Blah Blah Blog – Accountability

A post from my Marvel blog of years ago in which I respond to a response to an earlier post about the balance between adhering to a fixed schedule and maintaining the quality of a series.

Tuesday, 9:44

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

I’ll probably only have time for one blog posting today, as our Editorial Retreat starts this afternoon. So let’s make it in response to a post on the thread about continuity, since everybody seemed interested in that.

Here’s the post in question:

So your answer to not being able to stick to continuity was because you had no idea when Iron Man would be wrapped up(ie when the issues would be completed) or when Secret War #5 would be completed. Here is a novel idea, HOW ABOUT MAKING WRITERS AND AUTHORS STICK TO DEADLINES???

Seriously, with the sheer number of titles that get delayed by Marvel it is no mystery why continuity is difficult to keep up with. How about making writers and artists accountable for their actions? There is no reason there should have been such a delay between issue 4 and 5 of Secret War. I have heard the official reason for it and I can tell you the art was nowhere near good enough to justify it. And that is just one of many titles that have been extremely delayed in recent years including Spider-Man/Black Cat, Ultimates, etc.

Instead of making a blog post and essentially calling readers nit picky for caring about continuity and commenting on the restrictions of a dead man who cannot defend his actions, how about you put the blame where it is due? And that is with tardy writers, artists, and the editors who fail to enforce deadlines.

Posted by thatsmystapler on 2006-06-25 04:04:12>

Stapler, I think you’re taking a situation that’s much more complex than you seem to want it to be, and reacting to it in a very blunt manner. Let’s go through this one step at a time.

I think there’s a very big difference between what fans like yourself are saying, and what you actually mean. You say, “HOW ABOUT MAKING WRITERS AND AUTHORS STICK TO DEADLINES??? ” To which I would say that, in most cases, we do. But let’s take the flipside for a second: if a given creator can’t get a book done in thirty days, what would you have us do? Because all of the evidence I have indicates that, while people say that they want he books more frequently, what they really want is the books more frequently by the same creators, and at the same level of quality. And that’s just not going to happen in most cases. And in those cases where it’s not possible, it’s in the best interests of the project long term to hold the line, rather than rushing in a fill-in or bringing in half-a-dozen pencilers to hack out your crossover.

You’re entitled to feel however you felt about SECRET WAR as a project. But I’d argue that, while it may not have worked for you, the sales of both the individual issues and the continuing sales on the hardcover indicate that the artwork was worth waiting for, at least as far as the majority of the audience is concerned. The same thing is clearly true of THE ULTIMATES. And the same thing is clearly true of IRON MAN. All during the time the Warren and Adi run was being delayed, all I heard was “why can’t you get a guy who’ll deliver the book monthly?” And now that Patrick Zircher is doing just that, all I hear is, “Well, you know, this artwork really isn’t a patch on what Adi Granov does.” So each instance is a choice. And we clearly all take responsibility for making that choice to hold the line. You may not like the choice we made, but there it is.

(It should be noted that late shipping is not a Marvel-exclusive problem. In point of fact, we have fewer late-shipping titles than our largest competitor at the moment. But you readers tend to notice ours more–I’m guessing because you’re more interested in what we’ve got going on.)

What you’re really seeing is the beginning of an evolution in exactly how this business operates, in my opinion. We’ve been built around a monthly model for so long that that’s what most people are used to, but the plain fact of the matter is that that’s changing, slowly but surely. With the rising costs of most comics, readers as a whole demand a higher level of quality from the books they buy, and they’re more likely to be willing to wait for them (or just wait for the inevitable collection.) That’s slowly changing the way that comics are made. I expect that in a decade’s time, the entire delivery system is going to look quite different, and there won’t be as much a reliance on the monthly release schedule as there is today–it’s a hold-over from the era when comics were mass-market periodicals.

You’ll find very few people who love the work of Jack Kirby more than I do, and yes, Jack would do three books a month back in the day, as some “speed over quality” types will tell you. The part that they’ll leave out, of course, is that Kirby only did that much work (holing up in his basement seven days a week, sometimes for fourteen hours at a stretch) because that’s what he had to do in order to support his family. The rates were that poor. If Kirby was working in the industry today, he’d be able to make a living doing substantially fewer pages–and I expect that would mean that he’d produce fewer pages, and take more time in doing them so as to keep up with his peers. He’d also have more time to spend with that family of his. And with the back-end money from collections of his work, there’d be months where he wouldn’t have to work at all. So no, I don’t think Jack’s example is completely relevant. Today’s creators have been freed from the crushing need to do hard labor on the chain gang in order to feed their families, and this is a good thing.

There are some artists who can produce twelve quality issues in a calendar year, and more. Mark Bagley. Salvador Larroca. John Romita Jr. And we love it when we find these guys, and we use them as much as we can. But just because Bryan Hitch or Adi Granov can’t do that, are you saying we shouldn’t use them at all? Because when you ask “HOW ABOUT MAKING WRITERS AND AUTHORS STICK TO DEADLINES??? ” there clearly has to be an “or else” built into the equation. And the honest “or else’ that I see based on your approach is that all of a sudden all of the best people are working for the competition, and their books are suddenly great, and Marvel’s books suddenly stink, but come out regularly.

And you don’t really want that any more than we do.

Tom B

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2 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Accountability

  1. “I expect that in a decade’s time, the entire delivery system is going to look quite different, and there won’t be as much a reliance on the monthly release schedule as there is today–it’s a hold-over from the era when comics were mass-market periodicals.”

    It’s hard to overcome inertia, apparently, as the monthly release schedule (at least in my view) is still the primary delivery system. Do you still think that’s on its way out eventually, or have your views evolved over time?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Making artists and writers stick to deadlines..yes I remember stan Lee with whips threatening artists..uggh..I hate these fans who don’t understand how publishers work..that’s why God created Vince

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