I read with interest the article about Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters arriving in comics shops this past Wednesday. Over three decades in the making, was it worth the wait? Do comics we’re waiting a long time for live up to our expectations?
‘MONSTERS’ IS HERE
First, here’s some more information about Monsters:
The graphic novel MONSTERS by legendary comics artist Barry Windsor-Smith is a 360-page tour de force of visual storytelling. Best known for drawing the Conan series of the ’70s and creating several independent comic series of the ’90s — including Young Gods and The Paradox-Man — Windsor-Smith is now releasing his first major work since The Freebooters (2005). Fantagraphics will release MONSTERS on April 27, 2021.
Here’s more from that news release:
Monsters’ vast narrative canvas is part familial drama, part espionage thriller, part metaphysical journey — in sum, an intimate portrait of individuals and an epic political odyssey spanning two generations of American history. Trauma, fate, conscience, and redemption are a few of the themes that intersect in Windsor-Smith’s Monsters. Rendered in Windsor-Smith’s impeccable pen-and-ink technique, this graphic novel is surely one of the most intense and gripping works of visual storytelling ever drawn.
I’m a big fan of BWS, having enjoyed his art in comics for a long time. Sadly, though, I hadn’t heard about the book before this, so I didn’t order it. Thankfully, there is a digital version available on comiXology for $27.99. That’s not a bad price for 360 pages!
As always, the reaction online to the book has been mixed, some loving it like crazy and others saying it didn’t quite live up to “the hype.”
Really, though, can any comic live up to our fannish expectations?
WHEN IT TAKES TIME
Of course, the longer it takes for a comic to reach our eyeballs, the higher our expectations rise. “If he’s spending this much time on it, why, it’ll be fantastic when we get it!” is something I often hear fans say.
I’ve been disappointed too many times, so I don’t say that any longer. Believe me, I WANT that to be true. It just hasn’t happened that way enough time to bring out the cynic in me.
In circumstances like this, I often refer to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. The first volume came out on time. So did the second of the four.
That, however, is when the train left the rails, so to speak.
The third book arrived six months after the second. Then the last one arrived an entire year after the third one. I honestly was wondering if I would EVER read it!
The good news is that it was terrific, in my opinion. That wait was worth it! I still buy all of his books, even the newer Batman ones from DC. I just don’t expect the story to be similar to Dark Knight Returns or that it will always hit the shops, well, on time.
When it comes to timing, my expectations have been seriously lowered.
Speaking of Batman, another series that was delayed has been showing up recently. That was the Batman/Maxx miniseries. In fact, when the most recent issue came out, I told the woman who runs the store I frequent that this must have been a back-order mistake.
“Nope,” she told me. “It’s a new issue!” I did read it, but it didn’t “whelm” me as much as Mr. Miller has. I hear there are even more coming! Oh, joy.
REALITY GETS IN THE WAY OF COMICS
I know we’d all like to think that comics creators are totally devoted to getting their product out on time! They skip work and avoid anything else getting in the way of their comics coming out…. Right?
Not so much! Like the rest of us, comics makers have bills to pay and family obligations to meet. They have to make sure they and their families have roofs over their heads and food on the table.
When you are responsible for your spouse and kids, well, they come first! We need to remember that as comics fans!
A lot of us look at comics and think the appear by magic! People snap their fingers, and new books show up with no effort at all! Yeah, right!
Anyone who has been involved in creating comics can tell you that they take a lot of time and effort. They need to be written, which can take a lot of time, for instance.
What can be the biggest part of the process can be the art. See, a writer can put pen to paper (if anyone still does that today) and write the following sentence: “The alien armada surrounded the hero.” There, that took all of a few seconds to write.
Granted, the artist has an unlimited special effects budget because he or she is only limited by his or her imagination and talent. Even with the best of that, though, what took a writer a few seconds can keep an artist busy for days, sometimes even weeks!
Then, once the artist and letterer are done, the finished art has to go to the press. The product has to be scheduled and printed, then shipped to the distributor (or distributors these days). Once there, they have to fit in the schedule and be shipped to the local shops. At the LCS, they have to be sorted and put in subscription boxes and on the stands.
THEN the fans get to come in and buy it! Those persons then have to read it when they can!
This can take a while!
WHAT ABOUT ‘MONSTERS?’
Let’s “circle back” (that phrase that seems to be popular these days) to Monsters.
As soon as I get a chance, I’ll be buying the digital version of it. I’m too big of a BWS fan NOT to! Yes, 360 pages will take a while for me to read, but I’m looking forward to it!
Does working a long time on a comic make it better? Not always, but sometimes it does!
See, I know several comics fans who believe in what I call the “Star Trek” method of comics production. It goes something like this:
“I don’t like (the current incarnation)! So, I’m going to stop watching it and get all my friends to stop watching it! That way, they’ll have to go back to (that person’s past favorite version)! That’s the only way they can ever make money!”
What people who ascribe to that philosophy fail to realize is that Paramount might think that, finally, the Star Trek bubble has burst, that the show has run its course, and it’s time to move on to some other show!
These fans often tell me that the actors are all available, the production crew would be happy to come back, and the writing staff will certainly quit their current jobs to return to Star Trek.
Again: Uh, no.
Just like comics creators, people who work in other areas of the entertainment industry have to survive and feed their families. Unless they are unemployed (and less appealing to TV or movie producers), they hopefully have found other work!
So, if you want MORE BWS, I highly encourage you to at least buy Monsters! I know I will! (And if you want MORE Star Trek, for pity’s sake, watch whatever incarnation of the show they’re making now, okay?)
Success breeds more success while failure does NOT breed success. Really and for true! No matter how long a book or series takes to make, buy it if you want more from that creative team or with that character or team! THAT is the real issue here!
What do you think? Do you expect more from a comic or project that taken a long time for it to be made? Should creators actually tell us how long these things take? Is it a good thing that a book takes 30 years to complete or not? Please be sure to share your thoughts below!