Edge Newsletter

On Line



By John Steib

Epic Proportions


In 1982, Marvel Comics launched an offshoot line of creator owned properties named Epic Comics. The first Epic book was Dreadstar by Jim Starlin. The entire line was overseen by the late (and truly missed) Archie Goodwin. Goodwin thought Epic was a place that successful "name" comic book creators could come and produce new material that they would own wholly or use established Marvel characters in situations that they could not do in the "regular" Marvel Universe.

Early original creations included the aforementioned Dreadstar, Coyote by Englehart, Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini, Moonshadow by DeMatteis and Muth and Groo the Wanderer by Evanier and Aragones. Some of these series were actually previously self-published or produced by smaller comics companies prior to Epic. Established characters were featured in Elektra: Assassin by Miller and Sienkiewicz and Havok and Wolverine: Meltdown by Walter and Louise Simonson with art by Jon J. Muth and Kent Williams.

These comics were created for an older target audience and were sold exclusively in comic stores in what was coined the Direct Market.

It's now 2003 and Epic Comics is back. Sort of.

Marvel President Bill Jemas announced the launch of Epic to "open the door" to anybody and everybody who has ever wanted to create their own comics. Rather than the method used by Archie Goodwin whereas a creator with a reputation (like Frank Miller or Jim Starlin) can get experimental, the new Epic is the voice of the people. All the people. There is even a very descriptive Epic website with specific guidelines for fledgling writers and rookie pencillers.

And, like everything in the comics industry, I'm of two minds about it.

Part of me is very happy. It's no secret that most people who have read comics for a while think they could do a better job than most of the people currently working in the industry. The Armchair Quarterback mentality believes that since I've read a ton of comics, I could write a ton of comics. Also, it seems at times like some comic book assignments are given to friends of editors or as reward for time served rather than based on merit. Comic book fans are very protective of the characters and it can be frustrating when a writer that is deemed undeserving is mucking with iconic characters that have lasted for decades.

I won't lie. I want my shot. That's probably why I write this column. Just another frustrated observer watching from the sidelines hoping to get put in the game. Hoping for my shot.

But, here's where the other voice in my head rises up and reminds myself that I don't deserve that shot. Marvel Comics and DC Comics, often referred to as "The Big Two," are just that. They are MAJOR LEAGUE. For as long as I've read comics, you've had to establish yourself as a creator FIRST and then try out for Marvel or DC. The whole purpose of the new Epic Comics line seems to be a fast track that avoids earning one's position.

Does that mean that it's all going to be crud? No, of course not. It's possible that an undiscovered Alex Ross or Alan Moore or George Perez is slaving out there in obscurity with nobody realizing how talented they are. But, if the talent is there and the drive is there and the desire is there, I believe these unknowns will someday become known.

The one thing the comics industry does NOT need is more BAD comics. Believe me, there are plenty of bad comics out there. Given the price and the shelf life of these books, I would rather the new Epic was a place for talented veterans rather than a training ground for newcomers.

Time, of course, will prove which of my minds is right.

If you think you have what it takes to break into the comics industry visit that website above and read the submission guidelines carefully. Then, do what the literally thousands of other hopefuls (including myself) are doing, dust off your Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and start looking for the next Squirrel Girl or Texas Twister to revamp. Good luck! (Unless your ideas and mine are too similar, then scram!)

The initial push of Epic titles starts in July with a five-issue mini-series called Trouble by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson. It was just revealed to be the untold tales of young Aunt May and Uncle Ben (the loving old couple who raised lil' Peter (Spider-Man) Parker and taught him that great power required great responsibility.) And, apparently, it's going to be about teen pregnancy! The other title is Crimson Dynamo, Russia's answer to Iron Man, by John Jackson Miller and Steve Ellis in an ongoing series.

Regardless, Epic is back. I hope we survive the experience!

All comments (c)2003 John Steib and may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without written permission of the author.

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