Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Paul Dini, one man band

I noticed copy of 2007's Batman: Detective at the library today, and was bemused by the presentation of the title and credits on the cover:
Who is the author of this book? Why it's none other than famed writer/artist Paul Dini, apparently.

Actually, if you've read any of these comics before, then you know Dini's just a writer, so he had to have at least one other guy helping him create the contents of this trade paperback, even if you ignore the inkers, colorists and letterers, as cover credits so often do.

This slim, 144-page trade includes six issues of Detective Comics, only five of which are written by Dini. It also includes a fill-in issue written by Royal McGraw, which kind of misses the point of fill-in issues—it's a story published specifically to meet a particular deadline to make sure that a monthly comic is actually on sale during a particular month, there's no reason to re-publish it in a trade collection. Particularly if it's a throwaway story about a minor villain from a Batman comic published over 20 years ago (which another writer already wrote fifteen years ago anyway), a villain who was killed off in the pages of another comic and especially if the organizing principle of your trade collection is the work of a particular writer, who is being given co-billing with freaking Batman on the cover.

Four different pencil artists have a hand in these stories by Dini and McGraw: J.H. Williams III, Don Kramer, Joe Benitez and Marcos Marz. And there are three different inkers. I note that not because it effects the quality of the book—each of these are one-off, done-in-one stories, so the book reads like an anthology anyway—but because that's an awful lot of people contributing to the creation of this book that aren't Paul Dini.

And yet the cover just says Dini. Not Dini and others or Dini and friends or Dini and McGraw, Williams, Kramer, Benitez and Marz in teensy-tiny font. Ditto the spine, which just has the words "Batman: Detective", "Paul Dini" and "DC Comics" on it.

Oh wait, here we go, in the lower right corner of the back cover, above the UPC symbol:

10 comments:

Hdefined said...

If Dini is the singular creative element unifying almost all of the stories, why is it wrong to headline the book with only his name? What about that Alan Moore: Tales of the DCU book? The Tim Sale and Darwyn Cooke collections?

This move isn't unprecedented, and it's not unreasonable, either.

Esteban138 said...

It's especially odd considering that J. H. Williams is a pretty top-tier artist, while Paul Dini is kind of an Also Ran... his entire Detective run was designed to be throwaway and not interfere with what Morrison was doing in the main book (a task that now requires two spinoffs, apparently).

rjt said...

Yeah, I'm going to have to disagree with you here. As already mentioned, there is the Alan Moore trade, which doesn't list the dozens of artists that work on the stories within on the cover. And regardless of what someone personally thinks of Paul Dini's work, his announcement as writer on Detective was as big as Morrison's at the time. He is (or at least was--this trade is several years old)a big name draw. Hence the hardcover collection of Mad Love along with other Dini-written Batman stories.

Heather said...

I think everyone is wrong. By looking at the cover we can clearly see Paul Dini collaborated with Batman on this run of Detective.

Hdefined said...

"his entire Detective run was designed to be throwaway and not interfere with what Morrison was doing in the main book"

You're expressing your opinion as if it were a fact of editorial intention.

Hdefined said...

I mean, geez Caleb, if this really gets you so worked up, I'd hate to see your reaction to the Marvel Visionaries line of trades.

Caleb said...

As already mentioned, there is the Alan Moore trade, which doesn't list the dozens of artists that work on the stories within on the cover.

Well, I don't think the Alan Moore book is a very good comparison, as Moore is the most popular and best-selling graphic novel writer of all-time, and Dini's...not. Additionally, the organizing principle of the Moore trade was "all the random little one-off Alan Moore stories that we own the rights to that aren't already published in perennial best-seller trades."

In that case, Moore was very much the selling point, not Clayface IV or Mogo or Green Arrow or Vigilante II or whoever.

This seems more comparable to the BKV Batman book, or the Cooke Batman book. But even then, those were "everything by those writers" kinda collections; this is just "part of dude's run on the series, and a fill-in," you know?

I mean, geez Caleb, if this really gets you so worked up...

I did say "bemused" in the first sentence, didn't I?

Hdefined said...

"This is just "part of dude's run on the series, and a fill-in," you know?"

Yes, but unfortunately for him, he wasn't saddled with a consistent creative team, at least not for the first dozen issues, and aside from Williams getting assigned to the book and then pulled off after the first issue, there wasn't a single headlining artist for a while.

But considering the series was being marketed on the strength of Dini's name (which had more pull at the time than it does now, since this was his first monthly series and it came out before Countdown started), it's no surprise that the trade is also being marketed on the strength of his name.

You have to consider it (the marketing) from the perspective of 2006, not 2009.

Justin said...

There's a couple of things I don't like about the cover, design-wise. Heather's comment is a valid complaint -- I mean, *I* know it's Batman: Detective by Paul Dini, but...

The Invisibles trades are sold on the strength of Grant Morrison's name, but they still list most of the artists (Entropy in the UK has eight separate artist credits on its cover). As an artist I might feel a little slighted by the Detective trade dress; the "unifying creative element" argument I feel is somewhat harmed by a sixth of the book having been written by someone else entirely.

You know what has *really* confusing credits? The first Alan Moore Supreme collection by Checker. The cover credits are: Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Rick Veitch, Alex Ross. Moore and Veitch are given, but although Sprouse would become the regular artist in later issues of Supreme, he only does one issue here (and since it's shared with Veitch, Sprouse's total contribution is 12 pages in the whole book). And Alex Ross is only involved inasmuch as the publishers repurposed a bunch of pencil and watercolor sketches (featuring a costume redesign concept that doesn't appear in this book, and was ultimately never used at all) into a cover and chapter dividers.

Hdefined said...

"The "unifying creative element" argument I feel is somewhat harmed by a sixth of the book having been written by someone else entirely."

I view it in the same way as when any other comic contains a backup strip or reprint without those creators' names on the cover. Caleb's right - it doesn't make sense to include a fill-in issue - but against five Dini-penned issues, the straggler is little more than a backup.