Watchmen

For the discussion of Movies, Television, Comics, and other existential distractions.

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John E Williams
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Postby John E Williams » Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:05 am

Actually, and not to go off on a tangent here (well, more actually, to do just exactly that), the main point of Grant's entry here is why the current state of comics is so damn dreary, and one of his arguments is a sobering one:

Throughout my professional lifetime, I've watched talent go to Marvel or DC and occasionally other places, simply so they could work on Jack Kirby's characters. And do "their" version of Kirby...

I only spoke to Jack twice in my life, but one of those times I asked him about this.

In fact, Jack did not feel honored. He wasn't upset about it, and didn't complain (like others I've known in similar positions have) that he hadn't been hired instead to work on his own characters. He was saddened. Why? Because he hadn't spent his career just working. He'd spent it creating, and constantly coming up with new characters and new creations wherever he had the chance.

What saddened him was that message – create your own, create your own, create your own - wasn't the legacy his career was leaving for new talents instead.


For a long time I believed that people preferred to work on existing comics characters because it was difficult to create and sell their own, especially without getting ripped off, and if you weren't, say, John Byrne or Alan Moore then you had even less of a chance of success. (And never mind that Byrne and Moore made their professional bones on other people's characters.) But I am finding that Grant is right --many wannabe comic stars dream of nothing but the chance to revamp, retread and redo, and this is no longer merely a kind of career choice, it's actually seen as an artistic vision. If I can "create" the definitive Iron Man, or at least one that makes the most money and biggest cultural impact yet, well then I've accomplished greatness, haven't I? Why bother gambling on some stupid original character no one but me has ever heard or cares about when I can redo Iron Man? This isn't merely a greed issue, though obviously money plays a huge part in wanting in on this aesthetic. It's the fact that for some people it literally is an aesthetic.

If I try to write a Sherlock Holmes story I am stomping on the feet of Conan Doyle, the character's singular creator. But if I want to write Spidey or Iron Man, I am merely competing with a long line of work-for-hire employees whose visions, if any, are merely fodder for my own indulgences. It's a perversely attractive view, I guess, one that certainly eliminates the bother and toil of creating one's own characters and concepts. But of course, that's where the real joy is. I'm currently writing two wholly original (if respectably derivative) children's comic books, and there is no greater delight than seeing my scribbly layouts made bright and shiny by my artist partner, knowing that -- for better or for worse -- we own them in our hearts and in our heads, never mind their value as intellectual property. (Though as mama liked to say, some money is always nice.)

This all does explain the dearth of singular creators of wholly new characters. As Grant points out:

Who in comics can be genuinely considered a star today? I'm not talking about people whose work you like. I'm not talking about people who get namechecked at Newsarama. I'm talking about talent known to the general public. Which has been paying more and more attention to comics.

I can think of three.

Stan Lee. Frank Miller. Alan Moore.

Maybe Neil Gaiman, if you hit the right segment of the public.

Does anyone else find this mildly disturbing? Shouldn't there be more by now?


Now that's pretty fuckin' dreary.

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Ezra Lb.
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Postby Ezra Lb. » Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:45 am

And of that triptych Stan Lee spends all his time doing the Gene Roddenberry thing, taking credit for everybody else's work. Kirby and Ditko are reduced to a passing murmur in the movie credits.


Great article John, thanks for the link.

Don't you think that the situation Grant describes is generally true of the rest of our popular culture as well?

Take pop music. I have a good friend whose 20ish son is all the time giving me stuff to listen to. He knows I'm a voracious and open minded listener. A lot of these young bands are good no doubt about it. But after listening for five minutes I can always immediately tell which 3 records blew their minds when the musicians were first learning.

Now every artist has influences. But the creative artist digests these influences and metabolizes them and comes out with something of their own.

We don't create we "reimagine".
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Postby cynic » Fri Dec 05, 2008 5:15 pm

we all stand on the shoulders of giants
best to keep from underfoot,they may stomp us to death

wow,one bourbon too many,buzz harsh
mike

Alan Coil
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Postby Alan Coil » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:17 pm

Ezra Lb. wrote:And of that triptych Stan Lee spends all his time doing the Gene Roddenberry thing, taking credit for everybody else's work. Kirby and Ditko are reduced to a passing murmur in the movie credits.


I think you have the wrong impression of what Stan Lee "takes" credit for. Lee is very cognizant that he is often credited as the sole creator, and takes pains to say otherwise. I would guess that the writers of the articles or their editors are the ones making that mistake.

Stan Lee has no say about who gets what credit in a movie. That is completely up to the Marvel corporation and its attorneys. Stan Lee does some publicity for Marvel, but he no longer controls anything at Marvel.

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John E Williams
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Postby John E Williams » Mon Dec 08, 2008 8:21 am

Ezra Lb. wrote:And of that triptych Stan Lee spends all his time doing the Gene Roddenberry thing, taking credit for everybody else's work. Kirby and Ditko are reduced to a passing murmur in the movie credits.


Well, to be fair, Gene Roddenberry literally took credit for things he didn't write or create, which as far as I know Stan has never done. For the most part it has been a lazy media which has given him sole or primary credit for his co-creations. Don't get me wrong, Stan Lee is a supreme self-aggrandizer but he's nowhere near as bad as Mr. Trek, at least from what I know about both men.

As far as "passing murmurs" go, seeing Kirby and Ditko properly (co) credited on the big screen is, sadly, a pretty massive triumph, considering the ugly legacy that is the history of comics.

Don't you think that the situation Grant describes is generally true of the rest of our popular culture as well?

Take pop music. I have a good friend whose 20ish son is all the time giving me stuff to listen to. He knows I'm a voracious and open minded listener. A lot of these young bands are good no doubt about it. But after listening for five minutes I can always immediately tell which 3 records blew their minds when the musicians were first learning.

Now every artist has influences. But the creative artist digests these influences and metabolizes them and comes out with something of their own.

We don't create we "reimagine".


I dunno Ezra, on the one hand I think there hasn't been anything properly original created by any musical performer since maybe the early 90s, but on the other hand I don't pay as much attention to the pop scene as I used to. So my information is pretty limited. I am a huge believer in influence, but as you point out there is a fine line between influence and ripoff.

Being heavily influenced by or directly stealing from the style of artists who have come before is one thing, but in comics the offenses are compounded by hacking away at non-original characters while thinking it's the same thing as creating something new.

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Ezra Lb.
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Postby Ezra Lb. » Mon Dec 08, 2008 8:58 am

Alan I'll accept your characterisation and apologize if I've misjudged Stan Lee.

Earlier this year I read Mark Evanier's Kirby: King of Comics and Blake Bell's Stranger and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko an highly recommend them to one and all.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Postby Moderator » Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:58 pm

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