My name is Jim, and I just want to read stories. I don’t want to make comics myself.
I know. Take a moment to collect yourselves.
I realize that I’m the rare albino hummingbird of hobbyists. I realize that fourteen out of every ten comic book readers is himself (or herself, but, come on, himself) cultivating a portfolio full of sketches and/or writing samples to take to the next nearby convention. I realize that Conventional Wisdom holds that all comic readers dream of being comic creators.
I have opted out of that particular dream. Nothing personal, medium; I just want to feed my kids without bloodying a wall with my head. I don’t want to write a TV show, either. I just like to watch TV.
Comics were (in the Golden Age) made by illustrators and would-be novelists who cranked out content by the page in the name of feeding their families however they could. They were comic book creators who didn’t need to create comic books. Since those days, comics have been taken over by the guys who used to write the fanzines for those books, and the fans of those fanzines, and the message board admins for the fans of those fanzines. The result is the kind of incest that makes the royal family exclaim, “Egad! I say. Get a room.” In 2012, every producer of comics was once a consumer of comics.
People who work in comics now cannot even conceive that the people they’re talking to don’t want to make comics. Witness, for example, a “conversation” I had Sunday night, full of equal parts insider wisdom and condescension:
“Call a printer,” he says to me. Gee, mister!
Like any teacher who’s a week older than I am, he wants me to study. Before my test. My test on what? I’d ask, but they’d only tell me to call a textbook manufacturer.
Thanks so much for the helpful input. I will get right on that, as soon as every other thing in my actual life stops happening, Sensei.
(Am I the dick? If I am, please tell me in the comments. Don’t be as reserved as usual, you shrinking violets.)
The thing is, this will not impact my shopping behavior in the slightest.
Brian Bendis (who is responsible for bringing the inciting tweet above to my attention) is hands-down my favorite writer in the history of comics. I’ve loved his work on AvX/The New Avengers/Avengers Assemble/Takio/Alias/Ultimate Comics Ultimate Spider-Man Comics/Whatever Huge Thing He Did That You Didn’t Like. Nothing he’s said outside the bounds of his issues has done anything to change that.
Strangely, I’m less annoyed by the disconnect between what writers are writing in comics and what they’re writing on Twitter, than I am by the pro-Kirby protests against Marvel’s The Avengers. Marvel made half a billion dollars on Kirby’s back without sharing their bounty, but I don’t have the energy to get my dander up about that.
This is not like me. I’m normally right in front of Don Quixote, charging towards The Man with my Stick of Futility. In this case, though, I am for some reason resigned to The Way Of Things.
“Marvel didn’t pay Kirby for The Avengers idea?” I find myself saying. “The idea that a bunch of pre-existing work-for-hire characters could continue existing together? What jerks, not predicting in 1963 that kids’ disposable pulp heroes would be worth billions of dollars half a century later and cutting their employee in for money they could have kept for themselves. The bums.”
I have a friend who worked for AT&T ten years ago. Her name is on a patent for something she developed while she worked there. Guess how much money she sees from that. I’ll get you started: count from zero until you get to nothing.
Maybe it’s just that I’m a grumpy old man who has lived long enough to receive an e-mail forward urging me to boycott every single thing I eat, drink, watch, listen to, or shop at, but between hearing about the conditions at the iPhone factory and hearing about what exactly they mean by “blood diamonds,” I find myself thinking, “Oh, so every waking moment of modern life is a horrific nightmare, but in the sixties they only paid Jack Kirby a living wage instead of making him a millionaire? Well, where’s my hankie?”
A company acted in its own best interest rather than handing bags and bags of money over to the little guy?… Yeah. That sounds about right. That’s pretty much the world working the way it’s described in the manual. If that strikes you as appalling, you children might want to buckle up for the rest of adulthood.
By taking this passive stance against Kirby’s heirs, you understand, I am putting myself in the corner of a multinational corporation that has undoubtedly done unspeakable things in the name of grabbing my dollar. If only someone had warned me.
And yet, nothing Disney or Time-Warner does has dissuaded me from purchasing their products. They’re so diversified, I’m not sure I could cut them off if I tried.
At the same time, the guys who went indie have done so in a fashion I find so obnoxious that it makes me never want to touch another book again as long as I live. Why is that? Sure, most of them went directly from becoming “famous” and successful at the (relatively, using the term very loosely) Big Two to striking out on their own, badmouthing the very people who made them what they are, but how is that really different from me and any company I’ve worked for? When you get right down to it? Where does my antipathy for the Robert Kirkmans of the world come from, as someone who thinks of himself as a Damn-the-Man quasi-Commie?
Maybe I’ve just lived long enough to see every man become the thing he claims to despise. Maybe I’m just projecting. Whatever the reason, I’ll leave the shop with an armful of DC and Marvel books on Wednesday and sleep like a baby. May God have mercy on my soul.
Jim Mroczkowski knows that Jim Jones didn’t actually use Kool-Aid when poisoning his followers, but rather went with a cheaper off-brand, as if he wasn’t already a bad enough guy.