Tuesday, May 29, 2012

JMS v. WSJ

Writer Tim Marchman took in and then took on the state of modern super-comics in a widely linked-to article in The Wall Street Journal, an article in which he lambasted the industry and many of its movers and shakers. One could quibble with the specifics, but overall, Marchman seems to have it about right, and most of the things he says are the very same things comics fans, readers, retailers, critics and creators have themselves said over and over and over.

This slam on J. Michael Straczynski, a freelance comics writer who is now most often heard from in panel reports and mainstream media articles talking trash on Alan Moore, is pretty harsh, but also pretty accurate:
The first issues of Before Watchmen will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
JMS did not care for that characterization at all, and, according to Robot 6, Twitter-fougth Marchman (I don't read the Twitter).

Here's one of his tweets, as quoted at Robot 6:
Your behavior was dickish. I became a better writer after He-Man. You will always be a dick.
A poorly constructed allusion to a legendary Winston Churchill retort, or is the "I/you will" construction a coincidence?

I think the JMS is to Alan Moore as Uwe Boll is to Martin Scorcese analogy works, whether you're looking at what JMS was doing in the 1980s vs. what Alan Moore was doing in that same decade, and if you look at the work of both gentleman in the 21st century. Hell, I think it's accurate if you put 2012 JMS up against 1989 Alan Moore.

I am sure JMS has become a better writer since he was writing scripts for the old He-Man and The Masters of the Universe cartoon show—it would be unusual for a professional writer not to improve somewhat over the course of almost 30 years—but I do wonder if he feels he has become better since "One More Day," though, as that was only a few years ago?

For whatever it's worth, six-year-old Caleb enjoyed the writing on He-Man a great deal more than 35-year-old Caleb enjoyed the last dozen or so JMS-written comics he's read.


(Above: Straczynski's official DC Comics portrait; which you can see here, along with those of many other DC creators)

8 comments:

David said...

I think the analogy is unfair, as that's basically comparing the absolute start of someone's career. I don't like his comics much, but I certainly enjoyed The Real Ghostbusters and Babylon 5 more than Watchmen.

It's like describing Obama as a Chicago community organizer.

mordicai said...

Didn't JMS widely condemn the whole "Brand New Day" arc? I mean-- I'm glad other people are still mad. I am.

Caleb said...

David,

Which analogy, the Straczynski is to Moore as Boell is to Scorcese? I don't. What's Straczynski's best work? What's Moore's? Which is better? How great is the gulf between them?

As for the "He-Man" writer dig, it was obviously meant to be a dig, but it's also true. He did write He-Man. Just as Obama was a Chicago community organizer. Surely that's not all he is or was, but it's not unfair to in anyway to mention what someone's job was at one point.

As for beginning of career, I'm trying to remember what Moore's first work was...was it Halo Jones...? Or some Futureshocks shorts? Because Moore's first work was much, much better than JMS'...and it was also comics. I don't want to get too far off track here, but Moore's a comics writer who got into writing comics based on his skill at writing comics. JMS is an occasional comics writer who got into writing comics based on his experience and/or fame ("fame"...? I never watched that show about aliens he did, but I'm not a big TV person really) in another medium.

Mordicai,

Yeah. After it was published. He still wrote it and attached his name to it and, I assume, cashed his check from it. If he was really against writing it, he could have always just not wrote it. I can't imagine what the worst thing that could have happened to him for deciding against scripting Quesada-suggested plot-points would be...

Nitz the Bloody said...

To my knowledge, Uwe Boll has never done anything people have liked. JMS has Babylon 5, Rising Stars, Supreme Power, the Thor relaunch, and several good Spider-Man comics on his CV.

The Wall Street Journal writer in question basically glossed over 99% of JMS' career in order to facilitate his petty dig. If you're going to be a snob and decry large bodies of pop culture, you have to actually read/watch/play said large bodies of pop culture, otherwise you lose any claim to your elitism.

Tam said...

Oddly I spent last night reading Alan Moore's Skizz and JMS' The Twelve, two stories which are actually pretty similar in the way they're basically slightly more realistic takes on standard genre stories.
I really liked the art of The Twelve but the story just read like the work of someone who knows a lot about other comic books and tv shows but not much about anything else while Skizz was still a much better and fresher read despite being about thirty years old.

Nicholas Yankovec said...

Hmm, actually the more I think about it, the more the comparison seems apt. Both have their fan base, both have been very outspoken of their critics and both consider themselves far more talented than they actually are.

Boll, however, has actually proved himself a better (ie more profitable) filmmaker than JMS as he continues to write, direct & produce films that make money.

I personally find JMS frustrating, in that he can write well, but he can also be so bad he makes Uwe Boll look like a genius. He is the guy who wrote Dr Doom crying over 9/11 fer Pete's sake, not to mention mystical spider-totems and the Stacy/Osbourne fiasco. And yet he wrote Peter Parker so well, and the school teacher thing was inspired.

I'd still rather read JMS' Spider-Man over Bendis' Avengers anyday!

Nicholas Yankovec said...

Nitz the bloody, I don't care for Uwe Boll's work, but he does have a following, so at least some people must like his work. As for JMS' previous work, I loved the first few seasons of B5, but my god the quality dropped by the last couple of seasons and those awful tv movies. Supreme Power was indeed very good but never bloody finished.

I'm actually starting to think that a better comparison would be Michael Winner than Uwe Boll, due to the staggering differences in quality of output and controversy surrounding many projects.

Kevin Huxford said...

I have to go with those saying that the analogy was unfair. He complained about OMD after it was published shouldn't really be a distinction. He apparently was close to requesting his name removed from the last issue or two of it, he was so unhappy with the work. What's the worst that could have happened to him if he decided against completing it? Kinda irrelevant to the point, when it establishes that the work being used to judge his quality wasn't truly his work or vision.

There's a gulf between JMS and Moore, but I don't know that JMS is bad enough to rate Boll or Moore outstanding enough to rate Scorcese (though the distance there isn't so much that I'd have taken exception to it in absence of the Boll/JMS part).

I do find it interesting that you're legitimizing the use of the "community organizer" dig on Obama, though. That, like the He-Man comment, was used to demonstrate the height/limits of the man's ability or qualifications, when he had held higher political office and what others would consider more impressive responsibilities.

Though that last paragraph of mine really and truly cements for me that way too big a deal is being made of Before Watchmen, JMS and maybe even entertainment in general if that whole incident is getting debated to this extent. :)