Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tekno, Defiant, Broadway: the Comic Book Shellgame

James Vance is chronicling his Brilliant Career at Tekno Comics over at his blog, and it should be required reading for everyone at the same time as Tim Perkins early days at Defiant Comics. Welcome to the 1990's my friends, or practically any other era where the dreams fly high, the money seems like it could actually come in, and the sales look like they might actually happen.

We creative types always fall for it. We're prone to it by virtue of creating fantasies in our heads for everyone else to read and live. And we keep thinking that, at some point, we might live one too.

I read Vance's columns and had a horrible amount of deja vu, listening to the editorial nit-picking that would ruin his Gaiman-bibled comic. I worked under Ed Polgardy at Defiant, and, sadly, Ed got himself into the same position at Tekno that he had at Defiant. He only knew one way to produce the comics, it didn't work the first time, and there was very little reason to assume it would work the second time. Training under Shooter was not the best thing that could have happened to him. Ed's boss at Defiant, Deborah Purcell knew next to nothing about creating good comics. Her background in editing may have qualified her for working with words, but there was nothing in her resume that would show that she could understand, nurture and comment correctly on the unique verbal/visual mix that is comics. Her later replacement, Pauline Weiss, came from an entirely different background, but Pauline knew, in her DNA, what could make good comics better, or fix crappy ones. Its a unique talent.

I vividly recall a meeting with JG Jones, Jim Shooter and Joe James in the Defiant era that would define the sort of "this will put you in your place" get together that you would have: I was asked to drop by the office for them to criticize the one line on the interior of the mouth of a character's face that was on a nine-panel grid page. Seriously. I'm sure the Joe knew it was a ridiculous meeting, but he had to go in with a straight face and critique it.

The worst phrase in corporate America is "value added", because it assumes that everyone has a valid opinion. And they don't. I hire someone to fix my sink, my comments, no matter how well intentioned, are not "value added". I'm not a plumber. And any number of editors and money men and financers and backers and girlfriends of publishers and wives of editors can have an opinion, but all they will likely do it ruin things worst than they already are. Your book may be crap, but now its committee crap, which is clearly worse crap.

I will eagerly follow Vance's next post, so that we can all follow the trail of failure and its lurid smell. And once again I will say, given all the talented people that I"ve met in the comics world, and the good will and the desire to do work that isn't crap, why does it all turn to shit every time we turn around? Read all the creative type's blogs and you'll see that the blame seems to fall squarely on the editorial shoulders, but its not that simple and you and I know it. I do know that if any of the editors have a blog that addresses their time in the comic world I would love to read it. Might balance things out just a little bit.

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