Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Do We Care: Do We Never Learn?

I'm reminded of the old Oingo Boingo song while I read through this series of messages on Live Journal and found myself thinking, again, about the level of emotional investment that we get in what are, lets say it out loud, CORPORATE PROPERTIES.

Hell hath no fury like the scorned fan, and yet, should be surprised? We put all this love into these characters yet they don't love us back. No matter how much the authors love them, even, one day they will have to turn them over to someone else, someone else who will retcon everything that you love out of existence. Jean Grey fans I'm talking to you. Birds of Prey fans, I'm talking to you too.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that suddenly girls read comics, especially now that there are more options other than superheroes out there (not that they don't read superheroes as well). And it should come as no surprise to anyone, although I think that it has, that women fall in love with well written characters and they blog and write shipping stories and they email and they communicate far more than men do about these characters. They care passionately about the characters they love and they get PISSED when those characters are doing things that make them look idiotic, or make them fall back into the morass of poorly written characters, or perhaps worst of all, marginalize them. That last seems to be particularly galling given the lack of strong female characters in the two majors.

Is that why they hold onto Birds of Prey and Manhunter? Given that Wonder Woman, the only strong female character with her own marketing plan of the Holy Trinity at DC is a cypher that has been rebooted so many times that she should have footprints in her logo, no wonder they hold on to the few books that have actually had characters taht they can care about and believe in.

Please note on that LJ thread, when one poster basically tells another "to relax", it sets off a whole chain that the original poster is basically never going to talk his/her way out of, whether they wanted to troll or not. If they're not a troll, then on one side i can agree with them somewhat. "Yes, I know you care, but its a comic and its a property and they're subject to editorial whims that can derail even the best characters and the strongest storylines. Try not to have a heart attack." And yet, they're on a board where the people care passionately about these stories and these characters and saying that is like waving a flag in front of a bull. Its the wrong audience and a very, very bad idea.

I alternately care and don't care as much as i used to. Working in mainstream comics and being part of the assembly line, you just do the work and move on and you try to care and control the part that, basically, you have control over. I cared too much and it made me a pain to deal with because I wanted to the work to be better, and that was pushing against the editor's inflow and outflow. And because they didn't think that the work NEEDED to be better. You go back and look at some of the Acclaim Comics and let me know what you think. Did they need to be better?

And this is why I quit working in mainstream comics. I could sit there with a new book on my board ready to ink and I desperately wanted to work to suddenly become the Byrne/Austin X-Men and for all the sweat that I put in to reflect in the final product. And it didn't. And I got a mental ulcer getting as angry as the people on Live Journal to no avail. It didn't make a damn thing better.

Now I care deeply about the art that i do on the webcomic and it can be reflected in the finished product. You may not like it, or care, or you may, but at least its worth having an opinion about. When i see my friend Tim Perkin's work on his graphic novel World's End I don't have to wonder if its what he wanted his work to be, I know that it is. And then its worth investing some emotional energy into. Personal work, love it or hate it, usually is.


Xerox 8400 ink said...

I guess that I lost my interest throughout the ages, but as I look back at the comics that are being read by my godson and nephew, I have come to feel that the older comics from when I was a kid, were much more interesting and had much more meaning. I was never a baseball cards kind of guy, and always collected comics. Now that I look at what I had from childhood, I think they are just trying too hard to keep the classics alive.

Tim Perkins said...

Thanks so much for your very kind words here, Charles.

It really means a lot for folks, like your good self, to appreciate all the time and emotional energy that I am putting into Worlds End.

I have to admit that this is the kind of work I always wanted to work on, but the opportunities never arose with the mainstream publishers.

I enjoyed the work I did for those guys, but never, as much as I am doing with this work and hopefully that shows through.

I never shortchanged anyone with my work for them, but here I feel I can tell the stories, as I see them and not, to fulfill a corporate ideology.

I can feel an inner belief in your latest work on your web-comic, The Carnival, from you and like you so kindly remark about my latest storytelling venture, I believe this will show your true colours too, by enabling yourself to be true to yourself as a storyteller.

I think we are at the edge of a new era in sequential storytelling, and I see many works like this being produced from seasoned professionals and newcomers alike, who are sidestepping the mainstream to produce none generic, none franchised, none linear works that lie outside of the box of regurgitated tricks we call comics.

I really feel they have still to reach their full potential, but that will happen outside of the confines of the existing hierarchy of comicdom and outside of the standard format.

Thanks again for all your support and friendship too, which I hold very dear to me.

Best Wishes,

Anonymous said...

The "community" at Scans Daily is the Macey's Thanksgiving Day Parade of bad fanboy stereotypes.

It's usually best to not bother with the comments section because more often than not it makes you want to hit your monitor.

Daniel Best said...

I generally don't listen to the fanboys. A bunch of people who, f given the opportunity wouldn't know what to write, complaining about stories that they can't work out, or wait for the finish/explaination.

The only issue I'd have with those scans, sorry Tim, is the Greg Land-ish artwork, but then that's because I'm sick of seeing Land's swipes all over the place. I'd have a lot more respect for the guy if he drew from his imagination, instead of tracing posters, porn mags and the like.

But, seriously, we've all known people like those guys hanging around comic shops. They take the stuff far too seriously. My answer to any, and all, of them is a simple one: if you don't like it then stop buying it. Whinging about it won't stop it.

Me? Well comics aren't moving me much these days for a number of reasons, far too complicated (and probably petty) to go into here. Needless to say I don't start screaming when I pick something up and read a story that I don't agree with.

Tim Perkins said...

Hi Daniel,

Please don't apologise.

I have to admit, I have only just checked out the link here on Charles' Blog, because I missed it due to the kind words Charles had expressed about my latest work the other day and your reply caused me to check out the scans you were speaking of.

I, too, feel that most comics nowadays are either drawn in this "traced" look feel, or in a style, which years ago would not have been seen in the comics in which one can now see them.

I have to admit I have always advocated individual stylisations from artists, which we have lost now. House style, as I have said over on my Blog, now means a total style of drawing at the expense of individuality, whereas back in the day it meant the difference between companies.

Examples of this can be seen in Marvel's 60's take, using the power and the cosmic and the dynamic storytelling of Jack Kirby, whereas DC, told more down to earth stories, with less attention to the dynamic approach, etc.

All the above said there is room for everything, but as I said in my earlier reply to Charles, I think it is this new age of being able to produce outside of the mainstream, which enables us as creatives, to create sequential storytelling, as we would see fit, or at the very least, should do.

Good editors are a blessing, but for years now they have been replaced, as is being discussed all over the Internet by many well-known professionals, with guys that have not been trained by those that have gone before, who became editors after years of working in the business and after training as trainee editors.

You are bang on the nail when you say fans and pros are so precious about the comics. As a pro, I feel I have to try to do the best job, within any deadline restraints, as I possibly can every time. However, and again this can be seen in full discussion on my Blog, we should be having fun with this and forget the convoluted continuity and whether Caps shield has three stripes around it, or not. The only time that is important is when you have to draw the darned thing, not before.

Ecch, Jack used to draw Thor's costume with four circles on it, then six and sometimes more, but the editors and the inkers sorted it, if need be, because to Jack it was the story, which was important.

The fun aspect of comics has been replaced by a geekish sense of self-indulgent importance and then it is wondered upon, why the general public does not buy, or follow comics in any large numbers.

I have to finally agree with you again, as I buy very little in the form of US comics nowadays, except for the occasional comic series, or collections of old stuff in hard back. Other than that it's European Albums for me, or to be truthful here, it’s mainly working on my own stuff. The US comics have become far too complex in continuity, far too regurgitated and not nearly experimental enough.

Here's one to start a flame-war...bring back the seventies!!!