I want to talk about CONTROVERSY in a minute, but first off, I feel like I owe everyone a thank you.
With all the distractions of television and the internet, you still come by to read these journals. Life is short and you’re all busy people. There are a ton of cool things that you could be doing right now, but the fact that you took the time to read another “SGM” idealistic posts means a lot to me.
I try not to post these things too often because too much idealism can turn people off, as I’m sure I do. But by now I think we’ve thinned the crowd out to only the people who understand what I’m getting at with these journals and who share a lot of the same concerns regarding art, integrity, entertainment and comics.
Not that we always agree! I love that people feel free to disagree and that we can do it respectfully. We have a lot in common in that we LOVE art and comics. And if our emotions sometimes get entangled with our biases and we fail to be open to other controversial opinions—that’s okay too. All of these differences come out of the dedication we feel toward something that bonds us.
Without Deviant Art (and with helpful plugs from friends like Skottie Young, Eric Canete and Dustin Nguyen) I’m not sure I’d even be paying my bills. I haven’t been on the shelves for over year now yet I’ve never received so much email, posts and notes. If this were the era before the internet, I’d have no support at all. Don’t get me wrong—I’m nothing but grateful for the work and paychecks from Vertigo, but at the same time there has been a enormous amount of delays, most of which the editors can’t be blamed for. As unfortunate (and understandable) as it is that I can’t post more Joe the Barbarian pages, I’m glad that my unpublished Hellblazer run could be posted on DA without a problem.
It’s weird to be known as “that pointy nosed Hellblazer artist” when my pointy nosed art hasn’t even hit the shelves. Those pages are apparently a thing of the past and (hopefully) a thing of the future.
Now what about controversy? Is it okay for a DC exclusive artist to be so honest and sometimes critical of the entertainment industry?
I appreciate my friends looking out for me and suggesting that being controversial isn’t good for a career—and I think you’re right. There is NO BENEFIT to me when I post stories about the inside workings of comics. Rubbing people the wrong way might be costing me in ways that I’ll never know. But it’s the long-term benefits for the industry AS A WHOLE that I’m after.
The power of the press plays a huge role in the system of checks and balances in our business. Every time you write an article, post a comment or hop of Twitter you essentially become the press. Artists occupy an important position in these networks because there are tons of people who are willing to listen. But I don’t understand why more professionals don’t call “bullshit” more often.
If something is wrong with comics, you should speak up. If you hear about a company who’s not paying its artists, you need to say something. If an artist is “swiping” (and thus BREAKING THE LAW), you don’t need to defend him. You’re on the front line and have access to this information. Are Tweets like “standing in line to buy food” and “just inked a page. I rock!” really helping anyone out? Or are they adding to the statues quo? By saying nothing, isn’t your silence a form of assent?
When Disney bought Marvel, people flipped out. I think people are still flipping out. Some have said it’s the biggest thing to happen in comics in the past 50 years. CNN even covered the story on their website under the BREAKING NEWS headline. And I remember thinking to myself “wow! The working world really does care about comics.” But when I checked CNN 30 minutes later, the article was gone. It wasn’t even in the subsections. I even checked the “entertainment” section and it wasn’t there either—just something about Jon and Kate.
The biggest thing to happen to comics in 50 years, and CNN covered it for 30 minutes. Clearly, we’re doing something wrong.
Or maybe the world will never be into comics. Maybe comics will always be for children in their 30s (as many othersides stupidly think). Or maybe there is a way to get people to pay more attention to us and our stories. I don’t know what that way might be—but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen if professionals are going to tiptoe around the problems and not speak up when something can easily be addressed.
Don’t get me wrong — playing politics is something you have to do in every business. And I’ll accept a certain amount of that. But I don’t want to work in a business where people are afraid to speak up because they don’t want their editor to get mad at them. If you really love your readers that much, you should be telling them how you really feel, in a constructive way, and arming them with good information for the day when THEY become the next set of professionals.
Again, I’m sorry if this turns people off. Believe me, I love what I do. I love it so much that I’ve given my life to it and a willing to risk my reputation to fight for the things that might make it better as we speed off into our future.
Not every Tweet should be charged with idealistic war cries, mind you. And not everyone is wired to fit these roles. No rebellion is necessary and it’s not like I’m telling people to take to the streets. If you like the biz the way it is—then fine. You should be writing posts that are just as charged as these are, but for the other side.
In the end, all I’m saying is that I wish professionals wouldn’t hold back as much. We need more guys like Dave Johnson who are willing to post a link when someone unfairly reviews his art. We need more Canete's out there who use words like "legacy" a lot when they talk. We need more Nguyens out there who are willing to push the boundaries of water color onto books that have never had them. Friends of mine like Zach Howard, Josh Williamson, Shawn Crystal, Dan Panosian--these are high-minded, introspective, fearless, idealistic mother fuckers who are fighting the good fight. And I'm glad they're out there.