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.
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.
So, I’ve been talking about making around 50 Douchebags of Comics cards, because I was thinking that was about the right size to make a tradable, collectible set, and then I realized that with two more cards I would have 52 cards, which would be perfect to also make a deck of playing cards of the set, maybe as a bonus or something after it’s all finished. 52 is also a good number because it affords me ample opportunities to make fun of DC’s New 52 initiative.
So, now that’s what I’m working toward, a list of 52 people to make cards of. I’ve continued to receive suggestions from people, and I’m open to more still. Below is a list of, not everybody, but a lot of the people I’m going to be making portraits of soon, and a partial list of people who I’m seriously considering, but haven’t decided yet whether they will receive a card or not.
Already have illustrations for cards:
Orson Scott Card
Definitely receiving cards:
J. Michael Straczynski
Doing a card of Wertham seems funny, and he obviously deserves it, but I’m undecided because the main thrust of the cards is people who are actually involved in the comics industry from the inside and are messing it up that way, and of course he never made comics, he just attacked them.
I might do a few portraits of Dave Sim, since he’s had so many people suggest him for a card. If I do a set of playing cards also, if I have four portraits of Dave Sim, I can use one for each of the kings, and he can enjoy his throne as king of the Douchebags, a spot he’s worked a long time to secure.
I think I’m gonna be doing a Kickstarter to pay for printing up the cards, and I’m going to be giving away the original art for my portraits of the Doucebags as incentives for people who give enough money. There are actually lots of incentives I’ve thought of as possibilities for this. If I do 52 portraits, that’s 52 pieces of original art I can give away to people, and I was thinking I could also do an original portrait for the person who gives the most, maybe a portrait of a Douchebag of their choice, or even a portrait of them if they wanted. For people who give less, there are a lot of other things I can give, including, obvious, a complete set of the cards, or a trading card deck of them, depending on how many different ways I go about producing this.
And of course, for one of the big incentives, I can give away the portrait I did of Rob Liefeld, complete with Liefeld’s signature on it. If you didn’t read my blog yesterday, check it out, I talk a lot about this, and specifically about meeting Liefeld this weekend at Image Expo and talking to him about the portrait I did of him. He was a total good sport about the whole thing, and wrote Spicket! on the portrait for me.
So, let me know if those incentives sound good to you, or if you have any ideas for others that would be good, and also keep letting me know your suggestions for Douchebags! I’m gonna start working on the video for the Kickstarter soon, and also probably working on my portrait of Jim Davis, who I think will be getting a card next.
Next up, a character guide entry for Capitalist Pig will be posted tomorrow, a new strip later this week, and I’m hoping to post the cover for Damaged Goods and start post comics from it around the middle of next week.
One thing I really have to give to Rob Liefeld, he definitely knows how to deal with people reacting to his work.
This last Friday, he retweeted a tweet I had made about him and Todd McFarlane, in which I sort of called them both douches. I didn’t know what to make of him retweeting it, if he was pissed about it or something, and I tweeted my confusion. Should you like to read all this or follow my further Twitter adventures, by the way, here’s the link: http://twitter.com/bloodoftheland . Instead of being pissed, he replied that he thought my tweet was funny, and then also went on to say that he had seen the drawing I did of him for my Douchebags of Comics trading card series, and he liked that, too.
Basically, he was being totally cool about it, completely capable of laughing at himself. It was almost enough to make me feel bad about the whole thing. Almost, but not quite. Considering that he was being so cool about it and that I was going to Image Expo this weekend, I thought it would be pretty hilarious if I got him to sign the drawing I had done of him, so I brought it with me to try.
Rob was one of the only ones of the Image original founders doing a solo signing by himself early in the day, that I saw anyway, and he was being completely approachable, nice and chatty with the people coming up to him, and willing to sign about as many books as people brought. I know that because the people in front of us in line had an entire backpack full of older things they wanted signed, including some old issues of Wizard magazine still kept pristinely in their original polybags. I was getting irritated at them in line, just watching them assemble the giant stack of stuff they were going to ask for signatures on, but when they handed it to Rob he didn’t bat an eye about it.
I gave him the drawing I had done of him, and told him who I was, and I told him he could deface it, draw on it, write whatever he wanted. I figured I’d at least give him the chance to talk back about it. Instead, he wrote that it was funny, and also wrote “Spicket!” on there for me himself.
I also, before going up to him, found a table that sold me a copy of Hawk and Dove issue #1, because I felt that it might be really rude to ask Liefeld to sign something I had drawn, but not ask him to sign anything he had actually drawn himself. I’m not sure if that would be more or less rude than asking him to sign a portrait of him that I had done for a series of cards called Douchebags of Comics, but I figured at least I wouldn’t be piling one rudeness onto another.
Liefeld signed the Hawk and Dove comic for me, too, and didn’t seem remotely phased by any of it.
Actually, in addition to signing the comics, he talked to me for several minutes, was complimentary toward my drawing, and said that he had read the blog I’d done attached to it. That last part kind of took me back for a second, because I had been kind of hoping that he had just seen the picture and not read the blog I had done with it.
In that blog, I *might have*, among other things, said that Liefeld looked like a, “mentally handicapped circus clown.” I think I have a pretty good sense of humor about myself, and a pretty strong level of confidence in my abilities, but if somebody said all that stuff about me, I might have been somewhat miffed, or, if the remarks came from another person who works in my field, at least tempted to make a return shot about their own artistic output. Liefeld, on the other hand, told me that he thought I was talented.
So, Liefeld’s earned major points from me this weekend. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t say what I said in my blog, but I think I made it pretty clear in that blog that my Douchebags of Comics card series will include different sorts of douchebags, and I said there that I don’t think Liefeld is a bad person, and I don’t think he’s insane like Dave Sim, or evil like Orson Scott Card, I just don’t like his art. Specifically, I think that the flashy sort of 90′s style comics art, which is what Liefeld is known for, and the industry that decides it would rather produce that sort of art than other kinds, is a big obstacle for the kinds of comics that I would like to see being made. That said, Liefeld wins this round, because he completely understood the parts of me doing these cards that are supposed to be funny, and also understood the parts of my opinions that he doesn’t agree with and let them roll off his back.
As for the Douchebags of Comics cards in general, this experience actually totally reaffirmed my feelings that I’m doing them right. Liefeld took what I said and didn’t want to make a battle about it, and he took it how I meant it. It also made me extremely aware of what I knew before, which is that the world of comics is a small place. If you throw a pebble into that pond, somebody will notice the ripples. So that made me extra determined that, if I’m going to make a card of somebody, I should know what the fuck I’m talking about and be able to defend it. To that end, I’ve been reading a lot of Dave Sim this weekend and, oh man… Talk about a whole different level of douche. That’s gonna have to be saved for another blog, or maybe a few of them.
To print the cards up, I’m thinking of doing a Kickstarter, and giving away the original drawings I’m doing for the series as rewards for people who give money. I’m gonna be posting more details about that in the next few days, as I work on them. I think the portrait I did of Rob Liefeld, complete with his signature on it, is gonna be a great prize to give to one of the people who give the most to the Kickstarter. If you’re curious about getting original art from the series, or about the other rewards I’m planning to give, keep checking back and I’ll be posting more info about it as it develops!
Orson Scott Card is what I’d consider to be a deeply mentally ill person. In addition to other things, for decades now, he’s continually spouted off in a jaw-droppingly rabid fashion about just how much he doesn’t like gay people. It takes a special kind of crazy to get that worked up over something that, theoretically, has no effect on your life whatsoever.
The first one was his big vomiting up of crazy in 1990 about how gay sex should stay illegal, among other things:
“Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books…to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens.”
That’s right, not only does he think that “homosexual behavior” should be illegal, he doesn’t think that gay people should even be considered equal citizens. Which explains his views on gay marriage a bit. Personally, I’d venture the opinion that the ones who shouldn’t be permitted to remain a part of society are the people so seething with bigotry and ignorance that they find it difficult to cohabitate the planet in proximity to anybody who isn’t like them, even when those people are doing nothing that in any way affects them.
But that wasn’t it, not nearly. That was Orson Scott Card around 20 years ago, and he’s continued to drift from reality.
Of course, when you’re a mentally ill person, reality seems pretty relative. In his big 2004 essay on the subject , because I guess Card felt that people were lying awake at night wondering just what the fucktard was thinking about gay people now, he makes labored, poor analogies using Alice in Wonderland to talk about how the gay agenda is pulling society into a rabbit hole where the reality of marriage, as he sees it, is being distorted. That’s right, we’re being pulling into some terrifying, strange alternate reality in which everybody has equal civil rights and consenting adults whose actions have no effect on your life can do as they choose. Sounds pretty harrowing, doesn’t it?
Then there was the big one, Card’s 2008 explosion of retardation in which he actually suggests the overthrow of the Government if Prop 8 was struck down. No, really:
“How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.”
I can’t link to the original version of that essay because, as near as I can tell, it’s been taken down, but the salient details have largely circled the web and you can find them any number of places. There are lengthy excerpts on this blog here and also a good editorial on it with more quotes here .
It speaks a great deal to his character that Orson Scott Card would feel strongly enough about something that his delusional mind would start talking about overthrowing the Government, but then allow the article to be removed when the fallout from his bigotry becomes too great. He’s not just a bigot, he’s a slimy, lying, cowardly bigot, who time and again has gone on these long screeds, and then immediately played the victim card and said he was being mischaracterized, and that the evil Liberals were out to get him.
The 1990 rant, for example, he has since characterized as actually being pro-gay, I guess because he wasn’t actually proposing mass extermination. If you want to read his verbal gymnastics trying to explain how a rant in which he talks about how gay people shouldn’t be considered citizens is actually pro-gay, it’s above the essay itself at the link I provided above.
He goes further than just claiming his comments have been mischaracterized, which they haven’t, and, as bigots often do when they’re trying to victimize others, he attempts to cast himself as the victim: “Please remember that for the mildest of comments critical of the political agenda of homosexual activists, I have been called a ‘homophobe’ for years.” Apparently in the World of Orson Scott Card, saying that gay people don’t deserve to be considered equal members of society, calling them, “tragic genetic mix-ups,” and saying that it all upsets you to the point that you think the Government should be overthrown if it supports it, in Card’s World these are, “The mildest of comments.”
If those are the mild comments, what does the nutjob *really* think?
He’s at it again these days, after writing a new book, Hamlet’s Father, which exists largely to repaint Hamlet’s father from the Shakespeare play as a gay pedophile who, by molesting them, turned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and apparently a lot of the other characters, gay. No, really.
Card has said before that he thinks that gay people are turned gay by being molested. How they are *turned* gay, and then also, “tragic genetic mix-ups,” is the type of self-fulfilling mind-trick of which Card seems fond. He’s now written an entire book devoted to rewriting Shakespeare chiefly for the purpose of turning one character into a gay pedophile so that Card can illustrate how gay pedophiles work in his World- In this case, they’re pretty busy, because it seems that Hamlet’s father molests pretty much everybody in the story- and then further to show how being molested has turned these characters gay. Other than that, he doesn’t seem to have added much to the narrative, other than his basic lack of understanding of the characters in the original play. He used the story more or less just to illustrate his version of gay culture.
But wait- does that sound just slightly homophobic to you? Well, according to Orson Scott Card, that means you’re obviously a biased Liberal with an ax to grind who’s out to get him! In this case, instead of an essay Card wrote an entire novel to showcase his mental illness, but, just like the essays, he quickly backtracked on that and lied about it, too. You can read his refutation of the accusations that the book is homophobic here .
“There is no link whatsoever between homosexuality and pedophilia in this book. Hamlet’s father, in the book, is a pedophile, period. I don’t show him being even slightly attracted to adults of either sex,” Card said. At some point, you have to wonder if he knows how ridiculous he really sounds, and if he’s just trying to be funny. The father in Card’s book molests boys, and because of that they grow up to be gay. And then Card says that there is no link between the pedophilia in his book and homosexuality. He’s passed that Ann Coulter point where you know he probably can’t even believe the shit that’s coming out of his own mouth, unless he really is just a seriously mentally ill individual.
He doesn’t even just hate gay people, either. In his marriage ramblings, he seems to have some serious problems with women. In his central idea of the ideal marriage that he thinks the Government is trying to subvert, he describes the role of women this way:
“Faithful sexual monogamy, persistence until death, male protection and providence for wife and children, female loyalty to children and husband, and parental discretion in child-rearing.”
He slips it in there carefully, like he always does, but female subservience to their husbands is, along with his hatred of gay people, a key part of Card’s World view.
He’s not crazy about female authors, either. He decided for some mysterious reason to go on a lengthy jag about JK Rowling when she was trying to protect her intellectual property by trying to prevent the publication of an unlicensed guide to her books that would have overlapped with something she wanted to create herself. For some reason, he doesn’t just debate the intellectual property aspect, he goes to great length to assault JK Rowling’s integrity in every way and imply that her overall success is undeserved.
As far as his skills as a writer go, which isn’t very, Card has discovered one effective trick. When he’s denying things that he’s said, and also when he’s accusing people or the courts of doing things in these essays of his, he’s figured out that he can just kind of make facts up, and if he tosses them out there in the middle of a long ramble, he figures they’ll be accepted at face value and his arguments will be supported by them.
When he talks about abortion clinics, he says, “It is now illegal even to kneel and pray in front of a clinic that performs abortions.” What? When, where? He’s just made this up, but it’s supplemental to his main argument about the overreach of the courts, so he thinks that people will just gloss over it and it will be assimilated as a fact to support his essay. About gay marriage: “When gay rights were being enforced by the courts back in the ’70s and ’80s, we were repeatedly told by all the proponents of gay rights that they would never attempt to legalize gay marriage.” Neat trick, he’s inventing more history there, and using it as an example of how the proponents of gay rights are liars, not him. Which again, is ancillary to his main argument, but he thinks that if he throws it in there, supporting the idea that gay rights activists are liars will support his main argument, which is that we’re being lied to about marriage equality.
He does the same thing when he talks about JK Rowling: “And don’t forget the lawsuit by Nancy K. Stouffer, the author of a book entitled The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, whose hero was named ‘Larry Potter.’ ” He just throws that out there in the middle of what he’s saying, knowing that, as he’s presented it, it makes JK Rowling look like a thief. The case in question, though, was dismissed and JK Rowling found to be accused baselessly, which Card probably knows, but he knows that the majority of people reading what he’s saying aren’t going to fact-check every detail, and he’s therefor accomplished his purpose, which was just to make Rowling look bad, and devalue her position.
The reason I wanted to do this portrait the way I did is because that’s pretty much what I think evil looks like: a harmless-looking smiling chubby guy in a bad Hawaiian shirt. Orson Scott Card lies about what he is. Every time his homophobia, misogyny, or whatever else is wrong with him, become apparent, he always does this little dance of, “What, me? I’m just saying the way I see it, shouldn’t I be allowed to express my opinion?” That’s how the worst bigots present themselves, as though they’re just voicing an opinion, what could be wrong with that? Orson Scott Card presents himself as a mainstream figure, publishing fun adventure novels, but underneath that there’s something much worse.
I have him saying the word Tragic in reference to his quote that gay people are, “tragic genetic mix-ups,” because that, combined with the smiling harmless guy he’d like to present himself as, is a good encapsulation of how I see him. He’s grinning and writing fun sci-fi novels, very often directed at younger readers, but what’s actually coming out of that mind is extremely, extremely tragic.
I’m making this post to announce two more upcoming projects that I’m working on. First, I’m doing a series of trading cards that I’m calling Douchebags of Comics, and Liefeld will obviously be getting a card.
I had a lot of fun a while ago doing a portrait of Frank Miller after the babbling insanity on his blog and I thought it would be fun to do more. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that there was no shortage of people in the comic book industry that deserve to be called out as douchebags. There’s Orson Scott Card, who is a completely nutty homophobe, Chuck Dixon, also a homophobe, Dave Sim, a paranoid misogynist (Although he’d object to the term misogynist. He’s just some other sort of person who thinks that women are biologically inferior, I guess) and on and on.
Rob Liefeld, for me, is emblematic of a major problem in the last 20 years of mainstream comics, which is these sort of mentally deficient man-children that started taking over things in the 90′s by playing to the worst common denominator of the fan base and valuing flash and crumminess over any kind of storytelling or content or talent. The Todd McFarlanes and so on.
Their reign of crap comics and foil covers and all that almost ground the entire industry into the ground, with Marvel filing for bankruptcy around a decade ago. What we’re witnessing now is, rather than being shown the door, these same inmates that almost burned the place down are now being given the keys to the asylum. Rob Liefeld can’t draw, and he also can’t write, so I guess somebody at DC thought maybe two negatives would make a positive, so they should pay him to do both. It’s kind of the Tony Daniel strategy, although I think Tony Daniel probably has a little more drawing ability than Rob Liefeld, even if he does have a similarly adolescent storytelling sensibility.
For me, Rob Liefeld gets a card in Douchebags of Comics because he seems to take a particular pride in his mediocrity. In his own blog, Liefeld compares himself to Michael Bay, and seems to equate success with the quantity of toys you sell based on a product. ”I’ll be the first to tell you that we were never the best artists. We were never the best at anything, but just like a song or a band or whatever, we caught on and we toured rigorously,” Liefeld says of the success of the 90′s Image comics crowd.
In, “How To Beat The Haters (how I do it),” a blog entry on his website, Liefeld spends 3,617 words (A few extra because he seems unaware that “Online” is a compound word and consistently types “on line”) explaining his philosophy that, when you’re the most reviled artist in mainstream comics, and one of the few things a pathologically divided fan base can agree on is your general suckage, it can’t be because of anything you’ve drawn, it must be a problem with Haters because, afterall, he sold a lot of comics a couple decades back.
The word “Spicket!” on my drawing above is a reference to this blog in which Liefelds discusses the phenomenon of people, “Grilling me on a spicket.” Google tells me that “Spicket,” is *sort of* a word, a semi-colloquial variation on, “Spigot,” and you can assume from close reading that Liefeld was trying to use some form of the expression roasted on a spit, but how one could be roasted on a spigot is a bit mystifying. Either way, the point is that, throughout the post, it’s obvious that Liefeld has a kind of tenuous, Sarah Palin-ish grasp on the English language. He’s an adult man that thinks that apostrophes pluralize things. And DC is paying him to write three titles for them.
The real problem, of course, is that people that think that employing him is the route to making a good comic book company, so I kind of went back in forth on my head on whether Liefeld should get a card in Douchebags of Comics, but I decided he needs one for the kind of defiant pride he takes in sucking. There’s also the fact of the sheer sloppiness of his work which seems to me to convey a certain kind of contempt or disregard for his audience. Looking through some issues of Hawk and Dove, it was pretty amazing to me the number of panels that didn’t have backgrounds or looked half-finished. I felt sorry for the colorist that had to go through there and try to make it look like it was a real comic.
I felt that the image of him enthusiastically, with big jazz hands, saying, “Spicket!” conveyed pretty well my opinion of him as a storyteller. He has a certain kind of enthusiasm, sort of like the enthusiasm of a dumb puppy that’s about to get a milk bone. This was actually a pretty hard drawing for me to do, because most of the portrait drawings I do are of guys I think are attractive, so I wasn’t used to drawing somebody who looks like Liefeld. I had to keep reminding myself: No, you’re drawing Rob Liefeld, it’s *supposed* to look like a mentally handicapped circus clown.
He’s not as evil as I believe Orson Scott Card to be, though, or as mentally ill as I feel Dave Sim and Frank Miller are. I want the series of cards to incorporate all sorts of different people who are part of the problems with comics. On the back of the cards, I think I’m going to put Stats, where I rate them from One to Ten on various criteria, such as Talent, Misogyny, Racism, etc. Rob Liefeld, for example, might get a One in Talent, but not rank as highly in other fields as some of the other people getting cards. Dave Sim, whose drawings I admire, might get an Eight or so on Talent, but would also get a high score on some other categories.
One fun thing about working on these cards so far has been that, as soon as I explain the series, everybody I’ve mentioned them to who works in comics or reads comics immediately had several suggestions for people who deserve cards. If anybody reading this has candidates they’d like me to consider, please tell me and I’ll look into them. I’ve had several good suggestions already. I think it will take around 50 Douchebags to make a good set of trading cards, and I’m sure the comics industry will have no problem supplying that many.
The other thing about working for one of the big mainstream publishers that do so much damage to the medium is that a lot of people employed by them, if they want to continue to be employed, can’t say certain things about ongoing projects or other creators. They’re supposed to pretend that they don’t think the Watchmen prequels are the stupidest thing ever, for example, because these are their friends working on them, and their employers producing it. I understand the dilemma, so I enjoy the fact that I doubt DC or Marvel would ever want to employ me or that I would ever want to be employed by DC or Marvel, so I can say what I want. Given a lot of the recent rampant douchebaggery from those two companies, I’ve had a lot of things I’ve wanted to say about them, so I figure I might as well start having fun burning those bridges.
Which brings me to my next project I want to talk about: I’m creating a manifesto.
I love comics, and I see in the medium more potential for communication and expression in today’s world than probably any other medium. I also see more *untapped* potential, and a marketplace kept stagnant by bad business and tepid, uninspired laziness from companies that have a stranglehold on the distribution system, but choose to not use that stranglehold to *do* anything.
So, for a couple months now I’ve been working on something I’m calling The Comics Manifesto. It’s going to be my treatise on the potential of comics as an art form, and also on the functions they should serve for creativity, communication and expression, as opposed to fan service for milking licensed characters.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with other people who work in comics over some of these issues, and I’ve felt encouraged that I’m not alone in my sentiments. The whole idea of the potential of art, and the roadblocks that bad practices tied to the way that art is monetized throw up in the face of that potential, is central to a lot of the things I’m writing with my characters, and also to the manifesto. So much of what goes on in the World of mainstream comics is such bullshit, and takes comics so far away from what they could and should be, that it makes a lot of people depressed about the medium as a whole when it could actually be one of the most exciting things happening.
So, I’m gonna be posting bits of the manifesto as I go, and anybody that cares about comics, feel free to comment on it or send me your thoughts about it. I’m hoping that, like how a lot of people I have talked to about my candidates for Douchebags of Comics cards have enthusiastically told me how much they’d like to see so-and-so get a card, the manifesto can speak for more than just me.
When I’ve been talking about the recent delusional babbling on Frank Miller’s website, I’ve been struggling to not use the word, “retarded.” I don’t know another word that quite captures the tone of his blithering, though, that quite captures the way he goes past saying stupid things and ignorant things into actually coming off as somebody who’s brain damaged. The problem with using that word is that there are perfectly nice mentally handicapped people out there who would be degraded by the comparison.
On every internet messgeboard that’s talking about it, and even on my own Facebook where I posted about it, you’ll always find a couple morons who say that Frank Miller was right. The mind boggling thing about that is that he didn’t even make any points that you could agree with, even if you wanted to. His ramblings kind of start out by calling the Occupy people spoiled and rapists and a few other random things that popped into Frank’s addled brain and all of which can be demonstrably disproved, and then he quickly veers into senile free association racist anger about terrorists. Or something. He can’t manage to hold a thought from one sentence to the next, he’s just kind of spouting off about things that he doesn’t like.
The thing is, that’s the mindset of people who think like that. You can’t argue with them or reason with them because they don’t really have a point to begin with. It’s just kinda stuff that makes them angry, and somehow it’s all tied together and they think it has something to do with iPhones. This is the problem I have debating a lot of issues that should be fundamentally obvious to people. There are not two sides of equal weight to the arguments over gay marriage, for example. There’s really simple basic logic on one side, backed by every reputable piece of scientific information we have on human sexuality and which you can’t argue with if you have even a basic child’s knowledge of civil rights or the way our government works, and then on the other side you have blithering idiots babbling about things that they think are icky, and if you try to bring the conversation back to a rational place, their response to that is that whatever they’re saying they’re saying because God told them so.
The other thing I’ve seen a couple places now is people saying that whether you agree with him or not, Frank’s brave to speak his mind, and they admire people who say what they think and don’t mince words. The problem with this argument is that what he’s saying is idiotic. If people think idiotic things, why would you admire them for being an idiot, just because they talked about being an idiot? The reason for Frank to keep his idiot thoughts to himself isn’t because of fear or because of pressure from some Liberal media insitution, the reason is because he’s an idiot. I actually think the First Amendment is important, and unlike Frank Miller I’m actually familiar with what it means. Nobody’s saying, or at least I’m not saying, that he shouldn’t have said these things, because now it’s better to know that he is, in fact, an idiot, rather than to have him present himself as a person that could pass basic literacy tests and then not know that he’s actually hiding the fact that he’s a seething moronic racist. Is it somehow brave to be an idiot and a racist, just because you’re willing to project these things about yourself?
Then there’s the issue that people keep bringing up, that you should separate an artist from their work. The artist’s personal life shouldn’t have any bearing on whether or not you enjoy their work. I actually agree with this in some cases to an extent, but the problem with Frank Miller is that this idiot part of him does inform most of the work. The thing I’ve seen a lot of people say in the last couple of days is that they’re embarrassed, because they used to like Frank Miller’s work. That’s how I feel about it, too.
When I heard a while back that he was writing something called, Holy Terror, Batman! I thought, oh wow, this could be great. It was so ridiculous, I thought, to be taking a play on Robin’s phrase from the campy Batman TV series and using it to apply to a piece written in response to 9/11, that I assumed Frank was making an epic statement about our reaction to 9/11. What I took from it was him poking fun at the adolescent notion of how we think superheroics can solve our problem, how ridiculous it is that all the social issues that led to 9/11 could be resolved with a punch to the jaw. I thought he was saying that this ridiculous cowboy attitude of how to respond to it was fundamentally childish, and I thought him evoking the capes and spandex and bright primary colors of the campy TV show to make that point might possibly be brilliant.
Then the book actually came out. It wasn’t called Holy Terror, Batman, anymore, it was just called Holy Terror. The Batman joke wasn’t there anymore, but the reference to the bizarre goofy TV show was. The stupidness of the whole thing was there, only Frank wasn’t kidding.
I actually event defended Frank Miller’s All Star Batman and Robin when it came out, because I thought it was hilarious. I thought the whole thing was a send-up. I thought Sin City, too, was meant to take the broad archetypes of Noir and push them out to their logical extremes, and I thought by making something that highlighted and extreme and ridiculous you could get at the emotional truths that had spawned these sorts of revenge fantasies to begin with. I said I liked these comics. This is embarrassing now.
Marv and Dwight punching shit in Sin City is actually how Frank Miller views the world. The terrifying part is when people take this sort of sad broken little boy view of the world and then try to apply it to politics and economics, without knowing anything about either. In Frank Miller’s case, it’s a sad broken little boy view through the eyes of a crotchety old man, so he’s mad about hippies and other stuff too. Oh, and he thinks the Occupy people are rapists. For no clear reason other than the fact that Frank Miller isn’t capable of writing anything without talking about rape.
So this view of how Frank Miller thinks the world should be fixed brings me to what I think should be one of the most offensive things he says, but for some reason my favorite part of it hasn’t been mentioned quite as much as the rest:
“Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you’ve been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you’ve heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism.
And this enemy of mine — not of yours, apparently – must be getting a dark chuckle, if not an outright horselaugh – out of your vain, childish, self-destructive spectacle.”
“This enemy of mine.” And then he goes on to tell the pond scum that they should join the military. Frank’s never been in the military, as far as I know, but in his senile old man brain he thinks he’s fighting this war. He thinks he’s some sort of beleaguered hero. How is he fighting, exactly? Maybe he’s actually planning to go out and kick some butt himself, since obviously he thinks the world is looking to him for solutions.
So watch out, Islamcites! Frank Miller is coming for ya, and he’s gonna kick butt! He’s gonna fly through a window with lots of shattered glass and he’s gonna be throwing ninja weapons he saw in a book somewhere but doesn’t know how to use. And all enemies of Frank will be blinded and rendered helpless by large splashes of white gouache that Frank has figured out he can spackle over a black background to create blood or rain effects instead of, you know, actually drawing stuff! And this being Frank Miller, when he comes crashing through that window he’ll doubtlessly have a very angry hooker in a corset with him, and her stilettos will be coming for your head.