I have a confession to make: I didn’t understand at first what Creator-Owned Heroes is. It’s my fault, because it looks like a magazine, and Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Steve Niles say very clearly right there in the first issue that that’s what it is, but I stubbornly insisted on looking at it as an anthology comic with some text pieces in the back. I figured that I would wait on the eventual collections and read the comics in larger chunks.
This week, though, I realized that reading four issues back to back actually is reading in bigger chunks, so I bought the issues I’d missed and caught up. Doing that convinced me that Creator-Owned Heroes isn’t something that’s going to be replicated very well in a collected volume. Most obviously, you’d lose the timeliness of the text pieces. Each of the three writers has a monthly column, but there are also recommendations of movies, products, and other people’s comics. None of that would hold up very well in a permanent, collected form. It’s not designed to.
But more importantly, not even the comics are designed to be collected. Each issue has two, 11-page comics, one written by Palmiotti and Gray, the other by Niles. In the first four issues, Palmiotti and Gray teamed up with Phil Noto for “Triggergirl 6,” about the most recent in a line of assassins that have become famous for their relentless, exclusive targeting of the President of the United States. Niles partnered with Kevin Mellon for “American Muscle," a post-apocalyptic drama about a group of young people driving muscle cars (while also fighting mutants) toward what they hope is the Promised Land.
The thing is, in Creator-Owned Heroes #5, the artists and stories will change. Palmiotti and Gray will collaborate with Jerry Lando and Paul Mounts on a story about a killer with a contract on his own head, while Niles will work with co-writer Jay Russell and artist Andrew Ritchie on a Western called “Black Sparrow.” What that means is there are only 44 pages of “Triggergirl 6” and “American Muscle.” I enjoyed both of those stories enough to hope that they return in future issues, but if the format continues the way it is, it’ll be a while before they cycle back and a really long time before they’re collected outside of the magazine format. And that’s the way it’s meant to be. I don’t lament that they’re being switched out for new stories, because I’m excited to see what’s coming next, especially with “Black Sparrow.”
Creator-Owned Heroes costs $3.99, no more than an issue of a regular comic book, but it’s a packed reading experience. It has as many pages of comics as a regular comic book, but the columns and interviews and how-to articles are as much a part of the package as the stories. More than anything else on the comic shelves, Creator-Owned Heroes is uniquely designed to be a monthly purchase and that’s how I’ll be buying it from now on.