The GeeksverseOf Course It Should Be On Time!

Of Course It Should Be On Time!
Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by

Recently Newsarama did one of their Top 10s and part of it caught my eye. This particular one was “Top 10 Comic Book Trends Of 2011″. Number 2 was “On Time Shipping”. Basically it was saying that it was a new trend for books to come out in the month they were soliciated for, and the publishers making intiatives to insure this happened (like multiple artists on a book). It acted like it was odd.

Which is true. It was odd.

But it shouldn’t be.

If a book is published monthly, then there is no reason why it shouldn’t come out monthly. This is what fill-in artists and fill-in writers are for, to take care of any unexpected hiccups in the schedule, to help out if the artist falls behind for some reason. This happened all the time when I first got into comics. You’d see an artist on a book for 5 or 6 issues straight, a fill-in artist, and then the regular artist came back (these were the days when an artist was actually the artist on a book for a length of time, not just 2 or 3 issues with 3 issue gaps or whatever nonsense happens today).

Why should putting books out monthly be considered an odd thing?

There was a couple of other points in the article that bothered me.

To the relief, no doubt, of retailers and anally retentive fans across the comics’ world, 2011 may go down in history as the year when comics started shipping on time.

Excuse me? Fans are “anally retentive” for wanting a monthly comic book to come out monthly? That’s insulting really.

I’ve never been a fan of this “fly by night” mentality that’s come out in the last couple of years. If an artist or writer signs onto a monthly book then they should be on that book monthly (with the occasional fill-in, but nothing like has been happening lately). If the schedule has to be backlogged enough (working on 5th issue and 3rd issue is hitting stands) then so be it, do it. But it’s just ridiculous when an artist comes onto a book, does 2 issues and already has a fill-in, or even worse when a high profile artist is announced on a new book and already has help on the 2nd issue (Uncanny X-Men and Carlos Pacheco).

If it’s anal retentive to expect a monthly book to come out monthly, then so be it. But I’m extremely disappointed in Newsarama for allowing that sentiment to remain. Trying to be funny? Maybe. Was it funny? No.

The other then that got me going was a tweet that Brian Michael Bendis made at the beginning of December:

writing’s on the wall guys, if you can’t hit a deadline in mainstream comics, you’re going to be out of work.

Maybe it’s just me being “anally retentive”, but shouldn’t that be expected? Shouldn’t you be expected to hit the deadline in order to have a job? I know at my job if I miss a deadline, it hurts me professionally. It’ll affect if my bosses give me another project of that scale or if I’m downgraded to smaller and less important projects. It also hurts me personally, hurts my pride. I take pride in doing my job well and part of doing it well is hitting the deadlines.

Why is the comics industry different?

I can remember when all writers and artists hit their deadlines. If they didn’t they got a reputation of being slow and that affected the work and type of projects they got. They wouldn’t get put on a monthly book because they couldn’t hit the deadlines.

I’m glad that the trend is going back to having hard deadlines. It had been going away from it for so long.

But I’m still not sure if the publishers are getting it right.

Awhile back Marvel editor Tom Brevoort, in an interview on Comic Book Resources, defended delays in the schedule because “fill-in artists suck” and having a fill-in artist hurts the sales of the book.

For all that everybody’s up in arms about the delay, what readers really want when you get down to the content of what they’re saying is for the project to be monthly by Mark and Steve. And when that becomes an impossibility, you have to ask yourself what’s going to cause more lasting damage, long-term? I’m glad that people seem this upset because it shows that they’re really into the story, that they can’t wait until the next one comes out, but the reason that they feel that way is because Mark and Steve are producing an incredible book. And as soon as you bring in a replacement, you can immediately see the ardor of the fans start to cool.

This was back in 2006 when Civil War was being delayed because of Steve McNiven’s schedule.

Reading that quote by Brevoort all I can think about is that it’s a “for the trade” mentality. A fill-in artist will not hurt the book in the monthly sense, but I can see how it would hurt trade paperback sales. You pick up Old Man Logan for Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s story only to find out that McNiven only did 4 issues. That would suck. But it’s happened before in the past and wasn’t disastrous.

Like I said before, I’m glad that the publishers are moving towards strict deadlines. Day and date digital is the driving force behind this and I’m glad something is forcing it to happen (but I’m not sure why the digital release can’t be delayed, but I’m glad it’s not).

I just don’t think they’re getting it right.

Brevoort, back in 2006, did get it right partly. Fill-in artists do suck. They don’t suck if they fill-in for an entire issue. Sure it can be jarring to open a book and expect one style and see something completely different (I can remember when Tom Raney was nothing but a fill-in artist). But guess what, it’s even more jarring when it happens mid-issue. Fill-in artists do suck when they’re mid-issue.

Talk about cooling off the “ardor of the fans” for the story. It can also be jarring, interupting the flow of the story, taking the reader out of the story.

Would I rather have the book delayed? No.

But then I don’t see the reason either has to happen.

At work one of the things the bosses do (sometimes they do it good, sometimes they don’t) is schedule the projects so we won’t be forced to miss a deadline (overlapping projects forcing us to choose one over the other). This means that sometimes one gets pushed off later or one gets started sooner.

Why can’t this be applied to the comics industry? Why can’t editorial insure that a writer/artist is far enough ahead on the book that there won’t be delays? Schedule the book so that issue #1 hits stands and the creators are working on issue #4 or 5. Don’t schedule a mini-series until it’s been completed, so it ships monthly, or #1 hits and #4 is being worked on.

Unexpected things do come up, but thats what you schedule the extra time for.

I’d rather see things delayed in the publishing schedule then have a fill-in artist mid-issue.

And I see no reason why the book has to be delayed.

The industry has moved away from alot of what I loved about it, especially in terms of storytelling, but thankfully it’s moving back towards the strict scheduling.

Now just solve the mid-issue fill-in problem.

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