DC’s Justice League vs. Suicide Squad ended a few weeks ago, and Marvel’s Secret Empire begins in just one week – and both events have a ‘round robin’ approach to artists with a new artist each issue – sometimes with more than one artist in one book. While one continuous artist on an event book is attempted from time to time at Marvel and DC, ambitious schedules have seen many of those books, such as the recent Secret Wars and Civil War II, enlist last-minute additional artists to avoid severe delays.
With Secret Empire about to begin and DC’s next event Dark Nights: Metal planning on having Greg Capullo draw the entire series, Newsarama reached out to the Big Two’s chief customers – comic book retailers – to ask how an event drawn by one artist stacks up against these ‘round robin’ group effort events when it comes to the bottom line.
“Some customers can find it discombobulating to follow different artists across one story. It comes down to personal taste and style. It can be said that multiple artists can mean the comics will come out on time, but consistency of having the same artist on a series I find is preferable,” said Jason Flood, co-owner/manager of Dublin City Comics in Dublin, Ireland. “As long as the artists and editorial teams are in constant communication and there are no major discrepancies that take you out of the story’s focus. That is what we put to our customers who feel that the switch in artists is off putting but it's down to personal taste at end of day.”
Although seminal events like Crisis on Infinite Earths are known for George Perez illustrating the entire maxiseries, Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet – also held in high regard for sales and quality – was drawn by Perez before being replaced by Ron Lim. Fast-forward to modern times, Marvel has shown itself to be more prone to planning event books with multiple artists – ranging from 2012’s Avengers vs. X-Men to 2014’s Axis and onto the recent Monsters Unleashed. While the change in style issue-to-issue is noticed by some, James Finlayson of Panama City’s Arena Comics said it isn’t a factor for event books the way it is for ongoing titles.
“I haven’t really seen a difference in readership with a change in artists, other than to say more readers stay with a series that runs on time,” said Finlayson. “I like a consistent creative team throughout a series myself, even more so when said team gets the whole series out on time. When the books run late, or in some cases extremely late readers abandon the book rather than wait for it to finish.”
Late books – and the possibility of books being late – have been attributed at different times by Marvel and DC as the reason for using multiple artists. At the same time however, Marvel has shown loyalty to some artists, permitting months-long delays for Esad Ribic to complete Secret Wars. During the heart of those delays, Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort told Newsarama that artistic changes are shown to have negative effects on the “longer term future of the work.”
“Because Secret Wars got such a strong reaction initially, and throughout the middle, the people at Marvel were more willing to bite the bullet, and suffer the slings and arrows, and hold the line long enough for Jonathan and Esad to finish the story in the manner that it was intended. We took the long-term view that the story will be better, it’ll be better received as the issues come out now, it’ll be better remembered in the aftermath, and it’ll have a better, stronger life in its future as a collected edition.”
Brevoort went on to say that the original Civil War was Marvel’s “best-selling collection, our best-selling digital book, our best-selling everything” due in part, he feels, to have Steve McNiven draw the entire book despite significant delays.
With that December 2015 quote in mind, comparisons can be drawn to how the publisher has been more upfront with multiple artists on some event books – Monsters Unleashed, for example – while others – Civil War II – attempt to keep an artist on for the entire run. But with the number of ‘events’ increasing and more of those books shipping twice a month, retailer Ryan Higgins of Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale, California sees a pattern emerging.
“I love a great comic with one artist doing the entire story, but that is such a rarity these days. I don't see it affecting our sales in any major way. I'm more worried about Marvel releasing the comic on time, and it appears they want to push this story through as fast as possible so they can move on to Generations and whatever else they have planned for the year,” said Higgins “If rumors are to be believed, there's a lot more to be announced soon that they'll want to focus on in the coming months. Still, Marvel is doing what they can to make the book sell as well as possible. We had very strong sales with the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover, which shipped six issues in six weeks with six terrific artists, and made us a lot of money in a very short time. Personally, I'm a big fan of double-shipping, or faster releases for events like this.”