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The Middle Ground #105 | How long has this been going on?

by  in Comic News Comment

Reading Greg Rucka feel anxious about the timely release of his new Stumptown arc got me thinking about the strange, hypocritical and entirely arbitrary attitude I have somehow developed toward the shipping schedules of superhero books versus creator-owned comics. Warning: It may be ridiculous.

Timeliness has become more and more of an issue in superhero comics in recent years (especially the last year, as digital releases — which have to be ready to someone else’s schedule, and much sooner than the print deadline — have become more important in the grand scheme of things), but it’s really not that long ago that mainstream superhero books were delayed almost as a matter of course in order to ensure the creators who started the book were the ones who finished the book. Remember the months-long delay for issues of The Ultimates or Civil War? It was an era where fans really got on the side of creator ownership not in the legal sense — come, now. That would be unthinkable — but in the sense of caring who was telling the story, and being perfectly fine with waiting for that story to be told. Well, if you were a Marvel fan, that is; if you were a DC reader, you’d discover that Infinite Crisis had five different pencilers in its last issue, but at least it hit stores before 52 launched.

I have to admit, I was on the latter side, in more ways than one. In theory, I’m all in favor of the creators having full control of their stories and I’m definitely in favor of creators being able to tell the whole story from start to finish. But … there’s this part of my brain that also goes, “Well, it’s a Superman comic, I feel like that that should be able to be cranked out monthly” for reasons that I can’t quite understand. There’s something about the already-extant production line mentality about superhero books that makes me not only perfectly okay with creative ownership being shared on them, but also almost prefers it: Instead of artistic expressions, they feel like “product,” if that makes sense, and the timeliness of product takes priority for me in a way I can’t quite explain.

Compare that with indie books — more specifically, creator-owned books — and my attitude is entirely different. To use the Stumptown example that started this train of thought off: I didn’t care about the delays. I’m not sure I was even necessarily aware of them beyond their existence; I know that there was a delay, but I couldn’t tell you how long it was, nor did I care at the time. Indie books have a “They’ll appear when they appear” pass for me, born I suspect from the idea that they’re creations of … love, for want of a better way to put it, or genuine artistic expression, than commerce or business, although obviously both come into play somewhere along the line. Nonetheless, I have drawn this strange and unusual line that it’s one thing for ongoing franchise books to be compromised in order to hit their release dates, but not other books, which… surprises me, I guess.

For some books, it only makes sense; no one beside Dan Clowes can do a Dan Clowes book, and the idea of anyone but Kevin Huizenga doing Ganges makes me depressed. But for others, less so; another artist could, in theory, have helped Stumptown or whatever stay on deadline without completely ruining it, if they could’ve kept within Matthew Southworth’s visual style, right …? And yet, there’s something about that idea that fills me with the kind of “No! Are you crazy?” that I don’t feel about someone suggesting that Bryan Hitch get subbed by Stuart Immonen on Fantastic Four or whatever.

I give up. Maybe I’m falling for a completely fictitious idea of creator owned and indie being somehow more artistically “pure” that franchise superhero, but my patience, it seems, is stronger for the former than the latter. As much as that realization makes me cringe, it also makes me curious: Where are everyone else’s lines for the lateness issue?