Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It may be time for creators to push back a bit against the bosses at the Big 2

Before the new year, I had been pondering a bit upon the power the internet has placed in the hands of comics creators.

Since the 90's, creators have had the forum of the internet to reach and build small communities around themselves.  And, also since the 1990's, the creator has become arguably as important in the day-to-day world of superhero comics than the characters themselves, and outside of superheroes, creator is king.  Its a massive shift from the Silver Age during which most stories didn't receive an attribution of artist or writer.

I am not certain all creators have used the web terribly well.  Its pretty clear some creators just didn't and don't get how far their comments can spread, or understand that what they say is semi-permanent, once its out there.  And, of course, some have chosen to hole up and build an online cult of personality, and that's just weird, John Byrne.

The comics industry is a very, very small world, especially once you're working for the Big 2.  And, of course, once you're at the Big 2, there really aren't a lot of places to go where sales will be as high based solely upon who is publishing your book.

I'm thinking today, specifically, of an article posted at Comics Alliance (but something I'd heard from Jordan Gibson via Twitter), about how Static Shock, a book I was thrilled to see coming, arrived with such a lead thud and how writer John Rozum seemed to blame until he decided to go ahead and clear the air and tell the public what had occurred behind the scenes.

Rozum's post is a good read, if you've the time.

I hadn't liked the issue of Static Shock I read with the New 52 relaunch, and I can see now how a lot of what I found lacking occurred.

This is the second event of this sort this year that I can think of wherein a writer did not follow the script we usually see.  The script is usually either silence or a statement about bad luck, unfortunate circumstances, etc... but few will flat out say what has gone wrong.

The other incident I was thinking of was the interview with Chris Roberson on the War Rocket Ajax podcast, wherein he talked working with DC on Grounded, and the mishaps and mayhem that went of as JMS left the book* and DC took out a crucial character beat by swapping out stories for issue 712 to an inventory issue rather than show Superman being friendly with a Muslim superhero from Los Angeles.

For a long time, I think we've seen a lot of statements from creators that demonstrated an obvious level of fear, and probably well-founded fear.  Its not too hard to read between the lines and see that DC and Marvel have a line of "talent" backed up around the block, which enables editorial to have pretty terrific leverage, which they've never been shy about using.  But that's also meant that editorial hasn't ever been considered terribly responsible for what goes on when a book goes bad.  In the public's eyes, those books are the responsibility of the writer and artist, as if everyone were a Grant Morrison or Geoff Johns, free from  editorial influence.

The internet has made it a small world, and if you've chosen to make your living as a writer or artist in comics, the bottom line is that you're an independent operator, and you're going to have to take care of yourself a bit, and how you deal with the public is something you'll have to learn how to do.

I enjoyed Roberson's run on Superman, but am well aware of how editorial's man-handling made the story less than it could have been.  For John Rozum, frankly I'm relieved.  Static Shock #1 was an absolutely terrible comic that genuinely felt like it had been written by an energetic middle-schooler, not a skilled writer.   Had he not spoken up, I would have written off Rozum and what I had to believe was his mismanagement of a familiar property.

Look, not all creators are going to be able to protect themselves or speak as eloquently regarding what happened to them, and many will see injustice in their lot even when those feelings of mistreatment are misplaced.  Sure, its an honor to work for DC or Marvel, and who wouldn't want a shot to become a definitive writer on one of those books and build a career on that level?  But that's just it.  Its the writer's career at stake.  And editors somehow seem to get a pass, even when making terrible decisions (see: Eddie Berganza's work on Superman in the mid 00's).

What I am advocating is that writers not take the fall for bad creative decisions when they're being asked (or forced) to fall on their sword.  There's too much at stake, and, frankly, if they have a good case as I believe Rozum does, they stand to win a lot of credibility with readers.

*I'm still a bit irritated with DC that my collection of the issues prominently features JMS's name on the cover when everyone knows damned well that JMS had fled the book.

1 comment:

horus kemwer said...

I'm not disagreeing with any of this, but I have some relevant thoughts too long to put here, which I've posted here.