Punching Through Reality #5

Liefield and Brubaker Leave the Big Two

By Ryan Miller

Today's column features Rob Liefeld's Meltdown, Ed Brubaker's farewell, Batman's Alleged Persistence, and a few thoughts on Superhero books.

 

   This wasn't something I felt needed to be written down, but I've always been told to be professional in every one of the jobs that I've held. It's not that I wasn't professional, it's just one of those reminders given out by my father from time to time. Whether or not I was always a completely professional employee is probably subjective based on who you'd ask, but I feel I've done pretty well. I've only had two jobs where I've actually worked, though another hired me and downsized me before my first shift to pay the manager more. I was a customer service rep for almost nine years and now I work as a teacher. Remaining professional is important to your job, and even more so in the entertainment industry.

   I'll explain. In an industry highly dependant on a product you yourself create, often times people might continue to buy a product because they like you. For instance, I'm a big fan of Brian K. Vaughan. Everything I've ever read by him was good, and everything I've ever read about him was good. He seems like a generally nice guy. Kurt Busiek is also a nice guy. He connects with his fans, puts out good work, and I'm happy to support his career. Of course, it's not that I'm doing them any favors as their work is good enough to sell on that merrit alone. Frank Miller however is not the nicest of guys. Frank Miller was a little tarnished when he referred to the Occupy Movement as a group of rapists and theives and, while I'm not neccessarily fully behind that particular movement, that is definitely an asshole thing to say. I will not be picking up Holy Terror, despite how good it may or may not be. On one hand I'm happy to congratulate him on his success that he can so freely speak his mind, and yet a part of me feels what he said was total dickery. Of course, my support probably means very little to him.

   Music might be a better example for something like this. If you met an artist you enjoyed and they were a dickhead to you, would you still enjoy them as much? I tend to enjoy traveling to see live music whenever I can, and most recently went all the way to Atlanta from the middle of Florida to see Doomtree, a group I enjoy immensely. They are really nice people, great with fans, and it doesn't hurt that I like the music they make. However, if I traveled 18 hours to see them and they were total assholes, it might have soured both the experience and my level of interest in their product. It might be silly, but that's just how I'm wired.

   I've always read and heard that Rob Liefeld is a great guy. I haven't thought his work was good since I was seven, but I have always heard he was a really charismatic and friendly writer/scribbler. Over the past few month, I've learned that this is not the case, and that makes me sad. It's true that I haven't had any desire to grab his books, but I always wanted to meet him to see if these claims were true. I'm not saying that I have any interest in beratting him at a convention, but in light of recent events, I'd rather avoid him entirely.

   There is a small precedent to his recent explosion over the twittersphere, but it didn't feel like he was losing his mind. Liefeld hurled criticism at Marvel the recent Deadpool creative team, and all of those preceding them, by referring to them as D-List. It went something like this:

 

"Testament to Deadpool's appeal and durability is that he thrives regardless of being regulated to D-list talent. Marvel A-list never touches."-Rob Liefeld

 

     While it might be true that Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan may not be the most accredited funny book writers, I feel that Tony Moore hardly classifies as such. Shortly after Axel Alonso, among others, welcomed these three to the D-List. For the record, Deadpool's creative teams have had notable artists and writers such as Joe Kelly, Mark Waid, Ed McGuinness, Jason Aaron, David Lapham, Kyle Baker, and many others.

   So maybe it was a joke in poor taste? Rick Remender reminded him that there were better ways to congratulate himself and Liefeld replied with this chunky tidbit:

 

"Truth hurts. Did I miss the Brubaker Deadpool arc? The Millar Deadpool arc? The Loeb Deadpool arc. Get over yourself."-Rob Liefeld

 

   Guess not.

   Rob Liefeld and Ed Brubaker were in similar situations recently. The two seprately announced that they would be focusing on more creator owned work, and thereby had to end working for the Big 2. Liefeld planned on taking his creativity back to his own company, Extreme something or another, to work on something he'd own. Brubaker stated that he was burned out on superheroes, and wanted to focus on other projects. Theoretically these are good ideas.

   Unfortunately, while Brubaker said something to the effect of "Hey, I had a great time.", Liefeld's responses to the leave were a bit more dangerous to his career and went something along the lines of "Fuck everybody and everything."

   Yes, I paraphrased. There's no need to post everything he said in the hours after his brain broke from stress. Needless to say, he attacked everyone from respected colleagues and co-workers to people at other publishers. On the otherside of the equation, I find it curious that Brubaker said Winter Soldier would continue with his writing, which we learned is not the case. Take from that what you will.

   Liefeld's main complaints were tied to his lack of creative freedom and editorial constraints, which I totally understand in some respects. Pete Woods(Legion of Superheroes, Deadpool...ha) had some interesting things to say about that on his Facebook. It was there he wrote:

 

"It’s funny. Before DCNu I heard a lot of people complaining that DC continuity was all over the place and no one had a plan. I’ve read some of the reactions to what Mr. Leifeld has said about editorial and most of his complaints involve DC having a plan. Now people complain about DC being too restrictive… There is a plan. I’ve seen the edges of it. Keep in mind there are 52 books that editorial is trying to make “agree”. Compromises are constantly being made, but this thing does have a shape. Considering what they’re trying to pull off I think editorial needs to be cut some slack. I was working in the next room at WildStorm when the Image founders had their conference call to remove Rob from Image. I won’t say anything about what transpired other than to say Rob is a passionate individual and his reaction over the past day or so is consistent with the kind of guy he is. At least from my very limited exposure to hm.  Micromanaged is just another way to say that there is a plan. Have I had more editorial involvement in my books? Oh hell yeah. A lot more. I can totally understand how people would call that micromanaging. It’s a change, but a change consistent with what DC is trying to do. there are 52 books all with writers and artists who feel strongly about what they want to do with characters. What one does affects another’s plan. Each one of these people feel that the work they are doing is very important. Sometimes one vision overrides another and changes need to be made. This happens week to week. Editorial is trying to strike a balance between the big picture and the needs of 52 different books in a cohesive universe. I can’t imagine the kind of stress they’re under. I find that the lack of professionalism and poor communication is 90% the fault of the creator, not the editor. we’re a bunch of self important babies. I hate continuity. Despise it. You want to talk about interfering with a creator’s vision? There’s nothing worse than continuity. I do recognize that a majority of our audience likes continuity. In the end they’re the boss."

 

   It's nice to see that DC does, in fact, have a plan. It's also nice to hear that Rob Liefeld is, if nothing else, consistent.

   One of the more true things that Liefeld exploded with is the very idea that, no matter what, Batman will always sell because of Batman. I suppose that's completely true, in some respects. Scott Snyder believes that his and Greg Capullo's recent work on that character are, at the very least, a part of the massive surge in sales that the book has seen. I think both are pretty fair assessments, though we won't truly see what sort of sales the two receive based on their creative efforts alone until the next team replaces them. Snyder and Capullo's sales also had the added benefit of the New 52's fresh start, and by extension an issue #1, so we may never actually know. I think it would be silly to assume that, even with a bad creator, the core Batman title wouldn't hover somewhere in the top 20. Many people pick the book up out of habit or because it's their favorite character. The same goes for many other books. Can you imagine an X-Men or Spider-man book being canceled for lack of sales? I think not.

   Warren Ellis once urged his readers to stop buying comics from the big two if it were simply habitual in favor of creator owned titles. In his book/internet essays Come In Alone, he specifically used X-Men as an example stating that if X-books had a drop in readership, whether it be for lack of quality or disinterest, Marvel probably wouldn't cancel it. While the drop may not mean anything to the mutant serials as a whole, it might mean the world to an independent creator if you were to support them in an industry championed by men in tights.

   Another thing about habitual and compulsive readership is that it is, at least partially, to blame for so many event books. Event books, like Avengers VS X-Men, sell on character inclusion in many cases. If you buy a book because, in the case of AVX, Scott Summers is in it, the probability of books featuring him are likely greater. I'm not saying this is the sole reason, but lately event books haven't been very well received and yet they sell like Nintendo 64 circa 1996. I haven't liked a Marvel event since House of M personally.

   So I guess without actually concluding anything in any real fashion, I'm interested in seeing what Ed and Rob do after this. Both are free men, so to speak, though Ed has the option of returning to his previous company and Rob has his own imprint. Ed of course is still doing Fatale over at Image, while Rob intends on doing something with "Blood" in it's title. I'm not saying that everything Liefeld says is wrong, I just think he went about it in a highly inappropriate fashion. A certain part of me wants to know to what extent Liefeld's claim of Batman's sales are true, but I imagine there isn't a real way to test it. What are your thoughts?

 

PS: Go read Come In Alone by Warren Ellis. It's free on the internet at http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=column&id=1