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May 4, 2005

Creator’s Bill of Rights Remembered


More of a genial survey than an impassioned piece of advocacy or historical inquiry, Al Nickerson's look at the 1988 Creator's Bill of Rights has one virtue in that it allows Dave Sim, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch and Scott McCloud to hold forth on issues in which they're practiced and invested.

As a result of these cartoonists' natural catankerousness, certain crucial disagreements bubble to the surface, all worth pondering: Dave Sim Vs. Scott McCloud over whether self-publishers need a Bill of Rights; Steve Bissette Vs. Rick Veitch on two different picturs of where things stand now as opposed to the early 1980s; Bissette and Sim Vs. McCloud on the vital importance of distribution, and Sim Vs. Bissette at the point at which money may allow for exclusivity to reprodcution. There's also a point of agreement that proves pretty compelling, that artists are unwilling to divulge contract information that potentially makes them look bad.

Steve Bissette is pretty much the belle of the ball here, I'd say, with his passionate diatribe against such industry events as WildStorm's sale to DC Comics and exactly how modern contracts might be just as bad as ones from an era many think is long gone. Sim's takedown on why Tundra failed is pretty choice stuff, too.

Personally, I don't find the Creator's Bill of Rights all that fascinating a document, except in a fun, dormitory hallway discussion kind of way. In fact, I've always thought conceiving of rights in that manner a potentially harmful thing, and therefore question its usefulness. Universality can loosen the tether from historical circumstance in a way that lifts the discussion of rights out of the real-world dialogue that gives it power and immediacy. In economically exhausted circumstances, creator rights thus too frequently becomes seen as something to bargain away rather than as effective, worthwhile and even just circumstances for which to fight. I thought it was a somewhat dubious rhetorical tool back in 1988, and still think so today. I'd rather we'd had the manifesto.

From Bissette's Tyrant.
posted 7:43 am PST | Permalink

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