Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Things I, as a comics blogger, must have an opinion about: DC's Watchmen prequel comics and a pro-Kirby boycott!

Watchmen Prequels

Is Watchmen a sacrosanct text?  Maybe, if your frame of reference consists entirely of comic books and graphic novels.  Or you just like to get pissed off about things.  This is the Internet; that's what we do here.  Watchmen is a great book, a fantastic achievement in fiction, but I don't think it's any more untouchable than Catch-22-- one of the most influential novels of the 20th century on impressionable undergrads.  Author Joseph Heller went one step beyond and produced a yawn-worthy and largely unnecessary sequel to it, Closing Time

I rank Watchmen ahead of Mario Puzo's The Godfather as a work of art, yet Francis Ford Coppola adapted that into a classic movie... with an equally-classic sequel.  All we got from Watchmen was that shitty Zack Snyder thing.  And go ask Michael Winegardner and the suits at Random House if Puzo left anything unsaid about his characters and their lives.  For that matter, consult Alexandra Ripley and Warner Books about Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.

So while I believe Watchmen makes a definitive statement then gracefully ends-- a rarity in American comics where characters are nothing more than trademarked entities to be endlessly recycled-- and even though the word "sequel" only makes me slightly less queasy than the word "prequel," DC's decision to expand the story is genius of a sort.  We're talking about it, people will probably buy it and I have to admit the idea of seeing some Adam Hughes sequential artwork has me drooling like a contented baby.  I'm not big on either Brian Azzarello or J. Michael Straczynski, but Len Wein has never wronged me and I'm starting to warm up to Lee Bermejo's artwork.

The best thing to do if you don't want more Watchmen is just to ignore the prequels.  Then there's no way they can sully the original for you.  Especially if your first name isn't Alan and your last name isn't Moore.  Moore does have a point about DC being "dependent on ideas [he] had 25 years ago."  Speaking of dependent on other people's ideas...

Jack Kirby Boycott

I was going to skip The Avengers anyway, because it takes more than sticking a red white and blue suit on some actor and calling him Captain America to interest me in a film even if you toss in Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo (their first work together since Zodiac!) and Samuel L. Jackson.  Iron Man was a pleasant surprise and both The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2 are genre classics. 

The rest have been mediocrities at best and most of them have been outright stinkers.  Fantastic Four movies, I'm looking at you and your bombastically fakey action sequences, over-abundance of lame humor and crass product placement.  DaredevilGhost RiderThorX-Men Origins:  WolverineKick-AssSuperman Returns?  I'm sure there are people who love these movies and make it a point to see every super-flick that comes out, but I'm not among their number.  You've got to wow me with things beyond CGI puppets flying around, a bit of latex and a familiar hero name.

 But beyond all that, according to a story on Slate, there's another reason to give The Avengers a miss and extend that to everything Marvel because Jack Kirby's family isn't getting a cut from all these characters he co-created.  A Marvel boycott.

I'm absolutely pro-Kirby, but that doesn't mean I'm anti-Stan Lee.  These kinds of false dichotomies reign in fandom and I'm not giving into them.  Having said that, I do firmly believe the Kirby family should be compensated for what Jack did for Marvel.  Without Jack, there would have been no Marvel.  That's also true of Stan, but "the Man" sued Marvel successfully, while the Kirbys lost.  The decision may have been according to the letter of the law, but it's still one of those painful things where the right thing and the contractual thing don't coincide even in the slightest.

Kirby got screwed.  He had to allow the screwing so he could provide for his family, but that doesn't mean the screwing was justified or deserved.  Face it, if any one of us had done even a fraction for a company what Kirby did for Marvel but received only his compensation compared to their profit margin past, present and future, we'd be ranting day and night until we get what we feel is equitable.  And even then, it would be such a small slice for them and a huge one for us.  You may claim to feel differently, but you're not going to convince me you're sincere.  Unless you want to sign a piece of paper for me where I own your imagination and can profit from it until the sun consumes the earth while paying you merely a living wage.

We, the fans, whether we're all that aware of Kirby or not, have benefited over the years from all the characters he illustrated and created.  Marvel has made an ungodly amount of money of this man's labors-- Disney paid 4 billion dollars for this company based on how much money they can make by exploiting its Kirby-created properties-- but his family gets nothing because he cashed his checks back in the 60s.

 I doubt any Marvel boycott will affect The Avengers.  The allure of Marvel heroes cavorting together on the big screen is going to prove too much of a lure to the casual fan who is probably only vaguely aware a man named Jack Kirby ever existed.  And the rest probably don't read comics at all and will come away only mildly confused as to why Superman and Batman weren't on the roster.  As for buying Marvel products-- that's already pretty difficult for me because I'm living in Japan.  I can order graphic novels from or buy digital comics, but getting my hands on an actual monthly magazine is incredibly difficult.  I have an associates comic book store of my own, but to date I haven't made a single sale.  It's chockablock with Marvel trades.  So what would my role in such a boycott be?  Skipping a possibly craptacular summer action flick is the easiest step to tak.

What then?  Ditch the Marvels from my failure of a comic book shop?  Stop writing about Marvel books on my loser blog until the Kirby family gets its due?

Hmm.  I think I can do the former this weekend, but the allure of pop culture mockery is too strong for the latter.

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