Pipeline, Issue #87


Over on Jonah Weiland's Comic Book Resources page, Beau Yarbrough had an interview with HEPCATS creator Martin Wagner last week. It seems like just yesterday when Dan Jurgens opened his mouth and earned him the first Complete Raving Idiot award here at Pipeline. And it comes time now again to issue a second. (OK, so no award was so named at the time, nor was it ever issues. But the idea is here.)

Quoting Martin Wagner now:

"But it is true, I have chosen to end the book. After nine years of struggling it became clear to me, upon seeing the pitiful orders for issue #13 (the one everyone was supposedly waiting for), -- "

OK, I'll stop here for the first time. I don't read HEPCATS. Never have. However, I've read enough of the interviews with Wagner and read enough from his fans to know that the publishing schedule is something close to what Dale Keown has going with PITT. The only difference is that PITT is published slightly more regularly. How long ago was HEPCATS #1 published? And how many times has there been a period of months between issues? Thus, every issue is hotly anticipated and every issue becomes something everyone has been waiting for.

Alas, for poor clueless Martin Wagner, even comic book fans' patience runs out.

Anyway, back to Wagner:

"that the book was never going to 'take off' or 'break out,' "

OK, me again. Take a look at the books which have broken out in the past. What do they all have in common? They've been produced and published! If HEPCATS had followed up on the momentum it once had an maintained a regular publishing schedule -- whether it be one month, six weeks, or two months -- it might have had a chance.

"Hepcats on its own was not even providing me with a living."

Not surprising. You can't expect to make a living pushing a product you never produce. You can find new and fancy ways to reprint it. You can change publishers or go back to the first issue to start up a regular printing schedule, but you still have to give the fans something new once in a while if you expect them to give you any money.

About the only profession this might not pertain to is short story writers, who can amass such a portfolio over time that they can live off those royalties. But even for Isaac Asimov that took a couple of decades of dedication.

"In my opinion the independent arm of comics publishing is no longer supportable; "

Wagner's opinion is irrelevant. If he were an actual part of the independent comics publishing scene, maybe I'd let this slide. But since he has proven himself incapable of producing work, he's in a hell of a position to pronounce independent comics dead based on his "experiences."

"at best it can only be a hobby for an artist, the occasional breakout hit like 'Bone' notwithstanding."

Jeff Smith declared the book to be on a bi-monthly schedule from the outset. He stuck to that schedule, producing issue after issue after issue. Some good word of mouth finally clicked in after a year or so, and the book broke out, after which he stuck with his schedule. Yes, there have been times when the book has been late, but an artist's health should be taken into consideration. And Smith has offered more than just mere reprints of his glory day works to tide over fans.

"In fact, I will be surprised if comics publishing at all still exists in 5-10 years,"

Yup. I'm surprised Wagner has published anything in the past 5 or 10 years. Oh, that's right; he practically hasn't.

"Comics themselves face too much competition from other media (film, video, Playstation, etc) for kids' attention, "

And, if nothing else, Wagner has proven that even comic book fans have a limit on their patience and attention span. Besides which, HEPCATS is not a kiddy book. It's a mature audiences title, born as an outgrowth from a college comic strip.

I wonder if Wagner delayed handing in papers to his professors, only to later declare the educational system as bankrupt for not being an attentive audience or something.

"Yes, Professor I'm handing in the same homework assignment three weeks in a row. But I hope you'll stick around to see the new assignment I intend to hand in next month! It'll be highly anticipated, won't it? Whaddya mean I'll fail the course?!? Maybe the system is outdated!"

Back to the real Wagner:

"and nothing is being done by the industry to bring in new readers. "

OK, so I have a tough time disagreeing with him here. That Disney lets the best selling comic of all time cease publication in the USA is a crime.

"Certainly no incentive is being given artists to choose comics as a medium for personal expression. "

I'd love to see him debate this with Dave Sim.

So, in conclusion folks, here's your recipe for failure:

Produce a comic book regularly to begin building up a fanbase. Then disappear off the face of the earth. Come back reprinting those original issues, which the entirety of your fanbase already has, and start making new issues long after the fanbase has moved on to other things.


Yes, I'm sick of the GOT MILK ad campaign, too. But it sure beats the heck out of having those GAP kids on the back covers of comic books!

Am I the only one who is sick and tired of everything being compared to The X-Files these days? I don't know which annoys me more -- the fact that everything these days has to bear a comparison to the TV show for it to get green-lighted, or that the comparisons are often stretched quite thin.

BTW, J. Torres' interesting new series has a new web site URL: http://www.monsterfightersinc.com

X-MEN #85 stands up as the single finest issue of any X title in a LONG time. Its brilliance is that even a first-timer in the mutant universe could pick it up, understand it, and enjoy it. Joe Kelly and Alan Davis conspire on this one.

I am still so-so with Alan Moore's LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. I'll give it another issue or two, but so far I'd much rather see a new issue of SUPREME.

If you want that kind of period storytelling, do what I'm doing now -- read the complete tome of Sherlock Holmes stories.

Picture Jimmy Stewart's classic film HARVEY with Stewart playing a hitman. That's what THE MARCH HARE is, besides being a reprint from a series that didn't make it past issue 1 a few years back. This is Keith Giffen at his most deranged. Funny stuff.

I have a bunch of more reviews coming up at Jonah Weiland's Comic Book Resources. Catch them at https://www.comicbookresources.com

Eventually, all of these will be collected under the Pipeline umbrella. I'm just not sure how or when. Might make good filler material should I ever feel the need to take a week off.


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