Friday, 6 July 2012

Creator Ownership: The Debt We Owe

(from Nat's Blog, 14 June 2012)
What we have here is a chart looking at the English language theatrically-released films released since 1982 that are based on English language comic book and graphic novel properties, sorted in order of the date of first publication of the property, color-coded for whether the property was creator-owned, corporate-owned (generally by the publisher), or co-owned by both... What can be seen is that once creator ownership was on the table, the moviable properties were largely works that creators maintained ownership of.
Cerebus #1 (December 1977), Elfquest #1 (April 1978), Sabre (August 1978)
(from a comment on Nat's chart at The Beat, 17 June 2012)
TMNT kicked off the black-and-white boom, but what led to creator-owned comics as we know them today was Sabre, by Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy, published by Eclipse in '78, Elfquest by Wendy & Richard Pini (also 1978) and Cerebus by Dave Sim (in 1977). There were certainly creator-owned books before then - Simon & Kirby owned some of what they did in the 1950s, for instance, and there were the undergrounds and other example - but creator-owned comics as we think of them today is almost all a reaction to those three seeds. Eclipse inspired other publishers (including Marvel, which based its first Epic contracts on Eclipse’s contracts) and Elfquest and Cerebus inspired other self-publishers. And those they inspired inspired more, and on down the line. There were many, many precursors, to be sure, but in this sort of thing you’re not merely looking for the first instance, you’re looking for the rocks that started rolling and then started other rocks rolling and that led to an avalanche. And that was pretty much Cerebus, Elfquest and Eclipse.

(via Twitter, 17 June 2012)
Posting on The Beat about creator ownership reminds me of the debt we owe to Cerebus, Elfquest and Sabre and their creators... Dave Sim. Deni Loubert. Wendy and Richard Pini. Don McGregor. Dean and Jan Mullaney. So much started with them...  When they started, is this the sort of thing they dreamed of? Someone should ask. They're all still around to be interviewed... The best thing about them was that they published creator-owned books and stuck to it, and birthed a new wing of the industry successful enough that even the big companies initiated them... And what Eclipse accomplished wasn't just about creator-owned comics, cool though that was. Royalties started because Marvel and DC had to compete with this tiny start-up and those who were following in its footsteps... The Direct Market made Eclipse (and WaRP and A-V) possible. And so much of how comics developed - most of the positive stuff - came from there. The DM had its negative effects, too, but what Sabre, Cerebus and Elfquest led to was huge. And good. And lasting... The DM grew the medium and saved the industry. The reaction to the DM then choked the industry. But that wasn't the DM's fault so much as it was the fault of people who mistook a lifeboat for a new continent.

Kurt Busiek is a comics writer and the co-creator of Astro City.

1 comment:

Damin J. Toell, Esq. said...

Kurt adds some additional comments via Facebook: