So thanks for your responses to my question yesterday…I really wasn’t quite sure what I had to say on the topic, and I’m still not quite sure, but I think I can at least circle the runway even if I don’t land.
Anyway, this particular thought process was kicked off by a comment to my Saturday post, in which I claimed it took the return of the character of Doop to finally get me to pick up a copy of Wolverine and the X-Men. And reader Chance left his response, quite rightly chiding me slightly for not being moved to read said comic simply by the presence of writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Allred, both of whom are quite formidable talents.
My reply to Chance was that, while there are plenty of creators out there whose work I do enjoy, I don’t necessarily have a desire to read every single project they do. I think Aaron, for example, did a swell job on Punishermax and I liked his run on Incredible Hulk. And Allred…I was a big fan of Madman and The Atomics for quite a while, though admittedly I kind of…I don’t know, burnt out on them, I suppose. It’s not you, baby, it’s me. But it takes a lot to get me to buy into the X-franchise nowaways, and the last time I regularly read any X-titles, it was New X-Men by Grant Morrison and his army of artists, and X-Force/X-Statix *starring Doop* by Peter Milligan and that Allred guy.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough that Allred and Aaron were on the book to get me to pick it up…but it didn’t hurt, either. Had it been just them and no Doop, probably no sale. But that it featured Doop, and it was illustrated by Doop’s original cocreator, and it was written by a writer whose work I have enjoyed…all those facts together got me to pull the trigger on grabbing this book. And even then, I still sorta hemmed and hawed over it for a couple of days. Well, it’s not like I tossed and turned in bed nights on end, drenched in sweat, haunted by the existence of this comic book, agonizing over my decision. But I’d see it on the rack at work, think “hmm, wonder if I should pick that up,” and then finally just decided “ah, what the hell.”
But Chance’s question did open me up to thinking about what creators I do follow without question, whose names I see on books and pick up without pausing to wonder if this was a project I’d be interested in. To use a couple of names that I mentioned in this category yesterday…let’s say someone like, oh, say, Fantagraphics has picked up the rights to that old Chaos Comics character Purgatori. (Okay, stop laughing, work with me here.) It’s been a while since I mentioned Purgatori around these parts, but…that’s a character I’ve never much cared for. I’ve often commented here that I think it’s a terrible character and a terrible comic, which…okay, I know the character has its fans, and I shouldn’t just harshly dismiss it like that, so let’s just say the Purgatori property has been firmly established as not being something in which I’d have any interest. Ever. For any reason.
So let’s say Fantagraphics gets the property, and they eventually announce at a San Diego Comic Con a new Purgatori graphic novel by Los Bros. Hernandez.
Would I buy it? Absolutely I would buy it. Are you kidding?
The Hernandez Brothers have, over the (gulp) decades I’ve been following their work, totally gained my trust. Everything they’ve been involved in, I have enjoyed. And I know enough about them and their creative talents to know that, if anyone could rehabilitate the character of Purgatori in my theoretical example to the point of making me want to read a comic with her, it would be these guys.
Reader philfromgermany noted in his comment, after listing the creators he always follows, that the indie artists and writers usually are working on projects they themselves developed, as opposed to some of the folks who frequent Marvel and DC books who might end up on established properties one might be indifferent to or outright dislike. And I think that’s an important distinction, and one I was sort of pondering when I was trying to write this post for Monday. Though that’s not to say there aren’t lines that can’t be crossed…one indie book comes to mind by a creator I almost always followed which promoted a bunch of previously-debunked conspiracy hoohar…a great disappointment.
But creators working on their own material does do away with some expectations a reader might have toward any given project, depending mostly on one’s appreciation of that creator and trust in his/her storytelling talents. A new original Dan Clowes graphic novel, sure. A Batman graphic novel by Dan Clowes…well, okay, that sounds amazing, but if you really, really hate Batman, even the most pure, unadulterated love you have for Mr. Clowes may not be enough to get you to pick it up. But I have picked up superhero books I’d had no previous interest in because of creators involved…like that run of Birds of Prey written by Gilbert Hernandez, which remain the only issues of that series in my collection.
I’m probably contradicting myself all over the place here, but what can I tell you. I have complicated feelings about funnybook buying. But outside of Aragones, the Hernandez Brothers…um, Clowes, and Chester Brown probably, and someone mentioned Jim Woodring in the comments, so I’m probably good with that too…there aren’t that many people who get a full, complete pass with me in the comics I buy.
Of course I simply can’t afford to read everything, but there are still plenty of names out there that grab my attention, if not necessarily my comic-reading dollar. You can get me to look, but not everything is going to be up my alley. (There’s at least one artist whose style I do really enjoy, but the only thing in recent memory he’s done that I actually wanted to read was, um, a while ago.) Picking and choosing what I read I think gives me a lot healthier relationship with this hobby than simply buying every single thing that comes out that may involve an artist or writer I’ve enjoyed in the past. Sometimes it does come down to a Doop appearance to get me to fish out that wallet.
Okay, I’m not sure if any conclusions are drawn, or if we learned anything today. But Chance’s question stirred up some thoughts that I tried to lay out here in my usual exceedingly verbose and sloppy fashion, and I certainly hope he doesn’t take this as an attack or an overly-defensive response. Thank you, Chance, for inspiring me to explore, just a little bit, some of the strategies some of use in making our comic-buying decisions…and giving some of us an opportunity to think about those creators whose work always gives us joy.