The Middle Ground #123 | Being bad
I feel like I’m being a bad fan by not being too upset by the news that the third series of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram is going to be delayed until sometime in 2013. Originally quasi-announced in February for a November release, “life happened” as Gillen put it, and now it’s been pushed to an unclear point next year.
There was, when this was announced, all manner of upset from the Phonogram faithful, especially because Gillen and McKelvie are working on another project for Marvel (rumored to be a new Young Avengers book) that will appear during the gap left behind by Phonogram‘s rescheduling. “Will You Forgive Young Avengers For The Phonogram Delay?” asked Rich Johnston, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it was a sentiment that appeared to be echoed around the Internet before too long — this happening despite Gillen saying that the two are “entirely unconnected, though we understand that people are going to think that they are[n’t].”
Here’s the thing, though: I can’t get mad at the delay, because I’m still in the “I can’t really believe that the book is coming back” phase of the whole thing. For those who don’t remember, Phonogram finished very publicly in 2010, with Gillen giving an interview to Comics Alliance that laid out why in no uncertain terms:
There’s a difference between making only a little money and starving. We’re very much in the latter. Jamie’s lucky to get a couple of hundred dollars from an issue. While he didn’t tell me about this until after it was all done, there were three occasions when Jamie was seriously considering throwing in the towel. The problem is that Image’s deal is a back-end one. Will we make some money off the trade? Maybe. And that’s a big maybe. But that means Jamie not earning any money for the six months it would take to draw it, which is the main reason why we took over a year to do 7 issues. As in, every time Jamie ran out of money, he had to stop and do something else. A couple of hundred dollars doesn’t cover rent or pay for his fashionable haircuts. And doing this bitty work f–ks up the production anyway, because you can’t concentrate or plan. You just spend your entire life in low-level money panic.
“The difference between breaking even and actually being able to do it in comics is insane,” he went on to say. “It’s like being kept under ice, clawing. I feel like a bonsai plant.”
There was something about that honesty — and the sadness, and the frustration — that made the announcement of the series’ return so surprising, and so much like some kind of surprise victory, if that makes sense. The third Phonogram feels like a surprise gift, something you didn’t see coming and you feel more grateful for for that surprise. That’s why the idea of a delay doesn’t seem so bad, because — well, I didn’t even think this was happening until a few months ago. And if it’s being delayed because of other work, then even that isn’t too upsetting because, without the other work, it’s possible neither Gillen nor McKelvie would be able to create a third series in the first place.
It’s easy — all too easy — to feel some sense of ownership and entitlement over projects, comics or creators that you feel invested in, and to complain when things don’t go the way you want them to. Weirdly, perhaps, what I’m feeling about Phonogram‘s third series is just the opposite; gratitude and a willingness to wait however long it takes, because this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It’s an unusual feeling, but a nice one. If this is being a bad fan, maybe I should try it more often.