Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
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.”
“Aside from the Fairest arc I already committed to doing, iZombie will be the last time I’ll ever write for DC,” he said, following it later with “I decided quite some time ago, but waited until after the cancellation of my book was announced to discuss it. The short version is, I don’t agree with the way they treat other creators and their general business practices.” The cancellation of iZombie, the Vertigo title Roberson does with Mike Allred, was announced at the Emerald City ComiCon earlier this month.
As for the reason for his decision, Roberson cited a recent post written by David Brothers on ComicsAlliance titled “The Ethical Rot Behind ‘Before Watchmen’ & ‘The Avengers.'” CBR reached out to Roberson for further clarification:
“My reasons for no longer wanting to be associated with DC don’t stem from anything to do with my personal experiences there, but from watching the way that the company has treated and continues to treat other creators and their heirs,” Roberson told CBR. “The counter-suit against the Siegel estate and the announcement of the Watchmen prequels were the specific incidents that crystallized my feelings on the matter. I’d like to make clear, though, that I have nothing but nice things to say about the editorial staff at Vertigo with whom I’ve worked for the past few years.”
iZombie ends with issue #28, and I don’t think the timing of his Fairest arc has been announced yet. Despite not wanting to work with DC anymore, this doesn’t spell an end to Roberson’s comics career. “I’m not going anywhere! I’ve got loads of new stuff in the pipeline,” he also tweeted last night.
(Hat tip: Bleeding Cool)
Friday update: Roberson said on Twitter that he will no longer be working on Fairest. “Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I won’t be writing a Fairest arc after all. It was decided my services were no longer required.”
Creators | Ali Ferzat, the Syrian cartoonist who was abducted and beaten last year because of his criticisms of the government, was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” “Tyrants often don’t get the jokes, but their people do,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker writes in his tribute to Ferzat. “So when the iron fist comes down, it often comes down on cartoonists.” [Time]
Publishing | In one of its wide-ranging interviews with comics publishers, the retail news and analysis site ICv2 talks with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson about the state of the market, the loss of Borders, his company’s 2011 layoffs, webcomics, and some early missteps with its digital program: “Quite honestly we’ve run into a few issues because the programs that we’ve done haven’t worked as well as we wished. We created some exclusive material and got less participation than we had hoped for. […] We gave codes out to retail stores to drive customers into their stores. They could pick up the exclusive content by going to their participating comic shop. Evidently we didn’t do a good enough job getting the word out, so we’re retooling that.” [ICv2.com]
Creators | Legendary comic artist Tony DeZuniga, the co-creator of Jonah Hex, has been hospitalized in the Philippines after suffering from a stroke and pneumonia. The 70-year-old DeZuniga is reportedly in the intensive care unit as friends and family rally to help with his medical expenses. [GMA News]
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors announced that retailers have ordered more than 3.5 million comics for Free Comic Book Day, up 23 percent from last year. Diamond also confirmed a second event centered on Halloween. [ICv2]
Graphic novels | The Irish Education Minister, Ruairí Quinn, has given his blessing to a manga-style graphic novel intended to help teenagers develop “emotional intelligence.” [TheJournal.ie]
“Some really good people are working on Before Watchmen and it saddens me to see that. I won’t be supporting it in any way. I just can’t. And in all honesty — I can’t help but feel a little bit less for every creator who works on these books. Have you no decency?”
– Erik Larsen, wading into the continuing controversy surrounding DC Comics’ sprawling prequels
to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
DC Comics has updated its New Frontiersman promotional website with a first, albeit small, look at interior artwork from Before Watchmen, the sprawling prequel to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The portfolio, featuring art by the likes of Lee Bermejo, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Adam Hughes, J.G. Jones and Jae Lee, was shown Thursday at the Diamond Retailer Summit and Saturday at the “DC All Access: Before Watchmen” panel at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
If the first day of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo was dominated by announcements from Dark Horse and DC Comics, then the second day belonged to Marvel, which followed through on its teaser for a new series, revealed an Icon relaunch, and shuffled some creators. Here are some of the highlights from Saturday (along with a couple of holdovers from Friday):
• As usual, the “Cup O’ Joe” panel was where Marvel rolled out its biggest publishing announcements, beginning with confirmation that the teaser released last week is indeed for a Hawkeye ongoing series reuniting The Immortal Iron Fist collaborators Matt Fraction and David Aja. In the title, which debuts in August, Clinton Barton will be accompanied by fan-favorite Young Avenger Kate Bishop as he fights organized crime in New York City. “It’s very Avengers, by which I mean John Steed and Emma Peel. There’s a whole healthy person between the two of them,” Fraction told Comic Book Resources. “There’s a line in Rocky where he says, ‘I got bumps. You got bumps. Together we fit,’ or something like that — the two of them fit together. Each one has what the other doesn’t, which means they work very well together. She’s young, incredibly gifted, incredibly cultured, and incredibly headstrong. She doesn’t suffer his crap and also wants to be someone worthwhile, but she’s trying to figure out how to make that possible. She follows him not because of his abilities, but his accomplishments. So they work together quite well. It’s an apprentice and master style relationship.”
Publishers, creators, retailers and fans rolled into Chicago this weekend for the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2. While the convention officially kicked off Friday, the announcements started rolling out Thursday during the Diamond Retailer Summit. After going through Kiel Phegley’s lengthy report on CBR, I’ve pulled out a few tidbits that publishers shared with attending retailers:
• Dynamite Entertainment shared that the first issue of Garth Ennis and Aaron Campbell’s The Shadow, which comes out next week, will likely go to second print. Following their Vampirella and Pantha projects, they also plan to roll out more of the former Harris Publications characters they now own, and they said they plan to work again with Kevin Smith in the future, who they’ve worked with on Bionic Man and Green Hornet.
• Dark Horse Comics announced two Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff miniseries; one featuring Spike and one featuring Willow (Editor Scott Allie spoke more about them with CBR). In addition, legendary artist Russ Heath will draw some pages in an upcoming issue of Buffy. Dark Horse will launch a new Dragon Age series in August, following the online miniseries that’s been running on Dark Horse Digital. They also confirmed that Becky Cloonan will return to Conan after James Harren’s three issues, and they announced Ex Sanguine, a five-issue miniseries by Tim Seeley and Josh Emmons. Finally, The Goon will go monthly with issue #40.
Creators | How did Darwyn Cooke get involved with the Before Watchmen comics? “I was kind of dragged into it kicking and screaming by [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio. He had been discussing this for what does amount to several years now, and the first time he had approached me about it, I had actually turned it down simply because I couldn’t see doing anything that would live up to the original. And, it was about a year later, the story idea that I’m working on now sort of came to me and I realized that there was a way to do the project, and I had a story that I thought was exciting enough to tell. So I phoned Dan up and said, ‘Hey, if you still got room, I’m in.'” [Rolling Stone]
Creators | Ron Marz discusses Prophecy, his upcoming comic that turns the whole Mayan calendar thing into a crossover event that will bring together an eclectic group of characters, and defends the idea of crossovers in general: “If your objection is “they’re not in the same universe,” or a crossover somehow offends your sense of continuity, I’d suggest you’re missing the point. More than any other medium, comics are about unfettered imagination, about making the impossible possible. If you’re going to let some perceived “rules” prevent you from telling an exciting story, you’re just not trying very hard. Having a sense of wonder, of discovery, is much more important than following some set of perceived rules and regulations.” [MTV Geek]
It may sound snobbish to say that there’s not much noteworthy in a month which features the first round of Watchmen spinoffs, but the original announcement garnered such intense reactions that these solicits are rather anticlimactic.
Still, there’s plenty to discuss in the June solicitations, including a new American Vampire miniseries, an old Wonder Woman arc, linking the various Leagues, and lamenting some lost Lantern history. Absent any additional alliteration, away we go!
Most of Before Watchmen (everything except the Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias books) is scheduled for June. Not much more to say, really. If you’re not on board now, will these solicits sway you?
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“I have to say that if you are a reader that just wanted your favorite characters on tap forever, and never cared about the creators, then actually you’re probably not the kind of reader that I was looking for. I have a huge respect for my audience. On the occasions when I meet them, they seem, I like to think, to be intelligent and scrupulous people. If people do want to go out and buy these Watchmen prequels, they would be doing me an enormous favor if they would just stop buying my other books. When I think of my audience, I like to have good thoughts and think about how lucky I am to have one that is as intelligent as mine and as moral as mine. […] The kind of readers who are prepared to turn a blind eye when the people who create their favorite reading material, their favorite characters, are marginalized or put to the wall — that’s not the kind of readers I want. So, even if it means a huge drop in sales upon my other work, I would prefer it that way. I mean, there’s no way I can police this, of course. But, I would hope that you wouldn’t want to buy a book knowing that its author actually had complete contempt for you. So, I’m hoping that will be enough.”
– From an interview with Alan Moore by Kurt Amacker, published by Seraphemera Books. The lengthy interview covers the Before Watchmen prequels, the roots of his legendary dispute with DC Comics, his severed ties with former collaborators Dave Gibbons and David Lloyd, public domain characters and so much more
“It seems a bit desperate to go after a book famous for its artistic integrity. It’s a finite series. Watchmen was said to actually provide an alternative to the superhero story as an endless soap opera. To turn that into just another superhero comic that goes on forever demonstrates exactly why I feel the way I do about the comics industry. It’s mostly about franchises.”
– Alan Moore, reiterating to Fast Company his objections to DC Comics’ sprawling Before Watchmen prequels
“One of the key characteristics of the comic book medium is that it is not brought to life by just one voice. These universes are developed and evolved by multiple creative voices, over multiple generations. The influx of new stories is essential to keeping the universes relevant, current, and alive. Watchmen is a cornerstone of both DC Comics’ publishing history and its future. As a publisher, we’d be remiss not to expand upon and explore these characters and their stories. We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.”
– DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee in the same article, offering an alternate view
First off, I must acknowledge a significant omission from last week’s Before Watchmen post. I had forgotten about the agreement under which the rights to Watchmen would revert to its creators if the collected edition were out of print for over one year. Accordingly, I characterized Watchmen as work-for-hire. Because DC has never let Watchmen go out of print, as a practical matter I would argue that it’s been treated like a work-for-hire project. Nevertheless, the existence of that agreement adds another layer to the book’s history, and especially to Moore’s relationship with DC. While I don’t think it changes much of what I said, I still regret the omission.
I have mentioned previously my odd relationship with Amazing Spider-Man. I have been reading it in single issues for a while now, and as a serialized superhero comic I like it pretty well. I will probably stop reading the singles at some point, most likely after Dan Slott leaves, because I don’t feel any particular need to follow it regularly (like I do with many DC titles).
“Alan Moore has earned his frustration, his suspicions and his occasional flashes of anger. He should be listened to and learned from, not dismissed and certainly never mocked.” — Tom Spurgeon
When the comic book industry first coalesced in the late 1930s, it adopted a business model that, to put it lightly, did not put an emphasis on ethical behavior. These were publishing companies run by greedy, exploitive people who had questionable connections to gangsters or had been indicted for mail fraud. They cared little about the quality of their product, the well-being of their workers–sorry, freelancers–or seeing that anyone who contributed to their success was fairly and duly compensated.
Here we are, roughly 80 years later, and everything has changed. Whoops, I’m sorry. I mean nothing has changed. It’s still an ugly, cutthroat industry where publishers are all too happy to grab as many rights as they can to artists’ hard-won work whenever said artists are willing to take those sucker bets. It’s an industry dominated by cynical publishing ventures and easy cash grabs rather than an interest in creating long range, sustainable business models. Perhaps the worst thing about our current era is that those who have legitimate reason to complain about their mistreatment are the ones most frequently shouted down by a certain cross-section of their fans, a mercenary bunch who seem to care more for ensuring that they never, ever lose the chance to get more of the same in a timely fashion than if the people producing that same are treated with a certain amount of decency and respect.
Before Wednesday morning’s big news, I was all ready to write about the wish-fulfillment aspects of DC’s reprint program. Maybe next week.
Now, though, we’ve got Before Watchmen*, seven miniseries and a one-shot in the Seven Soldiers mode, and no doubt collection-ready. Please pardon my cynicism, but with all due respect to the impressive roster of professionals involved, this could have easily been subtitled We’re Back For More Cash.
To be clear, I understand DC wanting to make money off its intellectual property. A while ago I argued that one purpose of the current Shade miniseries is to fill another slot on bookshelves next to the rest of James Robinson’s Starman collections. Starman was one of the rare series where one writer introduced a character (Jack Knight) and took him through a series of adventures, until that character reached the natural endpoint of his life’s particular phase. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman preceded it, and Garth Ennis’ Hitman followed. (Working with writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns, Robinson tied Starman into the JSA revival as well.)