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

August 14, 2009

Truth, Justice And Superman Is Totally Ours, You Stinky, Greedy Siegel Family


This may be the most wrong-headed comics editorial I've ever read. It reminds me of how fans think, and it underlines all the way the greatest art form in the world has been stunted by the tacit collaboration of such fans with greedy, rapacious assholes who play to their worst qualities. Let me count the ways I dislike this essay.
1) No matter how many times it's asserted in moral terms, fans do not own anything because they're fans of something, even if they feel entitled to that ownership. This is the same kind of ownership a three-year-old feels playing with another kid's toys while the moms sit and visit, combined perhaps with the lovely impulse of an angry drunk bellowing out the hit song's name from the audience when a band is playing their newest stuff and a sprinkle of one of those jerks writing an article that starts with them pulling into JD Salinger's driveway. Just stop.

2) It's "Shuster." Nitpicking? Maybe, but how often do you see "Julius Shwartz?"

3) The Siegel and Shuster families were almost certainly not made rich by any reasonable standard by which most people think of being made wealthy, were not made wealthy by the relative standards in which people servicing the copyright can still today be rewarded, were not made wealthy in comparison to the way the people on the other side of the editor's desk were made wealthy. The director Bryan Singer almost certainly made more money directing one of five Superman films, a film that was not a hit, a film that some people have a hard time even remembering in detail, a film consisting almost entirely of Superman lifting a progression of heavier things, than the Siegel and Shuster families have made their entire lives combined.

4) You don't get to decide how much someone else feels they should be rewarded anyway.

5) Acknowledging the frequently dubious motivations of the corporations doesn't excuse equating how those corporations have acted across their long, recorded histories with one or two actions of a bunch of people with no history at all just because you've convinced yourself those one or two actions fail to meet your approval, nor does it allow you to assign a motivation to them.

6) We're beyond questions of motivation. This isn't a family asking for a stipend or a copyright to be returned or a handout or a kindness or what's right. This is people using the law the exact same way the law was once used against them. If you need to be mad at someone, be mad at the law that has somehow threatened your supply of Superman comic books.

7) It seems to me that there are plenty of goddamn Superman comic books shooting out at all times from every crevice of DC's spongy body, and I haven't seen a single credible person suggest it's likely they will be stopped. It seems to me largely an imaginary argument, as DC has been shown to be a fine custodian of the character in terms of generating moolah -- it's largely agreed upon that who that moolah's gone to is what is in question.

8) If there aren't already enough goddamn Superman comic books, movies, TV shows and licensed material in existence to keep you happy from this moment on until the day you die a 167-year-old man, you are a fucked-up individual. Don't get me wrong: enjoy whatever it is you like, as much of it as you like. But that specific tidal wave of product ending for some reason and leaving you to make do with a pile of material the size of Youngstown, Ohio? That's a top three finisher on A&E's new special "The Top 25 Least Significant Tragedies," starring Bill Kurtis.
I've had personal encounters on-line with Hervé St-Louis, and he's always been very cordial and nice, and I'm sure that these beliefs come from a nice place where people would better value their customers and be grateful for what they have. But as written, this editorial is so wrongheaded it makes my teeth hurt. These ideas shouldn't even exist at this point given what we know about the exploitation rampant in the comics industry and the misery visited upon those so exploited, let alone be trumpeted as a challenge to conventional wisdom. I hate these ideas, and I hate this editorial, and I want these ideas out of comics. The entitlement and underlying nastiness that 95 percent of these people would never dare apply to their own creations and their own families, it simply has to go.

I'll be happy to publish any response, but anything I receive on this matter is being published if I want it published. I'm not interested in a private debate.

Updated: I changed the spelling on "Herve St. Louis" to "Hervé St-Louis" and apologize for the error.
posted 9:45 am PST | Permalink

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