Not Fade Away

A column article, Busted Knuckles by: Beau Smith

Who determines when a comic book creator's career begins to fade or simply end?

Deadline???Sometimes it's the creator themself. They'll miss multiple deadlines with little or no excuses, they'll become "difficult" and rock the editorial or corporate boat, they'll become tired of the monthly grind of comic books and decide to return to the nine to five working world,  and sometimes they just lose their passion for creating comic books or go crazy and quit.

I've seen and worked with young and older talent that has chosen a path of self-destruction when it comes to their career. They were bound and most determined to plant roadside bombs on their own career path and then step on them. I'm guessing when that happens there's a more deeply rooted emotional problem that is way beyond my education and general people skills. Those creators are their own worst enemies in their goal to create. As long as they don't drag others down with them, then I figure it's their own talent to waste, and trust me, I'm sorry to say, I've seen some major talent wasted.

Ooh shiny!A lot of those personal reasons for self-destruction I can understand while others can be more puzzling. I've witnessed some creative careers take nosedives because of an editor that comes down with what I call "Raccoon Syndrome". That's when they discard a creator that hasn't done anything wrong or detrimental to the book – and the book may even be months ahead of schedule - but are kicked to the curb because the editor sees another creator that is new, shiny and sometimes unproven in regards to handing a book in on time. The editor(s) will shuffle the talented, established creator off to limbo, just south of Buffalo, and bring in the shiny new creator without training them in what it takes to produce a monthly book, not to mention how that must work with crafting a compelling story and not just being a working cog in the current event of the month. Editors should be editors and teachers, not just traffic managers.

In another time, creators were moved off of books when the sales continued to move down past the point of making a profit. and only after everything was possibly done with the story line and character development that could be done. If this were true today then there really wouldn't be a lot of people working on comics. The sales today are nowhere near what they once were when there was a wide customer base and the comic book business wasn't a niche market like it is today. The mass market has not been cultivated in decades and we have turned the direct market into a backwoods incest fest. Everyone has their fingerprints on this almost dead body.

Today we have seen many creators' careers reduced to fumes because of nothing more than the statement that "we've worked with you before". It's true, I've sat in the marketing and editorial meetings where talented, on time creators' names have come up for books and the remark was made "Yeah, they're really good and I loved their work on (insert major character/book here), but we've worked with them before."

Lick them boots, Superman!

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that new talent shouldn't be hired. During my time at Eclipse Comics, Image Comics, Todd McFarlane Productions and IDW Publishing, I was always the guy that was seeking out talent, both old and new. I did a talent search when I was executive director of publishing for McFarlane where I personally took in over 1,000 art submissions and pored over every one of them myself. I did this knowing that I was obligated to also educate and mentor the talent I picked. I needed to lift their talent to the highest level I could so that they could produce compelling comic books to the best of their ability. If I didn't, then I would not only be short changing them, but us as a publisher. (You may request my Sainthood now.)

Cliques within the established comic book publishing world have always been around. Like any job, they always will be. But the thing is we need to rein in those cliques to where it doesn't hurt the product and the entertainment of the readers. Cliques have increased with each new cycle of readers-turned-pro. Right now, after more than a few generations, we are at an all-time high. It's at a very dangerous level. Management, media, editorial and creative circles are all infested with chokingly tight cliques. It has never been harder for someone new or someone established to break in - or back in - to comics. It's a cold hard fact that everyone knows, but few will admit. Everyone is or has been guilty of it. It's got to be reduced before we niche ourselves out of a comic book industry. Cliques will fade a creator's career faster than bleach being poured on a pair of blue jeans. Cliques won't go away, but they need to be controlled.

What can you do to make sure your career doesn't fade away? First and foremost as a creator, you have to always…ALWAYS produce the best work you can and produce it on time. That, along with networking, marketing yourself and honing the actual craft of writing/drawing comic books will put you where you need to be to maybe overcome some of the hurdles I've talked about in this edition of Busted Knuckles. If it doesn't, then you'll always know YOU did YOUR best and you won't serve yourself sour grapes, you'll fill your plate with dignity instead.

Manly Recommendations

Modern Masters Volume Twenty-Seven: Ron Garney
Modern Masters: Ron GarneyWritten by Eric Nolen-Weathington & George Khoury
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing
Cover Price $15.95
Release Date: Now

Ron Garney is an artist that has never gotten as much ink and praise as he deserves. A lot of it is because, unlike myself, he is not a shameless self-promoter, instead, he is a workhorse of an artist that has pulled a very ornate plow for a very long time and we all have reaped the visual harvest from his work.

Leave it to TwoMorrows Publishing with writers Eric Nolen-Weathington and George Khoury to present us all with a 120-page book that celebrates Ron Garney's talent. This book is packed with Ron's valuable insights on creating comics and story telling. It's a textbook for aspiring artists and veterans alike. It's filled with wonderful illustrations that are eye popping and entertaining. Take it from me, Ron Garney is one of my favorite Captain America artists, He and Mark Waid did incredible things on their run of Cap. In this book, you'll get some great behind the scenes material from that run as well as do much more.

The Quality CompanionThe Quality Companion: A Celebration of the Forgotten Publisher of Plastic Man, From The 1940s to Today
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing
Written by Mike Kooliman and Jim Amash
Cover Price: $31.95
Release Date: Now

I cannot tell you how long I have waited for a book like this. As a kid, the hard to find and mysterious comic books of The Golden Age were a Holy Grail of sorts. It was an amazing world where all sorts of obscure superheroes dwelled and I wanted to know more about them and why they weren't always being published today.

The Quality Companion answers so many if not all of those questions as well as gives you pages full of color adventures of such Quality heroes as The Ray, The Human Bomb, Phantom Lady, Wildfire, Uncle Sam and many more. A perfect touch is that you get to read these in the oversized, softcover version of this book. The history of Quality Comics is here, with interviews, artwork by such legends as Reed Crandall, Jack Cole, Matt Baker, Will Eisner and many more. There's a wonderful A to Z history of characters and updates on these characters from Len Wein, Roy Thomas and Jimmy Palmiotti. You will read this thick as a brick book for hours and hours. I have!

Jack Kirby Collector #58 Presents Lee & Kirby: the Wonder Years.
Lee and Kirby: the Wonder YearsWritten by Mark Alexander
Publisher: TwoMorrows Publishing
Cover Price: $19.95
On Sale: Now

At times it's like TwoMorrows Publishing can read my mind and print nothing but books that I want to read. They do it month after month and I pray they keep doing it. Growing up, I discovered Marvel Comics in the early 1960s and was one of their most ardent fans and readers. They could do no wrong in my eyes. Their comics "spoke" to me like no other. Stan Lee made it so I was like a member of the Marvel family and Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Flo Steinberg and so many more were my aunts and uncles. As a kid, I would've stabbed you in the eye with a #2 pencil to get this kind of book with behind the scenes information, documents and history. Mark Alexander has done an incredible job in putting this book together to celebrate the prime glory years of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as they worked more than wonders on the Fantastic Four. The art in all variations show in this book is alone worth the cover price. If you are, were or were thinking about reading Marvel Comics and the Fantastic Four, then buy this and treat yourself.

Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week: Vic Flint: Crime Buster #1
St. John Publishing Company
August 1948
by Michael O'Malley and Ralph Lane

In the 1940s, if you were a private eye and had your own comic book, then you had to have a tough name like Vic Flint, you had to have beautiful "dames" to save and it was a must to bust bad guys' jaws as well as shoot them when you had to. These were freewheeling times when being politically correct was something you just didn't pay attention to. This wonderful cover sums up all of that. The tough talk and the wisecracks in this book are true gems. This is one to dig for at your next convention, comic book store or online auction visit.

Vic Flint: Crime Buster

Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week: Mercedes Masohn

I'm a big fan of the new FOX TV series The Finder. It's just like a lot of the USA Network "blue skies" shows such as Burn Notice and Covert Affairs, smart, fun and with a quirky sense of humor. I'm also a big fan of the very lovely Mercedes Masohn who plays U.S. Marshal Isabel Zambada in the series. Her chemistry with actor Geoff Stults is top notch. Please try this show out, I think you'll really enjoy it. You may have also seen Mercedes in such films and TV shows as Chuck, Castle, NCIS, CSI, and Quarantine 2: Terminal. She's originally from Sweden and we all know beautiful women seem to be bred there. That's a very good thing.

Mercedes Masohn

Mercedes Masohn

Mercedes Masohn

The Roundup

Needless to say, I have enjoyed the mild winter we've been having. I used to be called "Beaunook of the North", but as I've gotten older and grumpier, I have lost my love for frigid temps and piles of snow. I long for t-shirt and shorts weather. Perhaps I've just gotten lazy; who knows? I do know that I like warmer weather and will not complain about this winter without much snow. Of course, saying that I have no doubt jinxed myself and March will be nothing but blizzards and my enemies will laugh at me.

Safe HouseBeth and I saw Safe House last weekend at the movies. It stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. It was a top-notch thriller, filmed, directed and edited to perfection. It was brutal, smart and we both enjoyed it. I highly recommend it if you have seen it yet. I'm a big fan of Denzel Washington, he's my age and shows that even us old dogs can still run , jump and bust your head when we have to. Safe House is also one of Ryan Reynolds best roles. I'd like to see him in more movies like this.

One of the books I am currently reading is Wild Thing by Josh Bazell (Beat the Reaper). Bazell is one of my newer favorite authors in modern crime fiction with a sense of violent humor. In this, tough guy Dr. Peter Brown a.k.a. Pietro Brnwa (Oh what a past..) tries to find work that won't get him killed by past enemies. This leads to being offered a job from a reclusive billionaire accompanying a sexy but self-destructive paleontologist on the world's worst field assignment, Brown has no real choice but to say yes. Even if it means that an army of murderers, mobsters, and international drug dealers-not to mention the occasional lake monster-are about have a serious Pietro Brnwa problem. After all, the good doctor is no one to mess with. This is some darkly funny, violent action for fiction fans. That would be me.

Also on my current Manly Reading List:

·       Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have In Search Of Happiness We Can't Buy by James A. Roberts

·       Raylan by Elmore Leonard

·       Lost In America: A Dead End Journey by Colby Buzzell

·       Finding Everett Ruess: The Life And Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer by David Roberts

·       In My Time by Dick Cheney

·       Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis

·       Killshot by Vince Flynn

·       The Fixer by Christopher Farnsworth

There are more, but I don't want you guys to think all I do is read. I do have a life outside of my reading chair…really.

I hope you'll stop by for the next edition of Busted Knuckles. I sure enjoy your company and comments. Make sure you post some up. My ego is fragile.

Beau's ball

Your amigo,
Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch


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