Quote of the day: Douglas Wolk on the Spirit of the Watchmen

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201308011359 Quote of the day: Douglas Wolk on the Spirit of the Watchmen


If the people who commissioned [Before Watchmen] really wanted to pay tribute to Watchmen,” perhaps they could have tried to reproduce the circumstances of its birth: giving gifted writers and artists the latitude to make something new and fresh in its tone and execution. Instead, they’ve saddled those creators with extending a groundbreaking work into a glossy but lifeless franchise.


Douglas Wolk reviewing the Before Watchmen stories For the LA Times in a piece called Did ‘Watchmen’ really need a prequel?
BTW I’ll say something I’ve said many times before, if you really want to read something that has the same tone as Watchmen, read Rick Veitch’s Heroica stories: Brat Pack and The Maximortal have all the darkness and social commentary that the BeWa books could only refer to.

Comments

  1. jonboy says:

    Maybe this site should be called “The Comics Beating on a Dead Horse”

    I think we get it Heidi. You don’t like Before Watchmen. Or I should say that you don’t like the very concept of Before Watchmen as I don’t know if you’ve actually READ any of the books before you summarily passed judgement on them.

    However, I suppose that when one worships at the altar of Alan Moore and Indy comics, anything else is pure sacrilege, and all of the non-believers should be stoned.

  2. jaroslav hasek says:

    does anyone actually think DC made the Before Watchman comics because they wanted to “pay tribute” to the original series? i mean, maybe thats what they said, but c’mon, we’re all adults here, we know they just did it to make money.

  3. Erik Scott says:

    “If the people who commissioned [Before Watchmen] really wanted to pay tribute to Watchmen,” perhaps they could have tried to reproduce the circumstances of its birth: giving gifted writers and artists the latitude to make something new and fresh in its tone and execution. ”

    Only DC seems to have been trying that with Vertigo books for years and no one buys most of them (or at least not enough people buy most of them for DC to be able to justify publishing them in their business model)

    I love this website, but I think this space could have been much better served focusing on featuring the exact type of books Wolk is talking about instead of derailing Before Watchmen again for the umpteeth time.

  4. Heidi MacDonald says:

    Erik: you mean like news about the new edition of Jellaby? http://comicsbeat.com/kean-soos-jellaby-is-coming-back-in-to-print/

    or Laura’s review of the indie THE BUNKER (which looks amazing)
    http://comicsbeat.com/exclusive-advance-review-the-bunker-by-joshua-hale-fialkov-and-joe-infurnari/

    Or this inetrview with sometimes indie artist Declan Shalvey?
    http://comicsbeat.com/interview-declan-shalvey-on-working-with-marvel-dark-horse-boom-dc-idw/

    Or this piece where we all pick books to buy in August?
    http://comicsbeat.com/what-should-you-buy-in-august/

    OKAY, we’ll try to start doing stuff like that.

    ON a less sarcastic note, about 80% of this site is given over to positive coverage of books and things that I and my other writers LIKE and READ. It would be nice if people paid as much attention to the positives as the occasional negatives but this isn’t how humans work, and the internet is still run by humans.

  5. The Upcoming Robot Uprising says:

    “the internet is still run by humans”

    You keep telling yourself that, Human.

  6. Erik Scott says:

    @Heidi – Understood. And I actually read and liked most of the articles you linked (and really really appreciate the “What will you buy in August “article. I hope this continues and can even happen more regularly then monthly.) My comment wasn’t saying that you aren’t doing it (as a matter of fact, compared to all the other comic focused sites on the net that I read regularly, I would say you focus more then almost all of them on true independent books.) It was rather to say, did we really need one more article posted about how awful Before Watchmen was in concept, if not execution, (not to mention Wolk’s statement seems in part to beat least partially mis-representative of the whole picture of the entire DC publishing line)

    I also understand that another “Before Watchmen” post is likely going to draw more eyes than a positive review of something fewer people have heard of. I realize this is a reality of continuing to run your site. So I guess my comment in retrospect is more a lament that that’s the way it has to be than a legitimate critique of that this site does. I apologize if my comment seemed overly critical.

    There are (arguably) an infinite number of good books out there still not getting and coverage, and I didn’t even buy (or read) Before Watchmen and yet I still some how am feeling fatigue from reading about it.

  7. Larry Vossler says:

    “I think we get it Heidi. You don’t like Before Watchmen. Or I should say that you don’t like the very concept of Before Watchmen as I don’t know if you’ve actually READ any of the books before you summarily passed judgement on them.”
    And we get you don’t like reading articles about BW.

    You can do the smart thing and ignore them. Just like I did BW.

    Also, you don’t need to read BW to realize what bullshit they are.

    “However, I suppose that when one worships at the altar of Alan Moore and Indy comics, anything else is pure sacrilege, and all of the non-believers should be stoned.”
    This makes no sense. Then again, your whole comment makes no sense.

    There’s nothing showing what you say is true. Keep looking at the site and you’ll see love for the big two. But just because they fuck up, doesn’t mean they’ll get a pass for it.

  8. >> Only DC seems to have been trying that with Vertigo books for years and no one buys most of them (or at least not enough people buy most of them for DC to be able to justify publishing them in their business model)>>

    Vertigo’s a somewhat different kind of thing, though.

    I think creating a new WATCHMEN wouldn’t be impossible — it couldn’t be done with a 100% success rate, but then, nothing can be. Still, even if you followed the original Watchmen process of taking a pitch that was deemed too extreme for the characters it was intended for and turning them into new characters in a self-contained work, you’d get some interesting books.

    Imagine, for instance, if IDENTITY CRISIS had been done as the same story, but about new characters. I bet it’d be a broadly-liked evergreen book, rather than a book people got angry about because they didn’t want that kind of material with those particular characters. It made a lot of money the way they did it, so it’s not a choice between success or failure, but it’d have been an interesting way to go.

    Mark Millar’s shown there’s a market (and a film market, even) for his kind of thing, but he’s turning into his own evergreen titles rather than anything a publisher controls, because no publisher developed them. Nothing wrong with that, and I’m glad lots of creators choose to retain complete control.

    But I think Douglas is right, and I’ve said the same kind of thing myself before. If DC or Marvel set out to develop something in the spirit (and with the perennial sales) of WATCHMEN, I think they’d have enough successes to make it worth the effort. Maybe not on WATCHMEN’s level, but what publisher wouldn’t want a few perennial sellers doing even 50% of what WATCHMEN does?

    WATCHMEN happened by accident — they were trying to develop the Charlton characters and it turned into something they hadn’t been aiming at. Similarly, SANDMAN started out as a DCU book, and wasn’t intended to be the genre-establishing, imprint-founding book it became.

    Would they be able to do something as successful, in its particular way, if they aimed for it, rather than just trying to extend the franchise? Hard to say, but I bet it’d be worth a try.

    kdb

  9. Erik beat me to the essential same thought, though it was my intention only to knock Wolk for making such a B.S. statement; one that showed no awareness of the current market’s resistance to things that are “new and fresh.”

    I didn’t get as much as Heidi did out of BRAT PACK.

  10. Erik Scott says:

    @Kurt Busiek – I guess I just don’t feel as confident that if “Identity Crisis” had been tried as it’s own thing as opposed to something connected to a pre-set world of character already. Something I feel like seems to be happening with the current market, is the vast majority of core readers seem to feel like the stories “matter”. That seems to me to mean tied to a family of books or line wide crossover. When the reading public don’t feel that the stories “matter” they just don’t seem to be as well regarded or focused on.

    All that being said, I would like to see DC and Marvel take more chances in these regards, rather then just going for what is seemingly the easy buck.

  11. Heidi MacDonald says:

    My picking of this quote was no to known BeWa yet again — I think we all agree that like it or not it didn’t have as much impact as….okay, let’s say Grant Morrison’s current take on batman which has got people reading and arguing every month.

    It was to point out that making new things is important and caoturing the spirit of the time of Watchmen’s creation would be more valuable to a company like DC in the long run than just the cash grab of spinoffs.

    And you know what? I’m hearing that some DC execs are beginning to think the same thing.

    This is a time of incredible, amazing creativity and growth in the comics business. Whatever their corporate mandate, I know for a fact that the people running DC Comics are far too smart not to realize this themselves.

  12. Earth-2 Chad says:

    Erik beat me to the essential same thought, though it was my intention only to knock Wolk for making such a B.S. statement; one that showed no awareness of the current market’s resistance to things that are “new and fresh.”

    You mean like Saga? And Fatale? Or Lazarus? Or 40,000 other “new and fresh” titles I could mention that are doing numbers Vertigo would kill for?

  13. Larry Vossler says:

    @Erik: ” It was rather to say, did we really need one more article posted about how awful Before Watchmen was in concept, if not execution, (not to mention Wolk’s statement seems in part to beat least partially mis-representative of the whole picture of the entire DC publishing line)”

    I’d say yes. It’s a to way learn on how not do comics and treat creators.

    I recommend reading Mr. Spurgeon’s article on why we need to still talk about BW
    http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/five_more_notes_about_before_watchmen/

    Also, your comments on how we need to expand onto other parts not getting coverage is part of another topic by the great Mr. Spurgeon:
    http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/groupthink_results_comics_industry_coverage/

    You’d enjoy those reads.

    Also, Ms or Mrs. MacDonald, keep up the great work!

  14. Torsten Adair says:

    The Spirit of ’86?

    I think DC sees the elephant in the room, judging by their pushing Vertigo titles so heavily at San Diego:

    Superhero serial GNs do not last long in backlist. (Exception: Morrison’s JLA)
    It’s soap opera for guys. Who watches reruns of soap operas on television? Very few people.
    Meanwhile, almost every Vertigo series from before ???2005 continues to sell in backlist. Doom Patrol. Sandman. Transmetropolitan. DMZ. Fables…

    The Earth One series is a good initiative.
    But… DC needs to let more people play in their sandbox.
    Alternative superhero stories DO sell in backlist (like Mr. Busiek’s Superman: Secret Identity). Red Son. DKR. Watchmen. Kingdom Come. New Frontier. Batman Year 100. Bizarro World.

    Maybe you spin those off into franchises, like what DC had planned with the 52 worlds after Countdown. Or they just exist.

  15. Erik Scott says:

    @ Earth 2 chad: Saga, Lazarus, and Fatale are all titles very specific to their creators with creator branding likely being the reason they are selling so well. These books being launched at Marvel or DC and not being written by people like Brian K Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, or Greg Rucka with built i audiences would not launch at the numbers they are doing. Your 40,000 other titles is very very hyperbolic.

    Yes, there is beginning to be more market acceptance for different books. But the reason for it are so much more complicated and diverse than people are giving it credit for. And it’s still a overwhelmingly small percentage compared to what the public is eating up on a monthly/regular basis.

    In last months indie books alone –
    13)Walking Dead – Kirkman; Zombie; Established Creator
    33)Jupiter’s Legacy – Millar; Quietly – Big two exces would likely argue this is a top 5 book if the creators involved is working on an established property
    34)Lazarus – Rucka & Lark – established team with a history together
    46)Fabulous Lives of the Killjoys – Gerard Way – another established name
    54)East of West – Jonathan Hickman – established name
    75)Ten Grand – JMS & Ben Templesmith – Established creators/ 50% drop off of 1st issue orders

    6% of the top hundred is hardly 40,000 other titles. And that doesn’t even account for the particulars of situations made up for each of these books being the main thrust for why they are set up at Image instead of Icon or Vertigo (not to mention the monumentally different business models involved in publishing and making a book profitable in each company). Not to mention the fact that I’m sure Marvel and DC would love to be putting out books by these creators. But I would argue the creators are a large drive behind the sales of the specific books you mention. And DC and Marvel still have work to do contract wise to present creators with the same opportunity that Image does. It’s a very delicate and complicated trade off. Look at the numbers for Snyder and Murphy’s the Wake for instance. I think that as long as the large percentage of what Image offers continues to fall under the top 100, DC and Marvel aren’t going to take it as seriously additive to their brand, be it Vertigo or whatever.

    Yes we’re getting there very slowly. But there’s still a ways to go. Indie successes still seem to be the exception and not the rule.

    @Larry Vossler – Except I don’t feel like i need to be proselytized about BW any longer, no matter who it is. I get it. I get how some people feel. I get that my opinions differ about the motivation/responsibility/ethics behind the whole ordeal. I’ve read countless upon countless upon countless articles for and (mostly) against it. I’ve made up my mind. I think there are better more constructive things for writers to focus on at this point.

    I am interested to see what Tom Spurgeron has to say in the second link you posted and I appreciate you posting the link.

  16. >> I guess I just don’t feel as confident that if “Identity Crisis” had been tried as it’s own thing as opposed to something connected to a pre-set world of character already. Something I feel like seems to be happening with the current market, is the vast majority of core readers seem to feel like the stories “matter”. That seems to me to mean tied to a family of books or line wide crossover. When the reading public don’t feel that the stories “matter” they just don’t seem to be as well regarded or focused on.>>

    The flipside of that is that stories ingrained in continuity largely get dated and fade away in book form; stories that stand on their own without needed to be tied to some line-wide event are where most of the perennials seem to come from.

    So short term, crossover events are a good commercial idea. Long-term, as Torsten notes, self-contained material has power.

    As a result, it’s probably a good idea to do both. I think if DC or Marvel tried to build “new Watchmen” projects with A-list talent as determinedly as they try to build crossover events, they’d get enough success out of it to justify the effort. I don’t think it needs to be a choice between the two — I think they could do both.

    If they don’t, no big deal — the creators who want to do that sort of thing will find places to do it.

  17. Is the horse really dead if DC/Warner are still riding it?

  18. Chris Hero says:

    @Kurt Busiek

    “Imagine, for instance, if IDENTITY CRISIS had been done as the same story, but about new characters.”

    You mean like if someone were to tell the exact same story in their creator owned title like, oh, I dunno, Astro City? ^_^ I don’t have the issues handy to double check, but I think it was in The Confessor story line where the aliens invaded but were in disguise as heroes and politicians, right? I remember the same story line having a civil war, if you will, where the heroes took sides and fought each other.

  19. This is absolutely a great quote thank you for sharing this kind of thing, it’s why I visit this website everyday.

  20. Heidi MacDonald says:

    I think what all of you “it can’t be done!’ types are forgetting is tat a nwer audience is coming into comics shops and buying digital comics and going into bookstores even who are not beholden to Marvel and DC and are actually into trying (gasp) new things.

    The climate has never been better to launch a new thing in comics. HONEST!

  21. Synsidar says:

    Something I feel like seems to be happening with the current market, is the vast majority of core readers seem to feel like the stories “matter”. That seems to me to mean tied to a family of books or line wide crossover. When the reading public don’t feel that the stories “matter” they just don’t seem to be as well regarded or focused on.

    That happens because the core readers have the same few personality types and read the comics for the same reasons, primarily for the characters. The stories matter because they’re told that they matter, just like an ad for a soap opera tells fans that this week, the lives of Bill and Tammy will change forever. The reason could be as slight as Tammy catching Bill looking admiringly at Kelly in a bikini, but if the viewer is deeply into the love lives of Bill and Tammy, practically any development is significant. If someone isn’t into their love lives, the soap opera is junk.

    Compare following a soap opera to, say, reading an SF story that employs the theme What does it mean to be human? That theme’s been used countless times, but there are also countless ways to employ it in stories, and recent developments in science, such as synthetic genes and altered types of DNA, can inspire stories by themselves. Stories can be read and enjoyed for reasons that have practically nothing to do with the reasons that people create and read superhero stories. Wolk is asking for creators to be creative, and for DC to publish their creative efforts. But that would require marketing.

    Recognizing creativity also requires acknowledging when concepts are redundant. I won’t be buying Marvel’s INFINITY event, primarily because Hickman’s Builders are redundant in a universe that has the Celestials, the Beyonders, and other ancient races. Having the heroes go up against yet another “superior” race for the purpose of taking them down doesn’t mean a damn thing anymore. Yet an SF writer could tackle similar material in a standalone story and do well, producing a memorable story, because his personal approach to the theme and characters, and his handling of the details, will make the story different.

    SRS

  22. >> You mean like if someone were to tell the exact same story in their creator owned title like, oh, I dunno, Astro City? ^_^>>

    Not particularly, no. I meant as a new, self-contained project.

    >> I don’t have the issues handy to double check, but I think it was in The Confessor story line where the aliens invaded but were in disguise as heroes and politicians, right? I remember the same story line having a civil war, if you will, where the heroes took sides and fought each other.>>

    If Marvel’s use of that was “the exact same story,” I’d have been in trouble too, because aliens duplicating humans goes back to MILLENNIUM and the Kree/Skrull War and THEY LIVE and THE INVADERS and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and…

    Sometimes a trope is just a trope, you know?

    kdb

  23. Erik Scott says:

    “This is a time of incredible, amazing creativity and growth in the comics business. Whatever their corporate mandate, I know for a fact that the people running DC Comics are far too smart not to realize this themselves.”

    “The climate has never been better to launch a new thing in comics. HONEST!”

    I hope this continues to grow to be true beyond creators that are already well established.

    I will say that a few years ago no one knew who Scott Snyder was. Now he and Sean Murphy have the most impressive top selling Vertigo debut in years. I truly hope this turns out to start to be more of a constant than an exception.

  24. Chris Hero says:

    Kurt,

    I was trying to pay you a compliment. I’m sorry it didn’t come off that way. While I agree with the rapper Nas’s song “No Idea’s Original,” I thought you did the Secret Invasion type story way better than Marvel before they ever got there. I also thought it was interesting Marvel had Civil War and Secret Invasion as back-to-back events after you had them both in the same story. Plus, I really don’t trust Marvel or DC to even clean a bathroom let alone have any creative integrity. But that’s just me.

  25. Erik Scott says:

    “Plus, I really don’t trust Marvel or DC to even clean a bathroom let alone have any creative integrity.”

    You do realize that they actually do have artists and writers working on their books, that includes people like Mr Busiek. So this is more an insult to those creators then it is to the non-sentitent corporations you a referring to. While you might not see a Bendis book as having creative integrity or a Snyder book or a Hickman book or whomever, I’m sure those creators would very much take issue with your definition of creative integrity.

  26. Glenn Simpson says:

    I wonder, though, if doing things that are obviously pastiches of existing characters and then taking them through things the “real” versions would never do is a more attractive prospect to the buyer than something that is COMPLETELY new. Like an Apollo and Midnighter sort of thing. It’s not completely unfamiliar, and there’s that “wink wink” factor. And it protects the main brand from whatever “harmful effects”.

  27. Synsidar says:

    While you might not see a Bendis book as having creative integrity or a Snyder book or a Hickman book or whomever, I’m sure those creators would very much take issue with your definition of creative integrity.

    In the world of genre fiction, creative integrity means producing a story that actually works as a genre story. One of Bendis’s unfortunate legacies from his Avengers material is the Illuminati, a group that suited Bendis’s crime fiction and conspiracies proclivities very well, but made no sense within the Marvel Universe. When a creator views characters as being toys that he’s paid to play with, he’s not going to put the same effort into the stories that he would when his professional success and reputation ride on the performance of a story.

    SRS

  28. >> I was trying to pay you a compliment. I’m sorry it didn’t come off that way.>>

    No worries. I appreciate the thought, but I do see lots of people accusing Marvel of swiping stuff from ASTRO CITY that long predates ASTRO CITY, so I like to point out that we’re all just drawing from the same well.

    >> I thought you did the Secret Invasion type story way better than Marvel before they ever got there. I also thought it was interesting Marvel had Civil War and Secret Invasion as back-to-back events after you had them both in the same story.>>

    Keep in mind that I was playing with established tropes myself, and echoing stuff that Marvel, DC and others had done before — was Marvel’s Superhuman Registration Act inspired by the ASTRO CITY story, or by their own Mutant Registration Act from years earlier? Or from the story about the JSA disbanding when they were ordered to reveal their identities, from before that?

    Was SECRET INVASION inspired by ASTRO CITY, or by things like, say, the Kree-Skrull War, where a politician was impersonated by a Skrull, and proceeded to whip up anti-Avenger sentiment? Whether they were inspired by me or not, I was certainly inspired by earlier instances of the same ideas at Marvel, and at other places that go back long before those, even.

    >> Plus, I really don’t trust Marvel or DC to even clean a bathroom let alone have any creative integrity. But that’s just me.>>

    Having seen the Marvel men’s room, there are eras in which I’d agree with the former, but I know the folks up there at both places (and have been one of them, at times), and I just can’t let the latter pass without objection. You may not like the books, but the people making them aren’t “Marvel or DC,” they’re people. If you’re bashing, say, Brian Bendis’s integrity, you’re not bashing a company, but a writer, a husband, a father, who, like me, lives 3000 miles away from the offices. I don’t think Brian was nicking anything from ASTRO CITY — or at least, nothing that isn’t completely fair game, given that Brent, Alex and I are inspired by and draw on the rich history of superhero comics for what we do, too. But honestly, registration acts, alien shapeshifters and heroes punching on each other were all a part of Marvel long before I wrote a line of ASTRO CITY.

    kdb

  29. CorporateDad says:

    The power of comic books in two comments:

    ” I’m sure those creators would very much take issue with your definition of creative integrity.”
    “… you’re not bashing a company, but a writer, a husband, a father, who, like me, lives 3000 miles away from the offices.”

    A corporation, by definition, is amoral. What Marvel and DC have been doing since they first began is wring the creative talents out of their employees for money. Now, this doesn’t mean the comics aren’t good, or that the people involved are straight up hitmen for hire, knocking down storylines according to a dictate from faceless overlords. But honestly: even if you liked Fear Itself (which I did, at least a lot of it) you can still understand that it was the very definition of ‘cash grab.’ Only in comics will someone point out the completely obvious (Gee, maybe Marvel and DC are only in this to make money!) will someone crawl out of the woodwork to make a case for the creators. News flash: people can see the forest for the trees on this and understand when a creator isn’t necessarily able to do his best work.

    Chris Hero’s comment wasn’t even a shot at Bendis per se. I’m willing to bet that few people, even few comic book fans associate these crossovers with a single creator. So to push back with ‘Hey man, don’t mess with the creators. They are doing their best’ is just flat out obfuscation. Take Jason Aaron’s Thanos prequel. I understand why he’s writing it and I understand what he’s trying to do with the character. But do you really honestly believe that is the story Aaron would write with no editorial edict? The guy who wrote Scalped is going to delve into the teenage years of Thanos? Really? And please understand, Scalped is easily in my top three comics of all time.

    And Kurt, honestly man: Astro City is incredible (though I think your run on Conan is my favorite and arguably the best Conan material out there) but to say one of the reasons we can’t criticize Bendis is because he’s a dad is just bush league. Sure, humanize the guy, but his comment wasn’t ‘OMG BENDIS F)*^&G SUX I WANT TO BURN HIS HOUSE DOWN’ In fact, it wasn’t even a shot at Bendis per se. It was the machinery around that series that was being criticized. Or at least I read it as such. And listen, many of us understand you can’t talk smack about the guys who ultimately sign your paycheck so I’m not even mad. But I think we’d rather you say nothing if you can’t say something mean or at least truthful

    The fact that this entire conversation got started with someone saying ‘Hey, enough about how bad BW is’ should be a gigantic red flag. I’m not tired of reading about it. I want more vitriol. If people actually gave a shit about comics, when BW was announced at comic con, there would have been people throwing things at the podium and chasing DC execs from the room. Instead we get apologias from comics ‘journalists’ and fanboys that buy the comic no matter what is in it. I read the books and even enjoyed some of the ideas if not the execution. (I’m kind of surprised JMS didn’t have Dr. Manhattan walk across the US for a week to see how humans REALLY live.) But I tend to agree with about 99% of Leung’s take here:
    http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2013/05/who-whitewashes-the-watchmen-part-1/

    This is a really long way to say that there are two sides to this debate. Either you are just going to keep pumping money into a corporate entity because OMG BATMAN and nod and agree when Thor is killed every four months and keep adding the Nightwing spinoff to your pick list and basically being the .1% of humans that will consume literally anything these companies put out while ravenously defending the creative genius of Larfleeze. Or you have the temerity to stand back and honestly assess what comics are and what they’ve always been: the curation of intellectual property for a multinational conglomerate. This isn’t a bad thing. You can still love Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, I promise! But you can also call a spade a spade and actually (deep breath) question whether Age of Ultron made a bit of sense. I hate to go all Kubler/Ross on you but comics fans have been stuck in stage one since Secret Wars. Move on. Follow me! FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM!

  30. >> And Kurt, honestly man: Astro City is incredible (though I think your run on Conan is my favorite and arguably the best Conan material out there) but to say one of the reasons we can’t criticize Bendis is because he’s a dad is just bush league.>>

    Glad you like the books, but I never said you can’t criticize Brian, or anyone else. I just pointed out that saying that “Marvel” or “DC” have no creative integrity, and would therefore not hesitate to swipe stories from me, isn’t bashing faceless corporations, but bashing actual people. If you want to do so, fine, but be aware that that’s what you’re doing. I used to be one of those people (and I’m still writing a Batman project for DC), I have loads of friends among those people, and I can assure you, we didn’t get wired up to an integrity-removal machine or anything.

    So on the one hand, I think it’s worth remembering that “Marvel” and “DC” don’t do anything, people do. And on the other, I still don’t think SECRET INVASION or CIVIL WAR were swiped from ASTRO CITY.

    I’d also say that if someone’s trying to compliment me, “Your friends stole your story because they have no integrity” is not a compliment.

    >> And listen, many of us understand you can’t talk smack about the guys who ultimately sign your paycheck so I’m not even mad. But I think we’d rather you say nothing if you can’t say something mean or at least truthful >>

    This, on the other hand, is just nonsense. You assume I’m lying if I’m not saying what you imagine I must really think, and you’d rather I say nothing if it isn’t something that confirms your imagination. And you’re assuring me that you’re not mad at me for giving my actual opinion because you know I’m a spineless liar.

    Can’t do that. I’ll say what I think, whether it’s that I think Marvel and DC have treated the creators of their classic characters poorly and should fix that (something I’ve said often, even though it’s critical of those who sign some of my checks) or that I don’t think Brian Bendis was copying ASTRO CITY in events he wrote for Marvel, even if that’s not mean.

    And if you’re going to assume I’m not being truthful unless I live up to what your imagination says I must really think, there’s no communication going on, since you’ve decided what I must really think before I even say anything.

    If so, no need to read anything I say, because I’ll just annoy you by not living up to how you assume I secretly agree with whatever you think I should say, but am just too much of a coward and a liar to say so.

    But if so, that’s not my problem.

  31. george says:

    http://captaincomics.ning.com/profiles/blogs/before-watchmen-no-controversy-about-its-quality?xg_source=activity

    Unfortunately, a “glossy but lifeless franchise” exactly what some people want, probably because that’s what decades of superhero addiction have conditioned them to expect.

  32. george says:

    Synsidar said: “That happens because the core readers have the same few personality types and read the comics for the same reasons, primarily for the characters.”

    Boy, is that true. I get the impression that a lot of fans — especially the ones who are very active online — really don’t like stories or drama. They want comics that follow the conventions and formulas of the grade-B genre movies, cheesy old TV shows and superhero comic books they grew up on.

    Anything that deviates from that — anything that isn’t predictable and comforting — is rejected.

  33. CorporateDad says:

    I dunno if you can quote on here, but I’m stealing the arrows.

    >>>>>So on the one hand, I think it’s worth remembering that “Marvel” and “DC” don’t do anything, people do.

    This is demonstrably false and a dodge at best. I have an example: Does anyone, anywhere believe that the Constantine reboot is a singular vision for that character? Or is it more likely that the same corporation responsible for Before Watchmen stepped in and said “Constantine needs to be more like….” (where the ellipsis represents a flattening of everything that made Hellblazer great in the first place?) Lemire is ‘writing’ it in name only as it is being ‘scripted’ by someone else. The process in place by the corporation makes a book from the guy who wrote Underwater Welder nearly unreadable and more importantly completely untrue to the spirit of the character. (Just like Before Watchmen, incidentally.) Sure ‘people’ make the decisions but they aren’t making them as creators or trying to make the best possible creative decisions. They are trying to sell a product for a corporation. More cynically they simply curating an IP for the same.

    >>>>>And on the other, I still don’t think SECRET INVASION or CIVIL WAR were swiped from ASTRO CITY…I’d also say that if someone’s trying to compliment me, “Your friends stole your story because they have no integrity” is not a compliment.

    Again, I didn’t read it as that and I said as much. The point was even clarified later and again, he didn’t point to Bendis as the culprit, or at least I’m not seeing it. I understand correlation does not imply causation, but what he’s saying (and what I’m agreeing with strenuously) is that these companies are making decisions about these IPs on levels that the creators CAN’T have input on. Case in point: Guardians of the Galaxy. It is a decent book, it’s a little closer to Bendis’ wheelhouse. I like it because there isn’t enough big, crazy sci-fi in comics anymore. But on what planet would Bendis be writing that book if it weren’t for the film coming out next year? (See also: Thanos Rising.) So these companies are making decisions based on larger concerns, or at least their focus is not giving total free reign to a creator. Can you grant me that? If you can, then you can see how the company responsible for BW could also swipe ideas from somewhere else, or at least regurgitate them for the lowest common denominator. Maybe Bendis had a LOT more to do with those series and since you know the guy, I believe you when you say that CIVIL WAR and SECRET INVASION had nothing to do with your books. But to raise the question isn’t to besmirch Bendis name or some insane logical leap.

    And Marvel isn’t even the bad guy here. DC is just brutal about it. They have journeymen cranking out these books with little to no regard for anything but keeping the IP alive.
    To whit:
    http://whenwillthehurtingstop.blogspot.com/2013/08/sir.html

    >>>>>And you’re assuring me that you’re not mad at me for giving my actual opinion because you know I’m a spineless liar.

    I’m guilty of the wording of my comment, so I’ll apologize up front. I have no idea what you’ve done in regards to taking the fight to the man, nor do I ultimately care. I tried getting through your Twitter feed to see if there were any examples, but I was about five pages in and never made it out of August so I quit looking.
    There are two problems though. First is that you just jumped to me assuming you are a ‘spineless liar’ (your words, not mine). You brought it way, way up a notch just as you seemed to with the Bendis comment. I understand that you spend a lot of time interacting with fans and that this can be troublesome. But in both cases you took what were poorly worded comments as proverbial shots fired. This leads to the second issue I have with your response. For someone in the industry who does interact with fans so much, you have to know about how DC and Marvel have responded to their detractors. I know personally I’ve seen creators say one thing and then months later leave and change their tune completely. So what I tried (and failed) to (jokingly) say in that comment was that you probably can’t say exactly what you want. Just as you probably can’t write the exact Superman story that you’d like to. Or that the conditions for creators in your industry is not now, nor has it ever been where it should be. And I could be wrong, but the immediate defense of Marvel in that context was pretty shocking given all I’ve read about the company and seen online from former employees, etc. If your relationship with those companies is that great, kudos. I just had never heard that sentiment before from a reliable source.

  34. george says said: “Boy, is that true. I get the impression that a lot of fans — especially the ones who are very active online — really don’t like stories or drama. They want comics that follow the conventions and formulas of the grade-B genre movies, cheesy old TV shows and superhero comic books they grew up on.”

    Interesting. I had a contrasting impression of online discussions (not unlike this one) highly populated by consumers who want nothing but “drama” and Hollywood blockbuster thrills who go for big, overblown events and any superficial markings of sophistication and “maturity” in their comics so that they specifically don’t resemble the cheesy old TV shows and superhero comic books they grew up on while trading on the popular appeal and brand recognition thereof instead of creating new ideas and properties.

    Anything that deviates from that — anything that isn’t predictable and “epic” — is rejected. Funny, that.

  35. george says:

    They want the same old formulas and the same old characters (most of whom they’ve been reading about since childhood) dressed up in flashy digital effects. That convinces them they’re experiencing something new and cutting-edge.

    But give them something truly new, and they’re baffled.

  36. >> This is demonstrably false and a dodge at best.>>

    No, it’s absolutely true.

    >>I have an example: Does anyone, anywhere believe that the Constantine reboot is a singular vision for that character? Or is it more likely that the same corporation responsible for Before Watchmen stepped in and said “Constantine needs to be more like….” (where the ellipsis represents a flattening of everything that made Hellblazer great in the first place?)>>

    I guarantee you that if anyone said that, it was a person. Corporations don’t think, talk or decide things, people do. If Dan Didio said that, hey, he’s a person. If Eddie Berganza, did, so is he. So’s Geoff Johns, so’s Jim Lee, so are all the other people who work there.

    >> I understand correlation does not imply causation, but what he’s saying (and what I’m agreeing with strenuously) is that these companies are making decisions about these IPs on levels that the creators CAN’T have input on.>>

    And aside from the tack of thinking that if an editor or a publisher makes a decision, it’s somehow not being made by people, both of you are imagining this, at least on the level you’re talking about. As someone who’s come up with crossover stories, I can assure you that creators can and do have input on that sort of thing, and when we’re told that Brian came up with those stories, it’s because Brian came up with those stories. They may have been shaped and developed with editorial input (by Tom and Axel and other people), but if you’re imagining some weird Supreme Intelligence of Marvel that comes up with stories and forces creators and editors to claim credit for them, it’s just not there. These things are come up with by people — creators and editors and such — talking on the phone or sitting around in conference rooms talking or going out for lunch and talking. But it’s people, every time.

    >> Case in point: Guardians of the Galaxy. It is a decent book, it’s a little closer to Bendis’ wheelhouse. I like it because there isn’t enough big, crazy sci-fi in comics anymore. But on what planet would Bendis be writing that book if it weren’t for the film coming out next year?>>

    You don’t think Brian had any choice in the matter? Or you think shadowy non-people at Marvel are dictating his plots to him?

    >> So these companies are making decisions based on larger concerns, or at least their focus is not giving total free reign to a creator. Can you grant me that?>>

    I never once said companies give free rein (not reign) to creators. I said that choices are made by people. If those people include Tom Brevoort or Joe Quesada or Axel Alonso, they’re still choices being made by people. Telling me Tom Brevoort stole my plots is no more complimentary than saying Brian did it.

    >> If you can, then you can see how the company responsible for BW could also swipe ideas from somewhere else, or at least regurgitate them for the lowest common denominator.>>

    No, it doesn’t follow logically that if people at Marvel wanted to do a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY comic because there’s a movie in the works, and Brian was up for the job, therefore DC chooses to plagiarize things without benefit of people being involved.

    >> Maybe Bendis had a LOT more to do with those series and since you know the guy, I believe you when you say that CIVIL WAR and SECRET INVASION had nothing to do with your books. But to raise the question isn’t to besmirch Bendis name or some insane logical leap.>>

    To claim that those stories were swiped from ASTRO CITY is to claim that people chose to do it, and that Brian was either one of those people or went along with them, both of which are pretty besmirching. Whether you’re making the accusation of Brian or Tom or Joe or someone else, you’re saying it about people. You seem to think “people” only means freelancers, which is weird, but it doesn’t.

    >> And Marvel isn’t even the bad guy here.>>

    If the claim is being made that Marvel swiped stories from ASTRO CITY, then that’s a claim that they’re bad guys. If you want to make a more generalized anti-corporate speech, that’s certainly your privilege, but it’s a little odd to try to blame DC for any resemblance between CONFESSION and a couple of Marvel events.

    >> There are two problems though. First is that you just jumped to me assuming you are a ‘spineless liar’ (your words, not mine).>>

    You said I should be silent unless I can be mean or at least truthful, which is a claim that I’m lying, and you said I’m doing it because I don’t dare speak out against the people who sign my checks, which is a claim of spinelessness.

    >> And I could be wrong, but the immediate defense of Marvel in that context was pretty shocking given all I’ve read about the company and seen online from former employees, etc.>>

    You seem to be imagining something I didn’t say. I don’t think it’s defending Marvel to say that the decisions there are made by people. It’s true of Proctor & Gamble, too, and I think a lot of the people there are scumbags who make terrible decisions. And the people at Marvel make good choices and bad ones, to be sure. But those decisions are still being made by people. And in this case, the suggestion was being made that people at Marvel — people I know, people I’ve worked with — had swiped my stories, when it’s an absurd charge in the first place, because those tropes existed long before I ever used them. I’m happy to defend the particular people who made CIVIL WAR and SECRET INVASION from those particular charges.

    So basically, what I’m saying is that good or bad, positive or negative, when you’re saying that Marvel (or DC) have no creative integrity, you’re saying that about people. If someone wants to say that, they’re entitled to, but they should know they’re saying it about the people that work there, not about a company logo. And if that’s what they’re saying, I won’t go along with it, because I think the idea that Brian (or Tom, or Axel, or Joe) is choosing to swipe my ideas because they can’t think of Skrulls themselves, is both absurd and insulting to friends of mine.

    Anyone who wants to believe it can still believe it. But like I said, I object to the idea. And not because I’ve gotten checks from Marvel, but because I know these guys, and have worked with them and talked with them, and it’s just an absurd idea.

    kdb

  37. george says:

    Heidi MacDonald wrote: “ON a less sarcastic note, about 80% of this site is given over to positive coverage of books and things that I and my other writers LIKE and READ. It would be nice if people paid as much attention to the positives as the occasional negatives but this isn’t how humans work, and the internet is still run by humans.”

    I don’t have a problem with well-written negative commentary. But it rarely appears anywhere other than the Comics Journal. As many have pointed out, the number of people involved in comics full-time is small, and they all know each other. If you pan someone’s work too enthusiastically, that person (and all of his or her friends) are likely to get mad at you. They might not invite you to their next party.

    Heidi herself has written that she’s all but stopped writing reviews, because she’s friends with so many people in comics. I don’t know of any field other than comics where this happens. Movie critics don’t recuse themselves from reviewing, say, the new Brad Pitt movie because they spend their free time hanging out with Brad. Virtually none of them know Pitt (or any movie star, or any director) on any sort of personal level.

    But Heidi and other comics “journalists” are close friends, and sometime co-workers, with many comics creators. It works against any sort of hard-hitting criticism. I think there should be a rule: if you live in New York or Los Angeles, you can’t write comics reviews. You shouldn’t be asked to review the work of your drinking buddies.

  38. CorporateDad says:

    I had a long response written, then I was just going to ask a question. But I googled it instead and found this:

    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150505861665829&id=201264465828

    and this:
    http://comicsbeat.com/didio-and-lee-speak-on-roberson-before-watchmen-etc-heres-that-spade-to-dig-your-hole-a-little-deeper/

    And that’s really all I need to read. Sorry to take up your time.

  39. Superboy Prime says:

    Before Watchmen has been a failure from start to finish, taking pops at Heidi won’t change that.

    Sandman Overture now that is the right way to go about things and hopefully proves it upon release.

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