Blah Blah Blog – Nobody is Owed Work Rebuttal

A post from my Marvel blog of years gone by, in which I respond to a rebuttal from a commented concerning my assertion that nobody is owed work in the comic book field.

Friday, 9:14

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

I knew I could count on somebody challenging me on the last piece I wrote–the one about how no one is owed work. So let’s take a minute and respond to this response from Larry C

>”Certain” creators should be owed.>

Sorry, no. No one is owed work. This doesn’t mean that older creators should never be given work–only that there isn’t an obligation on the part of anybody at any company to give them work, as we will see.

>Stan Lee should always have a job within Marvel’s ranks, making tremendous amounts of money, even if he’s not doing anything. You guys “owe” that empire to him. >

Stan has a contract with Marvel that pays him a minimum of a million dollars a year. That is what Stan is owed. But Stan is not owed writing work. And Stan’s right now doing more writing work for Marvel than he has in a decade or more, but that’s based on the desire to give the work to him, and on the result we expect to get, nothing more.

>John Byrne is a creator who deserves the respect of being owed something. Marvel still earns money off of John Byrne work in trade paperbacks, but won’t hire him over “personal” reasons. That’s like Pete Rose not being allowed in the Hall of Fame. >

Sorry, no. John Byrne is not owed work. Certainly he’s entitled to respect for the great runs he worked on in the past–X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR, AVENGERS, etc. And whenever John’s work is reprinted in trade paperbacks, he gets a check. But John is not owed any work beyond that–any work he gets, either here or at another company, he gets because he’s earned it, because somebody thinks that he’s the best person for the job. Also, John has been very clear and vocal in saying that he doesn’t want to work for the current Marvel. There are no “personal reasons” preventing John from working at Marvel, at least on this end–if John wanted a chance to be back at Marvel, all he’d really have to do is pick up the phone and talk to somebody over here. I’d take his call.

You mention Pete Rose–would you put Pete Rose on the starting line-up of the Cincinnati Reds today? Doesn’t mean you don’t respect his performance in the past, but what counts right this second is how well anybody can play today, and how they stack up against all of the other players in the league.

>Most of the legendary creators, such as Jim Starlin, Walt Simonson, George Perez, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, and Alan Moore, currently don’t appear to have any interest in Marvel, and perhaps it’s because of having that outlook and not having enough respect is why. >

I think all of these creators are respected for their past accomplishments. But that respect isn’t the same thing as guaranteeing them any particular gig they might want.

And your list is somewhat slanted: Todd McFarlane has his own company and hasn’t drawn comics for ten years. George Perez is under exclusive contract to DC right now, and couldn’t do Marvel work if he wanted to, as is Walt Simonson. Alan Moore says he’s retired from comics altogether. We covered John Byrne above. So really your list comes down to Jim Starlin and Frank Miller–and if that’s their personal choice, then good for them. There’s nothing preventing either of these guys from expressing a desire to do a Marvel project. but there’s also nothing that demands they do a Marvel project. There’s nothing wrong with not working for Marvel if somebody so chooses.

>Marvel doesn’t give enough chances to established veterans of over 20 years. David Michelinie and Bob Layton paired with somebody like John Byrne on pencils would far outsell anybody that’s been put on that book. Roger Stern knows his way around the Avengers characters, Cap, Spider-Man, the Hulk, , Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc…, yet he isn’t getting offered any assignments. Why? Roger Stern paired with an artist like J. Scott Campbell on Spider-Man would sell big.
If John Byrne or Walt Simonson were attached to any high profile and well advertised comic series, it would sell great. If it was something like Walt returning to Thor or Byrne drawing Fantastic Four or Alpha Flight again, it would probably be HUGE in sales. >

Okay, two things on this:

1) I think we give plenty of chances to established veterans. We’ve got guys like Stan Lee, Sal Buscema, Tom DeFalco, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Chris Claremont, Fabian Nicieza and Roy Thomas working for us right now (not to mention Roger Stern, who’s working with Kurt Busiek on the long-in-development MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA). But part of that is the desire to work for Marvel. David Michelinie and Bob Layton, for example, pitched me an IRON MAN: THE END project a few years ago. But we weren’t able to come to a meeting-of-the-minds on the story, so the project never happened, and they took some of the ideas they’d had for it and used them in their FUTURE COMICS line. And that’s fine–it doesn’t prevent them from pitching something else up here again. But it also doesn’t mean that I’m going to put out a book that I don’t think has merit solely because it’s pitched by a classic creator.

2) I have five words for you: Peter David Back On Hulk. For years and years and years, HULK fans insisted that if Peter were only given the chance to go back on HULK, sales would skyrocket. And eventually, it happened–and the numbers remained more-or-less the same. Same sort of thing is true of Layton and Michelinie’s last IRON MAN limited series–no avalanche of sales or readers. Or, across town, same thing with the Englehart & Rogers BATMAN series. That’s not to say that any of these creators are bad, or doing poor work–in each instance, somebody felt that they were the right person for the job (in the case of Peter back on HULK, me). But it does show pretty conclusively that this idea of a classic creator back on their classic character equals tremendous sales is fiction. John Byrne on X-MEN THE HIDDEN YEARS, same thing.

>I do think some inner politics could be deciding “who” gets to write and who doesn’t. >

Sorry, no. What ultimately determines who gets to work long term and who doesn’t is the readership–and by that, I mean the readership as a whole. Every creator has dedicated fans, and every book has classic runs in its history, but it’s ultimately self-defeating to try to replicate the classic runs of yesteryear thinking that you’ll somehow replicate the sales success of yesteryear. Time moves on, tastes change, the medium evolves. What was popular on television or in music or in movies two decades ago isn’t what’s popular now, and comics are no different in this regard.

More later.

Tom B

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