Sunday, April 22, 2012


One of my favorite makers of comics (Mr. Brandon Graham) interviewed by one of my favorite writers about comics (Mr. Tom Spurgeon): An ideal online Q-and-A!

Blogger made its dashboard all different, and I'm having a tough time adjusting. Apologies if the fonts, line breaks and spacing are super-goofy this week. I keep editing this post, and each time I fix something, something else looks off in a different way. I wish I were wealthy enough to have a secretary I could just dictate blog posts too...

Here's Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson on J. Michael Straczynski being a jackass about Before Watchmen again...this time being the jackassiest jackass he's been about Before Watchmen so far. 

Straczynski made several stupid statements in the course of the Before Watchmen panel at last weekend's Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, according to Comic Book Resources' coverage, but the particular stupid one that Stephenson addresses in his post is the following justification for why it's okay for JMS to do Before Watchmen
Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Segal [sic] and Shuster. Worse was a lot of people." 
In other words, sure, DC may have screwed Alan Moore over during the course of the last 25 years or so, but they screwed over the guys they built their entire media empire on much, much worse 75 years ago. That's an...interesting argument for a guy who does what Alan Moore and Jerry Siegel do for a living to make. 


Kinda weird CBR still hasn't corrected the spelling of Siegel's name. I have to look up how to spell he and Shuster's last names every time I write 'em down—I just Googled them now in order to use them in this paragraph—so I know they are deceptively difficult to spell names, but that particular typo looks pretty egregious in an article dealing with the way a big publisher treats its creators, and it's been there for about a week now.  


And speaking of Before Watchmen....

The aforementioned CBR article quotes DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio as saying "I'm happy to say that every single person sitting on this stage right now as at the top of the wish list," regarding the creative teams for the Before Watchmen miniseries. 

On that stage right then were Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, Amanda Conner, Adam Hughes, Len Wein and Straczynski. 

Now, I don't really want to call DiDio a liar, so let's assume he was telling the truth for a moment. Do you think that means when he writes a list, he writes it horizontally rather than vertically?

Because I can kind of see why, if I were Dan DiDio, if I didn't much give a shit about Alan Moore, if I wanted to sell a boatload of comics and garner a ton of media attention, why I might pursue Before Watchmen, even if I knew the chances of producing a second Watchmen were infinitismal (and the chances are, because producing a second Watchmen is basically an unlikely event that just happens; you can do things you think might encourage it, but you can't necessarily just plan to publish one, or DC and all the other comics publishers would be publishing Watchmen all the time). 

The only real reason to announce Before Watchmen is exactly because of the controversy it would generate. It's an unthinkable thing for a comics publisher to do, in large part because DC itself has refrained from doing it for so very long, and thus presented it as an unthinkable thing. Before Watchmen isn't a publishing initiative, it's a PR move.

That said, I, as DiDio still need to find creators to do this thing, and while I've limited myself to somewhat amoral, anything-for-a-buck types by doing the project over the objections of the man widely considered to be the greatest living superhero comics writer, if n ot the greatest superhero comics writer of all time. Who am I to ask? 

DiDio tells us Azzarello, Bermejo, Conner, Hughes, Wein and Straczynski—plus, it's safe to assume, the other jokers writing and drawing the books, like Darwyn Cooke and Andy Kubert and whoever. 

If I were DiDio, I probably woulda started by asking folks with a similar stature and reputation to Moore, even if  they haven't worked in superhero comics before. I mean, you're the guy in charge of DC, it couldn't hurt to just ask anyone, right? So I woulda contacted Art Spiegelman and asked him (and even if he says no, you can still brag about asking: "Maus creator Art Spiegelman turns down Watchmen sequel" is, in and of itself, a big story the comics media and the bits of the mainstream media dedicated to covering comics will write and talk and post about). 

I would have reached out to Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo. I would have called Chris Ware and Dan Clowes and The Hernandez Brothers. I would have sent a letter to Dave Sim. 

Any of the above fits into an X = Alan Moore formula better than Straczynski or Wein or Cooke, and, because all of them are so far removed from superhero comics, anything they do would be somewhat monumental. 

DiDio didn't do that though. 

If we are to believe him, he didn't seek out the best comics writers in the business, those most likely to suffer the least when compared to Alan Moore, either: He didn't ask Grant Morrison, he didn't ask Neil Gaiman, he didn't ask Warren Ellis or Garth Ennis. (I would be extremely surprised if he didn't at least as Morrison, and I'm fairly certain Morrison said he was asked already, but, according to his convention statement, Straczynski was at the top of his list, not Morrison).

Nor did he seek out the most popular writers in the superhero end of his business. He didn't ask Geoff Johns or Morrison or Mark Millar or Brian Michael Bendis (It seems as if Marvel owns Bendis now, but, again, couldn't hurt to ask. Millar seems to now only be interested in comics that he can sell to Hollywood for movie adaptation, but then, they already made one Watchmen movie, so maybe he would have been game to try to write his own Watchmen in the hopes Warner Bros would make Nite-Owl: The Movie).

No, he drew up a wish list—a wish list! He could have wished for Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling and, hell, since it's wishing, why not Charles Dickens and Oprah and the Holy Spirit and William Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln?—and put J. Michael Straczynski and Len Wein at the top.

Stephenson expanded upon the saddest and most infuriating thing Straczynski said at that panel in his post, but this the part that confounded me the most:
Straczynski addressed the online criticism of Alan Moore and said he got it on an emotional level. "Alan Moore is a genius. No question," said Straczynski. "On the other hand, he's been using characters like the Invisible Man, Peter Pan, Jekyl [sic] and Hyde in what one fan basically called fan fiction -- in ways their original creators probably wouldn't have approved of. … You stand on a slippery slope when you use the moral high ground."
It confounds me because I can't figure out if Straczynski is just being an asshole, and playing dumb in order to defuse the criticism of he and other creators taking on this project, or if he is instead just the dumbest motherfucker on the planet.

Does Straczynski honestly not understand the concept of public domain? That while the Invisible Man, Peter Pan and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were created by H.G. Wells, J.M. Barrie and R. Louis Stevenson, they are no longer owned as intellectual property by anyone at all, while the characters in Watchmen were created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and are the intellectual property of DC Comics?

Does he not know that Wells, Barrie and Stevenson are all long, long dead, while Alan Moore is still alive?

When he says that trio of long-dead writers "probably wouldn't have approved of" League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls, does he not understand the difference between "probably wouldn't have" and the "definitely would not" level of approval he and DC are getting from Alan Moore?

Regardless of legality and morality, don't manners come into this at some point? Alan Moore asked you not to write something new using the characters he created, dude, and you're going ahead and doing it anyway. That's a bit different than saying J.M. Barrie might not have been into Lost Girls.

The time machine in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine was not real; Wells didn't pick up Stevenson and Barrie on his to the 1990s to visit Alan Moore and ask him not to ever write anything with any of their characters.

And if they had access to a time machine, I'm pretty sure Barrie would be a bit more upset with Disney for Jake and The Neverland Pirates and Robin Williams for Hook and the dudes who made Peter Panzerfaust and have such a long list of atrocities to try and stop that he might never even get around to talking to Moore about Lost Girls which, if J. Michael Straczynski had ever read it, which he hasn't, he would know doesn't actually use any characters from Peter Pan except as inspiration, as the book is a pornographic story that imagine real-world sexual encounters that could have conceivably served to inspire Barrie, Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum to create their signature works. It strips the fantasy of those fantasy epics and reverse-engineers them into something realistic that one might imagine they could have reverse-engineered into their stories, had they heard of them before writing them, which they hadn't.

In conclusion, J. Michael Straczynski is just awful.


Abhay makes fun of him better than I could, though.


Hooray for Chris Roberson! It's heartening to see creators taking a stand like this regarding the Big Two's treatment of their creators. I think Roberson made his stand in about as professional a way as he could, saying, basically, "I'm not comfortable excepting a paycheck from this particular company any more because of how this particular company makes its money, so I'm not going to work for them anymore. Everyone I worked with personally was pretty cool though." 


Among Roberson's complaints were DC's treatment of Siegel and Shuster's heirs and Alan Moore, so will DC hurry up and fire JMS for saying that DC totally screwed Siegel and Shuster and Alan Moore...?

By the way, Roberson is the writer who came in to clean up Straczynski's mess on Superman, after JMS left the title halfway through his stupid Superman-basically-just-walks-around story arc that no one in the whole world liked.


Now, how about a little positivity? Check out Sean T. Collins' "Positive Energy Activates Comics Elevation: Seven thoughts about the comics industry today."

I was particularly impressed by the last paragraph, where Collins makes the point that the industry has grown to the point where a reader can get all of the very specific pleasures one used to only be able to get from Marvel and DC—elaborate shared universe settings and inter-book continuity, action- and spectacle-based plotting, etc— in plenty of other places now. 

It's true, and something I never really thought of, but the mainstream, even as evidenced by the direct market, is no longer just superhero and art/alternative comics, but there's a whole huge swathe of non-superhero genre comics now. 

Here's a panel from Avengers Vs. X-Men #2 and woah, woah, woah, where the fuck did Ant-Man come from...? Is that Hank Pym in that costume? Did he quit cross-dressing as his ex-wife and return to an older costume, or is there an all-new, all-different Ant-Man and I somehow haven't heard about it...?


Rich said...

Given your comments about CBR's misspelling of "Segal" here, I feel compelled to note that it's Chris ROBERSON, not Robertson. His stuff is good. Check it out if you're not familiar with him.

Caleb said...

Why can't everyone have last names as easy to spell as "Mozzocco"...?

Thanks, I fixed all the references, I think.

I've been waiting for iZombie to end before starting to pick it up in trade, and I don't thnk I've read anything he's written yet, but I could be wront about that...and probably am.

kevhines said...

That's not an Ant Man costume...taht involves a helmet and is still being worn by Eric O'Grady in Secret Wvengers last I checked.... That's a Giant Man costume.

But to answer your question, yes Hank Pym stopped bing the Wasp, and s back to being Giant Man. Happened in Avengers Academy sometime in the last year.

snell said...

I would have been much more impressed with Roberson's stand if he hadn't had his ethical epiphany AFTER he had already cashed his paychecks for writing Superman. And if he hadn't, in his own words, "waited until after the cancellation of my book was announced" to announce that he would no longer work for DC.

There's not that much courage to declare DC unfair to Siegel and Shuster after you've actively particpiated, and it's easy enough to declare that you won't work for DC after they've already cancelled your last project.

JRC, the OWL Says Who said...

the link here is broke:
"Abhay makes fun of him better than I can, though."

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

The minimal respect I had for JMS because I liked Supreme Power has evaporated the last few weeks because the man has been the biggest jerk I've seen in a long time.

Rich said...

Understood, Caleb. I have one of those last names too. Mine gets spelled and pronounced incorrectly often.

"The minimal respect I had for JMS because I liked Supreme Power has evaporated the last few weeks because the man has been the biggest jerk I've seen in a long time."

Have to agree with this. JMS is talented, but a seriously frustrating comic creator. I suppose he's successful because he's brash and risk-acceptant, but he definitely makes a lot of choices and statements that rub me the wrong way.

Caleb said...

That's a Giant Man costume.

Really? He has antennae on his Giant Man costume...? I don't think I'll ever understand Hank Pym and his fashion choices...but I do like that costume better than his Wasp costume, which just struck me as kind of weird.

would have been much more impressed with Roberson's stand if he hadn't had his ethical epiphany AFTER he had already cashed his paychecks for writing Superman. And if he hadn't, in his own words, "waited until after the cancellation of my book was announced" to announce that he would no longer work for DC.

There's not that much courage to declare DC unfair to Siegel and Shuster after you've actively particpiated, and it's easy enough to declare that you won't work for DC after they've already cancelled your last project.

I don't know dude, that's a pretty big bridge to burn for a comics writer at his level—even if iZombie was being canceled, I think it's safe to assume he would have done more work for DC, since he had a Fairest arc in the hopper and wrote a fairly well-received Fables spin-off (DC has an endless appetite for more Fables stuff, it seems).

I was thinking about it though, and if Roberson chose to NEVER have ever wrote for DC in the first place, then his deciding not to do so again in the future wouldn't mean much.

Like, I could say "I will never write for DC Comics until they settle with the Siegels and Shusters and give Alan Moore the rights to Watchmen and also make The Red Bee Chairmen-for-Life of the Justice League," but who cares? It's not like DC was ever gonna beg me to write for 'em anyway, you know?

David, Rich,

Yeah, I kinda wish JMS would just say "I'm totally just doing this for the money" every time someone asks him about it, because all of his justifications just make him seem like a terrible, terrible person...worse than simply stating mercenary motives might have.