Thursday, 13 December 2012

How much should a first issue reveal?

"I’m not real sure when this trend of expecting the first issue of a comic to explain every single thing about where a series is going started, but it’s not something I’m particularly into as a reader or a publisher."
-Eric Stephenson, publisher of Image Comics
The above quote from Eric Stephenson has been doing the rounds on Tumblr a bit, with people chipping in here and there in acquiescence, generally to complain how readers are impatient numpities who want to know everything about everything in the first issue of a comic, and the appreciation of slow burning tales that reveal things 'when the time is right' is dead. This is an issue that I could rant about for a while (balance, it's about balance), but lucky for you I've got an assignment due tomorrow, so I'm just going to leave you with Abhay Khosla's more articulate and succinct response:
'No. There’s no such “trend”— there’ve been any number of hit comics that didn’t “explain every single thing” with sales and critical success ensuing. Even if there were such a trend, audiences are allowed to expect things— those are called audience expectations, and understanding and manipulating those is a normal and understood part of the job of a creative artist; that’s on the job description.  
But even if we assumed arguendo that audiences have complained in a clumsy way about unrealistic expectations not being satisfied, audiences are allowed to say things in a clumsy way. They’re the audience not James Walcott; their job isn’t to be the editor while a professional editor is in absentia, carefully articulating the deficiencies of their experiences. One needs only to look past the clumsiness, and the sentiment he’s complaining about is invariably the oldest one there is: ”The first issue has to give me a reason to buy the second issue, and it didn’t.” Yeah: that’s not a “trend” or a “meme” or a “fad”— that’s the job. That’s always been the job. That “trend” started at the dawn of the enterprise.  
It’d be nice if someday, some of that the energy comic creators uses to lecture their audience, if some of that could be used to power our light bulbs or to make toast or maybe get used to make better comics. Not tomorrow, or day after— let’s not get crazy. (There’s other ways to get toast, in the meantime— buy a toaster… ordering toast from restaurant… maybe you could use a skillet somehow? I don’t really cook). But maybe someday. Some people say I’m a dreamer; other people call me Maurice— don’t get the reference; find it very off-putting; not my name.'
-Abhay Khosla   

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