Monday, November 19, 2007

One Banner

I have been in the Christian comics scene since 1995, and I’ve seen it blossom since 2001 with the advent of the internet and the introduction of Megazeen. I’ll make two points here, then go right into my sermon.
1- Message boards have been both the best and worst thing that has happened to Christian comics.
2- Megazeen has played a huge role in the growth of independent Christian comics, whether the critics want to admit that or not.

However, I’m really not arguing either of those points at the moment. The thing ticking me off today is the argument that comes up at least once a year on the message boards (such as Yahoo or It’s usually raised by someone dipping his big toe into the pool for the first time and thinks he’s an Olympic swimmer with all the answers.

The argument is presented in different ways but ultimately comes out the same: that the only way for Christian comics to succeed is for all of us to unite under one banner (company).

From an outsider’s viewpoint, it seems logical enough. One banner creates brand recognition i.e. Image/Marvel/DC. People working together creates defined jobs, synergy and specialization. Combined funds can produce and turn over product more efficiently and allow for growth. As a manager of a multi-million dollar company, I find it difficult to argue any of these points and won’t bother.

The problem comes in with the fact that this is a creative industry. Artists are a notoriously insecure lot. We like our playground and don’t like other people who want to play in our playground or criticize our playground. In other words, we don’t work well with others. Artists are also a notoriously frugal lot- we don’t have cash (thus the phrase “starving artist”). So, combining funds doesn’t much matter when you’ve got a roomful of starving artists who can’t ante up.

Now, add the word Christian to it. This should eliminate the insecurity issue, since insecurity is pride, and pride is a sin, and Christians don’t sin right? And the money thing, well, if we’re Christians we should be well-rewarded and God should meet our needs and we should know how to sacrifice. When you’re all done laughing I’ll continue.

The problem is that the Christian thing seems to amplify the other issues rather than cancel them out. Not only is the artist insecure, he’s also wickedly adherent to a theology and philosophy regarding his art. So, to attack my art is to attack me AND the way God made me. As far as money goes, Christians are stingy. We are. If every Christian tithed, world hunger could be eliminated in one year. That’s a fact. But we don’t.

Just for kicks, let’s put four guys in a room and see what happens.

One guy has a comical approach that addresses Christian weakness. Another guy swears by doing Bible story adaptations and ONLY Bible adaptations. Another will only do kid-friendly evangelical work suitable for a children’s Sunday school class. Another tells a clever, dark story with subtle spiritual themes. And these four guys are supposed to pool their resources and help each other under one banner.

What happens is that Bible Guy finds Dark Guy and Funny Guy too irreverent, and tolerates kid-friendly guy who really isn’t very talented. Dark Guy and Funny Guy get together and work on something together but produce something too risqué for Kid-friendly Guy to handle. Bible Guy gets bent out of shape because what the other Guys are working on ain’t Bible, and if it ain’t Bible then how can it possibly glorify God? Kid-Friendly Guy is feverishly working on his own on a sugary-sweet badly drawn story, but that shouldn’t matter because it’s a Godly story and he’s excited about it, but since the truly talented Dark and Funny Guys aren’t patting him on the back he’s getting quickly discouraged.

This is a lot of what happens on message boards. Imagine if these jokers actually tried to form a company together? And that’s before any money is involved.

There is a second ironic part to this. Stay tuned.

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