— Eric Stephenson, the publisher of Image Comics
No. There’s no such “trend”— there’ve been any number of hit comics that didn’t “explain every single thing” with sales and critical success ensuing. Even if there were such a trend, audiences are allowed to expect things— those are called audience expectations, and understanding and manipulating those is a normal and understood part of the job of a creative artist; that’s on the job description.
But even if we assumed arguendo that audiences have complained in a clumsy way about unrealistic expectations not being satisfied, audiences are allowed to say things in a clumsy way. They’re the audience not James Walcott; their job isn’t to be the editor while a professional editor is in absentia, carefully articulating the deficiencies of their experiences. One needs only to look past the clumsiness, and the sentiment he’s complaining about is invariably the oldest one there is: ”The first issue has to give me a reason to buy the second issue, and it didn’t.” Yeah: that’s not a “trend” or a “meme” or a “fad”— that’s the job. That’s always been the job. That “trend” started at the dawn of the enterprise.
It’d be nice if someday, some of that the energy comic creators uses to lecture their audience, if some of that could be used to power our light bulbs or to make toast or maybe get used to make better comics. Not tomorrow, or day after— let’s not get crazy. (There’s other ways to get toast, in the meantime— buy a toaster… ordering toast from restaurant… maybe you could use a skillet somehow? I don’t really cook). But maybe someday. Some people say I’m a dreamer; other people call me Maurice— don’t get the reference; find it very off-putting; not my name.
1) There’s no such trend? There are plenty of recent #1’s that are so exposition-heavy that the story never arrives, and if it does, it’s by the numbers. I agree that there are also many comics that don’t explain everything in #1 and still do well critically and commercially, but let’s not overlook the wave of crap comics designed by a committee interested only in selling, please. They’re out there, both in creator-owned and corporate comics, and they’re a fucking legion.
2) Audiences are allowed to expect things, agreed. Understanding and manipulating them comes with the territory. It’s also the artist’s job to not care about the audience expectations too much. In other news, the Earth sky is usually indeed blue.
3) ”The first issue has to give me a reason to buy the second issue, and it didn’t.” Completely agreed that the first issue has to give a reason (reasons, ideally) to buy #2. But Stephenson isn’t talking about that, is he? It seems like you’re putting your own words (i.e. ideas on how his brain operates, also know as assumptions, which are often derived from expectations) into his mouth. Stephenson is the publisher of Image Comics, the company that gave 2012 more interesting first issues than any other this year as far as I’m concerned - and I’m saying that as a reader and the guy who is making comics that Image publishes. So what? I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t see it that way. Are there duds? Fuck yes there are. But there’s also way more interesting, exciting stuff than anywhere else at the moment except for Koyama Press and Fantagraphics, two companies that are not really in the #1 business anyway. My own assumption, based on knowing that but also on talking to Stephenson plenty of times and working with him, so maybe it’s more…um, based on how he is and thinks? He’s well-aware of that rule and it’s not what he’s complaining about.
4) “It’d be nice if someday, some of that the energy comic creators uses to lecture their audience, if some of that could be used to power our light bulbs or to make toast or maybe get used to make better comics.”
Oh, totally agreed on that. I don’t think it applies to Stephenson here, but I’m all for less lecturing and more good comics. So I’m going to shut up and finish Change #4 now.