Maybe it’s just me, but publishers have personalities to me or, at least, they should have. In my potentially lonely definition of a perfect world, you should be able to look at a publisher and think, “Oh! They do this kind of a book,” or “Well, if I’m looking for [Comic Y], I shouldn’t look to [Publisher X].” It’s neater that way.
Thing is, things aren’t really like that in the real world, and what I’d always thought of as a positive hadn’t really occurred to me as a negative until the Publishing Comics panel at Comic-Con International, when someone in the audience essentially said to Mark Siegel of First Second, “I tried one of your books and didn’t really get a lot out of it, so I guess I wouldn’t like any of your other books.” I must admit, my expression to that was probably one of entirely-unprofessional-moderator surprise, not only because I generally enjoy the majority of what First Second publishes (The secret may be having creators of the caliber of Derek Kirk Kim, Gene Yang, Nick Abadzis and Eddie Campbell), but because, as a publisher, the through-line of First Second’s books is more one of quality than subject matter or style.
And then I realized: I make exactly the same assumption all the time. There are countless creators and publishers whom I’ve sampled their wares, not enjoyed it, and then thought “Well, I don’t have to look at anything else from them, then” (I could name names, but that’d just be asking for drama). It’s human nature, I guess; a coping mechanism to help me survive each month’s Previews catalog with my sanity intact. But seeing it from the viewpoint of someone whose opinion of something I liked was less favorable, I realized how unfair it was: What if I’d been in a bad mood the first time I read it, and that colored my experience (This happened to me when I read Chris Ware’s work for the first time, and hated it as cynical and sterile)? What if it was an offday for the creators involved? What if it really was a crappy comic, but they happen to publish other stuff that’s much better?
If there’s one thing that Comic-Con taught me this year, it’s that there’s an insane amount of good comics out there, from a frightening amount of publishers. While it’s definitely easier and less time-consuming to have trusted publishers who put out the good stuff that you can rely on, time after time, odds are that you’re going to miss out on a lot of great comics if you don’t venture back to less hospitable places every now and again, even if it just means reading Previews cover to cover each month. After all, who needs sleep, right?
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