Posts tagged Kurt Busiek
Kurt Busiek (above) is a new drawing rounding out his Wikipedia biograpahy. Dave Cockrum, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (below) are older drawings for various uses that have been adapted for Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.
The case made in The Jack Kirby Trigger continues to ripple through the comics community. As expected, the California District Court decision to deny the Kirby Estate a trial is eliciting not only industry-wide indignation, but also gutter level fandom bickering between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby camps. Here are some highlights:
- Stephen R. Bissette has written two sequels to Honoring a Fallen King. Good reading in Part 2 and then also Part 3. He is meticulously dissecting the history and details of the creative process relative to Marvel, particularly regarding the Lee/Kirby collaborations. He’s also bringing outside sources and comparisons that reflect on this process relative to the court decision. From the momentum on his site, it seems he has a lot more on his mind and is determined to keep the debate on the front lines, at least in the periphery he reaches with his web site, which can be quite extensive given the volatility of talk in the comics community. His analysis is expressive of a fighting spirit that needs to become an epidemic. Part 2 delivers a condemnation of Stan Lee’s deposition testimony that continues to agitate many fans and professionals alike:
* If bile is being cast at Stan Lee, it’s because he hasn’t risen to the behavior of his heroic characters.
Look, I like Stan (I met him once during my second visit to the Marvel offices in 1977; he smiled at me and was very kind and supportive in about two minutes).
The worst I’ve said (I think; correct me if I’m wrong) is he “damned” himself with his deposition testimony. I stand by that perception and statement.
I have great respect for Stan, what he did, what he wrote, what he built, but his deposition is shameful.
- Heidi MacDonald’s coverage of Stephen’s first article at The Beat spurred a spirited but demonstrably civil debate in reader comments. Writer Kurt Busiek peppered the discussion with well researched analysis, as he’s prone to deliver, of the case history. We’ve straddled opposite sides of creator/publisher issues in the past, but it’s no small satisfaction to see Kurt’s position and sharp review applied in this way to the case. John Morrow, one of two witnesses, along with Mark Evanier, whose deposition testimony was stricken from the record in the proceedings, also makes an appearance in the comments thread, in support of Kurt’s effort.
- Michael Dean provides a little more perspective on the court documents at The Comics Journal. His summation becomes a reminder of how the intent of the 1976 copyright law has become near-castrated by Marvel and other entertainment media proponents:
Under pressure from entertainment companies, however, Congress has repeatedly extended the maximum limits of copyright terms, thereby adding value to intellectual property that it didn’t have at the time creators like Siegel and Kirby were turning their brainstorms over to publishers in exchange for modest pay checks. The Copyright Act of 1976 was meant to redress that to a degree, by giving the original authors a chance to benefit from the extended copyright terms. Arguably, the same principle ought to apply, whether you created something and then sold it as Siegel and Shuster did or simply accepted payment for your creative labors page by page as Kirby did.
- Arlen Schumer joined a heated debate on Bleeding Cool Forums, posting The Auteur Theory of Comics, based on French cinema culture, wherein he stands in defense of the Kirby Estate by comparing an artist in the visual comics medium to a director in film. Such an analogy, Schumer states, would entitle Kirby with co-creation of the Marvel Universe that he contributed to. Arlen will be presenting his thesis during a panel at New York Comic Con, this Oct 13-16, as a visual presentation, followed by a panel discussion on the Kirby ruling, conducted by moderator Peter Coogan, Director of The Institute for Comics Studies and the Comics Studies Conference, and Rand Hoppe, Director of the online Jack Kirby Museum. A must event to attend for Kirby lovers at NYCC this year.
- The Bleeding Cool Forum discussing Stephen Bisette’s first article and the Kirby/Marvel decision has mushroomed to a burgeoning 55 page thread with more than 650 posts as of this writing. I’ve been active in a lot of it and I can safely say it’s one of the more entertaining forays into discussing a legal battle that exists anywhere. It is also perhaps a more concise reflection of the spirit in fandom right now regarding the case. Though it may be winding down, it is a good read for tapping the pulse of fandom, which also carries quite a number of gems in single and multiple post exchanges.
Aside from trying to understand the legal issue of the 1976 copyright law addressing Work for Hire and reclamation of intellectual property rights by creators, upon which the Kirby/Marvel decision hinged, fandom appears to be locked in a sometimes furious battle of camps, each backing either the Lee or Kirby significance to Marvel, at the expense of the other. Indeed, many Kirby supporters are suggesting a sort of betrayal by Marvel, and de facto by Stan Lee, of the moral justice ideal, after which their superhero mythology is fashioned. It is not a small issue at all, which was also voiced by Tom Spurgeon in his report on Stephen Bissette’s first article calling for a boycott of Marvel.
I do know that we live in a world where lottery winners will sometimes give money to the people that did nothing other than print their tickets, where fans will give money to someone if they express a need and do so based on the fact they benefited not to the tune of billions of dollars and enduring wealth for generations of their families but based on a satisfying artistic experience or series of them, where people routinely share their good fortune with others without a court telling them to do so — and all without trafficking in some heroic ideal as their stock in trade. None of this makes sense. It needs to matter more than it does.
In support of Stan Lee, and as part of an effort to diminish from Kirby’s significance to Marvel, it’s been said that it was Lee himself who invented the title King Kirby as part of a branding gimmick that helped make Marvel a more attractive House of Ideas, and sell more comic books. It’s been further said that if Stan had not done so, no one would be calling Kirby a king today.
If it wasn’t for the cynicism in this charge, trying to further injure Kirby’s historical role at Marvel as crucial to its effective rise in the medium, then we might reflect on this historical tidbit with a certain musing, in that it is basically true as a launch pad for the nickname. However, the attempt to paint a distorted picture of the Lee/Kirby team, as if Kirby owes the perception of being king of comics art to Lee, well, that’s a very argumentative extrapolation that wouldn’t necessarily endure a test of simple logic.
For better or worse, the nicknames Stan Lee gave to creators were based on catchy rhymes, or complimentary sounds, with their names. Thus Kirby was dubbed ‘King’, while Stan, in ironic humility, settled for being merely ‘The Man’. That’s how it also was, for example, with ‘Jazzy’ John Romita, ‘Gentleman’ Gene Colan and ‘Nefarious’ Neal Adams. Even going by this result, it may be possible to conjecture that a ‘King’ could owe his kingship to ‘The Man’ who made him king. But such an allegorical reach also places a responsibility on a king to live up to his title in order for it to become embraced by the reading public. Indeed, such was the case with similar titles given to Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson, as examples, who would not have been remembered as such had they not risen to the occasion. Likewise, as far as most other such names Stan gave back in the days, few of them would have stuck if the creators could not live up to them. And it is ultimately one thing to try to live up to being ‘jazzy’, ‘gentlemanly’ or ‘nefarious’, but it’s an entirely different story to live up to and earn the title of being a King.
If Jack Kirby did not meet the expectations of professionals and fans with his work, as some have tried to suggest, then no one would remember him as a king today. More so, the title might become a source for scorn to the creator instead of reverence, if their work fell evidently short of the expectations that come with it.
This is clearly not a legal argument and is only raised in face of some rather disingenuous attempts to rewrite comics history and trivialize Jack Kirby’s role within it. Anyone suggesting that Kirby’s output after his collaborations with Stan, did not live up to his work at Marvel, which is an argumentative position in itself, well, it then becomes necessary to remind that the quality of Stan’s output also fell after the Lee/Kirby era. There is simply no way to make a reasonable case for Stan being the master writer without whom Kirby could not have risen to the heights he did. The very opposite of such a possibility, it would seem, is more likely.
At the heart of the litigation to reclaim the rights to Marvel properties by the Kirby Estate is an issue of a moral injustice and personal humiliation that Marvel, aided by Stan Lee, tried to inflict on Jack Kirby because he dared ask that their promises to reward him, should his work help the company succeed, be fulfilled. It is painfully human and humane to understand the combative mode Kirby entered into during his latter years, which ultimately brought upon him the bitterness of betrayal that caused him to lash out in all directions. It’s a natural reaction for someone who trusted the people he worked with, and reacted with resentful emotion upon having that trust become so horrendously shattered. It becomes a much more understood reaction when seen in light of how Marvel tried to destroy Jack Kirby morally and in spirit, by attempting to turn him into the villain, when he was in effect their victim.
It thus seems ludicrous to make any claims about Stan lee’s creative superiority to Jack Kirby in light of this sad history that Stan himself has lent a hand to the attempted revision thereof.
Stan Lee’s shared responsibility in the travesty rendered to the co-creator he’s most identified with, screams into the comics community these days and demands that moral justice be served between them. It may be that Stan Lee’s memory fails him in these later years, as some are saying. Or it may be that Stan Lee’s moral fiber is not made of the stuff that’s needed to make things right again between these two dearly beloved founders of the modern Superhero.
In either case, the result strengthens claims by Kirby historians who say it was the King himself who led the definition of the stories, plots and characterizations of the Marvel universe, and that Stan Lee’s part in it was, in essence, the more trivial. For how are we to believe that the wonderful mind who gave us all of this fabulous mythology is the same Stan Lee who tramples the notions of moral justice and responsibility that the stories themselves exude? And all seemingly for his exclusive benefit, while towing the company line, at the expense of the artist who most contributed to his own success?
A King who earns his title will always be a king in the eyes of the people. But The Man who first gave him the title and then betrayed him, will not be favorably remembered by the same people who’ve come to love and honor the king.
Well, not really a round table, but Kurt did write a Facebook status late last week about the Creator Revolution 1st Semester Grades. He didn’t seem offended anymore and actually thought the post was funny. But Kurt has a big fan base and many came out to support him and have some fun also.
Michael Netzer doesn’t approve of me because I wouldn’t agree with him that Marvel/DC have been active suppressing their own sales since the salad days of 1977.* He wants fewer facts, more metaphors. That’ll fix things! – Kurt Busiek
Never trust a hippie. – Daniel Wheeler
And as a Michael, the viewpoints of the aforementioned Michael and the one who commented on his behalf, do not represent the Michael community as a whole and as such, we recommend that you see their comments for comedy and entertainment value. – Michael Amrhein
Naturally, a few from our side also showed up to balance out the one sided festivity. A good sort of round table with Valerie Finnigan, Mikael Bergkvist and Michael Whitehead lending a more serious tone to the debate. But by the time I had wind of it and commented on things said mistakenly in my name, the party seemed to have been over and there was apparently little energy left to continue much further. Phil Bledsoe summed up the differences gracefully but hasn’t returned to follow up after my response.
That’s alright for now, I don’t always get to have the last word with Kurt.
I admit I’m sometimes impulsive. I posted the Creator Revolution 1st Semester Grades yesterday morning just before rushing out to Tel-Aviv to participate with the Comics For All activity. Under other circumstances, I would have taken more time to smooth it out. But I was impulsive and tweeted it just before heading out the door.
I came back in the evening to find a small storm brewing on Twitter. I tried explaining it but the waters remain somewhat unsettled. Joining Kurt Busiek were Dean Trippe, Tim Callahan, Comics Bulletin, Alan David Doane and Stuart Immonen, Stuart is stunned; Dean wants extra credit; Tim called campus security; Alan threw a hammer; Comics Bulletin, more engagingly, wants everyone to work together; Kurt is offended.
I see it as a healthy and fruitful debate. One that needs to be conducted in good faith and encouraged.
I don’t think any of us needs to pull their video anymore. I smoothed out some of the grading text when I returned from Tel Aviv, even before I saw these reactions. On the other side, there is a show of support. New to Twitter, I saw a deluge of new followers as discussion progressed, Among them, Mike McLarty tweeted this:
I think dissent is the only way to inspire conversation. Exploring options, questioning assertions...all are positive.
I believe the record bears that it’s a mistake to see the petition and campaign as a personal eccentricity of mine that’s detached from a reality some are trying to paint. Prominent industry journalists have covered it and interviewed me about it. The petition signatures and comments indicate a popular agreement in professional and fan circles. There is also disagreement, but it’s far from being one man’s indulgence against the better judgment of everyone else.
I’m uncomfortable with Kurt being offended. No one else seems to be. By Kurt’s standard, I’d have greater reason to take offense at some of his remarks, and those of Alan David Doane’s about me I take no such offense. I don’t believe Steven Niles does either, at least not from sensing his good nature through his texts.
Some are taking the class metaphor a little too literally. It is a vehicle used to reflect the various positions taken publicly on the issues, and to make a statement about them. Nothing more. I think that’s obvious to most readers.
We’ll keep working at this with a hope to sail heartier into calmer waters.
Meantime, let’s hear the voice of the people who’ve lodged a few more comments at the petition:
I would like for Diamond to actually have to compete with other distributors. It is inevitable that they will anyway, as the benchmarks they require and the cuts they take are too high, the demands placed on retailers are excessive, and the number of retailers they serve continues to decline. I would like the publishing departments of Marvel and DC to be run more like publishing companies- with editorial departments staffed and headed only by people who have actually done copy editing, art direction, or any kind of publication-related quality control. – Valerie Finnigan
I’ll happily support Michael Netzer in everything he does, for the last year or more I’ve followed what he has to say. Nothing Michael says or does is driven by spite or greed, but solely for the love of an industry and a form of free speach which has been taken away from those who have givien Birth to it. – Jonathan Cresswell
To the two major governing conglomerates: Please respect the source material which gives you the opportunity to benefit financially through their conversion into media franchises. Comic books began as a form of artistic expression, entertainment for all ages and cultures, but most of all they are learning tools which promote literacy and engage the imagination. Please respect the creators who have given you use of these wonderful characters by ensuring their continued employment in the field where they have made their life’s work. Keep the comic book industry alive for generations to follow. Sincerely yours. - Joseph Tages
Respect. – Jon B. Cooke
When I meet other comic book writers and artists, who are trying to sell their comic books at local venues, I always ask them why are they not in a comic book store and always hear the remarks that they can’t get into the store as they are independents of DC and Marvel and therefore the store won’t take them, Please stop keeping them out. -Karen Roe
Congratulations to Michael Netzer for bringing awareness to this subject. – Jay Piscopo
One of the primary problems of “the Comic Industry” like so many other parts of many businesses (incidentally you definitely have scratched an itch for me on this subject of the “Big Two”) Kinda sour grapes for my having been employed with now the defunct? Capital City Distribution. It was like a small tremor when Marvel took their books to self-distribute. Most of the buying public did not care. While we were devouring our super colored-super -foiled -wrapped -whatevers. We ate it up in droves. What happened to that antitrust lawsuit filed against Diamond ? nadda! ,bupkis! According to Ms. Wiki it was dropped by the US Department of Justice. What’s up with that! It’s a great to know finally some of the creators are stepping up to the plate. But, you know,geez where were you guys and dolls- back when to stop the bleeding at first cut? With Capitalism it is never a good idea to let to few companies run the whole table. Kudos maybe this petition will help start to build more viable solution here in the US . A more viable progression forth for the artist male,female or whomever. – John LeCour
As a publisher of indie comics, I definitely want to see a viable comic book industry. Most importantly, however, I want the industry to succeed as a fan of the medium. And I think there is so much more that Marvel and DC could do to ensure that. – Eric Mullarky / New Baby Productions
There is no harm in letting the comics eco-system thrive by encouraging diversity. The more different kinds of comics there are, the more people will become interested in them and ultimately result in larger sales for all. – Stephan F. Andre’
After all the years I have been in this, FINALLY, something that I really understand and agree with ! WHAT THEY DID COST ME OPPORTUNITY. ALLOW us the right of COMPETITION ! ! ! - Steve Sundahl Senior
Be fair and let someone’s dream come true. - Sharon Myers Shaw
I have to agree that it is a concern to have so few companies dominating all our entertainment media, but to have only two companies so dominate an entire medium is outrageous and discouraging. - Johnathan Henning
I am 100% behind this. – Jonathan Williams
The independent market deserves an opportunity to thrive, with so many creators devoted to the business without a voice or the ability to distribute it’s nearly impossible to have your work seen or recognized unless you’ve worked in some capacity for Marvel or DC. What happens to the industry if they abandon it altogether? – Joseph Silver
Would love to see the comic book industry let the creators have a greater share in the bounty that comic books are. Giving creators a ‘true’ stake in the books any given creator works on insures a stronger product and a stronger industry because of it. – BlackMonarch2002
I love both of your companies, but please bring the books back to grocery stores, and other venues, and branch out, making cheap books (as was the original business model) for new forays into comics (leaving the high quality paper for the proven money makers) and let comics of all kinds flourish and grow. You will only help yourselves in the end. – Liam Webb
Turn your attention back to the comic book publishing industry – and release your hold on the distribution and marketing of comics, so that other enterprises would have room to grow! – Karen Walters
It seems the creator revolution, as dubbed by Heidi MacDonald, is taking a mid-semester break.
It is expected actually because how many really engaging ideas can Indie creators come up with for dodging comics shops and DC/Marvel’s dominance of publishing? Adding to this venue is the stifling notion that most news sites don’t seem interested in the subject as they load their web pages with more and more fluffy and fun news about the colorful projects and creators making headlines.
But I’m of the mind that we have to take ourselves more seriously sometimes, like a lot of us did in school – and that everything doesn’t only have to be fun and fluffy. In school we had to take things seriously if we wanted good grades. And I don’t think it’s serious to talk about a creator revolution when we’re in denial about what we’re revolting against.
By default, a revolution means an overthrow of an undesirable regime. So, patting ourselves on the back as if we’re conducting a revolution when we’re acting more like scaredy teenagers seems silly at best. We have to get our hands dirty to start rebuilding our fallen house of comics.
This is my virtual class on the creator revolution, and for lack of anyone else stepping up, I’m going to be the teacher who grades everyone. Until I see an initiative better than the petition cited at the head of this page, everyone’s grades will be relative to their position on it. No offense really intended to any of the students. If you want a better grade, study the situation with a little more depth to understand why we need to promote and sign the petition. Or you can make your own virtual class and grade it as you like.
Here we go with the class report card.
Eric Powell: (A+) – Well done Eric for getting the ball rolling with your poignant and hilarious video. The serious message that followed the first… ahem, act… is one of the more inspiring observations the class has seen. Unfortunate that your fellow students couldn’t bear your message and compelled you to remove the video. But it did its job in opening the dialogue and for that you are commended.
Steven Niles: (C+) – That you are an extremely talented writer may not be enough for a good grade in the class of the creator revolution. Your well received article in response to Eric’s video fed the fears of your fellow students and discouraged their courage. What do you mean by “First off, this is in no way an anti-Marvel or anti-DC thing. Those are great publishers to work for if you can find the work.”?? This is a revolution class! Not for smoochy goochy with DC and Marvel. Let’s do some more homework, sir.
Kurt Busiek: (C+) – You’re also an amazingly talented writer with a lot of credits in comics, but the revolution needs more than good comic books right now. It needs the courage to stare into the eyes of the undesirable way the business is being strangled, dominated and neglected by DC and Marvel who seek greener pastures outside of comics. Your challenging the teacher’s comments as if to say that the big 2 are working in good faith for the good of the industry, is an extreme case of denial – not the river in Egypt. It is not the best way to get a good grade in the revolution against an oppressive regime holding down the comics. A little more consideration of human nature, my good fellow, could help improve the grade in the next semester.
Mike Dubisch: (A+) – You’re a brilliant artist and creator with a heart of gold and courage of a tiger, who drew me into the class with a call to hear me out, after challenging Steven for his kid gloves treatment of DC and Marvel. The revolution needs you Mike, right up there in the top ranks of leadership.
Tom Spurgeon: (A+) – You’re a light to your fellow class members. The clever way you fed the fire of revolt is nothing less than brilliant. But the articulate speech you delivered to explain what we’re up against will become a lesson for generations to come.
Rik Offenberger: (A+) – You were not only a trailblazer for the comics on the internet, but are now also trailblazing the way for the creators with your excellent interview. With it, you’ve paved the way for the dialogue that needs to now be nurtured amongst the creators, reporters and fandom.
Heidi MacDonald: (B-) – You know I think you’re one of the more promising students, and you are the one who led the charge in spreading the word about the revolution. But because you take sides in the debate and effectively influence discussion on it, you’ll get a less than excellent grade right now. Chin-up though, a word or two about the petition, which is a viable and reportable story, will go a long way towards taking you to the top of the class… where you really belong.
Rich Johnston: (B-) – You’re also one of the more promising students. And though you haven’t led a charge for the revolution, you did help out with a runaround in the beginning. But it’ll be imperative for you also to fulfill your destiny as a reporter and tell your readers about the petition. There will be no way around that… unless you come up with a better incentive for public pressure on DC and Marvel. Which I don’t put past you at all. Either way the grade will improve in accordance with next semester efforts.
Daniel Best: (A+) – You, my friend, are a front line power in the war against publishers who’ve driven the comics into the mud. There isn’t a better researcher who’s mindful of the injustices of the industry to its creators.
Jon B. Cooke: (A+) – Though your contribution will only be known in the upcoming issue of The Jack Kirby Collector, your signing the petition openly is a brave statement by one of the more revered comics historians in the industry.
Comicon Pulse: (A) – Just for being a good fighter and helping pass the word around. You built a great vehicle and community and are destined to do very big things things with them.
J. Caleb Mozzocco: (B+)Your nice words on the open letter are only rivaled by the awesome comment on the beard. You deserve a better grade but your blog has no contact info in order to send you updates. What kind of an outfit are you people running at Blog@Newsarama anyway? Shouldn’t you have an accessible link for sending in stories? Let’s get it together guys and plug the petition already.
Fandom: (AAA+) – A special grade for all the special things that you, the fans, do to help spread the word on the petition and campaign…and who are the lion’s share of signatories. You are the grassroots voice of the people that will guide the comics into victory. It’s only a matter of time that more creators begin to discover the faith and trust you place in them…and begin to reach for the role of leadership that you know to be their destiny.
I said earlier I’d get back to Heidi MacDonald’s article at The Beat on the grassroots rumblings in the creator community.
As I kept an eye on the discussion in the comments thread, I thought that maybe that’s a good place to start. But I got carried away a little and started spilling the beans on a story that I’ve not told in this way before. A long comment that I figure will add a little spice and space for thought about why things are the way they are and what I think could be done. It starts by addressing the discussion in comments that, like everywhere else, are looking for what the the small guys like us can do. It’s also brought writer Kurt Busiek to defend DC and Marvel against my claims and resulted in an interesting exchange. Here it is in full with minor edits:
I think everybody here is right. Everything you all say is true. If the situation wasn’t so dire and confusing, there’d be no need for this diverse focus to be a contentious matter at all.
But things are bad and it’s got us talking circles around ourselves and when things get like this no one wants to hear they may be wrong. So, simmer down for a moment, please. Nobody’s wrong. You’re all right.
There’s just one little thing not making sense that Heidi hinted at and bears a little more thought:
“Marvel and DC aren’t even comic book companies any more.”
Oh man, that’s really wild. DC and Marvel aren’t even comic book companies any more? You mean, they’re just pretending? That’s a really good story. I’d go to the NY times with that. But wait! If they’re not even comic book companies anymore, why all this talk about the merit or non-merit of the comic books they publish?
“They are IP companies.”
Oooooooohhhh! Geez. That’s really killer. I mean it’s killing me! And a lot of other comics artists and writers too. Now I understand why we’re all dying like this. Goshdangit! But wait wait wait… If that’s the case, why would an IP company that’s carrying the extra baggage of comic book publishing allow for that extra load to bog it down like this and make it look like DC and Marvel are investing so much effort in making a profit from the extra baggage because they just don’t know how, or maybe don’t even want to really publish comics?
Why would DC and Marvel make it look like that when it makes no sense whatsoever? Boy I’m really on a roll with these questions. Great. Let’s see what ‘s next…. oh, yeah, right! Maybe it’s because they don’t need to make a profit from the extra baggage because they make much much much much more from IP licensing and merchandising and that covers everything else they do like publishing comic books and company cellphones for all their employees (I’m just guessing here but it doesn’t really matter, does it?).
Well, if that’s the case, then maybe I can answer my own genius question with a genius answer. How about if we say that the reason DC and Marvel don’t stop publishing comic books and concentrate solely on IP trade may be that they need to carry the extra baggage in order for the properties to stay alive for IP appeal, which they’d lose if they stopped publishing comics books for all the properties they want to trade in. OH GOD I’m so clever I kill myself sometimes, and that would take away all the fun from DC and Marvel who are already killing me and everybody else, wouldn’t it? Can’t do that can I? Alright, I’ll try to simmer down too. Ppphhheeeewwwww!!! Good. That’s better. Let’s move on a little more now.
Here’s just a normal question with no special genius behind it. Why don’t DC and Marvel, being owned by some of the biggest money in the entertainment world, not invest a minute fraction of their enormous assets to make comics profitable? They obviously can if they wanted to because they’re the most savvy business people on the scene with the greatest assets around to do it? Right? And that’s just an average question isn’t it? OK. I’ll try to tackle that one without any special IQ level, like we said earlier, so as not to get too excited and kill myself and take away all the fun from DC and Marvel doing it.
Let me tell you a short personal story that everybody in the comics knew about, once upon a time. Well, not all the details, really. I’m the only one who discovered them and you guys are about to get the biggest scoop of comics history… so hang tight, alright? And please, stay calm. Don’t forget who’s supposed to have all the fun in the end.
You all remember, well some of you at least, how when I started drawing comic books at Continuity that Neal Adams was strategizing how to help the poor and destitute creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, get some money from DC so they could die with a little more respect than a couple of starving paupers. Right? Some of you remember that. Well some of you also remember that he devised a great strategy that worked. He started calling newspapers like the NY Times (That rings a bell… oh yeah, I’ll keep a note of that if I ever have a comics history scoop for them.), radio and TV stations and everybody who was willing to publicize the BIG story. And EVERYBODY wanted the BIG story. It finally got so big that it was invited to the Tomorrow show with tom Snyder (it’s alright, most of you don’t remember but he was like the Ophra of his time, almost, but he didn’t have so much ambition) and it blew Warner communications flat on their big fat hiney! The very next day, they called Neal and invited him and the creators of Superman and gave them a relatively very generous package of $$$, at least compared to anything else they’d ever seen from creating the property that makes Billions of $$s for Warners. That was really fun, seeing this grungy comics artist bring Warners to their knees like that. Never underestimate the power of a good PR campaign even if you’re not really a good PR person. Anyway, remember this incident and how Warners came down on their knees because we’ll get back to it in a minute.
Well the wackiest things started happening in comics after that. I mean sometimes I blamed myself for it all because it all started just after I started drawing comics. Wouldn’t you think the same thing in my place? I know most everybody would and I’m not really so different. It’s a guilt trip thing but we live with it. Anyway, everything started going wacky. Suddenly there was an implosion beginning. That’s when something explodes in on itself like the opposite of an explosion. Clever language isn’t it? Well DC was publishing too many books and suddenly things started going downhill really fast. Warners retired publisher Carmine Infantino and brought in a publisher with no experience whatsoever in comics to take over. That was Jenette Kahn. Great and wonderful lady who knew absolutely nothing about the comics business. That’s just what you would all do if you were Warners, right? Right! Whatever. Well, Jenette really needed to learn the ropes fast and all she could do was talk to as many people as possible at DC about it because Warners told her they had no idea what to do either. They made her swim alone and drown if she couldn’t make it. Almost like they did everything to make her fail. As fate would have it when the questions got tough and people at DC didn’t know what to answer Jenette, Neal Adams’ name would come up as someone who had a lot of ideas for the good of the comics and was a big mover and shaker at DC. So, after a few days, Jenette calls Neal and asks him a few questions.
And Neal, bless his soul, never missed a beat. He suggested they have dinner and discuss the business. Now Jenette was a young and pretty girl going out to dinner with a young and pretty boy, and what do you think happened? Right on! They started dating.. Yeah!!! Not only that, but Neal even moved in to live at Jenette’s apartment a couple of weeks after that and the two became the hottest love birds in the industry. I told you you’d like this story, but we’re not at the historic scoop yet. So, Neal and Jenette start turning DC upside down to save the comics industry and raise it to something that it only aspired to before. Right at the worst time for comics, they were also doing the best thing for comics. They’re the ones who made Dollar Comics so newsstands would make more money from them and display more of them to sell. It was genius. They even devised a plan for creator owned projects. You gotta believe me on this and I’ll tell you why. Neal and I were doing the very first ever creator owned comic book for DC that Jenette agreed to do. That was really friggin’ revolutionary, man, for back then, at least. I know you think I’m fibbin’ but I’ll prove it to you. Open the inside cover to Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali that Neal wrote and drew during this time. The new reprint has it too. The nincampoops never changed it to cover their tracks. Look at the schematic listing all the names of the people and characters on the front and back covers. Find that yet? Alright. Now I don’t have the exact number of Ms. Mystic but turn to the back cover itself and look at the top of the ring pole. Now at a 45 degree angle to the top left, third person from the top of the pole. See the blonde there. That’s Ms. Mystic. Now look inside at the schematic, you’ll see her name. Number 51 or 53, or something like that as I remember. What’s it say? Right! Ms. Mystic. See this proves I’m not fibbing and everything I say here is true. Well, not proven scientifically, but it’s strong supporting evidence. But that’s still not the historic scoop and we’ve wasted enough time on my credibility, so let’s move on.
Well, as all this great stuff is happening I decide to act a little crazy because I could see what was coming around the corner. So, I took off and went into the mountains and came back to role-play the Son of God. I thought that would help a little seeing what was going on. Anyway, I come back to Continuity and then leave again a month later for California. Then I come back to Continuity a few months after that and what’s the first thing Neal tells me? Ah, you’re starting to catch on. Right! He said Jenette broke up with him and it’s over. I knew it was all too good to be true anyway. But I’m busy being the Son of God and Neal’s in a big rut, you know. I think he really loved her and I couldn’t bear seeing him like this so I came down from my throne and tried to be human enough to have a heart to heart talk with him. All he could tell me was that something wasn’t right or normal about it. Now you all know I really like the guy, well I did most of the time. Sometimes he just pisses me off but he’s like that. But back then I was acting a little crazy and thought I’d try to talk to Jenette because I thought it might help and that I could do anything I wanted anyway. It comes with the throne, you know. So, I go to DC and I walk into Jenette’s office while the secretary tries to stop me. But nobody could stop me, I mean Jenette and I were also pretty close and I really love Jenette a lot anyway… I mean not like Neal did but really a lot, I mean I don’t want to say like a mother because she was too young. More like a daughter, actually. I was also like their son or something like that before I became the Son of God so you could imagine this close relationship that lets me barge into her office. Long story and not important really. So I’m in Jenette’s office and some Warner’s big shots are sitting there with her. They were pretty intimidating actually. But you know me, I just stared them down. That’s when I started realizing that Jenette was in a pickle with these guys and I figured it had something to do with Neal. So, what could I do? I mean I haven’t had my powers for that long yet and wasn’t sure they’d work but I tried to read their minds to figure out what was going on. I gotta tell ya, I’d never done anything like that before and what I got was an overload of the biggest scheme that anyone could imagine churning around in the Warners big shots heads. It was the scariest thing I’d ever confronted, believe you me! And you know I don’t scare easy, right? Right! This is the big historical scoop you’ve all been waiting for so fasten your seat belts guys and gals cause here it comes.
Remember how Neal brought Warners down on their knees for the creators of Superman? I told you we’d get back to this. Well, you know those guys don’t like a grungy comics artist doing that to them. Nobody like them would, I mean, they think they run the world, don’t they? Sure. So, that’s when they realized they had a big problem on their hands and it could happen with any of their characters and creators. They decided that they had to put an end to it right there and then. So they started giving orders to over-publish comic book titles to make the big implosion that would destroy the business of comic books. They didn’t need them so much after all and made their money on IP marketeering anyway. Just like today but a little less. Then they discover that their new publisher who knew nothing about comics and was supposed to fail, well, she was madly in love with the guy that brought them to their knees and they were ruining all their plans. So they put all the screws on her to break it up or else no more comic books for her or anybody. They threatened they’d shut down DC Comics if she kept it up. So that’s why it didn’t make sense to Neal how she broke up with him. And she did it because she was also in love with comics by then because of Neal. She did it to save the comics and that’s why I love her so much. If you don’t believe Superman and Muhammad Ali then go ahead and ask Jenette. She’d tell the truth today. Maybe.
And these Warner big shots had the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie loaded and ready to fire already. Who needed all these headaches with creators ruining the biggest gold mine in the world for them? You tell me! Well they began to scheme to destroy comics sales without telling anyone at DC they were doing it. Everybody actually thought they were trying to sell more comics. Just like today. They figured this way, they can keep having creators make comics for them and never have to give anything back in return. They need the comics for the gold mine but they can lose money on them and still have it pay off. They were the biggest connivers you could ever run into, just like today. Only then it was just the beginning of the scheme but it was such a big sensory overload that it almost drove me crazy. And you know you don’t wanna drive me crazy. You wouldn’t like me when I’m crazy. But they didn’t know I was reading their minds with my new powers, so I was still safe back then. What a scoop huh? I told you this would be BIG! Glad I got that off my chest, you know. I’ve been carrying it for more than 30 years now and never mentioned it to anybody. Didn’t wanna break it this way to Neal but boy that feels good.
And you know, I’m listening to everything that’s going on in the business today and I can’t take it anymore because you’re all arguing about nothing really important when you realize that DC and Marvel joined forces way back then to push comics into a corner with the direct market and systematically destroy the business so creators will keep on getting screwed and say thank you… Just like Eric Powell said. I think some of my powers must have rubbed off on him, actually.
So there you have it. You got your scoop. And that answers that normal not so genius question about why DC and Marvel, being owned by some of the biggest money in the entertainment world, don’t invest a minute fraction of their enormous assets to make comics profitable. Now you have your normal not so genius answer. Now you know the score behind everything you’re talking about.
So, whatcha gonna do about it, I wonder? If you keep on talking this nonsense now that you know all this then I’ll know I might as well crawl into a mylar sack and die because that would be the most hopeless situation I could imagine. But I don’t think so. Not all of you anyway. Some of you know I’m telling the truth and saw the supporting evidence in Superman Muhammad Ali. This is where we separate the men from the boys if we really love the comics. If we really want to save the industry we love from the clutches of DC and Marvel. This is where we start to turn things back because we know the score now. We finally have our Big historic scoop. So what are we gonna do with it? Huh?!! Whadja say? Rorschach? Whaddaya mean by that? Oh, right! Almost forgot.
What was that about the NY Times again?