Recycling Comics

A column article, Mission: Professional by: Steven Savage

Two things came together in my mind this week, Dark Horse's "Comics Greatest World", and the recycling policies of Edo Japan. These ideas gave me some ideas about professional opportunities in comics.

There. Now your life is complete, because you can say, "Yeah, there's this guy discussing Comics Greatest World and Edo Japan!" You're welcome, I don't need money, just the old Amanda Waller back is thanks enough.


Dark Horse brings the comic 'Ghost' back from the dead. Taste the irony.

Anyway, the book I'm reading is called "Just Enough" and it's about how Japan's Edo period had excellent recycling, reuse, and environmental policies - often learned the hard way - to lead to a rather impressive lifestyle for the time. It's fascinating, and worth reading for people interested in culture, the environment, and large-scale systems. It makes you think about how recycling and such can take radical, unexpected - and often elegant - forms.

The reason "Comics Greatest World" comes into this is that Dark Horse is resurrecting "Ghost" as a first-person detective game - yes, an old comics property reborn as something which has nothing to do with comics.

In short, a kind of recycling in a rather unexpected manner.

This got me thinking that among the many revivals we see in comics, the mining of obscure characters (Hello, Brave and the Bold, I shall miss you), properties once forgotten returning the public domain characters, people doing comics should ask this:

"If I want to bring a comic character back, why does it have to be in comics?"

Is there a better way to revive them that is more efficient, more effective, more appropriate and indeed, more elegant? If we're going to recycle, is a comic turned into, well, another comic, right for the given media you're working on? You might be missing something far more appropriate.

Remember, reuse your comics ideas responsibly. It's best for our cultural environment and prevents Global Boring..

Sure, reviving a comic character in the same medium may have made sense twenty years ago, ten years ago, or five years ago. But we've pretty much meandered into the age of multimedia over the last few years, which means that people are used to various characters and properties appearing in multiple forms. If something comes out as a book, game, comic, board game, tattoo, perfume, etc. people don't consider it remarkable if it's radically different from its former media.

Now if you're thinking of reviving an old comics property in your career, or channeling a property you've developed in comics into a new incarnation, you have to ask yourself a whether comics are the right way to recycle the idea

Yes, I'm asking you comics professionals, past and future, to ask yourself if some of things you want to do should actually be done in comics.

We have to ask this because:

  • Comics are just one medium people read now - yes they're more popular and in public consciousness more, but so are many other forms of media.
  • Your target audience may not be as comics-oriented as you'd like - or as they'd once were.
  • There are many forms of media accessible to you to develop in, so you're less limited.
  • With all those forms of media, you can find one appropriate to your property.
  • Everything is multimedia this day - so frankly why not? Besides if you pick the wrong on, you can easily switch or synergies.

As comics properties spread further, as they're the basis of more adaptions - and as people mine comics for ideas - we're going to have to ask what forms they should come in. Much like the Japanese of the Edo period found clever and appropriate ways to reuse materials, we should ask how we best reuse ideas, because we have so many options.

Besides, when you're thinking out of the box, it gives you an edge since so many people don't even know there's a box in the first placeā€¦

- Steven Savage

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