Sunday, August 29, 2010

What a difference 300,000 readers make!

Back in 2006, Marvel announced delays for their top-ranked series Civil War:
Over the next few weeks, the Civil War proper title and a few of the tie in books that are closely related to the story in the main book will be shipping later than originally planned. In an attempt to accommodate the creative team of Millar and McNiven and keep the artistic integrity and high standards of the event, we will be shifting the following titles...

Artist Bryan Hitch - whose series Ultimates followed an erratic schedule - defended the decision:

Two of my favourite re-reads in collections are Dark Knight and Watchmen. Nobody now remembers that each was late at the time of the original periodicals but that was a blip, a couple of years in each's 25 year publication history and these will STILL be published 25 years from now. I love these books but how awful would it have been if the otherwise brilliant Jim Aparo had drawn issue 3 of DK, or that DC had Alan Davis do an issue of Watchmen. Both brilliant guys but you would have hated the blip in the collections for the short term gain.

And there was generally much hand-holding and back-patting going on as Civil War was done by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven from start to finish, placing artistic integrity ahead of the bottom line. Sales on Civil War ranged from 250,000 to 350,000 copies per issue.

In 2008, DC published a Bat Lash mini-series by Peter Brandvold and Sergio Aargones. Bat Lash was an unusual western hero, created by Aargones in the 1960s as a trouble-making, incorrigible scoundrel who pretends to be afraid of violence when he's actually an immensely dangerous individual. The 2008 mini-series kind of misses the mark on Bat Lash's character (strange, considering Aargones' involvement), instead casting him as a typical western hero with a tragic past. It's missing a lot of the humour I expect to find in Bat Lash, but it does have one huge mark in its favour: the artwork of John Severin!

Severin has been in comics for what, 60 years? He is still an amazing talent, able to render gorgeous scenes with incredible realism. It's bold, it's dynamic, and it puts a lot of younger artists to shame.

However, for whatever reason, Severin did not complete all of the six issue mini-series. Six pages of issue #6 were drawn instead by Javi Pina and Steve Lieber. They're certainly good artists, but it's more than a little jarring to go from this:

To this:

One page you're being entertained by this:

...And suddenly it's this:

Sales of Bat Lash fell to about 8,000 copies by the final issue.

DC and Marvel are different companies and I don't have any larger point to make about their practices (especially being a Marvel freelancer), I just find it interesting that this still happens - that when a book must come out, the power that be will find a replacement artist, even if only for a few pages. The only observation I want to make is that it's a lot easier to stall for time when you've got 300,000 hungry fans, as opposed to a lowly 8,000.


Nitz the Bloody said...

Heh. " Artistic integrity " and " Marvel Civil War " in the same sentence. :P

Michael Hoskin said...

If this is your way of asking "do you need a full-time sarcasm detector?" then the answer is yes.