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

February 16, 2005

Gerard Jones on Respect for Creators

imageWhat many people forget about big-paper editorials is that while we'd like to believe they're considered opinons on weighty issues that the author has felt compelled to put to paper, they are often strategic responses generated by authors and writers looking for a public boost that may improve their profile or help gain exposure for their latest project. I can't say that's the case with Gerard Jones' editorial about Stan Lee's round-one court win in his contract dispute with Marvel, but an entire paragraph recapitulating a standard argument from his entertaining Men of Tomorrow seems to suggest that may be so.

However, I'm not sure anything explains the weirdness of one short paragraph where Jones ties the abuse of creators to the stunted nature of the art form.
The result of this penny-pinching, shortsighted business culture is that American comics never grew far beyond their starting point. In Europe and Japan, a tradition of respect for creators equivalent to what Americans show their filmmakers and novelists allowed comics to become a variegated, grown-up medium. But in America, not many cartoonists want to create new characters for the major publishers anymore.

I think what he's getting at is a truly creator-friendly environment at the big publishers could have married their market dominance to the wider variety of works that cartoonists have either taken elsewhere or not generated at all. It's a strange argument in 1) if I understand him, Jones' ideal seems to exist in something like Sandman, and I've never heard the lack of additional successes along those lines laid at the feet of a hostile environment for creators, 2) adult expression in most art forms has been largely facilitated by outsider, disaffected or even outright underground vehicles, including comics in Japan and in France, and 3) I think North American comics are a variegated, grown-up medium, albeit maybe just barely and perhaps playing out at much wider extremes between mature work and adolescent thrills than other art forms.

In the end, I always felt comics creators deserve to be treated better because of how successful their work has been and because everybody should be treated fairly, not because of any ripple effect it may have years down the line.
posted 5:44 am PST | Permalink

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