“Why is Matt Fraction more popular than Marc Andreyko even though they more or less cater to the same audience, write equally superb comics and have indie backgrounds surrounded by some of the industry’s current greats?”
This was the question I asked (well…not exactly but close enough) a couple of friends of mine when we were discussing how Countdown needs some more high profile writers to get anywhere near the same number of sales that 52 had. Yeah…I know, none of these two are more high-profile but I never said our conversations progressed in a particularly linear fashion, now did I?
So, we started to think about what differentiates Andreyko, who is primarily a DC writer, from Fraction, who is (at least right now) primarily a Marvel writer. Well, the first difference is the company divide. While this may seem minor right now, it becomes the crux of this post later on so pay attention.
Now, on Fraction’s side, we have the ultimate shilling in the form of the Basement Tapes, which he did with Joe Casey for like a year over on CBR long before he started writing for the mainstream. This got him some much-needed exposure (hell, like a friend said, it was the main reason behind me reading Casanova) and gave him an in with the comic reading public in advance. He also established himself as a collaborator through this and it worked in his favour for Immortal Iron Fist, a book that he is co-writing with Ed Brubaker, who is the current media/comic “star”. Fraction also had a boost from writing a new ‘all-ages’ Punisher title that had been missing from the line-up for years. He has written the critically acclaimed Five Fists of Science and the superb Casanova as solo efforts. He also, in a surprising move by Marvel, got his hands on Spider-man and wrote an awesome Annual devoted to the marriage Quesada seems to hate so much.
On the other hand, Andreyko has the support of Bendis, Mack and Oeming, people that praise him to no end and encouraged him to shift to mainstream work from his previous excellent work on Indie crime comics (like Sam and Twitch and Torso). He has also been writing Manhunter for DC, a book that has become the company’s Spider-Girl with two cancellations and renewals to date already in its 30-issue history. The book even got a boost from DC’s Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis and Wonder Woman developments as it truly was allowed a chance to become a real part of the DC Universe. He is also well-regarded in gay community with interviews in the Advocate and through Prism Comics. He also got the chance to explain away what, for me, was the most glaring missing continuity in the recent Nightwing Annual in which he, surprise, wrote an excellent examination of Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson’s relationship.
Now, based on that, the two seem fairly evenly based no? Sure, Fraction has slightly more works to his name, but Andreyko makes up for that with creating a new character for a Big-Two Universe. Yet, nine times out of ten Fraction is far more known than Andreyko. This isn’t a slight against Fraction, whose work I adore, but more a questioning of the public that hasn’t embraced an equally talented writer like Andreyko.
Now comes the theory…Marvel supports and promotes its creators a lot more than DC. I can possibly come up with a load of examples of this, but I’ll go with only the ones we discussed. First off, Marvel seems to have, at least from the Jim Shooter era if not earlier, believed that if you market the creators the books will sell better while DC has mostly (with the exceptions of I think Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns) believed that if you market the characters the creators don’t matter. There are of course exceptions…but this is the focal point. Marvel has had the Ten Terrifice, the Young Guns, and various other creator-boosting programs that focus on the creators behind the book. Their success might be debated, but there is no doubt that this honours the workers…the people behind the pen and pencil rather than the people they have been hired to bring to life.
What does this mean? DC is a great company to work for if you are an established talent in your right and a ‘star’ while Marvel is the place you want to go to when you’re starting out on your mainstream career. Let’s not forget some of the previous creators Marvel has pushed to the mainstream forefront: Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld (nothing when he was on Hawk and Dove…instant success as soon as he started New Mutants), Ed Brubaker (he wrote one of the best Batman runs ever, made Catwoman truly kickass for the first time in the character’s history, and wrote an awesome crime book with real characters in Gotham Central, yet didn’t become a ‘star’ until he wrote Captain America and X-men), and of course Mark Millar. Let’s face it, Millar was known but not FAMOUS! during his days on the Authority for DC, yet as soon as he he took over Ultimate X-men, his star took off and he became THE STAR. This already seems to be working for a few other people currently on Marvel’s writing staff; Mike Carey was well-regarded on Hellblazer and Lucifer, but X-men is making him a star with the Endangered Species crossover, Dan Slott wrote some of the best all-ages Batman titles, but Marvel pushed him and has made him a viable name in the comics biz.
Now, some disclaimers before people point them out to me. Brian K Vaughan became famous because of Y – The Last Man yes…but his mainstream popularity came from Runaways. Much the same way, Bill Willingham, who had been around for over 20 years before the book even started, truly came to fame with Fables, but still struggles with mainstream acceptance (I’m sure War Crimes/Drums/Crap didn’t help but whatever). This proves that Vertigo has different rules than DC/Marvel proper.
So, basically what I have been trying to say…Marvel is better than DC…if you want to be a famous, truly mainstream creator.