So, after proclaiming the death of the comics industry in a way in which no-one had thought of yesterday, Mark Millar revealed his new theory this morning… only to show that, well, lots of people had thought of it before:
Something that just hit me a couple of days ago and that was that the very thing that helped us in recent years. The huge boost of money and interest injected into the comic-market is exactly what might prove our demise a little less than a decade from now.
And that, my friends, is Hollywood.
You will find no bigger cheerleader than me for the impact Hollywood has had on the industry. It’s brought in a whole new wave of readers whose first experience of X-Men and Wolverine was Bryan Singer and Hugh Jackman. It’s made it possible for comic pros to avoid mainstream superheroes if they desire and still make a good living with the number of indie books being snapped up and the symbiotic growth of their brands whether it’s Hellboy, Sin City or Max Allen Collins Road to Perdition books. But the fact that Hollywood knows where we ARE now is both thrilling and terrifying: Because the poaching has begun and many of our favourite creators are going to be disappearing over the next few years.
This really struck me a few days ago when I requested an artist and discovered he’d be out of commission for the next eighteen months because he’d just landed a gig on a huge sci-fi movie. Eighteen months is a long time for a comics artist to be gone and this guy is so good, so popular, that I know he’ll have another three movie gigs waiting for him when his current commitment is done. And he’s not alone. Six months ago, John Cassaday signed a deal to direct his first motion picture. Adi Granov can’t do comics for the foreseeable future because he’s running the design department on the upcoming Iron Man movie. Producers have finally wised up to the fact that a huge amount of talented people are working in this business and we’re no longer just being used as R&D for Hollywood guys looking to buy something cheap. A guy like John Cassaday, for example, is a brilliant visual storyteller and, as far as producers are concerned, could be the next Frank Miller. They’re scouting hard already, but imagine how ferocious this is going to get once these guys have a few movie hits under their belt.
Likewise, every writer I know has a movie deal at the moment. I can’t think of a single working pro at the big two who isn’t involved with Hollywood in at least some capacity. And the more I like their comics work, the more Hollywood seems to like them too. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to imagine that their part-time movie gigs become full-time over the next few years and I’ll give you an example in numbers. Supposing a writer had an idea for a brand new, four part series. Selling this to a comic company might net him anywhere from 10,000 dollars to 40,000 dollars. It’s a lot of money, of course, and especially sweet when it’s doing something you love. But taking that same story and writing a first draft of a screenplay (something that takes about the same length of time as a four issue mini) and you could be looking at ten times the amount. Get a bidding war going and you might be looking at two or three million dollars for your cool little concept (as a couple of comic-book pros managed recently when they flogged a couple of original screenplays). As much as people love this biz, and I don’t think I’ve met a pro who doesn’t LOVE what he or she is doing, that’s a lot of cash to turn down. I think it will be especially hard for artists. They can only have a much more limited amount of work in print and, even if they aren’t creating anything, could make ten or twenty times their comic-book salaries every week if they take a good production jobs on a major motion picture.
This isn’t speculation. It’s happening right now.
That’s right… It’s the return of the “Hollywood is stealing our children… I mean, creators, stealing our creators” theory. Are you as shocked as Mark claimed everyone else was, yesterday?
Millarworld is nonplussed:
“That’s it? Why did you say no one had guessed your argument when plenty of people had? Plus there’s an amazing whiff of egomania in the idea that once you and your chums have buggered off to Hollywood there won’t be anyone with any real talent coming along to replace you.”
“i’m afraid i must concur, the argumlent (more or less) has been speculated. Now the drafting of talents from the comics is not so new, james robinson startes, steve skorce and geof went for the Matrix. (steve done I robots too it seems) But there’s the law of the vacuum (left by the missing artist en route to hollywood) and the law of money. Comics may end up as merchandise but nivellisation and such may sqtill occur and a new generation can pick up where the previous are too buzy.”
“What happens if the top writer in 5 years time (whether it be BKV or some guy we don’t know about yet) gets snatched up by one of the big studios and is given millions of dollars to make whatever he wants. He makes it, it gets released and BOMB! It gets crap reviews, people don’t see and the studio can’t make a toyline out of it. And since not even the top comic book writer can make a hit film, won’t other studios start thinking ‘Hey, the best comic book writer they could get went and wasted their millions of dollars! I wonder what some of the lesser ones will do to us!’?”
“Interesting article, if not earth-shaking as we feared/hoped. Hollywood is a big business, but big enough to absorb all of the talented (and less talented) comic pros that the anglophone world can produce? I’d be more ‘scared’ of video games, an industry that won’t stop growing, and with a larger output than Hollywood’s. I don’t see it happening so radically. Sure, a lot of pros will get deals, but not everyone will be successful, and some will end up returning to comics trying to do a new hit that proves that they still got it. Or, like someone said above, movies will bomb, and producers will have less faith in comic professionals.”
“Ok, I don’t really disagree with anything there, but I will admit to being more than a little underwhelmed. After the prophesised DOOM of the industry we basically get the same thing that everyone guessed, and no actual end of comic books. It’s kinda like if Watchmen had ended with everyone teaming up against some lame old villain they used to fight who’d just accidentally found out the Comedian’s ID.”
This get more interesting when screenwriter and comic writer Christos Gage turns up:
[S]ome of [the creators who'll leave comics for movies and the lure of money] will realize people in Hollywood tend to be total bastards or just plain idiots, and that they’re not getting the creative control they’re used to, and go back, especially if they don’t fall into the trap of getting a million dollar deal and then buying a two million dollar house. I know you’re talking about artists, but for instance, Bendis got a taste with the Spider-Man animated series and his whole Fortune and Glory experience, and said “screw you guys, I’m going home.” And there’s a reason a lot of people, writers especially, are going from Hollywood into comics…it’s a lot better, saner, the people are nicer, and you can tell your story without a few dozen people pissing on it. This is especially true for folks like Marc Guggenheim, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and myself, who are not creating/running shows, or both writing and directing films…being “just a writer” in this town can make you money, but it can also make you miserable.
Again, I know you’re talking about artists, who are less able to move in both worlds at the same time, but if they’re smart they’ll sock away some “f**k you” money from their deals, and when they get tired of their sultry but vapid mistress they’ll go back to the long-suffering wife.
This unexpected introduction of someone who has experience in both Hollywood and comics and knows what he’s talking about causes Mark to change course slightly:
The danger is that Hwood will chop comics off at the knees. I do think that after a decade or so of disappoints (tho big money) creators will come back and try to resurrect comics in a new form, though. I think that’s very likely as autonomy is invaluable in this game. But it’ll take a lot of money and coke before we comic types will realize that.
So, now, it’s not the death of the comic industry. Or, sorry, the death of the Western Direct Market comic industry. In fact, elsewhere in the thread, Mark comments that he’s already foreseen the next boom in 2025.
In 2025, of course, we can look back at this whole episode as “Mark gets his head turned by some Hollywood money and jumps to conclusions,” and file it away with “Eminem is going to star in the Wanted movie” and “That guy who played Jesus is going to be Superman, I’ll lay money on it” in the Mark Millar internet fun file.
Perhaps the most interesting thing from the whole affair is the way that Mark introduces his column:
I started writing this a couple of hours back and it’s just too big to fit into the SFX column sp I’m going to ask Matt if he wants it for Newsarama. Ah, it’s great being ahead on all my deadlines.
Yes, the outrage over Civil War delays upsetting fans and costing retailers money has now apparently dulled to the point where Mark feels safe to make assholish comments about the whole thing…