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Crisis on Infinite Topics, Wednesday Edition

Comics, FYI
Crisis on Infinite Topics, Wednesday Edition
By Graeme McMillan • Issue #37 • View online
“Favorite” comic artists, standard comic scripts, and new comic editors at IDW: it’s all here.

I’m juggling a lot of deadlines this week – so many that you shouldn’t be too surprised if there isn’t a newsletter on Friday, although I’m not committing to that one way or another just yet – so it’s a mixed bag of topics in this one. Apologies in advance.
Following the death of George Pérez last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “favorite comic artists” recently. I’d always told myself that Pérez was never really a “favorite” for me; generally, I’d explain inside my head, my tastes tend to run more graphically abstract, with my childhood adoration of John Byrne’s work – whose covers for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and the DC Legends miniseries, especially, practically defined what I wanted out of superhero comics at a young age – arguably being the closest I came to loving that particular 1970s/1980s glossy, glamorous take on quasi-realism. 
That said, Pérez has been responsible for the artwork on a lot of favorite comics of mine. His Justice League of America run was something I devoured as back issues as a kid, picking them up from second hand bookstores and soaking in every page of their overblown storytelling; similarly, Crisis on Infinite Earths and especially the subsequent History of the DC Universe are pretty close to sacred comic book texts for me for reasons I can’t explain beyond “I read them at just the right time,” and the artwork is central to their appeal for me. (Crisis, as well, taught a young me to appreciate inkers and what they do for a comic – there’s a world of difference between Dick Giordano’s finishes and Jerry Ordway’s, and it felt particularly instructive to me at the time to compare the two.) 
As much as I told myself that I wasn’t really a massive Pérez fan, I’d find myself buying early issues of his Wonder Woman for the art alone. (The writing, I’d get into later.) When The Infinity Gauntlet launched at Marvel in the early ‘90s, I grabbed it immediately despite not really having read The Silver Surfer since that fun period when Englehart was writing; it was the cover and the promise of Perez art in the Marvel Universe that did it for me. I’d go on to follow him to The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect, and even his subsequent Epic Comics collaboration with Peter David, Sachs and Violens. In the years that followed, I’d make a point to check in with him on new projects, even if I didn’t stick around; it was like catching up with an acquaintance, just to see what they were up to*.
Thinking about my relationship to his work this past weekend, and realizing that I’d been following his career with varying degrees of interest for more than three decades before his death, made me wonder how honest I’d been about how I felt about George Pérez’s artwork. Sure, he might not have had the bluntness of a Toth or a Kirby, nor the abstract brutality of Mick McMahon or the refined design sense of Walter Simonson, but the two of us had, in some weird sense, grown old together**. There’s something to be said about that shared history; if that doesn’t make him a favorite in some important, undefinable sense, then what else would?
* Ironically, this latter period has some of my favorite Pérez art: I loved his Brave and the Bold run with Mark Waid, and I think that his JLA/Avengers with Kurt Busiek has some of the best work of his entire career. It sounds strange, perhaps, but I feel as if he started drawing characters bulkier than before, at this point, with more differentiation in body shapes and faces and less obsessive rendering. Your mileage may vary, but whatever he was doing, I liked it.
** By comparison, my adolescent love affair with John Byrne’s work didn’t age as well; everything after, say, his West Coast Avengers run looks tired and rushed to me.
I saw a lot of conversation on the social medias yesterday about the Standard Comic Script developed by Steenz and Camilla Zhang, with there being no shortage of discussion over whether or not it was helpful to even have a standard format for a comic script in the first place. 
This seems, to be honest, like a very strange conversation to be having, and one that’s perhaps revealing about the self-image of the comics industry as a whole. Was there similar outcry about the fact that there’s already a standard format for movie screenplays, or television scripts? (Do those complaining about the very existence of the Standard Comic Script even know that there are standard formats for scripts for other media?)
The very idea that it’s a bad thing that someone has sat down to create a standardized template to help writers create comic scripts feels, at best, the paranoid product of someone worried that they’ve been doing it wrong all along*, and at worst, the kind of gatekeeping nonsense that comics needs far less of, rather than more.
Complaining about the Standard Comic Script template seems especially strange when you consider that there is no shortage of books out there dedicated to helping new writers do it “right,” no matter what your personal definition of that may be: The Art of Comic Book Writing, Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics, Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics**, Bendis’s Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, and many, many more. Even if you’re just looking for samples of comic scripts, you can find them in The 2000 AD Script Book, Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers, either of Paul Kupperberg’s couple of Unpublished Scripts anthologies, or any number of “Director’s Cut” reprint editions from any of the big publishers in recent years. It’s not as if Steenz and Zhang are revealing any big industry secrets with what they’re doing, especially compared with what others have done.
Instead, what they are doing is making it easier for those who aren’t experienced in writing comics get a feel for what they want to do, which ideally will help bring new blood to the medium. That… is a really good thing, surely…? Of course, that’s likely the problem for those complaining, as is, sadly, the fact that both Steenz and Zhang aren’t straight white men working for the big two. Bringing in new blood? Without a period earning their chops writing Darkhawk? Comics will collapse!
* The idea of there being a “wrong” format for a comic script is an especially amusing one, as anyone who’s seen both a John Wagner script and an Alan Moore script already knows. If your collaborators are happy with what you’re writing, let’s just consider it a good format and start worrying about the content, instead. 
** Published in 2011, let’s appreciate the fact that this was ghostwritten for Lee, which feels entirely on brand, really. Never forget that Lee’s 2019 comic book autobio Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir was, in fact, actually written by Peter David.
Less than a month after unveiling its new Originals line, Monday saw IDW announce that it was bringing three new people onto its editorial team. Abrams Books and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers veteran Russ Busse joins the Originals division as senior editor, former Marvel editor Charles Beacham has signed up to oversee the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, and perhaps most excitingly, Jamie S. Rich has been named Executive Editorial Director with the responsibility for its licensed titles moving forward. 
Rich, of course, is known for his work at Oni Press, where he served as editor-in-chief, and DC, where he worked at Vertigo and DC Young Animal before becoming the group editor for the Batman office, and later, the Justice League titles. He left DC in June last year to become the editor-in-chief of webcomic publisher Tapas Media; it’s unclear who has taken over that position with Rich’s departure*.
More than Busse and Beacham – sorry, both – it’s the addition of Rich that seems particularly notable here. His work at DC demonstrated his talent for putting together smart, if unconventional, creative teams with properties that bring out the best in them, which might make him perfectly primed for making the most out of IDW’s many licenses moving forward. He was also Tom King’s go-to editor, it seemed like; the two of them worked together on Sheriff of Babylon, Mister Miracle, Strange Adventures, Rorschach, Batman, Batman/Catwoman and Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m pretty sure that he’s still under DC contract, I’d be expecting a Tom King-written Star Trek reboot any minute…**
Nonetheless; IDW’s continuing to make interesting moves, just a few months after I was wondering where the company was going after losing the Transformers and G.I. Joe licenses. Maybe I really was too fast to declare Saga as the comeback of the year. 
* I asked Tapas, who declined to comment. It’s possible that the answer, currently, is “we don’t know yet.” Rich was the third big DC hire made by Tapas last year, following Alex R. Carr as senior director of publishing relations, and Michele Wells – a woman perhaps doomed to forever be “the person responsible for DC’s young reader and middle grade graphic novel program,” and therefore someone permanently underrated by the industry at large in my mind – as CEO; this trifecta of executive talent made the company seem like one to watch. I’m curious what Rich’s departure will mean in the larger scheme of things. 
** I mean, I’d read that. I don’t think I’d be alone, either.
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Graeme McMillan

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