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

April 23, 2012

So Let’s All Be Super-Clear About One Thing

The writer Chris Roberson was fired from an arc on the Fairest title because he made statements about DC Comics' ethics. I appreciate ComicsAlliance firming that up, because initial tweets and commentary kind of put those two ideas proximate to one another rather than stating them in plain English.

That is... well, that's distressing and sort of sad. It's hard not to get it, of course; I can't imagine it's awesome to be working with a creator that's just made public statements about your general lack of ethics in dealing with other creators. At the same time, it's not like you're publishing his manifesto of why you suck; you're making comics in a relationship you found valuable before the statements were made. I'm not sure what you get by hastening someone out the door in this situation other than looking like the kind of company that doesn't want people making public statements about their business practices, additionally looking like the criticism really strikes home in some way and even projecting an air of superiority that the company will not suffer any significant blowback for petty reprisal. When Jim Lee asks, as he apparently did over the weekend, what keeping someone that critical as a freelancer would do for internal morale, let me suggest that what it would say is that you're a company whose internal morale isn't dependent on individuals toeing some perceived company line. And before anyone suggests that this happens without exception, my memory is that I've pulled a check with at least three comics companies I've publicly criticized, and worked with several more in non-paying capacities. (I was also fired from a really, really minor gig for statements about a comics company, so I know it happens.)

I think what's shaping up as a takeaway from a lot of this stuff is how much direct intent plays a role in these big company policies, how this isn't a locked-in set of behaviors. Simply having a rule or the legal okay to do something isn't the same as actively pursuing that thing. It's looking more and more like DC actively kept Watchmen in print to keep it from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I think it's fair to look at actions taken and state that Marvel has actively decided that, say, random members of their board deserve more in the way of windfall than the creators and their families from another time on which their success was built. This is true of any and all positive policies as well, from the way creators receive credit now to royalty programs for copies sold to those companies that pay creators for the use of their characters in other media when maybe this wasn't explicitly hammered out years and years ago. There are people making choices here, and we need to bear witness to those choices.
posted 6:00 am PST | Permalink

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