Tuesday, June 16, 2009

GOSSIP: Follow-Up

As promised in my recent Comics-Op column, here are more insights by readers and professionals regarding the topic of comics industry gossip. EDIT: I've been asked to take down the links to the brouhaha.

Do you think the comic book industry, and its principal players, should be subject to the sort of public scrutiny and (at times) gossip that others in the entertainment field are subject to?

"Michael from Pittsburgh":
"Absa-friggin-lutely, yes on the scrutiny part. I think they should be held accountable like athletes are... if an athlete has a bad game outting, then you see bloggers and old media journalists criticizing them. Because comic book fans can be just as passionate, as a sports fan that is passionate about their sports team and those currently wearing the logo.

For example, if a illustrator, writer, editor or tracer does a sub-par job taking care of iconic heroes, then they should get blasted by the fan-critics.

Gossip, on the other hand, should not be considered at all. Bad gossip ruins careers and lives. Nothing good ever becomes of it.

Perhaps future comic book editors, writers, etc.. should be required to take Journalism ethics courses in college or university."

Nicolas Priet:
"This is a very complex question. The very existence of continuing gossip in this industry proves how much the comics industry has strayed too far from its original business model and target audience : the kids. On one hand, the fact that such a major part of the readership wants to know the ugly part of thebehind-of-the-scenes of the industry is (or should be) fundamentally wrong. This is supposed to be a medium who allows its readership to escape our depressing reality. By needing to know how it's done, the bickering, the politics of the publishing side, you destroy the "magic". But, since most of the audience has become jaded and cynical adults who only want to see the feets of clay of the creators, it has become the norm. Having said that, without the gossip columns, the revelations of behind-the-scenes and all other things, I would never have realized of disturbed and rotten this industry had degenerated, nor would have I gotten the explanations of why/how some storylines never made any sense. One could make the argument that the existence of gossip about this industry, and the interest for it is a mere reflection of how low it has degenerated."

Bryy Miller:
"I think that comic books have flown under the radar with the general public on a level that movies, television, and video games have not. It takes a lot more of an effort to "get into" comics. That being said, people don't think of writers or editors as celebrities. They just would not CARE about comic gossip. Drunk Errol Flynn thinking he committed a murder and trying to cover it up by dumping the guy in the river? That we think is awesome. Who is getting hired, fired, or put on this or that book - that's simply not juicy. As for public scrutiny, I doubt people would give a hoot as long as they got their books. I mean, that's basically how it is now. In fact, most people don't like it when you actually do tell them what's going on."

Greg Hatcher, CBR columnist:
"If you mean paparazzi, rumors, gossip, and snark -- no, nobody should be subject to that. I remember when Devin Grayson and Mark Waid were an item there was a truly embarrassing amount of message-board gossip and speculation about it, did it help or hurt Ms. Grayson's career, did Waid do this or that in a story because he was under her influence -- it was deeply disturbing and weird, especially since so much of it was coming from fanboys who were clearly dysfunctional socially. It made me ashamed for my hobby.

On the other hand, I have often wished for actual news reporting. Meaning more serious journalism in our industry press; someone to act as watchdog, to be an advocate for those who are getting screwed by publishers or distributors or whoever. An objective observer to shame industry people into acting like adults. THE COMICS JOURNAL used to do a fair amount but they've gotten too snooty to bother with Marvel or DC much any more, and that's where we could really benefit people by shining a light on stuff. I think it's astonishing how much childishness creeps into the actual business practices in comics. I suppose you can make the case that it's
much the same in TV or movies, but.... I dunno, in comics it seems like the inmates have been running the asylum for decades."

Ian Walker, "Beer and Comics":
"Sure. I mean, I don't care about most of it personally, I'm not big on gossip, but basically, if you want your name to be known publicly, you have to accept that you're going to be under that kind of scrutiny, and for your life to be under the microscope. You ask for fame? Then expect everything that goes with it.

I mean, offhand, how much do I know about, oh, Neil Gaiman, for example? As someone who doesn't really follow these things (but enjoys his work), I know he has multiple children (two? I think), at least one daughter. He lives in Minnesota, which I find odd for and Englishman. Imagine if someone cares to know more?

You're putting yourself into the public sphere. Deal with it.

Even in a literary field, if your name is big (which includes publishers in the comic industry, sorry - you help make plot decisions, it makes you noteworthy), expect people to want to know about you. Expect the scrutiny that goes with being a "name". If you want to look outside of comics? Think Steven King. Think Michael Crichton. Think Dan Brown. Think JK Rowling. Think whoeverthehell wrote "Twilight". If people care enough, they're going to know about these people's lives. Enjoy it if people care. It means that you're probably pretty big. What did PT Barnum say about publicity?"

"Absolutely for the big time corporate players or the superstar. Especially when the issue revolves around someone who cheats others in behind-the-scenes business, or someone who is a proven swiper. In this case, the corporate player or the superstar, the scrutiny is justified.

However I think it's out of place for the rank-and-file employees and freelance creators who are grinding out a living by performing the labor of creating the product and bringing it to market. They already get screwed just by being a little guy in a machine.

Glenn Haumann, ComicMix:
"I go through this every single day. I don't think it's particularly anyone's business to know who's sleeping with who, or who has the latex fetish, or who subscribes to that adult web site, except as to how it relates to the business. That said, there are people in the business who make their personal life part of the business, this being the last literary frontier where a straight white male can do an autobiography and still be looked on as avant-garde, and there are people who make business decisions on who they're friends with, or dating, or were dating, and so on.

But celebrity? Most of us have the right level of celebrity-- inside the convention hall, we're rock stars; outside, we're happily anonymous."

Torsten Adair:
"From a media viewpoint, yes, if there is actual news, then business individuals should be subject to public scrutiny. More so if the business is publicly traded. How far down the organizational structure one should go depends on how the individual is involved with the story. As for gossip, that's a tricky area, as it exposes the reporter to charges of defamation, specifically slander (oral) and libel (broadcast)."

Jeff Kraschinski:
"No. In the entertainment industry, most all the individuals who are the focus of such gossip and public scrutiny are the performers who willingly put themselves out in the public eye themselves, and those who do not put themselves out for all to gawk at generally are ignored on a day to day basis by the gossip hounds and paparazzi (Harrison Ford being a prime example). In either case, those people are themselves the product to be marketed. For example, films can be heavily promoted and do well merely because of a particular actor’s involvement,

In comics, the CHARACTERS are the product, entertaining though it may be. Not so the producers of said product. One might as well ask if the rank and file worker at Microsoft deserves public scrutiny and gossip because Windows 7 is due out soon. Stan Lee is the notable exception to the rule in comics as he’s put himself out there as a media whore for decades now.

But for the most part, these are private workplaces, and should remain so."

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