Monday, May 02, 2011

Wait, one more rambling thought about that old Dungeons & Dragons comic...

After last night's post about the old DC/TSR AD&D comic, I spent some time digging through a longbox and rereading the last four issue's of the series. It occurred to me that the things I like least about modern, Big Two super-comics were completely absent from the series, mostly due to the fact that the industry it was created in and the audience it was created for have both been completely transformed.

As I mentioned, it lasted 36 issues; in that time, it had three writers. Two of them wrote single, four-issue arcs, while the third wrote the remaining 24 issues.

It had a single pencil artist for 33 of the 36 issues, with a second artist drawing three fill-in issues. The fill-in art occurred in standalone story arcs, so no single story featured more than one pencil artist.

For all intents and purposes, the book therefore had a single creative team working on it from beginning to end, with guests helping out occasionally, and this guest-talent being employed intelligently so as to never derail the book's narrative or visual appearance.

Every issue had a single credited inker.

The book was obviously never written for the trade, as trade collection was still quite rare by 1991; story arcs would be one-issue, two-issues, three-issues or four-issues, depending on the story.

Splashes, double-page splashes or one-and-a-half page splashes were limited to one instance per issue, and generally employed either on a title page or to establish a dramatic change in scene.

This is certainly down to a lack of technology as much as anything else, but there's no lightboxing, no photos of celebrities being used as reference or appropriated as original work, no lens flares or garish computer coloring effects.

The pages of the comic were all printed on good old-fashioned comic book paper, rather than glossy magazine-like paper.

The book was also only $1.75 per issue when it ended in 1991, whereas today DC comics cost $2.99 per issue, and the current Dungeons & Dragons comics cost $3.99 per issue. Certainly, that was 20 years ago, so the dramatic inflation of cover prices is to be expected, and yet there's a big difference between a $2.99 comic and a $3.99 comic book—for whatever reasons, today's D&D comics cost 33% more than today's DC comics.

As much as I might personally like to see more paper-paper than magazine paper, and more old-school, Milestone Era coloring and the presence of computers being less obtrusive, I realize those ships are pretty much sailed at this point, and the vast majority of comic books just don't look, feel or smell like the comic books I read back then. Just as I'm probably never going to be buying them off a rack in a supermarket or drug store again, I'm probably not going to see comics like this anymore.

But there's no reason why publishers and creators can't still have the same level of professionalism they had in the late eighties and early '90s, and the folks who begin a new title be the ones who end it, and the title always ship when they say it' s going to ship, you know? I don't think it's an accident that one of DC Comics' current best-sellers, Green Lantern, the one that's spawned two successful spin-offs (Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors and two big, successful crossovers/branding efforts (Blackest Night, Brightest Day) is the one that's had the same writer for some 65 issues now—although even GL has had late issues, so many pencil artists that no one of them has defined the book visually, and each and every month four to six guys have to ink the thing to get it out in time.

Anyway, mainstream super-comics—like my abs, my eyesight and my hair, they were so much better 20 years ago then they are today.

1 comment:

George S. said...

Well said. A consistent book is a luxury these days, and unfortunately something others take for granted.