Robert Kirkman on the future of the comic industry

Published on 18 Aug 2008 at 11:08 pm.
Filed under Comics.

New Image Comics partner Robert Kirkman recently issued a contriversal video manifesto on the future of the comic book industry.

Writer of Image’s number one best-selling graphic novel The Walking Dead and the co-creator of Marvel’s phenomenally selling mini-series Marvel Zombies, Robert Kirkman recently shocked the comic book world when he announced that he would no longer be doing any more new work at Marvel, because he was just promoted to the level of partner at Image. A move that was noteworthy because it marks not only the first time someone other then an Image founder held a partner-level position, and because Kirkman is the first non-artist partner at the company.

During his video posting Kirkman called to the big name creators over at Marvel and DC to leave the comfort of their deals with their respective companies and instead create their own, original content. He points out that while the risks are high with creator-owned characters, so too are the rewards. Kirman declares one’s life in the industry is longer when one does creator-owned work compared to working for the big name companies, stating that they only want you when you’re hot.

Kirkman goes on to elaborate on his pro-creator owned position by asserting that the work being done at Marvel and DC does have their place. He advocates that their role should be to draw new blood into the industry. Often times young children learning to love comic book characters cut their teeth on super heroes. They are people that are investing in the characters, not the creators. It is Kirkman’s belief that once you reach a certain level you will have people purchasing work for what you’ve done, not for the character you’re working on.

Undoubtedly, this last statement is partially correct. The comic book industry has been slowly turning towards an industry where a book often sells based off of three factors: 1) The characters 2) The creative team 3) What is happening in the book. Often times, a series needs at least one of the three of the above in order to be successful. Case in point, Moon Knight is not a high profile character, but when his recent series launched with David Finch artwork. Since Finch’s departure Moon Knight has used sales boosts from Civil War to keep things afloat.

One point that Kirkman makes that many creators disagree on is that creators should only be doing creator owned work. Frankly, I think this is correct. I think that creators need to do both creator owned work and work for the mainstream publishes because there needs to be a bridge available for the people moving from following the character-inspired stuff to the creator-driven stuff. Also, doing work for both gives creators some level of back-up in case their creator-owned stuff does not pan out. During the video Kirkman admits that he may be wrong about some of the things he has said, and I believe that this is the thing he was referring to most directly. Needing to draw in new blood to Image I can see why he is stating this, but making obviously incorrect statements is not going to help his cause very much.

With all of that having been said, I salute Kirkman’s honesty and I must say I am presently surprised by his level of motivation. And that’s not just because I have a vast majority of the work that he has done. :-p

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