Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vacate DC and Marvel

DC and Marvel are coming out with a lot of stuff in the next while that I really want to buy.

For DC, there's the new Earth 2 series, which I'm quite curious about. They're collecting Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and All-Star Squadron in Showcase editions, both of which I could quite easily bite on. Justice League: Generation Lost is going to be out in trade one of these days; I'd like to get that. Also I can't help but feel like I'm going to want to start reading the regular Justice League comic once it gets going.

Marvel of course has a couple of series that I've been waiting for the trade on, Daredevil and Annihilators: Earthfall (I'm not so much on the Annihilators themselves, but Rocket Raccoon has become one of my favourites), in addition to New Mutants, which is on my pull list.

So it's a shame that I won't be buying any of it!

But it won't do.

Now let me go back to the beginning and explain why.

You don't have to be paying attention very closely to know that the world has got some problems these days, and you can list them as well as I can if not better. And it looks like it's getting worse, and more and more stuff to deal with keeps showing up. And you know what? I'm tired of not doing anything about it. What am I, just going to sit around and read Green Lantern Corps while the world goes to hell around us? I am not. I hate the feeling that I'm not helping, or not doing enough, and reading all these outrageous stories about evil bastards who get away with everything, and it's just no way to live.

I remember reading, in the last couple of years, about some protest somewhere. I forget what was being protested, but it was something that was certainly worthy of protest. Anyway, the powers that be sent the cops in, like they do, and the cops beat up a bunch of peaceful people and arrested some others for nothing in particular, like they sometimes do, and kept them locked up, and so on. And I thought to myself, wow, if something like that ever happened to me, they would have made an enemy of me for life. I would want nothing less than to destroy the entire country. Then I thought, well, that's messed up, isn't it? The only reason why I don't want to take a stand is because I haven't had anything brutal happen to me? Do I have to be pepper-sprayed before I'll get off the couch? That's no way to make a decision! So I'm not waiting, and I'm not letting it become an emotional decision.

I'm just going to start doing stuff. And you have to too! You have to. Because look. There are too many things going on for any person to pay attention to all of them. I can't fix everything--assuming I can fix anything--and neither can you. Division of labour is our friend here. I'll pick out some things that I care about, and you pick out some things that you care about, and that guy over there can pick out some stuff that he cares about, and between all of us we'll cover everything. I'm just one person, but there are a lot of one-persons out there, and you're another. I can't tell you what to do, but I know this: you can see something that you want to fix. It's in your mind right now. Go fix it!

(In some ways these blogs are a one-way conversation. See, for all I know, you're already doing what I'm talking about here, and I'm late to the party, and you're becoming very impatient with me. If so oops sorry.)

Going to be a slow process. You know; not like I don't have other stuff going on. And let's face it: I've got a job and a mortgage and small kids; I can't afford to hang out with the Occupy people for any length of time, or get sent to jail, or... So: what I can. Already I've given blood, for one thing; been a while since I've done that. I've made a list of worthwhile charities I want to give to. I've got letters brewing. Other ideas in the hopper. Maybe it's not a lot, but it'll be more than nothing and I'm not going to stop.

And one of the things I'm going to do is to stop buying DC and Marvel comics, and tell them that that's what I'm doing, and why. Not such a big sacrifice, maybe... I was looking forward to all the stuff listed in the first couple of paragraphs, and also I realized that I'm going to have to stop picking up Fables in TPB. That's gonna hurt. But there's no help for it.

(Note: I will continue to buy, read, and review Legion-of-Super-Heroes-related comics from DC. Inconsistent? Hypocritical? Maybe so, but it's the way I'm going to do it. Be pretty silly of me to keep doing the blog without reading current LSH comics, for one thing, and for another, Legion Abstract is at least a small voice in the world of superhero comics, and I'd have a hard time finding another one. Plus I've become fond of it over the years. So I'm going to do what I have to do to keep the doors open. (Also note: Legion Lost is about to enter a big crossover thing with Superboy and I don't know what all. I'll get the LL issues and that's it. Let's see if DeFalco knows how to make his story self-contained enough.))

(My local comic shop will not suffer for my stance here. Most of what I buy from them is not DC or Marvel anyway. Princeless, Sergio Aragones' Funnies, the Captain Blood series from SLG if they decide to continue it after all this time, Dungeons & Dragons, the WordGirl digests from Kaboom!, Irredeemable... there's all kinds of good stuff out there from other companies, and I'm looking forward to it too.)

Here are some reasons why I'm Vacating DC and Marvel's comics. First, I'm unhappy with the way they've been treating their creators of the past: Kirby, Siegel, Friedrich, Moore, et al. Second, I am quite unhappy about how they and their corporate masters have been pushing for more restrictive copyright laws, laws that are designed to concentrate money and ownership of culture in large corporations, at the expense of the rest of us. Third, they certainly could be doing a better job with their non-white-straight-male characters.

These aren't my demands, you understand. I have no demands. I'm saying, I don't like that and so I'm not buying your comics anymore. I'm not saying, if you do A B and C I'll start buying them again. No: no promises. I'd like to start buying them again, but I'm not going to until I feel all right about it, and I don't know what can make that happen. That's DC and Marvel's problem.

Looking back over what I've just typed... I don't really think that my anger is coming across here. Because why should I have to type out all this stuff to tell it to you just because they are being jerks? Is it fair? These guys try to step on everybody and because of that I have to take the step of not reading what I really want to read? (Not reading does not come easily to me.) This is where it has gotten us: I don't care what I want anymore. I feel like reading Daredevil? To hell with me! Who cares what I want! These corporations want us to sit down and shut up and read comics and thank them for the privilege and I will not give them what they want. And if I don't like it then that's just too bad.

A natural question is, but Matthew, comic books? This is your big cause? Who cares about superhero comics?

Let me answer that this way. No, comic books aren't that important, but I like them, and it ticks me off that I can't even read a comic book without feeling like I'm being complicit with what's wrong with the world. I mean, I'd like it if they (you know, they) could get just one thing right. You guys get the superhero comics right while the rest of us take care of everything else. What would be wrong with that? But oh no. So now we have to take time out of our busy schedule and fix up the comics industry in addition to the economy and politics and the environment and all the rest of it. So instead of asking me that question, go ask some questions of those who created, or are perpetuating, the problem.

While we're at it. Does it make any sense that these two companies can tell stories about superheroes, can be in fact the two companies most associated with superheroes in the world, can hold the damn trademark on the word "superhero", and yet behave in this way? It does not. I mean, stay with me here, I know the difference between fiction and reality, but where do they get off thinking that nobody's going to call them on this dissonance? It's not like they never refer to it when it does line up. Right now DC's doing this charity thing, "We Can Be Heroes", helping to feed people in the Horn of Africa. Which is good. It is good! But it doesn't get them off the hook; I'm sure there were plenty of stories where Luthor had some kind of smokescreen charity himself, not that I'm accusing DC of being as bad as Luthor, and anyway my point is that they can't expect to use these symbols like that on the one hand and then not live up to them on the other.

Another natural question is, but Matthew, the comic book industry is famously fragile. What if people join you in this protest and it becomes successful enough to sink DC and/or Marvel? Don't want that, do you?

Let me answer that this way. I like to think of myself as a reasonable guy. In fact, I insist on being as reasonable as I can, in all situations, because I believe that that is the best way to do it. For everyone. It's no good resorting to violence or destruction; the only way is to talk it out and convince people to come around to your side by the strengths of your arguments. We're trying to have a civilization here. As such, no, I'm not looking to sink any companies, and I have to hope and think that it will not come to that.

With my mind, I think that. That's my mind's opinion. Which is fine, because that's the side of me that gets all the decision-making power, or so I like to think.

But there's another side of me that just wants to rip everything the fuck down.

I don't indulge that side of me. It exists, though, and since it exists, that means that there is a decently wide range of possible outcomes that are acceptable to me. DC and Marvel mend their ways, fine. Great, even. DC and Marvel collapse into chaos, leaving thousands in poverty, fine. Great, even. (I am neither proud nor ashamed of this attitude. What I am is angry; see above.)

Reasonable. To be reasonable. I don't know. I mean, as John Rogers points out, you have to know your swing. And mine certainly involves reason. Calm. Deliberateness, if you will. It's not my place to say that I'm actually any good at it, but I'm sure not good at any other approach. So I guess I'm stuck with that. And I'm glad! But in a sense it's a disadvantage, because the other "side" does not feel the same need to be reasonable. It doesn't seem, in fact, like they have any sense of restraint of any kind. Were SOPA and PIPA reasonable? Is C-11 or ACTA or the TPP? Is it reasonable that Toews is calling us child pornographers if we don't want all our internet activity recorded for the cops? Is it reasonable that Obama says he can legally have anybody in the world secretly assassinated if he feels like it? What kind of simpleton am I to even attempt reason in the face of all that?

Not that crazy always beats sane, or evil is more powerful than good, or any of the things that I've heard people say about situations like that. I don't think it's true at all. But I do think that there's no way for sane to compromise with crazy. And I don't think reason does any good if the people who need to hear it just won't listen.

So that's where I've gotten to with this article: Pick something you care about and fix it. Insist on sanity. Make them listen. Vacate DC and Marvel.

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Blogger Matthew E said...

Okay so I had to unload a bunch of stuff there; hope it wasn't too obnoxious. I'll be returning to these topics from time to time but the basic purpose of the blog will not change. I beg your indulgence.

10:38 PM  
Blogger BK said...

wow. good luck with your new projects! it's hard to change an embrace new things!

2:59 AM  
Anonymous plok said...

That's a much better manifesto than mine! That's the real genuine honest plain-spoken well-thought-out bases-covering stuff, not the hyper-rhetorical "man that guy is always on about something" stuff that idiots like me always seem to produce.

Man, I feel it!

Good for you: a fine solution.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

BK: Thanks very much. Actually it's not hard, though; would have been much harder not to do this.

plok: Also thanks very much. Let's not call it a solution until it's over, though. And we already know from Dr. Manhattan when that is.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Dylan said...

Give you a lot of credit, man. I've dropped individual titles for various reasons before, but I don't think I could ever bow out of buying a company's comics entirely (unless they just purely stop publishing anything I want to read, ala a few years ago where I was only buying one title from Marvel).

I'm ashamed to admit I value my own enjoyment of the titles more than I do sending a message.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Totally understandable. Doesn't mean you can't find another way to exercise your conscience, though: write a letter, donate to the Hero Initiative, support some separate cause, anything. Anything's better than not doing something but wishing you were.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Oxymoron X said...

Always room for more growth: personal, social, economic and even biological. I appreciate your openness. Hopefully you will write about some nonDC/nonMarvel comics here. I do not know about any of them. It is easy for me to drop all but LSH. Easier if I knew more alternates.

12:48 AM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

It wouldn't be unheard of for me to do so; I've mentioned a couple in the past. But basically this blog is about the LSH.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strong words that needed to be said.They've long needed to be said;the issue of creator's rights has been around for a long time,at least since the fiasco over the return of Jack Kirby's art.Strong words like yours need to be said, and repeated,otherwise nothing changes.
Fact is,I've been vacating the Big Two for years.Not for a reason as high-minded as yours,but because comics are just too expensive anymore.I don't want to walk out of my LCS with an empty wallet.The content of many of the Big Two's comics also has become less appealing to me;if they're making their comics only for the hardcore fanboy,here's one hardcore fanboy who's not buying them.When it comes to comics I'm curious about,I'm lucky to have a local library well stocked in graphic novels;odds are,in a few months,a tpb of said comics will appear on the library's shelves.
DC and Marvel have made me a lot pickier about buying comics(including Legion comics,sad to say)Between their treatment of creators and pricing,it's a classic case of the Big Two pulling out the rug from under themselves.
Also,support your local library.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

Absolutely. Libraries are key.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Jim Davis said...

Here are some reasons why I'm Vacating DC and Marvel's comics. First, I'm unhappy with the way they've been treating their creators of the past: Kirby, Siegel, Friedrich, Moore, et al. Second, I am quite unhappy about how they and their corporate masters have been pushing for more restrictive copyright laws, laws that are designed to concentrate money and ownership of culture in large corporations, at the expense of the rest of us. Third, they certainly could be doing a better job with their non-white-straight-male characters.

Given the above, how do you feel about creators that accept or even seek out employment at DC and Marvel?

4:39 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

There are a lot of good reasons why a creator might seek out employment at DC or Marvel. It's their lives; I got no problem with it.

For that matter, there are a lot of good reasons why people might want to buy DC or Marvel comics. I haven't said, in this article, that people should stop buying DC or Marvel comics; I only said that I was stopping.

The only demand I make of people who read these words--and it is a demand; I really do insist on it--is that you all do something to save or improve the world in a way that makes sense to you and is important to you. If you think and feel about DC and Marvel like I do, you may join me in not buying their stuff. Or not. That's only one option.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Jim Drew said...

I'm not really sure I'm following your point.

The first half of the post seems to be about how comics are fluffy money-wasters and you should be using your time and money on more worthy things. To which I say "More power to you. If you want to give up your entertainment time and dollars to other causes, go for it."

And then you hit Albuquerque and it's all about punishing DC and Marvel for things they aren't going to change, and punishing yourself in the process. Again, "Go for it if it make you happier." Just remember that a boycott that no one (in power) knows about which has neither achievable demands nor an exit strategy is not a boycott, it's just "I'm quitting these comics (until I stop quitting them)."

I understand anger and frustration and the history here and so forth, but I'm a cynic at heart.

(If Shooter were to sue over his 60s Legion stuff, you would drop all Legion comics as well, right?)

4:59 PM  
Blogger Matthew E said...

No, the first half of the post was about why I'm doing anything at all, and that even though comics aren't the most important things around, I'm Vacating DC and Marvel because comics are one of the things I care about.

I agree that it's pointless if they don't know about it. Telling them about it is part of the plan that I haven't quite gotten to yet; I'll post a copy of the letter I send here when I send it.

It doesn't make me happier. It does make me a bit less unhappy, if that makes any sense.

I don't believe I would drop Legion comics if Shooter sued, no. There may be circumstances under which my conscience would only be satisfied by my dropping Legion comics, but I don't care to imagine them.

I don't know if this is going to have any positive effect or not. I do know that doing nothing is not going to have a positive effect. So this is what I'm doing. I welcome constructive criticism.

I hope you're doing something about something you care about.

10:09 PM  

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