A recent survey by the site SKTCHD has artists all in a lather. The survey of 25 stores asked a question: “Pick One: What Is The Most Important To You In Terms Of Ordering A Comic?”. The results, displayed below, showed that the writers were by far the most important factor by a wide margin, 33.3%. Meanwhile, artists were tied for fourth with publishers, at 4.8%.
This is a considerable fall from grace for artists, who once touted heavy name recognition. After being well known (but uncredited) for his Marvel creations, Jack Kirby jumped ship to DC to create the New Gods; the cover for New Gods #1 was emblazoned with “KIRBY IS HERE!” In the 90s, Rob Liefeld was profiled in an ad by Spike Lee for Levi jeans. Meanwhile, his fellow super-star artists were making money hand over fist. It seems that now is the rise of the writers, and they are the ones who are being feted, praised, and advertised.
You’d think, as an aspiring writer, that I wouldn’t mind this change in status quo. But I do. Artists are just as important to the creation of the comic book, if not more so. Forgetting the fact that the sample size of the survey was so small; the people surveyed ignore the hard work, time, and commitment of the numerous artists, for numerous publishers.
You might be asking “How hard is the work, Daniel?” Well, let me put it like this. I, as a writer, can write a draft of a comic script, from page 1 to page 22 if going with standard page length, in a few hours. Artists can spend all day on ONE page, and that’s just the pencillers, not just the inkers, colorists, and letterers; and the latter two might be doing more than one book. They take our scripts and forge them into the twenty-two page movies you get each week.
The movies analogy is actually quite apt. To paraphrase artist Patrick Zircher‘s tweets on the subject, writers are the directors and screenwriters…and have the easy job compared to the artists. The artists are the cinematographer, costumer, lighting designer, special effects tech, editor, and so on.Their work load is insane. To leave them out in the cold when it comes to this kind of decision is just plain wrong. It disregards completely all the time and effort of the artist.
There is another editorial from A.V. Club that goes into far more detail; but I want you to think on the following facts. Siegel and Shuster were a duo, but it was Shuster who came up with the iconic look for Superman. Jack Kirby practically shaped the look and feel of the Marvel Universe for decades. Bruce Timm’s designs for Batman: The Animated Series complemented Paul Dini’s scripts. Anton Furst’s gothic Gotham designs for Burton’s Batman even influenced the design of their comic book counterparts.
Without artists, comic writers would be up the creek. They’re partners in creation. You better be giving them equal billing on the marquee.