A post from my old Marvel blog where I reproduced a letter that I had sent to a creator whose nose had gotten out of joint over a project. I scrubbed the names then, and I really see no good reason to reveal them now either.
November 24, 2009 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General
Trying to get everything done so I can get out of her for the Thanksgiving break, but I was hoping to get at least one more blog entry up before I went. So begins the quest for the easy win-something that I’ve got stashed away in my files that I can simply reproduce here and entertain you with, but that won’t take me long to do.
And so, here’s an e-mail that I wrote to a well-established creator concerning a project that wound up not quite happening. I’ve taken out the one or two telltale signs that might indicate who it was, since there’s no reason to air that sort of dirty laundry publicly. But hopefully, this will give you some idea as to how we might communicate with a creator when there’s a difference of opinion on any number of story matters:
It seems as though you took offense to my comments on your outline, but really, no offense was meant. I’ve got great respect for your many accomplishments in the field. I certainly realize that you’re not an amateur, and had no intention of treating you as one–if my comments came off that way, I apologize. But you know as well as anyone that it’s the job of the editor to scrutinize the work, to examine it and see if there are any areas that could be made stronger, any options that may not have been considered. I certainly don’t have all the answers–heck, I may not have _any_ of the answers–but it’s a part of my job to ask these kinds of questions, and to offer up options and another perspective.
You’re a professional. I’m a professional. I have confidence in your ability to tell a coherent story, and I’m aware that this is just an outline, with many details and specifics left open until the actual execution of the project. From my experience, however, it’s always a mistake to hold off on voicing a concern or offering up an opinion until later in the process. If there’s something I see, I’d rather put my cards on the table and discuss the issue up front, rather than have us take two steps forward and then have to take two steps back. If I don’t state even what seems obvious up front, then if it doesn’t end up in the final work, the fault is squarely on my shoulders.
I don’t expect you to simply do what I say, but I think it’s reasonable that if I have a question about why you’re approaching a certain character/scene/idea/whatever a certain way that you articulate your point of view, and convince me of its correctness. If the logic is impeccable, then it’s impeccable. But you and I could both point to plenty of mediocre comics that have been done by talented, seasoned professionals. I don’t want to risk contributing to that pile through inaction, and I’d rather look like a moron and state the obvious than run the risk of having something get lost in the process. A good final product benefits all of us, and bringing up seemingly basic issues diminished neither of us. My focus is on the work, not on the individual behind the work. None of what I wrote was intended to be taken personally (bearing in mind that any act of creation is a personal affair), and I certainly didn’t mean to insult or belittle you in any way.
So let me throw the ball back in your court. I’d still like to move ahead with the project. I hold to some of my reservations about the specific points raised in my first response, but we can work those out through discussion. But if you think this is just an unworkable situation, let’s shake hands and walk away now. And if you’d like to speak about any of these issues directly, you can always reach me at PHONE NUMBER.
Please let me know.
7 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – Looking For the Easy Win”
And…? Did the project continue? What was the reaction?
No, the project never happened, although there were a series of back and forths following this. And today, that creator has made talking about how I was mean to him a part of his typical convention appearance and interview rhetoric. But so it goes.
I’m all but certain who you’re addressing in this letter, and given that he’s so willing to publicly talk about the situation, I’m not sure why you adhere to the prudence of keeping his name private.
I’ve always figured that there might come a day when I’d need to speak more at length about this experience, and so I “kept the receipts” so to speak. But ultimately, just because somebody else behaves in a dishonorable fashion doesn’t give me license to—I try to hold myself to a higher standard than that, even if I may occasionally fail to live up to that standard. So until there’s some moment when I feel as though that creator’s story is gaining undue traction and needs to be more widely placed into context, I see no value in calling them out by name.
Still wondering who this is referring to.
I believe the name rhymes with Shim Jooter.
I thought you went to great lengths to clarify your good intentions. The only possible contention point could be where you mention, “your ability to tell a coherent story”. Maybe that was taken as dismissive or belittling, but you did say earlier that you had “great respect for your many accomplishments in the field.”
Regardless, I’m willing to finally let this go, and help you put out the best comics available. Joe has my PHONE NUMBER.