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Thursday, June 06, 2002

What Kind of Terrorist Are You? -- Imagine the following scenario:

A terrorist who had a direct role in the planning and carrying out of the September 11th terrorist attacks -- let's say he was an airport employee who was specifically tasked with getting terrorists and their box-cutters onto one of the hijacked planes -- left DNA evidence that was somehow recovered. Let's say he handed a box-cutter to one of his co-conspirators just before he got on the plane that later crashed in Pennsylvania.

Let's say he later fled the U.S., fearing that he would somehow be found out, and tried to hide out in France. Let's say he was later found and arrested by French authorities, but that the French government refused to extradite him back to the U.S. because of the brutal death penalty that is the law of the land.

What do you think George W. Bush would have to say about that? Or Attorney General John Ashcroft? Would we back off and promise not to seek the death penalty against this scheming, brutal evildoer?

More likely, the U.S. would engage every bit of diplomatic leverage at its disposal to force France to capitulate. The U.S. is a sovereign nation, after all, and will not allow another country, even one of its allies, to dictate policy in regard to terrorism and how we treat the evildoers who commit such inhuman acts. It's not altogether difficult, even, to imagine Bush and his mentors -- I mean, underlings -- assigning a Delta Force squad to enter France under cover of night and retrieve the terrorist rather than give up our God-Given Right to Enforce the Death Penalty, Amen.

And yet, it all depends on what kind of terrorist you are.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines terrorism as "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons." Ladies and gentlemen, meet James Charles Kopp.

Kopp is the only suspect in the murder a few years ago of Doctor Barnett Slepian, a Buffalo, New York-area doctor and father of four who provided safe, legal abortions to women. Abortion, as you may be aware, is a legal medical procedure in every single one of the United States. Kopp is alleged to have committed the terrorist assassination that took Slepian's life, and luckily we have Kopp's DNA evidence to prove he was at the scene. He was a well-known "pro-life activist" (the polite term for anti-abortion terrorists) who went by the nickname "Atomic Dog" in the militant, anti-abortion terrorist cells he operated amongst.

This week, Kopp was extradited back to the U.S. after a year of negotiations that ended with the U.S. agreeing not to seek the death penalty against this scheming, brutal evildoer. U.S. authorities made sure to keep his route and arrival time secret, as to protect Kopp from -- well -- people like himself. People who believe if someone holds different beliefs from you, it's a good idea to shoot them in the fucking head.

It's no surprise, of course, that John "Morning Prayer Meeting" Ashcroft and his "Justice" Department would back off on any death penalty prosecution. The fact of the matter is that Ashcroft, Bush, Cheney and the rest of the heads of the Junta that overthrew the lawful U.S. government in late 2000 would be delighted to pin a medal on Kopp's chest, hook him up with 72 virgins and make him governor of his own state. Texas, let's say.

It's sickening beyond my ability to express it how the U.S. has coddled and comforted terrorists like Kopp, who harass and murder people because of their feverish religious zealotry, while spending billions on a "war on terrorism." There are thousands of terrorists openly operating on the streets of America right this moment, picketing outside women's health care clinics and creating hate-fueled web sites that extol the virtues of violence and murder and inspire the James Kopps of this world to take up arms against lawfully practicing physicians.

Yeah, there's a war on terror -- there's a war on abortion rights, too, and despite all the battles and explosions in Afghanistan, it looks like the U.S. government is all in favour of rewarding terrorists however it can right here at home. Welcome home, James Kopp. Enjoy your long life, courtesy of the Bush Junta and its blind eye to terror.

Originally written for Comic Book Galaxy before the launch of the ADD Blog.

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Monday, May 13, 2002

The New Overstreet Price Guide -- The industry's most prominent guide to pricing old comics came out last week, and for the first time since 1984, I bought it. Enough comics seem to end up in my hands, and even more questions about old titles and values, that I felt it would be a valuable resource, certainly better than looking in some old Wizard magazine for information.

I got the version with the faux-Superman cover, and I was struck by the poor computer reproduction of the logo, particularly noticeable in the "The Official" oval at the top. Amazing. I don't know if it's cheapness or outright blindness, but when did publishers decide that amateurish, lousy printing that I could do on my crappy Epson printer is acceptable for books and comics and magazines presumably designed with multiple re-readings and even collectibility in mind? I mean Jesus Christ, printing like this is fine for the goddamned Church newsletter, but come on.

Inside, there's plenty of useful information on titles and values, as well as hilarious statements by nutjob dealers such as "Everyone is aroused by news of modern comics slabbed and graded at 9.5 or better selling at astonishing multiples of guide." Now, perhaps Eric J. Groves of the Comic Art Foundation is aroused by such, but even if he is, he probably shouldn't talk about it in public.

I was interested to see that there's a new "Atom Age of Comics" that I hadn't heard about, and even more interested to see that the "Atom Age" issue of Human Torch my mom bought me for $13.00 back in 1979 now goes for $85.00. Even more fascinating, the Overstreet Guide from that year, the first I bought, now goes for $180.00. It had much better reproduction of its cover artwork, too.

Originally written for Comic Book Galaxy prior to the launch of the ADD Blog.

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Saturday, February 02, 2002

Remembering Gil Kane -- Gil Kane was probably one of the first comic book artists whose style I recognized as unique when I was a kid.

He died in Florida January 31st, 2000 at the age of 74.

His amazingly fluid, dynamic figure work stood out brilliantly from other artists of the 70s, when I began reading comics. Later, of course, Curt Swan would be readily recognized as being different from, say, Ross Andru--but Kane's style was so singular, so--visionary--that it's hard to imagine a comics reader of any age wouldn't be able to pick up on him pretty quickly.

Kane's work on Spider-Man and Daredevil for Marvel Comics was what first caught my attention. His depictions of these characters was perfect--not a line was wasted. That was true of most of Kane's work.

Later I sought out his earlier work, the work I was born too late to buy off the racks. Green Lantern, the Atom, the extraordinary His Name Is Savage--Kane always had it, it seemed, that ability to illustrate the human form at a state of perfection. And then to cast those perfect superbeings into the chaos of violence.

Unlike many of the greatest artists of the artform, a company in which Kane certainly belongs, he was recognized as a master. I don't know if he received the financial reward his work deserved (probably not, I'd guess; few comics artists born before the mid-60s ever got what they deserved from the companies that profited off them)--but he received many accolades over the years, and one hopes he knew how much his work was loved.

A great recent example of that is the story Alan Moore wrote for him that was published as Judgment Day: Aftermath by Awesome Comics. Moore created a story that celebrated Kane's imagination and skill, and best of all we got to see the story drawn by Kane himself. If you haven't read this issue, seek it out; it's a treat for the eyes and Moore's ending is touching.

It's ironic that Rob Liefeld's Awesome published that story, because I've often said I'd give my left arm if I could draw like Kane. I've also said I'd gladly give both arms to not be able to "draw" like Liefeld. It seems even a lucky, talentless oddity like Liefeld recognized what a great comics artist Kane was.

Kane's talent was best served when he inked himself, as he usually did in the latter part of his career. I still remember the crushing disappointment I felt after discovering Danny Bulanadi had been hired to embellish Kane on Marvel's Micronauts series. I never much cared for the stories in that comic, but the artwork was nothing short of amazing when the title was introduced with penciler Michael Golden. When Kane took over, I was thrilled at the news, but Bulanadi's heavy-handed inking was wholly inappropriate to the task at hand, and Kane reportedly preferred his own inking in most cases anyway.

It's been reported Kane completed a two-part Atom/Green Lantern story for Legends of the DC Universe, set to be released beginning this March. That is very good news indeed. It's good, because Kane's work will once again be in the spotlight on two of the characters he helped define, and good because perhaps it will lead to greater awareness of Kane's importance in the artform of comics.

DC has announced it will be sponsoring a memorial to Kane, and that is very nice. I think an even nicer memorial would be for Marvel and DC to get more of his work into print for today's readers to pore over and enjoy. What form might that sort of tribute take?

For starters, Kane was Marvel's main cover illustrator for quite a stretch in the 1970s. A hardcover collection of the best of those covers would look great on any collector's bookshelf, and if any penciled versions of those covers could be included for comparison, the book would truly be a valuable historical document of the artform.

Kane did some wonderful, Pre-Crisis Superman work, which could be collected in a hardcover with perhaps some of the production sketches he did for the 1980s Superman cartoon. That would be too cool.

I expect we'll also be hearing in the coming weeks from some of the great artists who were inspired by Kane, including John Byrne and George Perez, just to name two--maybe a tribute comic could be put together by these and the other artists Kane inspired with the proceeds used to provide a scholarship or grant in Kane's name.

There is a generally recognized elite of comics artists of the 20th Century: Kirby, Kurtzman, and Kane are now gone, but their work lives on. Let's hope the major comics companies find a way to get it into the hands of a new generation of readers, and rightfully provide some benefits to the families these masters left behind.

It's the least they, and we, can do.

Originally written for Comic Book Galaxy prior to the launch of the ADD Blog.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Messages from the Editor -- Barry Windsor-Smith, on yesterday's events:

"It is truly as if the devil and his vile minions rose up out of hell to destroy thousands of human beings.

The chilling film of the second plane entering the South Tower, wings vertical to inflict maximum impact through 8 floors, at 600 mph, with those innocents on board and all of those targeted, is nothing that Dante could have imagined in his most foul nightmares.

None of us will ever be the same."

I wonder when it will be time to talk about comics again. Just over 24 hours after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., it doesn't seem like I am ever going to want to write another comics-related review or commentary again.

Perhaps I shouldn't be as astonished as I am that at least one well-known comics reviewer was continuing to discuss comics online less than a day after the attacks, even including a smiley-face emoticon to highlight his wit in a Usenet post.

The word disgust doesn't even begin to explain my feelings after seeing this. I can only hope that the slowdowns of the internet yesterday resulted in that post having been written before word spread about how the world changed on September 11th, 2001.

I just started a new job at a radio station with a busy newsroom. Busy even on the quietest of days, it is now a frenzied mosh pit of broadcast journalists trying to get good information, new information, different information; it's all, for us, three and a half hours safely up I-87 from Ground Zero in Manhattan, about the information.

They say, on TV, in the newspaper headlines, in the radio industry that I have been a part of for 16 years, that this is a war. IT'S WAR blared the Daily News headline. Secretary of State Colin Powell said this morning that we may not legally, technically, be at war, but that he believes that is what this is.

How can it be a war, when we don't know for certain who the enemy is? Is it Osama bin Laden, harboured for the past few years by Afghanistan? All signs seem to point to yes, but I don't believe things until I see them, and sometimes not even until then. In a world where the media, government and zeitgeist itself conspire to create an oblivious, accidentally deliberate fog of disinformation, we are bombarded with theories, deluged with rumours, and flooded, frankly, with out-and-out horseshit. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger suggesting at 4 AM the day after the attacks, for example, that the best thing the U.S. could do is carpet bomb all nations suspected of terrorism. It may sound off the wall, I heard him say, but it must it be done.

Must it?

And what if we do nothing? So far as I can see, there is only the slimmest of evidence pointing to possible culprits in the first day after the worst day in U.S. history. Certainly, more clues may be found. Someone may even come forward and tell what they know. After all, someone, somewhere knows what happened. Chances are, lots of someones. But if everyone that knows the truth is as possessed by zealotry as whoever it is that carried out these monumental attacks, perhaps we will never know. Perhaps everyone that knew has already killed themselves, forever obliterating any hope of finding out the truth. That may sound off the wall, but no more so than former Secretary of State Eagleberger and his "kill 'em all" philosophy.

Without a doubt, September 11th, 2001 is a day that will never be forgotten by anyone old enough to even begin to understand the enormity of what happened. My children, ages 5 and 7, will not forget this. My daughter's birthday is tomorrow. She'll be eight years old. I hope that this is the worst thing that ever happens to the country she lives in. But given the ease with which this mission was carried out, and the notorious ability of Americans to compartmentalize and forget, I suspect it won't be.

This could happen again. It could happen again next week, next year, or on my daughter's birthday.


You know, I haven't bought her gift yet. I have no idea what to get her two days after her country has suffered its worst assault in history, when virtually everyone around her is in shock to one degree or another, when people are on edge, depressed, crying, enraged.

I will get her something, because her life will go on, and that of my son, and my wife. Our family goes on.

And in a greater sense, our family as a community will go on. The internet was impaired by these events, but it was not broken. I used it to contact friends in New York, and now I am using it to work out in words my feelings, now, 26 hours after this all began.

I encourage you, in the hours and days ahead, to use whatever medium you can to reach those who matter to you. Express your feelings, ask the questions that you need to ask to get whatever peace of mind you can get.

Eventually, I imagine, you and I will be using the internet to once again discuss comic books.

But that day will not be today.

Originally written for Comic Book Galaxy prior to the launch of the ADD Blog.


Monday, June 12, 2000

The All Time Classic New York Comic Book Convention -- I'm told White Plains, New York is about a half-hour from New York City, generally recognized as the capital of the world. You would have thought more people would have turned out, then, for this convention, held June 9th through the 11th.

The talent was certainly there. Some of the biggest names in comics history turned out: Julie Schwartz, John Buscema, Barry Windsor-Smith, Roy Thomas, Walt Simonson, even today's young guns such as Sean Chen, Mike Oeming and Buzz were on hand.

I should point out, I was only there on the final day of the event, a Sunday. Still, in the first few minutes I was there, I met some true legends, including Joe Sinnott, legendary for being a nice guy (true), and Jim Shooter, among other things legendary for being tall (also true).

The first thing that anyone walking into the convention hall noticed was "The World's Largest Comic Book Painting." This extraordinary effort by artist Russell Rainbolt took up the entire length and height of the stage, 60 feet by 20 feet. It included nearly 100 comics characters dating from the Yellow Kid (1896) right up to the 1970s.

Attendance on Sunday was not spectacular; I asked organizer Joe Petrilak if he considered the convention a success, and he said he felt that it was, but that attendance could have been better. Other than Barry Windsor-Smith, who was the guest of honour, I never saw more than four or five people in line to talk to any of the dozens of creators on hand. For BWS, on the other hand, within moments of his arrival there were dozens of people in line to meet him. It was quite funny watching him set up and suddenly turn around and see the crowd waiting.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out I came to the convention with BWS; we were planning on attending separately, and he suggested I go with him and his studio manager Alex Bialy. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. It was a true education, seeing a comics convention from the point of view of an artist who's been doing this for 30 years.

At one point, while I watched Barry doing a sketch of a certain barbarian for a charity auction, he turned to me and asked "Are you learning anything?" I told him I was, and it was the truth. I learned that, despite the increasing apathy about comics on the part of the reading public, the people who work to create comics really love the artform, and in many cases, they love each other. Many times over, I saw the scene reenacted: Legendary comics pro on the way to his or her booth spots a fellow pro, lights up and stops for a brief chat before moving on to face a day full of signings and momentary encounters with fans.

Some of the most moving moments involved creators no longer working steadily in comics. Everyone seemed delighted to have a chance to catch up with Joe Sinnott and Marie Severin. I was dubious about a panel discussion between Golden Age creators Harry Lampert, Alvin Schwartz, Martin Nodell and others that also included young JSA artist Buzz. But when he introduced himself, he did so by paying tribute to the works of the older creators on the panel, who created the only comics Buzz had to read while growing up in Burma. He treated their work, and them, with respect verging on reverence. He explained that the decidedly modern appearance of the characters in JSA isn't his choice; he'd do the book in a style more reminiscent of the original creators if he could, but the editors think, say, the Golden Age Flash, should be "A naked guy coloured red."

At a time when most comics creators seem to be trying to get gigs in TV or movies, it was a revelation to hear GA Flash artist Harry Lampert tell the audience how 90 percent of the animators at the Fleischer Studios (where he worked for a time) wanted nothing more than to break into comics. It is quite literally impossible to imagine such a scenario today.

The most extraordinary event I witnessed Sunday came at the very end of the day, after most of the retailers had packed out their booths and begun to leave. An amateur artist came up to Barry Windsor-Smith's table and said hi to Barry and Alex. Alex told me this was someone they had met before, and they were friendly with him. He took out a painting he'd been working on literally for years, and asked Barry to have a look at it.

Barry went on to engage the artist and anyone within earshot (this display drew quite a crowd, including a few working pros) on the subject of what did and did not work in the painting. One thing I've noticed about Barry is that he absolutely will not let go of the truth, and pulls no punches when asked for his opinion.

He discovered the central flaw in the painting, and went on at length to explain it in detail to its creator. The artist had, simply, faked it. Despite the fact that he has a girlfriend, he instead chose to fake a drawing of a woman in a fantasy environment. Barry wasn't at all mean-spirited in his appraisal; in fact, I think the education he offered to the artist was an act of extraordinary kindness. What he was pointing out seems obvious only in retrospect. Most would-be comics artists look to comics to see how to draw. Barry, instead, told him to draw from life. To find models for his work from the people and things in his own life.

I was amazed, truly, when the artist started trying to justify his shortcuts in the painting. Barry Windsor-Smith was giving this guy a free art lecture that, really, was invaluable to anyone who wants to learn how to draw. And the guy was arguing! Defending the fakery he had indulged in, likely because he had sunk six years of his life and effort in producing this piece. By the time he and Barry were done discussing it, I had gained new insight not only into drawing, but into any artistic effort.

At dinner after the convention, we discussed these things further. Barry and Alex and this artist fellow (proving there were no hurt feelings) and I discussed the very definition of art. I came to realize the artist had started this piece, which he so badly wanted to be art, without any essential truth to tell.

I believe the thing that drives any true artist is the desire to express a truth (any truth) about the world as they see it. Look at any work by your favourite artist; it becomes clear that they have a consistent point of view about the world, and their art becomes a continuing effort to express that truth. I think where this artist I met Sunday fails is that, instead of having something to say, he simply wants to say something. Anything. He is making an effort to express himself, but he doesn't yet know what it is he wants to say.

A few months ago, in an e-mail exchange with a comic book writer, I expressed why I've chosen to write about comics. As a child, I had no greater joy or companion than a stack of books from the 7-11 down the street, and the fact that most kids today have never even seen a comic book saddens me deeply. This and a couple of other issues have really fueled my desire to be a part of the comics community and have my say. The writer in question wrote back to tell me how impressed he was that I actually had a point of view and chose to express it.

I've enjoyed the time I've spent writing about comics, and I hope I continue to have the opportunity to do so for years to come. But the turnout Sunday for this convention, so close to the capital of the world, does not make me optimistic for the health of the artform. There clearly are lots of people who still have something to say within the medium of comics, but I wonder how soon it will be before there simply is no one left to listen.

Written prior to the launch of the ADD Blog.


Wednesday, September 01, 1999

Creators Rights and Why They're Right -- There has been much debate over the issue of Creator's Rights in the comic book industry as a result of recent court actions by the estate of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and Captain America creator Joe Simon.

I have been debating the issue for a while now with some people who, at times, seem utterly incapable of wrapping their brains around the concept that the creator of a given character should have the absolute right to decide that character's destiny.

Copyright laws have changed in the past few years, allowing creators of works six decades ago to reclaim their legal rights to the characters and concepts that have made literally millions (in some cases hundreds of millions) of dollars for the companies that have dominated the American comic book scene for the length and breadth of its existence.

The greatest works in the artform of comics have been created by writers and artists who have been allowed to express their vision with a minimum of editorial interference. The list, though familiar, is undiminished in its power to those who have devoted any real time to investigating the artform:

* Will Eisner's The Spirit
* Dave Sim's Cerebus
* Dan Clowes' Eightball
* Jack Kirby's Fourth World Saga
* Frank Miller's Daredevil
* Dave Lapham's Stray Bullets
* Harvey Pekar's American Splendor
* Kurt Busiek's Astro City

And of course, the list could go on and on. These comics don't even necessarily represent a list of my personal favourites, but by any critical standard they have elevated the artform as expressions of their creator's singular vision, unimpeded (in most cases) by editorial whim or economic considerations.

Some have been more successful than others, in terms of sales, but all in their various ways represent the finest that comics in the United States can be.

Virtually none of them would have been possible under the oppressive, unfair system the comics companies operated in the early days of the industry. Only the Spirit thrived in those days, and even then, only because Will Eisner fought to retain his rights and see his vision through.

Frank Miller was able to do what he did at Marvel with Daredevil for two reasons: the book was dying and no one cared much what happened at the time Miller established the milieu and concepts his Daredevil operated in; Miller also benefited from the fact that editor Denny O'Neil was himself a writer, and did not try to direct the overall plot in the way that the modern day editors (think of the recent X-Men and Spider-Man runs) do.

In the 1930s and 1940s, for the most part, the publishers had the writers and artists over a barrel, and they knew it. They had all the money, they had all the power, and very few artists who wanted to work in the industry were able to take control of their creations.

I am writing now not to excoriate the admittedly unfair system that has existed for most of the life of the artform, but to celebrate and affirm the rights of creators to express their vision.

The system that 99 percent of the comics published by Marvel and DC over the past 60 years were produced under has created, for the most part, readable junk. Only rarely have the writers and artists working for these companies risen above the level of entertaining mediocrity to produce something more; something inspiring, innovative and new. What, really, would be the impetus to do otherwise?

For most of the time there has been such a thing as comics, the majority of creators had no hope of any kind of long-term benefit from their work. Once they cashed the checks for their page rate (many of which beginning in the late 1970s had despicable Work-For-Hire contracts printed on the backs, which some creators wisely chose to cross out before endorsing), that was it. No health insurance, no pension plan, and in many cases not even any reprint royalties.

Jack Kirby, without whom we wouldn't even be having this discussion, lived and died without ever seeing just reward for what he did. He created (in some cases along with Stan Lee) some of the most enduring, mind-blowing concepts in the history of the artform. The Fantastic Four, the Inhumans, Galactus, the Incredible Hulk, The Avengers and, oh yeah, the X-Men. Will Kirby's estate receive a dime from the profits on the X-Men movie? Even if it does, it will be a fraction of one percent of the profits that will be divvied up by people and companies that, in many cases, didn't even exist when Kirby created the characters and concepts that sustain the industry today. Many people who will doubtless get rich on that project have probably never even heard of Jack Kirby. It's beyond insulting; beyond contemptible. It's a fucking crime.

Think of the work Frank Miller did on Daredevil. Roy Thomas and Barry Smith's Conan. Bill Sienkiewicz's brilliant work on Moon Knight and New Mutants. These rare highlights came in spite of, not because of, the industry standard that presumed the companies owned all the non-licensed work they published.

You'll note that in these and many other cases the joy of seeing these works of art appear every month like clockwork is short-lived. In the case of the artists, it often has happened that they grow weary of the limits placed on the expression of their ideas (Sienkiewicz, Smith, Miller) while for many gifted writers, they often take the characters into directions the editors simply cannot allow (think of the Charlton project created by Alan Moore that became Watchmen, admittedly a not-unhappy development; Moore's successor on Swamp Thing, Rick Veitch, was forced from that title for the direction he wanted to take the character in).

Contrast these cases with works like Eightball, Stray Bullets or Cerebus, unencumbered by Work-For-Hire restrictions. The creators are able to do literally anything they want, and while they aren't all churning it out on a monthly basis, the titles do appear regularly, and are regularly brilliant. And have been for years and years and years.

I have long had a theory that there is an inverse ratio of art to names when it comes to the creation of comics. When the writing and art are the work of one creator (Eightball, Sin City, most of the work of R. Crumb), the brilliance shines through in nearly every panel.

When you divide the work between a writer and artist, the work can still be good (Astro City, Claremont and Byrne's X-Men), but the more and more names you add (think of some of the credits boxes in some Image comics, with a Plotter, Dialoguer, multiple Pencillers and Inkers, Letterer and Colourist all jammed in there) the further and further away you get from Art with a capital "A."

Of course, the typical argument from some quarters is that "Art" cannot be objectively evaluated, and that any one opinion is worth as much as any other.

At the risk of being accused of hyperbole once again, that's just crap.

Virtually no enduring work of art produced in the medium of comics has ever had more than two (or three, in rare cases) major contributors. I don't mean to disregard the contributions of colourists and letterers, but they're not really the topic here. I am talking about the writers and artists that generate the concepts that fire the imagination and inspire the soul.

What work in any other medium is the work of a committee of the type that the mainstream, Big Two comics system supports and encourages? What painting, what musical composition, what great work of architecture or sculpting, has as many creators as the average issue of, say, Wolverine?

Let's take film, for example. The only movie I can think of that was great by committee was probably Casablanca, and that was a long goddamn time ago. Perhaps that is the exception that proves the rule.

It's a difficult thing to extend this metaphor from comics to film, but I think it's instructive to try. I'm not sure, though, who you'd equate the actors in a TV series to in the production of a comic book.

Specifically dealing with film, though, I use the term "creator" to mean the screenwriter or director. I think those terms roughly equate to the writer and artist in a comic book.

While there have been many great, and even more good, actors since the 1940s, I would submit that very few of them appeared in any great work of art that was created by hack writers and directors equivalent in talent to a Rob Liefeld.

The high quality of The Practice, just to pick a current show which features uniformly excellent actors at the top of their craft, would certainly suffer greatly were the creator (David Kelley) and the various writers and directors replaced with, say, the creative staff of Full House.

Of course, Marvel and DC love the committee-oriented process they have maintained. Under it, each creator becomes, to paraphrase John Byrne, a cog in the creative machine. Alan Moore left Swamp Thing, but penciller Rick Veitch stayed on, and with him many of the readers that otherwise would have bolted. Chris Claremont left X-Men, but Jim Lee stayed on. Every time a gifted creator leaves, the company attempts (and usually succeeds) in keeping some remnant of the creative team that made the book a success. Because every name that remains in the masthead represents thousands of readers that will stay, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits. For the companies.

So it is that most of the truly visionary artists have turned to self-publishing, or to companies that allow them at the very least to retain the rights to their characters and concepts. So it is that the majority of the books from the two biggest publishers are a celebration of mediocrity. So it is that even when a gifted creator is brought on a title, they are manipulated and edited and oppressed to the point (think Mark Waid and Peter David) that they choose to leave, even giving up the current royalty system, rather than see their vision compromised.

That word, compromised, is an interesting one. One Marvel fan said he believes it is more important that the Marvel Universe not be compromised by the removal of Captain America, than that Joe Simon be allowed, in the twilight of his life, to decide the fate and direction of his creation.

Anyone who doesn't think that the environment that has so oppressed generations of talented writers and artists, who only want to share their gifts with us, the readers, hasn't already compromised the Marvel Universe, is really not getting what this is all about.

It's not about comic books. It's not about Universes or shared realities, it's not about page rates and characters and costumes.

It's about freedom.

If this were a comic book, and Joe Simon were a character in a Captain America story, just whose side do you think Cap would be on?

It's about freedom.

Originally written prior to the launch of the ADD Blog.

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