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Superbummed
April 20, 2012 11:27 AM   Subscribe

"iZombie will be the last time I’ll ever write for DC... I decided quite some time ago, but waited until after the cancellation of my book was announced to discuss it. The short version is, I don’t agree with the way they treat other creators and their general business practices." writer Chris Roberson ends his relationship with DC Comics, pointing at a post by David Brothers as a summation of his ethical concerns. Roberson's work at DC has included turning around Superman after J. Michael Straczynski left mid-story, iZombie and a spin-offs from Vertigo's Fables featuring Cinderella as a super spy. He is currently working on the creator owned Memorial, published by IDW.
posted by Artw (62 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
He'll be back.

They always come back.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:30 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Superman Exit Interview he did with War Rocket AJAX also has a fair amount of dirt from the time he was working on Grounded, including the story with muslim hero Sharif that DC refused to run.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on April 20, 2012


He'll be back.

They always come back.


I dunno about that, they just kicked him off another Fables based project he was going to be finishing up on.
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on April 20, 2012


It's less that they always come back, but rather that DC is one of the big 2, and newer authors and artists will assume rumors they heard are just rumors. By the time they "make it," and realize the rumors are true, there's another up-and-comer naively awaiting the opening.
posted by explosion at 11:37 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


DC has made a number of internal decisions in the last few years that seem to all be pointing at the fact that the only thing keeping them afloat in the monthly-comics world is a combination of inertia and throwing money at Grant Morrison to fix things they fucked up via editorial fiat.
posted by griphus at 11:42 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


They're now going to do zero issues for the New 52! Woooo! The dream of the 90s is still alive.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on April 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


There's also the fact that, for some reason, people seem to like it when Geoff Johns writes things that aren't the Flash (not that I'm complaining about the current book with that title).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:45 AM on April 20, 2012



They're now going to do zero issues for the New 52! Woooo! The dream of the 90s is still alive.


Where's my Hologram Foil "Limited Edition" cover?
posted by KingEdRa at 11:46 AM on April 20, 2012


I haven't read a single issue of the New 52, and the only thing I AM interested in reading post-Flashpoint is Earth-2.
posted by PapaLobo at 11:49 AM on April 20, 2012


I don't follow comics news but I do still read the odd comic, so reactions follow:

Oh my god, I Zombie's been cancelled! D:

Zero issues? Dear god. The New 52 killed DC for me, which means I'm left with I Zombie (doh) and The Boys.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:50 AM on April 20, 2012


Oh cry me a river. You go to Marvel and DC to get famous, then when you get some traction and some fame building on the characters others created (Schuster and Siegel got the shaft with Superman more than Alan Moore ever did) and then when you get that fame, you strike out against the business that you've been actively engaged in for years.

I call bullshit.
posted by inturnaround at 11:51 AM on April 20, 2012


I really enjoy his work with Cinderella. She's Bondier than any double-O that ever Bonded. She not just a cartoon, Cindy is such a stylish bad-ass.

Chris says here that as well as the obvious movie influences on Cindy, he drew heavily on Kage Baker's Not Less Than Gods, Ms. Baker's last book.
posted by bonehead at 11:51 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where's my Hologram Foil "Limited Edition" cover?

The Future Version of the hologram foil cover is the iPhone app. Want to see Aquaman's enSpeedo'd buns glisten and clench on the cover of Aquaman #0? Just download this app and put your iPhone on the cover!*

*(bouncing quarters off it is optional. DC comics not responsible for chipped iPhone screens)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:56 AM on April 20, 2012


Glad to see a David Brothers article linked, imo he's the most consistently interesting comics blogger out there right now, especially his 4thletter stuff.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:57 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I drifted away from the Big 2 some time shortly after All-Star Superman ended. The recent arms race in raw shitty corporate behavior between the two actually has me kind of regretting this, because I can't claim to walk away in disgust now. Like a lot of people, I think, I'm really conscious of how ethically repellant DC and Marvel are.
posted by COBRA! at 11:58 AM on April 20, 2012


Crap, sorry to see Cinderella losing a talent.
posted by yerfatma at 11:58 AM on April 20, 2012


That better be an obscenely huge amount of money they throw at Morrison after they shitted all over his Pre-52 work. Like, enough to buy himself a secret villain lair and all. (I do wonder how is he feeling these days about the mostly unsalvageable clusterfuck that DC is turning into.)
posted by Iosephus at 12:04 PM on April 20, 2012


Actually, in all seriousness, this doesn't come as a huge shock to me. It's very obvious that the suits at Warners are calling the shots at DC more than ever, and anyone who dares to speak about on issues like the Siegal/Schuster litigation and the recent Before Watchmen dustup will be made to feel unwelcome, if not outright shown the door right fucking quick. DC Comics is nothing more than a content farm for Warners film and animation as far as the suits are concerned.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:05 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


inturnaround: You go to Marvel and DC to get famous...and then when you get that fame, you strike out against the business that you've been actively engaged in for years.

Maybe, but a more charitable reading of the situation would be that you go to Marvel and DC because you wan to do comics and they're the biggest game in town, and by the time you realize they're scum they've got you by the balls and your livelihood depends on continuing to work for them. Eventually through a combination of talent, skill, hard work, and luck you manage to get enough recognition that you feel like you don't need them anymore. So you take advantage of your newfound empowerment to strike out on your own, meanwhile using the podium offered by your fame to tell as many people as you can that these guys are scum and should be avoided if at all possible.

This seems a lot more plausible to me, more in line with the way actual humans actually operate. Do you have some particular reason to believe that your reading is the correct one? What would Robertson's motive be for striking out against DC other than genuinely not wanting to deal with them and wanting to encourage other people to not deal with them either? I'm not sure where the vindictiveness and spite would come from if not from having been poorly-treated by DC over the course of his career and having seen them make decisions that contradict his own moral guidelines. If you have better info, let's hear it.
posted by Scientist at 12:07 PM on April 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Schuster and Siegel got the shaft with Superman more than Alan Moore ever did

So what level of corporate shafting is acceptable and what level is too far?
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:11 PM on April 20, 2012


EdRa: Which is hilarious to me because the Time Warner strategy for superhero movies is pretty much the same as the DC strategy for superhero comics: find a good creator, give him total control over the Batman franchise, step back and watch the money roll in. For all other properties, micromanage and dick around until nothing recognizable remains.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:12 PM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


What would Robertson's motive be for striking out against DC other than genuinely not wanting to deal with them and wanting to encourage other people to not deal with them either?

He only announced this was his position once his book was cancelled, right? These moves against creators is nothing new. The Image guys did this in the 90s (yet most of them made their way back). The Superman/boy suits and the treatment of Jack Kirby are not secrets. He knew about it when he got into the business.

It's the reality of the the big 2, innit? If you want to write for Marvel or DC, you don't own shit. If you want to own shit, be good and work harder.
posted by inturnaround at 12:13 PM on April 20, 2012


The Superman/boy suits and the treatment of Jack Kirby are not secrets. He knew about it when he got into the business.

I think it was very easy to dismiss these cases as "that was then, this is now", but the 'Beyond Watchmen' thing and the Gary Friedrich things happening so recently are evidence that it hasn't changed at all, and you will still get well and truly screwed by the Big Two if they think they can make a buck off of it.
posted by Legomancer at 12:19 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is pretty much impossible to be into comics enough to want to make them and not know what Marvel and DC did to their early creators. But it's real easy to feel like they're the only game in town, especially if you actually like the superhero genre.

(I don't see myself ever doing superheros, except for like maybe one Batman/Harley teamup I've been kicking around for a couple of years - and yet when I go to comic cons, I'll hit the Big Two portfolio reviews. Just to see what happens. Last time I may have managed to get a gig doing occasional illo work for one of them, and I'm really not sure how I feel about this. At all. On the one hand it is money and exposure - but on the other hand... I'm really thinking of donating 10% or so of my pay to the creators of the stuff I draw, or their heirs.)

I wish Robertson good luck with using the fame he built at DC to go off and do his own work.
posted by egypturnash at 12:37 PM on April 20, 2012


Schuster and Siegel got the shaft with Superman more than Alan Moore ever did

Brothers addresses this kind of point very well in the open letter. Just because you're not the most screwed person in the universe doesn't mean that it's fine if you get screwed. Or as he puts it, "This isn't the Exploitation Olympics." In general, I've always found this kind of argument to be flawed, as it dismisses all injustice except the very worst.
posted by Edgewise at 12:38 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've given up on DC books after the New 52. When they said they wanted to get back to sales figures they saw in the 90s, I didn't think they'd be so literal about it. Rob Liefeld WRITING books! Jim Lee designing everything! Scott Lobdell, aka the reason I quit reading X-Men in the 90s! Bob Harras, the worst editor Marvel ever had, hired as their new Editor-in-Chief. Ugh ugh ugh.

While I agree with Robertson that the Big 2 continue to treat their legacy creators extremely poorly, I can't get behind the backlash against Before Watchmen. Here's the basic fact - Alan Moore negotiated a contract with DC stating that he and Dave Gibbons would get the rights to The Watchmen back after it had gone out of print for a year. Moore is mad at DC for a lot of things, but he keeps going back to this fact. And now it's somehow a conspiracy against him that they continue to keep printing the best-selling graphic novel of all time and don't just let the rights lapse back to him.

This isn't a some teenagers getting screwed out of Superman for a couple of hundred bucks. This isn't Kirby and the other Marvel staffers getting screwed out of their creative rights by a contract that was printed on the back of their paycheques. This was clause negotiated by both parties. Moore claims no graphic novel had been reprinted before that, and therefore he never thought the clause would kick in, but if so why was it even in the contract? And this is all contract and rights stuff, I'm not even getting into the meta aspects of Moore's complaints. So much of his recent output based on the characters of others. Even his original works, like Promethea, Tom Strong and Top 10 are all commentary on previous works. Do you think Moore cares what Baum or Carroll or Barrie would think about their creations getting turned into erotic fiction in Lost Girls. No, Moore gets to play with everyone else's creations but if you touch his, even if he doesn't own their rights, there will be hell to pay.
posted by thecjm at 12:51 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cinderella Undercover?

You know, I fully support making Oingo Boingo songs into comic books.

There's always the Dave Sim route where you self publish an independent comic for a decade and a half, build a name and a solid reputation, then go completely fucking insane from the isolation and lack of editing and implode in a flaming ball of cloud-kookoolander ideas and self indulgent plot decisions.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:52 PM on April 20, 2012


From the Brothers article: "When it came time to package and produce that Absolute, DC published Absolute Black Dossier at a price point of $99.99. What extras did you get for that price, which was eighty dollars more than the paperback? Nothing. The slipcased volume included no extra content..."

Heh. Heh heh. Heh heh heh heh. HA! HA HA HA HA HAAAA!!! GENIUS!

Now THAT is how to be a cynical, customer-hating dickbag. The purity of perversity on display borders on admirable. The only way it would have been worse was if they included a spring-loaded knife that would stab the reader on page twelve, covered the dust jacket with skin irritants, and made the whole thing smell of week-old deer carcass. But the more cost-effective approach is just as evil.

DC Comics, you absolute bastards, I SALUTE YOU!
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:58 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Moore has actually addressed that point, thecjm, and his objection, as I understand it (and he's really not clear about it, so I may be wrong) is that when he takes Captain Nemo or Alice and puts them in his comics, he's creating something new. In copyright terms, it's a transformational use to have Mr. Hyde and Mina Murray fighting HG Wells' Martians. Meanwhile, Before Watchmen is billed as a straight expansion of the canon Moore and Gibbons created in Watchmen. No transformation, just addition.

Also, the Watchmen contract was billed as a milestone for creators' rights, because it was something less than "we own your work forever." The idea was that the publisher would get the profits from the first run of the comic, and once that petered out, the creators get their baby back to do with as they will. It was literally unthinkable that Watchmen would never go out of print because no comic had ever failed to go out of print before, no matter how successful. The fact (sheer innocent coincidence, I'm sure!) that the comic where DC made a big deal out of giving up the rights once it went out of print was also the first comic that never went out of print has not gone over well.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:09 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do you think Moore cares what Baum or Carroll or Barrie would think about their creations getting turned into erotic fiction in Lost Girls.

Baum, Carroll and Barrie's works all spent their requisite time under copyright, enriching their creators, and are now in the public domain. Were they to rise from their graves to complain, the only reasonable response would be "well, tough."
posted by mightygodking at 1:12 PM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Were they to rise from their graves to complain, the only reasonable response would be "well, tough." to shoot them in the head and gather supplies and survivors god dammit people this is how outbreaks start.
posted by griphus at 1:17 PM on April 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


I know Chris. I am working with him on a new thing that will be announced soonish.

Trust me, he is not going back to DC Comics under its current administration and policies.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 1:23 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Baum, Carroll and Barrie's works all spent their requisite time under copyright, enriching their creators, and are now in the public domain. Were they to rise from their graves to complain, the only reasonable response would be "well, tough."

Okay, let's look at League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It started off with a late 19th Century setting, so most if not all of the characters he was using were in the public domain. But now it's moved into the 1960s and the next one will be set in the present. Did he get the rights to "Jimmy" Bond from the Fleming estate? How about his portrayal of a young Tom Riddle/Lord Voldemort raping a drugged Mina - did J.K. Rowling sign off on that? By now LEG has moved well past it's public domain roots and right into Alan Moore doing whatever he wants with other people's copyrighted characters.
posted by thecjm at 1:28 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Moore also has been spending some time working on Rob Liefeld's ripoff of Superman. Moore's done some questionable things.

But that doesn't change that he got screwed over.
posted by Legomancer at 1:31 PM on April 20, 2012


If you're talking about Moore's run on Supreme, you're talking about one of the best deconstructions of Silver Age Superman ever.
posted by bonehead at 1:40 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh cry me a river. You go to Marvel and DC to get famous, then when you get some traction and some fame building on the characters others created (Schuster and Siegel got the shaft with Superman more than Alan Moore ever did) and then when you get that fame, you strike out against the business that you've been actively engaged in for years.

His wikipedia entry shows his track record. He'd been selling stories since 2003, novels since 2005, was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer twice (you can only be eligible twice before your newness wears off), and was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award in 2004 (I'm skipping his subsequent nominations for editing and publishing.)

That he was going to work on a Fables spinoff for DC's Vertigo imprint was announced in 2008; it appeared in 2009.

Dude already had some traction.

I read his Book of Secrets. It had some very good bits, and some very frustrating bits.
posted by Zed at 1:46 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Moore's work on Supreme pulled it out of the "shitty ripoff" swamp Liefield had conceived and delivered the thing in and into "deconstructive parody." During Moore's run it was so obvious he was dealing with Superman, it wasn't any more of a ripoff than Planetary was on any of the ground it covered.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on April 20, 2012


Wow--the Before Watchmen teaser art at the David Brothers link really has the smell of death on it. Not that the art itself is bad, but it somehow manages to convey that the underlying creative idea is 'I bet people will buy this'. It couldn't be less appealing if they were doing a Watchmen/Superfriends crossover event.

Do you suppose DC is trying to make it as big an embarrassment as possible, just to get Alan Moore's goat? "Hey, I know--next let's have Rorschach getting drunk with Lobo! That'll REALLY piss him off!"
posted by Sing Or Swim at 2:02 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rob Liefeld just redesigned Lobo - he now has big 70s style boots and shiny bracelets. And a vest with Jim Lee style armour lines, because this is New 52. Lobo's kind of a dumb single joke 90s character, but heaping this kind of indignity on him seems a bit much.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Liefeld clearly grew up thinking that Neil Adams and Mike Grell were really, really cool artists. He just hasn't figured out why. Or foreshortening.
posted by bonehead at 2:44 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only thing keeping me reading the Big 2 right now is K Gillen, and the fact that he's got another Phonogrrrrrrrm coming out makes me hope he'll jump back to indies soon after having magically found a way to make money at it.
posted by subbes at 3:29 PM on April 20, 2012


I'd be keener on following his X-stuff if it ever managed to run for more than half a dozen issues or so before hitting a crossover or event.
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on April 20, 2012


I still feel deeply guilty for hating S.W.O.R.D. (sorry, KG!). I had to go back and re-read Singles Club 3 or 4 times, so that my approval of that would outweigh it, karmically.
posted by subbes at 3:34 PM on April 20, 2012


Artw: Rob Liefeld just redesigned Lobo - he now has big 70s style boots and shiny bracelets. And a vest with Jim Lee style armour lines, because this is New 52. Lobo's kind of a dumb single joke 90s character, but heaping this kind of indignity on him seems a bit much

That can't be a Liefeld... there's feet in the picture!
posted by Decimask at 4:24 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, a weird lumpy object in the area a foot would be.
posted by Artw at 4:26 PM on April 20, 2012


Also, I like Lobo. Lobo vs. Santa was awesome.
posted by Decimask at 4:27 PM on April 20, 2012


...and then, coincidentally, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a note about a Lobo movie?
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:38 PM on April 20, 2012


Schuster and Siegel got the shaft with Superman more than Alan Moore ever did

As reported in detail elsewhere, one such Creator was J. Michael Straczynski (NINJA ASSASSIN), who used DC’s horrific, ongoing mistreatment of Superman creators Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and their heirs to justify his work on Watchmen 2:  ”Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Siegel and Shuster, worse was a lot of people.”
Straczynski then presumably added, “DC’s action subjected Siegel & Shuster to years of extreme poverty. They forced Jerry Siegel’s wife to beg DC to give her husband work. By the time Joe Shuster was 62, he was almost blind and living in a California nursing home, despite having created a character known and beloved throughout the world.  And those are the reasons why I’m extremely proud to make comics for DC today.  Those are my dogs!  Those are my dogs that did that!  That’s how my bros make it do, nephew!  Woot Woot!  Alan Moore signed a crummy contract, Joe Siegel signed a crummy contract, Jerry Shuster signed a crummy contract, DC is an empire of cruelty built on a mass grave of crummy contracts signed by broken men, but if that’s why I can make money today, then obviously, it was all worth it. And if I can anticipate your next question: no, there’s technically no evidence yet that anyone at DC was implicated in the death of Whitney Houston, but my fingers are crossed.”


That can't be a Liefeld... there's feet in the picture!

Oh, you hipsters.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:50 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did y'all see that Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is probably facing the axe?

Dammit, Loeb!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:09 PM on April 20, 2012


What's annoying me most about The New 52 (and I'm only following 3 books now, down from a dozen or so) is that we're not even a year in and it's already heading into Crossoverville. 'Batman' is crossing over with the other twenty or whatever Bat-books, and 'Animal Man' and 'Swamp Thing' are crossing over with all the other "dark" books. If they think my love for Animal Man and Swamp Thing are going to get me back to reading the meandering shitheap of nothing-happened-this-issue that is 'Justice League Dark', or the direct and blatant Hellboy ripoff that 'Frankenstein' is - well, no! No, I shan't do it!
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:00 PM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rob Liefeld just redesigned Lobo...

Those are all precisely as terrible and gritty-teethed as I expected, but omg is Grifter the worst fucking comic book character ever created or what? His costume is a red dishrag covering his face, held in place with ski goggles. What's he meant to be? An assassin? A Deadpool ripoff? Where's he even shooting that guy? In the cheek? Is that the guy's weak spot? How come it isn't armoured? Or is that Grifter's trademark move? "Detective, we've got another one...bullet went right through the guy's cheek and into his elbow. THIS MANIAC MUST BE STOPPED!" "But how? How do we uncover this masked lunatic?" "With THIS?" *produces a little plastic pocket-fan* What's in those two pouches? Is it to keep the biceps from reaching critical mass? Why does he have those straps around his arms? Who is that woman, and what does she think she's doing? Oh god.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:16 PM on April 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who is that woman, and what does she think she's doing?

She's using her sword to parry another sword being swung at her by herself.

Also, I feel that by ridiculing Grifter's costume and pose, you're unjustifiably giving his name a free pass. What the hell kind of superhero calls himself 'Grifter'? And who wants to read about him? Have Kids Today really been reduced to following the adventures of a guy who cons retirees out of their life savings or something? By God, when I was your age, we had wholesome, normal power-and-dominance fantasies about muscular men in skin-tight clothing beating each other up...
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:43 PM on April 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ha! "Kids."
posted by Artw at 7:48 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


grifter
"confidence trickster," 1915, carnival and circus slang, probably an alteration of grafter (see graft (n.)). Gradually extended to "any non-violent criminal."


You're right. Even the expanded, casual definition is totally off the mark!
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:15 PM on April 20, 2012


Gradually extended to "any non-violent criminal."

...whereas a superhero should properly be a violent non-criminal.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:06 PM on April 20, 2012


DC has told Chris Robertson that his services are no longer required. Comicsalliance got a slightly more detailed response from him on the subject.
posted by Decimask at 6:13 AM on April 21, 2012


If nerds feel like they're getting screwed over (usually by someone failing to cater specifically to them) they whine, scream, and shout "Boycott!" (though they never do). But if someone else is getting screwed over to provide nerds with what they want? "Fuck 'im, he knew the situation going in."
posted by Legomancer at 7:04 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


but omg is Grifter the worst fucking comic book character ever created or what?

I have no idea what the fuck DC is doing with him now, but back before Wildstorm was sacrificed on their altar of "MORE IP," Grifter was actually one of the better characters to come out of the whole early-'90s Image thing. Wildcats volumes 2 and 3, the Ed Brubaker-penned Point Blank (prologue to the fantastic Sleeper), and the Grant Morrison Wildcats/JLA crossover all handle Grifter well. You'll have to deal with blue, electric, '90s Superman in that last one, but it's worth it for Batman's thinly-veiled contempt for people who have trouble understanding time travel.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dan DiDio and Jim Lee on Roberson and Watchmen 2
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on April 23, 2012


...
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on April 23, 2012


6 More Alan Moore Comics DC Can Capitalize On After 'Before Watchmen'
posted by Artw at 12:36 PM on April 24, 2012


“This Has Been Building”: An Interview with Chris Roberson
posted by Artw at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2012


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