A post from my decades-old Marvel blog addressing the need to trust your creative talent.
One of the things you need to learn in a position of managerial authority is to trust your people. This can be a very difficult thing to actually do, though, especially when what they propose to do differs from your own inclinations. But assuming you buy into the notion of hiring smart, talented people and then letting them do their thing, it’s an absolute necessity.
Among the most wonderful things that happens at a comic book company is that every so often a new idea or series comes out that strikes some sparks. It may not be the best-selling title in the line or anything, but it’s a “buzz book”, something that a dedicated and devoted audience finds something in that they can’t get from any other book. These titles are usually the product of somebody’s enthusiasm and trust, and it’s terrific when one of them works out–especially when it’s a project that I would never have thought to do that way myself.
I love it when something like INCREDIBLE HERCULES, which by all rights shouldn’t work at all, becomes a minor hit. I love it when CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI-13 finds a vocal and supportive audience. I love it when IMMORTAL IRON FIST gets nominated for awards. And so on and so on. Putting aside the particular skills of these creative teams, these books are a testament to their editors, who had faith in the ideas and their execution, and in the talent involved.
I like to do a wide variety of comic books, and to try different things, and it’s great when one of those works out and sticks. But in some ways it’s even better when one of these things comes out of the office of a middle-tier editor, and helps to define them. Speaking just for myself, I produced two separate IRON FIST limited series during my time at Marvel, neither of them really better than mediocre. But I love it that Warren Simons cracked the code and together with Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja was able to create one of the best series at Marvel. And I’m particularly impressed that he’s been able to keep the series going strong even through the departure of all three of those creators. I’ve lived through that experience; it isn’t easy at all.
One of the classic mistakes the folks in power at assorted comic book companies make is in falling into the trap of thinking that they and only they know the secret to making a good, successful comic book. And especially when sales begin to slide, these personality types tend to clamp down harder, enforcing broad, dogmatic directives, or simply moving the goalposts every ten seconds because they can’t figure out where the win is. And that approach almost never works.
There’s no guarantee that letting your people do what they want will work either, but from what I can tell, the chances of success increase dramatically.
I’m off to the Baltimore Comic Convention tomorrow, so we’ll pick this up next week.