators, Mike got his start working for Marvel and DC. First as an inker at Marvel, and then later DC hired him for some of the most memorable Batman images and stories out there. I remember buying some titles just for Mike’s covers. Then, after a healthy stretch of work for the Big Two, he set out to create his own character: Hellboy.
To me, that has to be one of the scariest prospects: having a healthy career and making the decision to create something new. Putting everything on the line.
For Mike, it worked out because of his incredible skills as an artist AND a writer, but success was never a guaranteed thing, not even for someone as talented as Mignola. That may seem silly now (and when Hellboy first hit in Seed of Destruction, reaction was mostly positive), but it still took years of putting out stories and building the character and the world before it became the hit title it is today.
Another reason Mignola is the ideal choice for this spotlight is because he continues to do new and original properties to this day. He’s also created B.P.R.D, The Amazing Screw-on Head (my personal favorite), and the illustrated novel Baltimore. Mike has created his own universe, and using that universe, he has helped the comic industry incredibly. Hellboy has spawned multiple titles, and Mike has brought in talents like Guy Davis and Duncan Fegredo to illustrate his books as well as allowed other writers to write new series.
Bottom line: Mignola has created not only a universe, but also jobs in comics. That’s about all you can ask of a creator in my book. If there were more stories like Mike’s in comics, we’d all be better off. Check out Mike Mignola’s website, where you can learn about his new and old work, and buy from the creator directly.
Next on this week’s list is:
I was first exposed to Joshua when he wrote a book called Elk’s Run, a truly original and terrifying coming-of-age story. The story is well-paced and unpredictable. The art by Noel Tuazon and Scott Keating suits the story perfectly.
What I liked best about Elk’s Run was that it defied being defined by any one category. It sure as hell wasn’t superhero. It was horror, sort of, and yet also a coming-of-age story. A great combo of ideas made this one work, and it’s still a great read today.
But Joshua’s best work is one of his most recent. Released in a 240-page, black-and-white hardcover, Tumor stands out as one of my favorite creator-owned books. Again illustrated by Noel Tuazon, Tumor tells the hauntingly gritty story of Frank Armstrong, who is dying of a brain tumor but trying to make the most of his last days alive.
Try Tumor this week if you have a love of Noir and crime stories. Or if you just like holding a gorgeous book.
Also from Fialkov is the current series Echoes, which I have not only recommended, but also had recommended to me. That’s always a good sign!
To learn more about Tumor and its creator, visit Joshua’s site as well as the sites for Echoes and Punks, the comic that Joshua did with Kody Chamberlain and is getting a new re-release. You can also read Tumor for free at http://www.tumorthecomic.com and get a daily dose of Echoes right here on Robot 6!
Those are my first two creators for the week, but I’m not done. I also want to put a spotlight on one of the best webcomics out there, The Loneliest Astronauts by Kevin Church and Ming Doyle.
Thanks so much for checking this column out. I have a lot of reading and learning to do, so bear with me and I’ll get it together.
See you next week!