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Thursday, November 15, 2018 

The Daily Beast sides with the Wendigs in comicdom

Propagandist Asher Elbein is at it again on The Daily Beast, that leftist drainpipe of a site, working as apologist for big mouths like Chuck Wendig, oblivious to how damaging their anti-conservative rants are from a PR perspective to the Star Wars franchise, lamenting the low wages paid, and even advocating for a union of scriptwriters, obviously unconcerned about story quality:
Last month, novelist Chuck Wendig—the bestselling author of the licensed Star Wars novel Aftermath and its sequels—stood before a crowd at New York Comic Con and announced he’d be working on Shadow of Vader, a miniseries for Marvel Comics. A week later, on October 12, Wendig made another announcement: he’d been fired. The reason given, Wendig wrote on his personal website, was “the negativity and vulgarity that my tweets bring. Seriously, that’s what Mark, the editor said... It was too much politics, too much vulgarity, too much negativity on my part.”

Wendig, an openly progressive and occasionally combative presence on social media, had been the target of a long-running harassment campaign* fueled by reactionaries in the Star Wars fan community. His books were review bombed; he dealt with SWATing attempts, harassment from bots and sock-puppet accounts, and creepy personal messages. “People have been trying to get me fired from Star Wars since Aftermath came out. Since before it came out, actually,” he told The Daily Beast in an email. “[Lucas Film Licensing] has always had my back, and with Marvel, my politics never came up. And I haven’t been shy about those politics—or about being vulgar, which has been part of my voice, so to speak, since my first novel, Blackbirds, which is a very vulgar book... I never received any warnings about my behavior.”
Ah, how fascinating! We once again are fed that near hilarious victimology yarn designed to obscure whether his scripting is entertaining or not. Nor do they stress whether his nasty spews against Trump and conservatives cause harm to their sales, and at this point, they certainly are. In fact, if his first novel - or any novel he's written, for that matter - is as vulgar as he admits, surely that isn't an artistic flaw on his part? Similarly, isn't it a huge mistake on the publishers' part if, until now, they failed to guide or rein him in regarding his revolting elements? That Elbein and company at the Daily Beast are trying to normalize this potentially disturbing pattern of behavior is just one of their mistakes. Also, to say his tweets "bring" rather than "contain" is misleading too. And, it gets worse:
While Marvel had no official comment, a source close to the company said that the decision to fire him was made by Marvel editorial, and that the decision to drop Wendig was made solely on the basis of his public comments. Nonetheless, the decision provoked an outcry on social media. Many drew comparisons to other public figures targeted by harassment campaigns, such as Disney’s firing of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn and the ginned-up outrage around MSNBC commentator Sam Seder, who was fired then re-hired over an eight-year-old tweet.
According to the Wash. Post article, Seder made an offensive joke about rape, similar to Gunn's own horrorfest, and it's becoming pretty apparent this means nothing to Mr. Elbein, which doesn't improve his own public image, or much of the leftist media either.
But there was another facet to Wendig’s departure that got less immediate attention: the way it reinforced the deep precariousness of most comics freelancers, who make up the vast majority of the industry and often feel pressure to keep silent about their own vulnerability. Behind the veil of billion-dollar movie franchises and rotating comics series, creators often struggle with low pay, no labor protections, and harassment from fans and colleagues. They do this while maintaining social media profiles, where corporate expectations about behavior are vague at best. In such a landscape, it’s not surprising that Wendig got fired. What’s surprising, in some ways, is that we heard about it at all.
"Labor protections"? That's a notable clue to how they seem to be pushing for something that just wouldn't work - unionized writing, similar to workers' unions like in Michigan's auto/truck industry. I don't know about those kind of unions, but a union in the comics medium wouldn't work, because it wouldn't ensure story merit, and besides, it's clear these freaks want it so they allegedly won't have to worry about getting fired over offensive behavior of any kind. And that's not good for sales or reputation.

As for low wages, you could just as easily make that argument about the animation industry, which, I've heard in the past, offers terrible pay, and while Japanese anime producers have better visual design than most western cartoons, it wouldn't surprise me if they too didn't pay especially high, as this news about Studio Ghibli hints. But surprising we heard about Wendig's firing? Nonsense. The real surprise is that we ever heard, say, about the revolting conduct of artists like Mike McKone, which does nothing to improve the now ailing state the mainstream publishers find themselves in, so long as they continue to employ such vile blabbermouths.
The first comics came out of the fly-by-night pulps, where contracts were vague, dirty dealing was standard, and the notion of creator rights was nonexistent. The mistreatment and neglect of Superman creators Siegel and Schuster is an industry legend; as is the double-dealing of Batman “creator” Bob Kane; Jack Kirby’s struggle for his original artwork and equal credit for his work with Stan Lee; and Alan Moore being screwed out of the rights for Watchmen. Attempts at collective bargaining in the industry seldom got far. In 1968, a group of veteran DC writers pushed for pensions and insurance and were summarily purged, while a unionization attempt by artist Neal Adams ten years later failed to get off the ground.
Is that supposed to imply unionizing the employment for corporate products is a positive way in every respect? I'm sorry, but that wouldn't guarantee top notch writing, nor would it ensure sales would rise above a million or so copies for each and every title. Though since they didn't actually mention it, Siegel and Shuster did manage to ensure they'd get the credits they deserved for Superman, and I think Adams was responsible for that, not for touting unions.
Some things have changed in the last 40 years. Creator-owned work is now more common, and with comics fueling lucrative media properties, there’s a renewed push for creator credits and royalties. But the corporate comics industry is almost entirely made up of freelancers, with writers, artists, colorists and letterers operating with negotiated work-for-hire contracts, seldom with healthcare or benefits, and at the mercy of a handful of large companies. (Editorial and publishing is largely—though not exclusively—made up of employees.) Standardized page-rates and contracts are rare, and representation by agents is rarer; collective bargaining remains non-existent.
Oh, more advocation of unions, I see. But if he really thinks the Big Two are screwing everyone over, what's the big deal about them? Why give them any backing? And if creator-owned work is more common, why should anybody be at the mercy of the Big Two? I guess this Elbein took a look at how quite a few artists are promoting work through Comicsgate and the crowdfunding machines, and decided to remain a "loyalist" to the majors despite what he said.
“If you’re coming from another part of publishing, how comics works contractually and financially/logistically is just completely different,” says Jay Edidin, a former editor at Dark Horse comics and co-host of acclaimed podcast Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men. “It varies wildly from comics publisher to comics publisher. There isn’t really a single industry-wide standard. It’s incredibly hard to negotiate. And the general paranoia and worries about burning bridges makes serious information-sharing a lot harder.”

Part of the trouble, Edidin says, is that comics is a prestige industry, which attracts people for whom the primary reward is simply getting to work in comics. And because there are always people clamoring to be part of the industry, even famous creators are ultimately disposable, and often disposed of. (The very existence of the Hero Initiative, which raises money for comics creators in need, testifies to this.) While the industry can be tight-knit and often supportive, it also leaves creators to fend for themselves. “You don’t really work in comics unless you really care about it, because it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be low-paid,” Edidin says. “So what we’ve got at this point is an industry full of people who are exquisitely financially vulnerable, and who generally feel extremely passionate about what they do... and can’t afford to lose their work or their jobs. And that includes publishing employees.”

In such an environment, the standards for what kind of public speech is acceptable are often either left unclear or inconsistently applied. Simply staying off social media isn’t really an option for freelancers, especially those still working to become established, Edidin points out: having an active profile somewhere like Twitter is vital for networking, getting the word out about projects, and talking shop with fellow freelancers and enthusiasts. But because freelancers aren’t official employees, these social media accounts are—by definition—personal. Lines between personal opinions and professional ones are blurry, and few companies offer solid social media guidelines for dealing with them.
Sounds like Edidin, who from what I know, is a very pretentious lot, doesn't place a high value on tidy etiquette as a sales factor. Besides, as it so happens, comics aren't the only medium where freelancing exists: even in the book world, it could, if we take the former Stratameyer syndicate's products like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew into consideration, now owned by Simon & Shuster. Suppose their past ghost-writers using the pen names of Franklin Dixon and Carolyn Keene were not only known, but also made asses of themselves on Twitter and such? Their careers could come to an end even sooner than Wendig's, and besides, there's also Star Trek and Star Wars novels to ponder, because they too involve work-for-hire freelancers. In fact, even TV shows can, so I think Mr. Elbein's performed classic misinformation, peddled to what he must hope is a very naive audience.

It might be true in a sense though, that some famous creators are thrown under the bus to make room for less talented ones, but let's also consider that some of these vets are people whose own talent ran out, like Chris Claremont, who lost his luster on X-Men a long time ago. And who are these people who simply want to be part of the industry? I suspect it's overrated moviemakers like Kevin Smith, and look how well they actually did. IMO, Daredevil ended when the 1st volume did in 1998, because I think it's disgraceful Smith had to write Karen Page being killed off in the 2nd.

And why must anybody just work in comics? Sometimes it helps to know how to work in other careers and mediums too, because if they really blacklist or throw you under the bus - which is certainly happening with conservatives like Chuck Dixon - then it can be beneficial to have skills and knowledge for other career opportunities to boot, at least until you can reverse the blacklist which the industry should not be imposing over political beliefs, that's for sure. On which note, if there's anybody having a hard time negotiating, it's right-wingers. That aside, most artists can audition their work, and Gene Colan certainly did when he wanted to illustrate Tomb of Dracula in the Bronze Age.
“While larger comics companies have HR departments, that’s not really applied to freelancers,” says Mariah McCourt, an editor who worked on Sandman: Endless Nights, Womanthology, and Fables. “Work for hire contracts usually include something about conduct, but it’s pretty vague, and there are few if any protections for creators being harassed or targeted. Instead, you’re just supposed to guess what a property or publisher would object to in relation to that property.”

“Expecting people to dedicate the amount of time we do to these books means we should be offering a fair exchange of compensation, benefits, and support when problems come up,” McCourt added. “We should be giving clear conduct guidelines and be willing to go to bat for people we hire that we know have strong opinions... If you don't want creators to curse or respond to people online, OK, but make sure you say that before you hire them.” In Wendig’s case, she points out, a large part of his brand was his outspoken (and occasionally profane) progressivism—it seems odd to hire Wendig and then fire him for being Wendig.
No, it seems to be the result of bad choices, which these baboons aren't willing to accept. Though it's correct that Disney/Marvel/Lucasfilm should have clear guidelines established, and don't. But then, DC issued some and doesn't seem to enforce them either, seeing what revolting people they assigned to their Vertigo imprint lately, which hopefully won't get far if that's how they're conducting themselves.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the comics internet has a well-deserved reputation for being rough and tumble at the best of times, says CP Hoffman, a comics critic who writes for The Nerdist and Comic Book Resources: Marvel freelancers like Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Nick Spencer and former editor Steve Wacker have been publicly combative with fans and critics on message boards and social media alike. “Having a loose or non-existent social media policy tends to favor those who are well-connected within the system and hurt those who are seen as outsiders, whether they be writers coming in from another medium like Wendig... or individuals subject to racism and misogyny,” Hoffman says. “While established white men at Marvel can more or less say or do what they want on social media, others do not have that luxury.”
Umm, that's not true, as the case of black writer David Walker makes clear. Slott and others like him were cursing at people online, recalling a case several years ago on CBR, while Waid's now facing a lawsuit for tortious interference, and was accused of cheating people out of a business. But, I guess you can't expect much else from "reporters" who don't care about Mary Jane Watson and how company wide crossovers ruined superhero comics.
“There’s no balance between the interests of comics publishing employees and freelancers with those of publishers. The power dynamic is just completely one-sided,” Edidin says. “There’s really no one to advocate for comics creators in situations like this.”
What situations, exactly? The ones where creators themselves working at the Big Two and such can curse and harass fans all they like without consequence? I'm sorry, but that's just plain irresponsible, though unsurprising coming from such an ignoramus. Point: they act like the creators are all saints, can do no wrong, and the fans are allegedly harassing them for no good reason. Typical of such leftists, I guess. And why do these bad creators matter, but not fans of Spider-Man, for example?
Such an environment—where freelancers are disposable and uncertain about what might get them dropped from a book—is one that creators say fosters a pernicious culture of silence. When novelist Chelsea Cain talked to The Daily Beast in September about Marvel’s sudden cancellation of her upcoming miniseries The Vision (a much-anticipated sequel to an earlier installment) months before its scheduled debut, she noted that Marvel expected her to keep quiet about it, as she had done with the cancellation of her fan-favorite series Mockingbird two years prior. “I have so many friends who work in comics who this kind of stuff happens to in one form or another, not uncommonly, and nobody can speak up,” she said. “They’re always told what messages they can share and the things that they’re supposed to lie about. And you have to do it because otherwise, you won’t have the next job.”

That need to keep the work coming doesn’t just have a chilling effect on creators’ social media presence. It also leaves both freelancers and employees in a perilous position when it comes to harassment by editorial staff. Sexual harassment and emotional abuse are endemic in the comics industry, and have often been allowed to flourish because of the difficulty and paranoia people have about speaking out. (See the cases of Eddie Berganza—which Edidin helped break—a DC editor accused of harassing multiple women who maintained his position for years, and Scott Allie, the former editor-in-chief of Dark Horse Comics who gained a reputation for “out of control behavior while drunk and biting.”) That silence also makes it extremely difficult for most comics professionals to discuss labor conditions, compare notes about compensation and rates, or even to openly and honestly discuss the circumstances of their firing.
Now isn't that interesting they're willing to remind us of stuff like the Berganza/Allie scandals, because by contrast, they don't make clear Waid's been accused of vandalizing equipment. And while I'd like to congratulate Edidin for his contributions to the downfall of Berganza, I got a sad feeling he wasn't being altruistic when he did so. And just look how they continue to lie about Cain's Mockingbird book being a "fan favorite", when sales and artistic results prove otherwise. This article is all over the place!
While you occasionally see people like Chelsea Cain or Chuck Wendig speaking up, they’re only in a position to do so because they largely make their living outside of comics, and thus don’t need to play by the industry’s rules if they don’t want to. Without job security or health benefits, freelancers are a single ill-judged tweet and a run of bad luck away from needing the help of the Hero Initiative. Under circumstances like that, a vague social media policy isn’t just a headache: it’s one more trap in a deeply financially insecure profession.

“I am just amazed that some lawyer or some union hasn’t come in, ’cause it’s crazy.” Caine told The Daily Beast in September. “And they’re all such adorable comic geeks and have all been doing this since they were 17 and they’ve never had any other kind of job. And I think they really don’t realize how insane it is.”
Oh, isn't that nifty how they whitewash Wendig's conduct. Furthermore, I doubt the claim there's no health benefits is true, as it would surely be included in the payments. Still, there's something to consider here: no matter what your political standings, it can pay to have careers outside as much as in, and if the industry's going to be abominable towards anybody, then no need to work at any company you think is awful. In any case, it's clear people like Slott and Geoff Johns may have job security, as they're favored contributors of the higher echelons at the Big Two.

As pretentious as the article sadly is, it can remind us of a disturbing problem the industry now faces, no thanks to their disastrous conduct: the perception comicdom is a haven for the dregs of society, morally bankrupt people greedy for a buck no matter how poor their resume is, or even how poor their political outlook and etiquette turn out to be. It's bad if this is what comics publishing will be perceived as now, and to turn this around, consumers have to find ways to make clear they can't continue supporting any company unless they're willing to get both interns and freelancers to toe a line of respectability, and not make themselves look like awful perverts with no sense of politeness. Something Mr. Elbein, most unfortunately, doesn't seem particularly interested, sadly. Otherwise, he'd never have downplayed the seriousness of Wendig's attitude overall.

And if Cain's suggesting a union will be the answer to everything, I'm sorry, it won't, not even for people like her. It'll just enforce the image of comicdom as one of greed, immoral conduct and other terrible notions.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

The trade paperback editions of Mockingbird were on the Amazon and New York Times bestseller lists, propelled in part by the controversy over on-line twitter harassment directed against the writer; proof that
comixgate can have an important impact on comic book sales.

Chuck DIxon is supposed to be blacklisted because of his political opinions. He writes heavy handedpolitical work, like the Clinton cash book and the one he is writing on the Qanon mythology. The blacklist over political beliefs is a bad thing.

Wendig is being blacklisted because of a crude comment he tweeted, which had nothing to do with his work. This blacklist over political beliefs is a good thing.

There is a contradiction there; if censorship is good when directed against liberals but bad when directed against right-wingers, that is not a principled stand.

TV and film script writers are unionized, like other trades involved
in the film industry. The union contracts cover not just wages but
screen credits and other matters. Good writers write good and bad writers
Write bad and unions won't change that; but they help writers make a decent
living and not get ripped off.

"As pretentious as the article sadly is, it can remind us of a
disturbing problem the industry now faces, no thanks to their
disastrous conduct: the perception comicdom is a haven for the dregs
of society, morally bankrupt people greedy for a buck no matter how
poor their resume is, or even how poor their political outlook and
etiquette turn out to be."
Comics have done a remarkable job lately of recruiting people who have
been successful as novelists or screenwriters before working in
comics. Who would have imagined Margaret Atwood writing a comic book?
Yet she did 3 volumes for Dark Horse. Writers like Nalo Hopkinson,
Rainbow Rowell, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chelsea Cain, people who are
accomplished novelists and essayists (whether you agree with the
politics of Coates or not, there is no disputing his success,
recognition and prominence) are writing comics. These are not "morally
bankrupt people greedy for a buck" - they are top-tier talent with
rich resumes who could easily find work elsewhere.

It used to be writers did comics until their novels sold, and then
they turned their back on the medium, like Patricia Highsmith or
Mickey Spillane. Now successful established novelists want to write
comics. That is amazing. Even if one can sometimes miss the wild
outsider status of the medium and be appalled at how any given mass
market comic seems to have more editors and suits than creative people
on the credit lines, it is still amazing. Stan would be proud.

Look, what websites do you recommend then if all these other ones are left-wing influenced? On a sidenote, that new She-Ra cartoon? Seems like it'll be more like Barney the Dinosaur then Friendship is Magic. What I mean is that like Barney, it'll be a hit with its intended target audience but infuriating everyone else unlike with FiM which attracted an entirely different target audience after a couple seasons.

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