Sunday, October 19, 2008

Final Crisis: The Case For Consistency

There was some bitching online recently about Doug Mahnke allegedly filling in on the art for Final Crisis #7. I still don't know if this is true or not, but reading the comments regarding this, a good point was raised.

J.G. Jones is a great artist, but was it worth putting him on FC? For whatever reasons, he couldn't do a monthly on this book. I hear some things about deadline issues regarding him, but I have no first-person observations on that. But an editor would have known, Dan DiDio would have known. If you know your artist is going to have deadline issues, you can do one of two things: 1) not assign him for a book with a regular schedule, or 2) schedule out the book so far in advance that it will give the artist enough time.

The second option has been utilized with success on books like Batman: Hush. Jim Lee started that book waaaaaay in advance. Issues were dutifully collected in the flat file, and at some point everyone felt safe enough to commit to a monthly schedule and solicit the arc. Because it was all done in advance; far less stress for everyone involved, and they got a couple of nice hardcovers out of the deal with consistent art.

But what of the Final Crisis hardcover? There are going to be at least two artists on FC when it is all said and done. And were there not shipping issues as well with the original series?

And for what? I'd rather have had an artist like Carlos Pacheco or Mahnke from the very beginning anyhow. As I said, I think J.G. Jones is a great artist, but I just didn't find his work on this title (from the two issues I did read) very exciting. But even if I did, one of the most important things in a story arc or a mini-series is keeping the creative team consistent.

In retrospect, would you have preferred another artist on Final Crisis (like Mahnke) if it meant the same artist on all seven issues plus a regular shipping schedule?

Postscript: Again, I don't know the story regarding the schedule J.G. Jones kept for FC, so it is all speculation -- I don't want to say an artist is "slow" until I know 100%, plus all the circumstances behind it. I'm just commenting on the fact that there has been erratic shipping on Final Crisis and also fill-in art.

Postscript 2: Many people online are so dumbfounded at the possibility that there could be a fill-in artist on the last issue of FC that they swear up and down it must be a typo in the solicitations information. If it turns out that there was no typo, there are going to be a lot of pissed off people. To me, these online reactions again evidence the fact that the readers crave consistency -- perhaps even above "name" artists.


  1. Before we blame JG for this, are we sure the issue was JG's? For all we know, Grant Morrison- who has had significant on-time issues during this deal with DC (anyone remember the Wildstorm launch, where he didn't turn in scripts?)- may have turned in late scripts, and this could have led to the need for Jones and Mahnke to work simultaneously.

    This is pure speculation, BTW. But it's certainly possible that Morrison is as much to blame as JG.

  2. Val is there a standard time frame, in the industry,for producing a work? for example if I magically became a writer for comic company and came up with a great 12 issue arc for (whatever book), how long would they give me to write it and how long before the artist is involved?

    I would think the industry has it down to a near science, but the way delays crop up(not counting artists getting sick, death in the family, etc) it seems like it's a lot of guess work going on.

  3. Sadly, I haven't found Final Crisis to be any good...

  4. It's my firm stance that if you're going to do a big crossover even book like this, above all else it must come out on time. Use fill-ins if you must, but get it out on time. Unless the planned artist is someone like Alex Ross or Dave McKean, there are plenty of artists out there who can easily do the same style as the original. And to be quite honest, I doubt very many people read big event books solely on the basis of the artist, or even partly.

  5. It doesn't really matter to me if it's true or not but since Mahnke and Alamy are the team doing Superman Beyond I think it probably is just a mistake.

  6. I think events like this should always be able to pull off one creative team and no delays. That should be the bare minimum. In the case of Final Crisis, it doesn't matter what the reason is. It's only 7 issues long and they've been planning it for a very long time. Fill-in's are disruptive to the storytelling experience IMO.

    For all those fanboys out there that kvetch about how comics as an art form aren't taken seriously by the mainstream audience and critics, this kind of nickel and dime stuff is why.

  7. Val, I'm sure you'll recall from personal experience that editors often forget how certain artists can't really do a monthly. Honestly, I'm surprised some memories are so short! The same guys keep getting hired and rehired then the editors are suddenly surprised when a fill-in is needed after a half dozen issues (or, in many cases, before!).

    Being married to an unusually fast artist, I sometimes forget that it's not easy doing a monthly book. But it's not my job to keep track of who has and hasn't shown that kind of reliability and consistency.

  8. I love me some Superman, but I don't know squat about FC. I have trouble getting behind books with gigantic arcs that seem to require me to buy other titles to know what's going on. They seem gimmicky and manipulative to me.

    What I do know is that Superman looks like he has a combover in the illustration you show, so if that's indicative of the art, I probably wouldn't be picking it up anyway.

  9. There are more important things even in comic books to go nuts over than the possibility of a fill in artist on Final Crisis. However, I'd very much rather have the issues come out on a regular basis with one creative team, than multiple teams. You'd think that DiDio and DC would learn their mistake from Infinite Crisis(though I wasn't put off by the other artists working on that book).

  10. I prefer Mahnke on any book.
    I am one of his biggest fans, and buy everything he does, even when they make him draw the death of J'onn.

  11. I worked with Mahnke on JLA and the dude could have totally pulled FC off.

    As for how much time artists and writers are given on books -- it depends if the book is scheduled or not. A writer and artist should ideally be able to turn around at least one 22-pager a month. Writers could probably turn around 2 or 3 22-pagers a month if they had the time to do it -- and, as we can see, they often do. Maybe 4+ a month, but in those cases I always feel at least one book suffers and you can usually tell by the writing quality.

    Some artists just take longer to draw than others. Sometimes their art is more elaborate, or they are inking themselves. In those cases, it's really smart to stock a few issues in advance of solicitations, and then continue ahead of schedule. Eventually the artist will catch up with the schedule or even start lagging behind. But you will be in much better shape.

    There is nothing more stressful for an editor than consistently getting art late on a book, especially when the book is largely hinging on the "name" quality of the artist. Because then you either have to get fill-in artists or have the book ship late. You're screwed either way. And you can't fire the artist.

  12. Was there a process of any kind to get an artist off the book if it's shown that they're completely unreliable for the project?

  13. They should have just given it to Mahnke from the beginning. Dude can draw.

  14. If the artist in question is "key" to the book's sales and marketing, it becomes very difficult to get him or her off the book. As an editor, you'd start the ball rolling by talking to your superior about it, warning that the book is going to ship late.

    But sometimes it's decided to ship late or stagger the issues rather than get rid of the artist or get fill ins. One concern is that while individual monthly issues are fleeting, the hardcover is forever.

    But there are penalties for shipping late. It becomes a balancing act, and as an editor your superior has to be involved every step of the way.

  15. I wasn't overly happy with JG's work on FC (I have been impressed with his work). I would have preferred Carlos Pacheco or Doug Mahnke.

  16. I'd prefer they keep the art consistent. But with an event book like FC, it has, has, has to be out within a reasonable amount of time. No questions about it. So if anything, hiring Mahnke (if indeed they have) isn't the mistake -- the mistake was putting Jones on the book without having enough in the can to make the schedule viable.

    Man, I hope it's a typo, though. I've really liked Jones's work, and think the book as a whole would be stronger with him (and Pacheco) wrapping it up.

    But the bullet has to be bitten, one way or another.

  17. I'm not a huge fan of "superstar" artists. I prefer titles to come out on time, no matter what. So long as you get a decent artist and the difference is not too jarring (such as going from a realistic artist like Jones to a cartoony artist like the just-as-talented Sanford Greene) then I don't see a problem with using multiple artists. The bigger problem to me would be getting a fill-in writer for an event like this. No way that would work.

    But then again, I grew up reading comics in the 60's and 70's, so what do I know?

  18. Well personally I agree with the idea that they should have chosen an artist that could have met the deadlines. To me it would have made better sense to have had Mahnke from the beginning and let Jones do the covers. That being said I am excited that they at least did choose an artist of Mahnke's caliber to do the final issue. I love his work and am thrilled whenever I come across it.