Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Chris Roberson speaks on his split with DC Comics

Chris Roberson

Creators | iZombie writer Chris Roberson discusses his recent public announcement that he would no longer accept work from DC Comics and his subsequent dismissal from his last writing job for the publisher. “Well, this has been building over the last few months, and mostly had to do with what I saw DC and Time Warner doing in regards to creator relations. I think the first thing — you have to understand that when I first started working for DC in 2008, the Siegels had just recaptured half of the copyright for Action Comics #1 and I felt very good about that. That seemed like a very positive step. And then over the course of the last few months there has been the counter-suit against the Siegels’ lawyer, Marc Toberoff, and I was less sanguine about that, and starting to get a little itchy about it, and then there were just a few general things about the way that it seemed that DC regards creators now that are working for them — and I can talk about that more in detail — but the real kind of proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the announcement at the beginning of February of Before Watchmen, which I just thought was unconscionable. And so I had already signed a contract by that point to do six more issues of iZombie, of which three of them had been turned in, and so I just made the decision to go ahead and turn in the remaining three, not wanting to jeopardize the livelihood of my collaborators Mike and Laura Allred. But once I turned in the last one, even though I had other work lined up, I would have to at least — if only for my own peace of mind — let people know that I wasn’t happy with it.” [The Comics Journal]

Watchmen

Creators | Heidi MacDonald offers an analysis of the Before Watchmen/creators rights debate, with an emphasis on plans for Watchmen’s 15th anniversary that both Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had agreed upon with DC Comics — plans that were later abandoned after DC pulled a story from Moore’s Tomorrow Stories anthology that was being published by its Wildstorm imprint. “I point this out to show that Moore has not ALWAYS been The Great Wall of No. Maybe the things that happened aren’t what you or I would revolt over, but it’s Moore decision to make. And he made his ground rules clear going in.” [The Beat]

Conventions | San Diego hotel owners have overwhelmingly approved a controversial plan to an additional 1 percent to 3 percent room-tax hike to help finance the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center viewed as essential to keeping Comic-Con International in the city. [NBC San Diego]

Retailing | Canadian retailers are surveyed about what affect blockbuster comics adaptation (well, superhero adaptations) have on comic sales. More interesting, perhaps, is their generally positive assessment response to “How’s business?” with answers ranging from “steady” to “absolutely fantastic” to “strangely, better than ever.” [National Post]

Diamond Comic Distributors

Retailing | San Francisco retailer Brian Hibbs explains why he decided to partner with iVerse and Diamond to sell digital comics via the web. “All I know is that I’m sure as hell not going to promote digital within my individual physical sales environment. I think that’s plainly counter-productive to my physical print-based business. The internet, however, is different. I’ll be surprised if even 1% of my regulars read this blog posting, or even an aggregation site’s picking up on the ‘story.’ But there are hundreds, thousands, lots! of readers reading these words who will never set foot in my store for the simple reason that you’re nowhere near me whatsoever. SOME of you are interested in digital comics.” [Savage Critics]

Retailing | Connie Lewis profiles Mimi Cruz, the longtime manager of Salt Lake City’s Night Flight Comics, which has been mentioned in both Sin City and an Archie comic. [KSL.com]

Robert Kirkman

Creators | Hero Complex reports on the Robert Kirkman panel at this past weekend’ Festival of Books in Los Angeles. [Hero Complex]

Awards | Complications have arisen in this year’s Eagle Awards, as the front-runner in the Best New Talent competition was removed after accusations of swiping. [Forbidden Planet]

Comics | We heard a while ago that Cheryl Blossom would be afflicted with breast cancer in an upcoming Life With Archie comic, and now there’s another Archie Comics first coming up: “something sudden and quite violent occurs for a fan-favorite character.” That’s pretty vague, but the cover of the comic suggests a violent crime, maybe a mugging. [USA Today]

Collecting | Kelly Knox gets the comics-on-paper bug and consults an expert, Brandon Zuern, store manager of Austin Books & Comics in Austin, TX, about the fine points of collecting comics. [Geek Mom]

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Comments

33 Comments

Kudos to Roberson for going Sheiky baby on DC. I am now this man’s biggest fan!

If crybaby Chris was this good at self promotion a year ago, his comics at DC might have sold better.

If I had worked for DC I would have quit when they announced the new 52.

Interrogative: what is worse, a company that abuses its own creators, or people who defend it on the Internet

Cory Arsenault

April 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

I find it kinda funny he’s defending the superman creators yet is wearing a Superman shirt that he paid DC for…

@outofideas, I guess that makes me a bad person since I DC is within its rights to publish whatever they want or deal with employees who badmouth them in public.

I also think that Chris had every right to say what he wanted but I am not sure if he realized that he would be let go for those comments.

Jake Earlewine

April 26, 2012 at 9:26 am

Yay for Chris Roberson!

Too bad so few comics writers and artists have the convictions and ideals that Chris Roberson has shown.

Lots of people have been acting as though Chris feels hard done by for being fired by DC. If people read anything he’s said since announcing leaving DC, its pretty clear he knew this was all going to happen and doesn’t care.

TCJ article is pretty good. Best of luck to Chris.

@Samir

You’re confused. The discussion was not about Chris being misused – he wasn’t. The discussion was about DC’s misuse of Siegel and Alan Moore. 2 different conversations. Do you understand the difference now? Or do you want to continue to distract the conversation by trying to make it about something it is not

I am not fond of how Chris glosses over and warps facts to try to justify his comments. It seems as if his “insights” and opinions were formed from things he read third hand on internet fan boards, or worse, wikipedia.
His comments about Dwayne McDuffie are seriously skewed and he fails to see why DC counter sued the Superman’s estate lawer.

but that said;
All there is to this story is that an employee publicly spoke out in a negative way about their employer, and that employer let him go. Happens every single day. Opinions on eitherside about the how or whys don’t matter because they are just opinions.

@outofideas, you were not clear in your statement about Moore and Siegel. I did state that DC could do whatever they want and readers and consumers are free to buy or not buy their products. However, your condescending tone is not appreciated.

@Vic

Lol – do you work for DC??

@Samir

The topic was clear. In the article, Chris talked about quitting because of the way DC treated Seigel and Moore. Chris did not complain in the article about getting mistreated by DC. A comment immediately followed calling Chris a crybaby and a self-promoter. Followed immediately by my comment about people defending the mistreatment of creators

You inserted the conversation about Chris somehow being mistreated – no one else was talking about that, including the article. And you choose to specifically rebut me in doing so.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 26, 2012 at 10:51 am

Pretty ballsy move – biting the hand that feeds you over convinctions.

However, I hope Roberson has gainful employment over at Marvel or at Boom

@out of ideas

Actually Chris says that the straw that broke the camels back was the announcement of “Before watchmen”.

And yes if I said something negative about my boss in a public forum I would expect to get fired. Believing that fact doesn’t make me pro-corporate. It means i like to eat and have a roof over my head.

Opinions are just opinions, but its a fact that if I wanted to keep my job I wouldn’t do this. Chris didn’t want to keep his job.

@Tom: Why would he go to Marvel?

@Travis: Chris kept his job. He was and is self-employed. DC was his customer, not his employer.

What you mean to say is, presumably, that he was not interested in continuing his working relationship with DC.

Which I think he made pretty clear what with that whole thing where he said he was not interested in continuing his working relationship with DC.

Makes it a little difficult to get a job with a major publisher when they have to worry about upsetting Chris’s applecart with any/every business move they make.

This is a business, not grade school. The world would be a better place if it were fair, but I make the best of the situation in an unfair world. I DO NOT throw gasoline on myself and strike a match.

@Travis: Define “major publisher”.

If by “major publisher” you only mean DC or Marvel, well, as I said I don’t see how his remarks indicate that he wants to go to work for Marvel.

If you include, say, Image and Dark Horse under the umbrella of “major publishers”, then I disagree with your statement — I find it hard to believe that those guys will be too bothered that a freelancer criticized DC.

Brandon says

“If I had worked for DC I would have quit when they announced the new 52.”

Guess what, you didn’t so your opinion means f–k all.

I can’t state my actual opinion of him, or I’ll get sanctioned, again, but, let’s just put it this way: I’ll go out of my way to make sure I never purchase anything Chris Roberson is involved with again. He either understands nothing or is one of the most self-centered people in comics. Creator’s rights are fine. Destroying the comics industry is not.

“Creator’s rights are fine. Destroying the comics industry is not.”

I hesitate to ask, but what, or who, do you think is destroying the comics industry?

Do writers and artists not know what they are signing up for when they do WFH? If you’re not willing to do it, don’t. I’m sure Fantagraphics would love to have you working for them as your a proven commodity.

First off, to everyone whining about creators being misused, abused, whatever. THEY ARE NOT. We are talking about DEALS made in the 30s and the 80s. BOTH SIDES agreed to the terms of those deals at the time. DC has never failed to uphold either deal in ANY way. In fact, Siegel and Shuster where renegotiated with, TWICE, during their lifetimes. DC did not have to do this. They could have fought them in court, and won. They were both happy with the deals they had when they died. DC then struck a deal with each of their families, WHICH THE FAMILIES AGREED TO, worth tens of millions of dollars. They were happy with this deal… until this lawyer came along. The same lawyer whose manifesto to screw both the families and DC out of the Superman rights has now been admitted into evidence. As for Moore, for the ten BILLIONTH time, DC offered him the rights, ALL of the rights (do you conceive how much that is?), plus a large sum of money to come do BW, which, since he would then own the rights, we would be making the majority of the profits on on top of all the other money. He declined. Anyone still on his side at this point, well, I just can’t understand that.

as to @Kevin Melrose: Do you understand how destabilizing it would be to the comics industry if Roberson had his way? Comics sales are already 10% of what they were 20 years ago with both companies valuing the properties more for what they can do with them (movies, TV, merchandising, etc.) then the actually comics. I would say it’s a pretty safe bet that more comics lose money in single issue form than make it. Probably quite a lot more. If the Siegels and Shusters win, it will start a cascade effect (anyone ever heard of a precedent). If the decedents of creators on properties created 80 years ago can suddenly hold one of your two biggest properties for ransom (which is EXACTLY their intent), and a precedent is set that everyone else can too, how long do you think that the Megacorps that are Disney and Time-Warner will continue to view the very low earning comics divisions viable if they are getting sued every five minutes? The answer is not very long. DC is NOT the one being unethical here. Everybody involved in all of these discussions EXCEPT DC has breached one contract or another. DC has never backed out of any of the deals.

The reactions in favor seem to boil down to this:

“I like DC comics – so I’ll defend any and everything that DC does”

God forbid I don’t get to read the next issue of super-hero punches bad guy in the face

I honestly don’t see the thought process going any deeper than that on these pro-DC comments

… especially the “one voice of dissent is going to collapse the entire comic book industry”

Oh boy that is a good one

“If the Siegels and Shusters win, it will start a cascade effect (anyone ever heard of a precedent). If the decedents of creators on properties created 80 years ago can suddenly hold one of your two biggest properties for ransom (which is EXACTLY their intent), and a precedent is set that everyone else can too”

Eric, it’s not “suddenly,” and there’s no precedent established. When DC bought the rights to Superman, copyright lasted for 56 years (a first term of 28 years plus a renewal term of 28 years), so when Congress extended the duration (the first time), a clause was included permitting creators or their heirs and estates to reclaim their rights once the original period ended. After all, why should only corporations be able to benefit from the extension?

Work-made-for-hire agreements aren’t subject to rights reclamation, so the great-grandchildren of someone hired to write a fill-in issue of All-Star Comics can’t just step forward and ask for money. There’s no need to panic: Disney, Warner Bros. and the comics industry aren’t going to come crashing down because DC loses the rights to some of the Superman elements, or Marvel writes Joe Simon a check to secure its claim to Captain America.

“Makes it a little difficult to get a job with a major publisher when they have to worry about upsetting Chris’s applecart with any/every business move they make.”

Not to turn this into a Marvel vs. DC thing, but Marvel seems to have no problem hiring creators (Mark Waid, Mark Millar, Brian Wood, Valerie D’Orazio) who have locked horns with DC and/or publicly criticized Didio’s regime. Roberson’s comments don’t come anywhere near the venom Waid and Millar have spit at DC. D’Orazio wrote a particularly damning book about DC’s corporate culture. Anyway, as others have pointed out, DC and Marvel are hardly the only game in town. Only in the direct market do the Big Two dominate, and writers/artists doing creator-owned work are much better off working through companies like Image or Oni. Roberson is also an established novelist, publisher, and screenwriter, so he’s not going to be hurting for work.

As for Eric’s” “Do you understand how destabilizing it would be to the comics industry if Roberson had his way? Comics sales are already 10% of what they were 20 years ago with both companies valuing the properties more for what they can do with them (movies, TV, merchandising, etc.) then the actually comics.”

As others have said, the Siegel/Shuster Superman case is unique, and has nothing to do with a WFH contract. As to destablizing/hurting the industry, the industry is doing just fine, if you’re talking about the medium in general. Where things aren’t going so well is with the monthly superhero pamplet, and the “major publishers” and the direct market have done just fine slitting their own throats without any help from Roberson or Alan Moore. They’ve been doing okay due to other media, but when the current vogue for superhero movies ends, or the general public gets tired of seeing the Nth rebooting of Batman or Spider-Man, where will they be?

Almost every major comics-derived property (Walking Dead, Hellboy, Kick-Ass, Sin City, 300, Scott Pilgrim, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Red) to hit the mainstream that -wasn’t- created more than three decades ago has come from a creator-owned source. The Big Two have dug their own future graves by pinning all of their profitability to decades-old characters and by not giving creators any reason whatsover to create -anything- new for them, because they’ll probably get ripped off, and they can get a much, much fairer shake elsewhere. If you want to talk about destroying the industry, that’s where the smoking gun is, not in Chris Roberson sticking up for his principles.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 26, 2012 at 8:39 pm

@ Thad: Why not? He could go to Dark Horse, Image or to whomsoever hires him.

The Chris Roberson interview on TCJ was excellent. It should be read and deeply considered by everyone.

A couple interesting points he made that seem to get lost in the shuffle on the Internet: first of all, its not necessarily about the money exclusively, in every situation. Often, its about the other aspect of creators rights that doesn’t come up as much, which is the right to decide how your original ideas are used and whether this use is respectful of you as the creator and the original intent of the work. Secondly, he mentions that a lot of creators have sided with him, albeit behind closed doors. That a lot of freelancers in this industry HAVE to work on corporate owned properties to keep their families fed doesn’t mean they don’t care about this issue or that they’re all a bunch of Straczynskis. I don’t think fan entitlement online represents reality as people on the inside know it. Just my estimation.

“But there are hundreds, thousands, lots! of readers reading these words who will never set foot in my store for the simple reason that you’re nowhere near me whatsoever. SOME of you are interested in digital comics.”
– Brian Hibbs

Yeah, no kidding, that was the point ALL ALONG. Good of you to connect those dots. Better late than never.

Googam son of Goom

April 27, 2012 at 4:24 am

Calling a man a ‘crybaby’ for standing up for what he believes in is a strange interpretation of an act of conviction. And then Travis saying that in Robeson’s position he would bow down and take it is equally weird. Don’t people have fortitude anymore?
That DC is a business first and a creative entity second is reflected in the ever diminishing quality of their product. There are only one or two books that hold any interest to me and I used to buy 15 a month. It’s obvious that the creative juices do not flow openly in the DC business world.

Some of the reactions do paint a rather depressing picture of (at least) a certain portion of fandom. Posters like the “crybaby” name caller come across as such frightened, submissive, low-ranking beta males that they can’t even comprehend the concept of someone sticking up for themselves. Boasting that, if you were in Roberson’s position, you’d just lay down and take it isn’t only weird, it’s pathetic and sad.

@eallengd: “Do writers and artists not know what they are signing up for when they do WFH?”

Huh? What are you referring to?

Neither Superman nor Watchmen nor iZombie was WFH.

Superman was created independently and then sold; Watchmen was created as a creator-owned work with DC receiving the rights temporarily (or so everyone thought at the time); iZombie is a straight-up creator-owned book.

@Tom: “@ Thad: Why not? He could go to Dark Horse, Image or to whomsoever hires him.”

“Hires” is the wrong word, but yes, I absolutely expect him to work with Dark Horse, Image, or somebody along those lines in the future.

The reason he wouldn’t go to Marvel is because they’re just as abusive of their creators as DC is — maybe even moreso. The David Brothers article he linked to as helping to explain his decision to leave DC is just as much about Marvel and Avengers as DC and Watchmen.

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