Me, Marvel, And Morrison

Oddly, this reminds me of that.

So, in an interview a while ago, and apparently in some other places I know not of, Grant Morrison gave the impression that he was one of the distressingly many people who seem to believe that Superman belongs to the world, as the creation of Human Imagination, and not to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as their own creation. Though I still think the interview question at any rate was a bit of a trap — after all, through having spent years building up this massive thing about how superheroes are noospheric entities with some sort of independent “reality” of their own, Morrison has certainly made himself vulnerable to sneak attacks on the subject of creators’ rights, particularly from the de facto PR arms of the Big Two — nevertheless if he was not at least skirting the issue when he answered it then I’ll eat my hat, you know? And indeed it ain’t exactly hard to make the jump from his (arguably prudent) “well, I wasn’t around then” reply, to a (definitely odious) “they knew what they were getting into” stance. And so you can’t really blame comics fans too much for not giving him the very strictest benefit of the doubt, can you? And so many people online got exremely pissed at Mr. Morrison and his position: how dare he not stand up for the men who singlehandedly created the sandbox he plays in? How dare he play the company stooge? Morrison is nothing if he’s not a man who always has his finger on the cutting edge: as stories of DC haranguing Jerry Siegel’s widow come out, as Marvel bites back at Jack Kirby’s heirs, as Steve Bissette calls for a boycott…Grant Morrison seems to wash his hands and say “not my problem” even as he trumpets a Superman comic that takes the big S back to his common-man, unionist roots. And, you know…

It makes a splash.

A fairly instructive splash, actually. Now, I don’t know what Morrison actually thinks about all this (though I’m more than a little inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt as a private individual, you understand), therefore how to reconcile his public statements with the content of his art is a reasonably taxing problem, but I’ve been thinking recently that perhaps there’s more to be found in the vexation than there is in its reconciliation, no matter what residue is baked out on the one hand or the other. Morrison always leaves gaps in his stories for the reader to fill in, and I guess it’s a habit he can’t break even when the story is his own — because if he had said that what happened to Siegel and Shuster was disgraceful, what would’ve been the consequence for him?

Nothing, I’ll bet. There would have been no consequences. Nobody would’ve been mad. Everything would’ve been peachy. And I probably would have continued to read Marvel and DC comics, at least for a little while longer. But instead, my own filling-in of the gaps in Morrison’s story has led me to not wish to read them…with the notable exception of Morrison’s own Action Comics, which still tempts me. Possibly, it tempts me even more than it would have otherwise.

And is that strange?

Well, maybe I’m just naturally contrary. But consider: just a little lip-service from Morrison, and we would’ve had a thoroughgoing non-issue. The comics would’ve been the same. The lawsuits would’ve been the same. Nothing would have changed, except comics fans wouldn’t have been outraged. They wouldn’t have been outraged, and they would’ve kept on buying the books. A very interesting comparison with the recent state of affairs in which they were outraged, but kept on buying the books. Don’t you think?

And if Morrison had denounced DC, even done something as outrageously impossible as calling for a boycott himself? Would all the people recently outraged by his disrespect have, instead, followed him out the door and into the hills?

No, probably not: because I rather think it isn’t the injustice that outrages us, but the lack of lip-service. Because lip-service makes us feel better, salves our sense of responsibility for the injustice we see around us, and symbolically “settles the issue”, sort of like when Cliff Robertson gets a Lifetime Achievement Award. Well, but that’s the purpose of lip-service, right? To keep the money flowing in as smooth and uncomplicated a way as possible, by removing the rocks of objection from the stream. Think about it, there are so many things that Morrison might have said, that would’ve been both true and a salve: that the work of artists who have come before him needs honouring, and that it can’t be properly honoured merely by treating it as an economic transaction, but only by also continuing to breathe life into it as an artistic creation…that it’s a hell of a balancing act, but for all those who love and respect that work there’s no choice but to keep trying to make it work…that we must struggle with this responsibility in much the same way the superhero struggles with his responsibilities. Grant Morrison is a very clever man, whose fiction-suit these days is a distinctly reflexive superheroic one: he’s here to save the superheroes, so they can save us. So, would temporizing lines like these have been too much for him, seeing as he’s already wearing those clothes, and probably even has stuff stashed in their pockets by now? So it’s a bit of a shock that it didn’t get said, when you get right down to it…

But, the question then becomes: how is the shock constituted? What kind of a shock is it? A great deal of Morrison’s work is and has been founded on the problem of intentionality, so it’s always difficult to say he’s ever “meant” to do some particular thing, though he unquestionably means to do some things…and you can’t go by what he says, either, because: you know, it’s a suit. So what he meant, what he didn’t mean…that’s a little bit secondary, to the larger issue of how we took it, and why we took it that way. Morrison, an asshole? Some kind of traitor, or something? Well, let’s not get too carried away with the business of the Comics Capital Crimes: indeed, let’s try to remember that Grant Morrison’s never raped anyone, never murdered anyone…never even called for people to be shot, as far as I know, and so when we feel like burning him in effigy we should probably ask ourself why it is that we’re giving him such a rough ride, and letting worser others slide. Because, what inclines us to such judgements? Is it just personality, that makes that difference? Cults of personality are always bad, at least in part because they privilege aesthetics over ethics — they make of ethics an aesthetic sub-category, right and wrong not a difficult matter of acculturation and choice but a simple one of personal taste. And we should know, because comics blogland is primarily a battlefield of taste, isn’t it? Every messageboard flame war begins in the assumption that people are stupid because they’re wrong, unless that assumption goes (slightly more defensibly, if also slightly more disingenuously) the other way around, but whichever way you get it this leads on very obviously and evidently to the frequent and all-too-easy conclusion that there must be an equation of stupidity with wrongness, where to be one is to be the other because they’re both the same thing. But of course this isn’t true. This isn’t how we measure these things. Actions and intentions, correctness and stupidity, are both important…but taste isn’t important at all.

Taste isn’t important at all. That’s a hard one for people who are interested in taste to get their heads around, but it’s true: taste is individual, but it isn’t, itself, individuality…and it isn’t group belonging either, when push comes to shove. Trust me, I wouldn’t give up my taste for the world…but then again it’s always changing anyway, and everyone else has got enough of their own that they’re not even asking for mine, so the question doesn’t properly arise in the first place. And thank goodness for that, because if taste mattered to anyone but the one who has it, then everyone’s would have to be good or else it’d be shit, and then distaste would matter too, and…you know, if there’s anything that truly is an obstruction to the pursuit of happiness in the real and genuine scheme of human life, it’s other people’s distaste. Because if that did matter, then the whole world would be a messageboard…

…And nothing but, but fortunately that’s not where we’re at. So let’s leave taste and distaste to one side, and instead look at Grant Morrison’s sin against lip-service, and think about who is disadvantaged by it, and who is encouraged. Who was the offence committed against, and in whose favour did it work? What did it impede, and what did it enable? If you read this blog then you know I’ve been completely soured on all the work being made on the backs of past artists who were treated unfairly, whose families are still being treated unfairly. Now, I’ll admit this attitude gives me a slight shiver on occasion, because sometimes even in my own head it seems to decompose quite easily into the symbolic hollering of “SCAB!” at the current artists who are producing that work…even though that is not, most definitely NOT, what my own personal sourness is all about. Quite the contrary. Because as I’ve said before, I’m angry at the corporations for making this my problem, my own personal little ethics-based cognitive-dissonance moment, when it should’ve been their business to deal with it. So do I buy the comic, see the movie? Aren’t I hurting and/or demonizing perfectly innocent people if I don’t, isn’t like this being angry at the miners instead of the mining company? Well, actually it is the mining company I’m angry at, and it’s the miners I’m with, but cognitive dissonance is a powerfully-confusing thing, it turns things around on themselves in a sort of internal auto-spin…that’s where the “dissonance” bit comes in, natch. In the very nature of the ethical quandary, right in the logic of it, there is pressure on us to blame the current artists, just as there’s (inevitably) pressure on them to question how much they support the system in which they work to earn their daily bread. So, y’know, we all just go ahead and we do what we can when we can do it, but it’s the pressure that makes it a pressure-cooker, not just the heat. But then suddenly there’s Morrison, you see: and he said something that changes the balance of these forces.

So we can blame him, can’t we?

And maybe that’s it, maybe that’s the thing that works, the place where advantage and disadvantage lie. Morrison fails to play along in the way we expect him to, and it disadvantages us by making us think about what good it is to play along…but in the same gesture it advantages us by giving us a target for whatever dissatisfaction that self-knowledge creates. Morrison has stood up, so he is going to be hammered down…and hey! Better him than us, right?

But here’s the problem: it isn’t right. Not unless we’re prepared to do something about it. I mean: any of it. You know what I mean?

And that doesn’t necessarily mean “boycott”. It doesn’t even necessarily mean “protest”. But it does mean “reaction”. Take me, for example: I’m not engaged in a boycott, and I’m not protesting anything. But I am having a reaction, in that I’ve just stopped buying shit — even good shit — that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. And I’m not saying I’m any better or worse than anyone else because of it, but that’s the reaction that I’m having because I’m having one. Of course there are any number of reactions a person could have to the injustice on display in Marvel’s actions toward the Kirbys, DC’s actions toward the Siegels, if one is not actually predisposed to take the side of the companies. “Not caring” is one of these possible reactions. “Making excuses to oneself for still needing the job/wanting the comics” is another. And personally I’ve got no problem with people in the “making excuses” mode; I make excuses for things I do that don’t sit 100% right with me, just about every day. So I know that it is a reaction, a perfectly valid reaction. And you know it’s a little bit like work, too? It’s a little bit like work…

So you pay for the privilege, of making excuses. And that’s fine. But in my case, I don’t feel I have to pay that way anymore. And, in some way do I have Grant Morrison to thank for it? It was Steve Bissette calling for a boycott on Marvel that made me think of it, but maybe it was Morrison’s comments, and the reaction to Morrison’s comments, that finally made me feel like acting, made me feel like I wasn’t stuck with the situation as it was. So, lots of the people who are angry at him are people who buy and read comics from DC, but I’m not angry at him, because I’ve stopped buying and reading those comics. I can’t even let off steam at him, because I haven’t got any steam: there’s no pressure in this cooker, anymore. So the lip-service is nothing to me, whether it’s there or it isn’t. I don’t care about lip-service. Lip-service isn’t important at all. After all, how can you get mad at someone for not saying something should be done, about something you yourself have no intention of doing anything about? If you wouldn’t follow him into the hills if he said the right thing, then how can you be incensed about him saying the wrong one? When what you’re willing to do doesn’t change in any event, no matter what he says. To be sure, I am a little disappointed in Grant Morrison, because it would’ve kept me superficially happier to have him dole out a bunch of bumf about how it’s all about respecting the creators…I mean, in my own private opinion I think it probably is all about respecting them, to him, but I’m left in the uncomfortable position of not really having anything to back that opinion up with, and much to undermine it. So, disappointed: yep. But it isn’t like Morrison was any righter or wronger when he wrote All-Star Superman, or Batman & Robin, or New X-Men, or FF: 1234…and it isn’t like I was any righter or wronger when I read them. We both knew the score then, as we still know it now. I’ve known for decades how creators have gotten screwed by Marvel and DC, and I never felt moved to do anything about it. Morrison knew too, and he still went to work for them, and Morrison is not alone. I’m not alone either. Neither of us is alone.

So let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? If you work on or read Marvel or DC comics, you work on or read something that was largely wrested from its creators for pennies on the millions, and either you care about that enough to do something about it — any of it — or you don’t. And hey, if you don’t, that’s your business; if you’re on the side of the companies then I’ll cheerfully call you an asshole, but if you just meh it about caring then who am I to judge you? But then if you just “meh” it about caring, then you shouldn’t really give much of a damn about Grant Morrison paying “proper respect” to Siegel and Shuster either, should you?

But if you do care enough to do something about it…any of it…

…Then I ask you: is losing respect for Grant Morrison all you’re willing to do?

Because that seems like a funny place to start, and then stop.


25 responses to “Me, Marvel, And Morrison

  1. Oh, hey, I can comment here using my Twitter thing. Cool.

    This is great, Plok. You’ve articulated a lot of things I’ve been kicking around but haven’t been able to find the words on. I suppose I have difficulty demanding that a writer share my moral viewpoint. It’s not even that, though, because you’re absolutely right in noting that what’s demanded is lip service.

    I drafted a longer reply, but I find I have little enthusiasm for posting it.

  2. Well, one of the things is this: I think Morrison is partly right about Superman (assuming, since I didn’t read his comments myself, that your portrayal of them accurately conveys their spirit). I think Superman should be part of the public domain, now, in 2011 (as should Batman, and Mickey Mouse, and…). I don’t think Siegel and Shuster’s estates should be earning a penny on Superman, or, at least, they shouldn’t be earning a penny on anything they’re not doing with Superman now.

    See, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading about copyright in the past couple of years, and Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig and Michael Geist (and, inadvertently, Mark Helprin) have all convinced me that copyright should only last for a while before it converts to public domain. And any reasonable clock should certainly have run out for Superman.

    I am aware that the current copyright laws do not agree with me.

    More to the point, this assumes that Siegel and Shuster and their heirs have already taken advantage of their opportunity to pile up simoleons in the intervening time, which they haven’t, because DC has. And no that’s not fair.

    But I’m still fighting with this. If Action Comics #1 had gone over like a lead balloon, should S&S have had to pay back part of the $130? Course not. If it had been a small success, would DC have owed them more, back in 1940 or whatever? Maybe, but who cares? It’s only because it was an unimaginably huge success that anybody’s paying attention to it, and that’s an outcome that could not have been predicted. No wonder we’re having trouble with it!

    I think S&S did “know what they were getting into”, up to a point. They had an opportunity, and they took it, knowing what it was. The fair thing would have been for DC, at some point in the late ’30s or early ’40s, to say, look, this thing is going critical on us, how about we renegotiate so as to give you guys a real piece of this pie that wouldn’t exist but for you? They didn’t, and would you really have expected them to?

    And yet there have been settlements since then. Haven’t there been times, more than one of them, over the years, when S&S have made some kind of arrangement with DC that was intended to put a line at the bottom of the page? But they don’t seem to have taken, for two reasons: one, that Superman fans can still see inequality-of-outcome in how the whole thing turned out for everyone, and two, that the S&S heirs can smell a dollar.

    At the moment I think that the legal action against DC for Action #1 is more punitive than anything else. S&S don’t need the money anymore and won’t be getting any, and their heirs do not, I believe, have a particularly strong moral claim to it. Legal, maybe; moral, not a lot. I think that anything DC has to pay is just a punishment on DC for having been so callous to S&S for all those years. And I don’t argue with that; let the courts sort it out.

    So now that I’ve said that, do I feel like I’ve let myself off the hook?

    I do not.

  3. Madeley: Usually I don’t have too much trouble tolerating writers who differ from me politically, unless…you know, unless they piss me off, but I do wrestle with the problem sometimes. Ezra Pound is the classic example in literature, and…I guess Dave Sim, in comics? Hmm, but Morrison isn’t exactly in that category. Hell, I’m not even fussing a whole lot about Chester Brown’s (apparently unironically-named) “Paying For It”, and that’s a lot more real than lip service. As well, David Allison points out in e-mail that the whole political thing is really not what Morrison’s work is about…he is saying lots of things that relate to moral questions of ownership and identity and suchlike in his comics, but they’re not combative, brass-tacks, “pick a side” things anyway. The idea that he’s against Siegel and Shuster, or even just indifferent to the injustice in their history, possibly is so shocking because it isn’t really so: why, after all, would he be? Is he suddenly management, or something? In this arena, people either come out screaming that the Siegels suck, or that DC sucks, and there isn’t any room left in the middle for “third ways”…we can probably expect Morrison to be a sort of contested territory himself in that dialogue, since he basically never takes part in it anyway. There are “socially-conscious” writers out there we would absolutely expect to go over the top and open fire on this issue when invited to, because you can read those tendencies and affinities in their work already…but who reads that stuff in Morrison’s work? And yet it is Joe Shuster who draws Superman in All Star #10, not Johnny DC or the Phantom Stranger or anyone like that…and it’s a story that celebrates the creation of Superman, not DC Comics.

    So I don’t know; I may have painted Morrison more harshly than he deserves, here.

    And, Matthew: S&S couldn’t make an illegal contract though, and so they could only sell Superman for the length of time the law allowed. That’s why when the term of copyright was extended, the option to reclaim copyright was given. That seems perfectly fair and moral to me: they didn’t sell Superman for 70 years, so DC doesn’t necessarily get to keep him for 70 years. If they want him back, they can have him. I think you may be doing a disservice to the heirs by saying they’re just in it for the money, but even if they were, well…if they don’t have a moral right to it, I don’t see how DC can have a moral right to it either. Talking about cognitive dissonance, I notice that the overall question of copyright terms does tend to get mixed in with specific questions of who should get money for what and when…so I find a lot of people saying, in order to remain consistent with their position on copyrights in general, that because it should be in the public domain anyway then the creators (or their heirs) shouldn’t get a penny for it, because no one should get a penny for it…which is fine, except that until it is in the public domain the money still exists, and the Siegels haven’t petitioned anyone to extend copyright terms, so it isn’t really their fault, and so why should DC keep all the money? The only reason is because they have the contract, but the law says the time has run out on that contract’s power to give them unchallengable possession of the property. So DC isn’t being punished if they have to pay the Siegels some Superman money, they’re just not getting a free ride anymore on those extended copyright terms!

    Sorry, I think I’m lecturing…

    …But don’t you agree with that? That DC never bought Superman forever and ever and ever, but only bought it for the copyright term that existed at the time S&S sold it?

  4. when the term of copyright was extended, the option to reclaim copyright was given. That seems perfectly fair and moral to me: they didn’t sell Superman for 70 years, so DC doesn’t necessarily get to keep him for 70 years. If they want him back, they can have him.

    I think that’s right, and this is one of those areas where I’m happy to say “let the courts sort it out”.

    I think you may be doing a disservice to the heirs by saying they’re just in it for the money

    Well, okay… but I think they’re partly in it for the money, and partly to punish DC. What else would they be in it for? Just to own Superman? I guess that could be true, although it’d be weird. What would they do with him? License him out, maybe, but that just brings us back to the money. So if that’s not it then what is it? And I don’t have a problem with that! If they can say, “Legally, we claim that such-and-such should happen,” and the courts agree with them, then that’s perfectly okay by me.

    if they don’t have a moral right to it, I don’t see how DC can have a moral right to it either.

    Exactly! Although, well, I don’t know if there’s a path that leads away from here. Clearly, over the past seventy-some years, DC has grown Superman. Work has been done and Superman is now more than he was. Value has been added, both aesthetic and financial. Does anybody have a moral right to all of that? DC as a whole? Byrne and Waid and Morrison and Weisinger and Swan and Maggin and Garcia-Lopez as individuals? Richard Donner and Tim Daly and Dean Cain? I guess we could say that they’ve already got what they can claim from Superman… but the value remains, you know?

    …But don’t you agree with that? That DC never bought Superman forever and ever and ever, but only bought it for the copyright term that existed at the time S&S sold it?

    I don’t know. I get lost in that. Because the copyright term being extended, and Superman being valuable enough that anyone cares enough what happens at the end of the copyright term, are two things that both parties didn’t see coming when they made the original deal. Plus, cripes, I’m no expert, and there are all kinds of details I don’t have even if I were.

    Plus just because something is public domain (and I haven’t forgotten that Superman isn’t) doesn’t mean that you can’t make money off of it; it just means that anybody can make money off of it. So in that sense I don’t begrudge DC any of the money they’ve made recently; why shouldn’t they have? It’s just that other people, including the S&S heirs, and Marvel, and you and me, should also have been able to. And the fact that we weren’t legally able to do that is only partly DC’s fault.

    So I imagine there’s a legal solution to this that’s fair to all, and I hope the courts decide wisely, but I can’t really say that I have a dog in this fight. Or, rather, I do–you and me again–but though that may be the right dog I think this is the wrong fight for it.

  5. Honestly, the larger moral or ethical issues at stake didn’t even enter into this one for me. I personally didn’t get too worked up over Morrison’s comments because it isn’t the first time he’s said something in an interview that, as a big ol’ fan of the guy, I rather wish he hadn’t. Remember that thing a few years ago where he was concerned that society was becoming schizophrenic, and schizophrenics can’t process metaphor, and that’s why Seaguy didn’t sell very well? It’s BECAUSE he wears that fiction-suit and cultivated the image of The Man Who’s Got It All Figured Out that one tends to pounce on his words in a way that one wouldn’t if he were instead putting himself out there as Just a Dude.

    In this case, he’s trying to sell a book about how the superhero is this mystical, spiritual concept-form, and so it makes for a better interview answer to say “Well, Superman’s bigger than two guys” than to spend five minutes hashing out creator’s rights. In other places he’s spoken out in favor of S&S (I like that shorthand). So like, his crime here is being inconsistent in things that he’s said in different venues for different purposes. Which is bad for The Man Who’s Got It All Figured Out, but like, Just a Dude is not infallible.

    I’ve never been interviewed, but I’ll bet it’s SUPER TOUGH, you know?

  6. About time! I was wondering where you were! Anyway, what you said, except for one thing:

    What you’re calling “lip-service” is actually a hell of a lot more important than you seem to say here. You’ll think I’m mad, but it’s bigger than money. How long were Jerry Siegel and Jack Kirby satisfied with the paltry page rates they made in comics? In both cases, what started to crush their souls was the lack of respect, the failure of their debtors to acknowledge their contribution and treat them with dignity. I can’t prove this but I promise that if DC had spent a few bucks on a crummy painted portrait of Siegel and Shuster to hang in the office lobby and thrown them a big congratulatory dinner once a decade — “thanks for creating our number one character, you guys are swell!” — the financial demands would have been completely different. If Stan Lee had never let the magazine profile of him that made him out to be the sole creative genius of Marvel and cast Jack as the short comic relief sidekick be published (this is a real thing and it happened) and had said “Jack was my hero as well as my friend, and these books were a totally equal partnership between us” at every opportunity (which is what he actually does think in reality) don’t you think history would have gone differently?

    It’s not just lip-service and it’s not just catering to an artist’s vanity (though my poor explanation may make it sound like that’s what I’m saying). It’s about acknowledging, in words, “you made this good thing and we honor you for it.” To someone like a Kirby or a Siegel — *especially* a Jerry Siegel, continually battered and humiliated in spite of everything he did — a hefty chunk of respect would have been worth a million bucks.

  7. That’s funny, I was wondering where you were!

    Richard’s right, of course: it’s bigger than money. People can live without money — people are very robust creatures! — but as anyone who’s ever stood in a welfare line knows, it’s damned tough work to live without respect. Gonna smush all these replies together a bit, now…Matthew, you remind me that there’s nothing wrong with the Siegels wanting the money qua money (as it were) that they’re owed, but the more obviously pressing motivation to my mind is that their father fought DC Comics tooth-and-nail for decades, until it became primarily a matter of respect and acknowledgement. The Superman character is of course going nowhere, no matter who owns it…as long as there’s a DC Comics, they’re going to be publishing Superman. But the Siegels aren’t going anywhere either, and so once the legal dust all settles, DC is going to be required to pay respect to the creators, with the only kind of sincerity corporations know: cold hard cash. And it isn’t billions, or anything — it’s only the same money that’s paid to any creator-owned property when a comics company or movie studio does something with it. And they still probably never would’ve had to pay it, if they hadn’t treated S&S so shabbily. Although in my opinion Grant Morrison’s sin against lip-service is still a sin against the readers, and not the creators, because if we’re not taking up the creators’ battles then we can’t very well be outraged on their behalf…but only on our own behalf, in which case maybe our outrage isn’t very respectable. But I still perhaps shouldn’t have said lip service isn’t important at all, because we clearly wouldn’t be here talking about it, if it wasn’t.

    Chalk it up to poetic licence. Then again, I could’ve saved myself a lot of work and just let Justin spell it out with his typical economy…by the way, I already interviewed Matthew once (it’s not up yet, but it’s going to be), so I’ll totally interview you too, man…!

    But on the matter of “growing Superman”, I think I’m going to come down on the side of the artists’ moral right, in that one: Jerry Siegel probably did the most, even in those terms, to make Superman a world-beater in terms of property value…just look at all the stuff he developed for Superboy that’s become (I would argue) the biggest part of Superman’s “world-building” to date…and we won’t even get into “K-Metal”, but even if Jerry deserves the absolute lion’s share of it all I’d still say Swan and Maggin and even Byrne or Waid are owed respect for keeping his creation vital, since my point of view is that the value of these brands has only ever been found in the talent of the individual artists who worked on them. They don’t keep themselves vital and relevant and readable! As I often say, people could stop buying Spider-Man pyjamas for their kids tomorrow. It could happen. Why hasn’t it happened already? Morrison makes a pretty case for the superhero speaking to the unconscious, but market forces can kill heroes too — they can be forgotten as easily as they can be remembered. George Reeves made a really wonderful Superman on TV, didn’t he? And Richard Donner’s “crystal” Krypton may not be my favouritest thing ever, but it’s proven as indelible as Batgirl in the overall Super-world. However without the high quality of these artistic contributions Superman might well have died to popular memory back when everyone thought he was going to, larger significance or no, and the one certain thing is that “DC”, as a corporate entity, could not have stopped that from happening. Only the artists ever could, or did. And, so…you know, let’s not say DC put oomph behind the Superman brand out of the goodness of their heart! This was not a charitable enterprise, and no one acted as a publicly-minded archivist here — every penny they spent on adding value to Superman came back to them many times over. And what they spent it on was work-for-hire paycheques, so they didn’t have to share the harvest. But I’ll say it again: if they had shared it, their businesses would be in better shape today.

    Sorry, that’s a little off-topic. But what I’m driving at is…so why shouldn’t DC get some credit, and why should they be criticized for making money from Superman when we all should’ve been making money from Superman, and they just had the good luck to be free to do it? Except it wasn’t luck. They didn’t have good luck and we didn’t have bad luck, but they kept it from us, and while they kept it they threw their weight around like a playground bully. You could argue that it wasn’t DC that put the arm on legislators to extend copyright terms, and…well, if you argued that you might be right, that’s information I don’t have, maybe it is all just down to Disney and Sonny Bono, but even in that case…even if they were simply granted their extensions under the same blanket everybody else was…well, even then I think “credit” is not something they deserve, and I think it is fair to begrudge them the profit they took, which allowed them to treat their employees badly. At Marvel, Jack Kirby was needed, and so does anyone believe that Martin Goodman didn’t promise him anything, in that long-ago mysterious conversation when he went in mad and came out happy? But as soon as the profit was there to be taken, they shook him off. There’s something of morality at work there, to my way of thinking, and at DC it is only slightly less clear-cut.

    As I see it, anyhow.

  8. I wrote along winded reply to this the other day but thankfully everyone else has made simlar points but better. I’ll try to be brief.

    I’m not the world’s biggest Grant Morrison fans. I’ve only read a few of his comics but I’m slowly catching up. I did see that doco about him and he seems like a fairly reasonable nutter: his parents sound absolutely fascinating.

    But this comment re S&S and copyright. I found it a bit annoying but as plok says it didn’t actually piss me off. It seems like a relatively rare political solecism from the man, in comparison with say, oh, Frank Miller, whose latest release is the latest in a long line of reactionary effusions. I for one am resigned to the fact that hardly anyone will be as right on as me; and for Morrison not to live up to my exacting standards, well, what’s new?

    One of the other points I wanted to make was that I’m not sure what grumbling about Grant Morrison’s not publicly taking the side of S&S is supposed to achieve. As I see it the problem is not something restricted to the particular practices of DC or Marvel. Their denial of copyright and credit S&S and Kirby is hardly peculiar or unique in the history of the 20th century corporate arts industry. I’m sure if you looked hard enough you’d find many similar stories in the history of pop music, TV and cinema. The problem is bigger than the arts industry. It is something anyone who isn’t born with a trust fund has to struggle with every day.

    Taking down one guy for what may have been a regrettable throw-away comment when there is just so much else out there to raise one’s ire just seems odd.

  9. I am so pleased you finally got to comment, Chris! You’ll please pardon me for not replying now as I just got paid and I’m quite drunk, but I WILL SAY THIS: there is a great Mindless Ones piece on just what you say, now where is it…ah, found it!


    I’ll see you here tomorrow, I hope.

  10. Let me ask you this, a bit off topic: I thought I read recently that Marvel was coming out with some kind of lost Defenders story by Steve Gerber. I can’t seem to find any of the details about it now but I don’t think I imagined it. Is that something you’d bite on, despite your current relationship or lack thereof with Marvel?

  11. plik, yeah I saw that one – good stuff.

    Matthew E, I got a Mark Waid (I think) “from the vault” one shot a few months ago – not bad. I think there’s a new series by Fraction coming… I just wish they’d hurry up with the Masterworks paperback reprints of the original series.

  12. Sorry that should have been plok

    BTW I tried to edit it while it was posting and I was told by wordpress to slow down..

  13. Oh, okay. I thought it might be, but then the thought struck that Marvel might have stumbled upon, like, The Lost Gerber Archives, and we could all expect a Son of Satan miniseries or something next year as well.

    Since this is the internet, however, I suppose I should have prefaced my earlier comment with “Um, ACTUALLY…” Apologies, all.

  14. Hey folks — sorry for the comment-delay, was called out to a friend’s show on Friday and had to put in some serious recovery time…

    …And: huh. A lost Gerber/Nowlan painted Man-Thing, and of all things a sequel to “Song-Cry”? And 62 pages? How completely bizarre. No, I’m not at all sure I’ll be inclined to resist that one, but I couldn’t quite say what tips those scales for me. Maybe it’s just that, you know…I have a fairly profound personal relationship with Steve’s work, I’m already invested, it isn’t just “neat new stuff”…and I suppose it doesn’t really accomplish the trick of turning me from a non-customer back into a customer, only perhaps spotlights the fact that when push comes to shove I care more about supporting Steve’s work, than I do about no longer supporting the Marvel brand. Well, it’s the value of the artistic contributions that motivates me in the first place, after all…I’d snap up a secondhand Cap’s Bicentennial Battles Treasury, too (not to mention a secondhand Spider-Man Treasury!), but I don’t think I’d buy a re-issue of it…

    …And maybe the Gerber/Nowlan Man-Thing is something I can comfortably place in that same mental category? I suppose I won’t know for sure until I see it, but I have a funny feeling that if I were to actually open it and read it, then I’d buy it.

    But the funniest question you’ve got me asking myself now is, Jesus, what would I do if there could be such a thing as a Lost Defenders Story on the shelves? I don’t think there could be, actually: Steve’s run has the look of completeness to it, for sure, and besides I think I’d actually be shocked if Marvel released new Gerber Defenders material, even if they had it. Likewise with the conclusion to the last existing chapter of Guardians of the Galaxy, that Roger Stern finished the scripts on, although…you know, I would’ve loved reading that. The proper end of Omega, with all secrets revealed? But again I don’t know: these things were very much of their time, in an artistic sense, and I’m not sure a Gerber version of “Hunger Dogs” would ever have been something that it was possible to conclude or complete, anymore than Alan Moore’s “Twilight Of The Superheroes” could’ve been made any time after that iron was first hot. How do you go from “From Hell” to “Twilight”? I don’t think you do: the artist’s concerns move on and drift away, find different and more mature modes of expression. In fact I think that Morrison may be alone in the way he seems to be able to endlessly revisit past super-concepts with such breathtaking ease. At times it appears as though there is no abandoned project he couldn’t slip right back into, without even leaving a splash at the point of entry. Hypertemporally-flexible? His Big Superhero Theory seems as though it could be something he would never feel the need to outgrow, but rather something he could continually re-infuse…

    Ooooh, the coffee’s ready!

  15. Another instance of Morrison working a tribute to the hard-done-by creators into his work is that he dedicated issue 672 of Batman to Bill Finger. Few if any of the rest of the issues are dedicated to Batman creators, and Bill Finger is the most high profile of the ones who were mistreated. That it is in the ‘Joe Chill in Hell’ issue, showcasing the most fundamental baddie in the Batman mythos must be deliberately pointedly ironic on Morrison’s part.

    By accident or design, DC didn’t reprint the dedication in the collected edition.

    • My friend tried to convince me that I was in love once.
      There’s a similar feeling when you look at the rack at the white people comic store having walked an extra mile for something different and the going rate for something different is 4 pages a dollar.
      Art is an equally valid alternative aesthetic at a steeper price.
      This is what I grew up with. There was never an alternative. You’re either a factory worker or an over-moneyed fop.
      And that’s REAL.

      • Not so sure about the “realness”, there: I see plenty of factory workers at the opera, and plenty of moneyed fops at the library too. You should try the library, they have everything…you know?

  16. Pingback: Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Indigo Batman: Leviathan Prime·

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