Sunday, July 29, 2007

SDCC '07 - Riding The Comic/Graphic Novel Gravy Train

Is there anyone in Hollywood NOT involved with a comic book these days? At this year's SDCC everyone from Rosario Dawson to Neil Young (yes, THAT Neil Young) unveiled new comic book & graphic novels.
Look, I'm all for artistic types stretching their craft and trying new things .. but its getting kind of ridiculous.
My big beef is that a lot of these people aren't actually creating these new projects they're involved with. They're doing the publication equivalent of 'executive producing.' And that's not how graphic novels or comic books or manga WORK.

You can't produce a graphic novel or comic book. You can't present one either, unless your name's Stan Lee. Otherwise, you haven't earned that distinction. You can write, pencil, ink, letter and/or edit one. Because then you're involved in the true creative process that creates a comic or GN.

Maybe I'm just splitting hairs here but I'm not that impressed when I hear about Rosario Dawson's GN "O.C.T. - Occult Crimes Taskforce" - because she didn't write or illustrate it. She may be involved in the storytelling process in some way but if she's not handling any of the two primary tasks, how much input into the story can she have? [BTW, O.C.T.'s first TPB is due out soon, and Dawson announced at Comic Con that more stories are due.]

Same thing with Neil Young. DC announced at their Vertigo panel plans to have Josh Dysart write the GN adaptation of Young's 2003 album "Greendale." At the panel, Dysart said the book " about a woman who finds her place as an activist. It's a blend of surrealistic Vertigo, my aesthetic and Neil Young." It was also said Young would have significant input -- whatever that means.

Look, I'm a big Neil Young fan but last time I checked he had no comic book experience so chances are he's not doing much more than giving the occasional piece of advice to the writer about what certain songs in the album meant. I could be completely wrong about that ... but I bet I'm not.

Not all of this new wave of 'Hollywood graphic novelists' take such a hands-off approach. Actor Thomas Jane ("The Punisher," "Stander," the upcoming "The Mist") has launched his own comic publishing firm, RAW Studios, to put out traditional comics as well as digital comics online. Jane is partnering with "30 Days of Night" creator Steve Niles on the project and Jane is co-writing the books. That's a big difference. [I'll have more on Jane's multitude of multimedia offerings in my next post. He's a busy guy!]

My concern with this new trend is that it cheapens the hard work, the dedication comic pros put in to making their books. There are no shortcuts for true artistic endeavors. Brian K. Vaugh, Brian Azzarello, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons,et all .. none of them have 'ghostwriters' helping them with their stories. Its their work, their vision.

The blurring of the creative lines is giving someone whose main contribution is likely restricted to the promotional front, just as much credit as the person or persons responsible for the story. And that's not right.

I'd love to hear thoughts on this issue, no matter which way you stand.

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