Continuing our big catch up on weekend reading for the elite.
I can’t say whether Shooter’s mind was blown at this or any other time, but I can say with absolute certainty that nothing else in this scenario is true. That’s right; Kirby hadn’t sued Marvel. There was no lawsuit, no discovery, no documents produced, no legal maneuvering within a lawsuit, no demand by Kirby, enshrined in a lawyer’s letter or otherwise, that he receive sole credit for characters he co-created, and no demand that Lee receive none. It’s all a fiction. None of this happened.
A very young Beat was at at least one of the panels in question — the one with Alan Moore! — and vividly remembers the Jim Shooter incident. Unmentioned by either (as we recall it in our absinthe hazed mind) is Roz Kirby standing up and saying “Mr. Shooter that is just not true!” Truly one of the greatest convention moments of all time — both Kirbys, Shooter, Miller, Moore and Groth all locked in eternal battle.
Former Bullpener Ron Fontes chimes up in the lively comments section with a hitherto unknown reason for some of Marvel’s 80s art mysteries:
First, I want you to know that I bear no love for Marvel. I view my employment there as Time in Hell with some very good things mixed in that almost compensate for the torture. I hate to tell you this, but I worked in Special Projects at Marvel from 1982-1985, under Sol Brodsky and Johnny Romita (the Nicest Man in Comics). Here’s what REALLY kept Marvel from returning artwork: Old pages were stored in a Brooklyn warehouse which was FLOODED around 1983. Decades of artwork was actually destroyed and could not be returned to anyone at all as it was just so much soggy paper residue. That is why the Marvel Masterworks series was repro’d from faded plate negatives and had to be touched up by the likes of Phil Lord et al. I’m really surprised in all this time no one has revealed this fact. I strongly remember the day of the flood because Sol and others were pale with shock. I also have to add, great as he was as an artist, Jack Kirby was a lousy businessman who cut bad deals. See TALES TO ASTONISH by Ronin Ro. Unfortunately, creative talent does not go hand-in-hand with good business acumen. In case you haven’t noticed, arrogance and egotism runs rife in the comics industry, just as it does in the film industry. Artists have been notorious for being self-aggrandizing pricks throughout history. If they were normal people with realistic self-images, they wouldn’t be artists at all. Shooter is just a man. He’s a prick, he’s a good guy, depends on circumstance and who you talk to. We’re all flawed fools. So back off the jackass’ corpse you’re beating. It was all long ago, and besides the King is dead.
As several have noted, although this seems like ancient history it is actually the very heart of the matter with long veins of greed and judgement winding down to the present.
§ Just to show that the world is a mixture of greys, the same Shooter blog has a lecture on storytelling that includes notes on panel layouts taken entirely from Wtachmen and Los Bros. Hernandez, just so you know it is, you know, PERFECT.
I always get in arguments with Barry Windsor-Smith over this. He says there are nine kinds of shots. I say there are three kinds of shots. You can say whatever you want, as long as you understand the principles, but let’s use my definition for the moment because it’s me here.
§ And David Brothers explains why artists love Moebius via the vessel of Silver Surfer: Parable, the book that they argued about in Crimson Tide. Interestingly, the piece also tacitly explains how unsatisfying our current pirate-based scanning technology is where paper-density is concerned.
So, in the end, you have a book that’s a perfect storm of comics legends. Stan & Jack helped revolutionize American comics. Moebius is a pioneer who has been at the top of his game. Kirby didn’t have any direct involvement in this project, but when you collaborate with Lee on a project starring two of their greatest creations, you don’t get to just ignore Kirby. He haunts the book, forcing you to compare his Surfer and visual storytelling to Moebius’s. This is a master coming to play in another master’s backyard, and at least a tip of the hat must be paid to the originator.
§ This quote from Roger Langridge about turning kids’ characters into gritty R-rated characters has been getting quite a bit of play. I’m with those who hold that there can be different levels for various ages, but it IS unusual to see major, licensable characters going from PG-12 to R as most Marvel and DC characters do. This is yet another spin-off of the “vast universe” of superhero comics — it would be easy to keep Spidey the PG-13 hero and the Punisher the R hero except that they are always meeting up for a ham sandwich.
As a whole, no. I really don’t think Marvel and DC are helping things by having gritty, R-rated versions of their superheroes in their main comics – what they sell as the “real” versions – while simultaneously selling those exact same characters in kids’ comics and plastering them all over lunchboxes and animated cartoons. Only a parent who actively follows the comics – which most don’t – has a hope in hell of knowing which Batman comic is okay for their kids and which ones they shouldn’t be allowed to touch with a ten-foot bargepole. Casual readership by kids, or by parents for their kids, is effectively impossible the way things are currently structured. And I think the waters are muddied too far now to claw that ground back. I think it’s insane that DC have spent 70 years making Superman as big as Mickey Mouse, and branding him to be understood by parents as being pretty much as kid-friendly as Mickey Mouse, only to piss that brand away in a decade. Nothing wrong with doing mature content in comics – in fact, it should be encouraged as often as possible – but doing it with characters who are on your kids’ lunchboxes is kind of moronic. Take a lesson from Watchmen and come up with new characters for that stuff. And then go back to Superman and Batman and put the same kind of love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve been putting into all those rape scenes and body mutilations into something kids can read, and adults can also be proud to read because of all the love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve put into it, and make those the “real” versions.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the ongoing reorganization at DC gets some airing. Rich Johnston seems to have been leaked some kind of promo piece for the West Coast DC office, with names, ranks and serial numbers. As reported, editors Mike Carlin, Sean Ryan, Adam Schlagman and Pornsak Pichetshotehave all moved to the West Coast to achieve great deeds of renown apparently.
Rich also puts together the obvious clues about Constantine showing up in the DCU in the Swamp thing storyline. With all this switching around going on, some are beginning to wonder what’s up at former Hellblazer home base, Vertigo, with iFanboy’s Josh Flanagan boldly declaring A World Without Vertigo Comics Is No World I Want
From the outset, the number of high quality, professionally produced, non-superhero titles available in comic shops would plummet. Let’s face it, if it doesn’t have a cape and mask, a comic book is likely to be a hard sell for most of the folks buying from comic book retailers. Further, the comics produced by Vertigo are usually exceptionally good. There are hits and misses, sure, but by and large, there’s a strict quality control, and as a comic book reader, the loss would be devastating. To understand such a thing, it’s important to have a good grasp on just how essential Vertigo Comics is to the creative development of the modern comic book.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.