The Problem with Today’s Comics According to a 30-Year Comic Book Veteran Artist

Dear Friends,

I read a post other day on the problem with the comics industry, which triggered me to write this blog today. I wanted to share with you what I think has retarded the growth of today’s American comic book publishing industry. Those of you who have read my autobiography Rolling Thunder: The Art of Dave Dorman know my history with comics. For those who haven’t, here’s the truncated version:

I started reading comics back in the ’60s as a kid growing up in Hawaii on Hickam Air Force Base. My older brother Jeff got me hooked on them. We lived in Foster Village, and he and I would trek to the local drug store to pick up Marvel and DC self-contained stories. I loved them. Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko…those were the halcyon days. Comics, a truly American art form, was already limiting itself by offering fans mostly super hero fantasies.


…”I stopped reading American super hero comics in the late ’80s.” — Dave Dorman, Inkpot and Eisner Award-winning comic book artist and 30-year Veteran


You will be surprised to learn that although I’ve painted many a cover, I stopped reading American super hero comics in the late ’80s. Why? Because that was when the publishers started hyper-serializing their storytelling. Notice the synopsis in the front of any Marvel comic today and you’ll see what I mean. When I have to read 10 years’ worth of story bible to understand what’s happening in this issue, you’ve lost me as a fan.

American comic book publishers gambled on serialized story addicts. They didn’t bank on alienating older readers and the next generation(s) of readers, but that’s what happened. And before you suggest that the super hero movies create a bump in comic book sales and therefore must be enticing a new generation of fans, do your research. Study after study has proven this untrue.

Here’s what I’m spending my entertainment fund on these days (and every Wednesday):

Hellboy — by a friend, Mike Mignola — mini-serialized — no 100-issue story arc here, folks!

B.P.R.D. — again, by Mike Mignola

Lieutenant Blueberry — by Moebius/Jean Giraud

Akiraby Katsuhiro Otomo

All works by creators Francois Schuiten and Enki Bilal

The Tin Tin series —by Belgian artist Georges Rémi who wrote under the pen name of Herge’.

The Asterix seriesby  Rene’ Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo (who also took over writing the series after Goscinny’s death in 1977

The Blacksad series by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido

These foreign books, while often a series, tend to be more self-contained and easily read individually without requiring the new reader to have info on previous story lines or character development. International comics are often more accessible to the general market than our American comics. We need to change what we’re doing here. I’m pleased to see indie publishers like Archaia publishing foreign books here to deliver the fans something eclectic and interesting.

Let me know what you’re reading. Tell me what I’m missing. I’m listening.


5 Responses to “The Problem with Today’s Comics According to a 30-Year Comic Book Veteran Artist”

  1. Mike Catalano Says:

    I find myself rereading the sin city trade paperbacks quite often.

  2. I agree, completely, Dave. But, that said, what can be done to change this? Even the new books, series and even publishers today are trying to do the same, old crap!
    What would YOU do to change the current trend, sir?

  3. Very good. I agree with you.

    Its an issue I discuss often with friends. Like many corporate industries that tend to shoot themselves in the foot desperately grasping for sales and profit share, industry “leaders” refuse to look at reality and invest in the long term growth of the medium.

  4. jamie richards Says:

    every other month i pick up the wasted lands book,and find some new piece of magic within it’s pages.
    do more,you lazy swine!

  5. I would recommend most of the books being published by Image Comics. Except for a few of the long running titles, most of the books contain stories that last for only a few issues, if even that. Red 5 also has some good books that don’t require extensive history (see Atomic Robo: it has a lot of stories that are one issue or shorter and are fantastic).

    In short, most books outside of Marvel and DC are very new reader friendly, as most are published as mini-series these days.

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