Quick, pop quiz: Who is the only publisher to be releasing monthly material from both Garth Ennis and Kurt Busiek right now? Clue: It's also the only publisher to be putting out regular work from Alex Ross, Scott Beatty and Phil Hester. So why aren't more people paying attention to Dynamite?
This isn't me arguing for Dynamite as a publishing line, because I've (a) done that before, and (b) come to realize that a lot of people seem to have made up their minds about Dynamite a long time ago, based on the publisher's earliest offerings, and not come back to check anything out since. I admit, I get comps from Dynamite, so it's very easy for me to pay attention to their line, and I'm not going to pretend that I'm a fan of all of it. Things like the former Dabel Bros. books aren't my kind of thing, and I still struggle with the T&A content of books like Warlord of Mars, Vampirella or the Red Sonja books, but there are some great books that I suspect are completely overlooked coming out from them, what with Kirby Genesis, the recent (much better than it had any right to be, and very 2000AD-ish) Robocop Vs. Teminator: Kill Human, and the not-so-recent-but-I-just-got-around-to-reading-it Sherlock Holmes: Year One series, to name but a few (One of the things about getting the comps, I've discovered, is that I sometimes miss a month or two, and then end up waiting to read a storyline once it's been completed, in one big chunk. Strange but true). But, no, what I'm really talking about is the talent base that Dynamite has quietly grown up over the last few years.
With both Marvel and DC having settled into what is becoming a more and more insular talent pool in terms of writers (DC is, admittedly, seeming to branch out more with the second wave of New 52 hires, but Marvel still feels like it's based on a variant of the old boys network, for better or worse) there's something refreshing about seeing writers like Busiek or Hester or Ande Parks and Eric Trautmann--really good, reliable writers who just may not be in favor for whatever reason with the Big Two (Although I remain convinced that Hester should've been given his pick of New 52 books after the work he did rescuing Wonder Woman, same as Chris Roberson)--putting out work that's enjoyable, solid and not entirely dissimilar in tone to "mainstream" comics (which is to say, action/adventure/occasional comedy) month after month. I'm not sure if it's by design or accident, but Dynamite has also ended up with a (growing) family of writers, all of whom have shown a willingness to juggle series, genre and scale as needs be without breaking a sweat.
And Dynamite's artists ... well, Tim wasn't entirely wrong when dissing Johnny Desjardins in his CBR column last week, because his David Finch stylings are limited, at best. But there's a wealth of artistic talent at Dynamite that really does deserve to be seen. After all, Francesco Francavilla and Paul Renauld both made their U.S. debuts with the company, and other cover artists producing regular work for the publisher include the aforementioned Ross, Joe Jusko, Ryan Sook and Mark Buckingham. The interior artists may be less familiar, but there are some great people working there, including Aaron Campbell, Daniel Lindro, Jack Herbert and my pick for the "I can't believe he's not been stolen away by DC for a Justice League International book yet" award, Carlos Rafael.
It's an odd thing to applaud, I guess; the idea that Dynamite has this team of great creators doing really good work that not enough people are paying attention to. But it's true; I get that not every book is going to appeal to everyone, and I get that the publisher has a lot of baggage purely from publishing so many licensed titles that people have preconceived notions of. But look past whatever prejudices and preconceptions you have in place, and Dynamite puts out work by a lot of people whose work is not only ready for prime time, but way better than what's already being pushed as the Next Big Thing in mainstream comics.