Jan 3, 2013

Pop Medicine: There Are No Rockstars in Comics

Pop Medicine is a "visiting" column by Travis Hedge Coke for the Comics Cube! Click here for the archive!

(Duy's note: Travis wrote this on December 22, 2012)

There Are No Rockstars in Comics
Pop Medicine
Travis Hedge Coke

So, the hating is in force on Gail Simone for being all rockstar diva and daring to tell people she was fired by email – and then being reinstated as writer of Batgirl after people were soundly echoing “That’s shitty treatment!” around the interwebs and probably in person, too. But, let’s get it straight. Wanting to be treated better than to be casually fired by email, expecting to be treated like you’re an essential part of a business equation when you’re the writer or penciler is not being a rockstar diva. It’s not a power play. It’s not getting too big for your britches.

Seriously, folks: stop this shit. If you are doing it, stop doing it. If you see it going on, the calling out by overly-entitled fans, the idiot corporate defenders who’re still proudly trying to use “Jack Kirby got screwed too” as a firewall to block out criticism of a company’s behavior, stop it there. Stop letting it slide.

There are no rockstars in comics, and what the fuck if there were? Even actual rockers who get into comics aren’t given star treatment in comics. The best-selling writers or artists we have, the legendary editors and letterers that win awards every year and make these publishers good bank, they’re not treated as royalty, they’re not given star treatment the way you get for being remotely connected to a film coming to theatres near you. Pretending otherwise, or letting some idiot next to you blather on and on about it as if it’s reality is cheating us of what we could have if publishers did start treating comics talent as stars, or, more bluntly, just giving them what’s fairly due. Showing some gratitude and decency.

The late 70s to mid-90s showed great strides in the rights of creators, the rights of talent, to be included in adaptation money, to be treated fairly in terms of medical insurance and royalties. Hate on Image or Mirage all you want, make fun of Neal Adams all you like, they made things better. Even when something went sour, like the McFarlane/Gaiman business, the majority of the changes, the majority of what companies like Continuity or Image contributed has been positive and empowering. It’s probably been more than ten years now, since Frank Miller said we should say “Thank you” to Image and, maybe it’s time to say that thanks again.

I’m not the world’s biggest Alan Moore defender, but I think it’s time to say “Thank you” to Alan Moore for not being quiet and subservient while producers lie about him, he’s dragged to a foreign court to testify that not only isn’t one of his comics stolen from a screenplay by others, but the movie made of his comic doesn’t actually much resemble his comic in the first place, when he’s pilloried by self-described fans because they know he secretly is dying to write Batman again and just can’t get over himself to do it. Thank you for not being a bleach and ammonia douche or a completely weak-willed, ultra-serious company man.

Thank you, Grant Morrison, for being flashy as hell, for giving entertaining interviews, and for being fairly balanced about a lot of things the majority of comics fans won’t remember you were fair about in the first place.

Neal Adams, thanks for continuing to push. Thanks for being clear you expect to be treated as a valued professional or the company can go find someone else. For not harping on any debt anyone owes you, but being forthright about how decent treatment of talent should work.

Thank you, Dwayne McDuffie. Milestone looked good when it hit, and it made a lot of the other major publishers look sad without ever directly attacking them. Static’s hat made Marvel, DC, the Ultraverse and whatnot look so backwards and insultingly insulated, and it’s just a hat. It’s the hat my brother used to go to school in and take off before he got inside, every day. Marvel was still pretending Magneto had anything to do with Malcolm X, or resembled him in life or methodology, as of a few years ago. Dwayne MacDuffie’s dead, Milestone’s pretty much subsumed into the DCU rarely to be heard from again, but I can look back at Hardware, at Static, at that hat, and go “fuck yeah! That happened.”

Thank you, Karen Berger, for continuing to be all manner of awesome and productive while comics criticism and journalism erase your name too regularly with any discussion of Vertigo or late Eighties DC progressiveness. Heck, the average Vertigo write up still pretends it was borne on the backs and in the minds of British men, and didn’t start out with old hands and newcomers, British men and American women, as a wide array of comics, wrangled and supported by the – and that the is important – the Karen Berger.

Thank you, actual rockers and other celebs who do comics because you like comics. If you’ve got a name elsewhere, and better treatment, it’s cool that you want to do comics regardless, and best when you insist a comics publisher step up and treat you decently, too. Neil Gaiman, KatieJane Garside, Alejandro Jodorowsky, you’re alright. It’s appreciated.

Thank you, Jim Lee. Thanks Gene Colan, Greg Rucka, Matt Baker, Kurt Busiek, Larry Hama, Erik Larsen, Trina Robbins, Marie Javins, Peter Laird, Orrin Cromwell Evans, Warren Ellis, and so many others.

Gail, thanks for being cool and being you. I was a vocal critic of some things in the new Batgirl series, but by all public accounts, you were fired unfairly and your rehiring and your decency and balance in the whole matter will hopefully set a major precedent.

And, for the rest of you out there (ha! you thought I’d be content to drift into rhetorical conversations with talent who mostly don’t read this column?), let’s curb the “they think they’re special” bullshit, okeh? So what if someone declares a “Year of Ellis” or hosts a convention based around Grant Morrison? That’s not the person getting too big for themselves, that’s other people appreciating, in the best way they know how, what those people are doing, what they have done.

When Igor Kordey apologizes for substandard pages he shot through in days because the original penciler and his replacement were both late, and Kordey because he has family and, like normal people, needs money sometimes, he’s not being a diva. When Alan Moore says he’s taking a job for the cash, that’s not a slight against fans of the work, it’s just why most people take most jobs. If Neal Adams says he wants to be paid equal rates to other fields for relative work, that’s not because Neal Adams is full of himself.

If you truly enjoy the work these people are bringing forth, you should laud them. If they’re providing big time for their publisher, the publisher should probably treat them as fairly as other industries do, at the least. “I’d like not to starve and die in a fee clinic” isn’t really asking too much, nor is “I want to be treated fairly as an employee and informed of things that affect me in a timely and reasonable manner.” We need to stop acting like that’s reaching for the moon. We reached the moon already, and in comics we reached it and made friends with the locals. Comics put Batman on the moon. We can put some respectable standards into practice.

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