In a recent Greg Rucka Debrief on the Word Balloon with John Siuntres podcast (dated January 15, 2016), Siuntres, the comic industry’s greatest comic book conversationalist (not named Jonah Weiland of CBR), discussed as usual a great deal of ranging and fascinating topics with writer/creator Greg Rucka. At one point in the 2-plus hour conversation Rucka answered a question regarding the work he did for DC Comics last Spring for their CONVERGENCE event storyline (CONVERGENCE: THE QUESTION #1-2 with artist Cully Hamner), it was an answer in which he also addressed the prospects of doing more work with the Big Two publishers of DC and Marvel.
“Getting to do those two issues of Convergence with Cully were tremendous and for me were as close to closure as I’m ever going to get in this industry, at least working for the Big Two,” Rucka said. “That’s not to say I’m done period . . . I’ve learned that is a very foolish thing to say. But right now there’s just no plans. And the way the Big Two work right now, on their big franchises at least, I don’t think I’m a good guy for that environment anymore. I don’t see it. I put in a lot of years in those environments and I don’t really have a whole lot to show for it. The royalties I receive for that work are really minimum. I mean really miniscule. DC seems to be putting back into print some of what I wrote, but there have been years, years of what I did out-of-print. Not to be a dick about it but those royalties matter. That investment matters. I’d much rather put my time and effort into creating work that I and my collaborators own.”
Like other creator-owning writers such as Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis and most others, Rucka splits creator-ownership with his artistic collaborators right down the middle. He’s said before in other interviews that it is the very least he can do, given the division of labor that’s skewed heavily toward the artist.
On the contrast of working for the Big Two and working on creator-owned work, such as his dystopian epic LAZARUS (Image), his supernatural/cop procedural BLACK MAGIC (Image) and his other crime series with a female lead in STUMPTOWN (Oni Press), Rucka went on to say, “We can tell the stories we want to tell. That we are not obligated to serving a corporate entity that doesn’t give a fuck about the story you’re telling, but cares only about the numbers, and frankly at the end of the day that’s true for Marvel and DC. They can crow all they like about the brilliance of their story but the fact of the matter is if the book ain’t selling then the book gets cancelled. And if I’m brutally honest our numbers on Lazarus are canceled numbers at the Big Two. The book would’ve been consigned to the dustbin of history a long time ago. The flipside of that is . . . we’re developing a television show.”
Taking in this account from Mr. Rucka along with similar statements from several other successful creators these days, the message seems simply this: essentially, for the less-seasoned creators and those just breaking into the industry, the Big Two still remain the spawning ground for what could become a successful career in comics (especially for the illustrators). You typically build your reputation, cache and public profile working for the factory that is corporate-owned comics before making the leap into lucrative creator-owned comics work (not to say you can’t start there, it’s just less-likely you’ll make a great living doing so exclusively). However, for seasoned veteran creators it seems that a reliance on work from Marvel and DC – both financially and creatively – is less of a crutch than it’s ever been, perhaps historically so. This could not have been said a generation ago, especially for writers.
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