|"I'M STILL BIG. IT'S THE
COMICS THAT GOT SMALLER"
I've been asked my opinion on Joe Quesada's "Darwinism" comments by nearly every on-line comics newsite on the planet. But why give them the scoop when I can save it for my own darn site?
As you may or may not know, Marvel's freshman editor-in-chief made comments recently that The House of Ideas would be looking for fresh new talent for their books as opposed to using seasoned professionals. He basically stated that these old-timers should know when the game is over and have the sense to get off the field.
Joe seems to have forgotten what freelancer paranoia is like. Every writer over the age of twenty two has to be looking in the mirror right now and saying, "Is he talking to me?"
What disturbs me (as the oldest pro to attend WizardWorld Chicago who can still get a sandwich at the hospitality suite) is what this means to comics as a whole. Sure, many are poo-pooing Joe's statements. But dumb ideas like this have a way of catching on in comics. Like manga. Or listening to Gareb Shamus.
So the new criteria for comics will be youth. At least he's coming right out and saying it. But this would make comics the only entertainment/creative medium where your birth date determines your usefulness as a matter of policy.
Did anyone tell Kurasawa, "You're too old, Akira. Go home." Was there a day they told Miles to turn his trumpet in? Despite "Finding Forrester" should Sean Connery report to the old fart's home? Are we being told that, after a certain age a comics creator loses his chops? His voice? His appeal?
Is the bottom line that comics will become more like rap music (where Joe often seems to look for a business model.) with acts coming on the scene and then disappearing like Menudo members or NBC sitcoms?
Where does that leave the constant refrain that comics are a "mature" medium? How can a medium mature when its creators turn over faster than its readership? How can it mature when, just when they're getting good at their craft, pencilers and inkers and writers are told not to let the door hit them in the ass. Does this mean that all of the medium will be young "flavor of the month" types still learning how to do comics?
This is evolution?
Maybe someone should actually read Darwin.
Part of the problem with comics sales these days (and this is getting to be like listing the reasons that Rome fell.) is that the whole business is narrow-focused on one genre. Superheroes do all the heavy-lifting. Sure, a pseudo-tough crime book or nauseating horror story will occasionally break the surface. But for the most part it's the boots and capes guys. Now we're gonna zero in on a portion of that readership. The life of the business will rise or fall on what a bunch of thirty-something guys think an eleventy-something kid wants in a superhero comic. And you can go broke doing that. Do you know the attrition rate for rap artists? Even if the comics business had the slightest idea who their readers were this plan spells doom in mile-high letters. But since the comics business is a business in name only and has never done a market survey and never tests products it's a the blind leading the blinder. There's no way to proceed except trial and error. And age is not a factor.
I've often used one particular freelancer as an example to
disprove the fatuousness of the "youth is king" philosophy of comics.
But along comes Acclaim Comics and Jim Shooter, looking for guys who can draw and who understand that monthly comics come out every thirty days, hires Don to pencil some of his books. Suddenly, Perlin is popular. Not just popular. He's HOT. This guy for whom everything was "over" or "never was" now has lines at conventions rivaling the Image guys. I saw him at a big New York con and the guy looked bewildered as hell seated with a long line of enthusiastic kids clamoring for his attention and signature. I felt happy for him. And I didn't see any kids turned off by the fact that he was probably older than their dad. They bonded to him 'cause he did the comics they liked. He wasn't pierced in any portion of his body. Not only didn't he wear his ballcap backwards he didn't wear a ballcap at all. They didn't know he was middle-aged and unhip when they enjoyed his work and it was still irrelevant when they saw him in person.
These days there's a lot of casualties in the comics business. Competition is tough. There's less companies to go to. There's less books being published. Money is tight. So many of my pals have left the freelancer talent pool for, I hope and pray, greener pastures. One has even taken a page from the Babs Streisand playbook and announced retirement. (for some reason that particular trend frightens me more than anything else.) And this was all without a stated criteria resembling the plotline to Logan's Run.
So what's an old freelance writer to do? I've known there was a window of popularity in this business since I came on the scene. I've always been aware of it. I thought mine might last five years. It's going on fifteen. I am indeed blessed to have had such a long career in this business that is such a passion to me. But I really don't think I'm "over". I would hope I'd know, like Cary Grant, to get out when it's "not fun any more."
I guess I'll just keep on keepin' on. I'll write where I can and hopefully find a niche for a few more years. I've always been able to find readers. Some of them may be a little long in the tooth but their money's good too, right? And from letters I get and the lines at conventions I still seem to be able to "speak to the kids." So I'll stick around a while before that big door comes to slap my fanny.
Besides, I never believed in evolution anyway.
June 28, 2001
...The Rest Of The Story...
|This addendum was posted on the original Dixonverse Message Board after Joe Quesada saw the above rant...|
©2001 by Chuck Dixon. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without permission.