Chris Roberson's exit interview

twitter Chris Roberson's exit interview 0facebook Chris Roberson's exit interview 0google Chris Roberson's exit interview 0pinterest Chris Roberson's exit interview 0tumblr Chris Roberson's exit interview reddit Chris Roberson's exit interview 0stumbleupon Chris Roberson's exit interview 0email Chris Roberson's exit interview

201204251344 Chris Roberson's exit interview Okay, it’s creators rights day on the internet so let’s just get this going.

The Comics Journal jumps right back in the fray with an exit interview with Chris Roberson, who uses the occasion to express thoughts Twitter cannot contain. According to Roberson, his distaste with BEFORE WATCHMEN was stated in podcasts, but no one picked it up until his tweets were posted. The whole thing is one big must-read, but here are some quite nice statements that no one can possibly take issue with in the comment section:

I can’t speak for Marvel because I’ve never worked there, but at least at DC over the course of paying attention as a reader over the course of the last decade, and then definitely as someone employed by them over the course of the last few years, a culture has arisen which seems to devalue the role of the creator and prize the creation. The most telling examples I could point to are things like if you go to the DC website, there are categories for titles, there are categories for characters, and there are categories for movies or films. There is no category for creator. If you go to the listings for Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman, there is no mention of the people who created them. In many cases, there are listings for the the creative teams on individual titles and individual collections, but even there in many cases the names are wrong. They are legal names which have been pulled from contracts and not the names as credited. I am credited at least three different ways on that website, as Chris Roberson, John C. Roberson, and John Roberson. (John being my first name.)

But hand in hand with that there’s been this awareness on the part of DC, it seems, over the course of the last few years that they need everyone to present a kind of unified front. And so you would get things like a few years ago before he passed away, Dwayne McDuffie was fired from DC for having the temerity in public on a message board saying that a plot point was not his idea but editorial suggestion. He didn’t argue with it, he didn’t complain, he merely answered a fan, saying, I was going to do something different but these characters belong to them. Now that can’t happen, because everybody that works on DC work-for-hire projects has to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and legal action can be taken if they say something even as innocuous as I didn’t want those two characters to date or whatever the case may be.


Roberson also discusses the differences between the book publishing model and the comics model:

I mean, to people that have a blushing familiarity with prose novels, they’re aghast at the way that the rights structures work, at least for work-for-hire stuff, but for those novelists who’ve done work-for-hire novels, whether it’s writing novels for tie-ins for TV shows or games or action figures or whatever the case may be, they’re perfectly sanguine about it, because it’s the same thing. The difference is that in the prose world, the work-for-hire stuff is a very small sliver that is kind of—I don’t want to say the bottom rung, but it’s not the thing that the most attention is paid to. More attention is paid to stuff that people create themselves and own. And there are sometimes confused looks when I have to explain that the reverse is true in the comics industry.


Roberson says he has several creator-owned projects in the works.

Comments

  1. john layman says:

    Chris Roberson just got a billion times cooler for having the first name “John.” That’s, like, the best first name EVER!

  2. Carlton Donaghe says:

    Yep. Good man, Mr. Roberson!

    [P.S.: I just hope that an endorsement by me is not seen as a liability. You are quite free to denounce my farm-grown, hippie-communist atheistic liberal views, and I'll respect you anyway.]

  3. jacob goddard says:

    I’m too young to remember Gary Groth at his vicious best, but I’m really hoping he (and him specifically) goes at this with knives out and barrels blazing.

  4. ~chris says:

    Chris Roberson just got a billion times cooler for choosing the name “Chris” (his middle name?) over his first name. ;-)

    P.S. I too endorse Mr. Roberson, and I have oft-denounced suburban-Catholic-grown punk capitalist atheistic libertarian views. :-)

  5. jacob goddard says:

    Really, the best thing

  6. jacob goddard says:

    We can do is go out and buy his next project, thus making him a lot of money, encouraging all of the anonymous creators who he says agree with to to the exact same thing.

  7. Christian says:

    The whole “no one can disagree with DC” is a position that is very troubling indeed. Not to mention in need of clarification. Are you allowed to dislike anything DC while working for them?

    I’d also love to know how long the NDAs are in effect for. Because of the neutered press we have, typically comic book stories don’t really come out for about 20 years until everyone is either dead or nobody cares anymore. But with these NDAs might we never know what’s *really* going on?

  8. b.t.t.c. says:

    @Chris & Carlton: Haha. Yeah, I think supporting individuals to own what they create is a liberty that cuts across political boundaries. Liberals and libertarians of the world unite!

  9. @Christian-Grant Morrison subtly took a shot at Before Watchman in some recent interview. But thats Morrison-I doubt they’d fire him.

  10. Mikael says:

    “but here’s some nice quite statement that no one can possibly take issue with in the comment section:”

    Challenge accepted!

    “If you go to the listings for Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman, there is no mention of the people who created them.”

    So what? The agreements that put the creative teams on just about every other form of media (TV, Movies, etc) just doesn’t apply to – whatever it is Chris thinks needs a mention. Are they to put it after EVERY mention? “Superman (Created by…) fights Wonder Woman (created by…) because Superman (created by…) stepped on Wonder Woman’s (created by…) toes. Come on. That’s ridiculous.

    “Now that can’t happen, because everybody that works on DC work-for-hire projects has to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and legal action can be taken if they say something even as innocuous as I didn’t want those two characters to date or whatever the case may be.”

    Have you seen the NDAs for movies? Comics has it easy. And really, what’s so wrong with NDAs? Why foster the culture of spoilers and biases before projects even come out? Come on – you’re working for someone. Their rules or the highway in this case.

    I could keep going.

  11. “Their rules or the highway in this case.”

    Nope, try again. That’s binding free speech ‘just because’, which more likely wouldn’t hold up in a court of law either.

    NDAs for movies aren’t as stringent as you seem to believe. In the free marketplace of ideas, information has to come out sometime; and these days, it’s usually in the form of a viral campaign.

  12. jacob goddard says:

    So…. Your argument is “movies do it too, so it must be okay”?
    Or is it “movies do it too, so it can’t be that bad”?

  13. jacob goddard says:

    Maybe my perspective is skewed because I work in theater, where the playwright is the only name that actually matters.

  14. Torsten Adair says:

    http://www.dccomics.com/characters/superman
    No S&S credit on the “bio” page.

    http://www.dccomics.com/superman
    No S&S credit on the mini-site.

    Google says:
    No results found for: “superman created by” site:dccomics.com .

    “created by Jerry Siegel” site:dccomics.com only returns results when DC talks about the upcoming movie:
    “The screenplay was written by David S. Goyer, from a story by Goyer and Nolan, based upon Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel …”

    Superman #8
    Magazine credits:
    Grant Morrison, writer
    Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Rick Bryant & Bob McLeod, artists
    Brad Anderson & David Curiel, colorists
    Rags Morales & Brad Anderson, cover
    Gary Frank & Brad Anderson, variant cover
    Wil Moss, associate editor
    Matt Idelson, editor
    Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

    DCcomics.com credits:
    Written by: Grant Morrison
    Pencilled by: Rags Morales
    Inked by: Rick Bryant
    Cover Color by: Brad Anderson
    Lettered by: DC Lettering
    Colored by: Rags Morales, Brad Anderson

    Not. One. Single. Mention.
    Not on the mini-site.
    Not on the character page.
    Not on the issue credits.

    And here’s something I found…
    http://www.dccomics.com/blog/2011/08/28/%25e2%2580%259cthere-is-no-denying-the-genius-of-jack-kirby-%25e2%2580%259d-%25e2%2580%2593-dan-didio
    “There is no denying the genius of Jack Kirby.” – Dan DiDio

  15. I have to say, I’m confused by all the controversy about this. When you boil everything down, it seems Chris’ complaint here is basically “I don’t like doing work-for-hire under currently accepted practices.” And DC’s response is “OK, don’t.”

    What’s to be so upset about?

  16. >> When you boil everything down, it seems Chris’ complaint here is basically “I don’t like doing work-for-hire under currently accepted practices.”>>

    It isn’t.

  17. <>

    At the risk of getting in an argument with Kurt Busiek (which I don’t want to do – I love your work):

    Can you or anyone else summarize his issues with DC in one or two sentences? I don’t mean to be an ass, but I seriously don’t see what either side has done wrong here, other than airing their dirty laundry in public.

  18. jtwonderdog says:

    I do wonder if the work-for-hire situation in the big two is in part the outcropping of, well, working in a shared universe, with the expectations that people will come in and play with the same toys, after. It’s probably difficult to manage if each new character created comes with boundaries of use…?

  19. Ryan B. says:

    I need to go and read the whole article when I have more time, but just on the first comment, isn’t Chris a little naive about how what it means to work at DC? When you work on characters like Superman, etc., with multiple decades of stories, artists, and writers, you as a creator take a bit of a back seat to the character themselves. To many to name have risen above the character with their creativity/talent to become famous names. Maybe Chris would have too if he would have stuck with it longer. Can’t check the ego behind Superman or Batman? Start pitching and get some creator owned stuff going. I found it weird that he wants to be able to go to DC.com and see his name in the forefront when most people that go there are looking for what’s happening next with their favorite mainstream character. There’d be like 8 million creator names with the turnover on a lot of this books. It’s easy to crap on a big, faceless corp. like DC and to say that they’re not pro-creator is true in most instances. I wish Chris the best with his creator-owned stuff. But really, some of his opinions were puzzling. Alas, I’ve never worked at DC or tried to create a comic so what do I know.

  20. >> Can you or anyone else summarize his issues with DC in one or two sentences?>>

    I think he summarized them that briefly himself.

    But it wasn’t about him not wanting to do work for hire. He doesn’t want to work with DC at all, including creator-owned work. And it wasn’t about the terms he was offered, it was about the way he saw other creators treated. He said all that pretty clearly, so there’s no reason to say that what he was saying was that he didn’t want to do WFH under currently accepted terms, since that’s not remotely what he said.

    >> I seriously don’t see what either side has done wrong here, other than airing their dirty laundry in public.>>

    There’s no need for you to.

    kdb

  21. jacob goddard says:

    Kurt, would the status of Astro City be called into question if you were to publicly voice a contrary opinion about DC and their rather atrocious and ongoing (my words, not yours) track record in regards to creator’s rights?

  22. Chris Hero says:

    Isn’t the issue here more that DC can’t be trusted with creator owned work? Since Roberson has a “creator owned” work with DC, it seems like he’d be in a position of authority to comment on it and decide if he wants to keep working with them.

  23. >> Kurt, would the status of Astro City be called into question if you were to publicly voice a contrary opinion about DC and their rather atrocious and ongoing (my words, not yours) track record in regards to creator’s rights? >>

    I think you’d have to ask DC that.

    If so, they haven’t told me.

  24. >> I found it weird that he wants to be able to go to DC.com and see his name in the forefront when most people that go there are looking for what’s happening next with their favorite mainstream character.>>

    That’s not remotely what he said, either.

  25. He has an opinion, like everybody else, but unlike everybody else he is willing to voice it and to live by his own words.

    Bravo, Chris Roberson. May the spineless continue to suffer the weighty fear of pointless ramifications. You cannot move forward til you take a step. Bravo bravo bravo!

  26. He makes some good points. The fact that they’re using names from the contracts on their website information is so sadly corporate my DC dream has been completely extinguished. I decided to focus on comics because the corporate greedy culture of film wasn’t for me. Looks like I’ll never write that great SUPERMAN story. Indy for me all the way.

  27. Jack LesCamela says:

    I’ve been a happy customer of Monkeybrain Books for a number of years now. I’ve never read any of Chris’ comics work –but this interview and his stance on Alan Moore and creators’ rights in general has just sold me a copy of MEMORIAL when it’s collected in tpb, as well as immediate interest in any other new project he starts. Thank you.

  28. *Hope it’s clear I was kidding!

  29. filippod says:

    @Ryan B.

    On Marvel’s site you can browse books by creator. Plus, every book has full credits and you can click on any creator name and see which other books he’s made. Which, besides creator respect considerations, is incredibly useful for me as a reader.

  30. Turkish says:

    I know DC is publishing it, but nobody has seen fit to mention…isn’t Fairest a CREATOR-OWNED book? Shouldn’t Bill Willingham allow whomever he wants to write some Fairest comics?

    In any case, it doesn’t matter because DC would probably strong-arm him into dumping Roberson anyway.

  31. Which begs the question WILL WILLINGHAM LEAVE FABLES?

  32. I still just don’t understand the controversy. DC’s decided to make a Watchmen prequel. Alan Moore doesn’t approve. But as I understand it, DC is not required to have Moore’s approval any more than they are required to have mine. So they made a business decision. It may be a stupid business decision (in part because it’s likely to fall far short of the original and be critically panned), but in my book that would just make DC stupid, not evil.

    Then Roberson comes out and says this state of affairs is “unconscionable.” I believe I saw him use the word “unethical” also. Now, I can understand someone feeling sympathy for Moore’s position (I do too). But does this really rise to “unethical” behavior? Not in my book. But in any case, Roberson is certainly free to have his own opinion and to choose who he wants to work for.

    Roberson took his disagreement with DC public. I don’t blame him for wanting to do so. But if he really thought he was going to be able call his employer unethical in the media and still retain his job, then he’s a fool. The vast majority of people couldn’t get away with that. For example, I’m a physician with a nationally known health system. I’m forbidden from even speaking with the media without prior approval from our communications office, and violating that is grounds for immediate firing. It’s just life in a corporate world.

  33. jonboy says:

    “but here are some quite nice statements that no one can possibly take issue with in the comment section”

    And The Beat once again proves its hatred for the big two.

    Yes, one can take a crapload of issues with his statements, including those you pulled. And as much as Mr. Busiek wants to defend Chris’s actions, it all speaks of an incredible amount of immaturity and naivety on Roberson’s part to continue beating this horse.

    I believe that more people have now read the articles about his rants than the comics that he wrote.

    (and this is from someone who has bought iZombie from the beginning, but that was for the Allred art….)

  34. Jonboy, I guess you are unfamiliar with the concept of irony?

    Or it’s internet-era spin-off…snark?

  35. horatio weisfeld says:

    From the Chris Roberson interview: “To be honest, I think it was a weekday and so we were up early getting our daughter ready for school and when I came across the headline I swear I thought that I’d misread the calendar and it was April 1 because I couldn’t believe it was actually a thing that was happening.”

    >>

    I can certainly relate – When I saw the first Barf Watchmen graphics, I truly computed this as a joke. It didn’t seem possible to me that a serious publisher could actually be doing something so crass.

    CRASS
    Definition: coarse, insensitive
    Synonyms: Philistine, asinine, blundering, boorish, bovine, churlish, dense, doltish, gross, indelicate, inelegant, loutish, lowbrow, lumpish, oafish, obtuse, raw, rough, rude, stupid, uncouth, unrefined, vulgar, witless

  36. jonboy says:

    @ TheBeat
    “I guess you are unfamiliar with the concept of irony? Or it’s internet-era spin-off…snark?”

    Ah. Yes. My mistake. Of course people were going to be willing (and fully able) to pick apart his comments.

  37. “But if he really thought he was going to be able call his employer unethical in the media and still retain his job, then he’s a fool”

    He said he no longer felt comfortable working for DC because he felt they were unethical. I don’t see why people are calling his foresight into question like this. He was not at all surprised that he couldn’t retain his work at DC, the whole point is that he no longer wanted to work with DC. How is any of that not clear by now?

Speak Your Mind

*