Let it never be said that Marvel Comics
doesn't take deadlines seriously. Okay, it will probably be said in the future, possibly on this website, but the venerable superhero publisher took what for many fans would seem like dramatic measures
to honor next week's on-sale date for The Incredible Hulk #2, which was completed by no fewer than 11 credited pencilers and inkers
. Written by Jason Aaron, the 20-page issue was sold to retailers with Marc Silvestri
credited as penciler, but what we can only assume was some kind of delay in the comic book-making process necessitated the hiring of so many pinch-hitters. After some consideration, some wild speculation and actually reading the comic book itself, we find ourselves impressed by this move
and we'll tell you why after the cut.
As most mainstream comics readers know, it's not uncommon for publishers to employ the services of fill-in writers and artists to help ensure that deadlines are met and comic books ship to stores and upload to digital retailers in time to meet pre-determined sales dates. But what most mainstream comics readers may not know is that bringing in extra help, even a lot of extra help, to complete a single 20-page issue happens more than you know. But it is definitely rare that as many as eleven artists are credited for the work.
The Incredible Hulk
#2 art credits break down thusly:
There are numerous reasons why fill-in or additional artists are often necessary -- a late script, late artwork, an illness, a production crisis, a fired/quit/reassigned creator, and many, many more reasons than most readers can imagine. Marvel didn't comment on The Incredible Hulk
#2 situation when asked about it by Comic Book Resources
, but while it would probably sate some curiosity to know what happened
, the cause is not nearly as interesting to me as the genuinely bold solution
Momentum is critical in maintaining the high level of reader and retailer engagement with this title, whose first issue sold more than 100,000 copies, making it Marvel's highest selling title in October. It seems obvious that momentum was threatened in some way and Marvel took startlingly aggressive action. Presumably the book will go on sale next week as scheduled and avoid the "late book" stigma that plagues too many high profile titles in superhero comics (particularly those, it has to be said, that involve the beloved Image founders) and keep everybody happy until the next issue. Not an ideal situation, obviously, but that's one mission accomplished.
Another mission is satisfying the reader. A Marvel icon of the 1990s, the co-founder of Image Comics and the CEO of Top Cow Productions, Silvestri is definitely a fan-favorite. Populating a Silvestri book with five additional pencillers, you'd reasonably expect an anarchic, bloody patchwork of a comic. But in reality, Incredible Hulk
#2 is anything but. (As pointed out by Bleeding Cool
, an apparent comiXology glitch made the issue available for sale for a short time this week, before it was meant to go on sale, and we grabbed a copy.) Series editor Mark Paniccia was wise to staff this singular issue with the likes of Billy Tan, Michael Broussard and Eric Basaldua, as they're all alumni of Silvestri's Top Cow studio and proficient in and influenced by his signature style. Fellow Image co-founder Whilce Portacio also shares some stylistic traits with the top-billed artist, and together with Scott Hanna and a small army of inkers, these gentlemen created what in my view is an almost seamless collaboration. The Incredible Hulk
#2 looks and reads like a Marc Silvestri comic.
Of course, your mileage may vary when you read the book next week.
The other biggest dimension to this situation is economics. The economics of comic book sales and creator compensation are often controversial and sometimes deeply arcane so to speculate about this makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, but the excessively high number of artists on Incredible Hulk
#2 likely didn't significantly impact the expense of producing the issue. Typically creators are paid a page rate, meaning that everyone involved is paid only for the pages they complete and at a rate based on their job i.e. pencils, inks, letters. Along those lines, Marvel paid for 20 pages of story and art just like it'd intended to, just divided up amongst many more talents. However, the ultimate cost of the issue may be compounded by returnability, which is normally not permitted in the direct market but may be in play here because The Incredible Hulk
#2 was sold to retailers as being penciled by Marc Silvestri, not Marc Silvestri and five other guys. As of this writing, the issue is not listed on Diamond Comic Distributor's product changes update
. We may know more next week.
It is of course memorably shocking to see eleven artists credited with the production of a single 20-page comic book and The Incredible Hulk
#2 will be invoked many times in future debates about comic book production, particularly with respect to deadlines. But if The Incredible Hulk
#2 and #3 (Silvestri's final contracted issue) sell anywhere near as well as issue #1 and go on to perform well as a collected hardback and trade paperback edition (which they almost surely will per Jason Aaron's track record), Marvel will recoup any excess costs and probably feel pretty good about the whole endeavor.
In other Marc Silvestri news, the artist was in hospital this week with an injured ankle. Sivestri's wife Briget kept fans abreast of the situation via Twitter, and wrote last night that the artist is back home and will recover. CBR spoke with Silvestri's colleague
, Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik, who said, "[Marc is] feeling good, is in high spirits, and eager to get back to the drawing board to wrap up the last couple of pages of [The Incredible Hulk
]#3. It should not affect the release of [issue] #3 and Marvel has been fantastic and understanding in working with us so that Marc could complete the entire issue."
For its part, Marvel told CBR that it "wishes Marc a full recovery" and that "we appreciate him still having the dedication to work on Hulk given his current situation." The publisher did not address the credits of The Incredible Hulk
#2, but Marvel did release this week a preview of the Silvestri-dawn issue #3. Check it out below.
This December, experience the explosive finale to Jason Aaron & Marc Silvestri's first arc of Incredible Hulk as Marvel is pleased to present your first look at Incredible Hulk #3! It's all come down to this – Banner's genetically altered, gamma irradiated beasts vs. the Jade Giant. Three monsters enter, and only one side can emerge victorious. With a powerhouse army at Banner's disposal, Hulk must seek out Amanda Von Doom for help! But in doing so – his destiny will be forever changed. No fan can miss out on the Earth shattering conclusion of Asunder in Incredible Hulk #3!
INCREDIBLE HULK #3 (OCT110595)
Written by JASON AARON
Pencils & Cover by MARC SILVESTRI
FOC – 11/14/11, ON SALE – 12/7/11