When the Image comics was born in 1992, it brought change to the comic industry for the better or worse. The eight people who founded the company couldn’t have been anyone else. At the time they were superstar names, coming from Marvel’s hottest titles. Where they went, their fans went. These eight people were brands unto themselves, forged by their and Marvel’s ego.
Generally speaking, people associate brands with the likes of Coca-Cola or PlayStation. However, people are just as much a brand. Jamie Oliver, Brad Pitt, Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideki Kamiya etc. all are or were brands. The most hardcore fans of their brand follow them everywhere they may go, and often simply praise whatever they do. Sometimes even to an unhealthy degree bordering obsession and ignoring realities, like with some Steve Jobs’ fans.
When you combine the customers’ attachment to a product and to a face, a dual branding, you have them tied closely to whatever product companies would be putting out. This can be detrimental as well in certain cases, like with Hideo Kojima being a brand that the fans especially recognised with instead of Metal Gear. With Kojima no longer associated with the Metal Gear brand or franchise, there are those who feel that the series is over and with lack of Kojima’s own brand means that the series is over, thou the series can will survive without Kojima if Konami manages it right.
To return to Image comics, the difference between Kojima or Miyamoto and Todd McFarlane or Erik Larsen is that there would have been no Todd McFarlane Productions or Highbrow Entertainment without their founders, and in case of McFarlane’s Productions it would be a shadow of itself without its creator. Metal Gear and Super Mario on the other hand are owned by their respective companies, and there has been games in both franchises without Kojima’s or Miyamoto’s involvement that are of no less quality. Unlike with most game devs, at least Image Comics guys had the balls to leave their lucrative job to realise their own dreams and wants. Then again, they were at their height and caused people to jump shop from Marvel’s books to theirs.
Similarly, Platinum Games mainly consists of people who left CAPCOM’s Clover Studio, but they were less driven by the brand of faces. The one company that banked on branding their people is Comcept. Keiji Inafune put himself way out there being the face of the company, standing on his brand that was built during the time he was the producer of Mega Man games, Dead Rising, Lost Planet and some others. In hindsight it’s easy to see how some of CAPCOM’s problems were caused by Inafune, especially with Mega Man, but it is very easy to buy into hype and branding CAPCOM ran with. I should know, I bought into it myself.
Is it a valid thing to do, concentrate on the people, idolise them and their work? Of course it is, but it carries a lot of baggage. It’s sort of a hobby unto itself, where following these famous people becomes a part of the whole thing. More often than not the fans will see these people as friends, someone who cares about what they want and that they are there for them. Just like with any piece of work, these people are doing their job and nothing more. It’s a classical thing overall, as people who create products of entertainment have always been in the spotlight. People are voyeuristic by their nature. Just look at the British and how much they love their gossip tabloids.
Perhaps that’s the pull with idolising. To follow someone and see their life on the spotlight, to worship what they do and how they do it. The question I have to ask is What’s the point in that? Perhaps is sort of symbiosis, where the idolised person gets satisfaction knowing that he is in the spotlight and is the brand that people follow, and the customer can throw money at these people when they provide with entertainment they value. Who am I to say what people shouldn’t or should consider what, in the end, is worth their time and money?
I do get it. It’s so easy to attach yourself to a person or a product that has made a profound impact in your life or something similar. We follow these people because we like what they do and we trust that the will deliver similar or further products we found ourselves stuck with. Perhaps trust is another key factor here, as after that trust has been gained the companies and the people can create a careful strategy to make full use of that trust in public relations and profits. The symbiosis of course works to the direction as well, where the consumer is selfishly expecting these people to cater for only to themselves, ignoring everything else and just be there for them. To do otherwise would mean to sell out.
Perhaps idolising is a far more selfish act than what it appears to be.