Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tom Grummett's Exclusivitiy - A Sign of an Overall Lack of Faith in New Comic Talent?

The other day, Marvel announced that Ed Brubaker is their latest exclusive. This certainly seems to make sense, as Brubaker is one of the best mainstream comic writers out there, so getting him to write exclusive for your company definitely seems to be a good idea.

However, a little while before that, Marvel made a separate announcement that did not seem to make as much sense.

They signed artist Tom Grummett to an exclusive contract.

In addition, they recently signed to exclusive contracts the following artists:

Mark Brooks

Mike McKone

Tom Raney

Aaron Lopresti

Michael Ryan

Am I missing something here?

Now please do not think that I am saying that any of these artists are BAD, per se. I happen to enjoy most of their work. However, does it not strike anyone else as odd that Marvel feels it necessary to lock these artists up?

It makes me wonder...if the demand for artists of the caliber of Tom Grummett is so great that Marvel feels it necessary to lock him up, lest DC "steal him," what is Marvel saying about their faith in new comic talent?

Is the presumption really one that there is (and there is likely to be) no new comic talent who can draw to the level of Tom Grummett out there?

Do you think that's how they view it?

Or is it sheer laziness? Is it that Grummett is stable, they know exactly what to expect out of him, and he is easy to just simply plug in wherever they need him.

Or am I just missing something here?


Blogger Joe Rice said...

Tom Grummet? Tom fucking Grummet? The guy whose art, even when I was a teenager that liked EVERYTHING, was obviously so BORING and UGLY that I couldn't force myself to buy Superboy or something?

Holy crap.

Brubaker: good on you, Marvel. That's a CATCH and a half.

Grummet: Ugh. Go ahead and pair him with PAD on Hulk or something so I have no fear of ever reading a comic drawn by him again.

2/10/2005 07:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, but it's always been my assumption that this missing link might be that from the artist's perspective this is a good deal. Does it bring stable health benefits and a different sort of pay setup? For Marvel, it makes sense to have a dependable in-house team (whether or not they're all really news-release quality) but I've always assumed there must be something in it for the people who sign the contracts.


2/10/2005 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger Lyle said...

To be honest, I often have a hard time understanding the advantage of signing an artist to an exclusive contract. I presume that the publishers are already requiring that they commit to an assignment -- combine that with todays' artists' capacity and don't you essentially have an exclusivity contract? I mean, if you get Joe Camelbrush to commit to penciling 12 issues of X-Men and Joe's history shows he has a hard time finishing 9 issues in a year's time, doesn't the X-Men agreement give you an exclusive with Joe for more than a year? If these were longer exclusivity periods or if they were announced at a time when the initial agreement seemed to have less than a year left.

Writers can do more work in a month so exclusivity there makes sense -- in many of the exclusivity agreements, the writer is doing work for multiple publishers, but artists don't really have the time.

Anyway, Grummett is a solid artist. Not great, but he puts out good work on time. It seems like that's a harder and harder quality to find and perhaps Marvel wanted to have someone dependable and always available?

2/10/2005 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

The benefits, I believe, are the main draw for artists and writers signing exclusive contracts. Freelancers are on their own in that regard. As for Grummet, he's the equivalent of the long reliever in baseball. Not dominant enough to be a starter or a closer, but reliable enough to come off the bench when the team's in a pinch. Makes sense to me.

2/10/2005 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger alex said...

The bigger question is:

Who fucking cares?


2/10/2005 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Hey, Al, quit being a douche. Yes, we were all stunned into silence by Cronin's Sabrina entry, but this is an interesting question. So I fucking care.

But frankly, I think the answer to the question may be that Marvel and DC only care about "talent" superficially. If they can get a hot-selling title, then I'm sure that makes them happy; I'm sure that's kind of what they're going for, more or less. But ultimately, if sales were really what they were trying for, they'd be doing other things necessary to get them.

Signing Tom Grummet (who I do not think is awful, but certainly really goddamn mediocre, like Paul Ryan and a few of those other artists Brian mentioned) is a signal to me that their main interest lies not in publishing quality comics, but in putting out a steady stream of comics, good or bad. Maintaining the brand only. Quality is just a bonus.

2/10/2005 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Maintaining the brand.Pretty much. As Marvel's vice chairman, Peter Cuneo, put it last month:

"he comic book business of course is very important to us. Not only is it highly profitable. We have about a 35% profit margin on our comic book business and growing very nicely if you look at our track record. But also this is our R&D function...The nice thing about the comic book business is, and we publish over 60 titles every month, is we can experiment here and really actually lose very little or no money."

Read the whole interview at Motley Fool.

2/10/2005 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

There are several reasons why it's worthwhile to court any artist for an exclusive, even those not at the top of the medium artistically.

1. To catch their fans. Every creator has someone who likes their work. Every creator who stays in the business for a certain number of years gathers a loyal fan base. When that creator only makes material for you, that fan base has to read your books to get their fix. Conversely, they might also stop reading books that creator was working on for the competition once he starts working for you.

2. To promote yourself as a good employer. If artist X signs a contract with you, it means artist X was impressed by the package you offered, in terms of benefits and creative opportunities. An up-and-coming artist might look at this and say, "Hm, if Marvel offered me a deal like they offered him, I just might take it." And, of course, Mr. Up-And-Comer might well be even better, in terms of talent, reader draw, or that elusive combination of both, than artist X.

3. To have available talent. Freelancers are fickle; they can leave at any time. *Someone* has to pick up the slack if they leave you in a bind. An exclusive creator is in a position to do just that, since they're both legally and financially obligated to keep you happy with them.

4. Simple marketing. Every time you announce an exclusive signing, a story goes up on the news websites. People reading these websites see the story, and even if they don't click to read the whole thing, their brains register the most important information: the company's name. And now, the name is tied in recollection to that creator, which means the brain will make that recall, even just subconsciously, when that creator comes up in conversation. And constant awareness of the brand is the first step in selling anything.

2/10/2005 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin Melrose said...

FROM ROSE: "I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, but it's always been my assumption that this missing link might be that from the artist's perspective this is a good deal. Does it bring stable health benefits and a different sort of pay setup?"

Yeah, from a creator's standpoint an exclusive contract makes a lot of sense, because it typically comes with health benefits and stability. Artist A knows that for the next one, two or three years, he's guaranteed work (or, at least, the money) whether a book is canceled or delayed or whatnot. In Josh Middleton's case, I think there was some sort of odd agreement for his contract to cover a certain number of pages, covers, etc., so his term with Marvel was greatly accelerated because of penciling, coloring and cover work.

It also ends up benefiting the creator because most of Marvel and DC's "exclusive" agreements tend to be in a loose sense, meaning, "You just can't work for the other guy." Creator-owned work is hardly ever affected, and it seems projects that were already in the pipeline are fine.

But from the publisher's perspective, I don't always understand the agreements, particularly when it comes to lower-tier talent. Sure, Marvel wants to keep DC from poaching, say, Bryan Hitch because he has a substantial fan following. But is there really a fear that an adequate but unremarkable penciler or inker or writer -- you know, one who turns in work on time but doesn't set the world aflame -- is going to be "stolen" by the competition?

I have a feeling that as the major publishers and, in turn, the comics "news" sites became so convention-oriented when it came to announcing projects, storylines and, yes, "exclusives," a mentality has developed that a talent "score" has to be announced or the company will be viewed as slipping.

I don't know, outside of DC's exclusive deal with Grant Morrison, which meant he'd be given rein to develop a few wonderful if low-selling series in exchange for delivering a BIG EVENT or two, do any of theses agreements end up meaning anything to the readers? (I mean, aside from the message-board denizens who keep a tally of which publisher is "winning" ...)

Man, I'm rambly today.

2/10/2005 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

Paul said:

"Hey, Al, quit being a douche. Yes, we were all stunned into silence by Cronin's Sabrina entry, but this is an interesting question. So I fucking care."




I'm glas you fucking care Pual. The intricate contract deals of an artist no one cares about keeps me up at night sometimes too.

HAHA! Who's the douche now, Boring McBoringster?


2/10/2005 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Why are you so stupid, Alex? This has got nothing to do with Grummett, who could stand to add a few extra letters to his name. Ggrummettee.

We're talking about the fact that Marvel and DC are giving exclusive contracts to boring artists and trying to puzzle out why that is. I would think that one corollary to "Comics Should Be Good" is "Comics Shouldn't Be Boring." So the big people are having a discussion to that effect. You are being crapfully undiscussive.

Which is cool, but I think your efforts would be better spent thinking up new and amusing ways to curse out Geoff Johns in your next entry. Or you can quit in disgust. I will support you in whatever decision you make. Just remember that I'll always love you, Alexander.

(And for the record, I may indeed be a douche now that you have douchified me with your barbs. But you're still the douchiest of them all.)

2/10/2005 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

Here's my take on the deal.

I agree with Brian.

Grummett is boring,a nd Marvel made a weird decision.

Grummett is so boring, it prompts me to ask, "Who the fuck cares about his comings and/or goings?" Marvel is the House of Boring Ideas lately, so I am neither surprised, amused, or interested when they continue to be boring.

Thus is my response.

A legitimate response to the discussion at hand.

In other words, Suck My Dick, Paul.

2/10/2005 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

Let me add:

I hate it when fans of anything discuss the business delaings of the companies they support. I hate the obsession with box office grosses, the diamond top ten, and talk of contracts... it all makes me weepy.

People that run these entertainment companies are morons. Trying to second guys the decision makers at Marvel Comics is like laying bets on which hand a monkey will poop in at the Zoo.


2/10/2005 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like a business decision to me. Not necessarily meant to sell more Marvel’s, but to cripple the Distinguished Competition.

Let’s face it, regardless of how I feel about the Teen Titans book; it is a good seller for DC. And I guess Marvel feels the same way. They probably thought that by hiring their art team away (Tom Grummett and Mike McKone are currently tag-teaming art chores on the Titans), the drop in quality or change in art direction would cause fans to drop the title and leave the book. Then that void could be easily filled by another Teen Mutant type book, under the Marvel banner, and probably helmed by Mr. McKone and Mr. Grummett.

The same rings true for Michael Ryan and Tom Raney (I think they are both Justice League regulars, but I’m not sure). In any case, exclusive contracts are more often than not, meant to take away current business and/or prevent future business. Think of it as a George Steinbrenner move. “It’s not that I want him; it’s just that I don’t want you to have him!”

2/10/2005 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Oh, Alex! Who knew all we had to do was call you a douche to get you to talk about stuff? I'm so pleased!

You're so cute when you're surly. You might be cute when you're not, but I guess we wouldn't know.

As for your opinion, it's most definitely a valid one. Our discussion will have blessed little impact on the way Marvel does business. Likely, also, is that it will have blessed little impact on anything else, ever. So why in fuck's name are we doing it?

In fact, I think we should quit life.

What do you say, Alex? Shall we run away together? My friends have a bungalow in Nassau we can grow old in, sipping fruity umbrella drinks and making up our own Green Lantern stories. It will be marvelous. Just imagine calling you the douchiest, you telling me to Suck Your Dick in capital letters...oh, let's do it now, Alex! Let's go before the sun goes down tonight!

2/10/2005 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Lyle said...

To catch their fans. Every creator has someone who likes their work. Every creator who stays in the business for a certain number of years gathers a loyal fan base. When that creator only makes material for you, that fan base has to read your books to get their fix. Conversely, they might also stop reading books that creator was working on for the competition once he starts working for you.I can see that in theory but I've been perplexed because a lot of the time the artist has commited to a job that'll fill their schedule for a year... and then the publisher signs them to a year-long exclusive. Seems kinda redundant, since the artist is already going to be working for the publisher for the next year already.

Your other reasons make a lot of sense tho, Michael... the "news" aspect seems to go far to explain some of the signings.

2/10/2005 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

One of the things I like about the internet is the fact that no matter where I go, there will always be someone around to point out what a dick I am and constantly make me feel like shit.

Thanks, Paul. I don't always appreciate you enough. It's good to have my own personal gadfly, pointing out all my little faults and letting fly delicious barbs at every turn.

I'm so lucky to have you.


2/10/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

Hey Brian-

I'm sorry if my "who fucking cares?" comment seemed aimed at your article. I was trying to make a pointed commentary on the blah-osity of Tom Grummett. I did not mean to imply that no one cares about your article, or the content therein. I should have been less "surly", but apparently that's all I know.

I apologize.

Hopefully in the future, Paul's low self-esteem will continue to keep him criticizing my every move, and I will stop making curt, snide remarks, and I will be a better blogger... and a better person.

Here's hoping.


2/10/2005 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

"I can see that in theory but I've been perplexed because a lot of the time the artist has commited to a job that'll fill their schedule for a year... and then the publisher signs them to a year-long exclusive. Seems kinda redundant, since the artist is already going to be working for the publisher for the next year already."

But that doesn't necessarily guarantee exclusivity. The artist could always leave the job midway, or find out the job doesn't take as much time as he thought and do a little work for the competition.

And I think it's all right and even at times necessary to discuss entertainment business decisions in a forum like this, because it *is* a business, and to have a serious discussion about the subject, we have to take that into account. It has little to do with questions of artistic merit, true, but that's only one part of the picture of the comics landscape. Business decisions factor into every comic that hits the stands. If, to pull an example from this blog, DC ever shunts the Marvel Family into their own little universe and markets them towards kids, business decisions and considerations will be involved. One can't ignore that factor. Well, I guess one can, but it would make one, y'know, ignorant.

I guess it ultimately depends on where you want the discussion to go and to be able to go. I of course have no real say in this, but I still have thoughts.

2/10/2005 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Grummett is the comics industry equivalent of the back-up utility outfielder. He's not particularly flashy, but he's dependable, puts up solid (if not always spectacular) numbers, and he can comfortably sub in whereever you need him to in a pinch. He's not a superstar, he'll never make the All-Star team, but he's the sort of guy you need in your toolbox if you want to see the post-season.

Of course, Marvel, being in New York, doesn't play like a typical baseball team. They use the Yankee method, and are therefore buying him up A.) so no one else can have him if they want him; and B.) because they CAN.

2/10/2005 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Alex, what does self-esteem have to do with the fact that "Who fucking cares?" doesn't add dick all to the conversation? I don't know why you decided to get serious all of a sudden, but I have to say you're a lot funnier when you're funny. Compose a song about what a useless twerp I am or something, would you?

In all seriousness, I'm sorry if I made you feel bad for acting like a fifteen year old. I really should have let you continue on not-fucking-caring in peace. I'll leave you alone now and you can go back to your ordinarily-quite-tranquil existence, sir.

2/10/2005 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

paul said:
"In all seriousness, I'm sorry if I made you feel bad for acting like a fifteen year old."

Even when you apologize you manage to slip in an asshole aside. That's talent, folks.

I apologize for "not adding dick to the converstaion", everybody. I'll be better in the future.


2/10/2005 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger TCSmith said...

Weren't they discussing this on Newsarama a few weeks ago? This place is turning into a nerdy messageboard. All these posts lately are titled as a questions. I miss the stuff I can’t get anywhere else, like honest reviews of Waid’s FF, funny and entertaining pieces like Teel’s message to his wife about going to the comic shop, and Alex’s hating muties. And who can forget the greatest band in the world? I know I never will.

2/10/2005 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Come on, Alex, are we really going to keep fighting?

TCSmith demands better of us!

The Creeping Croninism of this blog demands better of us!

One more thing...Can I just say that I really like the word "Croninism?" And only partially because it sounds like onanism.

All for now.

2/10/2005 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"The Creeping Croninism of this blog demands better of us!"

Like the bear says, only YOU can prevent Croninism, Paul!


In other words, you both should post is what makes this blog so kickass (and it saves me from having to think up things to write about if other people are writing things!).

And Alex, I appreciate the sentiments. I want you to keep posting whatever you want, surly or not...just note that I'm gonna post whatever I want, too, unsurly or not.

But the more everyone else posts, the less I feel the need to, so get to it, you other blog guys!!

2/10/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger TCSmith said...

Post less, Cronin!

2/10/2005 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

I can't believe I'm going to say the next four words.

I agree with Alex.

2/10/2005 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Brant said...

Can you guys post an Alex/Paul fight once a week? It's better than reading about Spider-man comics taking place on a bridge.

2/11/2005 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Johhny Triangles said...

I must be in the minority, but on Teen Titans I thought Grummett's work outshined McKone's greatly. I like the fill-in issues better.

2/11/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

It's because you share his propensity for adding extra repeated letters to your name.

By the way, I will be changing the spelling of my name to Paul Lundgard Tyl.

2/11/2005 05:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: alex fighting p. lungard teal

no matter who wins, we lose.

2/13/2005 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger alex said...

Paul and I love each other.

We're just so used to the "play nice" restrictions of nerd message boards, that we jump at any chance to be yell and spit.

Good times.


2/14/2005 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous pauL said...

My name is PAUL LUNDGARD... who the heck are you and where do you come from??!!

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Blogger Chuck Wells said...

I happen to enjoy Tom Grummett's artwork quite a bit. His style somewhat evokes earlier eras, and I think this is the source of any criticism directed towards him.

His stuff is just "fun" to look at and I'm not going to malign other artists whose work I don't particularly care for in making my case, but there are wildly popular illustrators at Marvel whose work I can't really stomach.

Give me Grummett any day over those guys!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had to comment on how stupid all the Grummett hate is on some of these comments. Boring? Ugly? You must be fucking blind from all the Dorito crumbs in your eyes. Grummett is one of the must underrated talents to work in comics over the last 20 plus years. But I'm sure you love guys like Stephen Platt and Rob Liefeld, after all their horribly disproportionate artwork is "exciting" and "cool" right?

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