If you have spent much time at all chatting it up with comic book writers or editors at comic conventions, you have probably heard several mentions of the phrase “creator-owned comic” or “creator-owned project.” The conversation usually goes like this:
Fanboy: Hey, Awesome Comic Book Creator, what are you working on?
Awesome Comic Book Creator: I am working on a big project right now featuring Huge Comic Character for [insert DC Comics or Marvel here]. [And then they look like they are pondering something deeply as they say:] I am also working on a creator-owned project that I have had in the works for several years.
It was Frank Cho last year at Comic-Con who let us in on a project he had been thinking about for years: Guns & Dinos, a project he said he had been thinking about ever since an image came to him of an archaeologist discovering an arm with a modern gun in a dig along side a dinosaur. Guns & Dinos (yet to be released) is a creator-owned project he was trying to generate interest in.
Hitting the stores this month was a new book with an odd title: Creator-Owned Heroes #1. It’s a collaborative new ongoing book between writing partners Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (who are at the top of my favorite comic writers right now with their All-Star Western series), Steve Niles, Kevin Mellon, and Phil Noto. The point? Get away from big publishing house content and bring some diversity into comics–stories you might not see reaching readers from the big houses.
The book features two eleven page stories that will have readers easily coming back next month. It also has several interviews with the creators in the nature of “here’s what this is all about.” It also includes photos of the creators with fans at conventions, an interview with a cosplayer who Palmiotti asked to create the costume of one of the stories, and an interview with Neil Gaiman.
The two stories were superb. We’ll come back to those.
For the first issue of a new type of publication I didn’t have any issue with the interviews and explanations. That said, I’d rather have more than 11 page stories or a third story for future issues. $3.99 is a fine price but a comic sized magazine with columnists as opposed to news is not really something I think can last too long. And I haven’t read much new from Gaiman in the last several interviews with him I’ve seen so that didn’t add much value for me. I am interested in what these creators think, but are most comics readers readers who just want to read new stories or do they also care about the behind-the-scenes so much?
So back to what is great about this book–two very interesting stories. First Palmiotti, Gray and Noto take on cool muscle cars in a dismal, futuristic world of survival in American Muscle. Great title, great idea. The dialogue is believable, the images make the reader feel the environment. I just hope future issues focus let us in on the cars themselves (they probably can’t specify actual makes and models because of licensing reasons from the auto dealers). Niles and Mellon give us one part Leeloo Dallas, one part human-Cylon, one part David 8, one part la femme Nikita, and one part Ultraviolet in their Trigger Girl 6. That actually should give you all you need to decide whether to check out this one. I’ll just say the pacing of the story was spot-on and the dialogue and art top-notch. I also really liked the color choices in both stories. If this is what creator-owned is, then give us more please.
The publisher of Creator-Owned Heroes is Image Comics. I’ve always viewed Image as sort of a “fourth network” like Dark Horse and Dynamite. I do wonder why Creator-Owned Heroes didn’t try something like Terry Moore and his Abstract Studios publishing company. If you don’t make it big at the major publishing houses I would think Moore has created the model to make it big on your own.