Hey, in our Internet face this month:
- Odd, amusing and counter-intuitive revelation: Aquaman, who suffers “talks-to-fish” jokes even in his own title outsold the monthly product dump of X-Men
- Depressingly business-as-usual outrage du jour over a complex case of trademark enforcement
It’s got me thinking about Marvel. Remember Marvel? Marvel, the company. And Marvel, the characters and their creators. Two very different things, as these events demonstrate.
Before I adopted a strictly creator-owned policy with regard to creating comics and other intellectual property, I scripted comics for Marvel. For context, we’re talking 1993-1996, the years the direct market for comics distribution nearly committed suicide. Outside of the decimation of the industry going on at the time, it was a good creative experience and a decent job. At the time, I might have even said “dream job,” which is how I heard my colleague Dan “Amazing Spider-man” Slott describe it lately, and he’s not far off.
Dream job, why? For the same reason any other comics creator since the Roy Thomas era will tell you, because we are fans. Fans of the characters and the creators. (If not always fans of the corporation.)
I met (and in some cases collaborated with) creators who had a profound influence on me as a kid discovering storytelling, among them Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin, Marie Severin, Gene Colan, Marv Wolfman, the Romita family, more talent than I can mention here…
Even Stan Lee, who inscribed my Silver Surfer comic “To Dangerous David” and generously invited me to come see him in Los Angeles when I was working on the first Faust film. Stan advised me sagely on my media projects… yes, you read right, advised me on creator-owned deals, outside of my Marvel assignments. Stan had nothing to gain, not directly. His energy just extended beyond the call to helping the younger guys. He had a wealth of experience… and he shared.
Many of my friends and collaborators today are a legacy gift of my Marvel and DC associations in my work for hire days. So, while I no longer sling pitches to write a Thor reboot or the sixteenth Green Lantern title, these characters – and again, their creators – rank right up there in my personal pantheon. (Just below the Beatles, Sly Stone, Thelonius Monk, the Ramones, Berry Gordy, Jr, George Romero and Gandhi.)
“But, inwalkedquinn, the 90s sucked!” some of you are saying. “I lost my six figure a year inking job!” “I lost my comic store!” “I lost my house! “My wife left me!” “I’m still trying to unload these variant cover comics!” “I moved to the CrossGen compound!”
Yes, it was a bloody time. Show of hands, how many of you have a collection of t-shirts from comics companies now extinct? It was a time when none of us knew where the bottom would be before comics as a viable business stopped getting worse and started getting better.
- A superhero speculator boom was naturally cycling towards bust
- Marvel’s parasitic owners were leveraging the company, pushing it toward its eventual bankruptcy
- And publishers were entering the “exclusive distribution deal” fiasco that ultimately shipwrecked the industry, costing thousands of people who made comics, published comics or sold comics their livelihood.
So, I told you all that to tell you this.
Do you know what some of us used to fantasize? The other writers and I, the artists, inkers, letterers, editors, the bruised, bloodied virtual Bullpen? We used to speculate that Marvel’s corporate owners would dump the company once they’d saddled it with debt. And a global media player would pick it up. And instead of strip-mining the company, its assets and the distribution system, this global player – a Sony, a Paramount, a Disney – would set up a state-of-the art killer vertical, cross-pollinating global media with our stories – and we, our people like us, fans of these characters and the work of those who preceded us, could go on creating.
Visual storytelling would be mainstream again. Found in comic shops, sure. But also every bookstore. Online. Even in theme parks…
Now do you see where I am going?
Disney’s owned Marvel since the fourth quarter of 2009. And it’s changed everything, right?
Come back in a week and I’ll continue that thought… or comment below. Please be good to each other till then.