Young Animal: The Set List.

Previously I explained why I think Young Animal is ripe for expansion. Now it’s time to talk about the direction in which the imprint should expand and who should be brought on in order to round out the talent pool.

I’d love to see Young Animal focus on the Quality Comics line. While some of the Quality characters have made their way into the main DC universe as supporting heroic characters and have also had short stints at Vertigo, I think a small and select group of titles should be brought to Young Animal in order to illustrate that the line can be more than just another imprint established by and populated with “British Invasion” devotees. I have said in the past that “Morrisons beget Ways.” What I am proposing here is a chance to prove that saying false. Here is a chance to show that the mainstream industry can provide imprints that include visions beyond the (admittedly fantastic) Brit-pop influence seen in so many organizations overwhelmingly dominated by UK creators and their protegés.

In my first Young Animal piece I stressed the importance of uniqueness. It is, quite frankly, something that many new companies lack. There is no effort to separate one from what has come before in terms of shared influences, talent, a particular point of view, or a preferred genre. And so readers will cling to the company that is the most familiar and the most convenient if all else is equal (creators, production quality, theme, etc.).

The characters? Quality. The theme? Bicoastal (New York/Los Angeles) adventures. The genre? Action-oriented humor and surrealism.

Plastic Man

Kid Eternity

Crack Comics

Heart Throbs

Crack Comics and Heart Throbs would be alternating bimonthly anthologies with a main ongoing story by the creators listed and additional shorts selected to showcase Quality characters and individuals working within the creative circles of the established teams. Kid Eternity and Plastic Man would be standard ongoings.

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job curating here! I’ve selected a group of artists and colorists who are imaginative and excellent storytellers, which ensures a true collaborative effort in regards to theme and direction. I also wanted writers who could happily tap into the absurdity of both New York and Los Angeles—past, present, and future. And I’ve thrown myself in with the murderers’ row assembled here because (1) I’m the armchair curator, (2) I love Sophie’s work, and (3) she’s the one of the few artists who would put up with the ridiculous nonsense I would immediately try to sneak inside a comic. But I would happily replace myself with Adam Warren should there be a “No Editors Allowed” policy.

It’s a good crew—one I think would work well at Young Animal specifically given how much music means to the majority of creators I’ve assembled. And I think that is what should link all of the Young Animal titles in some regard—a strong musical influence. Be it punk or hip hop, glam rock, r&b, or pop. Of course, all of the creators I’ve listed can and have worked well at different companies. And would work well in different crews. Where and with who? Well, that’s for a different post and another time!

Young Animal: Way in.

It’s time for Young Animal to expand.

I’m sure Gerard Way, already consumed by deadlines, would cringe upon reading that sentence. But it is the truth. The line is poised to best its predecessor, Vertigo, with novel takes on oft-neglected titles. It is perhaps the setup Marvel has with Ta-Nehisi Coates on an even grander scale. As with Coates, Way lends his celebrity to the brand, beefing up the marketing on a select subset of titles with his name alone. There is also the added benefit of a company using a celebrity not only as a talented creator, but as a human Rolodex. Both DC and Marvel have the ability to use Way’s and Coates’ connections to reach out to creative circles to which they would not otherwise have access. And they do so. Eagerly.

Moreover, by placing creators on already existing brands in need of renovation, publishers skirt issues that arise with creator-owned properties such as licensing and credits. In some instances, as creators come up with concepts whole cloth that are tied only tangentially to an existing property, this feels rightfully like exploitation. If all that remains that is recognizable about an original character is the name? I would advise any popular creator to take his ideas to Image. However, if a creator is happy to work within an established framework? Young Animal is the perfect place to provide the stability one needs with the ability to explore themes and subjects that one could not explore with a beloved and tightly controlled brand such as Superman.

Why not Vertigo? Because Vertigo is considered old and Anglophilic, whereas Young Animal is considered…young and Anglophilic. Vertigo is iconic; Young Animal is now the brash upstart. And an expansion will help cement that idea in the public’s collective consciousness (1) before younger Vertigo doppelgängers can launch lines and (2) now that Image is best known as the premier place for established creators to publish creator-owned works. That’s where I would start as a mercenary marketer for Young Animal—doing my level best to portray Image as a playground for the old and famous, and any other upstart that leaned hard on Vertigo’s past glory (and let’s be honest, almost all of these imprints do, including Young Animal) as a poor facsimile.

And yet this is comics, not Highlander. There is room for everyone, but you must either be (1) unique or (2) the most talented to get the largest share. Since most creators aren’t exclusive, having the best crew is nearly impossible. The talent pool in comics is amazing, but every comic company dips a toe into it. An imprint must make its mark via individuality and authenticity. What does your imprint bring to the table that is truly distinctive? How is your “voice” different?

I was about to say that Young Animal is in the best position to usurp Vertigo’s role as the industry’s lightning rod, but I must correct myself. Vertigo lost that role to Image long before the creation of Young Animal. Sadly, Vertigo seems to have no interest in heeding my previous advice to become an exclusive playground for established creators with cult followings. And so Image will likely take that prestigious role and the evergreen backlist that comes with it as it abandons its former position as a rabble-rouser—resulting in two organizations benefitting from Vertigo’s decline.

Next up: Four new titles I’d like to see from Young Animal and the creative teams I believe they should hire for the project. See you Wednesday!

Vertigo, Verti-gone: Part 1.

Vertigo logoIt’s been a rough few days for DC to put it mildly! The removal of Shelly Bond from Vertigo has led to an unexpected discussion of DC’s continued employment of Eddie Berganza—who has been named as an individual tied to multiple incidents of sexual harassment. Of course, the question voiced by many is why would DC dismiss Bond only to keep Berganza employed? Sales of Superman comics have been lackluster and, as a longtime employee, Berganza’s salary is likely comparable to Bond’s. Considerable expenditures and negative PR do not seem to be worth the monthly production of a comic that sells roughly 36,000 copies. Especially when said comic stars the world’s most iconic superhero. Many have said that Berganza should not be dismissed for previous behavior that he has already been reprimanded for and adjusted accordingly. I would be inclined to agree. I would also be inclined to remove an individual who made popular female creators feel uncomfortable enough to avoid books such as Supergirl and Wonder Woman due to his involvement. I would be inclined to remove an individual who had been handed two of comics’ greatest characters and could not produce sales even remotely comparable to the third. I would be inclined to remove an individual who could be replaced by one equally efficient for a fraction of the price.

So, given that Vertigo’s sales figures have been disastrous, would I have let go of Bond as well? No. The decline of Vertigo is not the fault of poor editing or unskilled creators. It is the result of unappealing contracts, the inability to acknowledge Vertigo’s new role in the marketplace, and a nonsensical marketing strategy. Bond, a phenomenal editor bolstered by an equally talented team, was made captain of a sinking ship and later blamed for its taking on of more water.

What I cannot stress enough is that Vertigo is no longer seen as avant-garde. It is no longer seen as a place where the industry’s most notorious it-boys and ingénues produce critically acclaimed work that shocks the senses. That place would be Image. Image built its brand on Vertigo’s broken back, laying a solid foundation with fair contracts, rousing speeches, and fashionable fêtes. Vertigo cannot reclaim that status. Unlike many comic companies that have built brands around characters, Image has built its new brand around people. Robert Kirkman, Eric Stephenson, David Brothers, Brandon Graham, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Fiona Staples, etc. It would take an exorbitant sum to woo those people away. They are heavily invested in the health of Image. Vertigo could build a brand around the notable men and women of the smaller independent companies, but what can they offer a woman such as C. Spike Trotman that she doesn’t already enjoy? Nothing.

Vertigo can continue to struggle against the obvious and settle into a role as a lesser Image where interesting concepts are strangled by piss-poor contracts and a tarnished brand. Or it can fully embrace its role as an established imprint where the industry bad boys of the ’90s can relive glory days by returning to the concepts that made them famous. Vertigo could be the comics industry’s version of an exclusive Las Vegas casino—a place to drop considerable dollars on the legends of one’s youth. Headliners only. Some may blanch at the truth, that Vertigo is now a place where the middle-aged and Anglophilic can buy expensive Preacher omnibuses and Sandman OGNs, but guess what? I promise you that their money is just as crisp and fresh as the dollars spent by millennials on Sex Criminals trades. Vertigo should fully embrace its retro brand and tend to its evergreen IPs. And to do so you need an editor with years in the game, one with all the good ol’ boys in her Rolodex, one who can rifle through comics and spot the one project from ’96 that everyone forgot about that’s going to be the next Netflix hit. You need a Shelly Bond.

And right now? DC doesn’t have one.

Next up: Why Young Animal should have been Yung Animal (Swavey clearly isn’t keeping up with it), how the complete absence of young black employees is a massive oversight to any imprint interested in the establishment of an edgy alluring brand, and the importance of an A-Team to a company consumed with gunning for the industry king.