Two things happened recently that set me on the path to writing this post. The first was Eric Stephenson’s speech at ComicsPRO 2014, the second was getting to see Dear Mr. Watterson recently, and learning about Watterson’s equally inflammatory speech from 1989 at the Festival of Cartoon Art. Yes, that second one is almost as old as I am, and yes Watterson and Stephenson have little in common beyond essentially working in the same industry. However, both speeches in their way highlight what is needed for the art form to continue growing – regardless of how much I may disagree with some of Stephenson’s finer points – and that is new content.
First of all, while I do agree with Stephenson’s greater point, I disagree with some of the finer points, and specifically how he goes about making these points. It’s worth remembering that his stake is not that of a creator, but rather that he is the Publisher of Image Comics. In case you’re wondering what that means it’s answered in the Image Comics FAQ:
“Publisher Eric Stephenson personally reviews every proposal. When he finds one he likes, it is passed around to the office staff for their input. The proposal is then reviewed at [their] weekly staff meeting.”
In short it’s his job to decide what Image will publish, but also (I’m sure) select those things that will make money – lest we forget, they are a business. So that’s the rub isn’t it? As much as he can attack other publishers for abusing cheap tricks to make money, his end goal is ultimately the same. Good intentions don’t put food on the table. So, while he may want to sport the mantle of savior, of someone speaking the good word of new content, he is in fact primarily trying to make Image the number one comic-book publisher. Any other seemingly altruistic intentions aside, the core is fairly pragmatic.
On the other hand, more than two decades ago Bill Watterson hit the same nail on the head, did so better, and with less ulterior motives. His concern was just that of an artist and storyteller seeking to retain control over his creations. It wasn’t to promote himself by taking shots at the competition. He only sought to motivate other creators to do their best work, and thus improve the whole art form. Read More