Book Club / Deconstructing the Silliness of the Absolutist Morality

Kingdom ComeKingdom Come
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Alex Ross

 

 

 

 


JOEL
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken

 

 

Kingdom Come starts with an introduction by some guy called Elliot S. Maggin which has this whole but where he’s all: “I believe in Superman. For real. I really believe in Wonder Woman, so help me. I believe in Santa Claus.”

I do not believe in superheroes.

And even tho I know I really should read Kingdom Come to do this discussion properly like: I mean – I got like 2 pages in before I was overcome with a bone-deep fatigue and had to put the book aside (I would have thrown it in the fire – but you know: one – it’s a Library book and two – I don’t have a fire).

If you’re reading this and you love Kingdom Come and want to get into all the reasons why – or you know: you just love all the DC superheroes or Alex Ross’s fully painted Norman Rockwell style art (oh my god – all the superheroes look so real! etc) or hey: you know: the Wonder Woman film is out and Kingdom Come has bits of Wonder Woman in it – so you can talk about that if you want (I have read Kingdom Come quite a few times and I think maybe I even owned a copy back when I was young? And I do remember bits I like? Like – when Superman and Wonder Woman kiss and it sounds like marble (or something?) scrapping against itself. That was a nice touch). I mean – I know that my role here is mostly to try and set the scene or something – but actually mostly I’m just exorcising the random thoughts that I have swimming around my head in a way that I hope will lead you (who is reading this right now) to think about your own thoughts a little.

(My first aim is for everyone to agree with me and think I’m right. But as that sadly rarely ever seems to happen my second aim is at least to get people to think a little bit more about why they think the things they do because you know – I have a stubborn and persistent belief about how thinking about things is good).

I was at MCM this Sunday and me and this guy got chatting (hi dude if you’re reading this! Please feel free to jump in if you want to! I’m not saying your name only because I thought maybe that would be bad internet etiquette… hope that’s ok) about well: I guess superheroes and the business of superheroes. You know: the beautiful idea that one person with super powers can make a difference and stand up to the bad guys versus the gargantuan soul-destroying corporate monstrosity that has robbed the time and efforts of the majority of my favourite talents in both the fields of comics and film (I mean – seriously: the only major actor I can think of that hasn’t been in a superhero film is Tom Cruise: and that’s only because they cast Robert Downing Jr as Iron Man instead of him….).

Point being: that yeah. I get that some people like superheroes. And some people get some good out them. And obviously – there’s lots and lots of interesting stuff you can say about them and how they work *cough* *cough* – but when you look at the amount of good they provide on the one hand and the amount of pain and misery and despair on the other (not to mention: I mean – how many of the wrong people have they made rich at this point? While you know – pretty much all of the creators have died penniless and destitute.

whatever you're selling

I don’t believe in superheroes – but I do believe in ideas.

Like I said up there: thinking about stuff is good. And even tho I think it’s weird that an idea can belong to anyone (I mean: aren’t all ideas just combinations of the ideas that came before?) – I do think it’s a million times better that the idea belongs to the people who created it rather than the company that decide to publish it (you know: this is why Image is so cool).

But also: you know – I think ideas should change and grow and mutate and adapt.

I mean – obviously there is a part of this that’s kinda bullshit: but still – the film industry and the music industry used to move in waves you know? There were westerns – then there was rock and roll – there was noir – then there was happy hardcore – thrillers – grunge – disaster movies – punk – action films – new romantics etc etc etc

But comics (well western comics) has been dominated by the same pretty much the same genre for decades. So much so that the perception for most people who don’t read comics – is that all comics just are superhero comics. (Hands up if you’ve ever flinched when you’ve heard someone describe a superhero film as “comic genre”).

And like: I don’t think that’s a natural state. I think that things should change and grow and mutate and adapt. And mainstream superhero comics (in the main) are zombified. But worse actually: zombie cannibals – eating themselves just to keep moving: when all the original animating elements have long since died.

Kingdom Come was originally published in 1996 and shit – even then it was about how all the DC superheroes are out of touch and dated and no use anymore: and that was over 20 years ago. I mean you know: when is enough enough? And shit thirty years ago is when Alan Moore first pitched his Twilight of the Superheroes idea (and hey you know if you only take one thing from what I’m writing here then make it this – go and read Alan Moore’s Twilight of the Superheroes pitch here: I promise you it’ll be worth your time).

And of course I say all this – but there are some superhero comics that I enjoy (Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man is a future LGNN pick – so that should be cool!). But I don’t know – there’s something about Kingdom Come that brings all this stuff out of me. My disdain and nausea. Because yeah – it’s like the height of self-serious pretentious superhero comics that ends up coming across like nothing more than a sixth form teenage boy in a black turtleneck quoting Nietzsche (yeah yeah – he invented the concept of the Superman. Whatever. Nobody cares).

Then again: if there was a version of this book where all the superheroes did die at the end then maybe we’d have something worth reading.

But – what do you think?

I do believe in superheroes, I kinda started out here saying that, lmao.

Something interesting to note is that superheroes sure do take up a lot of attention in comic circles and the general public thanks to the current glut of movies, but they don’t actually dominate comics sales any more and haven’t for a while. The New York Times recently pulled down their bestseller list for comics, but when it was running, the last couple years showed that The Walking Dead and Raina Telgemeirer were ruling the roost in the book market, which is much larger than the Direct Market.

My first direct exposure to Kingdom Come was in the snippets of Alex Ross’ Mythology hardcover gathering up roughly a decade of his work, process material, and thoughts. I was a pretty big fan of him in my early 20s, and I can still appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into his work, but at the end of the day I just can’t buy him as a sequential artist. Which is a shame, not so much for Kingdom Come, but for his Vertigo Uncle Sam comic trying to confront and reconcile himself with the fundamentally racist bedrock of the American experiment. Either way, comics, and superhero comics in particular, need a sense of kinetic motion for me to really be able to buy into them.

What’s interesting about Ross’ work when it comes to Kingdom Come though is that it puts his habits as a painter that don’t really seem to have a specific purpose to really interesting use. I’ve seen the criticism before that Ross’ figures don’t look like mythic superheroes, they look like someone’s bland suburban uncle dressed up like one. I wouldn’t take it that far, but there really frequently is an exactitude of what the model in front of him looks like, which intentionally or not, is really effective in Kingdom Come because the characters really do look credibly aged, something that a lot of conventional cartoonists either struggle with or don’t seriously attempt.


DZIUGAS
Barbican Comic Forum / Twitter

 

 

 

So, full disclosure, I’m the guy Joel mentioned who was talking about superheroes with him at MCM, and I’d like to open this up a bit and not just have it be a one-sided extension of that discussion, but so we’ll see how that goes I guess.

I totally intend to read Kingdom Come over the course of the next month, as I haven’t until now, and have meant to for a good while, and maybe I’ll actually have something to say about the comic itself then.

Except… Something tells me I won’t, because the way the conversation is always framed here whenever it comes to anything related to superheroes, is never about the merits of the comic in question. In fact, it’s never about any problems inherent in specific works or aspects of the fandoms, either. The conversation is always framed simply as “the superhero genre is an evil plaguing the medium and creators we love – discuss”.

And that’s a shame, mostly because (and perhaps I’m the exception in this regard) I just don’t find that discussion very interesting. It’s sort of a dead-end in conversation, like talking ethics with a nihilist, or climate change with a born-again Christian. You’ll think you’re making and hearing some interesting points, and suddenly all of it’s negated in a moment because of a Nietzche quote. The thing is, it doesn’t even matter if they’re right or wrong – maybe morality IS a result of a slave/master dichotomy, where the strong naturally pray on the weak while the weak are left standing around condemning the actions of the strong. I don’t think that’s the case, but it doesn’t matter because that’s not the conversation I was having a minute ago, I was trying to discuss what the right thing to do is in a difficult situation. Similarly, it’s entirely possible that capitalism is the source of most if not all of the evils of our society, but that doesn’t make the point I’m trying to make about how a binary understanding of gender harms everyone in our society invalid. I’m capable of caring about multiple things, recognizing multiple evils, and when the topic of superheroes comes up, I’d like to have a conversation that’s about more than whether the genre, as a whole, is good or bad, if it hurts more people than it helps. Because what’s the end goal of that conversation, anyway? To get me to agree that my interest in or love of these cultural icons is invalid? To get me to recognize that I don’t REALLY like superheroes, I’m simply a gullible victim of a money-hungry global marketing machine, co-opted to defend the harmful system that shaped my interest in it in the first place (a state from which you, too astute to fall for such base ploys, will then presumably free me from)?

far beyond those of mortal men

Because let me assure you, regardless of what you’re trying to convince me of, I’m not trying to convince you that superheroes are good and you should like them or buy those comics. I think not liking them is entirely valid, in fact there are very excellent reasons for it. I’m just trying to defend why I like them, and I think the result is generally a miscommunication.

The funny thing is that, the framing of the conversation makes it impossible for me to talk about the problems the superhero genre genuinely has – trust me, if I controlled the flow of every conversation, I’d actually rarely talk about anything else. But, in this context, it feels like if the MRA response to the all-female Wonder Woman screening is brought up, and I want to talk about how that exposes the misogyny in superhero fandom, I get a “why bother talking about it, it’s superheroes and they’re garbage”. If I want to discuss problematic portrayal of a character in a Hollywood film, negatively affecting how an entire culture or group of people is perceived by the culture at large that is, regardless of how we personally feel about that specific film, going to have a big cultural impact worldwide, the answer is “why bother trying to make Hollywood any better – it’s the devil anyways, and always will be”. I’m not trying to call people out, I’m simply saying that’s not adding to a conversation, in my opinion, at best it’s inelegantly ignoring the point the other person’s making in favor of what you want to say, and at worst it’s ending the conversation outright.

Taste is not always a moral choice. I happen to like superheroes, and superhero comics. I enjoy the things that are there to be enjoyed about them genuinely and unironically, but not obtusely. Not, to the best of my ability, to the detriment of my personal values or people that may be hurt by the business or culture that surround my interests. My taste, as well as my understanding of the intersection of culture and politics is constantly evolving; and so are my lines for what I find acceptable. It’s not inconceivable that I’ll be boycotting DC by the end of the year, either because they did something awful or because my view shifted. But I really don’t think that the heart of this discussion of the value of superheroes as a genre of narrative is about anything more than taste – it’s just that your taste leans more towards genres that are less represented in mainstream comics, which is great for you cause your ethics align neatly with your perception of indie comics as being ethically pure (spoiler warning: they’re not).

Joel, I sincerely hope this doesn’t come off too harsh (and please – if you feel I’ve misrepresented your feelings about the superhero genre, I will gladly accept that). And maybe I’m just being defensive and overprotective? Maybe I should shut up? It’s just… If we want to talk about the comic, that’s great, I’ll do my best to contribute. If we want to avoid talking about superhero comics in the future, that’s fine too. If we want to talk about the problems with the superhero genre, I’m fully on-board. All I’m trying to say is that while I don’t have any problem with the personal disdain you felt reading those two pages, if the start of this discussion is “everything with superheroes in is nauseating unless they all die at the end and nobody ever makes superhero comics again”, I can’t talk about the comic itself, only respond to that statement, which is that I disagree. Cause I believe in superheroes, too; individuals, frequently with interesting origin stories, who will stand up for what’s right in the face of insurmountable odds. I’ve met a few, and been disillusioned with nearly as many, but that’s just how life goes, and I refuse to accept that stories about them – as abstracted into absurdity and tainted by capitalism as they frequently might be – are inherently worse than other narratives.

popcorn

…Will write an intelligent response to all this shortly. (*cough* It’s a reading group, read the book *cough*)


EMMA
Crown on the Ground
Twitter / Comicosity

Dziguas makes a lot of salient points about the discourse surrounding superhero comics, and I guess the challenges of surmounting entrenched ideology in general, but the thing about Kingdom Come is that it’s a latter day addition to a body of work specifically meant to function as a metafictional referendum on superhero fiction. It came out more or less on the ten year anniversary of Watchmen et al, and both in title and content, maps a spiritual crisis onto the heroes it depicts. These are the goalposts Waid and Ross set up for it.


JOEL
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken

Mostly I tend not to care too much / that much about any comic or thing in question. I know that’s something that can drive some people a little bit crazy. I mean yeah sure if it’s a good comic or a bad comic then that can be interesting to talk about – you know: what did it do that made it good or work or whatever. What techniques did it use. What kind of style was the story told in. How effective was the art. etc etc. But well – there’s pretty much everywhere else on the internet that delves into that kind of thing (or actually: that mostly will recap the entire story of the comic and then maybe say at the end – oh yeah and the art was good or whatever).

Actually – well: that’s not even true: there are bits/people of the LGNN that are like that – Emma and Ilia spring to mind in particular – you know: the ones that can get into how the comic works and what it does (I mean: even in this thread already up above – I especially liked the insight about how Alex Ross’ characters looked “credibly aged”).

But yeah – the thing of stuff that gets my cosmic brain going is when the comic in question is related to all the other things that exist outside it – how does Transmet relate to politics? how does Ghost in the Shell relate to identity? how does Scott Pilgrim relate to being a jerk? Because you know: everything is interconnected and I think it’s interesting and (I don’t know) expands our realisation of things. Well at least it helps to expand my understanding of things.

Like: there’s this thing on the edge of my tongue / end of my mind that I keep trying to struggle to articulate about how I see things – something generalizations and specificities.Namely how I kinda feel that most people have them the wrong way round (or lol actually maybe it’s just me?). You know: we talk about the individual comic when I’d like to be talking to be talking about all the ideas that it’s contained within (do you believe in superheros? etc) or vice versa: at the moment everyone is talking about how the new Wonder Woman film is going to usher in a new wave of mainstream feminist cinema (which don’t get me wrong: would be really cool) as opposed to maybe asking: erm – is the film actually any good? (I mean: is any superhero film ever really that good?)

But also: hey – I mean: the LGNN Book Club (this thing here you’re reading now) is open to anyone who wants to join in and anyone can say pretty much anything they want to (I mean: within reason obviously – if someone was going to start posting needlessly offensive dickhead bigoted stuff then I’d kick them off: but that’s obvious): but hey – I don’t mind if people ignore what I say at the start. You know: I’m just trying my best to get the ball rolling. Like I think I was trying to say before: the thing I value most is just the free exchange of ideas and that’s when I enjoy the Book Club most: when lots of people are joining in and sharing the things they think about the comic in question or the ideas surrounding it or whatever. I can’t remember where I saw it – but there’s a quote somewhere about how a Book Club is the only place you can “amicable disagreement.” (I think they were talking about Book Clubs in general as opposed to the LGNN one but whatever): but yeah I love that – “amicable disagreement.” And without wanting to get too starry eyed about it – I mean: I think that’s something we should have more of. Because (sad face) as humans we don’t all agree all the time but our ideas are different – but you know: actually talking about it and listening to others can only be a good & cool thing – right?

There’s like a hundred things more that I want to say but will leave it there for now. 🙂


LOZ
Peckham Library Graphic Novel Book Group
Barbican Comic Forum

I rather feel that ‘Kingdom Come’ is Snyder’s ur-text for his vision of the murderverse, muted colours, characters of stone punching one another (I don’t have a copy to hand but if I’m not mistaken it describes Superman and Wonder Woman kissing as ‘steel brushing marble’ or something equally dumb) and while it’s not without it’s problems I saw ‘Wonder Woman’ a few days ago and that’s a signpost for how to do DC movies without contempt for everybody and everything dripping from every cell.

It’s been a long time since I read it and, like everyone else here, I’m not going to bother refreshing my memory because what kind of comic geek would I be if I try to be accurate in my disdain? My abiding memory is that it thinks it’s saying “Hey, all these new ‘anti-heroes’ who have scars and pouches and gunz and like killing people are really dumb, not like Superman and Batman” but unfortunately ends up pointing out that the old school heroes are also terrible because there is no way that killing the likes of the Joker would end badly for anyone, and so Clark goes off to sulk. No one has been able to explain why heroes killing off their enemies is a bad thing, the best way is to just ignore the issue, because trying to explain why always leaves you with egg on your face.


ABIDALI
Barbican Comic Forum

“Heroes” killing off their “enemies”is dumb because…MARTHA

Did you learn nothing from BvS?

I haven’t read Kingdom Come for more years that I care to remember so I’ve got nothing more to add really. I vaguely remember liking the story and liking the portrayal of Batman but I also recall feeling their they were all suffering from having their heads up their own arses…which I suppose is only really practically feasible if you are a superhero (or political leader…..happy now, Joel??).


JOEL
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken

Alan Moore talking about The Killing Joke: “I don’t think it’s a very good book. It’s not saying anything very interesting… The Killing Joke is a story about Batman and the Joker; it isn’t about anything that you’re ever going to encounter in real life, because Batman and the Joker are not like any human beings that have ever lived. So there’s no important human information being imparted … Yeah, it was something that I thought was clumsy, misjudged and had no real human importance. It was just about a couple of licensed DC characters that didn’t really relate to the real world in any way.”

I’ve been trying to put my finger on it: but I think that’s basically how I feel about Kingdom Come. Like: it’s not a comic that’s not really about anything other than – well: lots of licensed DC characters.

Yes it’s possible to make something good with licensed characters. You know: The Dark Knight Returns is obviously a very cool comic and there’s a few more scattered around here and there: but (am I alone in this?) there’s this kinda of haze that descends around my head whenever I pick up a mainstream superhero comic that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the sense that there’s a story that is constantly out of reach – that you’ll never ever get to the end of because there’s millions upon millions of these comics all out there telling a giant interconnected story that now no human will ever be able to get to the end of. I mean: yeah yeah Kingdom Come is all collected into one volume so technically you can read it all in one sitting and it’ll make sense – but that’s not quite true now is it? Because in order for it to make sense you need to know who all these fucking characters are – right? And you know: I know Batman and Superman but then (I’ll admit it) after that – you start to lose me. And this haze descends. Because there is a part of me that wants to go off and find out who they all are and etc but there’s another part of me that’s like: well – there’s no important human information being imparted here. It’s licensed properties talking to one another. Upsetting the status quo – but not too much. Because you know: other people are going to have to play with the toys afterwards right? And man: reading a story where there’s no real possibility of change is like I don’t know – having a relationship with someone but never being able to kiss.

I read a thing last week about some racist statue in America and how people wanted to knock it down because it’s racist and some other people getting upset by that because: hey – it was their culture and their history or whatever and at the time I remember being quite struck by the similarities with Superhero Entertainment Complex (or whatever you want to call it). I mean: it’s a industry that is massively exploitative and evil etc etc (have you guys ever read Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book? Because if not you really should) but then: well – it’s something that a lot of people have a lot of stuff invested in. You know: it might not have important human information in it – but people will invest that stuff in it themselves. Like Batman in and of himself is meaningless and kinda ridiculous. But then millions of people have given him meaning in how they relate this character to their lives. Which you know: kinda reminds me of the racist statue. People give meaning to things. Even if those things come from a shitty place

And you know: that’s the thing that I’ve slowly been starting to realise this year is that: well – everyone is right. You know: if someone believes something then they have a reason for believing it. And maybe the solution is to try and understand their reasons for believing it and accepting all of the various viewpoints.

Or something. I don’t know.

“But comics (well western comics) has been dominated by the same pretty much the same genre for decades.”

I would narrow that qualification even further, actually, to say that not western, but anglophone (or even just British-American?) comics have been dominated by that genre. The Franco-Belgian tradition of comics (bandes dessinées, as came up in a recent discussion at the Barbican group), which is long, deep and wide, is definitely western, but doesn’t seem to go in for superheroes very much, from what I know of it. And I don’t see them popping up much in the other European comic scenes that I’ve been able to poke my head into.

TAM
Islington Comic Forum

I don’t think there’s really much of that tradition in British comics either. The reason I think Judge Dredd is the best comic series ever is because it’s a great vehicle for saying stuff about our world. I think that when you say British comics, you’re actually referring to American comics by British creators

Gah! 3 uses of the word ‘think’ in 3 sentences! I really should try to read what I’ve written before i press send!

Yes, I think you’re right. Though maybe the number of British creators makes it an American-British tradition.


NEIL

Actually Tam, I think you make a lot of sense!


DZIUGAS
Barbican Comic Forum / Twitter

I just started reading the comic last night, so I hope to have more to say about it when I’m done – just wanted to respond to that statue point. I don’t think that DC, even for the sake of an argument, is comparable to the Confederate States of America; the Big 2’s treatment of their creators is not equivalent to centuries of slavery, and the institutionalized racism that followed; and enjoying superhero comics is not the same as campaigning to protect symbols of that oppression. But perhaps I misunderstood the point that was being made?


JOEL
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken

Hey

Well – just to respond to Dziugas’s point first: DC/Marvel and the Confederate States of America like – without wanting to sound snarky at all – it’s an analogy you know? Taking two different things and saying that there’s a way that they’re the same. And you can say: well – these two things are different – DC and Marvel don’t have slaves! The Confederacy never made any superhero comics! (That I know of anyway?) but the point I was trying to make: is that these are both institutions that make their living through exploitation. And that there are other people that get value from the end point of that exploitation. You know – the rednecks like the statues and we – well: we like the superhero comics and the superhero films. And you know: most of the time – the stuff that floats by my eyeballs on the internet is the stuff that mostly deals with the surface level of how Marvel and DC present themselves (I think I saw something on twitter this morning that said something about how DC are going to do a thing about Wonder Woman’s brother? To which you know: I can only say LOL. Come on guys – know your audience etc): but you know my feeling is that the deeper problem is that the Big Two are based upon systems of exploitation – the material social conditions of it’s writers and artists. Particularity the ones that have been ripped off years and years ago and are now pretty much all dead. Like: I know the argument is that what needs to happen is that there needs to be more minority voices writing superhero comics – more black people, more trans people, more women – all of the above. And well yes – I obviously see the advantages of that and there’s a part of me that’s for it. But you know: there’s another part of me that feels like the whole structure is built upon an ancient Indian burial ground and the structure itself is rotten and I’d rather just see the whole thing burnt to the ground. Take away their copyright protection and release Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman and all the rest of them into the wild! So that the people who make millions and millions on the back of other people’s work and ideas are left with nothing. You know: that’s what I’m aiming for. That’s what I think would be good. Instead of well – arguing that the problem with the Confederate States of America is that they need more black writers or whatever.

Sorry. I know that a lot of you who have a lot invested in all of these licensed characters. But well yeah – my big two overall points is that: I don’t think that’s healthy for you and I don’t think that’s healthy for society. And you know: that’s what I like Image (or whatever) – I mean: regardless of the quality of the individual comics (and as anyone who’s been to the Barbican Comic Forum will know: there are lots of Image comics that I loath): I just think it’s better and more healthy and cooler to get into something where the creator has control and ownership of the comics they make. And you know: that’s the world I want to live in. Rather than what I feel like is an artificial system where the creative aims of creative people is to “play with the toys” of the Big Two (and etc). Because you know: I feel like that’s a dead end. And gives you comics like – well – Kingdom Come. That – I dunno – feels deadening. Like trying to eat plastic. (There’s a few people at the last Barbican Comic Forum who said they felt the same thing so lol I know it’s not just me! They also said they were going to write something and I’m crossing my fingers that they do…).

But you know: how you feel about all of this will depend on where you’re standing. And like I said before: there’s also a part of me that feels like everyone is right.

Maybe.

Lol.


LOZ
Peckham Library Graphic Novel Book Group
Barbican Comic Forum

The Confederacy never made comics? Well no, but they did get a superhero later on…

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Confederacy

Sorry, irrelevant.

I was going to reread this because I remember actually liking it! Didn’t get around to it unfortunately, but instead set myself the challenge of trying to remember any big two superhero comics that rank among my favourites. List isn’t long tbh – Iron Man Extremis, the first omnibus volume of Ultimate Spider Man (up to issue 13), the first bit of Bendis’ Alias, Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s Inhumans, the first Runaways volume. And the big obv ones – Watchmen and Electra Assassin. The thing that unites pretty much all of them is that they are origin stories, and assume no prior knowledge of the property. They have a shape, they are satisfying in a way most superhero comics (which have to pick up plot threads and set up future plot lines) just aren’t.

But perhaps that’s an overly ‘graphic novel’ way of looking at things. When I was getting into comics I used to read more of them, to the point where I got a sense of ‘runs’ of particular creative teams – Grant Morrison and then Whedon on X-Men, Ennis on Punisher, Bendis on Daredevil. It’s a bit like the difference between films and television. Or more like prestige TV and soap opera (esp if you’ve read any of the Claremont X-Men phone book volumes). The quality of these multi-year stories varied wildly, to the point where some of them stop making sense. But I vaguely remember why they were enjoyable – something about the gradual build to a spectacular, heroic event. There is a certain scale effect created when you have characters with a history behind them doing world historical things – an effect impossible to achieve in a five-issue miniseries with new characters. I’ve had my fill of that effect, which is why I don’t read superhero books anymore. But it’s something. If memory serves, Kingdom Come managed to evoke that sense of scale pretty well.


AMIR
OH DEAR GOD WHY Presentations
Twitter / Barbican Comic Forum

I figure there’s not much I can cogently add to volume 34 of LGNN discussing “is superhero gd?”, though I am proud of that gif. That was a good gif.

Weirdly enough I find myself agreeing with Joel and Dziugas on different bits and bobs of their points.

If all you ingest are superhero stories and all you talk about are superhero stories then…christ. I mean that is the equivalent of just reading one newspaper and shouting lalalalala at everything else.

But I don’t see why it’s bad for society if people enjoy some wish fulfilment stories, assuming that’s why they read them. Okay, that’s the primal core of their appeal – these epic representations of our idealised wishes vomited out into some fun 22 page story. But that take on superheroes as a genre only really stands true until some point in the mid 40s.

I was listening to a podcast with Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty, Community) and he was talking to Kumail Nanjini (if I’ve misspelled – the guy who plays Dinesh on Silicon Valley) about, of all things, Batman. (Jeez Dan Harmon, I was listening to Indoor Kids for goofy chat about video games not my favourite mythology). And he nailed down why the genre is so unique and long lasting – they’re communal folk stories. Sure, there’s editorial stranglehold from IP Control bought by the blood of DC lobbyists, but after that, there’s just creators coming through different media adding to a story. That’s awesome – it’s a story told across decades, through the Enola Gay, through McCarthy, Vietnam, Clinton’s BJ, 9/11 and everything else. People coming up to tell the story about a commonly known icon, adding ideas borne of their uniquely diverse cultural upbringining and political outlook.

Would I like to see the DC/Marvel strangehold burnt down to the ground – Oh yes. There’s a strong editorial value to the publishing houses, they curate, they’ve found some incredible voices that i’m eternally glad I’ve met through them. But goddamn, I would much rather exist in a world where Patton Oswalt could do his mad WW2 suicide squad take without having to get Dan DiDio to be a competent human being for 5 minutes. I want that world where everyone can do their own takes and the canonical validity isn’t about whether an editor says it’s part of the currently valid reboot imprint but is instead about people going “that Spiderman story is fucking cool. That’s the one I remember”.

On the DC/Marvel aren’t a confederacy and it’s not appropriate to suggest that – Bill Finger, Alan Moore and god knows who else would like a world. And dick punch Bob Kane while your there.

As a genre, the output of superheroes tends to be 95 percent disposable crayola gunk. That other 5 percent – it’s a place for maddeningly exciting formal experiments that take cultural touch stones and use them to run head first into insane new ways to tell stories. Think what would happen if Steven Moffat was dealing with a baroque mythos that everyone already understood pretty well AND didn’t have to deal with “won’t somebody please think of the chil—Licence fee payers”. Some of them funny, some of them incredibly suprising, some of them just moving.

Apologies – I think this is just a bad xerox of points I’ve made in the past on the matter.

As for Kingdom Come?

It’s been a while but that book soared. Setting aside from how stunning the look of that book is. I mean – forget how “photorealistic” it looked, can someone please take that incredible colour range and shove it under a DC execs face and say “dis- big box office lk like dis”.

FIGHT

That image. I skulked on google image search for half a second and got my face blown off, the composition, the drama, the colour. It’s just full of so many impossible mad crazy fun things all at once – Ross shot for the stars, became the one person to match the scale of The Metabarons and somehow made it look one step away from reality at the same time.

It’s like Titian came back to life to tell a superhero epic. Fucking A.

As for the writing – it’s easily the most fun “twilight of the superheroes” story out there. It doesn’t try to touch Moore’s work deconstructing the silliness of the absolutist morality that underscores the genre, instead it just tells a nostalgic, engrossing tale that takes the figures we know, shunts them off a few decades into a tragic future, weaves an epic tale full of exiciting, strange character interactions (that only the superhero genre could pull off), through an insane final battle and down to that wonderfully warm epilogue in a diner.

//Word vomit.


EMMA
Crown on the Ground
Twitter / Comicosity

The anti superhero rhetoric is just goofy. There absolutely are historic and lingering ethical issues that hang heavily over DC and Marvel, but cartoonists, generally speaking, get screwed. Behaving as if historic exploitation of a handful at two companies is the only major ethical stumbling block to consuming comics is dishonest partisan hackery. I’ve spoken to creators in just about every facet of the industry in North America and Western Europe and there are predatory actors in every single one of them. I’ve covered webcomic hosts with shady pasts that slip hair raising clauses into their terms of service with no transparency, American indie publishers who screw creators out of their rights or pay ludicrously low page rates with the empty promise of exposure for creators, and French publishers whose business model is to pay creators in advances that they have to earn back through sales their books will probably never get.

If the only raw deals in comics you can (or care to) name are the ones that Bill Finger and Alan Moore were dealt, then you clearly don’t actually give a shit about creator rights, you just want to score points. Which to me, is a very cynical and ugly way to live. If a history of exploitation is disqualifying in the realm of comics, then there’s not going to be one hell of a lot to talk about because it’s a gruesome business from top to bottom with few exceptions. That’s capitalism, lads.

It’s also, I think, pretty condescending towards the creators who have, for decades, with eyes wide open even, decided to to do work for hire in any facet of the industry. It isn’t as if Image doesn’t do work for hire, it’s been a part of their business model from day one. That’s what Moore’s Supreme and WildCATS runs were. It’s what most of Wildstorm’s output, pre-DC purchase was. It’s what keeps the lights on at Top Cow. That’s what Brandon Graham & co’s revival of Prophet was and it’s the same deal for Joe Keatinge and Sophie Campbell’s Glory. Hell, it was Moore himself who said that ownership of one’s work (or originality of the idea) is no guarantee of quality, and a brief glance at Action Lab or Dynamite’s current catalog will show you just how distressingly true that is. Sure, there’s a lot of superhero comics that are no good, but my dudes, there is a comic on the stands called Zombie Tramp. No one is free from sin. Just admit you have a weird allergy to certain types of fiction and live your life.


CHRISTINE
Barbican Comic Forum
Islington Comic Forum

Hi everyone

Well I got this at the Barbican comic forum and read it this weekend. I have to say it did feel more like a chore than fun. And though I don’t often like Marvel or DC, I loved Busiek’s Secret Identity and I grew up on Powerpack. So I don’t object to superheroes, I like superheroes, but I do object to endless sprawling stories that, as Joel said, no one human could ever read any more. TV tropes has a word for something similar, archive panic.

I suppose the difference between this and all human endeavours, is that the back stories are not readily available AND still there as possible to read, so not forgotten like before literacy and printing. You ought to know it all but you don’t, and can’t, but need to, to understand and appreciate what is going on. That’s my problem with DC and Marvel

Though to be fair when I love a character I do want to hear more about them. Ideally the author would leave them be until they had a good story about them. Much as I miss the character, I can actually cope, or reread the first story. But how can Marvel and DC turn down money we are willing to pay to give us stories we say we want?

So yep that’s the superheroes thing all sorted out, now onto this particular story.

So Art, ok it deserves more than one sentence, but all I can say about it is, yes I did like it and Rockwellesque describes it well ( I don’t mean this art deserves better, I mean the entire concept of a visual medium! laid out sequentially etc).

So I have to say I didn’t really get all of it, and the bits I did get are forgettable so I’ll focus on the bits I didn’t get.

Why was Clark farming inside some kind of virtual reality? Why not just farm on an actual farm. I really thought he was farming the original Kent farm, i.e. keeping his parents legacy alive, carrying on what they had started, being in touch with the seasons, the land, the soil, that things that have endured for millenia while people have come and gone, people dying, but the land carrying on.

Given that he was quite cut up about outliving his loved ones (even if two of them where his parents and would have died first in any case, that’s part of the human condition!) you would have thought all the above mattered. Farming indoors just made no sense.

Then the bit about how the villains are so cartoonishly evil (i.e. the snapping the secretary’s neck for nothing). Ok, I suppose that is just the premise, they’re villains! They’re not accountable and they are running amok. But it just felt a bit annoying (or maybe I was outraged, in a mild way, in which case, job done).

too much

Then the bit about whatever superman was trying to do with the villains. Join us or… This is the same thing as in Red Son. There is no information on actual conflict resolution, on not shaming people on allowing people to change and develop. I know the US doesn’t really get the concept of penal reform, but we have actually got a lot of data and techniques and scholarship on this, so again it was a pity for superman to ignore it all and back himself into a corner from which a giant prison is suddenly the only option. Further there was no collaboration, between the various good guys, no deliberative decision making, just one guy in charge, or another person taking over and them being in charge (Wonder woman). So I guess it’s not that people can’t make these mistakes but that I expect better from people who have been around for long enough to have had a chance to learn this stuff, and who are supposed to be reasonably intelligent. AND it’s the future where hopefully the stuff we are learning now will be more widespread. Again, just cartoonishly bad writing, it doesn’t teach us anything about either penal reform or team work. Then at the end it’s all ‘suddenly the superheroes are better’ suddenly they are doing something right, now people can change and grow and move on and heal. But WHAT did they do better? Show not tell. Again the ridiculously broad brush strokes mean the story is too vague to mean anything.

Further speaking to the idea of superheroes and one person fixing things… I was just reading, Duncan Watts’ Everything is Obvious (once you know the answer), Why Common Sense is nonsense (so good, I highly recommend it). So it turns out that our brains are much better at fitting narratives to things, than in actually figuring out what caused things. So that ties into behavioural economics etc that shows that tiny things we don’t even notice can hugely influence our decisions. We look at all the accidents, but not the near misses, so there were actually dozens of cases where , x, y, z and ab went wrong but didn’t cause a crash, they may be necessary, but they don’t necessarily predict the crash. Then he quoted the original seven degrees of separation Milgrim experiment where they got people to pass letters to a stranger in another city and saw how they got there. One guy gave the final guy 16 of the 45? letters that arrived, so leading us to think that some people are super-connectors (esp as described by Gladwell). But now we have the e-mail and twitter data we can repeat the experiment with proper large numbers, and it seems there aren’t many hubs. People are quite egalitarian in who they know and how many people they know and how much they can influence people.

And again, that thing about picking out one person seems to be more a trick of our minds. We might look at Rosa Parks and say that lead to the civil rights movement, but actually several women sat down on various buses. The Civil rights movement chose to build a case round Rosa as she was a good candidate to stand up to the expected hostile press, if it wasn’t her it could have been another person. And we only talk about that because it DID spark a civil rights movement, which was millions of people wanting to build a better life. If they hadn’t marched and fought and did their bit and stood up, non of us would remember a young women refusing to stand up on a bus decades ago. Like the bit where the US bombed their own city in 1921, in Tulsa Oklahoma, one of the most prosperous area’s of black people in the country, like literally razed it to the ground, killing at least 39, making thousands homeless, and history didn’t really notice.

So I’m saying people only become heroes when they do something great that triggered huge changes, but the huge change is done by everyone, and if that person hadn’t triggered it another person/incident might have. And we don’t pay enough attention to systemic and institutional issues that can force people into roles e.g. the soldiers in Guantanamo Bay were horribly overworked, so their compassion and morals were they first things to to go, enabling them to commit torture.

So yes, I don’t see that this story added much to anything. There’s some single issue short I read where suddenly everyone becomes a superhero, that is more fun and energetic and ends neatly. That is a better way to do superheroes and more worth your time.

“The anti superhero rhetoric is just goofy.”

Don’t drag Disney into it, for heaven’s sake, or the arguments will never end!

(Aside from that, what an nicely cogent read.)


JOEL
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken

LOL. I was about to write a thing about what Amir said – but then Emma’s email came through.

I mean well yeah: I will admit that I’m guilty as charged when it comes to having a weird allergy about certain types of fiction and also – not being able to live my life. I raise my hands proudly and am guilty as charged but you know: all the reasons and arguments why and why not are interesting – right?

Also: I agree 100% with the “That’s capitalism, lads.” Because well yeah: the inhumane system that we all live in that’s slowly killing us all. And nine times out of ten the answer to – why is this thing here rubbish?

I’m just not sure that I buy the whole: well hey – don’t hate Big 2 superhero comics because you know: there’s all these things over here that are rubbish as well. Because well: my guiding principal in life is: stand against the rubbish things and stand up for the good things. And like my response to Emma listing problems with webcomic hosts, American indie publishers and French publishers and anything else you care to name is not – oh. Well. I guess that makes the Big 2 ok? But more: well – you know: screw those things too.

(In fact also I saw a thing the other day that I can’t find now because you know: internet that said that Pat Mills gets less money from all of his Judge Dredd 2000AD stuff than he does for some small obscure French comic he did ages ago – which you know: sucks and seems actually criminal… but you know: capitalism etc).

Like: just because most things are rotten. That doesn’t make things ok. Just to dip my toes back into the Confederate States of America analogy. If I start complaining that there’s this big massive plantation that owns thousands of slaves – I don’t see how pointing out that everyone owns slaves is supposed to make things better (??).

And also: well the other salient points is that – the Big 2 are (by far) the biggest plantation on the planet. I mean: (and I could be wrong about this and if so please let me know but) webcomics and American indie publishers and etc generally don’t make that much money you know? Comics isn’t where you go if you’re looking to strike it rich. But OMG I mean if you want to get into how much money DC and Marvel make every year then I’m going to say that there probably aren’t enough 0s in the world to count them all… Which you know: I think is important. There’s a difference between being cheated out of a thousand pounds and a million pounds – no? I mean: obviously you’re being exploited in both instances: but in the second case you’re being fucked with more.

My little sister (who I don’t think has ever read a comic) posted pictures of my 1 year old niece on facebook yesterday. And my niece was wearing a Superman top. You know?

enough

Plus also: the way that Big 2 superhero comics are bad is related to the way that they’re produced. These companies are propped up by ideas that are older than humans. Like Superman was created in 1933. Most people born in 1933 are dead now. But of course Superman lives on and will no doubt outlast us all.

And the work for hire thing: I mean well yeah – I’m not against the idea of work for hire and I agree that it can produce interesting and cool results. But you know: just in terms of scale I think there’s a difference between Brandon Graham and his team doing Prophet and someone becoming the new writer for Wonder Woman and whatever. You know: the first one seems to have been born from a genuine creative desire. And well love it or hate it – I think we can all agree that Prophet is very much a creative thing. And from the outside it doesn’t seem like it was created because there was a market demand for – well – whatever the hell Prophet is but because you know: all those guys had this cool thing that they wanted to do (and you know: in terms of things I’m for – I think creative people doing whatever the hell they want because well: that’s how cool things happen right?).

As for the “condescending towards the creators” thing. I mean: wow. I feel like the best thing I can say there is that I just don’t understand the point? Like: I’m for creators and am for the idea of having them being paid more and keeping a share in the things that they create. Like: just to bring up the Image thing again. The examples you gave Emma are all true – but mostly the image that Image have is paying creators for their work and giving them creative control and letting them keep the rights no? I mean: isn’t that the thing of thing that we should all be championing? And well: doesn’t it make you feel good to read something and be like: I’m glad no one got screwed over making this?

Like: yes in terms of examples of people who got screwed over by the Big 2 the names that mostly come up are the famous ones because well: they’re the famous ones innit? But it’s everyone who does work for them. And even if they go into it with eyes wide open and even if they agree to it – they’re still be exploited. And they’re doing so in a way that exploits the ideas of everyone who worked on whatever the particular licensed character is before them. And you know: it deepens like a coastal shelf or whatever.

And like: I mean – I don’t want to get too mystical here and lose anyone who’s followed me so far (anyone? hello? no?): but don’t ideas generally have a shelf-life? Aren’t stories supposed to change? Aren’t our thoughts supposed to grow and evolve? Should we not have new ways to see the world?

the fire of youth

In the thing that Amir wrote he talked about the idea of how superheroes are “communal folk stories” and you know: I can see his point and in some respects he’s right but also well obviously – I disagree. Because although we live in a world where everyone knows who Batman is – I struggle with the idea that this somehow represents somekind of natural state of the world. Like: I don’t want to shock anyone too much – but human beings aren’t the best at imagining alternative ways of being: and mostly the way that things happen to be is the way that we think things naturally are. Like if you’re born into a world where everyone puts a banana in their hair then you’re most probably going to develop the idea that well: everyone should have a banana in their hair. You know: that’s just the way the world is supposed to be. It’s natural. etc.

(Like: it would be fairly easy to go into the example of how up until this month it was just natural common sense thinking to say that Jeremy Corbyn was “unelectable” because you know: that’s just the way the world is. But I’m pretty sure that if we go down that road we might not come back so).

Like: I’m not saying that there’s not an obvious thrill to be had in stories about dressing up like a Bat and punching people in the head or having a lasso that makes everyone tell the truth and punching people in the head or leaping tall buildings in a single bound and punching people in the head: but well – you know: it’s hard / impossible to be able to separate the intrinsic qualities of the stories and the characters and whatever from the fact that these have been fed into our cultural water from the day we were born. Like there’s a comedian called Doug Stanhope who does this bit about how – if you lived in a world where Christianity never existed and then one day when you were in your twenties you picked up a copy of The Bible while you were on the toilet or something: would you read it and become a believer? Like: I don’t deny that because of the way our world is built Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman are the things that hold such sway over so many people’s minds. But I question the claim that these stories / characters tell us something important about the human condition in the way that well I’m assuming communal folk stories used to? (LOL. I don’t know – maybe I’m over-romanticizing them here? Like: many all they say is stuff like: don’t get eaten by wolves or whatever. But there’s a part of me that wants to believe that they used to treat moral and ways of looking at life and things like that etc).

And you know: to pick up on Ilia’s point I will admit that there are some good superhero comics out there: but yeah like he said – they’re mostly origin stories. And those are the ones that usually have the “best shape.”

I mean: I hope I haven’t been too harsh in all of the stuff that I’ve said. Like: if you like superhero comics I’m not trying to convince you that you shouldn’t like them. As always I’m just trying to articulate the thoughts in my head in a way that hope other people will find interesting and etc. Although of course if I’ve changed your mind about anything or got you to reconsider the things that you thought you know – then that would be cool too. 🙂


ZAINABB
Barbican Comic Forum
Twitter /
Ursularity

So, I don’t really enjoy superhero stories any more, simply because they don’t generally fulfil my personal narrative needs. And I have read Kingdom Come and it was a long time ago, and I don’t remember the story at all so that probably says it all about its effect on me. But I have recommended it to people I know are into superhero comics, because I remember thinking the art was very “superhero-y” and yeah, it’s basically just a regurgitation of what we know about superheroes, isn’t it?

But a couple of things in Joel’s last email just kinda made me chuckle. Please correct me if I’m wrong, Emma, but what I took from Emma’s message isn’t that we should excuse the Big Two because all of comics is garbage, but that if you’re going to single out the Big Two, that’s probably just wilful ignorance. I mean, it seems silly to me that Joel, you’ve literally said ‘screw those things too’ about the exploitation in the rest of comics – and then followed this up with, ‘but it’s worse to be exploited out of LOTS of money than out of LESS money’. Is it, though? Like, it’s all bad! That’s the whole point!

Of course there is a practical, physical difference between “mega complexes” (Hollywood, Marvel/DC, big banks, fast fashion, etc. etc.) and the rest of the creative world, but I just kinda don’t feel like it matters that much when you recognise that the reasons BIGGER IS BADDER are the same reasons why capitalism hurts so many people in general. Those reasons are applicable across most industries (maybe all?) to varying degrees. Trust me, there is absolutely no difference to me if I was being cheated out of a £1k or £1m – I’m still gonna be broke and hurt either way.

None of this means you can’t be critical of DC or Marvel. They’re fucked up institutions! And I do think it’s really worrying when love for characters/franchises/hired creators gets in the way of seeing how gross these publishers are as businesses, as cultural touchstones. Hell, even in terms of creativity, these powerhouses really don’t do anything for me any more. Why? Because when you tie creativity up too tightly with making money and running franchises, you take fewer risks and tend to just do what’s safe (or, alternatively, you MASSIVELY MISREAD your target audiences and make Cap a Nazi and unveil Wonder Woman’s brother.)

equal act of nihilistc horror

But while we critique and condemn Marvel and DC, we need to do the same for the rest of the industry, and just know that we’ve all got our personal lines. Frankly, if you want to consume any pop culture at all, and most media in most forms, you’re gonna have to buy into systems you dislike. Fuck, even producing zines means funding capitalism through materials, and even if you’re DIYing them and giving them away for free – well, what about the labour that went into it? How does that get shared, acknowledged, compensated? “Nothing is without sin”, nothing is unproblematic, but you just gotta know what you want to do, why, and whether it hurts anyone.

Case in point – does Image look out more for its creators than the Big Two? Yeah, sure, as far as I know. Does it mean “nobody gets screwed over”? Oh HELL NO.(cw: transphobia) Because capitalism and pop culture (and comics) have a much wider effect on people and people’s lived experience than through money and work alone.

In terms of the communal folk lore stuff, I really like that description of superhero narratives. I also think (like Joel) that change is important over time. In fact, that’s a big reason why I don’t enjoy the usual superhero characters/titles, because I don’t get enough change from those arcs, etc – but I also think it’s important to acknowledge that superheroes are basically archetypes, right? So they aren’t really supposed to change that much. That’s not their purpose as a narrative device. So even though maybe I’d enjoy that more personally, I’m not gonna pretend that what superheroes NEED is big radical change in every arc and event.

But in addition, I feel like our cultural ideas of superheroes have changed over time. I grew up thinking Batman was the campy, colourful Adam West stuff, and then I watched one of the Tim Burton films and I was majorly confused, and then when the Nolan films came out, me and my brother would argue about it – because he thought Batman should be campy and colourful, because that was “his Batman” and I liked that it was doing something different from that. That’s change too.

Also, in terms of morals, well – that’s a really narrow view of what folklore is, but again, superheroes are archetypes, and maybe they don’t cover this stuff as much any more – I don’t know, I don’t read superhero stories any more – but one of the things is to get you questioning morals and values, right? Do you kill the Joker and become a murderer? If you’ve CHOSEN to become a vigilante, do you take that onto yourself while a civilian (i.e. the reader) might choose not to? What does this say about ETHICS and MORALS and what is RIGHT???

Ultimately, what you take away from these stories depends on who you are as a person. I know people who are inspired and empowered by Captain America and Superman and I know people who are inspired and empowered by Iron Man, because of how these specific individuals relate to these archetypes and the struggles their most famous arcs put them through. It’s not fair to say superhero stories don’t say something major about the human condition, because for some people they very much do, in the same way that I find big profound messages in little comics about weirdos with broken brains or feelings. I also think that superhero stories can do this whilst also being a product of some very corrupt systems and institutions. I think superhero comics can seek to exploit creators and readers whilst also being really important and valuable to people for lots of different reasons, and well, I think we can tackle all of that instead of just trying to find an easy route out like “you’re wrong if you like superheroes” or “Marvel and DC are completely fine” or “well, capitalism ruins everything anyway, so let’s just not bother.”


AMANDA
Barbican Comic Forum

Joel: “It’s not a comic that’s not really about anything other than – well: lots of licensed DC characters.”

Yes!

I hadn’t read this comic until a couple weeks ago. At last week’s Barbican comic forum I mentioned that I’d read it, but when asked to explain what it’s about — beyond licenced characters fighting with one another — I really struggled. And it had only been about a week since reading! It probably didn’t help that I found the plot hard to follow and the parts I did get were too dull to encourage me to try harder.

Here are some thoughts based on what I do remember or have reminded myself of on a reluctant re-flip through the comic:

On the art: I really like Alex Ross. He was an especially good fit for Marvels, where his art, combined with the mid-century setting, worked like a warped Norman Rockwell painting. Maybe there’s a similar effect here, with the nostalgic feel of his art linking to nostalgia among the old guard heroes and their way of doing things. The ‘credible aging’ Emma pointed out is also a nice touch.

On the writing: I also generally like Mark Waid; based on other stuff of his I’ve read, I think one of his strengths is bringing lightness and fun and humour to stories and characters. Maybe ‘fun’ and ‘humour’ weren’t so much his shtick in the 90s, but Kingdom Come doesn’t really use this strength (at least not for me — Amir’s post appears to disagree!) aside from a few excellently snarky moments from Bruce Wayne. I actually quite liked Batman’s role in this.

World building was disappointingly minimal and uninspiring, largely relying on narration rather than being cleverly integrated into the art and story. It’s a big contrast to the last comic I read, The Private Eye, which had wonderful world building, shown through panel backgrounds and tied very well into plot points/character discussion. And the ‘new’ generation of ‘heroes’ weren’t fleshed out at all — but then, why would they be in a story about licenced characters?

Amir: “And he nailed down why the genre is so unique and long lasting – they’re communal folk stories.”

Also yes! I’d love to add more to this but the submission deadline approaches and my brain has melted in the 30+ degree weather and I’d probably just be repeating others anyway!


AMIR
OH DEAR GOD WHY Presentations
Twitter / Barbican Comic Forum

Emma – since what I was referring to was explicitly about superhero comics, I think referring to (my mind) the two biggest examples of super hero comic creators being screwed around was a fairly reasonable thing to do. When referencing an analogy about the two big superhero houses as a “confederacy”, I’m going to go ahead and say, yes, it was appropriate to use the Batman creator who got completely screwed till death as an illustrative example. Note the”god knows who else” in that sentence. It’s okay to use one or two notably egregious examples and then not list everything else, since they function as illustrative examples of a broader point (here on Superhero comic publishing). I mean sure, yeah, “but you implicitly suggest that all these other people aren’t being exploited by different elements of the comics publishing industry” – to that I say, it’s half 11 at night and I wanted to move on and talk a bit more about the book itself and that story and whether or not it was fun and why that was.

I for example, can use Theresa May’s refusal to debate during the general election as an illustrative example of her being an autocratic psycopath that deserves the hilarious looks she’s getting from Gove and Johnson in cabinet without detailing all of the other times that she done it. (also because I’ve been explicitly told not to write the word fuck 9000 times).

I’d start up about Kirby, but that one actually needs nuance, which I think it is fairly clear is a quality I lack. Also I read it once, got confused and instead looked at this awesome image for ten minutes –

it is battle

Additionally, characterising the entire chat as a very simplistic superhero bad/indie good feels a little offbase. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone here who went to bed at night hugging their copy of Holy Terror (though begrudgingly, Miller deserves points on visual story telling). The points made about the output of creator owned comics is a good one. It doesn’t blithely argue that since the creator owns the ip, it’s good. To me, it suggests that creative expressions that are owned and editorially controlled by their authors (and not some faceless board of shareholders) is a better thing for the cultural landscape of the medium than everyone waiting for Axel Alonso’s fifty fifth “All New Spider Man” relaunch. Looking up Zombie Tramp with my morning java at work was bloody good fun, so thank you for that. (Is it wrong I kinda wanna buy it?!)

(Also – Holy Terror – just figured out how to get Steve Bannon into comics).

But you know, I’m glad my phone buzzed me up at 5am to tell me I had an ugly and cynical life style. Usually it’s an immediate family member who does that, so it’s nice to have some variety.

Christine – Really dug what you said about the idea of the Guantanamo soldier’s behavour being a direct result of the fucked up institutional culture they were a part of (at least that’s what I think your saying?)

Amanda – AAHHH OH MY GOD HOW GOOD IS PRIVATE EYE?!?! When people go on and on about Saga (which is great) I just wanna email em my PDFs of Private Eye. Marcos Martin – he makes everything effortlessly beautiful.


EMMA
Crown on the Ground
Twitter / Comicosity

The line of reasoning I’m critiquing is that superhero comics are exceptionally bad in moral hygiene, creator rights, and quality to quantity ratio relative to the rest of the industry, which, as has been pointed out a few times, is a key facet of any conversation here on a book published by DC or Marvel. If you want to say that you won’t read any Batman comics specifically because Bill Finger got screwed over by Bob Kane and DC, then fine, that’s a clear and specific moral stance. Waving your hand broadly and saying this thing is so much worse than anything else without establishing any kind of honest understanding of the baseline level of exploitation that cartoonists are subjected to is dishonest and misleading.

IP ownership is important, and can, very rarely, yield significant revenue streams but it’s one small facet of contracts and compensation in comics. A complete overhaul of IP ownership across the industry tonight would not yield a massive redistribution of wealth and power benefiting all tomorrow. The hyper focus on IP rights is as much a symptom of the widespread belief that everyone is a temporarily embarrassed millionaire on the verge of hitting it big as anything else. IP ownership is about making money after the comic is done, it’s investment. Page rates and advances are about how to survive while you’re making a comic and those things do not get discussed. There’s a massive lack of transparency around that in the industry for a lot of reasons, but it’s a critical part of the equation.

If you’ve ever wondered why books like Saga or Black Magic go on hiatus on a yearly basis, it’s because either the writer is giving the artist a break to go do a comic that is going to pay them a fuckload more than the dividends of an Image book does or, like Black Magic, the whole damn creative team are going to do Wonder Woman, again, for a lot more money. Probably because they actually want to do those comics, I mean Rucka was sitting on the Nicola Scott half of his WW run for a decade, but also because it frees them up economically to pursue passion projects that bring in way less money. One of the hard truths of the industry is that in a lot of cases, when you’re retaining more of the rights to your work, you’re also accepting lower page rates and sometimes are faced with fronting the costs for an editor, colorist, and letterer yourself if you aren’t a one person operation.

Colorists are a great example of where the IP conversation crumbles to dust, because I can’t honestly think of a single book where the colorist is a credited co-creator, and thus, set up for a chunk of the IP from the get go. Practically every colorist in the industry is working in some kind of work for hire arrangement and there is no consensus or guidelines around page rates and other compensation for colorists working on creator owned titles. I know that Matt Wilson gets a piece of WicDiv sales because Gillen and McKelvie have said so, but that, as far as I understand it, is not de rigeur.

So I get sick of hearing about IP this and IP that being the only talking point that people seem capable of regurgitating in these conversations. There’s also just really never a time where comparing the economic hardships of cartoonists to chattel slavery in the Antebellum South is appropriate.

I get it, though. People want to make flip statements and have a laugh. It’s just in my fundamental nature to want to dig deeper. I mean Jesus Christ, I read the entirety of Scott Pilgrim for you people. I would have liked to give Kingdom Come more of a go, but I also have a very strong personal dislike for Mark Waid that I couldn’t overcome. We all bring prejudices and predispositions along with us. The question is how much we’re willing to have them challenged.

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