Sunday, July 16, 2017

Supposed Stinkers and some real ones

By Alex Ness

WARNING this column is about rumors and perceptions, nothing is stated as fact except my own personal experiences, and I am well aware, I could be wrong.

I get asked a lot who the assholes of the comic book industry are.  The fans of comics seem to want the dirt, and the creatives want to know if there are people to avoid.  Many different people love the dark and dirty.  Reality tv is an example of such.  I am not going to encourage it.  I think some of the warning aspect is good.  But who slept with who or what, that is just blech.

Before I met Mike Grell through mutual friends, I'd heard that he was a horny old fart who was an anus to fans.  I had grown up loving his work, and particularly, the book Warlord was a smashing good 50 issue run.  After that, it fell off a bit, but, it was a favorite.  So, you are wondering, is he a stinker?  No.  He was so not a stinker.  He did interviews, both live and via email.  He answered emails about life and comics.  He gave two pages of art to the book that was my first project.  And he is a generous kind person.  I think the various rumors I heard came from a few different kinds of sources.  He was successful and wasn't a kiss ass.  I believe his ethics and success bred jealousy in the envious.   He has been married more than a couple times, and he is seen by many as a lady's man.  But looks can be deceiving.  Lastly, where creative people are involved, rumors often start from perceptions and grudges.  I can promise you he has never been anything but him.

My brother and I grew up reading comics, and the king of comics in the 1970s was not my favorite, Jack Kirby, but instead, Neal Adams.  Neal Adams has a handsome face, did great art in comics, and created opportunities for other artists.  He also changed how the comics industry dealt with artists, royalties and the return of the artist's art work.  And I know people who tell horror stories of trying to use his services and pay disputes occurred, as well as people who got in the way of his making a nickel from fan boys who simply wanted him to sign their comic.  He was a greatly talented stinker.

I have to preface this comment with my bias... I enjoyed the early years of John Byrne's art career, but never quite enjoyed the combination of his writing with his art.  Sometimes he seems to take umbrage that his work is less exciting or good now than it was.  The internet is strewn with quotes about the stupid or boorish things he has said or done.  But, I think he performs greatly on return time on commissions, remains available to chat on his message board, and he is a working artist, he has less time to chat than many people.  I know firsthand events that would present him in a bad light, but, I think he is what he is, a crusty fellow with a spectacular work ethic.  I would not say he is a stinker, even from the non public things I know, I'd say, you get all of what he is, curmudgeon with opinions as well as talent that placed him atop the industry for a decade.  He isn't a stinker, but he isn't a sweetheart either.

Colleen Doran is a special case.  I've never personally experienced anything bad with her, but I know people who think she is a witch.  Her public persona seems to me to be both engaging and disarming.  Her comments to people I've read could seem nasty, but, I think the case is something else.  She is a woman artist (a highly talented one) who is also quite lovely.   It isn't up to her to deal with fanboys of her art, along with fanboys of her looks.  But I can imagine she deals with both.  And the maturity level of some males and the sensitivity to the etiquette for more than one gender interactions, makes me say, I am sure she has been treated like shit numerous times.  When I am treated like shit I become less and less open to communication with others.  I am deeply introverted, who is to say she isn't as well?  It would make dealing with the world difficult in the beginning.  Let alone the many man hands all over women.   I don't know her at all, outside of having said hello at SDCC and enjoying her work.  So I am assuming.  I might be wrong.  But not for reasons of trying to label her.

In my previous incarnation as a full time reviewer and interviewer I took a number of polls of the talents of comics, with questions like: What books would you want to have if stranded on a desert island... or , who is the biggest asshole in comics?  There were many dozen responses.

Three people repeatedly showed up.  Todd McFarlane of Image Comics, Dave Sim of Cerebus/Aardvark Vanaheim or former EiC of Marvel, Valiant and Defiant Jim Shooter.  Todd McFarlane was a rebel against the industry's biggest company, Marvel.  I've also read and heard things about people not getting the payment they had agreed on working for.   As a person who doesn't get paid for most of his work, I find that last issue to be stinky.  And so I think Todd Mc is a stinker.

David Sim has had some public issues with or about women, and has done creative work that people referred to as misogynist.  I think Sim is a misanthrope.  But, I'll also say, many people who you might think would hate Sim have high praise for him.  So, I think he is perhaps different than the persona he plays or the work he writes.  However, I really could be wrong.

Lastly, what about Jim Shooter, is he an asshole?  I've heard that he is a vengeful, grudge holding ass.  But I've also seen him with fans, and he is kind and polite to them.  I'd even call what he is as warm.  Since I think we all battle demons, I can understand how an EiC at a company might have enemies, I think he probably had some other issues contributing to his grudge holding.  As such I think he is a highly talented creative and a power oriented Editor in Chief. 

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