Line of Demarcation
The other evening I was talking to my buddy Barry about some of the "multiple universes are a stupid idea" posts that have been popping up in the wake of INFINITE CRISIS and made the comment "When did 1985 become the line of demarcation?" Later in the same conversation we got onto the whole deal with TokyoPop's OEL contracts (where TP owns 60% of the project and can fire the creator of the book if they so desire) and how some of these younger creators have no problem signing their work away. It wasn't until I was reading Dave Lewis' blog today that I realized those two subjects Barry and I discussed were actually the same topic. It was this line...
"When Shuster and Siegel died in 1992 and 1996, respectively, I can't say that
there was a cultural response, even in the limited comics community, in their
absence. It was respectfully noted, their families were wished the best, and perhaps their credit on each Superman title page -- "Created by Siegel and Shuster" -- was noted just a little more. But creators and fans alike have not stopped discussing, admiring, and emulating Kirby since his 1994 death. And that is a remarkable credit to the man and his work."
That's when it hit me that 1985 was a line of demarcation not just for acceptance of certain concepts in comics, but also in the area of creators' rights. Shuster, Siegel and Kirby. The three names that were the rallying cry for creators' rights starting in the late 70s when Robinson and Adams went to bat for the creators of Superman before the movie came out. A fight that heated up as Marvel was building to it's 25th anniversary and the creative community demanded the company return the King's artwork that they had been holding for decades. These were hot topics in the fan press at the time, only to fade in the mid-90's as some of the founders of Image Comics started producing more "studio" material than creating the books themselves. Granted there were "creator rights" flare ups here and there (CrossGen's Code 6 anyone?) but it wasn't the hot button it had been.
So many of these OEL manga creators are in their early to mid 20s. They are the children of the direct market era. Many didn't discover comics until their late teens when they stumbled across WATCHMEN, DARK KNIGHT RETURNS or an old Eclipse or First Manga translation (remember those?) in the library, not like those of us in our 30s who discovered comics in a spinner rack. Maybe I'm making the wrong assuption here but creators rights are not the hot button issue for them because the war was essentially over when they were starting first grade. Maybe that's why the whole "Team Comix" attitude has trouble gaining traction anymore. It's not "punk" to fight the power by having a publisher put out your book when they don't own a piece of it anymore. That role has been taken by mini-comics for the hardcore. For this new generation of creators, the thought of having a minimum stake in their creation is tempered by the fact TP can get them into real bookstores and "getting paid." Dave Sim is about as relevant to some of these kids as Tom Hayden to the Campus Democrats at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. ("Yeah yeah, you stormed the gates of the establishment. What were the after-parties like?")
Maybe I'm just feeling old, but it's frustrating to have seen the old work-for-hire system give way to the revolution that gave us AMERICAN FLAGG!, NEXUS and later SAVAGE DRAGON, only to see the "new and improved" return of work-for-hire and the new generation of writers and artists jumping up and down to have their babies consumed by the machine. It's their choice, all I can do is suggest they read the fine print on the back of every check they take to the bank.
Meet the new boss...Same as the old boss.