Sunday, September 27, 2009

Several Bald Men Fighting Over A Comb, Part 2

So this would be Web Kefuffle 2--The Rekerfuffling, I guess.

A couple weeks ago I was watching some Dr. Who DVD or other and going through (as I so often do) the bonus features (protip: despite mangling some of their archives beyond repair, the BBC is rather good about loading these things with documentaries and snippets from other programs, etc) and in the midst of a very long discussion of the Colin Baker era of the programme (a multi-year slow-motion trainwreck that saw the series get cancelled and then un-cancelled in short order, but that's another post) they laid the blame for the failure of the program to continue on a combination of rather obsessive "fan ownership" of it and those in charge of it catering to those same fans to the exclusion of anyone.

Fan ownership is a terrible, obsessive love that strangles what it exalts, but only after watching it die a slow, starving death on the floor in front of it. Despite the relentless, controlling obsession, it can be a surprisingly fickle. At the first sign of change, the fan will rip down the very thing they put on the pedestal in the first place. Because, metaphorically speaking, the fan owner sees a beautiful butterfly flying through a warm spring day and his first thought is how wonderful it would be to smother it in a jar, run a pin through it, and mount it on the wall.

Does that sound harsh? After all, comics fans' loyalty has perpetuated the medium long after changing fortunes should have consigned the whole business to the bin, right? For their loyalty and their investment (both emotional and financial) shouldn't they feel some ownership for the characters they've followed over the years.

Admittedly, yes.


The rather ugly tendency of late, however, is the sense of entitlement that fans own everything, and whatever means exist to perpetuate their awful need is not only allowed but encouraged, and their needs must override all others.

Witness if you will, the sorry reaction to Jack Kirby's heirs trying to get some amount of recompense from Marvel and Disney and be appalled. Page through post after post of people sweating bullets that Kirby's characters could be lifted out of the Marvel universe and carried somewhere else, witness the dismissal of any claim that the work was produced on a work for hire agreement (despite work for hire not existing as a concept for several years of Kirby's professional life--Steven Grant makes a game try explaining the whole thing, so I'll let you go there) and--and this is the most appalling thing for me--slagging off Kirby's heirs because they dare to ask for monetary recompense for all the work that Kirby did at Marvel (which, even if you rule out Spider-Man, is a fairly prodigious amount) money which has made untold billions for the company.

And comic fans best response to this (rather than "man, good for them, and retroactively good for him. He should have some lasting reward for getting paid shit to work in obscurity in what is, at best, a boutique medium. Hope this doesn't take as long as it did for him to get his artwork back.") Reading through the absolute sewage that's been blasted at this story on the Internet is enough to make one wish they had a button that would destroy the entire comics industry--past and present--instantly.

It shouldn't surprise me, I suppose, that for all the puffery that continues to blow around about how comics have grown up in terms of storytelling/quality of work/attention from the larger society (even though it's a mountain of bullshit) that comics fans can still be depended upon to act like the spoiled, entitled, children they are and make the entire medium look bad whilst the people who make the stuff they passively enjoy may as well not exist except to keep the gears turning in the big machine that gets the comics to the stands every Wednesday.

No big message here, y'all. Just a bit annoyed.


C. Elam said...

I've witnessed some of the rather shameful slagging of Jack Kirby and his family firsthand, and there's really no way to dress it up as anything other than people rooting for the big corporations over the little guy, no matter how the people mouthing off try to spin it. Very unfortunate.

Some have wondered if the reaction to the moves by the Kirby estate (to say nothing of the Siegels) would be viewed differently if the creators themselves were still alive. Based on what I remember regarding similar deals with the still-living Joe Simon and Carmine Infantino, I can safely say people would still be calling for blood. Which is really, really sad. I guess Martin Nodell was lucky his deal was off the radar of most people.

Kazekage said...

It's mindboggling and terrifying that people would, in a medium that's supposed to be a capital-A art form, root for the corporate juggernaut in this case, but this is one of the things that makes me thing maybe I need to drink more.