Comics/Graphic Novels

I Read Comics For the Art

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Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

That isn’t to say I don’t love the stories, characters, and writing, which I do, but I can find those things in other mediums like novels and film. You can give me a creatively drawn, beautifully colored, or visually interesting graphic novel with just an okay story and I’ll keep turning the page. The same can’t be said for the reverse.

It’s why I don’t understand during the Marvel Retailer Summit the Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief saying: There are fewer artists that impact sales than there are writers, Alonso said, and they’re harder to promote…  “We can hype our artists all we want, but I don’t know if we know how many artists, besides maybe McNiven and Coipel, absolutely move the needle on anything to be drawn. His statements did however make me realize this devaluing of artist–coupled with the confusion of every reboot having the same title–is why I don’t read many Marvel titles.

Marvel likes to swap artist in a series like they’re interchangeable. As Asher Elbein points out in ‘The Real Reason for Marvel Comics’ Woes’: (Imagine a television show using a new cast and crew every few episodes for a sense of how disruptive this is.) Marvel and DC are both guilty of this, but neither seems to have grasped how damaging it actually is to the books themselves—and Marvel has pursued the practice for longer.

As much as I love anything ’80s and am a huge fan of Saga, I picked up Paper Girls because of the art. I really enjoy the characters in Paper Girls and am invested in the what-the-hell-is-happening story but the first thing I always note with each issue is Matt Wilson’s coloring and Cliff Chang’s art, and how much I love it. The way a hue is chosen for an entire layout and how it so perfectly captures the mood keeps me lingering on pages in every issue– you can see what I mean in this interview that shows the art process. If the art team were to be changed, rotated, swapped I would become annoyed and hesitate to keep reaching for every issue. The Wicked + The Divine is on my TBR list because of Wilson and you better believe I’ll pick up any future series with Chang’s name on it.

Without knowing everything that happened behind the scenes of Rat Queens‘ the inconsistency in the art would have been enough to make me put it down. Knowing that the original artist was replaced because of domestic violence, I stuck with the comic because I think it was the right move to make and personally thought a comic about feminist women should probably have a woman on the team. I was here for Tess Fowler. I settled back in. And then Tess Fowler was gone. And then I was done. I loved those characters so much and wanted to follow them into every battle but the inconsistency means I have to at the very least wait a chunk of time before being able to pick up the new artist on the series so my brain isn’t constantly yelling at me that it doesn’t look the same. This isn’t to say the next artist isn’t good, or as good, or better–it just isn’t the same. Comics create a world that I visit every time I pick up an issue, if that world has inconsistencies and differences every time I visit it takes me out of the experience.

Rat Queens: Roc Upchurch

Rat Queens: Tess Fowler

Rat Queens: Owen Gieni

The visual component of a comic is at least as important as the story so why wouldn’t the artist be treated the same as the writer? I would much rather have a comic series that takes hiatuses so the art team can get a break while I chant “I can’t wait for it to come back” then have a constant output that needs to swap artists as if they’re interchangeable. The art in comics is always a huge part of why I reach for, and stick with a series, so I move the needle.