DC goes Batshit crazy! Batwoman, Harley Quinn & Card.

Oh, if DC could contain its morally bankrupt practices to screwing over its creative heart for every penny they can. But no, DC seems to be run by a cabal of super villains hell bent on self immolation.

Here are just three ways that DC has, in the past few months alone, tried to build their fan base.

  • Hired hate-monger and vicious homophobe Orson Scott Card to pen the greatest superhero every created.
  • Refused to allow Batwoman to marry her lesbian partner.
  • Solicited art for new Harley Quinn artists that must show her attempting to commit suicide, naked.

Beyond horrible creative decision making, these decisions are so myopic it is actually amazing that a company so large could allow them to happen. The optics alone on each of these are horrible. They should have known that people would be outraged that hate monger Orson Scott Card would be penning beloved Superman. And then a few months later to deny a gay marriage seems almost purposefully spiteful.

And if alienating the entire LGBT community and its allies wasn’t enough, the big brains at DC decided to throw a bit of misogyny on top. Who could possibly be so blind as to think it was a good idea to take the beloved super-villainess , Harley Quinn, and base the artist decision on who can have her commit suicide in the most erotic manner possible. As Alyssa summarizes:

As the rules for the contest explain, entrants have to draw Quinn in four situations: trying to be electrocuted by lightening, “sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on,” attempting to be eaten, trying to get a whale to swallow her, and “naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death.”

Because DC does not care about women. It doesn’t care about the sexualization of women and violence. It does not care about diversity. It does not care about inclusion. It does not care about complex storyline. It does not care about creativity. It doesn’t care about retaining great writers. It doesn’t care about artists who don’t want to sexualize female characters.

What DC seems to want is raging homophobes who enjoy viewing female characters through a lens of sexual violence.

One thing is clear. As a reader who wants to see dynamic new stories that explore the great mosaic of humanity, DC doesn’t seem to care about me.

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“This is an EX-Catwoman!”

jjjDon’t Get Me Started #2

Well, this wasn’t even what I had planned to rant about this time.

But some things just present themselves and you have to either address them or let your brain explode.

(SPOILER ALERT: I will be talking about events that occur in JUSTICE LEAGUE #4 which goes on sale today.  I can’t imagine anyone who will read this blog will actually want to read that comic but, just in case, I’m going to bring up a pretty major plot point.  And, right here, in advance, I want to categorically state that I have not read this comic nor have any intention to do so, hence this rant.)

Ok, you’ve probably guessed by now that I don’t read a lot of new comics anymore and those that I DO read aren’t published by Marvel and DC.  There’s a lot of reasons for this but the subject of this post is a REALLY big one.

I’m sick of all the death.

Listen, this world is rough.  We get that.  We have wars and famine and tornados and nutbags shooting up schools.  But I don’t need to see that in my comic books.  Or, at least, I don’t need to see it done with the kind of school-yard glee that exists in modern comics.  It’s what I call a “culture of mega-violence” and, in terms of comics, I feel it started with the appearance of Wolverine and the Punisher.  These were characters who, a few scant years previously, were considered villains.  Suddenly, the culture changed and these characters were considered “bad-ass” while others like Cyclops and Spider-Man were “lame” because they didn’t want to go out and kill everything that moved.

But it really started to go to hell when DC published the moronic, insipid, insulting and misogynistic IDENTITY CRISIS in which it was revealed that Dr. Light had previously raped Sue Dibny (wife of the Elongated Man) and that Sue was later killed by Jean Loring (ex-wife and erstwhile love interest of the Silver Age Atom).  Things went downhill fast after that like Fat Albert, the Blob and John Candy riding an Olympic bobsled fast.

After that joyful read, we were treated to the murder of Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) by Maxwell Lord in COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS which became a slaughterhouse smorgasbord.  This is how that murder looked:

blue_beetle_ted_kord_death

Yeh, because we needed to see that.  Never mind that Ted was a noble hero who struggled to do the right thing.  Let’s just blow his brains out and make way for a new ‘Blue Beetle’.  Yay, DC! That was in 2005.

Now, earlier this year, DC killed off Batman’s son, Damien, who had assumed the role of Robin.  Why?  I have no idea but it was probably to enjoy the little sales bump from all of the newer readers who don’t realize that death in comics is about as permanent as the Rolling Stones’ retirement.

And today, words reaches us that JUSTICE LEAGUE #4 features the death of Catwoman.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Catwoman.  A character that was created in 1940 (most likely by Bill Finger, unappreciated and generally uncredited creator of much of Batman’s mythology) and who has appeared in hundreds of comics and most likely every media version of Batman ever created.  Dead.  Kaput.  She “has joined the choir invisible” as John Cleese might say.  And this is the panel that showed it.

catwoman-dies

Look familiar?

Now, I’m not opposed to death in comics.  Some of the best stories have come from the deaths of certain characters (like Gwen Stacy in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN).  What I am opposed to is gratuitous, sensationalistic and generally unnecessary death.  A death that is really nothing more than some corporate fanboy’s masturbatory fantasy of “let’s kill off Catwoman!  That’ll really shake them up! Think of all the media coverage we’ll get out of this!”  And if you don’t believe they think like that then you really haven’t paid much attention to comic books in the last 15 years.

Comics today are an endless parade of death, rebirth, reboot and then death again.  These are the literal equivalents of when I used to play with my DC Mego Action Figures in the 70s.  “Bang!  Catwoman’s dead!  And here comes Batman!  And he saves her and she’s not dead after all!  Yay!  What’s for dinner, Mom?”

I can’t read DC or Marvel comics anymore and that saddens me.  I can’t read them because there is no joy in these comics.  There is no ‘sense of wonder’.  There is only death and grittiness and darkness.  If I want that, all I have to do is turn on my television and watch the news.

Way to go, DC.

Why I will NOT be going to see IRON MAN 3

iron-man-3-official-hd

IRON MAN 3 opened last Friday (May 3, 2013) and, by all reports, make a butt-wad of money.  Something like $175 million.

But my $12 wasn’t part of it.  Nor will it be part of the box office for THOR 2, AVENGERS 2, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 or (just to show that I can cross company lines) the new SUPERMAN movie.  It’s very likely that I will never go to a comic-book based movie ever again.  Or, at least, not one based on Marvel or DC characters.

The reason is very simple: I do not wish to give either company any more of my money.

Let me explain.

I’m a comic book fan from way back.  I was born in 1962 and began reading comics just a few years after that.  (I’d say that my brothers put comics into my crib but I have no proof of that nor have they ever claimed to have done anything like that.)  So I grew up reading comics through the 70’s and 80’s and even kept reading during the 90’s although my taste for the genre was running thin.

Like many others, I watched the old Marvel cartoons in the 60’s and suffered through the painful Marvel movies of the 70s and 80s.  All that time we prayed for good movies to be made about our beloved characters.

Now, it seems, the movie companies are finally getting it right.  Big budgets.  Big stars.  Lots of special effects and characters we’ve been waiting decades to see.

And I can’t enjoy a bit of it.

Because in this orgy of big-time Hollywood excess of slick movies, there’s a group of people who have been forgotten.  You’d be hard pressed to find any articles or press releases about them and they’re certainly not benefiting financially from any of this.

That group is the creators.

The people whose imagination and creativity gave us characters like Spider-Man, Thor, Iron-Man, Captain America, Red Skull, Loki, S.H.I.E.L.D., Green Goblin and all the rest have been mistreated and defrauded by the very companies who reap MILLIONS every year from those creations.

If you are unfamiliar with how the comic book industry worked during the time most, if not all, of these characters were created, I will summarize it.  Comic books were created under a concept called “Work for Hire”.  This essentially means that the company is paying a creator (writer/artist/colorist/etc) a certain agreed-upon rate for their work.  After creation, the company now owns that work and can do with it as they see fit.

That’s pretty much it.  Work for Hire was the industry standard until the 80s when creator (and fan) outcry forced Marvel and DC to begin to offer different incentives to creators like royalties and percentages.  This was partly brought on because, in the 80s, other comic companies were enticing top talent by offering more lucrative contracts to creators.  Contracts that included (in some cases) profit sharing in copyrights.  Although modified, “Work for Hire” is still being used at the major comic companies.

So, what has that to do with IRON MAN 3?  Well, Marvel & DC not only have not financially compensated the creators for the many works that these movies are based on but, in many cases, do not even give them credit for their work.

Much has been written (and deservedly so) about the horrible treatment that Jack Kirby received from Marvel (a company that, by and large, he helped create) and which Superman’s creators, Siegel & Shuster, received from DC Comics.  Kirby went through a long, painfully protracted lawsuit with Marvel regarding the return of his original art (after other artists had received their art back) because, before they would return it, Marvel wanted Kirby to sign away all rights to his work.  Fans stood up and refused to accept this.

Siegel & Shuster were rewarded lifetime pensions in the late 70s by DC Comics.  Not because the folks at DC were such sweethearts (because they weren’t) but because a fan based campaign, begun by artist Neal Adams, shamed them into doing it.  This occurred right before the opening of the first Christopher Reeves SUPERMAN movie at a time when DC  wanted to avoid bad publicity.

These are the two most widely known cases and even these have not been resolved.  Kirby’s heirs continue to fight for credit and financial compensation while Siegel’s heirs have fought a long (and vicious) fight to regain parts of the Superman copyrights.  And there are still others happening right now.

Comic creator Bob Layton took to Facebook this weekend to state:

“I have no plans to see it [IRON MAN 3] anytime soon. Maybe when it comes to cable? I can’t, in all good conscience, shell out money for a movie ticket to the very company that keeps exploiting my work without compensation. It just seems wrong to me.”

There are many apologists for Marvel and DC out there right now.  They regurgitate the oft-heard responses of “they knew what they were signing” and “the companies took the risk, why shouldn’t they profit?”  Both arguments create a sadness within me.

In the first place, in many cases, they had no choice but to sign.  The comic industry in the 60s and 70s was much different than today in that creators did not have a wide choice of who to work for.  If you wanted to make a liveable wage in comics, you worked for Marvel or DC.  If you disagreed about their policies, there was a very good chance you’d never work for them again.  They were ‘closed shops’ where, if you dared to even mention the word ‘union’, you’d be blackballed.  Sure you could work for Charlton (widely known as the worst paying comic company around) but not everybody could work for different markets.  Can you imagine Jack Kirby writing/drawing HOT STUFF for Harvey comics?  You took the work not because you choose to but because you didn’t have any other choice.

Obviously, no one in the 60s ever dreamed that these characters would one day star in multi-million dollar movies.  If they had, they wouldn’t have agreed to those terms and would’ve protected their rights.  Hindsight is, after all, 20/20.  But, in order to protect future profits, Marvel & DC are still, for the most part, “Work for Hire” shops.

The point being that these companies exploited their workers then and exploit them now.  Do they legally owe these creators anything?  Probably not.  Legally, these companies are probably well within their rights not to pay anybody anything beyond the originally contracted amounts.

But ethically is a different story.

Marvel & DC have made fortunes for companies and many executives on the backs of stories about superheroes who did the “right thing”.  They were heroic and protected the little guy and stood up for ‘fair play’ and honesty and integrity.  How sad to find that the companies who published those stories don’t really know what any of those things mean and it makes me wonder if they’ve ever read their own comics.

Did these companies take a financial risk?  Sure, but early on.  They certainly aren’t taking any risks now but continue to reap benefits that they refuse to share in terms of compensation or even recognition.  Would it really hurt these mega-corporations in the long run if they turned around and said, “Thanks, we appreciate what you’ve done for us.  Let us show you how much.”  Think of all the good will that would generate and, more importantly to these companies, the level of talent that they would attract to work for them.

Many comic creators of the 70s and 80s cannot find work today.  They’re still good writers and artists but they’re not getting hired.  The companies will say that their work is “out of style” and not in demand today.  They took the work of these creators and, when no longer needed, shut the door in their face.  Ask Jerry Ordway.  Ask Herb Trimpe.  Men with decades of dependable work who can no longer find assignments.

Obviously, Marvel’s not going to care that they didn’t get my $12 this weekend or that I’m not buying their latest crossover crap or the advertising flyers that pass for Marvel Comics these days.  I don’t even expect anyone reading this to care all that much that Sam Gafford is not going to IRON MAN 3.  But it’s something that I can choose to do and the reason I choose to do it is because of all those lessons I learned while reading Superman comics and Spider-Man comics and Fantastic Four comics and all the others.  Comics that were created by PEOPLE and not a corporation.

I want to go and enjoy IRON MAN 3.  I want to go to the next CAPTAIN AMERICA movie.  But I can’t because Kirby will be sitting next to me along with all the other forgotten creators and so I will respect them and their works by staying home and reading my old comics.

I hope you will do the same.

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