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Saturday, December 11, 2004
Something That Sort Of Bugs Me, But Not That Much Really
The currently fashionable hating on "celebrity" comic authors. Let's get one thing straight, right off. None of the people who have worked in film or as novelists before writing comics for DC or Marvel ever really qualified as a "celebrity." Okay, maybe Kevin Smith and his small and ever-shrinking cult audience, but that's about it. Maybe if you stretch the definition of "celebrity" even further you could include J. Michael Straczynski and his even smaller and even more rapidly shrinking cult audience. But, come on, you don't really think that DC thought that having Anderson Gabyrich write some Batman books would bring thousands of fans of independent gay cinema to start reading Batman titles, did you? No, he had a pitch, they liked it, now he writes comic books. (Now, maybe if they got Zak Spears to write some DC comics we'd see a big bump in sales...) Heck, the closest thing to an actual "celebrity" writing comics is Judd Winick and his fifteen minutes were up long before he became a name in comics. It was Barry Ween that got him gigs at DC, not The Real World.
No, as usual what this is really all about is marketing. DC is hoping that if they remind you that Christos N. Gage wrote for Law and Order: Special Victims Unit you'll say to yourself, "Hey, I generally like the tone and writing on that show, maybe I'll give this Deadshot comic a shot." Likewise, Marvel is hoping that by drawing a connection between Young Avengers writer Allan Heinberg and the shows Party of Five and The O.C. (a show which already gets coverage in the nerd-press for it's occasional mention of comic books) you will say, "Hey, I like shows about teen angst. Maybe there will be angst in this teen comic" and feel strangely compelled to buy it. Granted, I'm not sure how pointing out that Reginald Hudlin is responsible for the hip-hop House Party comedies is a selling point for a gritty super-hero drama like Black Panther, but then this is Marvel and I've learned not to expect logic in any of their business decisions.
Sort of tangentially related is this concern that getting people from outside comics to write them is somehow an attempt to "legitimize" comics, as if such a thing were ever possible. I've noticed this complaint lobbed at Brad Meltzer, on the grounds that DC is trying to "elevate" the comics he's written beyond criticism by noting that as a novelist he's a best-seller. Whereas I'm reasonably certain that Meltzer is actually taking a pay-cut to write comics. Again, it's a marketing decision. "This fellow writes decently competent thrillers about lawyers. Maybe he'll write a decent mystery involving super-heroes as well."
The other thing that strikes me about this currently fashionable hate is, it's new. I don't remember people being up in arms over that fact that Geoff Johns and David Goyer and Jeph Loeb worked in film before getting comics gigs. Did they start writing comics before it became ok to complain about people from outside media, or are comics fans simply unaware of their previous jobs. Likewise, I don't remember a lot of indignation about attempts to "legitimize" comics by getting Greg Rucka or Joe R. Lansdale to write a few. I guess their work isn't "legitimate" enough to offend comic fans in the first place.