Monday, May 02, 2005

In the continuing tradition of posting links of great Kyle Baker interviews . . .

Read it now. Read it. OK, fine, just read what I quote. Then read the rest. I know you're lazy like that, oh audience of five. Link via the saucy Tom Spurgeon, interview by Andrew Farago.

On comics often looking out-of-date:

BAKER: Comic books are one of the few -- it's gotten a lot better, but it's one of the few places where the artwork doesn't reflect what's going on in every other media. Television graphics, sports graphics, on sports television shows, those look like hip-hop album covers. And they've got hip-hop music. They know that they've got to stay current. You even go to Starbucks, and they've got the same kind of cool graphics that you can see on MTV. [laughs]

FARAGO: Do you think comics will ever figure this out?

BAKER: I think some people do. There are guys doing it, and a lot more of them then there used to be. Also, there are a lot of people coming in from some other area, which I think helps. When I started comics, it was such a rotten business that it was the place you started. You'd get out of college, then go to a comic-book company, get some experience, then you'd go get a real job. Like in advertising, or television, or something. Most of those guys end up in animation, the guys who leave comics. And that was pretty much the way it went. But now you've got people who have success in some other area, doing graphic design for magazines or something like that, and then they come in and want to do a comic book. Like, I know Prince's designer was working for Karen Berger for a while, because he's just a big comic-book fan, and he's always wanted to do it. You never saw that before, because, for one thing, the rates weren't competitive. That's why Jack Davis, once he got out of comics, never went back. They couldn't afford him.

Excellent point. Comics art, well, mainstream comics art is so STAID and never-changing it frustrates me. People are still aping Neal Adams. Neal Adams, people. Sure, he was neat and new in the sixties but it's been FORTY YEARS. Imagine if all television shows looked like, I dunno, the Brady Bunch? That's not even the sixties, is it? Shit, the Brady Bunch is more up-to-date than most comics.

Baker is more generous with the time line, but it's still sad:

BAKER: Here's the problem: people have been doing the exact same thing, even swiping his panels, for the last 20 years! Every comic I've picked up is a Frank Miller Batman. Jim Lee's Batman is a Frank Miller Batman, with the big square fists. And Jim will tell you that; I'm not knocking him. It's a tribute. When you see something that works, you do it. You keep it until it's gone. You draw Superman like Curt Swan as long as people are responding to that. And in the eighties, they say that people aren't responding to Curt Swan, they like the John Byrne look. Let's get the comics to start looking like John Byrne. Things come and go, and the guys that don't come up with new material, you get tired of them. The whole world's tired of Michael Jackson. [laughs] 'Cause he's still doing the same dance.

I just like this anecdote of what almost was:

BAKER: They had suggested The Creeper. 'Cause I don't read DC Comics, really. I'm familiar with them from when I was a kid, and I'll read the ones I work on, but that's normal. There's no way anyone can read everything they put out these days. A lot of creators have to be briefed before they start a job. So, they sent me a package of Creeper stuff, and the Creeper, his power is, as created by Steve Ditko -- because there's a new version now, I know -- his power is that his clothes change. [laughs]

FARAGO: Right.

BAKER: So I said, "What a lousy power! I can't do anything with this!"

On the change-no-change paradox:

BAKER: You can't keep stuff the same; they don't like it. People claim they do, and you get a lot of complaints whenever there's some kind of change in these comic books, but if nothing changes, the comic books don't sell. You have to kill some guy's wife. It's getting outrageous. You have to kill them and rape them and cut the heads off of them, and have the villain turn out to be one of the top heroes in the DC Universe. [laughs]

Kyle Baker, Man of Taste:

BAKER: Yeah, they reprinted it in paperback. I get all these free comic books. I get the DCs for free, so I do look at a lot of them. The good stuff, like the Jack Kirby stuff and the Walt Simonson stuff, I'm up on that. And I've been reading this Identity Crisis, just because I'm doing Plastic Man, and I have to see if there's anything there to work on.

FARAGO: Make sure that he's not the murderer?

BAKER: No, not that, but, for example, I just lifted... oh, golly. [laughs] When's this coming out?

FARAGO: Not until February.

BAKER: I just lifted some dialogue from Superman/Batman #13, because it was such funny dialogue that I just had to take it. [laughs] Have you read any Superman/Batman?

FARAGO: I read the first story...

BAKER: I have to keep up on it, because it's DC's top characters. Superman thinks Supergirl got killed, so he's beating up Darkseid, and he's making this big speech for like, two pages. Literally. Two-and-a-half pages of, "She's dead! There's so many things she'll never know! The thrill of eating ice cream, and being asked to the prom!" He goes on for page after page! "Her first kiss! Thanksgiving dinner with the family! Sunny days and puppy dogs!" [laughs uncontrollably]

FARAGO: I might have to pick that one up.

BAKER: It's hilarious! [laughs] Just read it at the newsstand. It's just the funniest damn thing. And I got this the same day that I got the Identity Crisis with Batman crying on the cover. [laughs] That's the thing, you've got to look at this stuff.

I dunno . . .I avoid trainwrecks and reality TV, too . . .

In the "their loss" category:

FARAGO: In stories like the one where you undid the "Plastic Man's a deadbeat dad" story, are the hardcore DC fans angry at you for doing stories like that?

BAKER: Hardcore DC fans don't read Plastic Man. They dropped the book around issue one, because they were very offended that I dared to do an origin story in the first issue.

About the superhero continuity audience:

BAKER: Anyway, I wasn't familiar with this audience, the comic-book superhero audience, since I hadn't done superhero comics in 20 years. When I was doing it, we were dealing with children at 7-11s, fifty-cent comic books. That's not the audience anymore. From that, I got the feeling that fans really didn't like too much shakeup. Then I started reading the top superhero books, because I wanted to figure out what was going on, and what appealed to people. I do this with every job I do, not just comic books. If you work for somebody, you see what else they make, and what their audience likes. If I want to be in The New York Times, I check to see what sort of style other artists in The New York Times are using. That kind of thing. So I read Batman: Hush. This story, it seemed to me... and this is someone who hadn't read a copy of Batman in years, probably since Dark Knight. So I'm reading Hush, and I can't make heads nor tails out of it. People show up, and apparently, the way it's played, the way it's staged, I should be happy they showed up.

FARAGO: Uh-huh.

BAKER: I can tell, because the guy got a whole page. He'll open the door, and they'll go, "Oh, my goodness! It's DOCTOR JONES!" Or whatever. And it's staged in such a way that I should be really thrilled. I should be wetting my pants that Doctor Jones is in the doorway, except I never heard of Doctor Jones. [laughs] This stuff is obviously targeted at people who read every fricking issue of Batman, for the last 50 years. That's another thing; I should be thrilled when some obscure character who hasn't been in the book since the fifties... I mean, there are guys who sit there and try to find the most obscure details to put in that book, to thrill some guy who's been reading it since 1938.

Or, more likely, has been reading since the sixties or eighties but has obsessively read everything before and after that point, too.

On his own "continuity" story:

I had already started Plastic Man by that time. I'd already been working on the first paperback, so I knew that whole story. I'd already pitched it to Joey and everything. Then, I'm reading the comic books now, and I realize that I'm completely going down the wrong trail here, and I really want to give people what they want. I will do a story that will address all the continuity issues, because that seems to be what people most respond to. That's selling books, the ones where some "major change shakes up the DC Universe," just like we were talking about. So, in the press, when I was doing the promotion for Plastic Man, I was telling people, "Yeah, I've got this first story, but when that's done, I've got this whole 'continuity thing' going." [laughs] Because I wanted people to not drop the book. I was going to give them what they wanted in four issues. But people were so hostile toward the book that by the time I got to that storyline, none of those idiots were left! So I said, "Screw it, let's have some fun!"

About the lack of comics for young girls:

BAKER: I mean, what the hell's wrong with the world, where I can't give my five-year-old a copy of Wonder Woman? What the hell's that about? . . .What the hell's a five-year-old girl supposed to do? Buy Power Rangers. And that's how you lose your fanbase. When you make Wonder Woman a book that appeals to grown men, what the hell are you doing? Supergirl, same thing. I keep looking up Supergirl's skirt. I shouldn't know about Supergirl's panties, I really shouldn't. But I do. And so do you. What's that about?

FARAGO: You should have to guess, you should have to use your imagination.

BAKER: I've seen Supergirl's ass. She's like fourteen. (laughs uproariously) We've really gone off on a tangent this time.

True story: I give comics away to my seven or eight year old students for good behavior. I also had one of those DK reference books for Superman. So last year, one of my girls was looking through it and saw some old Supergirl covers. Flying horses, adventure, the whole shebang. She asked, "Why don't you have any comics like this?" practically salivating. I had to tell her that they don't make them anymore. What I didn't tell her was they were too busy making Supergirl comics featuring her and other teenage girls bathing.

On the bi-monthly change for Plastic Man:

FARAGO: Is that to accommodate other projects from you?

BAKER: No, it's because there ain't nobody buying the book, but they don't want to cancel it, because they think it's a good book. They want to keep it going.

That's very good to hear, I think you'll agree.

Some quick quote-lets about supercomics today in the Identity Crisis era:

BAKER: It's out of character, it's bad writing.

BAKER: So if people are fantasizing about their heroes becoming murderers, that's just what's in their heads right now. That's what they want to see. That's what they're dreaming of.

BAKER: Every time people buy it, they're going to do another one. That's common sense. If the biggest book of the year features brutal rapes, you're going to have to top it next time. You're going to have to come up with, what's worse than that? What's worse than raping and killing a character's wife? We're going to have to top that. Maybe we can cut Lois Lane's head off and shove it up her ass. That's what'll be at the next meeting. We're going to have to figure out how to brutalize the rest of the DC universe.

BAKER: Yeah, I keep thinking I'd like to do one of those. Just photorealistic butchery. Maybe I'll mutilate and torture Black Canary for twelve months.

So, yeah, he's down on shitty comics. But he's got, at least, a good sense of humor about it. Aware but not zealous, I'd say. As always, a really interesting interview. Great stuff about his upcoming projects (I'm really interested in Nat Turner, for one) and why he doesn't like collaborating. Check it out and read the rest.

2 Love Letters:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God for this guy! Yeah, as he says, if you've made Wonder Woman a book that really appeals to grown men but not to girls, you've fucked up somewhere along the way, haven't you?

6:15 PM

Blogger Joe Rice said...

And Loeb may CLAIM that his Supergirl is for girls, but look at that Turner art. I dunno, maybe it's for blind girls?

5:33 AM


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