Giving up on Grist

Let’s talk about Paul Grist. I used to love his work, but the newer books aren’t as entertaining to me. They certainly aren’t worth the wait.

We’re talking about someone who solicited a collection of reprinted material in December 2004, only for it to arrive in November 2005. I don’t need to say this, but it shouldn’t take almost a year to put out a reprint book. In 2007, he’s managed to release only four items, two collections (neither of which I’ve bothered talking about) and two comics, only one of which contained new material. In short, he’s the indy comic fan’s Joe Madureira (anyone remember Battle Chasers?), only without the fanbase.

His intolerable delays make him more of a joke than he should be, because he’s quite talented. But no work can stand up to that level of delay. Readers’ expectations rise with every month a work doesn’t come out; after a certain point, they’re unmeetable.

So why am I bashing him now? Because of two pieces of information that passed my desk. First, the fate of the Burglar Bill miniseries. Grist put out three issues from his own Dancing Elephant press in 2003. When he moved to Image, he re-released those comics with an additional fourth issue in 2005. (Stupid me, I bought them twice.) The last two issues were offered in March and October of 2005, but they never arrived. Image has just formally announced their cancellation. Will we ever see the end? Who knows?

Also cancelled was Jack Staff #14, offered in September 2006. Great, I thought, Image is cleaning up their data, tying off loose ends, and acknowledging what everyone already knew. But that was followed by this astounding announcement:

Paul Grist’s acclaimed superhero series, JACK STAFF, goes monthly starting with January’s JACK STAFF SPECIAL #1.

“I’ve longed to put out JACK STAFF monthly for a long time,” Grist said. “Luckily, I wasn’t alone as Image’s Executive Director, Eric Stephenson, has wanted the same thing. We’ve been working together to make it happen for awhile now and I’m happy to say we already have three issues in the can with a fourth right on its heels.”

JACK STAFF SPECIAL #1 [32 pages, color, $3.50, due January 16] will catch up the uninitiated and provide the perfect jumping on point to February’s JACK STAFF #14.

My only answer is: bwa ha ha! I’ll believe it when I see it. If I’m going to continue reading Grist’s work, it’ll only be in the book format. That way, I don’t get frustrated waiting for him to meet his promises… and I usually get a discount.

By the way, that last bit, about catching up the reader? That’s another problem with Grist’s work. With such long delays, he often ends up including lots of exposition and catch-up material, which makes long-time readers even more frustrated, since they’re not learning much new about the story or characters. It’s repetitive to read, especially in collected form.

So best of luck, Paul. I’m curious to see if that fourth issue comes out in April.


21 Responses to “Giving up on Grist”

  1. Chad Anderson Says:

    I haven’t given up on Grist, but I gave up on Jack Staff a while back. I liked it well enough, but not nearly as much as Kane, a series that I’ve been waiting for him to return to for years. Has all of the previously published Kane material even been reprinted yet? That comic was something else.

  2. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I still like Grist’s work, but I can’t argue with your distate of that press release, Johanna. It would be one thing if he addressed why so much of his work was late, and then said he could now go monthly because he had taken care of whatever was holding him up. But that didn’t happen here.

    Ah well. Despite this, I am hoping we do get more work out of him.

  3. James Schee Says:

    Wow Johanna, you had much more patience than I. I honestly don’t know when the last time I bought some of his work… maybe Jack Staff #1 from Image?

    I loved his work when I saw it but the time between was so much that I switched to trades. Honestly it became out of site and completely out of mind, as I hadn’t even thought of him in years until I saw this post.

  4. David Oakes Says:

    I am still reading “Jack Staff”, and will continue to do so when it comes out, assuming my shop remembers to order them.

    But as much as I enjoy them when they do come out, I can’t say I ever think of them inbetween, wonder where they have gone, or give Grist any credit at all. And that should worry him, if he expects an audience to support a monthly.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Chad, almost all of Kane is collected; issue #30 wasn’t in the latest book, so presumably the next one.

    Ray, that’s a difficult line. On the one hand, it’s none of our business why a creator is late, whether personal issues out of his control or simple bad work habits. But on the other, this has been going on for years and years, so yeah, something more than just “it’ll be different this time” would be nice.

  6. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 15, 2007: Uncomfortable titillation Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson is sick of waiting for Paul Grist. (Above: sequence from the first issue of uncompleted miniseries [...]

  7. John Platt Says:

    Maybe if more people bought Grist’s excellent comics, he could afford to put them out faster.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Maybe if he put them out faster, more people would buy them.

    But I’m not asking for faster, I’m asking for “when promised”. And that’s the great chicken/egg dilemma of comics, how to balance release schedules and sales.

  9. Rob S. Says:

    Grist’s erratic publishing schedule set me to waiting for the trade long before I was doing that for other series.

    (And I wish he’d do more Kane, too…)

  10. davidwynne Says:

    Girst has publicly stated that the main reason for the delays are down to poor sales- reading between the lines, I think it’s fair to assume that he’s had to take on other work in order to pay the bills, with his comics taking a back seat as a result.

    It’s one thing to give up on highly marketed “event” comics because of delays, as those books have a built in market of loyalist fans. But in this case, it’s a case of simply spiting the creator, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, to be honest.

    And there’s not much point in waiting for a trade that won’t come if no-one buys the comics.

    But yeah, why should we give a genuinely innovative and talented story-teller like Girst our money or support? Let’s just carry on making sure that Greg Land stays in work, and giving as much money as we can to companies that reprint and remarket properties that have already been tried and tested in other countries.

  11. Ray Cornwall Says:

    David Wynne:

    First of all, it’s Grist. You’d sound more convincing if you got his name right.

    I don’t think any of us said we wouldn’t support him. I’ll continue to buy trades of his work. But monthlies-that-aren’t-monthlies? Why bother? When his work is collected, it’s a fantastic read, but when it comes out every six to eight months (or in the case of Burglar Bill, not at all after years of waiting), it loses steam.

    Put it this way- if I see a new Grist collection in Previews, I buy it. Every time. How am I not supporting him? And why do we have to bash Greg Land to praise Paul Grist? I’m not a fan of Land, but that exercise seems silly.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Rob, I think Kane is better suited to books, but given the ideal world, I think Jack Staff works best as singles (since it’s a superhero anthology). Like you, I’m no longer willing to buy it that way, though.

    David, I sympathize, but there’s a great deal of “he made this bed” here. I’m making a big deal of it in hopes others will learn from the situation. There’s at least one in every generation: before Grist, the poster child was Martin Wagner. Who’s still promising more Hepcats online, but once again has disappeared from view.

    Grist announced trades only for Kane witb new material promised for January (it may have been 2006, but let’s be charitable and assume this year). Didn’t happen. How am I “denying my support” if he doesn’t put out the books he promises?

  13. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Oh, you had to remind me about Martin…

    I’ve been following the page-a-day reprinting of Hepcats online. Snowblind Part 1 is nearly done. I really wish he could find a way to put out the rest of the book. Damn, Wagner pisses me off. I’d give anything to draw like him, and yet he’s squandered that talent. Ugh.

  14. davidwynne Says:

    Ray- I was typing in a hurry, and yes, a made a typo. You’re right, that completely invalidates what I said.

    bashing Land was a cheap shot, but it was to make a point- Grist is an indy creator with no contracted work to fall back on, and he’s not working on a well known property with a bulit in audience. So he’s starting from a disadvantage; unlike other artists who get derided for a lack of talent, while people continue to support their work.

    Johanna- you’re denying your support by publicly stating you’re not going to buy his comics any more. And like I said, no point waiting for a treade that won’t come if no-one buys the monthlies.

    I’m irritated by your stance on this because you seem to be coming from the standpoint that Grist doesn’t exist outside of his comics work, and that if his stuff doesn’t come out regualarly he must be a lazy bum, rather than because maybe he decided that paying the rent was more important than not disappointing you. It’s the indy equivelant of newsarama kids bitching about delays on Civil War… except that you should know better.

  15. Johanna Says:

    Grist has done work for DC in the past, including Bizarro World and some superhero crossover comics. So if he’s got no contracted work… well, all I would be doing is speculating. But big companies don’t like missed deadlines very much these days.

    As for your other point, we can only debate about whether or not buying monthlies hurts if those comics actually come out. And as someone who waited two years for the just-cancelled Burglar Bill final issues, yeah, I hope it does hurt. Because nothing else has seemed to teach the lesson “solicit only if you can release when promised.” I’m not demanding “go monthly or I quit buying”. I’m saying “you set these deadlines for yourself, and erratic as they were, you still couldn’t live up to them. Why should I believe you now?”

    As a customer, I don’t care if Grist is a lovely person (I’m sure he is) or what else he does outside of comics. I care whether I can buy the products I want when promised at a reasonable price. And Grist has burned his bridges hundreds of times now. We’re not talking about someone who ran into problems in the last year or so. We’re talking about someone who’s been doing this since the 90s. I don’t know if he’s lazy or overcommitted or spends too much time helping orphan puppies. All I know is, I will not preorder work that I don’t believe will arrive. There are better ways to commit my funds.

  16. Dave Says:

    Nothing personal, davidwynne, but I am a little annoyed by the position you are taking, implying that some ill-defined audience somehow owes Grist or any other creator any degree of loyalty at all. I’m probably as big a Paul Grist fan as anyone here but I, too, have pretty much given up and hadn’t really thought about him or his work in some time. Always enjoyed his stuff when it came out but it has been some time now, hasn’t it?

    No artist is owed anything by their audience. No artist is owed an audience, period. The best anyone can hope for is to put their stuff out there and hope enough people like it that they can justify continued activity.

    I would love to live in a world where Paul Grist was one of the highest paid creators in the business, where variant covers by Paul Grist were touted as big selling points in the solicitations by major publishers and Michael Turner was doing caricatures at a theme park somehwere. (This would also be the world where the Raspberries are as highly regarded by the music-consuming masses as Led Zeppelin and where Freaks And Geeks is now in it’s seventh season.)

    Unfortunately, I don’t. But I feel your pain.

  17. Chad Anderson Says:

    Davidwynne, I continue to buy single issues for the very reasons you describe — to support the comics I enjoy so the work keeps on coming — and often to the detriment of my ongoing war with clutter, but I also think it’s perfectly reasonable for folks to get fed up when they’ve bought the first couple issues of a miniseries twice without getting an ending either time, as in the case of Burglar Bill (I did it, too, Johanna).

    That said, when and if Grist puts out new Kane material, I’ll buy it in whatever format it appears.

    Oh, and Dave, if you ever find that world, can you tape seasons two through seven of Freaks and Geeks for me? Much thanks.

  18. davidwynne Says:

    Dave-

    No artist is owed an audience? I’m not 100% sure i agree about that (I’d argue that some artists are important enough that maybe they are), but I’ll go with it, since we’re not talking about Da Vinci here.

    But by the same token, no artist really owes their audience any more than what they’ve already paid for. Which of course raises the question of whether Johanna pays in advance for the books she pre-orders; if so, then I have morre respect for her stance.

    However. There is a difference between getting pissed off about waiting for an artist you like to produce new work, and publicly kicking him when he’s down. If Johanna couldn’t be bothered to talk about his last two books, why take the time now to stage a public attack?

  19. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I also pre-order, and pre-paid for his books. Had I known the books wouldn’t come, I would have bought something else.

    I don’t think Johanna was “kicking him when he’s down”. I do think she was mocking that horrible press release. According to the press release, he’s “longed to put out a monthly”. Meanwhile, he hasn’t completed two books solicited YEARS ago, and Kane’s been stalled for a while. Those two facts get neglected in the press release.

    Now he wants retailers to pre-order a monthly book, even though he doesn’t mention his terrible track record. Does this make sense to you? I’d love to see retailers support Grist’s work, but if you were a retailer, would you take a piece of your budget to support this, even though it’s even money that the book won’t come out?

  20. Charles RB Says:

    Now I’ll happily wait for more Grist titles and buy them when they come out – but the constant delays and their never turning up when they were solicited for really pisses me off. I can’t fault someone for getting fed up with it and stop pre-ordering them. And we know this is a common thing caused by late-ships, so it’s hardly a revolutionary concept.

  21. Jack Staff Fails at Monthly Goal » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] in October, Image announced that Paul Grist’s Jack Staff series would be going monthly starting January 2008. The Jack Staff Special would appear January 16, followed by issue #14 in [...]




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