Thursday, September 16, 2004



First, if anyone cares, I spent some time rejiggering the sidebar, so that all the articles are alphabetized now. If anyone wants to be able to easily reference anything of mine online that I wrote, have a ball.

Second, I would like to direct your attention to Dave over at The Intermittent, who weighs in on the Question question. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say much the same thing that i said to Matthew Rossi yesterday: yes, that is a very good point.

Ultimately, a great deal of the problem is political. There is a sense of moral obligation here, because the option of legal and economic obligation was taken out of the creators' hands a long time ago. Now, Steve Ditko is, of course, the last creator to whine about bad work-for-hire contracts - he's always made a point on these things, to the extent that he refuses any ancilliary income of the kind that people like Stan Lee, Chris Clarement, Dave Cockrum, etc, have occasionally recieved. But the fact remains: so much of mainstream comics' creative legacy is built on basically irredeemable and immoral business practices, and it is those business practices that mean that stuff like Veitch's Question happens all the time because, basically, that's the way things work.

I could not agree more with him when he says:

The history of art is a history of theft. There is a reason that historically copyright only protects a creator for so long; absent the introduction of new works into the public sphere things stagnate. At some level, we encourage later artists to steal from their elders. To rework their concepts into new forms. This is a good thing; and it's not as if these later works somehow erase the source material. No amount of later work can unring that bell, though they can suggest that the original tone was off-key.

But the fact is that it all smells sour in the specific context of the comics industry because the creator has almost never been protected, and has only been protected sporadically in the past decade or so (with Epic's first incarnation and the coming of Image - both of which were [are] 100% pro-creator in their approach to copyright).

It's all very muddy. But I think that at the least, there are moral expectations created by the lack of any formal recognition. If I worked in corporate comics in any capacity, I would try to hold myself to a high standard here: it is possible to be creative and to innovate without directly disrespecting people who are still alive to see it and who would feel the slight. Of course, as I said, some people are different: Stan Lee is famously blaise about this. He loves change, and he has always maintained that he doesn't care what anyone does with his creations as long as they keep them interesting and relevent. Steve Ditko is not Stan Lee, however, and the way he looks at the world could not be more different. I think that is worth respecting, don't you?

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