Alright, well I didn’t quite finish the drawing I had hoped to post today, so I’ll post it Monday instead. I have, however poster a few new pieces, including the drawing that’s going up after that drawing, to my Tumblr, so check that out. Like I’ve talked about a couple times, I’m trying to post things to this site in some kind of order, but over there I’m throwing up stuff more randomly and as I work on it.
I also posted over there a page from a commissioned story that I’m illustrating, and I won’t be posting that here because it’s not really a part of A Waste of Time (Although there is a cameo from the boy with bunny ears that I draw), so if you’d like to see those pages posted as I work on them, you can see them over there. The story is basically: guy at a Halloween party in a Robin costume finds a guy in a Batman costume, guy in Batman costume handcuffs guy in Robin costume to a bed and fucks him. So, obviously I said that I would draw that.
The Tumblr, obviously, is gonna get fairly pornographic and NSFW, but then again this site already is, too, so that should surprise anybody who’s familiar with my work.
I meant to do this drawing for our six month anniversary, but we ended up not having one of those.
The day that I took the photo I drew this from, I took several photos of him when we were out at the Ferry Building walking around. On our first dates, we went on some great hikes around the piers and North Beach, and when you date me you’ll end up having to put up with me taking photos of you to use later on as photo reference for comics I might draw. I try to take pictures all the time of things that I think might end up in comics I’ll want to do, but especially I take pictures of the guys I date. Some people find it endearing, some people absolutely thrive on the attention, with this particular guy I think it kind of irritated him.
I mean it as a way of showing affection, though. When I was planning to do this drawing as an anniversary present, there was another shot of him in the same place I was probably going to use. He had the same backdrop, but he was looking at me and smiling. As I ended up doing the drawing, this picture of him looking out to sea and with his glasses covering his eyes seemed a little more poetic.
I’m not sure what exactly compels me to do one picture or another, but I like to do ones that document particular moments that seem to have significance for me of some kind. Then I have these time capsules of key moments, and if I like a particular series they can form the backbone of a series of comics.
The story I did about the Boy From Santa Cruz was mostly formed around drawings that I had done of him. When I did them, they represented certain things to me, and then afterwards when I saw them in order, each one came to represent a certain moment in the relationship for me, and so they kind of turned from just portraits into story beats.
The plan for Damaged Goods was to end it with the story of the rabbit having his first serious relationship in a while, and I wanted to explore how he dealt with that in light of how many times he’s been fucked with by other guys. I did portraits of the guys I had dated previously, and I had a series of new portraits planned, some finished and some partially finished, to go with the current phase of my love life. Now that I know the ending of this particular story, I wanted a drawing to document it, and the unrealized anniversary present being completed in a slightly different form seemed like the appropriate drawing for that.
There’s another portrait I’m going to do to finish out the series, and hopefully will post on Friday. It’s meant to rhyme to one of the last drawings in the Boy From Santa Cruz storyline. When I’m talking about Caravaggio and things and pointing out certain images in the comics, there are reasons for those, I’m trying to create a vocabulary of visual images that repeat throughout the comics and signify different things at different moments. I’m trying really hard to talk visually. Whether or not I’m successful at that is for other people to say, but it’s what I’m trying to do. If you read these stories closely, there are visual things that are repeated, hopefully in a poetic way, and there’s one more that I need to do to close out the story of this relationship in a way that has the symmetry with the other comics about similar stories that I feel is appropriate.
Over the last couple weeks, I posted illustrations for several new Douchebags of Comics cards. You can check them out here if you missed any.
I also made a number of additions and changes to the list of people getting cards or under consideration. Some people were removed from being under consideration up to definitely receiving a card, and several people were added to the under consideration list. One name was actually removed from the list. I added Shannon Wheeler based on a recommendation from somebody, but I’ve had enough people telling me that they don’t think he deserves a card that I figured it was time to remove him. It’s an under consideration list, people can come off of it, too.
I probably would have removed Ethan Van Sciver from the list, but he came and said he thought it was hilarious and that he’d be honored to receive a card, so now I kind of have to do one of him. Wouldn’t want to disappoint.
In other news, the plan is to post three more portrait drawings, not for Douchebags of Comics, but of guys in my life that tie into the upcoming storyline, and then next Wednesday to start posting strips for Damaged Goods again. I’ve been posting some of that stuff as I go to my Tumblr, and I’m also working on a commissioned story right now, and I’ll start posting bits of that on my Tumblr as well. In the meantime, here’s the latest Douchebags of Comics list, feel free to comment below!
You can click here for a list of all the posts I’ve made under the category of Douchebags of Comics.
Already have illustrations for cards:
Definitely receiving cards:
J. Scott Campbell
Ethan Van Sciver
Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson
Robert C. Hendrickson
There are all the obvious comments about Wertham, famous anti-comic book crusader of the ’50′s and author of Seduction of the Innocent, but what I really fault him for is superheroes.
Wertham wasn’t the only anti-comics hysteric, but he was the first to do a whole book out of the subject, and his testimony formed the bulk of the anti-comics portion of the 1953 juvenile delinquency hearings that ended up crippling the industry. Wertham’s testimony, equal parts irate nonsense and also book tour promotional stop for Seduction, which had just come out, got half the mothers in the country terrified of just what comic books were doing to their poor, susceptible Leave it to Beaver 1950′s kids. His testimony contained no scientific data, was based on no credible research, and willfully misrepresented the content of the comics he was using as examples, but he brought with him the veneer of a very respectable doctor fighting the good fight for the kids. Probably the only person that day to do more damage to comics was William Gaines, the publisher of EC comics, in whose Dexedrine-addled testimony was the infamous moment where he said that a cover involving a woman’s severed head and a bloody ax met with his personal definition of “good taste.”
Wertham, while in some ways seeming very savvy, had an amazing ability for cognitive dissidence. In the hearings that ultimately led to severe censorship of comics, he bizarrely implied that the comics publishers somehow had the ability to censor *him*, and that his book, which had already received a national advertising push, was somehow threatened by them: “Will this book be distributed, or will the sinister hand of these corrupters of children, of this comic-book industry, will they prevent distribution?”
Wertham hated Superman because he said that Superman promoted fascism. He hated Batman because he thought it involved homosexuality, and he hated Wonder Woman because he thought she promoted sadomasochism. I guess in that case, two out of three is pretty good.
What followed the hearings, though, was all manner of small-town yahoos trying to fine local business owners for selling comics, various local organizations across the country in charge of their town’s Hysteria Over Hypothetical Threats to Children organizations trying to ban comics and persecute those who worked on them, and bills to censor various comics in various nonsensical ways getting pushed through different levels of State and local government throughout the country. There was also a prolonged series of actual book burnings in which thousands of comics were destroyed.
What’s amazing is that people like Wertham don’t see that censorship and book burnings might not be the most effective reply to fascism, of all things. He also objected to Superman’s method of conflict resolution often being violence, that he punched people, and he thought that Superman was a perfected man, too reminiscent of Hitler’s master race. He overlooked, of course, the fact that Superman was created by Jewish kids, and that, in his early years, often what he was punching were Nazis.
Meanwhile, comics were also accused of teaching kids communism, and then Bill Gaines accused the people objecting to comics of being communists, and then over in the UK their Socialist organizations were trying to ban American comic books on the grounds that they were teaching kids about American capitalism. When you try to indict an entire art form, it’s pretty easy to come up with examples from it that support any argument you care to make.
The result of the hysteria was the Comics Code, and ultimately that’s what really fucked comics. To assuage the fears of wailing mothers over the perversion of their perfect moppet-headed tykes, and also to keep themselves in business, the comics industry got together and decided to censor itself before somebody else could. What they came up with was a more restrictive, draconian system of blanket rules than the Catholics could have come up with. They didn’t just ban certain methods of presentation, they banned entire genres of stories.
Walking dead, vampires, “ghouls,” and “werewolfism” were all prohibited, as were “All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism,” and cannibalism, as well, to combat the rising epidemic of the youth of American cannibalizing one another. The list went on and on, but in case they missed anything they then added: “All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.”
So, basically, what the Code prohibited was, well, *every*thing, should the Code enforcers feel like it.
There was also the particularly disturbing line: “Policemen, judges, government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for authority.” Got that, kids? No disrespect for anybody in authority, ever, no matter what they do. Great way to combat fascism.
The result of the Code was that only certain types of comics could survive. Before all this, comics existed in many genres, horror, crime, romance, sci-fi, war stories, all sorts of things. After the code, those were either marginalized or removed completely for a long while. What was left were superheroes.
At this point in comic book history, in many contexts in America, “comic books” is synonymous with “superheroes.” It drives me insane when people say they’re “comic book” fans, but they don’t know anything about any book that doesn’t involve these few particular anachronistic licensed characters running around in spandex. How did this one particular, weird sub-genre come to be synonymous with an entire art form? For years that was all that could be published. And in those years, many of the other publishers, like EC, faded away, and what was left were the two companies that ended up having the most popular stable of superhero characters: DC and Marvel.
Superheroes were the only comics people could comfortably get away with publishing, and these two companies owned the superheroes. Gradually this led to them having a stranglehold on the entire medium in this country, and when, with less variety of product being offered, business eventually shifted from every newstand in the country into the direct market and specialty shops, DC and Marvel had the clout to sign exclusivity contracts with Diamond, and Diamond became a monopoly. If you want to sell comic books, you have to order through Diamond. DC and Marvel sell the majority of books sold through Diamond, so Diamond does what they want.
So, what have DC and Marvel done, having complete control over the distribution system to every direct market store in the country?
They’ve made more superheroes.
Not new ones, either. They’ve kept milking the same characters they’ve had for decades. They have no incentive to build something new when, short-term, they can make more money off of the things they already have. They could try to expand, they could try to create new characters, they could lay groundwork for a sustainable future when its obvious that their customer base is thinning and aging.
But, nah… Let’s publish more Superman.
So, there you go, Wertham, you hated fascism, and it created mass book burnings in America. You hated Superman, and you made a comic book landscape of almost nothing but Supermen.
Good job, guy.
So I had read before about Scott Adams’ various comments that had got him in hot water over the past few years and had people calling him a misogynist, and then when I went looking for the original blogs and things so that I could quote them in this post, I found this: Douchebag Decree: Scott Adams, Douchetoonist, a blog on the Bitch magazine website in which they hand out Douchebag Decrees to people they deem deserving. Apparently when talking about these people, I’m not the only one for whom the term “douchebag” leaps to mind. As an aside, I love the term “Douchetoonist.”
So, that article has done me the favor of providing me a nice rundown of Adams’ various controversial comments and, especially, documents the doucheitude of his responses to the controversy those comments have caused. It’s all sort of the Orson Scott Card school of saying something horrible, and then going, What? Why are people being mean to me?
Adams explains that people have low reading comprehension and just don’t understand what it was that he said. Except, he said exactly what it is that people think he said, they just don’t appreciate what a hilarious genius he is, obviously.
As a brief rundown, there’s the women are the same as children and the handicapped comment:
“The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner. You don’t punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don’t argue when a women tells you she’s only making 80 cents to your dollar. It’s the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles.”
He got a lot of flack for that one. Can’t imagine why, must be all the low reading comprehension.
And then there’s his repeated obsession with how society makes men feel bad for their “natural instincts.”
“Now consider human males. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in the news. Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior. That seems right. Obviously we shouldn’t blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society’s tools for keeping things under control.
“The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, ‘Here’s your square hole’?”
He doesn’t mention what “natural instincts” of women there are that are comparable to rape but also accepted in society, so how sexual violence is equatable to something that women are allowed to do is one of the many incoherent points he’s trying to make. He also never makes it quite clear what he considers the “natural instincts” of men to involve, but he mentions rape twice and it’s a little baffling how he makes the leap from sexual desire being natural to rape being the same.
He goes on: “The way society is organized at the moment, we have no choice but to blame men for bad behavior. If we allowed men to act like unrestrained horny animals, all hell would break loose. All I’m saying is that society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness. No one planned it that way. Things just drifted in that direction.”
You start to wonder what these urges are that he has unfulfilled, and it becomes a little bit troubling. I’m a gay man, so maybe I don’t understand the torture of temptation poor straight men are subjected to by all these thoughtless ladies leaving their homes and going out into public with their vaginas attached, but as a gay man I can tell you I’m thinking about sex with cute guys pretty much every minute of the day, and society does specifically condemn my “urges,” at least in the some places, like Utah, and I’ve still managed to satisfy quite a lot of them. I’ve never felt particularly forced into a continual stage of “unhappiness” because I haven’t been actually raping dudes to fulfill those urges.
Whatever it is that Adams is thinking about that he can’t do, though, it’s troubling him to the point that this is the solution he forsees:
“Long term, I think science will come up with a drug that keeps men chemically castrated for as long as they are on it. It sounds bad, but I suspect that if a man loses his urge for sex, he also doesn’t miss it. Men and women would also need a second drug that increases oxytocin levels in couples who want to bond. Copulation will become extinct. Men who want to reproduce will stop taking the castration drug for a week, fill a few jars with sperm for artificial insemination, and go back on the castration pill.”
He thinks that men will require chemical castration at some point to make them happy without performing these “urges” all over some poor lady. He also seems to feel he’d need additional medication to want to “bond” with a woman whilst not urging on the bitch. Tell me this dude isn’t troubled. You can read the original blog that the specific quote is from here, since Adams likes to accuse people of misunderstanding his words, I’ll make it easy to read it just how he wrote it for anybody that’s curious. He makes several comments in the post that I think he felt were supposed to be funny, I’m not sure due to my low reading comprehension, but about the chemical castration bit he especially doesn’t seem to be joking.
Then again, it’s hard a lot of times to tell when Adams is joking, which brings me to my second point. My blog, and the Douchebags of Comics cards, are about comics, and I’m making the cards for a variety of reasons, but the primary one is crimes against comics, and Dilbert has never been funny. Like, ever, really.
There’s also the fact that Scott Adams can’t draw, but that’s not necessarily requisite for quality cartoons. The important part is to be able to sell the joke or tell the story, and a comic like Pearls Before Swine by Stephen Pastis, who’s not an especially great illustrator, can still work. I haven’t read Pearls for a few years, because who reads newspaper comics? But I remember it being really good.
Dilbert, on the other hand, always struck me as extraordinarily unfunny. As a little kid, my brother liked Dilbert a lot, and I remember arguing with him, trying to explain to him that, no, he was mistaken, Dilbert wasn’t funny. Of course, you can’t talk somebody into or out of finding a joke funny and Dilbert has its fans, but it struck me as so *un*funny that I remember my brain grappling with it, trying to figure out what the hell somebody could find entertaining about it.
I would probably say Family Circus was less funny, but Family Circus at least is fascinating in this weird meta kind of way. A lot of times, Family Circus didn’t even have jokes. Or observations. Or anything. And you would just kind of stare at it, trying to figure out what it was you were looking at and why it existed. Kind of like a Rob Liefeld drawing. I have to admit, I can stare at a Liefeld drawing a lot longer, in some cases, than a drawing by somebody who can actually draw, because there’s just something fascinating about it. Traffic slows down when it passes a car accident. You can’t *not* look.
Dilbert, on the other hand from Family Circus, makes jokes, they’re just not funny. And Stephen Pastis can’t really draw, but you feel like his characters have this rich emotional life. They’re expressive. Dilbert is kind of a square with squiggles on top.
As a little kid, as a birthday present for my Dilbert-loving brother one year I drew a poster with all the Dilbert characters on it. On that occasion, I owed Scott Adams some gratitude, because the whole poster with 20 or so characters took all of an hour to draw. Conversely, as a little kid I remember trying to draw Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and agonizing over it, because no matter what I did it didn’t look exactly like Calvin. I remember pulling all the pens and markers my mom had together and trying to figure out how to do the beautiful thick-to-thin lines Watterson did, which of course I’ve since figured out he did with brushes. Even aside from the line width, the design of Calvin is very particular. If you move the nose a little bit, or make the chin the wrong shape, he starts to look grotesque. The simplicity of great cartoons is deceptive, because you’re trying to do so much with so few lines. Watterson could do this because he’s a genius. Dilbert, I drew with a sharpie on poster board, and it looked just fine.
Anyway, in the drawing I did of Adams for Douchebags of Comics, I thought the combination of the word rape with the shrugging hand gesture was the best expression I could think of for Adams’ comments on the issue. Like a lot of times when people say horrible things, they kind of shrug it off like, What it’s just common sense. They usually then act like they want a cookie for being “brave” enough to say what they know everybody else is thinking, but only somebody as great as them has the courage to come out and say. Adams’ plays it off as all being very minor, and he uses the word “rape” twice, the rest of the time he talks about “urges” that society won’t allow men to act on. If not rape, what other “urges” is he going on about? Something worse?
Adams is a creepy little dude.
I’ve started posting work and work-in-progress as I go to my Tumblr page, so if you’re curious check that out. I’m posting pencils of pieces and things, and pieces that won’t go up on this website yet for a while because they don’t fit into the storyline yet. I’m still trying to keep things on this website in a somewhat logical order, so odds and ends that don’t fit can go there.
I’m also working on a commissioned story, pretty pornographic, that will involve a cute boy handcuffed to a bed and whatnot, and I’ll be posting that there, in various stages as I go, as well :) As always, you can also Like the Facebook page for my comics to get immediate updates on what’s going on, and you can follow my Twitter, which both my Tumblr and my Facebook feed into. In the meantime, I’m still fighting that uphill struggle to keep this website updating on a some what regular schedule, Monday/ Wednesday/ Friday, as though its run by a grownup, and we’ll see how long this current spate of posts last. Whether the posts stick exactly to schedule or not, I’m working on so, so many things that there should always be various news about one project or another coming from one of those sources.
Thanks so much to everybody that’s followed me over the last few years, and welcome to new people. If you like what you see, reblog, reTweet, and tell people, because the patience of those that have watched my struggle to find my footing as an artist, I think, is going to be paying off soon. And if you’re new, or a long time reader who hasn’t seen it yet, my first book collection is out and available from Northwest Press, and it looks beautiful and has all the comics you will need to be up to date and start following the current storylines I’m working on. Thanks again, everybody!
The problem with doing a card of Dan DiDio is that it’s difficult to say how much exactly of what has been objectionable at DC comics during his tenure has actually been his fault.
It’s impossible to say, really, how much of the Watchmen prequels is actually his decision, and how much of it is financial pressure from the corporate entities involved. When things go wrong, whoever’s in charge gets blamed, and I’m sure it’s all much more nuanced than people on the outside can actually see. There’s the problem, too, of the fact that a certain aspect of fan culture will go apeshit over any kind of change, when really the lack of change is what I’d consider to be the major problem at DC and Marvel. From reading certain messageboards, you’d think that Dan DiDio is the Antichrist because something was changed about some character’s costume when he was editor in chief, whether he was actually involved in the costume change or not, and now five fans have devoted their time to messageboard tantrums on the subject. Those fans are as much the problem as anybody working at the companies.
However, there’s been plenty that’s been genuinely objectionable, and also plenty of reasons to believe that DiDio is pretty hands-on with these things. A few years ago I had an editor that’s worked at DC on some pretty major titles tell me personally at a convention that, when they got a script they really liked from a writer, there was a sentiment of, “Hope Dan doesn’t fuck this up too much before it sees print.”
Doing this portrait, I realized that the word “Iconic” was a nice summation of my major problems with the attitudes of DC and Marvel recently. It was starting to drive me crazy that they used the word “iconic” for every fucking thing in interviews, and I was trying to figure out what exactly they thought the word “iconic” was supposed to mean. In interviews with people at those companies, the word “iconic” had become like the word “literally” when idiots use it, they just shove it into any fucking place in a sentence and think it’s supposed to mean whatever their inflection indicates it means.
“Iconic,” I would think, would refer to something that’s deeply meaningful to people, and recognizable, and carries with it an intense set of associations. What I realized “Iconic” means at DC and Marvel is, “Anything that’s been in enough comics that it’s possibly IP that we can exploit further.”
Dan DiDio would have got a card from me, anyway, because with my set of cards spending so much time commenting on the state of modern, mainstream comics, I couldn’t very well have so many problems with DC and not make a card of the guy that’s been running the show for most of the last decade or so. His comments about the Watchmen prequels, though, would have put him over the top for me if I had any doubt about whether or not he was card-worthy.
DiDio on the Watchmen prequels: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”
The whole reason Watchmen has a unique place in superhero history is that it’s an actual, honest-to-gosh novel, with a purpose, and a beginning, middle, and end. The reason there aren’t more books like Watchmen is because DC and Marvel don’t understand the difference between making something like that and creating IP that can be spun off into continuing franchises. They don’t really understand that there’s a difference in the results when art is created for personal expression, and when it’s created for t-shirt sales. Recycling is just as good as creating. Better, really, because then you don’t have bitches like this Alan Moore character with some personal connection to the work muddying up the issue. When people make sausages at a factory, they don’t get worked up over what sort of sandwiches those sausages are eventually used on. Better if the artists they employ understand their place as cog polishers, rather than thinking they’re clock makers.
The fact that DiDio has referred to Watchmen prequels as being their attempt at being bold and creative shows that he doesn’t really have much of a concept of what creativity actually is. Creativity typically involves creation.
There are the rumors that DiDio has said that he considered Countdown to be 52 done right. The difference is that Countdown is a shit book, but you can see what he means, because 52 achieved its goal of moving around and positioning various characters so that they would be visible at time times when they tied into other comics, and thus serve their purpose as cross-promotion. 52, on the other hand, told a story.
When 52 came out, it was supposed to bridge the gap in DC’s “One Year Later” gimmick, in which, after Infinite Crisis, all of DC’s books jumped ahead a year, and there was a mystery created about what had taken place in that gap. At the time, I actually thought this was an exciting notion. You open the new Batman, and Harvey Bollock is back, and Harvey Dent is Gotham’s protector, and you’re wondering, Ooh, how on earth did that happen? Structurally, it’s a clever idea for a mystery. Then, these things were supposed to unfold within the storyline of 52, with, one would hope, exciting and surprising answers.
Then 52 proceeded to answer none of those questions.
Removed from the One Year Later equation, though, 52 actually told a great story, almost self-contained, about some minor characters that didn’t have much to do with the One Year Later mysteries. 52 had some great writers working on it, and they managed to make something. Grant Morrison, as near as I can tell, is one of the few people at DC that just does exactly what he wants. This is what, for me, makes his comics readable. If 52 had been synchronized to tell the stories of the One Year Later mysteries, we can assume, with the level of skill at orchestration that the management of DC has, that it would have ended up something like Countdown, which was unreadable.
This is the difference between what happens when artists are allowed to tell stories, and when they’re hired as trained monkeys to entertain, to fill in continuity gaps between one piece of IP and another. 52 showed me that, when they do a big gimmick like One Year Later, you’re a fool to believe that they actually have something up their sleeve. To find anything decent coming out of DC, you have to follow the artists that are able to slip their own personal vision through the cracks.
There’s this documentary I love called A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies. In that, there’s a segment called The Director as Smuggler, in which he talks about how, to create something personal or of value within the Hollywood system, artists often had to smuggle in their own agendas, talk in a sort of code, and operate primarily in subtext. This is what I see Grant Morrison as doing, he makes just enough nods toward what is required of him so that he’s still able to play with the toys he wants, like Batman, but if you read his stories they’re about everything Grant Morrison cares about, from his nutty views about spirituality, to drug use, and so on. The fact that he does this on these major icons makes him all the more entertaining to me.
But Watchmen was Watchmen. It’s one of the only times in DC and Marvel history that something was made without all those fetters. People make a big deal about how it was originally meant to contain the Charlton characters, and then Morrison changed them to analogs so that he could do things in the story that DC wouldn’t let him do with those characters. They make this out as though it’s an indication that Moore isn’t as creative as he’s given credit for, since the characters were originally inspired by pre-existing creations, but that misses the entire point which is that Watchmen became Watchmen when it was removed from the constraints that would have existed had it been using characters like that. Now, DC doesn’t see any difference between those characters that Moore created and the Charlton characters that inspired them. It’s all just grist, it’s raw material for more garbage.
So, I guess my point is, who knows how many bad decisions at DC over the last decade were actually initiated by Dan DiDio (I’d guess a good number of them, but not all), but what’s more significant is that the *good* decisions didn’t happen because of him, or the corporate structure of IP propagation that he works for, but rather in spite of him.
Oh, J. Michael Straczynski, what can I say about JMS that hasn’t already been said by poets and balladeers? The man, the myth, the goatee. Whatever I say about him, it’s not likely to upset him much, since he doesn’t like me any more than I like him, he’s already blocked me on Twitter.
The funny thing about that was that what he blocked me over wasn’t actually me making fun of him. What I was saying was that he has a thin skin and he should be able to laugh off criticism. To prove, I guess, that he doesn’t have a thin skin, he immediately blocks anybody who says anything he doesn’t like.
What I was responding to was a little bit of a smackdown that had developed between JMS and writer Tim Marchman, who, in an article about the state of modern superhero comics, took on several people involved in mainstream comics, and about JMS specifically said, “The first issues of Before Watchmen will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.)”
Maybe it was a low blow, but it was phrased humorously and I think that he was spot on in the difference between something that, completely successful or not, purports to be serious literature like Watchmen, and the general mill of chum for prequels and sequels and spin-offs and lunchpails that DC and Marvel are actually in the business of producing. The occasional things that slip through the cracks with some level of realized ambition behind them are the exceptions, not the rule.
People have said worse things about my comics, and generally I just pity them for their lack of ability to understand the sublime virtuosity of my masterpieces. I haven’t felt the need to start calling them names, which is where JMS went pretty quickly when responding to this Tim Marchman guy: “Your behavior was dickish. I became a better writer after He-Man. You will always be a dick.”
If JMS had become a better writer, he might know that sloppily paraphrasing the most over-quoted witticism that Winston Churchill ever slurred through brandy breath might not be the most effective way of trying to prove how superior your sassy jibes are.
JMS took issue with the He-Man comment. I wouldn’t like people mentioning it either if I had written He-Man. JMS said, “You had to go back to 1984 to insult me? Really?”
Well, alright J., let’s talk about things you’ve written since then.
There was the brilliant double punch in which he did drastic relaunches on Wonder Woman and Superman a couple of years ago, and managed to do two of the biggest clusterfucks in recent comic book memory simultaneously. For Wonder Woman, JMS decided to erase her entire history in favor of making her a street-level heroine wearing a leather jacket with Jim Lee-designed shoulder pads. Then on Superman, he thought, wouldn’t it be great if we took everything that’s remotely interesting about Superman and instead, we had him *walk*? Like, for a bunch of issues? Wouldn’t that be awesome?
When both storylines proved within issues to be historic failures, rather than doing something to fix them JMS bounced from the titles mid-storyline and let other people deal with it. Just as well, his fix might have been to have Wonder Woman dive deeper still into Blossom’s wardrobe.
He correctly pointed out, though, that you can’t really blame him for the Spider-man marriage-erasing Mephisto debacle, as he’s made it clear since that that was an editorial decision, and he left the series during it.
Alright, then, so let’s look at the *rest* of his run on Spider-man.
There was the whole “The Other” storyline, which saw Spider-man’s origin redone into some bizarre thing where he was a totem for some kind of spider-god or something. A willful, complicated extended effort to remove the kind of retro sci-fi vibe of the Spider-man origin and replace it with, I’m not sure what exactly. I read the whole storyline, too, and I really have no idea what any of this bullshit was all about.
Then we have the “Sins Past” incident. Gwen Stacy’s death has been one of the only major events in the life of a mainstream superhero that’s been held somewhat sacred and hasn’t been fucked with. Maybe the only one. At least, it was. JMS thought it would be a bright idea to retroactively add a whole mess of stuff about the original Green Goblin, Norman Osbourn, having been fucking Gwen Stacy at the time, adding a weird pedophile thing and some strange layers with one of Spider-man’s classic villains and the dad of his best friend fucking one of the major loves of his life. Then JMS, having grown so much as a writer since He-Man, also added some weird shit about Gwen’s kids fathered by Norman having growth acceleration or somesuch so that they could be part of the current storyline.
I mean, I’m not one of those anal retentive fans that gets all up in arms any time that something about a character is changed. Personally I think that the obsession with having everything in superhero comics be in continuity with everything else is pointless, and the noose that DC and Marvel have built to hang themselves, and it’s just been gradually tightening for decades as the weight of all the baggage they turn out pulls on it more and more.
BUT on what planet is any of that shit in the storylines I mentioned above possibly a good idea?
And there was the 9/11 issue. Now, this one is hard to criticize, because it was undoubtedly done with sincerity, and many of the people involved were New Yorkers at the time of the attacks. But we’re talking about JMS’s skills as a writer here, and the whole thing, whatever the intentions were, just comes off as so mawkish and inappropriate that it took me about an hour to scrape my chin off the floor after I read it.
Putting superheroes at ground zero. Bad idea. The Fantastic Four have stopped how many alien armadas, and in the Marvel Universe New York is overrun with superhero types, but nobody could stop a plane? And in the big battles with supervillians these characters routinely engage in buildings are knocked over continuously for the sake of a cool panel where you get to see a building get blown up, and no mention is ever made of who was inside it. So to try to use these characters to state the importance of those two buildings coming down is just radically awkward and frivolous.
Then there was the Doctor Doom panel. Upon witnessing the devastation, Doctor Doom, of all fucking people, wells up in tears.
There’s no way to overstate just how stupid this is. This is Doctor Doom, he’s a supervillian, he’s tried to take over the world how many times? Doctor Doom is a cold sociopath, and he generally doesn’t seem to have an objection to war, violence, or mass murder. But, when the murder is committed by Muslims, that’s a two-hankie kind of night in Latveria for Doom.
So, you know, I don’t think we *quite* need to go back to 1984 to find something JMS has written that’s less than stellar.
The Watchmen prequels in question are the main reason I wanted to do a Douchebags of Comics card of JMS, though. Not just because he’s working on the prequels, although that alone makes him a scab in my opinion and means that I don’t think he has a proper respect for creators’ rights. The real reason is because, out of all the artists working on the Watchmen prequels, he’s the one that’s repeatedly gone out of his way to slag off Alan Moore and say that the guy who made the thing doesn’t have any right to his opinion on what they’re doing with it.
JMS: “It should be pointed out that Alan has spent most of the last decade writing very good stories about characters created by other writers, including Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Dorothy (from Wizard of Oz), Wendy (from Peter Pan), as well as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jeyll and Hyde, and Professor Moriarty (used in the successful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). I think one loses a little of the moral high ground to say, ‘I can write characters created by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Frank Baum, but it’s wrong for anyone else to write my characters.’ ”
Let’s leave aside for a moment the obvious fact that Alan Moore using old public domain characters in an Alan Moore storyline is completely different than making a prequel to a novel by a living author, against that author’s wishes. It’s different morally, legally, and creatively a prequel or continuation is an entirely different exercise than using an element of another author’s work within a creation of your own.
I think JMS is perfectly aware of that distinction, but his aim is to try to show Moore to be a hypocrite for people who might not be that informed about the controversy and would be assuaged by JMS’s comments. What’s absolutely mind-boggling to me is somebody going on about an author losing the “moral high ground” while they’re cashing paychecks to use that author’s work against his wishes.
The other creators involved in the Watchmen prequels have, more or less, regardless of whether they really feel respect for Moore or not, gone out of their way to at least feign respect and say, well I’m sorry he objects but we have the deepest respect for him- and then whatever rationalization they’re using. I mean, if you’re raping the guy, at least tell him it’s because of how pretty he looks in that dress or something.
And JMS hasn’t just said one or two comments about Moore’s stance on the prequels, he’s repeatedly felt the need to, at great length, dismantle Moore’s position and, of course, each time he’s done it he’s willfully ignored pertinent parts of Moore’s position to make his own responses seem much more cut and dry than they are at all. There’s a good round-up of some of the things JMS has said about it at Comics Alliance, but he’s said quite a bit more. Out of all the creators involved in the Watchmen prequels, he’s the one that’s really needed to tell the world why he thinks he’s right about what should be done with these characters, and the guy who created the characters doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
There’s something strangely brittle about JMS. Dude’s not big on, agree to disagree. Which is why I think it’s funny that his response to some guy he’s probably never heard of before telling him on Twitter that he doesn’t take criticism well is to immediately block that guy.
The I’m a Seven thing in the drawing I did is a reference to something I’ve seen JMS say a few times, the most recent one being on this panel here. When talking about criticisms of his work, he’s fond of saying that he’s always striving to improve, and that he’d like his work, on a scale of 1 to 10, to be an 8 or a 9, but he feels like most of his work is a 7.
It’s just kind of an odd thing to say that I’ve puzzled over, and since I see JMS as being so defensive and having so little of a sense of humor about himself, I knew I didn’t want to draw him smiling or doing something goofy like some of the other portraits in Douchebags of Comics, but rather I wanted to draw him drawn up, dressed well and chest puffed out, thinking he looks very dignified, and then having him say he’s a 7 when taking himself very seriously just seemed funny to me.
I would assume calling himself a 7 is meant to be his way of being humble, but really, on a scale of 1 to 10, if 10 is perfection, a 7 is a pretty high rating to give yourself. And then, on the other hand, when you’re being paid to write licensed characters and whatnot, the response of most people is to say they did as well as they could, not to say, I felt it was a 7, but eh, I sent it out anyway.
It’s just an odd, odd way to view your own work, but even more so, it’s an odd way to talk about it. Which is how I feel about most of the things that JMS says.
Todd McFarlane could get a Douchebags of Comics card just for the whole backwards peace sign thing. When I started looking for pictures of him to use to draw a portrait, I found this one and knew I wanted to do the peace sign thing:
I loved the hand gesture, but I didn’t think it was a very good picture of Todd for what I was doing. I found this other picture:
And the face on there seemed to be a much better Todd face.
Then I went looking for some photos of people doing the backwards peace sign thing that I could use to draw Todd’s hands, and immediately I found this:
A List of “69 Ways to Know You’re a Douchebag,” which includes useage of the backwards peace sign as number 45 on its list of sure signs of douche.
Then right after I found that, I found: The Etymology of Human Male Non-Verbal Communications (or, Why Men Fist-Bump), which said of the backwards peace sign: “This says ‘I’m a douche.’ There are NO exceptions.”
So, the backwards peace sign says douche to people. I wasn’t even Googling “douche,” I was googling “backwards peace sign” and phrases like that, but it seems the two are synonymous.
Then there are the flames on Todd’s shirt, the sunglasses on his head, etc. It’s sort of a perfect storm of doucheitude. I took the shirt and necklace I drew on Todd from another picture of him, as the flames wouldn’t have been very visible on the drawing I did and Todd does love him some necklaces, for whatever reason. Mostly the type of necklaces they would have sold at PacSun in the mid 90′s.
When I wrote about Rob Liefeld for the Douchebags of Comics series, I said something about mentally deficient man children taking over the comics world. This was the brief moment that happened at the end of the 80′s, the beginning of the 90′s, when for a short while there, it seemed like comics could be awesome, and instead they were taken over by bullshit. All in a few years DC published Dark Knight and Watchmen, the Vertigo sorts of titles were starting to come into their own, Sandman was happening, Dave Sim, as crazy as he eventually became, was doing some pretty impressive things over in Cerebus. For a brief, shining moment it seemed like mainstream comics were going to start hiring, for writers, people who could write.
And something went terribly wrong. Pretty soon, with the interest in comics peaking, the companies smelled money and, being idiots, they thought that the way to get that money was through chromium covers. The fans aren’t blameless, because they bought this shit. They bought a lot of it. The trend of actually being interested in people like Alan Moore and Frank Miller who made the comics led to the trend of superstar artists, which in theory should be a good thing. It should be a good thing that people care about the artist whose work they’re reading, and would rather read the next book by an artist they love than just read whatever next book features the same costumed character they’ve been following since they were 10.
The problem was that people are stupid. The superstar artists became the flashiest and crummiest of the people drawing at the time, and pretty soon the economics of the situation were dictated by people who could look at a Rob Liefeld drawing and not see anything wrong with it. The people who should not have a say in the direction of art, in other words.
Todd McFarlane was not the worst of these artists. He could kind of draw, when it came to certain things. For some weird reason, since most of the pin-up type artists specialize in the sexy ladies, Todd had a really hard time drawing women. I remember being a little kid, at which point I really wasn’t all that discerning about the art I looked at, and still staring at the Mary Jane panels in Todd’s Torment storyline and trying to figure out just what was wrong with her face. There was something disturbing about it.
But Todd could draw a hella cool cape, and 10 year old me loves him some hella cool capes. Thus, I loved Spawn. It’s silly junk, but Todd draws silly junk with a certain flair, and if you’re a little kid and that’s what you want, I don’t begrudge you. When you’re 40, that’s a different conversation, but we all have guilty pleasures.
My real reason I hold a grudge against Todd is more personal. Todd taught me about selling out.
When this group of man children were the superstars of comics, they had the clout to leave Marvel and DC and start their own company, and do whatever they wanted with it. Todd McFarlane had this moment where he was now able, for the rest of his life, to draw anything he wanted whenever he wanted, and he had enough fans that he would become obscenely wealthy doing it. Any artist, ever, would kill for that chance.
Todd wrote Spawn himself until about issue 7 before bringing in new writers. He drew it until issue 15 before hiring new artists. Basically, Todd, in an astonishingly short amount of time, became a work-for-hire employer, exactly like what he had just left at Marvel. And the type of work for hire employer that was pretty soon getting sued by Neil Gaiman, who he hired to write for him, over accusations of unfair compensation for his creations. Todd didn’t stick it to the man, Todd became the man.
Still, if he didn’t care much about drawing and what he wanted to be was a work for hire employer, that’s fine too, I guess, although it seems spiteful to the rest of artists who would kill for those chances to have them and not really use them.
I really took it personally as a kid, though. When I started reading Spawn, I read the letters pages, and I still remember in those early issues Todd talking about how the artists who make the comics should own their own creations, and that the people making the comics should be the ones who own them. Yeah, thought 10 year old me, why shouldn’t they?! I found Todd McFarlane inspiring.
At the time, even young me was old enough to be getting fed up with Marvel and DC. Around then the Clone Saga was happening in Spider-man, and my young mind was struggling with the concept that they really didn’t have any kind of decent plan for this thing, as was becoming increasingly obvious as it ground on. They were just gonna keep pumping this shit out until people stopped buying it, and then they’d put Carnage or Venom on a cover and people would buy it again. At that age, I still had a kind of trust that if artists were working on this story and selling it to me, they must have some vague notion of what they were doing. I was really struggling with the idea that they didn’t, and I was being introduced to the concept of editorial control and how much the artists could be fucked with by the people trying to synchronize the business end of these things.
Mainstream comics at the time were by committee, and a storyline like the Clone Saga had to run through all the Spider-man titles, so that there would be a new installment out every week so that if you wanted to follow it you had to come back to the store. So, even if the guy doing Spectacular Spider-man, say, tried to write a decent chapter, the next chapter was written by the dude doing Amazing Spider-man or whatever. They talked, of course, but the things were on such a ridiculous schedule that they didn’t talk much, and they couldn’t revise much, and even when they did have a plan, editorial or somebody on the business end of things would come in and say, we haven’t used Green Goblin in a while, he has to be in this issue! Or whatever.
What, Green Goblin? He has nothing to do with the story.
Fuck you, artist dude, you’re writing funny books.
That’s basically how the “creative” process on these things breaks down, and it hasn’t changed much.
So at the time I was learning a lot about the harsh realities of art versus commerce, and then here was Todd beating the creator-owned drum.
Great, I thought! Awesome!
Except that he wasn’t really using creator owned comics as a creative strategy. He was actually using the creator-owned flag as a selling-point, a way of branding superstar artists, and then hiring other artists. He was using what I thought of as the artistic future as a business strategy.
That’s a betrayal I never quite got over.
I just took the whole idea very seriously at the time. I also remember him going on about storylines being endlessly dragged on, and that he thought that Spawn would run for a finite time, and when the story was done he would stop the series. I think I remember him saying 75 issues at the time. Spawn is now well past the 200 issue mark. Recently, Todd has said that he’d like Spawn to get past the 300 issue mark to beat Dave Sim’s 300 issue run on Cerebus. The difference is that Dave Sim, with Gerhard, actually drew those comics.
At the time, when Todd said 75 issues, I remember being really excited by the idea. Imagine, a comic book story with an actual beginning, middle and an end! I remember back at the time, Spawn had this little power counter bar that would get smaller when he used magic or whatever it was he did. It wasn’t great storytelling, but it made you feel like it was going somewhere. It was exciting to think that this might have a plan, and something big it was building up to.
I’ve always loved comics, but sometimes loving mainstream comics is a lot of work. Imagine if Agatha Christie was telling a mystery story, and then instead of dropping clues, she starts introducing new characters 50 chapters in, and then she spends a bunch of issues on Mary Jane being pregnant and then decides to forget about it and has some deus ex machina erase the pregnancy, and then sales slip so she has Wolverine show up for no reason to do a team-up with Miss Marple, and then about three years later she gets angry messageboard comments from fans because of the fact that she never resolved the mystery, and at this point she doesn’t care anymore, so she says that Mephisto did it.
That’s how DC and Marvel tell stories.
So Todd, maybe you didn’t mean to hurt me, but you did. For a minute there, 10 year old me thought that Todd McFarlane was what was gonna be different than all that. Maybe it’s 10 year old me’s fault, because 10 year old me was kind of stupid, but even now I can’t help but feel that comics- even mainstream ones whose main attributes are hella cool capes- can be so much more than that.
The word Bravura in the picture. I started this thing with Frank Miller where I had him pointing and saying “Schmucks” which was a reference to his blog about the Occupy movement, and so now I’m trying to come up with a word or phrase that represents the people in each picture for me.
When I saw Todd at Image Expo, he was on the panel of the Image Founders, and one of the many long, rambling stories he told was about how some comics writers a while ago tried to start an independent comics company and used the name Bravura. He scoffed over the name, and said it was the kind of name writers would come up with, because writers like fancy words like that. Were Todd to have the vocabulary of a bright Middle School student, he would know that “bravura” isn’t an especially difficult word, and I think he would actually like the word.
I think the word “bravura” is a really good one for how Todd sees himself. He likes to be the center of attention at panels, or wherever, and he thinks that people are hanging on his every word, even when he’s interrupting other panelists so that he can tell stories about the early days of Image that every comics fan has already heard 100 times. Todd sees himself as a go-getting, and a big, determined larger than life personality that gets his way in the world. I thought having him say the word bravura in the picture was fitting, because Todd has lots of bravura. I just wish sometimes he’d use it for something more constructive.
I actually didn’t write this joke in response to the breakup of this last week, I wrote it probably over four years ago now and I always meant to draw it, but for whatever reason I didn’t. I have a lot of old jokes that I just haven’t gotten around to yet, but for some reason this one kept occurring to me, maybe because I’ve dated so many douchebags that it always seemed relevant. At this point, I wrote it so long ago that I couldn’t even tell if it was funny anymore, but it feels good to get it out of my system. When I wrote it, I had some other name in there in place of Kim Kardashian, and I don’t really know anything about Kim Kardashian since I have better things to do with my time, but it’s a cheap joke and the joke is just to name somebody who’s famous for having a million relationships and who the world would be better off if they never reproduced, so she seemed like the person of the moment to fit that role. Whoever I was thinking of mentioning four years ago, people probably wouldn’t even recognize their name anymore, those people come and go.
I also don’t know how many people would actually get the whole Johnny Carson Carnac thing, but I thought it was funny. One thing my mom definitely instilled in me was a love of older actors and comedians than somebody of my generation might normally like, and when I was little we had a VHS box set of Johnny Carson’s favorite moments that I watched and I thought was hilarious. I don’t know why the Carnac bits stuck with me, since the topical humor in them probably went right over my head, but I think it’s because it’s just such a great structure for a joke, the setup and then you say something slightly unpredictable, and it’s a good passive-aggressive way of saying something snarky, because of course you’re the one saying the joke, but you just say something generic at first and then you read the part that makes it snarky off of a card, so it’s kind of like a hey, I’m just reading this card thing. It’s a great structure for a bit. I don’t know if I actually wrote a good one here, but it made me smile, so that’s the what I’m going off of.
The parts of jokes I do that I’m most proud of are usually the little things that nobody probably notices. What I was proud of on this was including the little bit Carson would do of tearing the envelope and blowing in it. No idea why he did that, but it was part of the little ritual of the bit, so I would have felt remiss not including it, and it made the comic fit the four panel structure perfectly. The hardest part of drawing the whole thing was actually making the rabbit’s face look like he was blowing into the envelope in the third panel, and I’m still not sure I did it well. The rabbit’s face is designed to be very plain, so there are certain expressions and poses that just aren’t natural for him. But I wanted him to do that. If you’re curious why the comics take so long sometimes, these are the things I agonize over :P