MARC ALAN FISHMAN: How To Succeed In Comics Without Really Trying*
* OK, here’s the deal. You can’t. You can’t succeed in comics without blood, sweat, and tears. Or, better to say, if you can, I don’t know how. I know that once you break into comics and have enough dirt on editors and top brass… you can rest on those laurels for years. Ask Jeph Loeb. I also know if you can meet deadlines, even if no one would ever say your work did more than move things from point A to point B, you can still get a steady paycheck. Ask Scott McDaniel.
I was torn here on where to go. From that lead paragraph, I had two genuine directions. One would be an uplifting tale of how Unshaven Comics is succeeding in our goals through the triumph of hard work, and slow but substantial growth via winning over one fan at a time. The other article I could write is a shallow, mean, absurdly hateful piece directed at Scott McDaniel over something he posted on his website. Given that I’ve had a pretty brutal day, I’m inclined to get petty and stupid.
Since my M.O. in these columns is to provide a little Wikipedia’ing, allow me do as such. Scott McDaniel has been a working comic book artist for many years now. Titles include Daredevil, Nightwing, Batman, The Outsiders, and most recently Static Shock. A cursory glance over those titles should tell you that no matter how much I rant and rave here, Scott has the high ground; He’s worked at DC and Marvel. I’m still years away from getting my denial letters from either of them. That being said, I have a bone to pick with the good God-fearing fellow.
For those not following along, Milestone creator John Rozum was given the reigns of Static when it debuted in DC’s big reboot. After much ballyhoo, he was shown the door (or showed himself to it, in a sense), and McDaniel took the writing gig over. John let people know (here) (and here) (and here) his thoughts on it. Scott then issued a response of his own on his site, to clarify his take on the whole issue. His response was a 41-page letter issued to the interwebs detailing literally every conversation and his opinion on the matter. 4-pages. Single spaced. 12 point font. 20,000 words. To respond to John, and the industry in general on why he still worked on the now-canceled book. And as God as my witness? It makes me want to rub my feet on the carpet for a solid day, and then give Scott a static shock to the man-globes.
The basic argument came down to editorial. Rozum’s script was obviously not the direction DC wanted Static to go in. I would think many comic creators have been in this situation too. Hell, in Unshaven Comics we’ve had knock-out fights over single panels. What it comes down to though is what line a creator is willing to cross to make ends meet. The best comics being published today (many by DC, I would attest) work well only when all parties involved are on the same page (pun intended). Even four pages into McDaniel’s magnum dope-us I could figure out where all the hullabaloo was. Rozum wanted a grim and gritty take on Static that balanced the hero stuff with real-kid problem stuff. DC wanted a family-friendly-ish romp that went “all out” to draw attention to itself. Faced with an editor asking for something he really didn’t want… he all but “phoned-it-in” to make a few paychecks, before deciding to leave the title.
Some of the best comics work on a slow-burn concept. Where it takes five or six issues to really hit home. And truth be told, I tend to love those comics. Scott Snyder employs this process immeasurably well. But is Static right for such a treatment? In a perfect world, maybe. But let’s be honest. Static is most well known to be a “fun” character. His animated show was amazingly well done (until Shaq made a guest appearance, and they made Ritchie have super-powers). I have no doubt in my mind DC wanted to tap into that energy (pun doubly intended) for the relaunch. But I digress, no need to rehash all the details. I’ll let you read through them if you want. Suffice to say, Rozum zigged when he was asked to zag. His editor (a.k.a. The Boss), pulled McDaniel into the conversation early to swing things away from Rozum’s treatment. At the end of the day, no one saw eye-to-eye, and the book was sloppy because of it.
I forced myself to read through all 41-pages of Scott’s manifesto. I simply find it to be so amazingly crass that I couldn’t help but be bothered by it. At the end of the day, McDaniel didn’t do anything wrong. He followed orders, made his editor happy, and when it was obvious DC was gonna flush the series down the toilet with the rest of the poop, they saved a few dollars by letting Scott write it. Granted, I didn’t read Static, but if McDaniel writes as well as he draws… I’ll safely assume Static got into a ton of fights, stuff blew up, and then the moved on to the next plot point. I’ve read (and own) a few books by Scott. I’ve never loved any of them. I find his work to “feel” rushed. Whether it takes him any more or less time to complete than any other working artist today… simply put, I’m not a fan. And seeing him with more credits to his name on a book exponentially makes me steer clear. Remember when I wrote about the double-edged sword of artist-writers?
But, I digress once more. The point is simple. Scott McDaniel’s retort was unneeded, uncalled for, and ultimately a waste of pixels and bandwidth. Rozum had a reason to let the world know why he left the book, and what issues he faced at DC. Scott was (and perhaps still is?) drawing a paycheck from DC. To write 20,000 words on how Rozum made it hard to make the book successful (and reading Rozum’s own words, he all but admits his heart wasn’t in it in the first place)… is needlessly rubbing salt on a self-inflicted wound. I started this piece out discussing how one can succeed in comics. I can assure you one way not to do that, is spend 41-pages lambasting a fellow creator. If you read Michael Davis’ article this week, no doubt you know why it’s things like this, that make people think we’re all backstabbers and petty grudge-holders. Scott should have taken his paycheck to the bank, cashed it, and let people think whatever they wanted to think.
As Jesus would say: Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander