Sunday, June 13, 2010

Whatever Happened to... That Guy Still Releasing a Lot, Who is All Over the Place

This isn't the biggest thing wrong with comics, being a thread where the question is asked, "Whatever Happened to Warren Ellis?" when Warren can be found all over the interwebs at potentially any and all hours and has released work under more than half a dozen serialized titles as well as oneshot comics, essays, short fiction, photography, and commentary in the past couple years. It's a pretty bad streak across the face and brain of comics' readership, though.

Look, there's an Alfred Bester bit quoted right in the thread, via Warren Ellis' Doom 2099, and no one ever asked "Whatever Happened to Alfred Bester, he's only released fifteen pieces of fiction and some serialized essays this year?" That draws unintentional attention to the seriousness, the heaviness of the problem.

We say, "Where the Hell is Alan Moore" when he's got League of Extraordinary Gentlemen coming down the pipe and a Lovecraftian piece, Neonomicon, with Jacen Burrows, aside from his massive music/photo/text beastie. Five minutes past some servicing of a corporate-owned character or chronicling a trademarked city, we declare them retired, missing, absent from the scene.

We ask, "Whatever happened to..." for people who had work out the month before. And, then we wonder why quality work takes so long, as if it's owed to us in monthly dosages. Or, if it's corporate work, we're owed conclusive endings or for artists, writers, colorists and editors to hang on while they're getting bored, losing money they could get from better projects, or actively getting screwed by a company, because, well, we like them on this book, with this cast, with this set up. And we are owed.

And if they simply don't want to do work on a monthly schedule, perhaps telling stories that do not interest them, with little to no royalties being available, and final say always with the publisher, because you can't haul off your Spider-Man pages and call them The Awesome ArachNebbish (well, you can, but you know, courts and stuff), if they don't want to do that, there is something wrong with them. Did you know Frank Miller quit comics after he wrote and drew Batman vs the Reagan Era? Trufax, all the way until they started making movies of the comics he'd been doing, released and available in many many countries and many many booksellers, for all those years in between. That's what our reaction, as a readership, looks like, when you don't separate one reader from another and take us as bulk.

And, oh, I know, it's because we all grew up on trademarks being perpetuated in serial form, men and women telling stories about characters they don't own. That's traditional comics.

It's not. It was for maybe, what, ten to fifteen years, between The Comics Code being instated and the explosion of "Underground" Comix? That's the era where the bulk of quality material, the bulk of notable material, was singularly owned by someone other than the writers and artists and creators working on the material at hand. Before that, ownership is a little hazier, as it's pre Work for Hire clarity, but you see strips in newspapers doing massive numbers, really moving the papers, which are sometimes owned by the paper and sometimes only licensed, you see anthology books, some adapting short fiction or nonfictional material, with the adaptation being owned by a publisher but not the original, or occasionally neither. You see tijuana bibles and single-panel comics in magazines or on posters. In the Sixties, you see the "underground" stuff, findable pretty easy for the most part, if you were in the right city, the right shop.

A Contract With God
came out before I was born. So, if you're my age, if you are even juts under thirty, you never had that atmosphere you claim to have been trained in, you just had a childhood of it. Creator participation, ownnership of property, bookstore positioning for comics, have existed my entire life.

This is not to say I didn't experience this early indoctrination into worlds where everything is owned by a company and people are brought in to put new legs on or provide a facelift and a plot as it goes along. Virtually everyone has a childhood of that, because children's characters are by and large owned, manufactured, and kept on life support by corporations, they are advertisements for dolls, greeting cards, sticker books, action figures, playsets, water wings and home media releases. But, if you can get past that with your films, your television, your prose and poetry and paintings and stageplays, you handle it with comics. New episodes don't have to come out every Saturday morning, a director or actor's next picture may not arrive once every Summer, a novelist may not publish a new five hundred pager every year, and the world will not end, the material will not suck more.

And that's me ranting on a thread on a messageboard about Warren Ellis and a release schedule, because I'd like to see more like Crecy and am glad Planetary took as long as it needed to. If this had been a thread about Dwayne "He should be glad they let him write DC characters at all" McDuffie, well, this could have got ugly.

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