AN EMPIRE OF ONE

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Posts Tagged ‘Gary Friedrich

Best Comment on Before Watchmen

with 2 comments

DC Comics is publishing a “prequel” to the famous graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons wich was published in 1986-87. They are calling it Before Watchmen. A lot of people are against the idea. The main issue is said to be that of creator’s rights. Moore’s and Gibbon’s contract stated that the copyright to Watchmen would revert to them when the work went out of print. There was no expectation that the work would not go out of print and thus there was no feeling that something more specific needed to be put into the contract which would have specified when the work would go out of print. Unfortunately for Moore and Gibbons, Watchmen proved to be very popular and DC has seen to it that the work has never gone out of print. While DC has acted strictly according to the letter of the contract, it cannot be said that they have acted in accord with its spirit.

The passage below is the best commentary I’ve seen on Before Watchmen, apropos the creator’s rights issue, and it doesn’t even mention the comic. It’s an excerpt from Joshua Glenn’s book, The Idler’s Glossary, posted today at hilobrow.com:

ALIENATION

Marxist theory explains that alienation is a systematic result of wage slavery. Deprived of the opportunity to conceive of themselves as authors of their own destinies, deciders of their own actions, and owners/users of the value created by their work, workers in a capitalist social order are alienated from:

1. the work they produce

2. from working itself (which, in a factory setting, tends to be an interminable sequence of repetitive, trivial, and meaningless motions — as parodied by Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times and Lucille Ball in the I Love Lucy chocolate factory episode)

3. from themselves as producers (an important aspect of human nature, or “species-being”)

4. from each other

Moore and Gibbons, when it comes to Watchmen, are mere wage slaves, JUST LIKE THE REST OF US. The privilege of being exploited is not reserved for the few. It’s a right guaranteed for all. I’ve written about this before here and here.

Written by David Kilmer

February 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Every One of Us is Jack Kirby

with one comment

With apologies to Spartacus

Everyone is linking to Stephen Bissette today. Why? Because Bissette, like many of us, is upset by the Kirby vs Marvel decision (in which Marvel won and the Kirby heirs lost) and is calling for a boycott of everything from Marvel that is derived from characters or stories created by Jack Kirby. Bissette wants to make noise during Comic-Con next year at the Marvel related panels. (Do Marvel executives even do panels?)

It sounds nice and all that, but ultimately, I think, it will not change what needs to be changed.

Why?

1. Jack Kirby is dead. The court decision changes nothing. The status quo prevails. If Bissette is upset with the court’s decision, then he should boycott the judge. If he hasn’t been boycotting Marvel all these years, why is he so eager to start now? This decision has changed nothing and if he has been angered by Marvel making money from the creations of Jack Kirby without Kirby having received proper recognition or compensation years ago, then he should have been boycotting Marvel starting all those years ago.

2. Jack Kirby is still dead. His heirs did not create the Marvel characters; he did. Giving them money is not going to help Kirby now or redress the injustice Kirby experienced. (It wouldn’t hurt to give him proper credit, though. Even Brad Bird did not acknowledge Kirby, or Stan Lee, when he did The Incredibles.)

3. I sure wish we could get someone such as Karl Marx, who would surely be on our side, to say something about this and similar matters regarding comic book creators. Perhaps Grant Morrison or Alan Moore can conjure him up with their magick. Marx might explain how artists and creative types are not the only ones who are exploited in our society. Practically everyone is exploited. Most of us, not just Jack Kirby, make others rich through our work for them. Since we cannot survive without the job that someone else usually provides, we have little choice about it. This is why Jack Kirby apparently signed away the rights to his work, but, as I see it, this happens to most of us. Boycotting Marvel is not going to help workers throughout the world live better. It may help Kirby’s heirs live better, but are they really in need more than the homeless people I could not help but notice this year during Comic-Con?

4. What about the fans, the “early adopters” of the Sixties, who bought Kirby comics and provided feedback in the fan mail columns, etc.? Kirby did not create in a vacuum and I’m sure that fan mail helped inspire him. Without fans there would have been no Kirby (or Marvel or Stan Lee). If fans had not responded to Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the rest, Kirby may have been drawing Fin Fang Foom-type comics for the rest of his career. This year at Comic-Con, I heard a lot of lip service paid to fans. As my grandfather would say, if I had a nickle for every time I heard someone say, “We wouldn’t be up here without you fans,” I’d be as rich as Rockefeller. If only they’d back those words up with real action! Marvel is what it is, not just thanks to the work Kirby did, but thanks to fans with pocket change who bought and continue to buy Kirby or Kirby-derived work.

5. Boycotting Marvel is not going to change the system that each of us must deal with every day. The system simply cannot survive without the kind of exploitation that Kirby, as well as each of us puts up with every day. Each of us is born into this world that we never made, but if we don’t like it, why don’t we really do something about it? You may say that a Marvel boycott is one small step on a very long journey, but that’s all it is, one very small step. There have been many boycotts throughout the years, but here we are, and the game has not changed much, if at all. Let’s not lose sight of the larger picture, our world, where billions of Jack Kirby’s are toiling away in obscurity at this very moment without proper credit or compensation.

6. The Kirby case is seen by most as a creator’s rights issue, but if we look at it as a worker’s rights issue, we will see that we are all creators in one way or another and we are all exploited by our employers. Employers hire us because they can exploit us. Of course, this is perfectly legal. It’s the basis of our system. But just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s just.

Every one of us is Jack Kirby.

Related posts:

Marvel’s The Avengers: Some thoughts

Written by David Kilmer

August 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm