Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Vendetta against Marc Silvestri

(The following is the core of what we thought the blog could be used for; this is a conversation, stitched together from a pretty intense day's worth of e-mails. [Tags] at the top denote who's saying what. Weigh in at your leisure...)


Amusing thread over at Newsarama about the Wachowiski's V for Vendetta adaptation.  Rich Johnston attracting controversy wherever he alights...  The article's pretty good, and definitely remains, I think, my favourite complete mini/maxi-series, bar none, but the vitriol, paranoia and fear thrown around in the comments is genuinely funny.


This V for Vendetta thing, is it actually going to be set in Berlin, or is it just being filmed there?  Because quite frankly if its set in Berlin they have kind of missed the point more than Michael Bay missed the point when he made Pearl Harbour (to paraphrase Team America - which is a great film).


The location thing isn't clear, as far as I can see. Contradictory statements. Read a lot of the responses to Rich's article though, which are interesting, and have a few cogent arguments from both sides.  But I don't know how much shrift I can give Rich - he seems to cause a lot of problems simply for the sake of causing problems.  It's interesting to read, but based on what Mark Waid said a couple of weeks ago, LITG is actually something that damages the industry (or at least, damages certain books), which I'm not crazy about.


Rich Johnston does certainly make waves, thats for sure, but from my experience, i have never found him to be particularly offensive or overly criticial or the industry, and if he ever is its evidently because he feels so passionately about the industry, and I kind of have to respect that.  But I might not have read the same stuff you have :)


There's just this really interesting series of discussions (which I think were over in the LITG forums on Comic Book Resources) where people were responding to something that Rich had written.  And Mark Waid weighed in (no pun intended), describing how Rich was the scum of the earth, etc.  Lots of people came to Rich's support, asking what was the harm, that a lot of good was done by the LITG column, bringing the Crossgen-Owing-Money-To-Freelancers issue into the light etc (which, at the time I agreed with).

But Mark cited a rumour that Rich started about Marc Silvestri dropping pencilling duties of Hunter-Killer from issue 3 onwards. Rich suggested that, with him breaking his leg, he wasn't going to be able to keep up with the art, and it was going to be handed off to someone else.  LITG comes out on Monday, and Rich had asked for confirmation from a general Top Cow PR guy on Saturday afternoon (so naturally, he hadn't gotten confirmation or denial of any kind).

Monday morning, Top Cow Editorial, Top Cow PR, Marc Silvestri and Mark Waid all get a few hundred e-mails asking whether this is true, what's the problem, who's the new penciller, what's this mean for the book, etc etc.  And Mark's (absolutely fair) argument was; Rich spends 30 seconds typing, and dozens of industry workers, both in company positions as well as freelancers, spend a whole day fielding stupid questions and reassuring retailers and checking facts in order to stop pre-orders for issue 3 from dropping by several thousand copies.  And that's a day of work they're not working on actual comics, and so a day of unpaid effort.  Writer, Penciller, Inker, Colourist, Editorial are all robbed of a day's work because Rich spends 30 seconds typing.

And, while I definitely think that people should be allowed to write what they want, Rich is paid by the hit rather than a flat rate. So the more sensational the story, the more money he gets.

Sooooo....  y'know.  Rich is smart, educated, interesting and has similar tastes in comics as I do.

But possibly he's a dick.


I think you could make a graph, on the Y axis you could put people like Rich Johnston and Gareb Shamus and their "news storys" and on the X axis you could put have something that charts their news stories as being negative or positive and use the graph to chart the effect they have on the industry and it would prove one thing:  Statistics are bullshit.

You could say the whole Silvestri thing ended up getting a lot of publicity for the series, you could say it had a lot of negative effects, but I bet when the sales come through one thing will be clear, sales didn't really care, it just inconvenienced a lot of industrial professionals who think there jobs are a lot more difficult than they really are and obviously havn't grasped the concept of mass-emails.  And isn't that what publicists, editors and gophers are for? And if they were so concerned about losing a days work, they would have got Aphrodite IX out more than 4 times in 2 years.
Besides, Mark Waid played along with Marvel with that whole "being kicked off of F4 thing", I think that was bollocks, hyperbole as imaginary as the '60's Sentry stories, constructed purely for the purpose of launching the new Knights 4 with a lot of cheap publicity and no criticism, because Marvel listened to their fans. 
And you can't really blame people for thinking Silvestri might jump of a book before issue 3.
However, his "outing" of Dreamwaves unpaid creditors was a little over the top, and I don't think necessary, there is a fine line between agressive journalism and, as you so quaintly put it:  being a dick. 


No question, stats often aren't terribly useful.  But you can't really deny that if (to take an example that's surreal, but I hope vaguely relevant) someone wrote that Comic Connections was going to stop stocking Image comics, and a whole bunch of your customers called and wrote to you, suggesting that they might want to shop somewhere else, you'd want to work pretty damn hard making sure that your customers weren't walking away from you.

I don't think that anyone would contest that Silvestri's record in the industry is still shakey ATM.  And certainly Waid reaped the rewards of comic-book rumour-mongering as far as FF was concerned (genuine or otherwise, I don't know, but he's stayed on the book, so consequently has gotten paid money).  But I think it's fair to say that, if you're in a position of influence (as Rich clearly is) and you're covering an industry populated almost exclusively by freelancers, you're picking people's pockets by writing about them quitting books because retailers (as I'm sure you're aware) know that a book pencilled by a Top-Cow pinch-hitter is not going to sell as well as a book pencilled by Image Founder Marc Silvestri.

And, depending on the timing, you don't want to fuck around with that shit.  I don't know when H-K # 3 was solicited, but the more comfortable about a creative team retailers are, the more likely they are to be comfortable ordering significant quantities of their books. Yeah, the difference of a few thousand copies doesn't look like much in the context of the industry as a whole, but you've got to remember that Image creators are not paid a flat fee - they get a percentage of the final sales.  So 5,000 less sales due to retailers being cagey with their ordering is a chunk of change for everyone concerned.

Remember Gorilla Comics?  Producing Crimson Plague (a great book by a classic creator), Shockrockets (written by the then-hot-as-shit Kurt Busiek) and Empire (I think we'd both agree a classic-in-the-making)? Too few initial orders, and it went down the pan.

It's funny that we disagree over both this and the Dreamwave / Crossgen "outings" - I think Rich is absolutely a stand-up guy for publishing those details.  Putting as much pressure as possible to get freelancers, y'know, actually PAID for the work they do can only be good, don'tcha think?


No, you get me wrong, I think trying to do everything to get the freelancers paid is spot on, I just think showing the breakdown of all the money to everyone in the world isn't the way to go about doing it. The people who really need to see the list can get it through the courts, it really is none of my biusiness if Pat Lee bought his parents a car, I like to think i would if I could too, most kids would if they were in a position to.

I think a better way to go about it would be to report the facts, not the numbers, put the pressure on Dreamwave and make it clear to people that Dreamengine is not a company to be dealing with in the future.  But in the long run, what Rich has done hasn't acheived anything, Pat Lee is still getting freelance work and the court will work through the bankruptcy case like any other, and in the land of the free, there's a lot.  It will be tied up for a while and the big boys will get paid first, sad but true, and the plight of the freelancer in any industry. I think Rich had done everything right about Dreamwave up until the full publication of the list which honestly only concerns 25-30 freelancers, some of which might not like seeing their names on the list as it could make the more heavily owed creators appear silly for not voicing opinions earlier about the lack of payment.
Besides, as far as Hunter Killer 3 goes, in the US the law has changed, if the creators on the final product differ from solicitation then the books are fully returnable, so if they did alter there orders beacuse of hearsay and speculation, then that is another example of comic shop managers/staff not being fully aware of there contract of sales and the industry around them and being a little silly, that said, I can see it happening with a lot of retailers so I know what you (and Waid) are saying.

Gorilla Comics was an interesting endevour, spawned a lot of good comics, but they wern't A list creators (should have been considered it I know, but) people always prefer bags of wank like Michael "Cancer" Turner or Joe "Who" Madueira-Cake.  It just shows that great creators don't always know what the public wants, as they didn't make a single honest to god lacklustre superhero comic in the range, they were all good, thats why they failed (a little negative I know), they asked people to take a chance with something new.  You look at the sales on early Authority / Planetary, not great by any means, but it was the industry people that loved them, and thats why they were so prolific (there's that use of the word again haha).

The problem with this type of thing is its so difficult to quantify, you can only guestimate Rich's influence on the industry as a whole.  People might dismiss a lot of what he says as crap.  A lot of retailers probably don't even know who he is. Seriously.


Fair comments - and yes, I see what you mean about the Dreamwave stuff completely. And I'm sure you're also spot on with HK#3 being returnable if the creator line-up changes.  But that doesn't alter the fact that, regardless of this, if retailers reduce their order for whatever reason, the creative team are paid less. And they don't want that, sothey spend a day on damage control.  And none of us want to spend a day doing unpaid work.

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