Creators of Note

By | Friday, March 10, 2006 Leave a Comment
One of the interesting trends over the history of comics is the transition from a character-based following to a creator-based one. In the early days of comics, creators were rarely given any credit, much less how much they deserved, and readers tended to follow their favorite characters. Indeed, the story about how Superman gained his own title -- that kids were asking newstands for "the comic with Superman in it" -- is completely indicative of that mindset.

Sometime during the past decade or three, though, there's been a transition to more of a creator-centric following. I know that, when I was a kid, I kept an eye out for anything John Byrne did and made a point to avoid anything written by David Anthony Kraft. I think it would be hard to pin down exactly when that transition took place, although I think it's safe to say that Avengers #88 is a milestone, being the first time a creator's name was promoted squarely on a comic's cover.

What's interesting to me is how that transition has occurred within myself. When I was very young, I looked for characters I knew -- Spider-Man, Batman, etc. I could recognize that a different person wrote and drew the stories from one issue to the next, but I had no interest in who they were. Shortly after I re-discovered the Fantastic Four, I saw that much of what I liked came from how John Byrne treated the book. So when he switched over to DC's Man of Steel, I followed.

Sort of. Byrne wasn't able to keep my interest in Superman too long, but it was then that I saw that certain creators handled different characters and situations with different levels of skill.

These days, I've got a short list of creators whose work I hold in some regard, regardless of what they're doing. Fabian Nicieza, Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen get high marks from me pretty much all the time. Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley, Roger Stern and Paul Jenkins always get at least a casual perusal. (Naturally, I'm only talking about current creators. Kirby and Ditko ALWAYS get top marks, but they're not putting out much new work these days.)

By contrast, David Anthony Kraft, Robert Kirkman, and Grant Morrison do not get the time of day from me. I haven't read everything they've done, but everything that I have read has been so absolutely dreadful that I've made a point to completely avoid their work if at all possible. I simply do not understand what people see in it, and I'm forced to wonder what sort of blackmail material they must hold over editors' heads to keep getting jobs. I've found everything they've written as largely unstructured with clumsy dialogue and terrible characterization that doesn't even hold up internally, much less with any prior characterizations of the characters. I don't pretend to be a great writer, by any stretch of the imagination, but I know enough to see that their work aren't at all cohesive.

Did you see that?

In talking about creators -- not characters -- I got more worked up. I was more jazzed talking about Nicieza and Slott than I do talking about the FF. I got more irked talking about Morrison and Kirkman than I do talking about a mis-written Dr. Doom. Just an example of how, as a fan, my focus has gone towards the creators over the characters. What I'm left wondering is if that transition is indicative of maturity -- either mine as an audience member or that of the medium as a whole.
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