Baltimore Comic Con 2008: Kirkman vs. Bendis

I've never read a comic by Robert Kirkman or Brian Bendis and probably never will. None of them look interesting to me on any level, but like every asshole with an opinion, too much of my time in the past two months or so has been consumed with discussing and analyzing Kirkman's "manifesto". Kirkman came off like a lout in his video, a guy who wouldn't really commit to saying something fairly aggressive and always apologizing or qualifying his statements and ultimately saying something obvious and far worse, unrealistically utopian. He had idealism on his side from the moment he hit whatever button you hit on a Webcam.

Enter Brian Bendis, a guy I mainly knew before Baltimore Comic Con as a Marvel stooge who uses thought bubbles way too much and writers all his characters in the same voice unless it's a black guy (then he takes the "g" off of verbs and throws in a "Yo" or two...). So yeah, I didn't go into "Kirkman v. Bendis" with any interest in either guy, although I had a feeling I'd side with Bendis, even then, the assumption was his corporate interests would dominate his opinion and not the cold, hard grip of logic and economics.

Bendis, even though he joyfully played the role of evil, corporate whore, came off quite nicely as both an approachable and personable guy and someone who has the same deep-rooted obsession to write and make comics as every mini-comics making nerd in their apartment. One of the most affecting parts of the discussion was his sobering talk of the comics industry and how, well into his comics writing career, despite winning an Eisner, he still had a day job as a caricature artist. Oddly, during the question-and-answer towards the end, Kirkman sort of just didn't answer the question as to what day jobs he had.

There's plenty to break down and analyze, especially Kirkman's sales charts which totally omitted Trade Paperback sales, but there was one quick exchange that made clear the biggest and most under-discussed flaw in Kirkman's "manifesto": Your personal, one-of-a-kind "creator-owned" comic also better be a lot like the comics Marvel and DC push. Kirkman invoked the now legendary tale of IMAGE Comics and the "IMAGE seven" and all that, and mentioned how each brought with them a creator-owned comic. Bendis was quick to add that the comics the IMAGE guys brought with them were quite marketable noting that Spawn is basically Spiderman meets Batman. It's hard to see how these creator-owned examples are any more or less creative than you know, doing a story arc in a "Batman" comic or something and really, if you've got a moderately marketable idea for a superhero comic, there's enough heroes at Marvel or DC that the story could easily be transferred onto one of them.

Kirkman's exact language of course is that he wants to show comics artists and writers that a creator-owned comic can be done viably and so, he would say this point is moot--this is the problem with his manifesto, it's so non-commital that any rebuttal is dismissed or somehow's already been covered--but it's important to note that Kirkman's really referring to creator-owned comics that could sell really well. When Kirkman repeats "creator-owned" throughout, he may not mean to, but everyone gets some pretty exciting images of the hyper-viability of like out-there European shit and stuff in the vein of Adrian Tomine and not, uh a George Romero rip-off comic like Walking Dead and another, fairly derivative superhero comic like Invincible.

1 comment:

david e. ford, jr said...


i think your insight into these two writers is pretty right on the money. kirkman seems like this guy who affects being humble and agreeable as a sort of defense mechanism developed in his undoubtedly awkward and miserable youth, when in fact he is kind of an arrogant dick who puts this whole manifesto out there just so he can get dudes like brian bendis to tell him that he is exceptional and that just because he is successful with his own stuff, it doesnt mean that just anybody else can do it. bendis, on other hand, came across as a guy who worked really hard at something he really wanted to do and is cognizant of the fact that he is really, really fortunate to have the success that he has and therefore is grateful for it and doesn't take it for granted.