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Heading Back to STUMPTOWN – Greg Rucka Vs. The Comic Book Industry
After last week’s rant about Ed Brubaker, I got a lot of feedback during my weekly titty-signings from fans of Criminal Complex. Many were the pleas for me to satisfy all the sexual desires of the myriad fans of my writings on comics and movies that I done gone posted onna innarnertz (I had to be all “ermahgerd, lol guyz, like seriously, keep it on topic! I don’t care how many boobies you have to offer me! Let’s talk comics!”) Exhausting.
Much of the feedback was “Never write about comics again, guy,” and they made me promise on my mother’s grave I wouldn’t. So, here we are with another article about comics. Sorry, Mum.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the comics industry, and especially after Ed Brubaker has seemingly walked away from comics at the Big Two (Marvel and DC) at least for now, it got me thinking about one of his frequent collaborators, Greg Rucka, and the similarities between their careers and choices.
Rucka co-wrote Gotham Central with Brubaker last decade, and it’s well worth your time to track that sucker down.
Greg Rucka was a guy I’d heard of from comics, but it was actually his Atticus Kodiak series of novels (Finder, Keeper, Smoker) that got me into him. The novels follow bodyguard Atticus Kodiak as he… guards… bodies. They’re tight, nicely paced, well-characterised works, like all of Rucka’s stuff.
In recent times, Rucka was working for DC Comics, most notably writing about Batwoman in Detective Comics with JH Williams III on art. The original plan was for Rucka to stick with the title as writer, but due to numerous delays, behind-the-scenes frustrations and what-not, he walked on the title, saying he wasn’t just going to jump ship to Marvel, which he then promptly did, relaunching The Punisher in a terrific monthly series, suggesting that there were absolutely no messy behind-the-scenes negotiations, so it’s probably time you stopped wondering about that, as there’s definitely nothing intriguing between the lines.
Much like fellow collaborator Brubaker, Rucka has yet again stated that he wants to focus again on his creator-owned comics and his novels, such as Stumptown, Queen & Country, and his new series of novels that kicked off with Alphas. And he’s now finishing his much acclaimed run on The Punisher. Which, as mentioned, was great. However, it wasn’t as good as his indie crime comics Stumptown (read it, read it, read it!) or Queen & Country (do that thing what I said in the last parentheses). Stumptown is a PI comic set in Portland, and it’s funny, heavy and fucken beautiful, while Queen & Country is the best espionage comic I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
As I harped on about last week, Rucka knows his crime from his potatoes, as no one used to say. And the more time he can spend doing the stuff that he’s passionate about, the better.
He’s also smart as a whip when it comes to problems in the comic industry. He’s talked before about how as fans of comics, we need to stop buying “event” books (basically, the big crossover stories that happen around once a year). Comics just become a big cow, where all anyone wants is its milk, but the “event” comics is the milk, and all the other comics have to be about something as boring as the cow chewing cud to get that milk set up. Wow. That was convoluted. Just like event comics. Bam! Saved!
In the same interview with Comics Alliance where he admonishes “event” books, he also talks about one of my biggest peeves with the industry, which is that the big companies are just writing for their established audience, rather than trying to draw new readers in. DC has at least attempted to rectify this, with their line-wide relaunch, but – and here’s the problem – it may have shaved off a lot of the intimidatingly dense continuity that would put off casual readers, but it has not been telling the types of stories that are any more accessible or relevant. There are some lovely titles in their line-up, and there has been a sales spike, but they seem completely unable to figure out any ways to sustain that.
The innovation of going same-day digital (that is, having the digital copies of their comics released on the same days as the printed floppies) was a good move, but it may be too little, too late.
Just as the music industry ignored their fans who demanded that music be available digitally in the formats they wanted, and subsequently created an atmosphere for piracy by frustrating people who wanted content in a certain way and basically treating them like shit, the comics industry has done the same. It’s been years since fans began demanding more timely digital comics, and it has hurt sales, and those fans are so used to just pirating the comics – right or wrong, the moral debates they used to justify the act are long since finished in their heads, even if the industry has finally caught up, years too late.
So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with superhero comics coming from companies who are bailing water into their sinking ships, and talent that fans will follow regardless of where they put up shop. It leaves us with social media democratising taste, and spreading word about amazing independent work, that has only gotten more and more popular in recent years, and plenty of amazing creators to get excited about.
The sky isn’t falling, it just turns out that it was a glass ceiling that has been broken through because of people throwing stones while not wearing clothes.
After a wait that was far, far too long, we are getting more Stumptown from Rucka, coming out later this month. It’s fucken ace, you should buy it. Not only are you getting some quality noir, but you’re helping the industry get shoved in the right direction.
The future is, as I say, in the independents. No longer are these big companies the gate-keepers to a career in the industry – they now need the talent more than the talent needs them. And they better realise it, before they become extinct.