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Robert Kirkman posted a video manifesto, that some on the Internet are calling the Kirkmanifesto, extolling the virtues of creators owning their own books.  He believes that there is more financial and creative reward to starting off on your own. He had this to say about the way it is now:

“If you give people the option of Spider-Man or your creator-owned book... they'll choose Spider-Man, that's something time-tested versus something new. New has to be the only option.”

This is just the latest salvo in this decades long argument. Creators who self-publish their own work have long considered Marvel and DC’s practice of work-for-hire to be completely evil. Even such advancements as royalties and movie options only slightly dissuade these people.

But one has to ask; can’t you have it both ways? Kirkman seems to be presenting creator ownership as an absolute. Nowadays, creators are doing both. Many of biggest names in comics write for the big two while having a creator owned book. A notable example is Brian K. Vaughan.

Vaughan is no stranger to creator owned books. Both Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man are owned by Vaughan and his artist on the particular title. Granted, the books were published by Wildstorm and Vertigo, both of which are owned by DC Comics, but he does hold the partial copyright to both.

So why then would Vaughan not only do work-for-hire for the big two (which he has done often) but create Runaways exclusively as work-for-hire, making the characters Marvel’s property, not his? Why would he allow his babies’ future be determined by the whim of their corporate masters? One possible reason: To create a legacy.

Vaughan touched on this almost exactly two years ago, when he announced that he was leaving the book:

“While Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina have planned endings, I've always said that I hoped Runaways would last forever, long after I left the series. I never wanted Runaways to become a vanity book that was dependent on its original creators' involvement; I wanted our kids to be able to eventually run away from us, and find new life apart from their "parents."”

You could read from this statement that Vaughan found a certain sense of satisfaction in creating what he hoped would be a lasting part of the Marvel universe. He relished the opportunity to see his creations interpreted under a different set of creators. In other words, he wanted to create a certain kind of legacy that he couldn’t get through his creator-owned work.

I’d like to think that creators choose to work on Spider-Man not only because it is “time-tested” but also because they want to leave their mark on one of the most iconic characters in comics. Today’s creators started out as fans. They all have writers, artists and stories that moved them while they were kids. They want to be the creator who creates the story that moves the next generation of fans. And if they do this on Superman or Spider-Man, their work surely will reach a certain level of immortality that they might not receive on their own creation.

You’ll get no argument from me that self-publishing allows for more creative freedom and lets the creators’ true talent shine. However, that is not to say that creators who choose to straddle the worlds of work-for-hire and creator ownership are misguided or wrong. For them, there are benefits to each. If they want to lead their careers in this direction, it is their right.

If Vaughan went the creator-owned route with Runaways, the series could have very well ended two years ago and the characters might have slid into obscurity. Instead, we got to witness Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan’s take on the characters and anticipate what Terry Moore and Humberto Ramos will bring us tomorrow. As a fan, I prefer that to the former.   

Also out this week:

Secret Invasion Amazing Spider-Man #1:

Wow, Marvel is trying to wring as much cash out of this “Brand New Day” event as possible. If publishing Amazing Spider-Man three times a month isn’t enough, they are forcing a litany of specials, annuals and event storylines on us as well. But even that isn’t enough because they are attacking us with a miniseries starring the “Brand New Day” cast that ties into their summer blockbuster, Secret Invasion.

Admission time: if you read last week’s column, most of that last paragraph was copped from last week’s Amazing Spider-Man blurb. I kind of wish Marvel would put out a “Brand New Day” themed comic every week. It would make my job easier.

This series is part of Marvel’s trend of having a miniseries so their biggest characters can crossover with their big events without having the storylines in their own title interrupted. Believe it or not, I support that. It’s logical from a story point of view and let’s the regular series creators not have to worry about putting what they’re building to on hold while the crossover interrupts.

Brian Reed (W), Marco Santucci (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

The Family Dynamic #1:

Stop me when this starts sounding familiar: This series focuses on a family of superheroes who fight crime. Each member has a power that corresponds with an element—fire, water, air and earth. The concept revolves around family members who want to join the family business, but might not be qualified to. Sounds like it’s a cross between Pixar’s The Incredibles, Marvel’s Fantastic Four, and Comico’s The Elementals, right?

They say that there is nothing new in comics these days, and there is some truth to that. But just because the concept is familiar, doesn’t necessarily mean the execution will be. Will retailers respond to this somewhat derivative series? Apparently not, for the miniseries has been retroactively shortened from six issues to just three.

J. Torres (W), Tim Levens (A), DC/Johnny DC Comics, $2.25.  Three-Issue Miniseries.

Guerillas #1:

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I always got a chuckle when they talked about guerilla warfare in history class. I really shouldn’t have, because war is nothing to laugh about. But whenever I heard that phrase, I always imagined apes carrying guns, trying to figure out which way to aim it, screeching loudly.

I know. I’m weird.

But I imagine Brahm Revel thought the same thing. This week, he provides the story and art for a comic that tells of a Special Forces group that is made for jungle combat, a bunch of monkeys. Several chimpanzees have been trained to enter the wilds of Vietnam and fight for our side. They are supposed to be our secret weapon. But the secret is out when an injured American soldier stumbles upon them. Does the motto “leave no man behind” apply if you’re not a man yourself?

Brahm Revel (W/A), Image Comics, $3.99. Nine-Issue Miniseries.

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament #1:

It is a hallmark of many movies and TV shows—the death bed scene. Our hero is about to die, and his friends and family gather around him to see him off. It is a tear-jerking scene where forgiveness is given, love is expressed, and good-byes are said. We get to see how much the deceased are going to be missed immediately after they pass on.

The heroes of the DC Universe are about to face certain death. They are gearing up for their final battle, and part of the preparations are saying good-bye to their loved ones. And since in the DC Universe, many heroes’ families are heroes themselves, they are really saying good-bye to each other. What do you say to each other in times like these? We’ll find out tomorrow.

Brad Meltzer (W), Adam Kubert (A), DC Comics, $3.99.  One-Shot.

Daredevil #110:

Daredevil and Dakota North have been seeking answers to a very important question: why would an innocent man willingly accept being put to death for a crime he didn’t commit? Finally, our pair has unraveled the mystery and found the answers they sought. But is it too late to save the life of Big Ben Donovan?

If you skipped this reuniting of Rucka, Brubaker and Lark, call your local comic store now and reserve a copy of the trade paperback collecting this storyline. This arc has been one great story. And if Marvel was smart, they’d reunite the trio and get them started on a Dakota North series right this instant. I’d pay any money to see that.

Greg Rucka & Ed Brubaker (W), Michael Lark (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99.  Ongoing Series.

Catwoman #82:

The bad part about being outside the law is that everyone is after you. Catwoman is being chased by Batman, the Gotham City P.D., and the worst bad guys the city has to offer. The only one she can count on is herself. Now, she is facing a tough decision involving one of these groups that she might never recover from. Is she prepared to make the ultimate double cross? And will it really help?

This, unfortunately, is the last issue of Catwoman. Even the constant presence of Batman couldn’t save the book from cancellation. Catwoman will be landing on her feet—she is becoming a reoccurring character in Detective Comics. I hope the same applies to writer Will Pfeifer and artist David Lopez.

Will Pfeifer (W), David Lopez (A), DC Comics, $2.99.  Final Issue.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also is the comic review editor for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

 

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