I have been cruising the internet lately and have noticed a trend in high end comics that seems to have popped up at least at Marvel Comics. We all known that Marvel has been acquired by The Walt Disney Corporation, and to date, Disney has always been a workhorse organization that puts a lot of resources behind its core artists. It is easy to understand why this make them leaders in the industry of animation even though so many small yet significant players have popped up to challenge the giant. It doesn’t seem so far fetched as to believe the same business practices for artist resources would not find their ways over to Marvel Studios....
It also seems apparent to create comics as a pitch product for movies. With the success of Marvel’s Ultimate Avengers, where Mark Millar and Brian Hitch virtually mapped out a movie franchise in comic form including at least one casting choice that made it to the big screen (i.e. Samuel Jackson).. This is reminiscent of another box office franchise- Xmen where Alex Ross’ “Marvels” did a similar pitch 10 years earlier (with Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier).
So if you speculate as I do, it becomes clear that comics- as far as Marvel is concerned will try to expand to kill as many “angry birds” as it can:
- set a new standard in comics- make a bigger cinematic push into page layout- if it looks like a movie- it gives Hollywood a look to make it a movie
- get more coaching help for Marvel’s key artists ( i.e. crash course seminars and bootcamps that keep artists a head of trends in the industry and capable of becoming longer term working artists. (Howard Chaykins bootcamps- see web companion for Drawing words and Writing Pictures)
- a potentially deep artist assistant and clean up staff team- including departments geared toward using sketch-up and packaging group artists that work on promotional and design products- i.e. with design standards to unify Marvels marketing look- or at least take some burden off the artist who use to be asked to do some of these non-sexy tasks...
So are comics now so far removed as to make Marvel a monopoly on talent and virtually non-existent as a potential employer to new upcoming artists? The answer is NO.... but the old methods of creating comics just by instinct are slowly coming to a close....design style basics, theme driven planning and comic design cues are being pushed as to set a new standard of comic production excellence.
Should comics chase movies or is it the other way around. Now that movies like 300, Sin City , Watchmen, and TV shows like Spartacus ( who’s producer is also the director of Spiderman 1-3) have all seemed to grasp at the iconic static image editing concept to become successful works of art on their own merit.
As we have seen over the last 15 years comic based movies have made it big at the box office, even if the comic was not as memorable. Men in Black I&II, 30 Days of Night, Road to Perdition, and many others where movie makers take a concerted effort to tell a great story originated from comics and bring it into media that has been around for up to 100 years. Let me not forget about The Walking Dead- this is a tv show -based off a comic- based of a genre movie called Night of the Living Dead that was based off a book called I am Legend. Can you say circular marketing? This show is hot, Hot, HOT...!
Lets not forget the anime, manga invasion explosion in the United States. The churning house in Japan and other production ready countries have enough image material to last the United States years of previously aired programming as well as new material created weekly.
I was told a story when I started to learn comics about a meeting some American comic professionals had with the Japanese in the mid 90’s. The professionals were flown into Tokyo, treated like kings and sat down in meeting with Japan’s comic community. Even after all the pomp and fan-fare prior to the meeting- the professionals were brow-beat in the meeting and asked why comics as an industry in America wasn’t as big as it should have been, and how could it turn around? The comic professionals had no clue how to change the trend... so the Japanese thanked them and promptly sent them home.
I don’t know what the Japanese learned in such meetings- but within 10 years anime and manga had flooded the US without apparent competition. Now, another 10 years later (2011), American youth still believe its the best thing since slice bread and the wheel. And I have just heard rumblings in my community, that anime conventions may have a chance to envelop comic conventions as the greatest show in town....
If I were to analyze anime and manga (hopefully with all respect) I would say on the pro- side it involves stories and plots that are more universal that current western comics. There are few mainstream western comics that will embrace young women and girls as main characters as much as Anime and manga does. And after many statistics in the American culture determined, it is girls almost 2-1 that are the comic readers of today. Anime and manga tend to work on mood, environments, and cinematic storytelling, while American artists are more keyed into character design and action based storytelling. Much of genre based comics that may compete with manga are deemed indy and are marginalized either due to little marketing monies or product quality inconsistencies. On the con side for western comic purists- the character design for manga is more minimalistic, and cartoony than western non satirical comics---
This may be a cultural thing that anyone could speculate on...America: Comics back in the day were usually a young boys form of entertainment... Since America had a thriving cinema base- comics were deemed as a poor mans entertainment....Comics were born out of the commercial illustration design era where many artists (from Marvel/DC line) were originally commercial artists or influenced by illustrators who practice realism as the standard. Since comics were not as controlled as other media, they were constantly hit by censors and McCarthyism of the 1950’s that made it weaker still...The fan boys of the past became the comic artists of the future- not growing the female market....comics were eventually relegated to specialty stores that became few and far between during bad economies.... Japan: Manga became a main source of creativity and entertainment soon after WWII where much of Japan’s movie industry was destroyed in bombing raids. Anime also became an economical entertainment base to replace their movie base. Since Manga was not shunned as low-brow entertainment- it flourished to encompass multitudes of genres that spanned from very young readers (male and female) all the way up to seniors customers. Much of their anime is based off manga- so a product churning industry that can be exported worldwide is constantly available. Also the manga look- a combination of Walt disney, Popeye, and Felix the cat- early on- then more graphic base imagery as time went on, has been branded worldwide. This “draw-along” style makes it more accessible to the masses than spiderman or xmen...
Don’t let me forget the dark-horse of the debate which has a chance to trump all comers- video games and web media played on consoles, computers, and hand held devices. I put them together because they are all interactive- making their repeat playability, reuse, and re-visit stats more viable than any comic book, manga, anime, of film. Once artists and programmers truly embrace each other in these medias- there may be work for all and potentially change as well. I have not truly ventured to understand all the potentials, but will keep up the research.
So where does that put me- a mechanical engineer, formally trained in comic layout design, learning digital graphic tools, originally and still considered a cartoonist, and still dream of being a film maker of cartoons and live action- hmmm...
Given the above background into on the industry- I will try to pursue as many revenue streams as possible-even if markets accepting my work are abroad.. It will still all come down to concept, story, visuals, and ultimately production... I wish to produce products that have a wide appeal and not a narrow band of acceptance. I am willing to work in comics if it makes me a better artist and desire storyboarding, layout, and visualization if I get a chance to work in cinema..... ultimately I love to draw and want to see if I can be the best!