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Thursday, March 22, 2012 

Making successful creator-owned books doesn't guarantee creative freedom with mainstream properties

The writer Dean Haspiel has told about how he's tried to make pitches to majors like Marvel and DC, only to have much of his offerings ignored or rejected completely:
Last year, a different franchise editor was interested in my high-profile franchise concept and I secured a legendary comic book writer to adapt my plot and script it. Everyone seemed excited. The legendary writer has worked for the franchise editor and I had my own accolades to recommend me. Finally, my shot to draw my definitive high-profile franchise character tale. We pitched and…never heard back.

I have a deluge of sad short stories and a bunch of outstanding pitches sitting atop [or buried underneath] comic book editorial desks that will continue to prove that it is nearly impossible to pitch solicited, much less, unsolicited stories. The hurtful part? Editors woo me into thinking I have a chance. I don’t have a chance. Maybe I shot my wad at Vertigo where I pitched and delivered three, critically acclaimed graphic novels? Maybe I’m considered the odd memoir artist who dabbles in digital genre. And, so I’m stuck between too mainstream for the indie crowd and too indie for the mainstream crowd. That used to bother me but now I’m okay with it because, frankly, that’s a cool place to be if you can make ends meet. [...]

Franchise comic books are more editorially driven than ever before. It takes the fun out of conjuring unsolicited ideas. They only recruit new talent when an indie talent is getting tons of buzz and/or when someone from their regular talent pool starts to balk at editorial directives and splits dodge or falls out of favor. [...]

Bottom line: make YOUR comix and if they’re good and sell, franchise comic book editors will come a-knockin’ and you can play with their toys then.
I'm afraid it's not that simple, and he practically hinted at it. Even if someone who's drawn up a well regarded indie comic gets offered a serious assignment with the majors, chances are it will turn out to be very short-lived because of those editorial mandates that lead to, worst of all, the line-wide crossovers that take all the creative freedom away, and make it impossible to establish a stand-alone direction, let alone any plausible story development. And some of the worst possible stories and ideas came as a result of the crossovers, even if it wasn't all at once. And the only writers who actually get to do what they please are the ones with the least respect for the Marvel and DC universes, like Brian Bendis, Geoff Johns, J. Michael Stracynski, to name but a few. "Creative freedom" has become militantly selective.

If the majors won't allow writers with the most respect for the properties they own to have the freedom they need to write a workable story, then that's just why in the end, most writers will be discouraged altogether from making pitches, solicited or even unsolicited. The editors could offer them a job, yet with the kind of horrific mandates prevalent today, any decent writer could come away disappointed and sorry they ever bothered in the first place. That's exactly why Marvel and DC have to be under a better ownership if they're ever to improve and survive.

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If they want to write something good, they get screwed by the editorial mandates. Where they're allowed artistic freedom, half the time they just abuse it. You just can't win.

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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