Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On Jerry Ordway...

I'm sure a lot of comic fans and professional comic book mouths (like me, only smarter and with connections) have already seized on Jerry Ordway's recent blog essay about being over fifty and under-employed in comics.  Shocking.  A talent of his stature.  The state of comics today.  Give this man work, DC.  All of that.  Which I happen to agree with.  Ordway is too damned talented and capable not to be drawing a book, especially when the company he's most associated with puts out 52 of the rascals every month.  Fifty-two comics and no room for Jerry Ordway?

Anyway, I don't want to use Ordway's essay as a starting point for slamming DC or their product.  I don't think he'd appreciate that, and as he wrote later, that's actually not what he was trying to express.  What I want to point out is the cast of professionals who showed up in the comments.  Gail Simone!  Chuck Dixon!  Jimmy Palmiotti!  Joe Rubinstein!  Mark Verheiden!  Michael Manley!  Graham Nolan!  Others!

The part that feels directed at me personally-- as a buyer of collected editions and archival hardcovers-- is where Ordway discusses how little he gets paid for those things.  That's very upsetting.  One reason I spend money on them is to support financially old school artists whose work I enjoy and the style of comic art and writing I love best.  I'm talking mostly superheroes.  That's not to say there isn't some good new caped stuff out there, but when I buy new comics these days they tend to be manga or small publisher books.  Not from the Big Two.  Their products I consume in the form of reprints.

It made me happy to buy a Showcase Presents in the hopes Nick Cardy, Denny O'Neil or Neal Adams got a cut.  Or a New Mutants Classic for the sake of Bob McLeod (another underemployed pro who seems to have gone out of style).  Now I'm not so sure.  If Jerry Ordway and his peers are getting a pittance for their work while the publishers reap the bulk of the profits-- and bear in mind they already turned these comics into profit years ago so this is just extra gravy (and don't forget the movies coming out this summer and next and next and next that borrow liberally from these old stories and coin hundreds of millions in more profits while the people who originally dreamed up these ideas get both jack and shit)-- then I'm not sure I'm spending my comic book dollars as wisely as I'd imagined.

I think revenue sharing needs to be revisited and greater parity achieved.  I'm not saying overturn the entire system, but a lot of these older pros don't have health insurance and 401K plans and the like.  If companies are turning their ideas into library editions on the basis that this work has some kind of intrinsic value beyond the merely monetary-- that it is important enough to be preserved for as long as the paper lasts as if it's something by Tacitus or Suetonius-- and if they're further basing "tentpole" event movies on these works and building billion-dollar multi-media franchises, then the people whose talent made it all possible in the first place deserve a little more for their efforts.  A somewhat greater share than they've been getting.

At the very least, they need the opportunity to do more work for these companies, if after all of that, this is where their hearts remain.  I mean, fifty-two books and most of them are being cancelled left and right anyway.  You could hardly do worse than to get someone like Jerry Ordway to draw for you again.  Actually, let me rephrase that-- you could hardly do better.  The guy's stuff still rocks.  I see a lot of good artists at work for DC right now, but few of them can touch Ordway.

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