Brand Loyalty: How Announcing Books Without Creative Teams Harms Creators
Marvel recently announced what looks to be an intriguing new series titled Vote Loki, which sees The God of Mischief running for office in the 2016 presidential election. The official announcement on Marvel.com featured two covers from Tradd Moore and Valerio Schiti and some words from editor Wil Moss, but the one thing the announcement lacked was a creative team.
It’s become common practice recently to announce a new series without a creative team, and hope the concept or the name recognition of the character is enough to get fans excited. Vote Loki could be an exciting book, and Wil Moss is editing most of Marvel’s most interesting titles at the moment, but when comics companies rely on the brand of their characters alone, it devalues the hard work of the creators who bring those characters to life.
DC Comics is even more guilty of this practice. Recently, it announced an entire line of thirty-two comics under its Rebirth banner without a single creative team attached. There are some curious ideas in there, such as The Super Sons, and a promise of the return of fan-favorite properties like Birds of Prey, but without writers or artists attached, they’re just ideas floating in the ether. (DC has indicated that it will reveal more details about the relaunch at Wondercon on March 26.)
The history of the comics industry, especially corporate work-for-hire comics, is absolutely riddled with creators being screwed, swindled or outright erased from the history of their own creations. It took DC Comics until last year to finally add a “with Bill Finger” credit to Batman media, and there’s a reason the official title of Joss Whedon’s hit 2012 film is Marvel’s The Avengers, with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby thanked late into the credits.
There’s likely a thought somewhere at the corporations that they want fans to see a picture of Captain America and just think “Marvel,” or see a picture of Batman and just think “DC,” but that does an incredibly disservice to the creators who have shaped those characters over decades.
When fans of superheroes think of great comics, they think in terms of creators. As fun and exciting as Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, when fans think of The Winter Soldier, they think of Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting’s character-defining run on Captain America. When they see Ben Affleck’s Batman, they think of Frank Miller. Even the Vote Loki announcement name-checks Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery as a reason for Loki’s rise in popularity, yet says nothing about who will steer the character through his next big story.
The lack of creator announcements is most likely a case of affording the companies an opportunity to send out two PR emails, and I don’t want to accuse individual editors or executives of not having creators best interests in minds. However, as DC and Marvel both become increasingly corporate, there is a sense that the brand matters above all else and not attaching creators to projects helps perpetuate that impression.
It’s also plausible that some books are announced without creative teams because there simply isn’t a creative team in place at that moment. In the case of Vote Loki, Marvel seemed determined to announce the title on Super Tuesday, yet may not have put a creative team together. DC's Rebirth is such a massive undertaking that it's very plausible that creative teams have not been yet been decided upon for all thirty-two books.
DC have come under fire for their assignment process before; after the New 52 was announced, stories cropped up that certain creators were under the impression they were in line for certain books, only to find out this wasn’t the case. Writer Brian Clevinger was in talks to work on Firestorm: The Nuclear Men, and Michael Alan Nelson was under the impression he was writing Voodoo. Neither creator ended up on those books.
It seems like a simple thing, to ask Marvel and DC to announce creative teams when they announce new series, but it also has real importance. The more emphasis publishers put on the creative team, the more the talents behind these books will actually get. That would seem to be in the best interests of the creators. Why isn't it in the best interests of Marvel and DC?