Robot 6

Dan DiDio and Jim Lee address Chris Roberson’s DC departure

Fairest #3

Spurred by DC Comics’ upcoming Watchmen prequels and its prolonged legal battle with the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, iZombie writer Chris Roberson announced last week he would end his relationship with the publisher following the release of his Fairest arc — only to have the company decide his “services were no longer required” for the Fables spinoff. The developments triggered substantial discussion, and debate, online, so it’s perhaps to be expected that Roberson would be brought up over the weekend to DC Comics Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee during the Before Watchmen panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

Asked by moderator Geoff Boucher how, as a creator, Lee reconciles Roberson’s comments about DC’s position on creators’ rights, the Image Comic co-founder replied, “I don’t know the writer, Chris [Roberson], and so — you know, it certainly would have helped if I could have talked to him or if he would’ve reached out to me. It seemed odd to me — as a creator, I would not publicly state I have a problem with the company that’s paying me to do work for them and I’m going to quit after I finish this one project. It would seem wise to me to wait until you finish that project to voice that complaint.”

DiDio was more terse in his response, saying, “As far as I’m concerned, he made a very public statement about not wanting to work for DC, and we honored that statement.”

“See,” Lee joked, “now that’s the line that’s going to run.”

Visit Comic Book Resources to read complete coverage of the Before Watchmen panel.

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Comments

27 Comments

Yeah, I am pretty sure Chris knew what would happen when he went public. I will assume he is an intelligent guy.

While I applaud him for voicing his displeasure with DC I think as Lee said he should have waited till his work was complete. I know some are saying that DC is bitter and being a sore loser, I don’t see it that way. From a business stand point why keep a guy no matter the time he has left with your company if he publicly voiced his dislike for it.

Good for DC! If you disagree with their actions here, you clearly have never held a job for a company where professionalism is paramount. If I publicly spoke against my company, I would expect to no longer have a job.

Good for DC! If you disagree with their actions here, you clearly have never held a job for a company where professionalism is paramount. If I publicly spoke against my company, I would expect to no longer have a job.

By saying “Good for DC!”, do you mean that it’s admirable for DC to remove Roberson from the book because they don’t like what he said?

I agree that it’s understandable, and even predictable. But I’m sure not going to praise DC for it.

I don’t know that “good for DC” is the right sentiment. Certainly they did what’s expected in any company’s best interests. That said, they’ve been taking advantage of creators for decades, so if anything–good for Chris Robertson.

Also, the two quotes that are listed above… DiDio’s is the bluntest, but it’s also the one I have the least problem with. Lee, on the other hand, is trying to make it sound like the real problem here is not how well DC treats its creators, but that Roberson is too rude to talk to Jim Lee about what’s bothering him.

So, let’s be clear: the problem is how DC treats and has treated its creators. And they don’t like that someone has publicly said so.

And now DC doesn’t want to talk about that, so they’re trying to shift the discussion to whatever faults they can make up for Roberson.

Which is understandable! Of course they’re not going to talk about it; what do they have that they can say?

But that doesn’t mean that we have to let them tell us what the discussion is about.

Exactly what I’d expect. There are a few questions raised by Roberson’s comment, but the biggest to me was how he could just go ass-out with a statement like that when he could just talk to Jim Lee of all people beforehand. Openly making that sort of criticism about your employer is obviously a horrible move for any professional.

but ballsy, and way more meaningful than that goofy David Brothers boycott.

No, I say “Good for DC” because they’re removing a problem employee, or rather an employee that openly attempted to embarrass them while still in employ of the company. “I got a business to run, sometimes I gotta kick asses to make it run right” as Moe Greene said in the Godfather.

DC’s issues with creators are fine for discussion, once you’ve left the job and don’t plan on having any association with them ever again. But you have to wonder, does Chris Robertson expect to be able to run to Marvel or Dark Horse with open arms after being let go for insubordination basically? We’ll see what happens…maybe comic industry hiring practices are different than the rest of the country’s.

Well, what would talking to Jim Lee accomplish? Would Jim Lee have said, “Oh my God Chris, you’re right! We AREN’T being fair to Siegel and Shuster’s family, and Before Watchmen IS a horrible idea! We’ll settle out of court immediately, and cancel all those stupid miniseries.”

Roberson wasn’t comfortable taking money from the company he was working for and decided to stop doing it. Good for him.

As for the “Good for DC!” sentiment, what, exactly, is good about it for them? All they did is reinforce the idea that that they will fire creators who share opinions contrary to the ones they as a corporate entity hold. And, I suppose, imply that Roberson hit a nerve.

I’m glad they got asked that question at a con though, and I hope every con appearance involves questions about Siegel and Shuster’s families and why Before Watchmen isn’t a meanspirited, cynical thing to publish.

Kyle: “Insubordination”? Roberson’s a freelance writer, not an enlisted soldier (and not an employee, either, for that matter; he’s an independent contractor).

While you can certainly debate the wisdom of criticizing DC while there’s work in the pipeline, and money on the table, Roberson’s hardly going to be forced to wear some sort of scarlet letter for the rest of his career. There are plenty of creators, several top-tier ones, in fact, who’ve expressed displeasure, disappointment or disgust with publishers and editors — and in much harsher terms than Roberson used — yet still get regular work in the industry.

RegularSyzedMike

April 23, 2012 at 9:35 am

Asked by moderator Geoff Boucher how, as a creator, Lee reconciles Roberson’s comments about DC’s position on creators’ rights, the Image Comic co-founder replied, “Well, to be honest I haven’t really been creative for several years now so that will be a hard question.”

He then adjusted his huge collar.

But seriously it sounds like the same corporate doublespeak I hear all day at work when these guys talk. It’s kind of depressing.

“Well, what would talking to Jim Lee accomplish?”

We don’t know because it never happened, but uh…Jim Lee. if you’re arguing about comic creators’ rights, that guy is pretty relevant.

Kevin, no snark at all here — would you be able to link to some of what you reference? I also didn’t realize Roberson was freelance. Still, I certainly debate the wisdom of criticizing DC while there’s work in the pipeline, and money on the table

Lees’ comments of never having met Roberson but that he should have come and talked to him about his views on the company doesn’t hold much weight and reeks of corporate speak.

On the DC panel at the Boston Comic Con, half the panel learned of the September #0 issues that DC will release at said panel. The panelists also revealed when they found out about the reboot. They all stated different times.

Roberson was the writer that stepped in to clean up the JMS Superman mess. Perhaps Lee should have met with the man who was writing the flagship character of his company.

This just highlights a major problem at DC right now- cummunication.
Between those working for them and those that read their stories.

No, I say “Good for DC” because they’re removing a problem employee, or rather an employee that openly attempted to embarrass them while still in employ of the company.

Right, I get it, but why is that something to celebrate? I’d rather support the guy who spoke his mind and stood on principle than the company that brought the hammer down. I mean, I can see it from DC’s point of view and I can’t say that they’re wrong for giving Roberson an invitation to the world, but that’s different from cheering them on.

To put it another way. I am not claiming that the two situations are the same, because they’re not, but if a friend of yours said to you, “My dog got real sick yesterday and I had to have him put to sleep,” would you respond with

a) “That’s too bad, but I understand why you had to do it, and I support you in that decision,” or
b) “Good for you!”

Fair point Matthew.

Kevin: It’s not a military only term. But beyond that, I hear what you’re saying. I know there have been infamous blowups between creators and companies, and 5-10 years later they’re back in love with one another. Still, it wasn’t one of his wisest moves. I’ll leave it at that.

Apollo9000: I believe the confusion over the #0 issues was whether they could talk about it not whether they were doing it.

There’s another option…that Roberson was calculating enough to know he’d be fired off of his “Fairest” arc once he made his public statement, and was counting on it to make his departure an even bigger story and make him appear as an even bigger working class hero.

I’m not saying he didn’t leave for exactly the reasons he said he did…but acting surprised that DC said “thanks but no thanks” after he tried to publicly shame them just doesn’t wash with me. I think it’s more likely that he knew this would get his name out there, maybe some Marvel work. Let’s face it, Roberson’s done some fine work, but his name doesn’t sell books…the characters he works on sell books. Superman sold because it was already selling. iZombie sold (initially at least) on the strength of Mike Allred. Roberson’s other projects (Stan Lee’s Starborn, Elric: The Balance Lost) all died within a year due to poor sales.

But now, with all the attention he’s getting for being a moral crusader against “big, bad DC”, retailers are going to be curious about his next project. As are readers. It’s a savvy move.

“Roberson’s hardly going to be forced to wear some sort of scarlet letter for the rest of his career.”

Probably not, but it does put him in a position of being someone to ‘keep an eye on’. I applaud him having principles and I’m a big fan of iZombie, so I get the frustration of the plug being pulled on that book, but this also puts him in a position where if he takes any future work-for-hire gigs, this may come back to haunt him. If he’s got issues with DC in this context, then anything to do with Marvel is going to trigger cries of hypocrite. He is very talented, but I’m not sure he’s anywhere near the point in his career where he should be playing these particular cards. It’s savvy in the sense of getting publicity, but maybe not the best way to go about it.

Chris might’ve been better off to wait until his Fairest run was completed and all his obligations were met — if you look at it one way, this probably caused at least some small hassle with Bill Willingham and the editorial staff at Vertigo by causing a planned arc to now be scrapped, and he clearly stated he had no beef whatsoever with them.

Long-term, if he’s going the creator-owned route, he is a writer and needs artists to collaborate with, and there’s the possibility of DC adding any artists who collaborate with him on a blacklist of some sort, which could limit his ability to get talent to work with, if working with him on say, an Image or Dark Horse mini-series would put them out of the running for work with DC. That sounds petty and vindictive on DC’s part, but he did put them in a position where the two men at the top of the food chain had to directly respond to it. Waiting a bit and putting a little distance between leaving and explaining why he’s no longer seeking or accepting work from DC would have let him still have his say and stick to his principles and not caused a stink that may follow him around. It also would have let him walk out with his head held high, that he was a professional and honored all contracts and obligations. They way things played out did net him far more publicity, but it is tinged a little negative and has a bit of a ‘stunt’ feel about it.

I enjoy his work, personally, and will certainly be looking to see what he’s doing next.

Roberson was silly to speak out before the Fairest arc was done. I’d be shocked if he can truly afford to lose this income, as a work-for-hire creator.

Lee’s atrocious redesigns for the new 52 make it pretty obvious that guy’s very very shallow well of ideas has long since run dry. I don’t really care what he has to say b/c he probably had no idea any of it was transpiring until after this became a controversy.

Good luck to Roberson in the future. Creators need to stand up to the way comics are no longer about well-developed characters, but more about very generically conceived “properties,” largely due to the corporate overlords at places like DC.

George Bush (not that one)

April 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Who has ever had a job that you can publicly slag and not get fired? It just looks like a PR move by a douchebag.

I didn’t read any of the fools stuff. I don’t know of anybody that said it was “must read” material. None story for me. The ironic think is that he couldn’t sniff Moores or Siegels kinda talent.

We gotta get some of that draconian must that’s still left in DC. Anyone wanna shell out who knows how much dough for a few tankers of Febreeze?

@Jacob: “acting surprised that DC said “thanks but no thanks” after he tried to publicly shame them just doesn’t wash with me.”

Good thing he didn’t, then.

Except that yeah… He kinda did.

Paraphrasing here: Sorry everyone, guess I won’t be writing that “Fairest” arc after all, seems my services are no longer required…

That reads as a passive aggressive statement of something he had to know was coming. You don’t get to publicly call your employer immoral and unethical and expect that they’re going to thank you with four more checks.

Kyle: “I know there have been infamous blowups between creators and companies, and 5-10 years later they’re back in love with one another. Still, it wasn’t one of his wisest moves. I’ll leave it at that.”

Jim Lee himself had a pretty infamous blowup about 20 years ago and today he’s a publisher at DC. Maybe by 2030 we’ll see Roberson running the show.

@Jacob: “That reads as a passive aggressive statement of something he had to know was coming.”

Which is not the same thing as acting surprised.

“You don’t get to publicly call your employer immoral and unethical and expect that they’re going to thank you with four more checks.”

Except that they paid him for the scripts he turned in. He’s out royalties, and I suppose I’m not certain he got paid exactly four more checks, but…he still got paid for what he submitted.

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