Here are pages 5 and 6 that I inked and colored of Robot Boys. The story had a lot of interesting elements for me, but it seemed to lack a focus as to who the audience was.
It was a little too dark for a young reader story and probably not ‘action’ enough for middle grade. The plot twists on the fact that these are real human kids who have fallen into this mechanical world (created and abandoned by a technology company that didn’t realize what their experiments created- it sits in a bubble universe aside our own). Through relentless competition their humanity is contiually replaced with mechanical efficiency. But sometimes the conversion process leave remnants and these boys start to recall their past. But will they try and solve the mystery of these images and memories or will they give into what the culture wants. It was and is an idea, as executed in this form, in search of an audience.
Here are 4 pages from a project that I don’t think I will be finishing. So often a project starts to come together. I write outlines, maybe even a first draft and I try some pages out to see what it could look like but for many different reasons, I move on. Th project dies. It’s frustrating but I don’t know any other way to work. This was envisioned as a 100 page comic book/graphic novel. It was called Robot Boys and basically these young robots had memories of a past life. Life in a non-mechanical form, in a non-mechanical world. And wacky hijinks and dark subplots unfold. Well, they would have.
It’s an idea born from putting a bunch of genres and formats into a blender and getting something delicious. Something different. And you know, if you know Erik’s work, it will be exquisitely designed and printed.
Here is a great post by Mark Evanier that examines the creation of Batman. But it’s also a nice essay about what it means to create something. In the world of comic books this an important and complicated issue. We have grown accustomed to the idea of a certain type of creator these days. A romanticaly inspired myth of a single cartoonist who creates a Thing. But often the truth is many people are key to a work.
There are of course some cartoonists who do it all. Charles Schulz famously never had another artist write or draw a panel of his Peanuts comic strip. Other cartoonists are happy to hire help and that was a tradition back in the 1930’s. Many cartoonists sought success so they could ‘retire’ from actually drawing and writing their work. Remember all those Disney comic books and comic strips that were signed by Walt Disney? He didn’t quite have the time to draw all of them. In fact, he drew none of them. He found better cartoonists to do it and you must credit Walt Disney for his ability to spot and nurture talent. Anyway…
One odd thing about comic books was the very early acceptance that a character would be shared. Because of deadlines and workload it took more than one person to get a book out. And as comics grew in popularity it became the method of operation. So we have dozens of people writing and drawing Batman through the years. I have a friend who pointed out how odd this tradition is. If a novelist creates a beloved charter, most often that novelist writes the books featuring that character (at least until they are dead and the property is in the public domain – Sherlock Holmes anyone?) But in general we don’t expect JK Rowling to put out a Harry Potter adventure writen by a different writer do we? How odd that we just accept that a comic book character will be handed from one artist and writer to another.
It happens in other illustration mediums, but far less often and most often under secrecy. There are children’s book series which have become Brands and are created by teams. But usually this work is done as For Hire work and the additional writers and artists are not directly credited. Somewhat like the traditional role of a Ghost Writer. So perhaps comic books get kudos for being more open about the fact that this happens.
But when comic book characters became Big Entertainment Business there was a legal need to put a Created By title onto a character so they could sell the stuff to a larger company and that company would be comfortable knowing who had the right to sell the rights. There is a long tangled history of this issue in comic books which I will not go into.
OK. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. I am not promising to have found the key to buying yourself a Lamborghini and a third house in Florida.
And my comic ISN’T actually worth four thousand dollars and has never SOLD for four thousand dollars despite what the screen capture (shown below) from Amazon might say.
So a few weeks ago I noticed that an indy comic book I drew a few years back started to climb the pricing ladder at Amazon. (and yes…at times I do check my books on Amazon. I like to keep an eye on the reviews. But I never read too carefully for fear I’ll get bummed out) This Amazon Price Inflation isn’t that unusual (Ebay anyone?). But I have never seen it climb to this embarrassing level. This is the Mt. Everest of Amazon pricing weirdness.
Why does this happen? Isn’t online shopping the be-all-end-all of a free-market dream within a dream? Perfect low noise environments where pricing gets rational? Ah no…
I’ve asked around and emailed a few people. And it pays to recount this as we are currently in an era when Amazon’s practices are being looked at a little more closely. And even when it’s NOT Amazon pricing this, they are creating the marketplace.
Let’s start logically. The pricing on this comic is the result of either technical errors or human misunderstanding. I’ve talked to people who place it in both camps, or perhaps a combination of both.
Most likely at least two bidding bots got involved in a pricing war. This jacked up the price. Then a human probably saw a rise in value and adjusted their pricing on the item which resulted in the bots going at it again.
Eventually the one or two people holding this item (Hey, it wasn’t exactly printed in the tens of thousands) may well have taken the price they saw as a true market price.
A little chaos with our online markets please and thank you.
I used to work for Max Keiser and one of the things I picked up listening to him was an affirmation that markets are victims of irrationality and the manipulations produced by human desires. All our human foibles – be they technical or greed induced – find their way in. The ideal free market environment is a dream. John Lennon may as well have been signing about it when he wrote Imagine.
Markets are as conducive to mistakes as any other human structure. And thus my $4,000 comic book.
BTW I still have a few in a box if anyone wants to buy them for three grand each…
Democracy is a loaded word. Everyone has their own working definition. Is our government system here in the U.S.A. MORE democratic than Athens in the 5th century BC? We know the ‘will’ of the people is often ugly, reactionary and short-sighted. In knowing that should we defend democracy as the best choice among bad choices?
And what does it have to do with commercial art?
Everything and nothing. As a commercial artist we can’t pretend that we live in a void where commerce doesn’t matter. People ‘vote’ by purchasing access to the ‘art’ they like. A book. An album or digital download. A film. A video game. That’s what I depend on to pay my bills.
Right now it seems what people want in their movie house is repetitious movies of super heroes fighting one another. This strikes me as an amazing turn of events for a genre of fiction relegated to the lowest levels of attention for generations. The ‘modern’ comic book genre has been around since the 1930’s in America. At the peak of comic book popularity a few titles sold millions of copies a month. Like a video game would do these days. Now the few comics that sell in any number at all are very lucky to sell 10,000 copies in a month. So it’s literally a bankrupt form of fiction from a commercial standpoint. And yet this genre is the biggest draw in the world on the movie screen.
So why did a genre of story that existed for 80 years and only at the edge of most people’s awareness, grow into the global phenomena and dominate the moving pictures business? Why now?
Is it a perfect storm of demographics? Young people are still going out to movies in fairly impressive numbers. They have more money to spend and they want spectacle. Is this the result of the Nickelodeon and Disney TV generations looking for a rapid series of cuts and bright colors, obvious bad guys and non-threatening narratives? Good guys win. Bad guys die. Unless they don’t so there can be a sequel. And isn’t that really what Hollywood has always, mostly made anyway?
Granted they made Batman serials in the and 40’s, but they never found great success. And they never became feature films with big stars. There were also TV shows and cartoons through the years. But again, nothing that indicated they were anything more than a niche within entertainment programming. And after Tim Burton’s Batman in the 1980’s and the spawned sequels, the genre seemed to run out of gas and become something of an after thought.
I’m not interested in being a critic of the current films. Some are better than others. I just find the their success in cinema astounding. I don’t understand why superheroes are such big bushiness in films right now. But there is no doubt that a genre all but laughed at for generations now dominates the box office. The ‘Movie Democracy’ has spoken.