Monday, February 6, 2012

On the need to isolate oneself against comics culture

I didn't think I was going to comment on last week's announcement of Before Watchmen because the matter seemed like a non-starter; I can't foresee ever wanting to read it, so what is there to say? All I wanted to offer to the dialogue was itself incredibly oblique - a quote from Aldous Huxley which I thought appropo:
"Its defects as a work of art are considerable; but in order to correct them I should have to rewrite the book--and in the process of rewriting, as an older, other person, I should probably get rid not only of some of the faults of the story, but also of such merits as it originally possessed. And so, resisting the temptation to wallow in artistic remorse, I prefer to leave both well and ill alone and to think about something else."

And yet, the very existence of this project has stirred something in me, pinned to my growing awareness of how blankety-blank awful the majority of contemporary comic books are and how horrible the culture and business is to itself. In other words, I'm becoming a cranky, cynical blogger. Great, another one.

Some time ago I found myself wrestling with the Kirby heirs' lawsuit against Marvel Comics. For all the good will I have to Kirby, my instinctive reaction to the lawsuit mirrored most comic book fans' response: Kirby signed away his rights, the heirs are being presumptuous, the suit doesn't have a prayer, etc. It was only after serious meditation on the subject that I gradually came over to the heirs' side, boiling it down to the most simple creator's rights equation I could: (Kirby did more for Marvel than anyone save Stan Lee + Kirby should have reaped benefits similar to Lee's) + (the company is now flourishing financially + making peace with Kirby's heirs is good PR) = a settlement to satisfy everyone.

As I become increasingly pro-creator, my level of frustration with the business and culture of comic books has simply accelerated; only two weeks ago there was the one-two punch of Brandon Graham being censored at Newsarama - but only censored when his opinions disagreed with editorial (the failure of comics culture) and John Rozum explaining why he left Static Shock - but only because being associated with Static Shock was hurting his career opportunities (the failure of comics business).

A sequel to Watchmen is just about the last thing I wanted to hear about last week; sight unseen, its existence implies failure of content because the creators involved have never attempted to create a project as finely honed and considered as Watchmen - much less on a weekly basis (one creator says he wants to make Watchmen "valid again;" how charming, a man whose books sell 10,000 copies is going to show us how to make a 2,000,000 copy best-seller "valid"); it's a failure of business to see the company exploiting its power over Alan Moore's creation rather than behaving ethically (ethics in comics publishing are improbable, not impossible); and it's a failure of the culture, to see the many fans rallying behind Before Watchmen and against Alan Moore, the man being wronged by this project's existence.

This is all I can bear: no more. I have purged my feeds to eliminate everything comics-related, excepting places concerned with comics history or serious comics criticism. I am done with this - my thoughts and dollars will be spent elsewhere.

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