The folks over at Nerdist broke the news today that Daredevil, previously reported to be ending with issue thirty-six, will be getting an all-new # 1 issue in March with the creative team of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee handling Daredevil’s move to the west coast, San Francisco to be precise. Longtime readers of Daredevil will note that Matt Murdoch spent some time in the city back in the seventies running around town with Black Widow.
I am personally relieved that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are sticking around, as they have made Daredevil one of Marvel’s best, most consistent titles and I would have been weeping tears of nerdly sadness if they left the book after such a short run. Here’s hoping they get 100 collective issues together before they’re through. I don’t care how many new issue ones it takes.
On Tuesday, comics writer Mark Waid, whom I have met and can confirm to be one of the nicest guys in the comics business and who if you talk to for more than thirty seconds will reveal exactly how smart, knowledgeable, and in love with the comics business he really is, posted an open letter to freelancers who may have found themselves gobsmacked by publishers and the way they are being treated by editorial staff. Mark Waid has been around the block enough times to know what he’s talking about. I’m going to post the whole thing in full so nothing gets taken out of context. I think this needs to be seen by as many people as possible. Not just the freelancers he addresses, but the fans in the industry who might not really get what some of their favorite writers and artists are going through on a regular basis.
Mark Waid wrote;
An open letter to young freelancers:
In the long run, the quality of your work is all that matters.
As a professional comics writer, I sold my first script twenty-nine years and what feels like three separate lifetimes ago. Despite not being especially good early on, I’ve been steadily employed since the beginning, which stretches the laws of probability far beyond the breaking point. In terms of career longevity, I have enjoyed good fortune exceedingly disproportionate to my level of actual talent. If I could tell you how to replicate that luck, I would, happily, but I can’t. All I can give you, an up-and-coming comics freelancer trying to make a living in 2013, is my honest, absolute admiration at your fortitude and perseverance, because It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way.
Ever since history’s first cave painter got notes from his tribal leader, freelancers have been complaining about “editorial interference.” Thus will it ever be. Look, Siegel and Shuster got notes from their editor. We all get notes. No one’s work is perfect, and no one is immune from criticism, especially when the critic is also the one paying a writer or artist for his or her services. And I have been a publisher and an editor almost as long as I’ve been a writer, so I am sympathetic to both the check-writer and the check-casher. There’s always some give-and-take tension between creative and editorial.
And there are a lot of good comics editors out there, probably more than ever, and I applaud them. But there are, likewise, a growing number of (1) good editors who are not allowed to be good editors by their bosses, and (2) outright chimpanzees.
What I see a lot of freelancers going through today in the work-for-hire arena is just unreal, and the horror stories of personal and professional abuse I’m hearing from the trenches on a regular, almost-daily basis are mind-blowing to me–not only because I’m sympathetic, but because every single one of their experiences is utterly antithetical to the creative process.
If you’re a young freelancer, here are some things you ought to know:
First, if you feel like you’re practically being hazed, you’re not struggling through Business As Usual. If you’re fairly new at this, do not let anyone tell you that bullying is excusable in any way whatsoever or that it’s part of any “learning curve” or “breaking in.” This is a business; you have a right to be treated professionally. If you have produced a script or artwork in good faith that was accepted but, a week or two later, the editor calls you to ask for some minor revisions, give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not trying to annoy you but is just sincerely trying to hone the work to everyone’s benefit. On the other hand, if approved work, through no fault of yours, suddenly became retroactively “unapproved” and needs a heavy rewrite or a total redraw, a lot of you are being required to do that work for free, over and over again, desperately racing to get to the end zone before someone moves the goal posts again. That’s bad form; when you’re not at fault, you’re supposed to get paid for substantial revisions. Your time is valuable. If you’re not being compensated for redo after redo after redo on that has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with editorial whim, that’s unprofessional and unacceptable and you’re being taken advantage of.
Similarly, if you’ve done work based on reference supplied to you, upon agreements made with your editor, or upon approved outlines and then been asked to make major, time-consuming alterations because “things have changed,” you should be entitled to charge for rewrites and redraws. If you’re discouraged from standing up for yourself under threat of losing future work–and so many of you have been and are–that’s unacceptable behavior, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you are being bludgeoned with non-disclosure agreements–not just asked to sign one as a matter of course, but having them lorded over you threateningly like a caveman swinging a club–that’s unacceptable. That comes top-down from a place of fear and a pathological need for control, and I don’t have to tell you how poorly fear and control facilitate creativity. (Also, be aware that in this industry, NDAs are almost impossible to legally enforce and always have been, which is why we got along 75 years without them.)
There is no guild in comics, no union, no ombudsman for freelancers. You’re on your own when dealing with publishers, and given the current state of the industry, I can tell you without hesitation that if I were just starting out today and had to deal with half of the nightmare stories I hear from you guys about what it’s like to work at certain places–executives flat-out lying to your face, higher-ups demanding loyalty from you while offering none in return, editors calling you at the eleventh hour to demand 180-degree changes in stories that have already been approved and then acting as if the fault is with you–if that had been the Way Things Were 29 years ago, I’d just be getting out of prison about now.
There are some really good reasons to do work-for-hire. It’s a valuable way to build a reputation. It’s probably not wise to devote 100% of your time to it, but only you know what your priorities and appetites are, and no one else has a right to judge them. And, yes, every job has its drawbacks and moments where it’s better to be flexible than absolute. I truly, truly understand having to take work you don’t love, or work with folks you don’t love, in order to make the rent. And early on, there are things I put up with that I now regret, and there are opportunities I lost because I pushed back, and there are still things I do sometimes to be a get-along guy that aren’t always in my best interests. Everyone’s threshold is unique, and sometimes you let someone take undue advantage because the cupboards are bare or because you’re dealing with a friend who’ll get yelled at if you don’t toe the line. I get that. Circumstances are circumstances. But if you never listen to another word I say, and I talk a lot, please know this: the only one watching out for your future is you.
Be professional. Be a problem-solver. Be willing to compromise in the face of a solid argument. Be willing to lose sometimes because you’ll learn more that way than you will by always winning. Ultimately, if a client is paying you for your services, he or she has every right to set the specifications, just as you have a right to your integrity. But when people jealous of how you make a living try to rag you with that old truism that every company employee has to eat shit now and then, remind them that you are not an employee. You’re a contractor. You do not receive health benefits, sick days, pensions, vacation time, or any of the other considerations traditional employees receive. Your clients have zero ethical or moral ground to lie to you, to denigrate you, to cheat you, to demand more from you than they’re paying for, to unapologetically walk back on promises or treat you maliciously, or to exploit your need to put food on the table. The good ones won’t. Never trust the bad ones.
Have a sense of humor and maintain a cool head. Pick your battles, but don’t pick fights–even if you’re in the right–because it’s easy to get a reputation (even when you’re punching up, not down) as a loudmouth who can’t go on the internet and tell anyone what time it is without it being characterized as “another rant.” (So I’ve heard.) Take the notes sometimes, even if they seem to be change for change’s sake, be genial…but always protect the work. Know that, five years from now, as fans or prospective publishers are looking over your published pages, no one will care that the comic they’re reading sucks because the publisher moved the deadline up or because the editor demanded you work an android cow into the story. All anyone will care about is the pages they see in front of them, and they will hold you responsible for them, no one else. Mediocre work will follow you around forever.
Bad editors and publishers will ask you to type their stories, not help you tell yours, and sometimes that will seem like a small price to pay for a steady check and to bank karma as a “good soldier.” In the moment, it’s often very hard to know if you’re compromising in a way that might bite you down the road. All I can tell you is that the better your work is–both as submitted and as printed–the more opportunities will come your way, and sometimes that means–politely, professionally, without rancor–saying no or turning down the check. It can be nerve-racking,but while I cannot name names without embarrassing them, I can–purely off the top of my head–think of at least a dozen freelancers who hit every impossible deadline ever asked of them… who were pleasant to work with and always professional even if their editor was a jerk…and who always did exactly what their editors asked them to do, even if it was obvious to a blind man that the quality of the finished work was lessened, because they were trained to believe that their first priority was to serve their editor and do so in a timely manner, and whatever creative voice they brought to the table was secondary. They were good soldiers. They were great soldiers.
All of those people have been unemployed for years.
The quality of your work is all that matters. That’s what buys you longevity. You’re sweating the future because you had one disagreement with your editor? Neal Adams helped get Superman’s creators money and recognition by shaming Warner Bros. in The New York Times, dude. Neal’s not selling cars for a living today. You’re being given an absurd deadline and you think you’re better off turning in crap than being late? We used to literally stand over the fax machine at the DC offices while Neil Gaiman sent in his Sandman scripts in batches of exactly one page. Not admirable, but twenty years on, no one remembers how slow Neil could be, just how phenomenal the stories were.
A quick favor for a good editor here, incorporating a pointless note to keep the peace there…yes. Be flexible, not overtly defiant. Don’t be what a reasonable, uninvolved party would define as “difficult.” But be good above all else. Stand up for your work, and whenever push comes to shove (as it will), never let anything get in the way of you doing your very best, every time. In the long run, the quality of your work is all that matters. That is your only resumé.
Don’t let anyone scare you. Don’t let anyone bully you, ever. Some will if they think they can, but you teach people how to treat you. You can be confident and show integrity without being argumentative. And for God’s sake, don’t be so afraid to explore your options that you keep turning in work that makes you wince; no good decision was ever made primarily out of fear. You can always walk away from any monkey house if you have drive and talent. There are still plenty of places in comics to do work-for-hire without being poorly treated, and there are huge opportunities to self-publish and build a faithful paying audience through the web. It’s hard work, but it’ll be better work, and it’ll be the work you’re remembered by.
If any of this applies to you–if I’ve struck a nerve and you want to talk more about this–I’m not hard to find. I’ll listen when I can make the time, and I’ll give you what advice I can, but truthfully you don’t need me. You just need to know that being taken advantage of is, full-stop, unacceptable and that your work may be for hire, but your dignity is not.
I know that might register as “TL;DR” for a lot of people, but the implications of this letter are massive. How many horror stories have we been hearing out of DC since the new 52 initiative rolled out? How many bridges have been burned and how much ink has been spilled about the editorial vs. creative element in the comics business nowadays? If you look at the patterns and the attitudes of people working in the industry at this point in time, we are poised to see another dichotomy shift that we haven’t seen since the early nineties when McFarlane, Lee, and Liefeld went off to form Image comics.
While the Image comics inception might have been more about making money for themselves while retaining the rights to their characters, I feel that an exodus to creator-owned comics is forthcoming and for the most part it will be driven simply by the desire to not be spat upon by the people who crunch the numbers. Robert Kirkman has been saying for years that creator owned comics are the wave of the future for comics. DC is nothing more than a content farm for movies at this point. They don’t truly need to publish those books. It is incidental. Anyone looking for the best stories in the comic medium isn’t looking at DC or Marvel. They’re looking at Image, Dark Horse, and small press publishers. Places that are willing to take a risk and let artists be artists.
I have a feeling we will see a massive shift at DC soon. Either all the creative people who are tired of getting stepped on move elsewhere or the editorial staff gets the boot. Either way, in a short amount of time I truly do believe we will see a massive change at DC that will make the new 52 relaunch look like a slight rearranging of furniture.
And as the cold weather breezes into Houston about a month later than it should have, we get the first new books of November. It’s an interesting haul of titles filled with debuts and final touches. This is all very poetic and whatnot, but the truth is I’m hopped up on leftover Halloween candy and could make a bowel movement seem melodic.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #647 4.99
AVENGERS ACADEMY #6 2.99
BATMAN AND ROBIN #16 3.99
BOYS #48 (MR) 3.99
BUFFY VAMPIRE SLAYER #38 2.99
BULLSEYE PERFECT GAME #1 (OF 2) 3.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA MAN OUT OF TIME #1 (OF 5) 3.99
GENERATION HOPE #1 3.99
JONAH HEX #61 2.99
PUNISHER IN BLOOD #1 (OF 5) 3.99
SCARLET #3 (MR) 3.95
SECRET SIX #27 2.99
SUPERBOY #1 2.99
WOLVERINE #3 3.99
WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 3.99
YOUNG ALLIES #6 2.99
I’ve bolded the issues I will review. Which is redundant, as the reviews will now begin and you will be able to see what I have reviewed.
Here it is. The conclusion of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman & Robin before he jumps onto the new “Batman Inc.” title which should be one hell of a ride given the setup he provides for us in this issue. Morrison has been the architect of the Batman universe now for about as long as I’ve been working in comic book retail. Close to five years or so. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. It seems like he’s moving into the third act of his overall story with Batman Inc. The fact that his overarching story has an act-structure ties into the melodrama he’s crafted. His Batman reads like a sci-fi/action opera and it’s evident that he’s put a great deal of effort in making sure the parts all come together.
The biggest achievement that he can lay claim to in regards to his Batman ouvre is his ability to shake things up in ways that other writers have teased for the short term but never committed to in any real way. Plot twists that Morrison uses as the long-term theme of his story seem like ideas that other writers would love to pursue but only for six issues or less. Morrison seems to think that shaking things up and doing so in a way that shifts the paradigm of how Batman operates on a level that is not easily reversible is the key to telling a good story. I won’t argue that it’s made for some of the most compelling reading for quite some time.
What I really appreciate about Morrison on the Bat books is that in a few years time we’ll be able to view him as one of the better Batman showrunners in the history of the character. There aren’t many creators who leave such a lasting mark on the character that fans can easily identify. Most of the time you get the requisite Denny O’Neil or Frank Miller. Morrison is going to be the next name on the immediate go-to list when all is said and done.
Bullseye is a character who can be used to absolute perfection or to an end that simply does not work. There’s not a whole lot of middle ground when it comes to the character. He’s been front and center for so many great and memorable moments and then again he’s been wasted or misused by writers who simply want to use him in a way that doesn’t really make sense.
Here we get a story where there’s very little actual Bullseye. The story is all second-hand, but it gives us an insight into how the character operates that we don’t really see. That part that deals with how and why he picks his targets. The montage showing some of his more unique and violent kills is a perfect example of why Bullseye sometimes doesn’t work out in the hands of an unskilled writer. He’s the perfect killer. He knows he’s the perfect killer. He’s got the same problem Superman does in the sense that he’s so above and beyond the range of his peers that he can come off as boring in his superiority.
The biggest downfall of this book is that lack of Bullseye. The second hand narrative structure is interesting but ultimately unless they give us something a little more substantial it’s basically not even like reading a comic at all but reading a comic about someone who read a comic about what Bullseye did for a year. That sounds stupid, but it gives off a little of that vibe.
It’s a Captain America miniseries written by Mark Waid. I’m not going to pass that up. Seriously, I don’t care that it’s essentially a retread and that no matter how they take the story it’s essentially inconsequential because it’s one of a hundred takes on the same story because it’s such a great part of the Captain America mythos that’s being retold.
The stuff set in World War Two is pretty good. We get some fun banter between Bucky and Cap amongst some soldiers who don’t know who they are and we get some fun, if cliched, introspective moments where the two discuss what they would like to do when the war is over and the fighting is done. Of course all of this happens mere moments before Bucky gets caught in the explosion that “kills” him and Cap winds up frozen in the ice.
What really works in this issue is the dichotomy between that old world and the new one that Cap wakes up to. You really can feel how directionless and confused Steve is when confronted with a world that has grown leaps in bounds in technology and regressed equally in its brutality. The dangers of being a hero in such a world become readily apparent and the ending of the book packs quite a punch.
I think this one could be one that people regret not picking up if they let it slip under their radar because it is an excellent read. However, Marvel needs to learn that these arbitrary books aren’t going to get the same readership they would at a lower price point. $3.99 is a warning siren to a lot of consumers nowadays, even if the book is worth the cash, as this one seems to be.
They’ve been building to this one for a while. I need to begin by saying that I would have been just as happy had this been the central running plot of Uncanny X-Men or Legacy. Or hell, run it through both titles as a crossover. It would have worked just as well. This has the smell of a cash grab by throwing it out as an independant mini-series. It’s like if Marvel had done the Inferno followup they’re doing in New Mutants as a mini-series and let the ongoing title move along as if nothing happened. I think the logistics of this miniseries are flawed, and I needed to get that out of the way up front.
As to the book itself, it’s hard to tell what direction it will take. Whether the fifth “light” will be the villain for the whole of the series or if there is something more is not readily apparent. The book seems to indicate as much, but to what end they are going with the character in question is unknown.
If you haven’t been reading X-Men, this book is not very new-user friendly. All the characters have been introduced over in Uncanny, which backs up my assertion that it should have been continued there. So if you need the background, pick up the last few months of Uncanny after the end of Second Coming. That should fill in some gaps for you.
I’m hoping there’s a bigger endgame here than I’m seeing at the moment. To justify its existence, the miniseries better have one hell of a closer.
All you whiney fanboys can quit your bitching, Frank Castle is back in non-monster form to do what he’s done for the last thirty or so years. It’s still got the same gritty flair that Remender brought to the title under the Franken-Castle banner but in an easily digestible, familiar package so that frightened fans don’t feel offended by change.
The first issue feels like a classic Punisher riff, it builds upon years and years of 616 Punisher lore, with Microchip and the long feud with Jigsaw coming back into play. It feels a bit more natural than the early parts of the last volume did, as Punisher shouldn’t be anywhere near storylines that have anything to do with alien invasions. He’s at his best when the capes don’t make an appearance.
This could be the beginning of a great new chapter for the character, if Remender’s past work is any indication of what he can do with Frank now. He certainly kicked the show off with an impressive debut, so it’s his ballgame to lose. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get too inventive, or people will get frightened and claim that he’s “ruined the character again” and run to the hills like stampeding fear-cattle.
Jeff Lemire is in a position to be a hot item. Sweet Tooth is an amazing book and he’s got that good buzz to his credit as well as being hailed by just about everyone as the next big thing. With Superboy he has the chance to really let loose and show the world what he can do with the mainstream DCU characters. Superboy isn’t a sacred cow. He has a following but he has room to be molded into something more concrete. The building blocks are there, Lemire just needs to move them around.
He certainly doesn’t waste any time with this issue, utilizing a familiar old Superman villain to write some great action scenes that are drawn out spectacularly by artist Pier Gallo whose work has a very classic feel to it, which fits the Smallville setting wonderfully.
Where Lemire also garners some good will is the manner in which he sets up the supporting cast. This is the first issue, and for many new readers this is their first exposure to the character, but the interactions with the Smallville community are written in the same manner that they would be had the title been running for five years. The familiarity works. Lemire doesn’t get overly expository with everyone in the first issue. He knows that the time will come to fill people in when the moment is appropriate. He gives just enough to let the story work itself out organically and the book is better for it.
I think this one could end up being a long-running fan favorite. Let’s just hope Lemire stays on the title for a long enough time to truly leave his mark on the character, because judging from the first issue it could be quite an interesting and fun take on a character who until this point has basically been defined by his association with the Titans, his relationship to Wonder Girl or his overly violent death.
And them’s the reviews. Hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Now I’m going to finish this bowl of leftover candy and watch old episodes of the Simpsons while I work on a poetry paper for my creative writing class.