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Off My Mind: Comic Book Characters Vs. Creators

What is the deciding factor when choosing comics, the creative team or the characters?

Recently the question came up about what is more important to comic book sales, the characters in the comic or the creative team putting out the comic. There are so many comic titles on the shelves these days and many writers are working on multiple books as well.

Years ago, it wasn't that much of a question. Readers tended to follow the adventures of the characters they found interesting. It was easy since we didn't have loads of multiple titles based on the same characters and teams. Readers didn't have as many choices as they do today.

Publishers soon caught on to the idea that characters that were popular could carry spin off titles and fans would buy them. Writers and artists also emerged as an important factor in what made comic books fun and entertaining. As the comic market evolves, what is more important to comics, the characters or the creative team?

== TEASER ==

Comic readers can be extremely frugal these days. There are seemingly more titles than ever but with the rising cost of comics, readers are finding themselves making harsh decisions when it comes to what is on their pull lists. If you're a fan of the X-Men, you're going to want to buy UNCANNY X-MEN, X-MEN, WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, X-MEN LEGACY, ASTONISHING X-MEN and most likely UNCANNY X-FORCE. There are also other spin off titles such as NEW MUTANTS, X-FACTOR, GAMBIT and the upcoming ALL-NEW X-MEN. But for those on a budget, it might not be possible to buy all these titles. They may have to narrow it down and if the writing or artistic quality of one off shoot title isn't on the same level as others, readers will only buy the books that are worth their money.

One question to think about, why did 1991's X-MEN #1 sell as many copies as it did? The multiple covers helped but did it sell because it was a new X-Men title or because Chris Claremont and Jim Lee were working on it?

The same could be said for the Batman titles. There is no question that since the New 52 started, not all Batman titles have featured the same consistent quality. They all feature Batman but some of the stories are on a different level than others. There's also the fact that readers also have to make room in their comic book budget for the other titles and characters that are released.

Besides the multitude of franchise titles, we're also seeing several creators jumping ship to pursue creator-owned titles. Ed Brubaker recently announced he was not only leaving CAPTAIN AMERICA but also ending his WINTER SOLDIER run. Will fans of his work continue to read the adventures of Cap and Bucky or will they take their dollars and buy whatever project Brubaker works on. In an ideal world, readers can do both. Their beloved characters (Cap and Bucky) will continue to have kickass stories that they can buy and they'll also be able to purchase anything else Brubaker does.

Grant Morrison has also announced he's ending his run on ACTION COMICS and BATMAN INCORPORATED. With the high profile those titles have, we'll all be paying close attention to what the future holds for them. Whoever steps in will have to deal with high expectations. Will sales drop or stay the same on ACTION COMICS once grant leaves? Are people reading it more for Grant or because it's Superman?

If there are popular characters that will sell no matter who the creative team is, why don't publishers put their top creative teams on titles that don't sell? Marvel puts their "architects" on the top titles. If a book was selling poorly it would make more sense to put the really good writers and artists on them to boost sales while the popular characters will be able to sell themselves. It doesn't work that way.

Readers are more reluctant to try new comics and ideas. If a familiar and consistent creative team is involved, that helps consumers to take a chance. But with more titles being crammed onto the shelves and readers forced to make harsh decisions, the line between creative team and characters is becoming clearer. Not all comics are created equal.

As readers are becoming more conservative with our purchases, we expect high quality and can't simply buy follow all titles involving our favorite characters blindly. We need to let publishers know that we do have these expectations. The only way we can express this is with out wallets. The days of buying every single AVENGERS or X-MEN titles are over. If it turns out they are all high quality, that's a different story. What it comes down to is readers are more aware of who is behind the curtains and will not simply buy everything involving their favorite characters. To imply that we otherwise is an insult to our intelligence.

114 Comments
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Posted by AltyAce

Being new to comics. I have been buying and following series based on other peoples recommendations and reviews and whether I think I would be interested in the general concept of the story.

Posted by DeusVult

Being a man on a relatively low budget, I am faced with this problem all the time. I am always trying to decide what titles to buy and what titles to drop. But, I think when it comes down to it I more often decide based on a the writer or artist. You see since I have very little money to spend I have to make sure I'm getting my moneys worth, and a good writer or artist can reassure me of that better then a great comic character.

Posted by CrashBang

Grant Morrison is leaving Batman Inc? YEEEEEESSSS!!

Grant Morrison is leaving Action Comics? DAMN!!

Seriously, that guy is so contrary, it makes me weep. I loved his Animal Man and Invisibles. I hated his Batman RIP but loved his Batman & Robin. I hate Batman Inc but love Action Comics.

Anyway, I would argue that the creative team is the most important thing. When Superman was rebooted last Sept with George Perez, it sucked so I stopped buying it. As soon as Dan Jurgens took over I went right back to it.

Posted by Happy_Evil_Dude

I always wait for the TPBs to come out. I generally select by series, but some creators have definitely got my attention and interest.

Posted by mattysp83

For me it is the creative team. I generally was only a fan of batman, but I have latched on to other titles and have even started reading old works of a creative team. For those that are on a budget, you should seriously consider taking advantage of your public library. Other than the taxes I have already paid, the library has saved me thousands.

Posted by feebadger

I think its hard to still follow your favourite character after they've been around for so many decades. Personally, i love Batman, but can not commit to him month after month. Firstly, i can't afford it. Secondly, there are too many ebbs and flows with story and crossovers and deaths and such. Thirdly, i lose interest as a result of this. When a creator i like becomes involved, it gives me a reason to return to the character i love. So i guess it's a combination of both. Scott Snyder has recently reinvigorated my love of Batman. This is a combination of a creator handling a long loved character in a way that makes him that long loved character again. Maybe that's the key.

Edited by UltimateSMfan

did this come up cuz of what happened between Rob Liefeld n Scott Snyder? i think if im collecting a specific title it doesnt make a difference who writes it, but if the writer has had successful runs in the past i'd like to see more of what he has to offer....i actually added JLD to my pull list after jeff lemier came on, cuz his pre 52 superboy n current animal man is fantastic. not to say the characters arn't important,the only ones that interest me from that series are Zatanna n deadman but i really wanted to see how jeff wrote them,n he's been pretty freakin awesome since he's started.

Posted by DarkBiolizard

Creative team is my first priority, I need to know they're not going to run a fav character into the ground (on top of wasting my money on a rubbish book). And it's an equal partnership - a book can have a great writer but if I don't like the artist's work, I won't buy it - I could go buy a novel instead for a lot less.

But the story/character means is important too, though second to the team. I won't buy something simply because a favoured writer of mine's name happens to adorn the cover, I need to be interested in the book itself.

Posted by EmmRoss

Generally characters, but there are a lot of creators I just won't support - JMS, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Tony Daniel, Bendis, Millar, Quesada, Finch, Liefeld etc - even if i love the characters they're writing. I haven't bought a Marvel book in years out of principle, because there are just so many vile chauvinistic scumbags running and working for that company, and I believe you have to vote with your wallet - same goes with stuff like Before Watchmen. I can't support that out of respect for Moore, in spite of loving some of the writers and artists involved - it would be paying these people, and worse, paying Lee, Didio et al, money to mutilate, disrespect and profiteer from someone else's work and that's not something we should be encouraging.

There are books I'll pick up simply because of writers though, albeit usually Image, IDW or Dark Horse. The DC books I pick up gets smaller every other month, as it seems does the integrity of those running the company.

Posted by DarthShap

A bit of both really.

Posted by FatesGambler

I started out buying copies of my favorite character but after a few issues in I started just buying the ones with the better creative team

Posted by wowylied

I really don't care about the original creator.

When i read something i can enjoy a good writer and a good artist even if this is a title i did not know before. But recently we have more and more bad artist or good writer quitting a title in the middle of an arc and letting a bad writer ruin the arc.

Posted by hairiel

very interesting article

Posted by BatClaw89

as long as is not Kevin Smith ill read anything. dam I hate that guy

Posted by new_onslaught

My first coment :) ! When I started buying comics I didn't even look at the creative teams. It was all character. I believe the same goes for most new readers. But after a while you start to notice that creative teams are important. But not so important that I'll buy anything by certain creators. I have to care for the character. But a beloved creator will definitely make me try a book about characters I don't know and see if I like them. That was the case with Seven Soldiers of Victory. I bought it because of Morrison and made love Frankenstein nad like Zatanna.

To sum it up, now it's about the writing, the characters and the art. All three aspects of a comic book need a passing grade in my book to make me follow a title. Beyond that grade, one aspect can make up for a lacking one. If I had to rank these three aspects it would be 1) writing 2) character 3) art.

Posted by lifeboy

Hello Friends:-)

Posted by HotSauceCommittee

A good writer can change my mind on a character, and get me to like someone I was never very keen on, but a character, cannot make a bad writer more talented. That being said, if I like the character enough I may persevere with book inspite of it's poor creative team.

Ultimately it's a combination of both, I'm not going to buy Morrison's new Pedo Santa Image series, but I probably won't carry on with Action Comics once Andy Diggle takes over either.

Posted by Fantasgasmic

A character will bring me to a book, but a creative team will get me to leave a book. I loved Tim Drake in the classic DCU, but since new52, I've hated all Lobdell's books. So I refuse to buy Teen Titans. I haven't been interested in Superman since he came back from the dead; I liked Grant Morrison's run on Batman R.I.P. but it didn't draw me in to Action Comics. I love Batman, and I love what Scott Snyder's done so far, but I started reading Swamp Thing because of word of mouth, when I found out Snyder was on that one too, it was a happy coincidence.

Posted by odysseyuwrf

20 years ago, it was all character driven, title driven for me. The only creator I liked and followed was Jim Lee. Eventually I learned that most books out were junk, and no matter how much I liked a character or team, if the story was garbage, I wasn't interested.

Now I look for who is writing the book, first and foremost. With the new DC books, the books I picked up because I thought I would like the characters (Stormwatch, VooDoo) I dropped because the stories weren't any good. Books I picked up because they had good writers attached (I Vampire, Justice League) I have kept up with. Same goes for all books I buy each month. In fact, I can name a few dozen writers in comics today, but maybe 10 artists.

I think guys like Gaiman, Ellis, Morrison, to name a few, showed what you could do when the writing is good, and nothing else matters much. Sandman alone had new art teams throughout its run, and the constant was just the writing. There you have a non-hero, mostly unsympathetic, character, in a fantasy book, with not-to-flashy art, and yet its one of the best selling comics/GN off all time.

Writing is what it's all about.

Posted by longbowhunter

If its a favorite character of mine by a I writer I dont know I'll give it a shot. But generally I buy comics based on creative teams. Usually its the writers who make my mind up for me. I think its what separates a lot of the hardcore readers from the novice readers, the men from the boys if you will.

Posted by spinningwebs

First the character brings me to a comic, but if i don't like the writing then i try another title for the same guy (if possible).

Edited by J1ml33

I read comics for the Character and for the Creator [ writer /artist both respectfully ] All that sells me on a comic is A good Story and the person behind it being passionate about the project .

and that is all .

Heck I would read a Graphic Novel that would Crossover Darkhold : Pages of the Book of Sin Vs Hellraiser written by Sasha Grey and Clive Barker and Illustrated by Bruce Timm and Inked by Mike Mignola featuring a Cover by Kelley Jones .[ all thought this line up/ combination would be Nice to see working on a book like that if was to ever truly exist ..but a guy can dream ] ^_^

[ heck since they are relaunching almost everything I wonder why Marvel would not relaunch Darkhold :Pages from the Book of Sin but whatever marvel/Disney ..-_- ] anyways my point is I Care but at this point all I want in a comic or Graphic Novel is a Good Entertaining story , A writer /artist or Team that gives a D_mn about the Project [ double goes for Creator Owned ] and Interesting Characters who don't fall into that Flat , boring ,stock mold we kinda see today .[ but that`s my two cents ]

[ P.S these two should really do a Book together ,or at least an Novella : I am sure she has a few horror stories to tell ^_^ ]

but I like a Good Story with Interesting Characters written by Creative Writers .

and that is all

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

To me it always will be the creators, I have absolutely no qualms with dropping a book regardless of what characters it stars if it's not going on the direction that I would like, for example I dropped Daredevil, my favourite hero at Marvel, because I detest Waids run also I will just as easily pick up a book with characters that I have ether never heard of or didn't really care about if I enjoy the creative team on the book. Pepole that buy books regardless of quality and only for character recognition the reason the comic book industry is in decline, they are the reason er get sub-par book after sub-par book.    

Posted by ReganRuled

Thank god Grant is leaving Batman Inc. He won't slaughter Talia al Ghul's character anymore.

Posted by Dark_Vengeance_

as long as it's not Rob Liefeld

Posted by sethysquare

I do agree with this.

But as a life long fan of Superman, I can't help but buy every single solo and spin off books of Superman (he only has 4 anyways) and I will continue doing that into the future. Truth be told, I would be dropping Superman if not for Scott Lobdell's involvement. But I just can't help but to buy every single copy of Superman and Action. I mean, he is my favourite character of all time.

But when it came down to Batman, I was so critical that the moment I felt I didn't enjoy Batman and Robin, I dropped it in a heartbeat. I am only pulling 2 Batman books and a few spin offs like RHATO, Batgirl, BOP and Nightwing (NW is hanging by a thread).

Posted by BlackArmor

I kneeled before that picture of Snyder and Morrison. Does that answer your question?

Posted by SC

Characters ultimately are more important, because comics can offer something that most other mediums can't and thats a long term relationship between fans and characters. Except comic companies, the big two Marvel and DC has tried to make comics sale on the power of creators, and this is why we started to see stuff like writers names on TPB's bigger than the actually name of the team or character they were writing. This was seen as a smart thing to do because creative teams would often be more controllable than characters (as far as marketing to more types of fans, with less chance of drop off)  and because fans would be considered getting savvy to a point that it could work and because for a long time the higher ups at Marvel and DC probably only thought that their legitimate and sincere competition were each other basically unaware that technology was making computers, TV, movies, video games music, books more accessible and thus more direct competition for comics. Why did Disney buy Marvel again? Oh thats right, the characters. Oh and readers don't care about quality. Readers are human, and most humans blindly follow whatever makes them feel good. Apple is making profit each year because studies that when certain people see the Apple logo they release heavy duty chemicals that isn't dissimilar to someone with a drug addiction. Now thats consumer loyalty. A lot of comic fans can barely distinguish between the narrative and creative aspects of comics. A heavy majority of comic site comic fans regularly use fallacious arguments to support their need for vindication. Its easy to insult comic fans intelligence because they don't buy comics with their brain.         

Moderator
Posted by Lvenger

It comes down to a bit of both for me. In the past, when I started collecting comics, my pull list mainly comprised of Superman, Batman and Justice League books. The only exception to this was JMS' Thor and Johns' Green Lantern. I do tend to follow my 3 favourites which are Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. But recently I refined my tastes significantly and dropped Superman and Batman and Robin. Superman was rubbish and I wanted to broaden my reading hence my dropping Batman and Robin.

As for my creator choices, I picked up Fantastic Four at 607 due to hearing about how good Hickman was on the title. The FF aren't my all time favourites but Hickman's writing drew me to the title. And I'm considering getting New Avengers because Hickman is writing it. I picked up the new IDW TMNT due to both the characters and the creative team. Eastman returning to the title was a plus for me and I wanted to start reading a non DC or Marvel book anyway. I read enough DC as it is.

So in conclusion, it's a bit of both for me. I doggedly follow my favourites in the best stories but also pick up a few extra quality titles as well.

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Posted by DougCL

ill read anything Brian Wood is involved in. hes the only creator i follow. heck, he has me reading two x-men titles which is something i never would have pictured myself doing.

Posted by chalkshark

Since DC stopped publishing their characters to focus on the individual brands of those characters, the only draw, to me, for their titles, has been the artwork. There are... maybe... a half dozen writers that can get me to buy a series. I'm much more attracted to artwork. Batwoman & I, Vampire are the two most beautiful looking books that DC comics currently publishes. I don't give a damn about either Batwoman or Andrew Bennett as characters, but I'd buy those books until doomsday if the art remained the same.

Alex Ross has been a big draw for the books I purchase from Dynamite. His artwork on the cover will, at least, get me to look at the book. May not purchase it... again, depending on interior artwork... but it does get consideration.

Marvel tends to have more artists I like working on their titles, so, by default, I've become, pretty much a Marvel guy. Their characters also haven't endured endless reboots, so that, depending on the writer, many of them still read consistent with earlier stories.

Posted by NightFang

I saw both.

Posted by monochrome0088

It's kind of both in my opinion. There are some characters that i love to read because of their personalities and adventures, but a creative team decides on which direction the character goes, so depending if they are generally more talented or not in this area can be used to narrow the pool of what to buy, with so many spin-off titles someone can read their favorite character while choosing the one with the best creative team and still not have to buy all of the books, if they need more information about the current state of the character or the quality of the creative team without buying the books, then they can always use the internet.

Posted by MilosRadmilac092

Insult our inteligence... There, that is the poin of this whole thing...Audience today is much more inteligent and informed than before. How I pick my books? I have a few books at Marvel and DC that I will stick to, but I will also follow creators and their titles... I mean who isn't reading Brian K Vaughn's Saga? I am following Brubaker's Fatale... But what I want to say is that you can discover new talent that is given a chance in one of Big two's books. Sara Pichelli is one of my favourite artists and her big break came with Ultimate Spider-man. Another point is that as we get older we are more likley to pick up creator-owned stuff, we get more sufisticated... :) So dip your toes in both sides, see what works for you....

Posted by cc1738

Both matter to me. If I writer I follow goes on a character I hate, I won't get it. If they go on one that I don't really have an opinion on I'll check it out. I did that with Geoff Johns with Aquaman.

It also goes the other way. If there's a writer or artist on a title I would usually get, I won't bother picking it up. For instance, I'm extremely interested in the story for Wolverine and the X-Men, but the art is so bad I refuse to read it.

Posted by Novemberx2

i think we can all agree that jeph loeb should not be allowed near comics nows

Posted by thanosrules

I buy based on recommendations, character and creator.

I especially buy based on creator if they have made exceptional characters or they have taken an existing character in an interesting and exciting direction.

There are some creators that I will support, regardless of character / series.

Posted by TheMess1428

I can work with almost any art but writing is a big deal to me. Mostly because I'm a writer.

Posted by fodigg

My thoughts:

  • Of course the major characters have a "minimum sales" number from the name recognition.
  • However, those characters tend to also get high-profile talent regularly as they're flagship books, which is what justifies that confidence.
  • And while characters are what grab my interest, creators make or break a sale. There are guys I avoid and guys I will follow. Comics is a pretty small community creator-wise.

My favorite response I saw on twitter to Liefeld's idiocy was this: "If people really thought it was ONLY the characters that sold comics, then Image Comics wouldn't exist."

Posted by mikeclark1982

i think the thing when it comes to comics is PRICE! heck, when i was younger the thing I looked for was the title. Like folks would line up to get the newest pair of Jordans, I would be at Walgreens every Wednesday to see what new X title was out (I was in my single digits-early teens so the internet was not popular YET and they did not have release schedules) and buy it. Was the artwork different? Yes, but i did not care because I got a cohesive story monthly for $1.25. I got $5 every two weeks! I left with a TON of books! when Marvel jacked up the price a quarter more, then $2.25 I moved away. I did not really buy a comic until i was 21 when i had a good job. They became a premium instead of just something fun to take your mind off the world. Yet again, i call out Marvel because they started the variant covers for EVERYTHING and expected people to buy EVERY cover of the book. Why? It is the same book with a different cover! That is what started the "comic boom bust!" Who thinks that if Marvel did not do that with X-Men Vol. 2 #1, comics would still be selling millions of copies a week for probably 2 bucks, and NOT FIVE DOLLARS AN ISSUE!??!!?!

Posted by Gibbet

**** you Quesada

**** you Loeb

- sincerely a fan

Edited by Suprman

For me, it is mostly the creative team involved, In particular, the writer. However at the same time, it's next to impossible to read EVERYTHING that a writer produces especially if they are a prolific one. For example, I love reading Mark Waid's stuff but at the same time I can't afford to buy everything that he comes out with and I don't have the time to read them on top of the other things I read like required reading for school, my friend's short stories, Manga and book series that I like reading and other comics. Then, there's the time I spend for class, work, sleep, and general socializing, there's just not enough time to do everything I want or need to do. I read comics for the story and I don't want to waste my time reading a bad story.

Posted by sturmritter

When it comes to comicbooks, for me it's always been ART first, story second. With that said, I enjoy good stories too, and may avoid really crappy stories too, inspite of the art, though that is extremely rare for me. The truism about art is that "A picture can tell 1,000 words". So even if the story is somewhat mediocre, the artist can tell more with the medium than the writer does with his limited amount of words.

Posted by Dman1366

For me it is a little bit of both. I will buy, or not buy, because of a writer (i.e. Bendis). I will also buy based on characters (i.e. avenging spiderman). Then, at the same time, I will buy based on pure curiosity (i.e. scarlet spider and avengers academy). And for the most part I am pretty damn happy. If you only buy based on a creative team, then you loose the chance to give a good underground writer the money he deserves. At the same time, if you buy based on characters, then you give artists undeserved credit, like Bendis with his "All New X-Men". And if you buy based on curiosity, then you have a gamble of getting burned. I guess that is the risk you have to be willing to take.

Posted by JoseDRiveraTCR7

Sorry, Tony, but I have to disagree with you. If you put these top talent on books with lesser known character or even creator owner comics those books will hardly sell compared to books with known characters. The reason why publishers don't put top talent on lower selling books is because they pay these guys a lot of money and putting them on books that won't sell would be wasting that money. We on the internet may care about who is writing and drawing the books, but the mainstream audience cares a lot less about that and more about name brand characters and what books are important to the overall story/continuity of that company's universe.

Posted by greenlucario

I come for the character, and stay if the creative team seems to be putting out a good story. But knowing the creative team is good definitely helps when trying out a new book. Case in point Iron Man 2.0, came for War Machine, left cause the creative team couldn't hack it.

Posted by tximinoman

I guess it depends. For me is a combination of both. I'm much more interested in series whose characters I know and love, like some of the X-Titles, but if some of my favourite writers or pencilers are getting a new series I got interested almost as much, even if I don't know which superheroes will be on that.

For example, I bought and read the first two volumes of The Authority just because I love Ellis, Hitch, Millar and Quitely, but started up with Uncanny X-Force because I love Wolverine and Fantomex

Posted by stambo42

I feel like that second to the last paragraph is a bit off, at least when it comes to Marvel. I've been a lifelong fan of the X-men, and in theory they've always been a flagship set of titles, but both the art and the writing have been constantly poor. People make excuses for Uncanny, which is at best passable and WATXM is an entertaining funny book. The only series that has been close to consistent has been Uncanny X-Force.

Than AvX came around and i ended up picking up some Avengers titles. Well, the work on Avengers was pretty budget, but Deodato and Conrad's work on New Avengers, while not the most exciting thing ever, was accomplished, particularly in his dialogue scenes in 29. What blew me away was Renato Guedes on Secret Avengers 26. Damn. That guy is fantastic. Were these guys brought along to convert readers of the crossover, or are they the consistent creators on these books?

What I'm seeing is that, at least in Marvel, flagship titles are left to float on character popularity, while secondary books are propped up with better creative teams. Either that or Remender is the only writer who gets to work with decent artists.

As I get older I become more interested in creative teams. After all, who wants to see your favorite characters abused.

Posted by dcfox

There are some characters I'll follow regardless of the creative team, but if there is a creative team I do like, I'll be more open to reading and buying whatever they work on next.

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