This past week, Marc Maron interviewed Mike Myers on his WTF Podcast. Myers, a consummate pro very much at peace with the world, had only one itch to scratch with Maron: His infamy in being known as hard to work with. His response was direct. If he was hard to work with, it was only because he was standing up for his creations. And if that in turn caused people to be irked by him, well, so be it. Had I not been driving at the time, I would have stood up an applauded. And to the couple on I-294 I accidentally cut off because I attempted it… I’m really sorry about that.
It got me thinking about creative endeavors, and how Myers’ ideology is the ideal that would make the world that much more of an amazing place to live. It’s a crazy notion that I’ll happily back with a litany of examples. If I may be so bold:
Louie, on FX, is an astoundingly brilliant, genre-challenging show that simply could not be made any other time than right now. Because Louis C.K. had the wherewithal to stick to his guns and demand complete creative control over his end-product, every episode is appointment-worthy TV. By comparison, IFC’s Maron is so tragically focus-grouped, it took two seasons to reach any worthy catharsis. And even then, it was a barely-there conceit that Maron should appreciate life more. To compare the two shows is perhaps a bit mean-spirited – Louis C.K. is a filmmaker, and Maron a podcaster – bit the reality remains the same. What makes Marc Maron an amazing figure is his ability to touch on the humanity within nearly any subject in front of him. IFC sought no gravitas with their adaptation of his life. They wanted a hip, edgy comic to bring some Louie-esque cred to their backlog of Portlandia repeats. And for the quasi-fame and cash, Maron went all in.
The silver screen aside, we need only look to the cinema for even better examples. While we know, no doubt, that it takes a village to raise a child – a child being a movie in this case – very few films are wholly a singular vision given their relative cost. But when a creative team that clearly anguishes over every minute detail together as a team and makes the movie they truly wish to make, the results represent art over commerce. Take folks I love like Quentin Tarantino, Stephen Chow, or the infamous Kevin Smith. Each man’s films are intrinsically connected to their source creator. That is to say nearly all of them. Let’s try to forget Cop Out, shall we? But in the best of cases, movies as diverse as the original Clerks, Pulp Fiction, or Kung Fu Hustle were built on houses of cards. No financier could look at any of those preliminary spec-scripts and say without falter that they’d be commercially viable. Even with each man’s pedigree in tow, it took integrity of self and one’s creation in order to complete their respective films. And because of it, I’d say in each of those cases the world was treated to amazing art. Yes, Clerks included.
And where would my op-ed be without touching on our medium of choice here at ComicMix. I’ll be frank: I just don’t know how to defend my point whole-heartedly here. Whereas in my examples above, the end-product – damning the man who would try to control it – ended up both a critical as well as a commercial darling. In contrast, comic books simply don’t sit at the same table. The most profitable comics seem to swirl around character regardless of how the fanboys are reviewing it that week. Per my recent columns, I’ve pontificated that in most cases as well the parent publishers must keep the rags on the racks for no better financial reason beyond being able to control the licenses that live between the pulp. With all that said, I’m still adamant in my original conceit. Removed from the external control of governing bodies that care more about latent data points, letting an artist make the art they want will always yield a better finished product in my mind. It’s the difference between Revival and whatever crossover-of-the-month is raging on. And lest we not find a silver lining to this all, we need look only to The Walking Dead – a book built and maintained by a singular vision, not a corporate marketing report. And certainly that turned out pretty well, all things considered… no?
Ultimately Mike Myers’ feeling that his vision was best, gave the world the rebirth of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in lieu of a Guns N’ Roses single. And because of it, Queen hit the top of the charts again, nearly two decades later. More importantly, you can’t hear the song at 4:07 and not bang your head accordingly. As artists we are often pawns to the masters of the finances. In order to see our visions given birth, we are challenged by those not in the know to concede to another opinion. Beyond simple collaboration, there exists a conflict of interest when those who can pull the trigger choose to question the viability of a given creation.
It is up to us, the creators, to then hold steadfast. It is far better to be proud to put your name on something because it truly represents your vision, then to compromise for the sake of a paycheck.