Toronto Comicon 2005 preview

April 25, 2005 | News

After a decade of glitz, glam and little substance that nearly hollowed out the industry — comic books are back firmly entrenched in the mainstream consciousness.
While the early 90s were terrific sales-wise for comics, with individual issues selling millions of copies each, the industry, which had been dominated by an elite cabal of artists, caved in on itself towards the end of the decade.
“What happened after that was that a lot of people left, both pros and fans and what you were left with is people with a die-hard passion for comics,” says Brian Michael Bendis, writer of several of Marvel Comics’ hottest titles, including Daredevil, Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers.
“I think it became more about ideas than images. I think you’re going to have a much more satisfying experience as a comic-book reader when that’s the focus of how a story is put together. It’s not just about the hot babe; it’s actually about the idea of something.”
So slowly, but surely, the writers have usurped the artists on centre stage and now wield as much or more clout with what fans read.
“Lately I have noticed more emphasis on the writer as headliner for a project,” notes David Mack, writer/illustrator of Kabuki for Marvel’s creator-owned Icon line. “My feeling is that this happens when a writer has a very unique and personal approach to his work that gives every project its own kind of power and unique personality.
“Not that the style is the same, but that each of the writers work has a passion to it that readers can recognize and identify with just as much as with an artist they follow.”
Phil Jimenez, a renowned writer/artist, who previously held both jobs on Wonder Woman and is working on several hot projects in 2005 including a fantasy/sci-fi epic called Otherworld and penciling the hotly anticipated Infinite Crisis later this year, says the more mature readers comics attract nowadays is partly to blame for the rise of the writers.
“I think it has something to do with the age of the readers as well their demands from the books themselves,” Jimenez says. “Once upon a time, flashy, shiny art would be really attractive — and I say this with no condescension at all — to a younger, less discerning reader. But now that is less interesting than their investment in the characters and the complexity of plot, intricacy of detail and the attention to character development.”
The heat factor surrounding writers seems to be prevalent at this year’s Toronto Comicon, set to open Friday and run through until Sunday at the National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place.
In addition to Bendis and Mack, top-line writing guests at the Comicon include: Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan), Bill Willingham (Fables), Dave Sim (Cerebus) and Sara “Samm” Barnes (Doctor Spectrum).
While the writers are finally getting their due, comics are still a visual medium and the collaboration with the artists is key, according to Bendis.
“Most of the writers have exceptional taste in artists so you’re getting more than just writers, you’re getting exceptional creative teams,” he says. “It’s really an awesome time to be reading comics.”

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