quote of the day
It was jarring to me. I respected and loved the work of all of them. I also liked them all on a personal but individual basis. But when I saw what the comic book industry was doing to them, I think I liked it a little less. Those men all deserved better.
– Mark Evanier, commenting on the observation by Howard Chaykin that Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and other DC artists “regarded each other with distaste, frequently bordering on genuine loathing.”
It’s stuff like this that brings home to me how screwed up the comics industry was for so many years. I understand on an intellectual level that things were bad, but hearing how it inspired jealousy and soured relationships puts it into an emotional context that I hadn’t felt before.
I’m not saying we have a utopia today, but creators do have more options if they want more than what they’re getting from work-for-hire. Creator-owned comics are not only more welcomed than ever by readers, but they’re also proving popular with people outside of comics, which can turn into real money. Again, I’m not saying we’ve reached the Promised Land yet, but I think it’s fair to say we’ve at least left Egypt.
I’m reading Glen Weldon‘s Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, and I’m still in the chapters on the Golden Age. What’s struck me was just how quickly Superman became a national phenomenon. Within a year of his first appearance in an anthology book (that he wouldn’t be on the cover of for another five issues after the first), there was a syndicated newspaper strip about him. According to Weldon, Time magazine called the character “the No. 1 juvenile vogue in the U.S.” Within two years, there was a radio show. Within three, Max Fleischer’s studio was making animated short films. And then there were all the dolls, games, puzzles, and coloring books. That was a stunning amount of success in a very short amount of time.
“I’m obviously ending my run with a little sadness because I love these characters, every single one of them. But I’m walking away feeling very proud of what we’ve done and very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many fellow creators. It’s that collaboration, and every reader out there, who have made this a truly special experience. It’s hard to imagine a GREEN LANTERN universe without characters like Atrocitus, Larfleeze, Saint Walker, the Indigo Tribe or the rest of the gang anymore. And I can’t count how many Lantern t-shirts of all colors I continue to see.”
“When I wrote Typhoid Mary, there were some strong female protagonists in comics, but I didn’t like the gender garbage bins that female extras went into: wife, bimbo, good girl, slut, witch etc. But men were often disposable in the same way: lunkheads, etc. Now I see plenty of strong females in comics. But both men and women in comics still get used as ‘cannon fodder’ (I am guilty of this myself) where a one-dimensional male or female is needed to play a stereotype and disposed of. But the female leads in their own books, the ones I’ve read, like Batgirl and Wonder Woman and Batwoman are very strong characters.”
“I don’t think Marvel or DC are racist, systemically, nor do I think that anyone there is, either. I am friends with lots of people at both companies and to a person, they’re terrific. Ultimately, people will hire the people that they know and in order to get to know them, you need access to them. I got my access through my day job as a magazine editor in Manhattan. Plus, I’m a dazzling urbanite. But if you’re a black kid living in Detroit or Tampa or Oakland, how do you get that access? How do you know which convention is the best for meeting editors? How do you know which bar to go to?
More importantly, if you’re that black kid (or Hispanic kid or woman of any color) why do you even want to make comics? The end product of decades of stories not told for a diverse audience is this: if the stories are not for you, you won’t read them; and if you don’t read them, why would you want to make them?”
– Marc Bernardin, who has written such comics as Static Shock,
The Authority and Wolverine, reflecting on the current discussion about the lack of black writers at Marvel and DC
“This is the first week of Black History Month, a four-week celebration and remembrance of the significant events and people of the African diaspora. For many, myself included, it’s a month to reflect on where we’ve been, as a people and as a nation, and to contemplate exactly where it is we’re going. In terms of the comic book industry, an obvious interest and passion of mine, there is one glaring and sobering fact that needs our attention: There is currently not a single black writer working on a monthly series for either of the two biggest comic book publishers in the United States, and precious few working for any of the others.”
– Joe Hughes of ComicsAlliance, delivering an eye-opening assessment of the lack of black writers at DC Comics and Marvel
Comic Book Resources columnist Hannibal Tabu points out that Marvel hasn’t had a black writer since Reginald Hudlin’s tenure ended on Black Panther in 2009. What’s more, “With Dark Horse Presents, Dark Horse has paid more black people in comics in the last year or so than DC and Marvel have done in many, many years.”
“Comics can do a lot to be more accessible. A whole lot of that is — well, there’s this sort of weird arc over the last 20 years of thinking that these things would never be collected, and that we were writing exclusively for 36-year-old men who read comics every week. At this point, I think the price point is at such a place and the content is at such a place that we can’t afford to do that anymore. I think Issue 788 of whatever book wouldn’t be a problem at all if Issue No. 788 was written in a way that was satisfying to new and old readers alike. I think it’s really difficult to do, but I think it’s possible. I think we as an industry fell into this pattern of not caring about new readers anymore. There’s a way that you can do it that isn’t the clumsy, awkward way that it used to be done where characters refer to themselves in the third person, thinking back on who they are and how they came to be. You don’t have to write every comic as if it’s the first comic someone’s ever read, but you do have to write as though you would like new people to read your comic — which is kind of what Hawkeye is all about. How clean can I make this? How much like The Rockford Files can you go? It’s not a show like Lost where you have to see it every week, or a show like The Wire where you really have to watch and pay attention closely every week. Rockford had a setup, then a riff, and that is very much how superhero comics are nowadays. So there’s no reason that we should be exclusionary. People love it. I mean, Avengers is the third biggest movie of all time. It hits a cultural sweet spot. It’s just that comics need to get better at not being so … comic-y.”
“The main characters are Wiccan and Hulkling, a young gay couple who have inspired a lot of love and a lot of NSFW Tumblr art. There’s also Kid Loki from my last book, Miss America and a female Hawkeye. Plus there’s Noh-Varr, who’s sort of an alien hipster. The way some kids are obsessed with Japan, he’s obsessed with Earth. David Bowie was the primary influence on Noh-Varr, specifically The Man Who Fell to Earth, a splash of Ziggy and a lot of lithe sexuality. Now Bowie’s back too. On any scale I care about, Bowie is a superhero.”
– writer Kieron Gillen, explaining Marvel’s new Young Avengers to readers of The Guardian
“Seeing lots of ‘that’s how it is in this business,’ stuff in regards to the day’s news. It really isn’t, and it certainly shouldn’t be. To be a little more direct: the way DC treats a lot of their freelancers is absolutely abhorrent. When it happened to me on SUPERGIRL, I didn’t say much, because I didn’t want to dwell on the negative. But when you see it happen to so many good people, and the damage it does to their careers, their incomes, etc… it’s just not okay. I don’t understand the need for it, & I wish it were otherwise. I love DC, love the characters, & I know I did some of my best work there. And I’m VERY happy for my friends who have been successful there. But I would tell any creator — especially newer, younger ones — to be extremely careful in doing business there.”
– Nick Spencer, who was abruptly removed from Supergirl in 2010, reacting to Monday’s news that DC Comics had replaced newly announced writers Robert Venditti and Jim Zubkavich on Constantine and Birds of Prey, respectively, before their first issues had debuted
“What makes [Superman] interesting other than that he’s really, really strong? That question led me to want to redefine Clark in ways that made him more interesting and more flawed as a person. Not in a dark, mean, cynical way, because that’s way too easy. But as a true outsider whose heart is vulnerable. I wanted to emphasize the loneliness of a kid growing up knowing just how different he was from everyone else, who had to keep his distance for their protection and his own.”
– J. Michael Straczynski, on his approach to Superman: Earth One
That’s from a couple of months back, but it’s stuck with me. In the shadow of Man of Steel and questions like the one Gail Simone posed a while ago, I’ve been thinking lately about Superman and what it is audiences want from him.
I enjoyed Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Lex Luthor: Man of Steel for its fascinating take on Luthor and why he opposes Superman so much. From Luthor’s point of view, Superman is just one bad day away from being the worst threat the world has ever seen. The problem is that perspective has become the way all of humanity sees Superman in the DC Universe, especially in the New 52. People just don’t trust the guy.
“I’ve seen more than a few well known comics professionals pitch projects on Kickstarter or Indiegogo have their campaigns fail. They either didn’t do any promotion and just expected their “celebrity” to carry them. Others just threw a random concept up and didn’t talk about why they thought it should be made, why they felt it was important. Kickstarter, to me, is almost like a barn raising where the community gets together to help one another. I pledge to a lot of projects because of that as well.”
– Jamal Igle, discussing his Kickstarter-funded comic Molly Danger
Totally agree! I review a lot of Kickstarter pitches for my biweekly Kickstand column on Comic Book Resources, and I have seen plenty of half-baked pitches. Often the idea seems very good, but there is no indication of what the comic looks like or how the creator plans to publish and promote it. When you’re asking people to part with their money, you have to give them a good reason. I also like Igle’s comment about pledging to a lot of projects; I suspect that beyond just being a good citizen, this offers creators the opportunity to see a Kickstarter drive from the consumer side, which would offer valuable perspective.
“In terms of 20th-century popular culture, he captures the notion of a Platonic ideal of the good. When Superman is done well, I am not embarrassed to call him a beautiful idea.”
– Prof. Benjamin Saunders, author of Do the Gods Wear Capes?, suggesting to The Observer that the reason for the Man of Steel’s enduring popularity is his embodiment of goodness
“When it comes to art, and especially a style of art, you can’t be wrong. If you like it, it is good. Really. That’s why there isn’t much point in seeking out validation from an ‘expert’ taste-maker. Hang on, what about technique? Surely, they can pass judgement on an artist’s technique, right? Yes, it might be possible to discern someone’s relative proficiency with a brush, but technique alone is not art. I’ll talk more about that later. So does all this mean that we shouldn’t look at the art we like critically? Of course not, and I’ll talk about that later, too.”
– Joshua Middleton, firing back at critics who argue that one style of art is objectively better than another.
To be clear, Middleton doesn’t believe that all criticism is worthless, and he explains as much in his post. He just thinks that criticism serves a specific purpose, but that critics sometimes allow their opinions to creep outside of the areas where they’re genuinely useful: like discussing proficiency with a particular technique or the artist’s ability to accomplish her goals.
It’s a thought-provoking, heartfelt read and the first in hopefully a series of articles Middleton plans to write on the subject.
(Image from Space in Text)
“One of the greatest things about working in digital is the sheer disconnect between comic book professionals and webcomic professionals — this gargantuan gulf I had no idea existed. Because the myth among us comic book folk is that webcomics guys, ah, yeah there’s a couple of them making a little bit of money, but by and large they’re all losing their shirts. You know: little kids doing their little thing on the side, that’s the myth. And the reality of it is, no, actually a lot of guys are making a decent living doing this, a lot of guys. And it doesn’t mean everybody can, but it means that there’s a lot more to that, there’s a lot more money in that ecosphere than you dreamed, and some guys are making really good money doing that stuff. And while making really good money is for me not the goal, it’s just to make enough money to keep doing it, the idea that it can be done is great. And what’s also great about the webcomic community is that I have yet to encounter any sense of selfishness, any sense of proprietary ownership, any sense of trade secrets and people being very hush hush with what they’re doing, because that’s stupid. Comic books tend to do that because we’re selling to an audience of 90,000 people, but among the webcomics guys they seem to get the fact that the potential audience is 6 billion people. There’s room for all of us out there. We’re not worried about competition yet among each other.”
– Mark Waid, discussing the financial aspects of digital comics, in a wide-ranging interview with Toucan that addresses his 25-year career, his approach to Daredevil and the Hulk, collaboration and more
“He’s not Superman. Spider-Man doesn’t always win. He’s us. We do our best, but sometimes we fall short. What makes him heroic is that he stays on the right path. There’s a victory in this story for Peter if you’re willing to see it. Any superhero can look heroic in the winner’s circle, when they’re adored and showered with praise. But when you’re in a losing battle, when the world’s against you, when everyone thinks you’re a menace, but you do the right thing anyway … that’s when you’re better than a superhero. That’s when you’re Peter Parker.”
“… the sentiment he’s complaining about is invariably the oldest one there is: ‘The first issue has to give me a reason to buy the second issue, and it didn’t.‘ Yeah: that’s not a ‘trend’ or a ‘meme’ or a ‘fad’— that’s the job. That’s always been the job. That ‘trend’ started at the dawn of the enterprise.”