A couple of incidents this week of creators who spoke out, and editors who took offense at the speaking out.
First off, we’ve noted many times that Jim Starlin and Marvel seemed to have reached a happy place in terms of Starlin created characters Gamora and Thanos getting the big screen treatment in Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Starlin, whose various cosmic works such as The Infinity Gauntlet have been hugely influential in that end of the Marvel Universe, created a new Thanos graphic novel for Marvel and all seemed to be well. But then….things weren’t. Newsarama has a full rundown of the matter but The Beat first noticed something might be up when Starlin posted this on his FB page:
The kerfuffle stems from what Starlin described as “someone at Marvel anonymously put a corporation-wide-no-use restriction on the character, effectively putting the brakes on the ongoing plans I had for him and [Thanos].”
Marvel’s Tom Brevoort addressed this on his Tumblr:
No, there’s no truth to this. Thanos will be appearing as much as ever in our books.
This is all really about something else, something much smaller that Jim probably shouldn’t even have taken public on his Facebook page. But he did, so there you go.
Starlin elaborated to Newsarama, saying
According to Starlin, he finished penciling his four-issue arc of Savage Hulk last week but found the Adam Warlock situation had remained unchanged.
“The hold is still in place and, apparently, shows no signs of being lifted any time in the future,” Starlin told Newsarama Tuesday. “So I’m moving on.”
Starlin’s own Dreadstar was just optioned for a movie so he has plenty more to keep him busy. It is a little sad—while Marvel can’t give comics creators a starring role in movie promotion the way, say, Robert Kirkman and Mike Mignola do, they did give Ed Brubaker a cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was nice since Brubaker created the whole Winter Soldier character. It would be nice to see these relationships evolve, but in the social media era, things get played out much faster.
Case two involved writer Joe Keatinge who tumblrd on the occasion of the release of a story he write in CYAN, the new Vertigo anthology, that the story’s ending had been changed and he was disowning the story.
The quick gist is I was asked to contribute a story. I brought in Ken as INTERGALACTIC’s going to be a while and this would be a fun, quick way to get something by us out there. Vertigo via Editor Mark Doyle was very accommodating in allowing us to collaborate. Seemed like a good deal.
The story Ken and I conceived together, which I scripted, ended up coming back in a proof PDF where — despite Ken’s art looking even better than ever — our story and my dialog were drastically altered, specifically our ending. We were told by editorial that it was locked in and set for publication without further explanation as to what happened or why.
I need to be clear — Ken did an astonishing job with the art and the whole book is worth the price of admission for what he did alone. It’s absolutely beautiful and it’s truly an honor to work with him.
And the truth is maybe no one would ever notice. Maybe people will like the end result much more than what we wanted to do. Maybe it was the right call, but since it was contracted and solicited as an original work by the two of us I feel uncomfortable taking credit for it, despite how proud I am of everything Ken did and how great working with him is.
This quickly went Twitter, with Vertigo editor Will Dennis stepping in:
— Will Dennis (@VertigoWillD) April 30, 2014
You can read the whole exchange in the first link.
I think what struck me about both of these is Brevoort and Dennis mourning the public airing of, if not dirty, then laundry that maybe had been sitting in the hamper for a while. Obviously with all the platforms available to everyone now, it’s a wonder we don’t see MORE complaining. Of course, it’s doubtful that Keatinge will work at Vertigo again, and Starlin’s future work at Marvel (where he’s been working for 43 years!) seems to be on hold. Speaking out is still risky business. I’m not picking any sides here—Brevoort and Dennis are esteemed editors, but you can’t make every one happy, and fans (and bloggers) are eager to jump on any hint of behind the scenes turmoil. Brevoort addressed this in a later post, when a fan asked about “You , Axel and even now Joe seem to talk a lot of shit about the Sept Solicitations from DC but look at what you guys are doing to Jim Starlin and what you did with Greg Rucka , Matt Fractions Inhuman and George Martin and I can go on how you consort in the same type of actions.”:
JIm Starlin came back and did an OGN, and then an Annual, and then an arc on a book that’s launching. While he’s frustrated because there’s something he wants to do that he can’t do at the moment, on a series that was never approved, that’s hardly a list of infractions.
Greg Rucka is so upset about his awful treatment that he’s writing CYCLOPS at the moment. Matt’s so upset hat he keeps coming to the Marvel summits to share his ideas freely and contribute to the process.
And George RR Martin? We haven’t even talked to the man!
So I have to say, this sort of thinking is beyond bogus. It’s ridiculous. It’s a by-product of the manner in which you fans sometimes confuse the creators and editors with the characters, and want eveybody’s trading card to either clearly say “super hero” or “super villain” on it.
it is always easier to side with the creator whose work you love, especially when you don’t really have but the slightest inking about what is actually going on—and, in fact, there is likely not 1/10th of the drama to the situation as you’re imagining. We don’t have fight scenes in our offices.
We work in a creative industry. In such an environment, not everybody can get everything that they want. Nor is anybody entitled to it. That applies to everybody on both sides of the desk, from Stan lee down to the newbie walking in the door for the first time.
While that seems like a fair assessment on Brevoort’s part, it’s also fair to say that publishers held a lot more cards than creators for a long time. If every editorial squabble got played out in social media, believe me, you’d get tired of it very quickly. However, it’s a healthier atmosphere for everyone when creators AND publishers have more options. Everyone is held to a higher standard when there are more places to play the game.
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.