Monday, August 08, 2011

This is why we can't have nice things: The week in comics controversies

As a peer of mine said recently after suffering through a few particularly charged comment threads, it seems like the comics news of the past week and a half or so was specifically designed to bring the a-holes out. Race in superhero comics and movies, the treatment of female creators and characters by one of the Big Two superhero publishers, creators rights and the unfortunate tension between some readers' desires to see Marvel comics behave more like Spider-Man than the Roxxon Corp and other readers' desires to not have anything as nebulous as law, ethics or morality threaten their supply of fourth generation riffs on Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko many opportunities to say something dumb on the Internet this week!

Now if I were a better blogger, with more concern for the preferences and reading habits of my readers, I would have commented on some of these controversies (and some of these "controversies") as they arose, in a timely manner, and in shorter, individual posts. But that's not my way. Why say something sharp and succinct in a half-dozen, 500-word posts over the course of a week when you could just save it all up and post an interminable, rambling 5,000 word post, after all?

So here are some thoughts on some of the much-talked about subjects over the course of the last week or so (plus something on a weird Twitter fight, which I just found amusing).

Laurence “Larry” Fishburne will apparently be playing the part of Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White in the upcoming Superman movie, Man of Steel.

Fishburne is a black dude. White is a white guy.

The LA Times story points that fact out, the Entertainment Weekly story does not. A few folks have connected the casting of a black dude to play a white dude in a superhero movie to this week’s big news about one of the alternate universe Spider-Men now being a half-black, half-Hispanic, not-at-all-white guy.

The lovely and talented Jill Pantozzi of (former Caleb paymasters) Blog@Newsarama, for example, posted that “the announcement is "going to be a hot button topic,” and noted that it came less than a day after Marvel’s new “casting” of the new secret ID of the new Ultimate Spider-Man.

I admit reading through all the comments (Please note: Never, ever, ever read through all the comments in a comment thread at Blog@Newsarama, unless you’re moderating it), primarily to see which alias-having douchebag would be the first person to say, “Will they have to change the character’s name to Perry Black?”

I was pleased to see that no one had made such a remark, making this the first and only time I’ve actually been proud of the pool of people who comment on Blog@ threads (Not that there’s not a whole lot of stupidity shared anonymously in there! Including a link to a head-shaking comment from John Byrne comparing the casting to blackface, which doesn’t make any sense…wouldn’t that be casting a white dude as Ron Troupe, but making him wear make-up to play him…?)

Personally, I was a little surprised that anyone at all even thought to raise an eyebrow at the casting, as this sort of “colorblind” casting of relatively minor characters in live-action superhero narratives is becoming more-or-less de rigueur, and has yet to lead to the rending of garments or the burning down of theaters.

Think of the Smallville TV show, which started in 2001, casting a black actor Sam Jones to play Silver Age ginger Pete Ross, or 2003’s Daredevil having enormous black man Michael Clarke Duncan play enormous white man Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk (That role shoulda went to Steven Segal in a fat suit and bald cap! It’s not like even that controversial casting woulda hurt the movie any!), or Halle Berry as more-often-than-not white lady Catwoman in the 2004 Catwoman (Although Eartha Kitt did offer precedent for a not-white lady dressing up in cat ears and purring), or Idris Elba playing the space alien Heimdall in this year’s Thor (Oh wait, people did totally freak out about that one, huh?).

Anyway, it’s hard to imagine any noteworthy statements about race in America, superhero narratives or modern cinema being made by casting a black person in a white role in a Superman movie until they cast a black person as Superman…or maybe as Lois Lane or even Lex Luthor (although those two are among the few supporting characters in a superhero movie the general public would even have opinions on; they could have had a lady of any race play Carol Ferris in Green Lantern, hell they coulda had a dude play Hal Jordan’s love interest Carl Ferris, and I doubt anyone other than Green Lantern comics readers would even notice/care).

Personally, I just found the news of Fishburne’s casting amusing, as I immediately imagined the actor leaning over the sink in his bathroom, looking intently at his reflection in the mirror, and saying “Great Caesar’s ghost!” over and over again, trying different inflections and choosing different syllables to accent.

As amusing as I find that image, I also like the idea of a line of doughy, white, middle-aged character actors in a long, winding line outside of an open casting call for Perry White, each of them quietly, nervously rehearsing the lines “Great Caesar’s ghost” and “And don’t call me chief!” and, if they make it past the first cut, maybe being asked to say “Olsennnnn--!”

2.) So hey, how about that black Spider-Man, huh?

It looks like Marvel Entertainment managed to get a spoiler/announcement of the identity of Ultimate Spider-Man II into a national newspaper, plus got some douchebag conservative pundits to freak out about it and some clueless TV news talking heads to talk about it while inflating it’s importance (they didn’t kill off and replace the “real” not-real Spider-Man, but one of the several alternate, less-real not-real Spider-Men duh), plus both Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (and perhaps some comedians whom I don’t watch too) to make fun of those pundits and talking heads, in addition to the usual blogs and comics news outlets talking about the latest development in their floundering Ultimate Comics line of books.

Anyway you look at that, it’s a win for Marvel Entertainment, so congratulations to The Corporate Entity Formerly Known As Marvel Comics!

I really, really, really don’t think this is a big deal at all, in part because it’s the same old diversity-through-deputizing-a-minority-to-temporarily-fill-in-for-a-white-superhero strategy that the Big Two have been doing since…I don’t know who came first, Green Lantern John Stewart or Iron Man James Rhodes…? And how many decades ago was that, exactly…three? Four?

The only twist here is that they killed off the white hero, making this at least seem permanent, although writer Brian Michael Bendis has previously brought Gwen Stacy and Norman “Green Goblin” Osborne back from the dead in his Ultimate Spider-Man saga, so while the hero-coming-back-to-life move isn’t as frequently employed in the Ultimate Universe as it is in the Marvel Universe, there’s certainly precedent for eventually un-killing off Peter Parker. Well there's that twist, and the fact that this isn’t the prime Spider-Man, but one of the sub-Spider-Men. Miles Morales will be the prime sub-Spider-Man though, more prominent than the Marvel Adventures one, or any of the many one-off or rarely used Spider-Men, so that’s something, I guess.

Still, I think this move would have been important and more worthy of the attention it got if Brian Michael Bendis would have launched Ultimate Spider-Man with a half-black, half-hispanic Miles Morales (or a half-black, half-hispanic Peter Parker). As is, this is just one more example of some stale comics-selling/story-telling aspect of the Big Two super-universes being introduced to the Ultimate Universe, which was launched and originally sold as a distinct shared superhero setting devoid of all the done-to-death elements of the DCU and Marvel Universe.

Some thoughts…

—I can’t tell you how glad I am that Sara Pichelli is the artist who is going to be drawing the upcoming adventures of the new Ultimate Spidey, and has thus been getting some limelight and ink this week.

Pichelli is an incredible artist, whose work was a refreshing blast of fresh aesthetic, um, air the first time I encountered it (at the beginning of Kathryn Immonen’s aborted run on the canceled third volume of the Runaways comic). She’s done a few little things for Marvel here and there since, and someone smart at the publisher eventually gave her this swell gig.

Say what you will about Marvel, they do a pretty decent job of scouting and developing new talent.

If you haven’t read any of her work— Runaways, Namora #1 and Pixie Strikes Back are all decent enough places to sample it—do click on her name in the paragraph up there and check out her blog.

—I have two great fears about the new direction for the Ultimate Spider-Man character and franchise. The first is that sales will plummet after the initial to boom in interest (provided there is a boom in interest that will be reflected in sales of Ultimate Spider-Man #1, given that the character was actually introduced in the fourth-issue of some dumb miniseries with a dumb title that has been getting bad reviews), something which seems rather inevitable.

I say that dwindling sales are inevitable not only because all comic sales tend toward entropy and it’s really, really rare for an unpopular book to climb in sales and maintain them for long, or to steadily inch upwards instead of steadily inching (or straight up falling) downwards, but also because the Ultimate line in general and Ultimate Spider-Man in particular have been selling worse and worse since the Ultimatum event, which lead to the re-branding of the line as Ultimate Comics, a 33% increase in the pric eof each issue and the relaunching of several titles, including Ultimate Spider-Man.

Now, if Ultimate Spider-Man continues to sell worse and worse, and eventually gets t the point that Marvel decides to scrap it (or even scrap the whole line) and this happens while there’s a person of color starring in Spider-Man instead of the traditional white kid, I worry that publishers, retailers and/or fans will link the two in a causal relationship.

That is, if Ultimate Spider-Man gets cancelled in two or three years, and if Miles Morales is still the title character, the wisdom could emerge that Ultimate Spider-Man failed because no one wants to read about a half-black, half-Hispanic teenage superhero.

—My other fear is that Brian Michael Bendis might write the character the way Garth Ennis wrote The Lime in The Pro, only not for parodic effect. Despite his considerable talent and even more considerable popularity, Bendis is a writer with quite a few rather evident weaknesses (his tendency to write in 88 pages something that could be written better in 22, for example, or his difficulty in ending a storyline or resolving a conflict, for another), and perhaps his greatest, most evident is the way that every single character he writes inevitably sounds the same—they talk in the same cadence, with the same grammar, the same vocabulary and the same slang. Every character Bendis writes tends to sound like an actor reading a line of a script written by Brian Michael Bendis, which, obviously, makes for awfully boring comics now and then, and pretty poor escapism (This tick of Bendis’ is awfully perplexing too, given that even characters like Ben Grimm or Doctor Doom, characters with such particular voices that their speech patterns seem to dictate the shape of their dialogue to all their other writers, still come out sounding like Bendis characters when Bendis writes them).

So part of me worries that Miles Morales and his family and neighbors are just going to sound like every other Bendis character. And another part of me worries that Bendis is going to try so hard to distinguish Morales’ voice from Ultimate Peter Parker’s that the dialogue is going to seem affected to the point of offensive.

Maybe Marvel should hire that guy who wrote the short-lived series The Crew, about black, white and Hispanic superheroes operating in New York City, to co-write this with Bendis. Who was that…Ah, Christopher Priest. Yeah, Marvel should totally hire him. And then get to work collecting his Black Panther run in trade, because that shit is taking me forever to track down in back-issues.

Well, in all seriousness, no sarcasm, good luck with this one, Bendis; I honestly don’t want you to screw it up.

—Bendis deserves credit for staying on Ultimate Spider-Man for as long as he has; he has been writing the title for about 11 years now, for somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 issues, if you count up all of USM, the team-up title featuring Ultimate Spider-Man, and the various miniseries.

I read it for maybe eight or nine of those years, and during that time it was the most consistent super-comic available, due in large part to the commitment of Bendis and his initial artistic collaborator, Mark Bagley. At its best, it was pretty great, and at its worst it was still better than average, and I’d likely be reading it still if Marvel hadn’t provided such an enticing jumping off point as relaunching it as a $3.99/22-page comic.

Even though I haven’t read it since the first volume ended and it was relaunched with the goofy title of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, I’m still a little disappointed that it ended the way it did, with Peter Parker apparently dying in battle while still in high school.

A long, long time ago, when I was still reviewing comics for Newsarama as part of their Best Shots review team, one of my fellow writers (Michael C. Lorah, I’m 89% sure) mentioned that he thought the ideal way for Marvel and Bendis to have approached Ultimate Spider-Man was to look at it in a way similar to Dave Sim’s Cerbeus run. That is, a 300-issue, finite run that would tell a complete, epic, life story of Spider-Man, with an overall beginning, middle and end.

Ultimate Spider-Man, by virtue of not being the “real” Spider-Man, and thus able to change, to age and even to die, without regard to maintaining a merchandising empire, was a rare, hell, maybe even unique opportunity to essentially tell the Spider-Man story over, in a careful, intentional, rigorously-planned way, to tell the Spider-Man story in a way that Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and John Romita never could because Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley and their partners didn’t have to keep it going forever.

Bendis is already well over two-thirds of the way there, but it looks like they’ve abandoned that route, as Ultimate Spider-Man didn’t really progress in real time, or even at a faster pace than regular Spider-Man comics, and, while there were dramatic changes throughout Bendis run, I didn’t really get a sense of a massive, novel-like story so much as a secondary Spider-Man comic.

It’s still an incredible achievement in a lot of ways, as there aren’t really many characters that have been guided that directly by a single writer for that long in modern superhero comic books, but Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man doesn’t look like it’s going to end up being Spider-Man-as-Cerebus after all.

—I was also going to mention Miguel O’Hara, the star of Spider-Man 2099, a book set in a possible future that Marvel published between 1992 and 1996 (the costume of which made it into 1999 cartoon series Spider-Man Unlimited fairly in tact). Between the time I started putting this post together and the time I was ready to post it, however, Ty Templeton posted “Understanding Ultimate Spider-Man,” a four-panel strip breaking down the resulting tempest in a teapot (Actually, it’s more a tempest in a tea cup), which included a reference to the half-Hispanic alternate universe Spider-Man from almost 20 years ago now.

So I’ll link to that instead. It’s well worth a read. Not only is it funny in its own right, but I got a kick out of seeing Templeton, one of my favorite superhero artists, drawing a whole bevy of superhero characters, including favorites like Steel, Cassandra Cain and Conner Hawke.

3.) After a predictable and persistent amount of online reaction to something DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio said at Comic-Con International regarding why the company’s creative roster for September’s relaunch has so many fewer women involved than the pre-relaunch comics, he and his co-publisher Jim Lee released a short statement.

You can read it in full here, but among the things the pair stated was that
Over the past week we’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know, first and foremost, that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously.
And, in summation, that
We’ll have exciting news about new projects with women creators in the coming months and will be making those announcements closer to publication. Many of the above creators will be working on new projects, as we continue to tell the ongoing adventures of our characters. We know there are dozens of other women creators and we welcome the opportunity to work with them.
Yes, it’s probably a good thing that DC released that statement, and any of the many who complained about DiDio’s statement are certainly entitled to counting even that acknowledgement as something of a win. It seems especially significant because the sort of criticism the publisher was under is the sort they and their main competitor are often under, and they usually don’t bother to respond at all (or to quietly correct course, with the results filtering out in the books themselves a few years later).

Or, as Sean T. Collins said,
I’m impressed by DC’s response to the recent debate over the number of women creators it employs. Anyone who says “Well they had to say something, it was bad PR” has obviously not been following the comics industry very long.
From where I sit, it does look like DiDio said something kind of stupid, maybe something he didn’t even mean to say or even believe himself, and the stupidity of the statement was pointed out widely enough, and/or elegantly and persuasively enough that either DiDio himself thought better of it and issued the statement, or someone higher up the corporate ladder made him do it.

Either way, a Big Two publisher addressing negative PR the way other, not-comics companies might address negative PR is a big enough change from the norm that it’s worth noting and, in some quarters, celebrating.

The statement had listed creators Gail Simone, Amy Reeder, Felicia Henderson, Fiona Staples, Amanda Connor, G. Willow Wilson and Nicola Scott as fan favorite creators hired in recent years to write and draw the adventures of the world’s greatest heroes, and the closing mentioned that “many of the above creators will be working on new projects.” So far, only Simone has had a project announced, although Nicola Scott would seem an obvious byline to see again real soon (she’s one of DC’s best artists, and one of the few artists whose name hasn’t appeared in post-relaunch solicitations yet). There was also the very vague, “We know there are dozens of other women creators,” (Dozens! Holy God, can you, as a comics reader, even imagine how small the comics-creating talent pool must look to DiDio and Lee if they think of women creators in terms of dozens instead of hundreds? How many male creators are there? Scores? Jesus.), and “we welcome the opportunity to work with them.”

I sincerely hope this leads to some good comics, and not simply calling up the four or five female freelancers already in the rolo-dex, immediately okaying whatever they pitch and publishing ASAP just to shut complainers up.

Because poorly-made comics by female creators can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, so that at Comic-Con International 2013 DiDio can tell a fan, “We put G. Willow Wilson, Amanda Conner and Sandra Hope on the new ongoing monthly Artemis and Female Furies, but we were only moving 20,000 units to retailers a month, so obviously the market won’t support female creators.”

4.) Speaking of DC’s relaunch, Graeme McMillan caught a weird Twitter slap fight between Superboy and Teen Titans writer Scott Lobdell, one of the big “gets” the publisher made in assembling their new creative roster, at least in terms of someone-who-wasn’t-already-working-on-their-comics-before-the-relaunch, and Voodoo writer Ron Marz.

Essentially, Lobdell criticizes the quality of Marz’s tweeting. Which, um, whatever—I’m kinda worried about the implication that the guy writing Superboy and Teen Titans is defending the Tea Party, though, as that hardly comforts one that said writer is going to get teenage characters and be able to sell them to young, brand-new readers.

That’s all I was gonna say on the matter, but I thought I’d check out Lobdell’s twitter feed for evidence of vocal Tea Party support, but didn’t see any before I got bored by reading things like
Do you have my gmail account? I am not on Facebook any more
LOL! My favorite post of the day!
Fire away!
Snuck out of Deadlineville to see #RISEOFTHEPLANET OF THE APES! Amber and I went bananas for it! Apes Rule/Humans Drool!

Scott Lobdell is right; Ron Marz’s tweets are just too boring and banal and don’t rise to the level of art that the above do.

God I hate social media so much. I think I’m gonna start tweeting myself, so I can share 140-character reviews of the stupid direct-to-DVD movies I watch on my laptop while I draw my crappy comics…

5.) Okay, let’s get serious again for a second. Or quarter of an hour.

This summer there were four big, huge, expensive would-be blockbusters and franchise tent pole movies based on Big Two superheroes. Three of them were based on characters and concepts co-created by the late, great Jack Kirby. Millions and millions and millions of dollars were made, in the last few months alone, thanks to films based on creations of Jack Kirby.

Forget the box office profit from Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger for a second, and all of the Marvel comics that have been published this summer for a second. Forget even the Cap and Thor video games based on the movies that were released.

Think instead about how many millions of dollars have been made over the course of the last few months just on Cap and Thor toys sold at Wal-Mart, on Captain America doughnuts and slushies at Dunkin’ Donuts, on Cap and Thor-branded fruit snacks.

The amount of money being made on those characters and concepts, created by Jack Kirby working with Stan Lee (Thor, X-Men) and Joe Simon (Captain America) is truly staggering, and truly beyond my comprehension. Is it in the billions? Maybe. Definitely, I’d say, when you factor in all the other movies of the past 11 or 12 years (two Fantastic Fours, two Hulks, two Iron Men, four other X-Men) and all of their attendant merchandising. And then you factor in the comics themselves.

However else one may look at it, and if I’ve learned anything this week, it’s that a lot of people—albeit mostly one’s afraid to assign their names to their opinions and thus perhaps not even really people at all—look at Jack Kirby’s relationship to Marvel and Disney and money they make these days in all sorts of weird ways, this at least seems inarguable: Jack Kirby gave Marvel a gaggle of geese that lay golden eggs.

So why do Kirby’s heirs have to go to court in order to share in those profits? How hard would it be to pass out some of those golden eggs to the children of the guy who made it all possible in the first place?

This has been a topic of conversation the past week or two because of the latest rulings on the matter, and because of what some smart, influential people had to say on the matter. Concerning those people, here’s comics artist Steven Bissette and here’s Tom Spurgeon.

Two very lively comment threads I read on the subject were this one at Robot 6 (in which Spurgeon does most of the best arguing) and this one at The Beat (in which Kurt Busiek come out as the hero, I think).

While I linked to those two threads, I should perhaps caution the curious about actually reading through them all: It will take a lot of time, and, when you’re done, you will probably be a mixture of angry and depressed.

The thing that depresses me the most is that, as Spurgeon has said repeatedly, it’s an injustice that is just so easy for Marvel to right, or at least address. That doesn’t mean they have to just give back all the copyrights, but, at the very least, they could give Kirby’s heirs a token, good-will amount of financial reward, and go out of their way to make sure Kirby gets the credit he deserves for his contribution to—well, to their existence. I say token, but considering how much money is being made off of Kirby creations and co-creations right now, something that would be painless and hardly noticed by the Disney/Marvel juggernaut would likely be perceived as extremely generous. Stan Lee gets something like a million dollars a year just for being Stan Lee (although I believe he had to fight in court for that as well)…how hard would it be to give Kirby’s heirs something similar?

Not hard at all.

The aspect of this I’ve thought most about is the one that really got so much of the conversation/argumentation online going—the call for a boycott of Marvel. Or, really, Marvel and Disney, I suppose, since the former owns the latter and the two are now one.

As a consumer, it wouldn’t be all that hard for me to do, as Marvel has pretty much started boycotting me when they raised the prices of most of their books that I was reading 33%. I haven’t been buying very many Marvel comics lately, and just added two to my pull-list for the first time in years: Captain America & Bucky (co-created by Jack Kirby) and Daredevil (not created by Kirby, but he’ll be fighting Captain America in the next issue!).

I don’t think it would do any good at all in terms of changing Disney/Marvel’s policy on rewarding Kirby’s heirs, but that’s not a reason to not do something—I don’t think the fact that I don’t eat meat or animal products alone is going to lead to global vegetarianism or the end of the factory farm system in my lifetime, but I still don’t eat the stuff because I believe its wrong and don’t want to support something I think is wrong. (This may be a bad example, or a terrible one; basically I just wanted to say that opting out of financially supporting negative behavior shouldn’t be dependent on the likelihood of one’s personal option eradicating that negative behavior).

It would be easy and painless for me to drop those two Marvel books, and to quit buying trades from the publisher, as I still occasionally do. It would be harder and more painful not to go see any of their movies, and avoiding Disney altogether would be an incredible challenge given the size of that leviathan (plus, I have nieces now!), but still do-able.

But then I wrestle with issues like whether or not taking a stand like that over the publisher’s treatment of Kirby would mean not only not supporting them, but not supporting the work of artists like Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin and Chris Samnee, or if Daredevil sells less, if I’m casting a vote for something other than comics of that level of quality from the publisher.

And that’s just as a consumer. What about as a semi-professional blogger and comics critic, as a writer-about-comics? Is it ethical of me to not pay attention to Marvel? It’s easy to, say, not review the Cowboys & Aliens comic (Three-word movie review: Olvia Wilde is pretty) or those trashy Bluewater biography-sploitation comics, but Marvel’s a little over half of the existing direct market, and co-own the very concept of “superhero.” How does one not read, or at least pay attention to, Marvel and still do an adequate job of covering super-comics…? (This post at Trouble With Comics got me thinking along those lines; I understand where the author’s coming from, but I’m not sure I can do that with where I am with my writing-about-comics right now. I don’t really wanna give up on superheroes, because there’s still more bad writing about them than good writing about them).

I don’t know.

I wish someone else would make these decisions for me. Like Marvel, for example, deciding to give Kirby’s heirs one of the many golden eggs his flock lays for them every year. Or, if the publisher itself won’t or can’t make that decision now that Disney owns them, and they have their own interests with copyrights, then I wish a creator with the clout and pull could shame Marvel into doing the right thing.

Imagine if all of the publisher’s so-called “architects,” for example, got together, talked it over with Joe Quesada, and hammered out a letter saying something along the lines of “Hey guys, we think you should give the Kirbys X amount of dollars per years, and make sure all Kirby creations get cited as such when you use them, and if you don’t do this within X number of months, we’re quitting en masse and we’re gonna say why we’re quitting to anyone who will listen, and then we’re gonna go across the street and see if we can write torture porn comics for the Distinguished Competition because it’s not like they’re gonna say no to Brian Michael Bendis and company.”

Hell, I bet Bendis could do that himself, and would stir Marvel to action. Bendis could, presumably, write his own ticket at DC (look at the leeway they gave JMS, and his comics sold like hell and no one even likes his work!), so I think it would be of relatively little risk for him to threaten leaving Marvel if they didn’t do right by the Kirbys.

Basically I just want Bendis and/or his fellow Marvel creators to take care of this for the rest of us because I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know what I can do. I hate this, and wish Marvel would just make it go away by correcting a decades-old wrong to the best of their ability at this point in time.


Well, here's a Sarah Pichelli drawing of an un-zipped Catwoman flicking off Batman, to cheer me up: Hmm...still sad...Maybe Richard Sala's Peculia...?No! Still sad...and getting scared...! Um, let's see, Google Image result for "Paul Pope" and "cute girl"...?..."James Kochalka" and "unicorn"...?..."Mike Allred" and "awesomeness"...?Nothing's working! (Although that piece that came up under the last search is kind of awesome) about "Kirsten Dunst's smiling face"...?Okay, that' s a little better, but I'm still kind of bummed about...oh, wait...Ha ha! That's good stuff right there.

Okay, I think I'm gonna be all right after all...


The images from this post are, in order, a portion of the cover of DC Comics' Showcase Presents: Superman Family Vol. 2 (2008), and was originally drawn by Curt Swan for 1957's Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #25, although it has been somewhat altered by myself, my printer and piece of tape; a portion of the cover of Marvel Comics' Ultimate Fallout #4 (2011) by Mark Bagley; a portion of a panel from Image Comics' original graphic novel The Pro (2002), written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti; a three-panel sequence from DC's Oracle: The Cure miniseries (2009), written by Kevin Vanhook and drawn by Julian Lopez, Fernando Pasarin and Bit; the cover for X-Men #58 (1996), which was drawn by Anthony Winn and Danny Miki; a two-panel sequence from Evil Twins' Comic Book Comics #5 (2011), written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Ryan Dunlavey; and the images from the cheer-myself-up portion of this post are all created by the artists cited, found by Google Image, and hopefully not owned by anyone who has a problem with me repurposing them like this. The last one, while not cited, is obviously the work of James Kochalka, and is the cover of his upcoming Top Shelf comic, Dragon Puncher Island.


Unknown said...

As a lawyer (and oh, boy do I hate starting comments with those words...) the idea of intellecual property is a confounding one. The idea of moral duty rather than legal duty is an important one.

To start with, I should mention that I'm a big fan of public domain. I believe very strongly that intellectual property should pass into the public domain shortly after the creator's death. This would mean that all of these properties wouldn't be the subject of argument, because anyone who wanted could make a movie / book about them.

Having said that, one thing that is often overlooked in the work-for-hire argument is the consequences if a creation goes belly-up. If I make a $100 million dollar movie, and it absolutely bombs worldwide, the actors, directors, crew etc. all still have to be paid. That is the risk I take by bankrolling such an endeavour. The flipside is, that if the material 'takes off', I am only on the hook to 'creative' for a fixed sum.

How often do actors and creators say "Well, that piece of art that I worked on was terrible, and didn't make its budget back, so I'm going to give back a substantial portion of my salary."

Moving back to the issues concerning Jack Kirby, its difficult because at different times his creations have been successful, not successful etc. Is it far to say that he is "X%" responsible for a movie made in 2009-10, using a character he created, but by a process that he was completely uninvolved with? Who's to know?

What is the moral right of people who did nothing to contribute to this artistic creation apart from be related to the person who created it? Is that a greater moral right than the company that paid Jack Kirby to create it? I don't know, but I just wanted to talk past the compelling narrative of "little artistic genius" versus "evil corporate empire".


KentL said...

Isn't Amy Reeder the artist on Batwoman?

Also, though it hasn't been announced, I think it's pretty widely known that Amanda Connor and Nicola Scott are both doing something for DC.

After reading Henderson's abysmal Teen Titans run recently, I can do without her work.

Unknown said...

Wait, Steven Seagal NEEDS a fat suit? (Cheap shot, I know :P_

collectededitions said...

Long(er) form blog writing is not dead. Enjoyed the post. That is all.

Mark Ginocchio said...

I think you hit it out of the park with your take on Bendis and Ultimate Spider-Man, re: opportunities lost. Something tells me that Miles Morales is going to be an answer to a very obscure trivia question a few years from now, which is going to make the whole decision seem even more cynical and desperate.

Marc said...

Ditto to Collected Editions. Thanks for a great read, and for the plethora of links, especially in regard to the current Kirby controversy.

I would also take your suggestion that Bendis and company do something to intervene to the next level. Why not threaten not just to jump ship, but to go totally independent? It worked for the Image creators, and while they were artists first and foremost, I think it would work for writers like Bendis, Brubaker, Fraction, etc. today. (Besides, it's not as if those guys are completely without artistic talent, and I can imagine many flocking to their work, even if it's not tied to a corporate-owned character.) Either way, it would be nice for them to, at the very least, speak out about an issue that's so important to the industry they make their living in.

SallyP said...

Well said, Caleb. It WOULD be nice for Marvel to actually do the right thing...but I'm not going to hold my breath.

That Mike Allred picture of Hal, by the way, is fabulous.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Scott Lobdell is taking pot shots at fellow comic creators. Way back when, he started a feud with Mark Waid for some reason or another...Waid had NO idea what was going on.

John K said...

"readers' desires to not have anything as nebulous as law, ethics or morality threaten their supply of fourth generation riffs on Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko creations"

A most eloquent knee to the groin, Caleb!

BK said...

If you absolutely can't stop yourself blogging about Marvel, maybe you could just blog about Kirby's old Marvel comics instead of the new work that you seem so ambivalent about?

Aki Alaraatikka said...

Those who do the most, get the least. Those who do the most little bit, get the most.
I don`t know if that`s all that true, but that`s how I see it.

There was alot of comic nudity in this post. Weird.

SallyP said...

..."A lot of comic nudity in this post. Weird."

You say that like it is a BAD thing!

Paragon Kobold said...

I think Perry White should be played by a native american, thus putting Jimmys use of the word 'chief' in a whole new light.