The Creator's Life #1: Chris Roberson

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As was widely noted yesterday, writer Chris Roberson tweeted the end of his working relationship with DC Comics:

Having an afternoon cocktail to celebrate the end of my time at DC.
Aside from the Fairest arc I already committed to doing, iZombie will be the last time I’ll ever write for DC.
Sorry. In a better world, characters like the Legion would be owned by a more ethical company, but sadly not in this one.
The short version is, I don’t agree with the way they treat other creators and their general business practices.
I decided quite some time ago, but waited until after the cancellation of my book was announced to discuss it.


He elaborated in a statement to Comics Alliance and other websites:
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Based on the reaction on Twitter, his move was met, by some fans, anyway, with a “Who does he think he is”? response. Well, he’s a guy who was a successful, award-nominated writer and publisher long before he started working at DC, so we imagine he’ll be just fine. But this entire cycle of fan depreciation of the creator is depressing. More after we’ve had our own cocktail.

Comments

  1. Roberson’s “Memorial” TPB ships from IDW in September. I know I’ll be buying a copy.

  2. thefreakytiki says:

    In a market that is SO SMALL why do people burn bridges? It baffles me.

    the Tiki

  3. blacaucasian says:

    Principals are fine and everything, and perhaps I’m being cynical, but his decision not to write for DC and these statements seem slightly opportunistic to me based on his series recently being cancelled and his Fairest arc being the only thing he has in the pipeline with them.

    Furthermore, I would think he would decline writing his Fairest arc as well if this was truly the way he felt. While I understand IDW is publishing the Star Trek/Legion crossover, I have a hard time believing DC isn’t seeing some sort of monetary compensation for it. If he is indeed still writing that book, why, if he feels this strongly about DC.

    And why single out DC. In his tweets he pointed out David Brothers article on Comics Alliance which also points to Marvel mistreatment of Kirby in relation to the Avengers movie.

    If he wants people to support his other work or creator owned projects, that’s fine. But this seems part sour grapes (possibly over the Superman debacle, possibly over his book being cancelled) and partially inflammatory in order to I guess draw more attention to himself? He’s already walked part of his statement back in response to Kurt Busiek on Twitter, it seems stating when he said “last time ever” it’s not really necessarily what he meant.

    I just think I would have a lot more respect for this statement and position if it was a little more whole-hearted.

  4. MBunge says:

    I don’t have any problem with Roberson deciding he doesn’t want to work with DC for any reason he chooses. It would feel a little more principled, however, if it wasn’t connected to his book being cancelled. If DC had been willing to keep publishing iZombie, and paying Roberson, would he have still walked away from the company?

    Mike

  5. Go Chris!

    A corporation can not create anything. Only an artist (writer, painter, letterer, etc.) can. Any corporation owes their existence to the creators who work for them and should treat them with respect. Especially in a world where anyone can e-publish their work and have immediate world wide distribution.

  6. MBunge says:

    “Any corporation owes their existence to the creators who work for them and should treat them with respect.”

    Creators, on the other hand, should apparently be free to crap all over corporations, even though those corporations are made up of people who often bust their asses to help the creator achieve financial success they could never have on their own.

    Mike

  7. “If DC had been willing to keep publishing iZombie, and paying Roberson, would he have still walked away from the company?”

    That would be pretty unprofessional. Roberson wasn’t the only one working on that book. Burning your bridges with a single company is one thing but leaving your collaborators high and dry is something that would create far more bad blood. Even if you take a job and regret it after the fact, you still do the job to the best of your ability and leave when you get your chance.

    I applaud anyone for putting their money where their mouth is. This was the cleanest, most professional and mature way to handle it.

    It’s amazing to see some of the cynicism and fanboy protectionism and anti-creator crap coming out from people these days when someone has the temerity to stand up and say “you know what, this is wrong”. This issue is bigger than any one person; it’s bigger than Kirby, Siegel, Shuster, Ditko, Moore and anyone else. They’ve all been screwed (in different ways, despite how the apologists try to equate them all as exactly the same) by massive corporations for… well, for being really good at what they do and making them a ton of money. It’s not the most sensible business model in the world, is it?

    If you want good comics, support the people who make them. The sooner people realize that, the better for everyone.

  8. jaroslav hasek says:

    corporations are just a nexus of contracts. they arent a thing to get mad at. get mad at the owners of the corporations. so in DC’s case, the stockholders (and the board too probably) of Time Warner. the stockholders are mostly other corporations and investment trusts, like pensions funds. so get mad at things like TIAA-CREF, since they own the company that hires the managers and tells them to make profits which is why they treat creators like crap. then get mad at the people for buying Time Warner’s products since they provide the profits TIAA-CREF and the other owners demand.

    you can also pretty accurately measure the price of integrity. if DC offered any artist on the planet 5 billion dollars for 1 page of art/story, im pretty theyd all do it, even alan moore. then lower the price until they wouldn’t do it because of DC’s policy. average that among creators and boom, your ‘integrity tax’ that creators demand.

    sorry to sound so cynical. im all for roberson creating comics in any whatever fashion makes him happiest. i look forward to whatever he produces next, regardless of publisher.

  9. henrybarajas says:

    The way DC treated Chris on the Superman book, I don’t blame him.

  10. blacaucasian says:

    “It’s amazing to see some of the cynicism and fanboy protectionism and anti-creator crap coming out from people these days”

    I don’t think any of this as as simple as creator = good; corporation = bad. People who try do boil it down to that on either side are wrong.

    Bottom line is, as The Beat has said many times, creators should always retain ownership of their ideas.

    Just as an aside, has anyone actually ever physically seen the contract that Moore and Gibbons signed for Watchmen? Because despite all the conjecture on what that contract does or does not say, I’ve yet to see a copy of it or seen a copy of it analyzed in depth. It’s hard for me in either case to make any sort of concrete opinion without having the complete facts of what was signed and what exactly that contract said.

  11. jonboy says:

    1. Sounds like Chris is woefully misinformed on the Siegel lawsuit (like most people).

    2. Righteous indignation always amuses me.
    I’ll assume that Chris also is going to discontinue his use of any products manufactured in China (notorious human rights abuses, child labor, etc), stop eating any food grown or processed using illegal immigrants (low wages and lack of rights), or stop using any products made by any of the larger corporations (low wages, non union labor, environmental concerns, etc).

    It’s always nice to take a moral high ground, but every moral high ground is built on a foundation of picking and choosing exactly what you’re going to be morally disgusted by.

    Best of luck to him (I enjoyed iZombie), but I just gotta wonder how much of this is due to sour grapes that his title was cancelled.

  12. Joe Lawler says:

    I wonder if there are music blogs/message boards where fans are like “Screw Pink Floyd, I’m an EMI fan!”?

  13. Chris Hero says:

    YAY Chris!!!!

    Here’s to you, Mr. Roberson!!!

    It’s always inspiring and awesome when someone takes the chance and quits a corporation over their lack of ethics. It’s definitely a goal I’m working to in my own life. This is so cool!

  14. blacaucasian says:

    “I wonder if there are music blogs/message boards where fans are like “Screw Pink Floyd, I’m an EMI fan!”?”

    There of a hell of a lot of music fans who say, “Screw Pink Floyd, I’m a Roger Waters fan.”

  15. Are there any wiki editors in the house? Because this comment thread would be a useful citation in the Stockholm Syndrome entry.

  16. blacaucasian says:

    “Are there any wiki editors in the house? Because this comment thread would be a useful citation in the Stockholm Syndrome entry.”

    How so?

  17. Chris Hero says:

    @Sean Collins

    YES! YES! YES!

  18. blacaucasian says:

    @Chris Hero and Sean T. Collins – Where do you see Stockholm Syndrome in this thread? I see people questioning Roberson’s reasoning for announcing this how and when he did.

    Questioning these things doesn’t mark an alignment with DC. I’m not sure I understand the logic.

  19. A corporation is a person, my friend.

  20. jaroslav hasek says:

    nah, corporations are only treated LIKE people for certain legal purposes. I dont think it makes any sense to think of them as people for purposes of this discussion or similar topics.

  21. His Fairest arc just got spiked according to Chris.

    https://twitter.com/#!/chris_roberson

    ‘Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I won’t be writing a Fairest arc after all. It was decided my services were no longer required.’

  22. I blame Dan DiDio. If he didn’t decide to publish Before Watchmen, Robertson would have been fine leaving it the way it was–with DC screwing Moore and Gibbons out of the rights to Watchmen, using a heavy, and some might say vindictive, editorial hand to mess with LOEG, and using a job to one of Alan Moore’s friends as emotional blackmail to get Moore to do what they want. Yes, things were WAY different when Robertson started working for DC.

  23. *Roberson.

  24. Turkish says:

    I, too, quit working for a corporation over my set of principles. Didn’t work out so good for me. Best of luck to him.

    …but if you think about it, choosing not to work or be associated with anyone or anything that has done something of questionable character would leave everyone jobless and starving. You picks your battles and you takes your chances.

  25. Cameron Stewart says:

    @jonboy – I’m sure that Roberson is well aware that other corporations are unethical too – but in this case, this was one he was *accepting money from* and decided that he wasn’t comfortable with that.

    And yes – you do have to “pick and choose” what you stand for or against. I donate money to some charities, but not ALL charities. I refuse to support some companies, but not ALL companies. If I gave all my money away to all charities and spoke out against all companies, I’d be a broke, full-time activist and that’s not how I’ve chosen for my life to go. It’s not feasible for most people to take those kind of all-or-nothing positions, so most people are selective about what they want to support or action they want to take. I don’t think someone should be condemned for that.

  26. “get mad at the owners of the corporations. so in DC’s case, the stockholders (and the board too probably) of Time Warner.”

    Seriously? Did stockholders instruct management to screw creators? It is a well-known fact that stockholders have very little ability to affect the decisions of the board and CEO. This is one of the failings of modern corporations.

    Of course, if you ask anyone from a public corporation why they made a particular decision, they will say it was to “maximize stockholder value”. But this has been proven to be bullshit over and over again. If employees of DC made decisions to screw creators, it is entirely reasonable to say that DC screwed those creators.

    (Of course, when you say “DC” did this or “Marvel” did that, you aren’t saying that every employee of DC did it or that the building that houses Marvel did it. Instead by saying that DC did something, you are using metonymy where one thing is used to stand in for another thing. It’s the kind of figure of speech that we all use all the time and that any non-autistic person can readily understand.)

  27. Steve Rotterdam says:

    Chris is one of the brightest and best storyweavers in comics today. Very excited to see what he’ll be doing next!

  28. MBunge says:

    “as The Beat has said many times, creators should always retain ownership of their ideas.”

    I entirely agree with that, with one proviso. If you want to retain ownership of your ideas, you can’t expect to also get the benefits provided by work-for-hire situations.

    Mike

  29. jaroslav hasek says:

    @robert boyd – point taken. but on the other hand, i think metonmy confuses a lot of non-autistic people when they don’t fully grasp what the metonym is truly representing. i think that is especially true in the conversation of comic corporations.

    it starts with a pension fund for teachers. they need to pay out a lot of money every year to retirement funds. so they make investments in big stable companies like Time Warner. They (and the other investors) demand a certain return on this investment. so the board hires managers to generate these profits. the managers, in turn, have a legally binding fiduciary responsibility to do things like screw over alan moore and the superman heirs. im not supporting or condoning the system, i think too much gets obfuscated sometimes when talking about “corporations” vs “creators”.

  30. Alex Hart says:

    I seem to recall Mike Allred’s one stipulation for working on iZombie was that it be creator-owned. Can’t Chris take it to another publisher?

  31. blacaucasian says:

    “Can’t Chris take it to another publisher?”

    Not until the rights revert back to him.

  32. blacaucasian says:

    *publishing rights

  33. Apollo9000 says:

    The number of people questioning Robersons’ intentions yet explaining DCs’ practices with “it’s just business” is a bit puzzling. Just an example of how it is in the Hustler Age of Comics.

  34. Chris Hero says:

    @Bill Gatevackes

    Everything you say is very true, but even Moore said in one of his interviews he understands if someone starting out or trying to learn the ropes accepts a job at DC, it’s more the people that have both the power and ability to make a go of it elsewhere he kinda feels iffy about. And nobody’s guaranteed a paycheck, but I think it’s fair to say a guy trying to get his rep established and is trying to get a body of work out there is going to have to compromise certain things until he can establish himself to the point he can say “I’m out.”

    @blacaucasian

    Stockholm Syndrome because you, MBunge, and your ilk keep rationalizing Roberson’s decision and identifying with DC when they have screwed over us, the comics world, again and again. You’re identifying with your captors.

  35. blacaucasian says:

    @Chris Hero – Your rationalizing that he’s entirely altruistic in his statement which has just as much basis as my opinion does.

    I don’t know how DC has personally screwed you over, but I can categorically state that DC, Marvel, Image, or any comic company has never done anything to me that I have felt strongly rewarded or screwed by most anything they’ve done. They are not nor ever have been my captors. What these companies do doesn’t ever effect my everyday life. If a Batman, X-Men, Spawn, or Charles Burns book never came out again after tomorrow, it would be unfortunate, I’d be perfectly okay with it. I have plenty of other things to keep me busy in my life.

    There are far bigger injustices in the world to be upset about in place of the fact that millionaire Alan Moore didn’t become multi-millionaire Alan Moore because he signed a bad contract. It just doesn’t get me all that upset.

    I am a musician who has been in bands for the past 18 years. I have always been in bands who self-release our own records and I have never strived to be signed by any “major” or “indie” label. I have always read and been aware since I was 15 of stories of musicians being screwed by labels and managers, directors being screwed by studios, comic creators being screwed by comic companies. I have always felt that in terms of corporations, “you play with fire, you get burned.”

    I can’t feel sorry for people who choose to work with huge corporations and then get burned after everything is said and done. Call me cynical or whatever, but I choose to avoid that particular gladiator pit with my own “art”. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to hold my own opinions and comment on when I watch people who do choose to fight in that particular Gladitor pit.

    I know I’m not going to change your opinions on these situations any more then your going to change mine. But the name calling and attributing “Stockholm Syndrome” to my opinions isn’t anymore effective then if I were to do the same name calling snark throwing back at you.

    We don’t agree with each other where this stuff is involved. Can we just leave it at that without the name calling?

  36. Something tells me he’ll be just fine.

  37. Jesse says:

    More pathetic DC apologists. So addicted to your monthly characters that you piss all over artists, rich or poor. Let’s face it most of you don’t give a damn how the sausage is made you just want to eat it. I am also surprised Dido has not sent his bitch enforcer JMS out to trash Roberson. Although it so interesting to read Babylon 5 references, what a ground breaking piece of crap that was.

  38. horatio weisfeld says:

    Marvel makes a bit of money, I don’t think DC makes money, the head of Dark Horse has been quoted as saying that they make no money and the others count for nothing or very little.

    When I go into my local Barnes and Noble I see DC books taking up a lot of display space at the front. I would guess those books are there less to sell and more to catch my eye and so brand Superman and Batman into my brain once again. Secondary titles are there to fill out the space.

    The reason comic artists and writers are paid so little is because the whole business has become advertising (and so money losing by nature) for the films made, being made and yet to be made.

    If comic book writers and artists are ever going to be paid well again, then somebody will have to have a reason, which companies like DC do not, and the intelligence to turn the business back to a profitable model.

    It is probably way to late but as Denny O’Neil wrote: “Where there is life there is hope.”

  39. “millionare Alan Moore”

    riiiight.

  40. Jesse says:

    @Apollo — that’s exactly what I was just thinking/trying to articulate. All of these “creator vs. corp” posts lately get a flood of comments saying, “Stop whining, business is business.” but they don’t say, “Cool, makes sense — humans are human.”

    I’m completely baffled by this — I get why we all have opinions about the stories we read (that’s the whole fun of being a comics fan) but why does everyone care so much about the career choices of Chris Roberson? It’s interesting news, of course, but why the heated venom?

  41. @Chris Hero I don’t know if I’d call Roberson a person who needed his rep established when he started working for DC. He was a World Fantasy Award finalist for writing, editing and publishing BEFORE he started working at DC/Vertigo. Granted, he might have been a comic book novice, I think his reputation as a creator who does quailty work was pretty much established.

    But even if there was a need for Roberson to establish his rep in the comic book biz, he had other options other than working for a company whose policies he found abhorrant. He could have tried his luck at ONI, Top Shelf, Image or any of the other publishers listed in the back of Previews. It would have been harder for him to make a name for himself, or it might taken longer, but there were other routes he could have went through.

    I bear Chris Roberson no ill will. I loved his Cinderella minis, and, while I have a lot of catching up to do, I really liked his iZombie series as well. But when a public figure makes a controversial and attention-grabbing statement with major logic flaws inherent in it, he should be called out on it.

    The reasons for his departure, DC’s treatment of Alan Moore and the Siegel Lawsuit, were long standing and hot button issues when Roberson first started working for the company in 2008. And not much has changed. I just can’t buy the logic of his argument that DC’s countersuit (which was filed in 2010) and Before Watchmen (which was in the works since at least late 2011, if not earlier) could cause a change of heart in him NOW. Sorry, I just can’t.

  42. Jeff P. says:

    At 53, I miss comic books. Y’know, printed on newsprint w/ glossy covers? On a squeaky revolving wire rack in your local drugstore?

    Now we have stories by people who can’t write and art by many who can’t draw and non-event “events” and it all adds up to one big snoozefest. Seriously, I haven’t read a superhero comic in more than 10 years where I haven’t had to fight to keep my eyes open. I’ve lost count how many times Batman, once my favorite cartoon hero, has said “It’s over, Joker!” or “I am Gotham!” or in Frank Miller’s godawful books called Robin a “soldier”.

    ONI, IDW, Top Shelf and a handful of others do some excellent work. Interesting—even at times challenging—writing, and good art. By folks who seem to give a sh*t about the art form.

    I’m sick and tired of these whiny fanboys defending crappy output from the Big 2. It’s CRAP, ALL of it. I’d complain about how few pages of actual story there are in a single issue if the stories themselves didn’t suck so badly.

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