Friday, 18 October 2013

Joe Keatinge: "My Creator-Owned Pilgrimage"

Cerebus Vol 3: Church & State I (1987)
Art by Dave Sim & Gerhard 
(Click Image To Enlarge)
(from an interview at Comic Book Resources, 10 September 2012)
...As a writer, my first releases were either creator-owned by me or the person hiring me for said work. I felt that it was important to finally read through a work that was so essential to inspiring people in creating their own comics. I feel we take it for granted now. Some twenty year-old in Canada self-published a Conan parody which transformed into a 6,000-page epic life story of a mercenary becoming a prime minister becoming unemployed becoming prime minister again becoming a pope becoming a fugitive becoming a bartender becoming... well, I'm finding out now.

That's over 300 self-published issues that mostly maintained a regular schedule, finishing on the month he always said it would. At this point I've had five issues of my own creator-owned book come out and that's with a publisher backing me up. It's not an easy task. To think he did it, at a time when he had to establish his own market and distribution during the 1970s when even the direct market was still a relatively new concept, is phenomenal. The fact it survived so many turbulent times -- the 1980s black and white boom/bust, the 1990s distributor wars, and so on -- just makes me even more enthralled with the achievement.

In a way, it's sort of my version of creator-owned pilgrimage, making my way through this huge work when I'm at a relative beginning point. I think it's something everyone wanting to make creator-owned comics should go through.

Its certainly been educational. Just what that education ends up inspiring, well, again, word's still out.

I will say I'm largely enjoying it though. Are there things I take issue with? Absolutely, but I think if you only read literature you won't take offense to, you're going to end up pretty boring. Even with that material aside -- again, I never hear Going Home in specific talked about. At best I hear about how amazing the lettering is in the latter quarter of the series. And yes, the lettering is some of the best the field's ever seen, but my God, these landscapes Gerhard's illustrating belong on a museum wall. The relationship between Cerebus and Jaka plays out -- thus far -- true to life; I can't stress "thus far" enough. Right now they just started hanging out with an F. Scott Fitzgerald stand-in and it's enjoyable.

I've also been surprised how much I'm enjoying things I hear people blast a lot of the time. One of my favorite volumes has been Melmoth, which is primarily about the death of Oscar Wilde. I could see how it might've been frustrating to read on a monthly basis, especially since Cerebus spends most of it in shock, but I found it incredibly engrossing. It's made me tempted to do stuff like that in my own books. There are two events I'd love to touch on, even briefly -- specifically Bud Cort finding out Ruth Gordon passed away and then the last days of Wally Wood. I've never thought of incorporating those into my own comics, but it's becoming very tempting. For now, Ernest Hemingway's incorporated into Glory as of issue #29.

Anyway, the point is: everybody go read Cerebus.

Joe Keatinge is a comics writer of Image, Marvel and DC Comics titles including Marvel Knights: Hulk, Glory, Batman Inc, Amazing Spider-Man and is the executive editor of Eisner & Harvey award-winning Image Comics anthology, Popgun.

1 comment:

Jeff Seiler said...

Thanks, Joe! It's great to read such positive and well-thought-out comments from someone who works or has worked in the mainstream. I agree with you about Melmoth (which I read monthly) being absolutely engrossing. I hope that you've finished the series by now and that you might comments some more here.