The Twelve. All-Star Batman and Robin. Daredevil: The Target. Image United. Four different books from three different companies starring wildly different characters. What do they have in common? Well, that would be the fact that their next issue is now horribly and unforgivably late, and given the caliber of the creators working on them, it sets a worrisome standard for lateness in the comic book world that, for all intents and purposes, does not seem to be getting addressed by anyone with power. Especially given that notoriously late shippers and slow workers are still being given immensely high profile work.
Click on down as we explore the implications of lateness, the consequences of it and attempt to answer the age old question of “is it worth the wait?” Plus, we’ll check in on those four titles to see if the end of the tunnel is even remotely in sight.
I suppose it would be semi-appropriate to admit that in pretty much any other industry, lateness the likes of which is seen in comics would NOT be tolerated. If a journalist was even five minutes late with an article or a photograph, the issue would run without it. If an editor was late with a cut of the movie, they’d be fired and replaced. Hell, if an athlete slept through a game they’d be fined and probably suspended. Comics are the only member of the entertainment industry where a single publication will wait months or years for a member of the creative team to submit their work. It’s also worth mentioning that not just any joe creator gets a pass in this regard, and its usually the highest of high caliber writer or illustrator that is the one behind the dastardly deed. I’m going to try my best to not name names and turn this into a witch hunt, but to say that many of these creators should know better is a massive understatement.
I guess the best way of breaking down this phenomenon is by who is impacted by it the most. I know most people would expect #1 to be the readers with this one, but I’m actually going to posit #1 as being the OTHER side of the creative team. As someone that’s been involved in creative group work pretty consistently for the last decade, it absolutely sucks when you find out someone on the team is not as dedicated as you are. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that dedication is not always the primary factor in comic lateness and that serious issues can arise that impact production, but these instances are not really the ones I am going to tackle here. In an absolute worst case scenario, I have heard of writers being so late getting scripts in that artists are then forced to take themselves off the book rather than sacrifice the quality of their work to get the book out in a timely manner. In my mind, this is absolutely unforgivable.
#2 most impacted I WILL give to the readership. If you haven’t been thoroughly enthralled with a book and had it stop short on you at some point in your career as a fan, you are the luckiest of lucky ducks. Part of the reason I think that most of us jive on comics as much as we do is the promise of continuous storytelling on a regular or semi-regular basis. By picking up a new book, ESPECIALLY a mini-series, we as readers enter into an unwritten agreement with the creative team that ensures a somewhat timely conclusion. Personally, the fact that I will most likely never see the end of The Twelve is absolutely heartbreaking to me, especially given the amount of intrigue, suspense and emotional reverence that JMS inserted into the first eight issues. More on this one to come…
The third and final most impacted party is, in broad strokes, the industry on the whole. I mean, what kind of standard can really be set when the ones throwing the medium under the bus are the ones that helped define it? Frankly, and I hate to call a spade and spade with this one, but my immediate reaction when I found out the new creative team on the upcoming Justice League relaunch was “well, it doesn’t matter if it sucks since three issues will come out and then none for six years!” Jim Lee will have to seriously work his ass off to convince me that he’s capable of monthly production again, especially given how much other exec-type work he has on his plate right now. Now, granted, other notoriously late artists have shaped their game up in recent years and worked up to monthly production, but if Justice League isn’t monstrously late right out of the gate, I’ll be very very surprised.Continued below
Now, to address the “is it worth the wait” argument. I am perfectly willing to admit that some books take a helluva lot longer to work on than others and rushing any particular aspect of these books would be disingenuous to the creative process. I also acknowledge that some notoriously late artists create some absolutely amazing work when they do actually complete their assignments, but I believe that sitting on a book until multiple issues are stockpiled rather than rushing the series out to capitalize on the notoriety of the creator is the better way to go and absolutely more genuine.
Now that we’ve discussed the general impact of lateness, let’s check in with our friends mentioned at the top of the article:
Lord knows what happened to this book. I think at this point we can thoroughly blame the delay on the ongoing and unfortunate health problems plaguing J. Michael Straczynski. That said, this book was long delayed BEFORE he began his stint on Superman and Wonder Woman for DC and also before Superman: Earth One and it’s apparently in-coming sequel (the last issue was seen, not counting artist Chris Weston’s solo one-shot last year, in winter 2008). You’d think that before he moved on to a massive assignment for a different company, he would have completed his outstanding work for Marvel, but hey thats just me. Periodic check-ins have both JMS and Weston pledging to complete the book, with the cover and even preview pages from Issue #9 hitting the web, but with this one I will absolutely believe it when I see it.
Daredevil: The Target:
This book had one issue come out in 2002 to have Kevin Smith’s long awaited return to Daredevil coincide with the release of the movie. Almost nine years later and issue #2 has never seen the light of day. I’ve asked Smith personally where this book is (back in 2008) and he admitted to the epic fuck-up he caused and pledged to complete the project, although with most of his comic work these days coming from adapting screenplays that were never picked up I’m seriously doubting this will ever finish (though I’m not sure anyone else but me even remembers it).
Man, what a mess this was…and the potential for greatness was actually decently high pre-release. Robert Kirkman pioneering a line-spanning epic with art from every artist to give Image it’s massive 90s notoriety? Should have been a slam dunk…and if it came out on time, it very well may have. However, with three issues coming out in ten months and none seen since August 2010 and several of its seven creators now admittedly issues behind schedule, I have trouble seeing this one coming out any time soon.
All Star Batman and Robin:
Ten issues published between 2005 and 2008, the rumor was that this one would relaunch in February 2011 as a six issue mini to complete writer Frank Miller’s initial vision for the book. However, with both Miller and the aforementioned Jim Lee currently working on other projects (including Batman Europa which is now also late) and no issues of this relaunch even solicited as of June 2011, hopes should not be high for this one coming to a close any time between now and when hollywood stops humoring Frank Miller.
Ultimately, I hate writing overwhelmingly negative thought pieces like this without offering some kind of advice to you, the reader, for dealing with the issues being presented. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole helluva lot to do with this one, as you can’t really pull the “vote with your dollar” move when you can’t really be sure a book will be late (although you can probably approximate like I did above). I suppose all we can really do is appeal to the industry as a whole to monitor their own productions and know their own limits. If it comes down to not even hinting that a book is on the way without enough issues stockpiled, I’d rather not know about it until I can actually, ya know, read it.