This isn't the blog post I wanted to put up today, but it's something that's been kicking around my head for quite a while now, and I want to...vent, I guess.
With the Before Watchmen controversy ready to kick up all over again, I have no doubt that we'll see the same arguments for and against the series wheeled out, and we'll also probably see the same issues about creator rights being brought up all over again. And, I've come to realise, I have a problem with that...
I want to clarify something right now, just so they're clear in case anyone stumbles across this blog and wants to cherry pick that last comment: I am very, very much in favour of creators rights. I co-own (with the artists) pretty much everything I've done, and I make a point of retaining the rights to anything I do wherever possible. While I have no interest in Before Watchmen, I'm pleased that the whole thing is highlighting creators rights and the issues that surround it, but as that discussion plays out across the comic news sites, it becomes clearer that it's concentrating on events of the past. Whether it's mistakes people made with contracts or the business practices of corporations from 60+ years ago, it all builds a picture that makes you realise that the comic industry - publishers, fans, commentators, creators - are stuck firmly in the pages of history and don't want to come out.
In some ways, I get that. With Marvel and DC, it's understandable that they'd strip mine their catalogue of intellectual properties. After all, they're owned by large corporations who have shareholders to satisfy and money to make, so why not just re-use old properties that are still profitable? Especially if there's a market for those properties and those old stories being re-told by new creators. Like it or loathe it, it's just the way it works, and it doesn't look like there's any change on the horizon. But throw consumers fans and commentators into that mix and it becomes an endless cycle of old stories, opinions and articles about them, increasingly fuelled by the internet and the weird, vitriolic sides it brings out in people who don't like what they're reading, but continue to buy (even though it's "not as good as it used to be"). And now, as the mainstream media begins to take notice of the comics world, the same arguments and discussions are going to be brought back into the limelight, and the cycle begins again.
But it has to stop. There has to come a point where the discussion has to end and creators - from every part of the comic spectrum, small press to professional - have to take the lead and start putting those endlessly talked about practices to work. While we can go over and over who got shafted by which company or who stabbed who in the back, we should be looking at those cases as history that we can learn from as we move forward. Comics is one of those industries that needs creators to survive, but to make it thrive, those same creators have to force people - fans, commentators, press and publishers - to start looking ahead and stop living in the past.
That's far easier said than done, of course. I have no idea how to even begin to go about it, I'll be honest, but I guess trying to convince people that there's enough space for creator owned and/or non-superhero material alongside Marvel and DC collections on their shelves would be a small step in the right direction. Or, y'know, vote with their wallets.
Is this a "call to arms" for creators? Well, not really, no. It's just me throwing some thoughts down about the way I'm seeing things and trying to figure stuff out. There's a lot of untapped potential and talent in the comics world, a lot of great stories waiting to be told and a lot of great creators...creating, but it's all for nothing if readers stubbornly refuse to look forward to see what new material is being produced, instead of behind them to see what's been and gone.