Do Artists Draw (Sales)?

There was some big Twitter blowback not too long ago in the comic world after these comments from Axel Alonzo, Editor-In-Chief of Marvel Comics:

There are fewer artists that impact sales than there are writers, Alonso said, and they’re harder to promote. “It’s harder to pop artists these days,” he said. “There is no apparatus out there. There is no Wizard Magazine out there that told you who the hot top 10 were. We don’t have that anymore. We can hype our artists all we want, but I don’t know if we know how many artists, besides maybe [Steve] McNiven and [Olivier] Coipel, absolutely move the needle on anything to be drawn.

There has been plenty written by more educated and experienced folks than me on the topic. What I can add to the conversation is my perspective and experience with the medium when I started purchasing titles for myself.

A little background first. My first comics were issues of G.I. Joe. My brother and I consumed all we could get our hands-on, piecemealing our collection over the years from various store racks and farmer’s markets. We extended Larry Hama’s stories of intricate relationships and realistic adventures into our daily play with all the toys we had. But who drew these issues if G.I. Joe and G.I. Joe: Special Missions? I couldn’t say, and I feel bad about that. But it’s not that I made a conscious decision to not know them. G.I. Joe just…was. And the story always existed in my aether.

Also, I was not the main purchaser of these comics until later on. Things changed when I started to buy my own and spend my own “go to the shoppette and get me some milk” money. When that time came, it was all about the artists.

Jim Lee. Joe Madureira. J.Scott Campbell. Chris Bachalo. Rob Liefeld.

It was the art that drew me into the story. It was the art that helped me decide where I spent my few dollars. And this is when they were $1.95. Now they are $3.99. The decision may be getting harder.

A few years ago I returned to my childhood/teenage passion and I had ideas on what I might start reading again. Since I was away for so long and I had no previous connection to writers, I looked for familiar titles with great art.

Thus, I chose titles like X-Men (Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales and Laura Martin), Uncanny X-Men (Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend), and All-New X-Men (Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia). Then I expanded my selections based on recommendations of the shop owner. This introduced me eventually to the talents of some amazing artists:

I stayed with and dropped various titles since my jumping on point and here are what I found drew sales from me.

  1. My commitment to purchase a new title depended upon initial concept/pitch and the visuals.
  2. My willingness to stay with a title depended on continuity of the creative team and the intrigue of overall story.

I repeat, the creative team’s capability to create a cohesive and complete package of story and art is what kept me coming back. What Axel Alonso may have needed to clarify is whether or not he thought artists didn’t drive sales at all or simply past the initial hook of a title. This is where the complete creative team concept comes in. Look at DC’s commitment to the Snyder/Capullo team. They were on Batman for 50 issues. This is unheard of with the constant relaunches at the big two the last few years. If there are any others they could be counted on one hand for sure. There are a lot more short, concise runs or multiple “volumes” of a title with the same writer, sometimes the art team carries over.

In conclusion, the main point of this entire diatribe is for publishers to enlist the best talent they can to present the best story they can for the character(s).  Let them create. Let them be inspired. When this happens, that’s when you have your classic runs/stories.

Of course, this is all my opinion. Take from it what you will. And before I end, I would like to give credit where credit is due for establishing a lifelong love of the comics medium. Thank you, and I’m sorry I haven’t recognized you before:

  • Herb Trimpe
  • Ron Wagner
  • Rod Whigham
  • Marshall Rogers
  • Dave Cockrum
  • Don Perlin
  • Phil Gosier
  • Andrew Wildman