Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary
















April 26, 2013


Group Think Updated: In What Ways Does The Culture Of Comics Have An Impact On How Business Is Done?

Update: On Tuesday, we ran the following "Group Think" posting to facilitate thoughtful responses from the CR readership. The responses we received are now below the following.

*****

The author and consultant Rob Salkowitz sent in the following e-mail after I posted on Steve Bissette's thought on Marvel and DC choosing many of the policies they have that have an impact on creators rights.
"Saw your post this morning on Bissette's thoughts about corporations screwing creators, the choices involved, and the options. FWIW, I think there's a phrase in management-speak that applies here: 'culture eats strategy for breakfast.' Corporations reflect the values (or lack thereof) of their leaders, as filtered down the chain of command. As a business analyst by trade, I find that often the best explanations for aberrant business behavior arise from basic human psychology, not just the twisted logic of capitalism.

image"When I look at the sociology of the early comics biz, especially DC and Timely, I see a very particular cultural dynamic at work: highly ambitious, entrepreneurial owners drawn from the same basic background as the artists (e.g., 1st or 2nd generation Jews from the lower depths of New York), half a generation or so older than their creative talent. Sure it serves their ownership interests for them to keep as much of the rights and profits as they can, but it's more than that. It is psychologically and socially necessary for the owners to create distance between themselves, good upper middle class bourgeoisie and aspiring capitalists, and the sweaty working-class artisans who do their work. I imagine you've read enough 'birth of the Golden Age' stuff to know what I'm talking about.

"Think about how that works in practical behavior terms: Donnenfeld, Liebowitz, Goodman, etc. -- rising ethnic businessmen, trying to legitimate themselves in a marginal industry -- will do anything in their power to avoid being lumped in socially with the Siegel-and-Shuster class (scruffy, nerdy artists -- obviously total 'losers' in the world view of the ownership class), or worse yet, people like Jack Kirby (a kid from the slums, basically). If the owners were WASPs, it wouldn't be as important because outsiders would immediately recognize the social distinction, but since it was all Jews (and a few Italians and other ethnics) from top to bottom, the bosses needed to demonstrate their authority by treating the workers like garbage. That's how they figured the capitalist peer group whose approval they craved would recognize they were 'respectable.'

"As a result, you get a whole business culture defined by keeping the help in their place and not conceding any ownership prerogatives. IMO, all the odious trapping of the comics business: exploitive contracts, asshole editors, lack of benefits/dignity/certainty for freelancers, disposability of staff, arise from this 'familiarity-breeds-contempt' dynamic that characterized the early business. Once big money arrived, it became easier to justify this behavior in terms of greed – an acceptable motivation in corporate capitalism -- rather than simple class insecurity and pettiness. But that's where it comes from.

"Note that Joe Simon, Will Eisner and Bob Kane (or at least his family) are a different matter -- they come from slightly more middle-class origins and have some respectability attached to them, so it is easier, I think, for the bosses to treat them as autonomous creative people. And of course Stan Lee was Goodman's nephew. IMO, it's no coincidence that these are the people who came out of the Golden Age with relatively good business deals. As a class, they didn't pose as much of a threat to ownership's self-image.

"That was all a long time ago, of course, but I think there's ample evidence that this attitude is encoded in the DNA of DC and Marvel, and maybe also of Archie. When you think about the Levitz/Kahn regime at DC -- whatever its faults from other standpoints -- I think you'd have to say it was characterized by a certain humanitarianism toward the creators. IMO, this was born of the fact that Levitz and Kahn both came from middle class Jewish backgrounds where showing the lower-downs who's boss was not as important to the definition of success. But note also that Jack Liebowitz lived to serve on the board of AOL/Time Warner, and Ike Perlmutter certainly strikes me as a current day manifestation of this same temperament. Evidence indicates that the attitude lives on, even as its origins get lost in the mists of time."
What do you think? Is Mr. Salkowitz right about that aspect of comics culture and its impact on business dealings? In what ways might he be wrong? Are there other ways you've noted a connection between the culture that informs comics and the comics business?

*****

Shannon Smith Responds:

I think there is plenty of circumstantial evidence throughout the first 60 or 70 years of the US comics industry to back up Mr. Salkowitz's theory but I don't know how much that bias exists today. Comics history is certainly filled with awful things. And we've done those awful things to the very best and most important of our creators. But I don't know how unique that is to comics. It's kind of like a coal miner with black lung and the person who had their land swindled away by the mines arguing over who got screwed worse. Salkowitz talks about it being encoded in the DNA of DC and Marvel but I fell like even it was, DC and Marvel have acquired entirely new DNA over the past five to ten years. They just are not the same companies anymore. DC especially.

DC Comics does not exist as a company. It's just a brand name used by DC Entertainment which is just a division of Time Warner. I don't think for one second that DC Entertainment boss Diane Nelson has any of that DNA or any of those biases. Mainly because I don't' think Diane Nelson knows or cares anything about comics history. Mainly because she all but told us that she did not know anything about comics. I do agree with Salkowitz in that "Corporations reflect the values (or lack thereof) of their leaders, as filtered down the chain of command". So let's take a look at who DC Entertainment's leader Diane Nelson is. When she was brought in she was heralded as the person that oversaw "the franchise management of the Harry Potter property". What the hell does that mean? Harry Potter was already a phenomenon in books. She did not make the films. David Heyman made the films. From what I can make out, her job was mostly to say no on J.K Rowling's behalf. Rowling wisely maintained control of her characters preventing Time Warner from exploiting them in TV, cartoons and other movies. The "franchise management" of Harry Potter was very conservative under Nelson compared to other hit franchises. No Harry Potter comics, no Harry Potter manga, very few Harry Potter toys, no Harry Potter happy meals, no, no, no etc. Which, seems to be the exact opposite of Nelson's job description as head of DC Entertainment? A company the very creation of which was said to be to exploit these properties in TV, cartoons, movies, video games toys etc.

Now, let's look at what Nelson has actually done with DC Entertainment. As far as DC Comics goes I think she has mainly let the inmates run the asylum. Lee, Johns, Harras, Dido etc. have done the heavy lifting and made some pretty big changes. Not radical changes. Not really. Nothing much that was not already tried with the DC Explosion between '75 and '78. I think Nelson's real work has been in pushing the overall branding of the "DC Universe" with things like "We Can Be Heroes". As far as marketing and licensing goes she has been pretty conservative. I don't see any evidence of the impact of comic's culture in her moves. Just standard corporate branding. You see comics history being repeated with the New 52 but I think that's just lack of imagination more than any cultural bias.

The main "ah ha" point I can think of post the creation of DC Entertainment where you would say that the comics culture biases just won't die is the recent hubbub about lousy creator deals on DC's digital first comics. But I don't know if that's the gravity of decades of comics culture or if it's just the nature of how things are done when a company exploits its properties in new arenas. I think before you can completely debate that issue you'd have to have a better idea of how things are done in Time Warner's other ventures. Video games, TV, movies etc. How does a creator contract on a DC digital comic compare with the contracts for the creators that made the video game it is based on? Is the guy that came up with the story idea for level six of the Injustice: Gods Among Us game getting a royalty?

As for Marvel, I think the buck still stops with Ike Perlmutter. And sure Disney's purchase of Marvel had to impact its DNA (or vice versa depending on who you ask) but I still think Ike Perlmutter out ranks all of that history. Perlmutter literally is a Jewish immigrant and certainly fits the mold Salkowitz is describing. The guy went from street vendor to CEO. By varying accounts (and at least one lawsuit) Perlmutter is somewhere between a cheap bastard and straight up racist bastard. But we don't know a lot about him. We do know a little about his business record and it is all about "a whole business culture defined by keeping the help in their place and not conceding any ownership prerogatives". He fits into Salkowitz's theory nicely. But his methods were the same with all of his previous companies and investments before he controlled Marvel. So I don't think that is a comics thing. I just think that is a shrewd ass vulture capitalist thing.

Overall, I just don't think there is a lot of comics DNA left in either company. It's just corporate DNA. Same as any other sub division of those corporate behemoths. Right now, at this moment, we still have a few "comics people" pulling some of the strings at DC and Marvel. Harras, Wayne, Didio, Alonso, Quesada etc. So, for sure, they carry with them all of the bacteria of a life in comics and you could say that it is in their DNA. But all of those guys are just one red box on an Excel spread sheet away from being replaced by a corporate lackey with no connection to comics at all. If there is still something unique about the culture of the comics industry I think it is being assimilated into the larger corporate culture and won't last much longer. For better or worse.

*****

Chris Cummins:

This is a fascinating question to be sure. Unfortunately, I think that there's still such a vast disconnect between interests of commerce and creativity in how the mainstream publishers do business (for whatever reasons, though I suspect that financial concerns far outweigh any sociological ones). I'm sure that I am slightly off-topic here, but it bums me out that we are in 2013 and creators' rights are still an issue. I realize I am being idealistic. But as a writer/comics historian who has several friends within and on the fringes of the industry, I am unable to move past that to deal with the larger question at hand for this Group Think.

So while I fully believe that this debate is worthwhile (and thank you for delving into such issues with your peerless work), I may be way too biased to formulate an opinion on this subject other than this slight missive here because I simply want hard-working, talented people to be acknowledged and paid for their efforts. I realize that everyone else here does too, but man, it just burns me up to see folks getting screwed over so much. Sigh.

That said, I can't wait to hear the rest of the group's thought

*****

Michael Netzer:

Rob Salkowitz makes a compelling case for the Jewish immigrant psyche, early last century, being at the root of the brutal way business has been, and continues to be done with creators in comics. And though he puts some convincing evidence on the table, I'm not sure it completely holds up when considering a few wider parameters.

It is true that Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution in Europe were not readily embraced in thriving US industries, and so turned to the fledgling mediums that weren't sought after by longer-term Americans. Mostly because these industries couldn't yet offer enough financial security. This seems why Hollywood, the comics, print journalism (which although had been around a little longer than the former, it was still a risky business model and the pay-scales there left little to be desired), and later television, among some others, became an attractive home for the new arrivals to help develop, and offer an opportunity for them to lead a promising new industry with a potentially successful business model.

Hollywood, as an example, was mostly led by immigrants coming from the same background as the ones who, for the most part, established the comics industry. Yet we don't see the same type of relationship with let's say, screenplay writers, directors or actors, as we see with comics creators. Though this may be obvious to most, the news that Robert Downing Jr. earned $50M from his role in last summer's blockbuster from Marvel, while most of the creators of the film's main characters in the comics had little to no mention in the credits, succinctly drives home the profound difference between how both mediums relate to their creatives. The question then is, why does this difference exist? According to Salkowitz, there should be little to no difference at all between them. Or that Hollywood should have followed the same model as the comics, in how it relates to its script-writers, directors and actors, because the same immigrant psyche was at the ground floor of both industries.

I rather think the reason for the difference is that comics were a much lower profile industry than any other. The eyes of the business world were glued to Hollywood, journalism and later Television, even from the early years, and it wasn't easy for these businesses to get away with the type of abuse of creators that the comics became notorious for. But I also think Rob's letter sheds an important light on some of the reasons things came down the way they did, even though there's room to consider his theory needs the added relative anonymity of the comics as a more prevalent factor, to help put that history into better perspective.

This all reverberates for me with the title of the Group Think on how the comics culture might impact business practices. Most industry insiders wouldn't have dreamt such a thing possible a few decades ago when most of the business world barely knew there was such a thing as a comics culture, and most of those who knew could care less about it. The comics culture has and continues to grow exponentially in all directions. It's come into its own, maybe not in a way we'd all like to see, but it's clearly become a notable and visibly permanent fixture on the map. And it seems to me, that if we draw a straight line (or a curved one, doesn't seem to matter much) for the comics culture, from the golden-age to today, then the prospect for the future is indeed a very promising one. Maybe even of the more ambitious and relevant cultures on the world stage, because it offers the raw creative process not found in most other art forms, from which many other cultural mediums are drawing fundamental concepts. When I used to say something to this effect is in the industry's future to my colleagues in NY back in the 70s, they'd mostly shrug and remind me that the comics business is in shambles and that there's no future for it whatsoever. I think most of them look at the scope of the medium today with no less than amazement, relative to how things looked to us back then.

How business is being done in comics may not have changed much since comics started doing business. But comics creators, at least the ones who are able to put the wider picture into perspective, should be realizing by now the immense influence they could have over how that business is being done. People who are able to write and draw comics are for the most part at the helm of a medium that's becoming one of the more influential ambassadors to the business world. We have the tools, we have the means, and most important, we have an understanding of the need to exercise that influence.

I'd suggest that we could begin by considering a basic assumption that was once a creed of the founders of free trade. Namely that the success and happiness of an individual is directly linked and proportionate to the success and happiness of the collective construct that the individual is a part of. That the success of only a few and powerful, cannot be a lasting one, because if the social foundation it stands upon collapses, then so will it also collapse. That to forge a lasting successful socio-economic construct, necessitates the collective success of the society it thrives in.

I think that if the comics community, fans, professionals and creators, can begin to internalize and disseminate this basic principle, which seems to be becoming more and more evident in time, and try to demonstrate its effectiveness through the business outlets that we do have some influence and control over, then we might be taking an important step towards helping change the tides in how the corporate entities do business with us.

*****

Bob Temuka:

I'm an eternal optimist, so I really do think things are getting better. I think the impact comics culture has on the business is huge and that it is making the industry more ethical, but it's a painfully slow process. Even though many terrific creators are having a rough time in the industry, it's still so much more ethical than it used to be, even 20 years ago, (with a few notable exceptions, because there will always be some dickheads).

Creators are still screwed over on a shamefully regular basis, but there are also more good people than bad in the industry. Rob Salkowitz's ideas about the cultural dynamic are definitely part of it, but there are also a thousand little ways that things are getting better in this regard. It's such a vast subject, spread over years and years, with plenty of evidence.

But these kind of changes do take time, and it has taken more than half a century for the business to realise that fucking over your creative talent might actually bite you on the arse. These kinds of attitudes don't die overnight.

The good thing is, while they do take a long time, they are happening faster and faster. With the internet, anybody behaving like an unethical douchebag will invariably be exposed. It took decades for people to figure out how badly some creators were getting screwed over, now it can happen in a matter of weeks.

*****

Stefano Gaudiano:

I loved Rob Salkowitz's analysis. We beat our heads against the wall treating various sorts of injustice as impersonal "institutional" problems, even when a small amount of common sense would lead to mutually beneficial resolutions. What trumps common sense is the wild card of irrational needs and feelings, which are always personal and basically unique to each situation.

There are countless instances in which the profit needs of an institution would be better served by fair treatment of its clients or employees. Any individual within an institution however may believe that it is either mandatory or beneficial for him or her to perpetrate an injustice. Once an injustice is pointed out, nothing really prevents an institution from making amends, but someone in the institution could have a personal concern about 'looking weak'. That personal concern is what drives the decision process.

Rob Salkowitz's interpretation of events in the 1930's may or may not be entirely accurate in its specifics, but as a concept it provides a glimpse behind the curtain of what we take as given. Thanks to Rob for writing that, and thank you Tom for publishing it on your site.

*****

Danny Ceballos:

That sad and terrific book MEN OF TOMORROW made me a little more aware of how that comics business culture came into being and why it continues to thrive. Any artistic business that operates at a financial imperative over everything else is ultimately doomed (Hollywood learned this sad lesson in the sixties and seventies). Obviously, I can't speak for the inner workings of MARVEL / DC, although anyone can still point to how these corporations continue to deal with past creators (Ditko, Kirby, Siegel / Shuster) to see their true business colors.

imageI imagine either of those huge conglomerates could have moved boatloads of Peanuts books, but I'm guessing one of the reasons the Schulz heirs went with a company like Fantagraphics is because they have a proven track record for treating creators fairly, as well as putting out consistently great looking books. It should be noted that Fantagraphics is a company that grew out of comics fandom and they took a stand against what the big two did (and continue to do) in regard to creator rights (the egregious Watchmen reboot anyone?). If there is a sea change in comics business it is somewhat reflected by the fact that creators are taking greater control of how they make and distribute their own work (starting their own presses, selling directly thru the internet, etc). Maybe it's a good thing Marvel and DC are models not to emulate. Sometimes you need to wade through shit to exit a sewer.

*****

Michael May:

I love the fresh perspective of Salkowitz' idea and there's definitely food for thought there, but he lost me on the "humanitarianism" of Levitz' time in charge of DC. Creator deals were reportedly pretty good in general under Levitz, but he was also responsible for the treatment that drove away Alan Moore. The CrossGen exodus also happened during his time. As a broad-strokes argument, Salkowitz has a point, but using Levitz as an example doesn't really support it.

*****

Chris Arrant:

While I don't know enough to speak on the business manifestations of psychological profiles of the comics businessmen of the early 20th century, there's a tangent to this in more recent memories that's played out in my mind quite often as a unique quirk in comics: comic creators turned editors and publishers. The trend of working comics creatives like Carmine Infantino, Jim Shooter, Joe Quesada, and Jim Lee deciding to take more editorial/publishing roles is fascinating to me, especially in that corporate construct Salkowitz talks about where editors and publishers tend to keep their creator's at arm's length. I see some of the initial reasoning behind hiring comic creators as editor and publishes as a reaction by those that put them in those positions to try to endear themselves more to comic creators and try to engender better creator relations. Like Michael Jordan's transition from being a basketball player to a basketball executive, in some of their cases you can see a gradual shift of allegiances and reasoning for different arguments that spring up every couple years.

And I'm careful to separate these creators-turned-executives from the separate trend of editors-who-write. That seems a carryover from comics' roots in magazine publishing, but unlike magazine publishing and journalism where editors rise up through the ranks after being writers in comics it seems they're editors first -- an interesting juxtaposition if you look at it. In these cases, where editors moonlight as writers their work seems to come from a far different place, generally, due to them not being a working writer previous to their editorial work, giving material that seems to hit a checklist of storypoints the publisher requires but only in service to a mandate as opposed to more creative solutions where a story incorporates mandated points brought in by a publisher.

The overlap between comics' creative class and the office types has proven to give the industry some of its biggest successes but also some of its most conflicted tribulations, but it doesn't look to be stopping anytime soon.

*****

Martin Wisse

An interesting theory and I'm a sucker for class based analysis like this. I think there's a lot of truth to this thesis, but I have a few caveats however about the distinction with which the working class, immigrant cartoonists like Siegel & Shuter or Kirby were treated and how well their middle class colleagues fared..

While Eisner, Kane and Simon did indeed do much better than the vast majority of Golden Age cartoonists in terms of remuneration and keeping control of their intellectual property, this had less to do with their class background and more with the fact that each of them were them not just cartoonists but owned their own studios. As is well known, Eisner (together with Jerry Iger) worked as a comics packager for clients like Quality and Fiction House, while Joe Simon did the same for a succession of publishers, including National and Timely. We remember Simon & Kirby, but tend to overlook that they had a whole studio working for them in the forties and fifties.

It can be argued that Bob Kane did largely the same, only in-house for DC, where some part of the preferential treatment he got from DC management was surely for his efforts in keeping the people who actually did he work in line. In this he played the same role as the editorial class, with his continued employment dependent on the results he got from people like Bill Finger.

Which doesn't mean class didn't play a role there, just at a slight remote. It's probably not a coincidence that it was the cartoonists from, as Salkowitz puts it, "slightly more middle-class origins", who by and large started and ran these sweatshops. Part of belonging to the bourgeois after all means growing up with a better understanding of how business works than working class kids. In the end though Eisner, Simon and Kane still exploited working class cartoonists for the benefits of capital, profiting from their positions as middle men.

As for Salkowitz' observation that "this attitude is encoded in the DNA of DC and Marvel", yes, judging from the horror stories coming out of sixties and early seventies DC, this is correct. It only disappeared when the fans took over in the seventies and eighties, when both companies were owned by largely neglectful conglomerates who were much more interested in making Wonder Woman underoos than in whatever happened with the comics themselves. That and the shift to a fan driven, direct market where cartoonists were no longer anonymous, but could sell books for them, gave room for the Big Two to treat their creative talent slightly better than had been historically the norm.

As we know, this didn't last long. Especially at DC the old attitudes about cartoonists as largely interchangeable cogs in the machine are alive and well; only a handful of proven superstars escape that treatment.

*****

Chris W.:

"Saw your post this morning on Bissette's thoughts about corporations screwing creators, the choices involved, and the options. FWIW, I think there's a phrase in management-speak that applies here: 'culture eats strategy for breakfast.' Corporations reflect the values (or lack thereof) of their leaders, as filtered down the chain of command. As a business analyst by trade, I find that often the best explanations for aberrant business behavior arise from basic human psychology, not just the twisted logic of capitalism."

Which is a strategy that won't survive its first meeting with "culture", the whole point of the 'culture eats strategy' quote. If leaders don't understand who they're commanding, they do a bad job of commanding.

"When I look at the sociology of the early comics biz, especially DC and Timely, I see a very particular cultural dynamic at work: highly ambitious, entrepreneurial owners drawn from the same basic background as the artists (e.g., 1st or 2nd generation Jews from the lower depths of New York), half a generation or so older than their creative talent. Sure it serves their ownership interests for them to keep as much of the rights and profits as they can, but it's more than that. It is psychologically and socially necessary for the owners to create distance between themselves, good upper middle class bourgeoisie and aspiring capitalists, and the sweaty working-class artisans who do their work. I imagine you've read enough 'birth of the Golden Age' stuff to know what I'm talking about.

By "sweaty working-class artisans" I assume he means the people at typewriters and desks and not actual sweaty members of the working-class. This is the sort of nonsense that drives me rightwards. This writer is working so hard to project his own beliefs on people who died decades ago that he fails to take any account of any viewpoint that might disagree. I don't think Donenfeld, Liebowitz or Goodman hated Jews, but I can see an argument that they hated Jews. Does it hold up to scrutiny? No. Does that mean it's false? No. I just made up the argument five seconds ago, does that mean it's wrong? No. The people in question died decades ago, so it's not like there's actual evidence. Meanwhile, workers don't get very sweaty at a typewriter or drawing-board, whatever era they live in (where they're fortunate enough to have typewriters and drawing-boards.)

Just take the basic quote "1st or 2nd generation Jews from the lower depths of New York". It's a long-established fact of legacies that second generations differ from the first, but this quote makes no distinction. Would Baptists from Boston behave differently than Jews? Joseph P. Kennedy was a 2nd generation Catholic, how does he fit into this paradigm? A bourgeoisie who bought his (second-favorite) son a Presidency and his youngest a fifty-year Senate career? How are we defining Jews? How are we defining 1st and 2nd generation? Bill Gaines vs. Max Gaines? It's psychologically and socially necessary to project one's own beliefs on generations long-past, but that tells us nothing about actual culture, which already devours strategy.

"Think about how that works in practical behavior terms: Donnenfeld, Liebowitz, Goodman, etc. -- rising ethnic businessmen, trying to legitimate themselves in a marginal industry -- will do anything in their power to avoid being lumped in socially with the Siegel-and-Shuster class (scruffy, nerdy artists -- obviously total 'losers' in the world view of the ownership class), or worse yet, people like Jack Kirby (a kid from the slums, basically). If the owners were WASPs, it wouldn't be as important because outsiders would immediately recognize the social distinction, but since it was all Jews (and a few Italians and other ethnics) from top to bottom, the bosses needed to demonstrate their authority by treating the workers like garbage. That's how they figured the capitalist peer group whose approval they craved would recognize they were 'respectable.'

These people were barely removed from gangsters and pornographers, it's nothing but projection to determine at this late date who's approval they were seeking. As Jews, wouldn't they (maybe, possibly) look for God's approval above all else? Or does God not count? He sure doesn't in this version of the comics biz of eight decades ago. Maybe they were looking for their mother's approval, or a grade-school bully, or Flash Gordon's. Yes, they had the freedom to practice capitalism instead of being assigned their tribal roles, but that doesn't prove whose approval they were looking for, or what views they took of those sweaty inkers.

"As a result, you get a whole business culture defined by keeping the help in their place and not conceding any ownership prerogatives. IMO, all the odious trapping of the comics business: exploitive contracts, asshole editors, lack of benefits/dignity/certainty for freelancers, disposability of staff, arise from this 'familiarity-breeds-contempt' dynamic that characterized the early business. Once big money arrived, it became easier to justify this behavior in terms of greed â€" an acceptable motivation in corporate capitalism -- rather than simple class insecurity and pettiness. But that's where it comes from.

This is indistinguishable from any other leftist boilerplate of the last few centuries. How does the writer know they weren't justifying their behavior the same way before big money arrived? He doesn't, he's just projecting his own views back in time so it leads up to what he thinks now.

"Note that Joe Simon, Will Eisner and Bob Kane (or at least his family) are a different matter -- they come from slightly more middle-class origins and have some respectability attached to them

Define "slightly more middle-class origins." How does it differ from the "1st or 2nd generation Jews from the depths of lower New York"? What separates Bob Kane from Roy Thomas, except religion and age? How "slightly" is "slightly more middle-class"? So they made $20,000 a year instead of $17,000 a year? What's the difference?

"so it is easier, I think, for the bosses to treat them as autonomous creative people."

No, it's easier for you to generalize how other people make their decisions and plan their strategies. It certainly helps to remove any sense of individuality of decision-making. Will Eisner made better decisions than Jerry Siegel, but that's just a social issue which is easily dismissed and there's no chance of the sweaty artist making better decisions than the sweaty guy at a typewriter. Good thing they weren't working in the sewers or coal mines. This kind of viewpoint would get them killed real quickly.

"And of course Stan Lee was Goodman's nephew. IMO, it's no coincidence that these are the people who came out of the Golden Age with relatively good business deals. As a class, they didn't pose as much of a threat to ownership's self-image."

"As a class"? The "slightly-more middle class Jews" against the "1st and 2nd generation of Jews from the depths of lower New York"? If that's what "class" entails, then the concept needs to be throw away and pissed upon. Are there any Jews you can point to who are "slightly-more middle class" than the "1st and 2nd generation of Jews from the depths of lower New York" who didn't grow up to create comic books? How do you distinguish between them? Do non-Jews have any place in this concept of society?

"That was all a long time ago, of course, but I think there's ample evidence that this attitude is encoded in the DNA of DC and Marvel, and maybe also of Archie. When you think about the Levitz/Kahn regime at DC -- whatever its faults from other standpoints -- I think you'd have to say it was characterized by a certain humanitarianism toward the creators. IMO, this was born of the fact that Levitz and Kahn both came from middle class Jewish backgrounds where showing the lower-downs who's boss was not as important to the definition of success. But note also that Jack Liebowitz lived to serve on the board of AOL/Time Warner, and Ike Perlmutter certainly strikes me as a current day manifestation of this same temperament. Evidence indicates that the attitude lives on, even as its origins get lost in the mists of time."

Eisner, Kane and Lee were middle-class Jews too. Do you trust them? It's this sort of nonsense that drives me rightwards. People who want to write or draw have the freedom to write and draw. People who see a publishing niche to fill have the freedom to do that. Most of the problems will only come about after the fact. Yes. Mr. Salkowitz is very wrong.

Editor's Note: My thanks to Chris W, but please don't anyone ever format like this one again.

*****

Patrick Ford:

The attitude of publishers seems to me simply a function of basic human nature. People with an edge will almost certainly use that edge to their own advantage. That's the reason why I like laws and regulations. We need far more, and stronger, laws and regulations than we already have.

Class distinctions are tied in with this, but they are just another aspect. Liebowitz apparently looked down on Goodman and his tiny company. When Liebowitz was asked if he played golf with Goodman, he seemed offended by the idea he'd socialize with Goodman.

You go to a ghetto and there are the weak and the strong on a block. A guy walks in with a gun and he's got an edge. Disney walks into a room with 15 attorneys and they have an edge.

Jack Kirby: "I wouldn’t want to be in a position of leadership where I could hurt somebody, because I feel that I’m capable of it. A lot of people in my generation are capable of it. It’s done all the time in business... That’s what competition means: One man symbolically killing another."

*****

image

*****
*****
 
posted 8:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Daily Blog Archives
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
 
Full Archives