There are a lot of derivative comics out there. The reason for this is because new creators think they don’t need to look outside of the medium in order to make a comic. While this is true on the face of it, it is also completely incorrect.
You can try to slice it any way you wish, but it isn’t difficult to see dynamics of other, older characters in the newer books that are coming out. Seeing the influence of other creators isn’t difficult. This makes some new books basically rehashes. A fantasyland. “This is what I would do if…” It’s fan fiction.
How do you rise above that? Go outside of comics in order to bring something new back.
I’ve heard some creators complain about this bit of advice. They think that all they need to learn from will be in comics. That would swiftly have diminishing returns, if everyone followed this train of thought. It would then only be the ones who went outside of comics and brought something new back who would warrant attention. Creators would then wonder why these others are getting the attention and they aren’t.
Going outside of what’s on the comic shelves would be great, as long as you did it with understanding. If you want to play what if and write fan fiction, don’t do it within a version of the universe the character would generally be found in. Do something different. Do a mashup of genres. Elevate the fan fiction to something worthy of being purchased.
My partner Tyler James created The Red Ten. His pitch: This is the Justice League meets Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians. This is how I’d kill the Justice League if DC were ever crazy enough to let me. Give that pitch to readers and they’re interested. Interested enough to pick up the book and thumb through it. He went away, outside of comics, and brought something back with him, growing the medium (and the superhero genre).
Go away and bring something back with you. Grow the medium. This is the only way we can stop from eating ourselves.