Essay: The End Of Demo

(originally written July 2010)

It’s all over, all over again, so soon?

Every time I think about Demo I’m reminded of how I got into comics in the first place. Parts of this story a lot of you have heard before, because the question is a very common one asked in interviews. But I’m going to try and go a little deeper, since it helps explain Demo.

Like almost everyone else I know and work with in comics, I never read them as a kid, not to any degree beyond seeing a Richie Rich comic in the waiting room at my childhood dentist. When I discovered comics, or rather when I discovered that comics could be for me, I was 25 and pursuing an art school degree. And that’s what ended up defining what comics were (and, sort of, still are) to me: it’s all about the medium.

I got into comics because of the form, not any particular story or a character or a title, not one universe or another, not the history of comics or of the people that made them. And it was the cold appraisal of the medium as a student trying to pick it apart, not that of a reader just looking for enjoyment. Even though, over a long time, I came to learn the history, to appreciate the creators and their seminal works over the decades, it’s always been about the medium for me more than anything else.

Couple that with my instructors at college repeatedly driving home the point that there is nothing more important than creating new work and protecting what you create, there was just no way in hell I was ever going to end up seeking out a career working on company-owned books. It was just not the cards I was dealt, it’s not how I “learned” comics. I don’t say that haughtily–there are times I wish it were otherwise, since I don’t have a lot of common ground with my peers when it comes to comics. It’s alienating more often than I usually care to admit. It also meant that the growth of my career had an incredibly slow and frustrating start– from 1997 through to 2005 I was essentially making comics for free and trying to find a toehold.

Anyway, I feel that this is why Demo is what Demo is. It’s a very format-oriented take by a superhero-illiterate writer on what is an established sub-genre in mainstream comics: the “teen with powers.” Skip ahead a bit in the backmatter of this issue and look at the original Demo pitch from back in 2002. Format is literally inseparable from what the story is. Good? Bad? Like I said, it is what it is.

I love Demo for what it is, and for what it’s not. At times like this, looking back at a bunch of work just completed, it’s really easy to feel pride at doing something that is unique and personal and so wholly Becky-and-me that it couldn’t have been assigned to a different creative team like work-for-hire. I always think, and I’m sure I’m not alone, that the creator-owned books that work the best are the ones that are so owned and embodied by their creators that separating the two is inconceivable. Think of Casanova without Matt Fraction, Phonogram without Kieron and Jamie, or of Preacher without Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon.

So just like in 2004, Becky and I take a breather from a run of Demo. Many thanks to the Vertigo crew this time around, starting off first in a roundabout way to Will Dennis and Shelly Bond who were fans of the first series enough to offer both Becky and myself work on other things, and then later on thanks to Will, Karen Berger, Jack Mahan, and Mark Doyle for working to breathe a second life into the series. It’s something of a cliched statement to say that they went above and beyond, but it’s also totally true, and the fact that this new run of Demo stays so true to what Demo is and was is 100% due to their faith and diligence. Jared K Fletcher, Ryan Yount, and Amelia Grohman are also to be thanked on the production side, as well as all you readers, tweeters, and retailers.

I start to run out of nice things to say about working with Becky, which is crazy because is there anyone as nice in comics as Becky is? I’ve known her for a decade, very nearly, and working with her is effortless and completely rewarding. I continue to be humbled at the faith and hard work she puts into my stories. The perfect collaborator.