I've seen some criticism of my reaction to Bendis calling Dirk Deppey's claims about blackballing "paranoia".
The most common complaint isn't that I said he was lying (which, I guess, is tacit approval of calling it such). No, it is the complaint that I said he needs to put "more of an effort into his work than it appears he currently is" if his true issue is that he wants more in-depth/long-form reviewing of his work. This has been labeled a personal attack and that I have an ax to grind.
I don't know Bendis. I don't have any web cams set up in his residence to see how much he is applying himself or a chip in his head to feed me data about the effort he is making.
What I do know is that the type of reviewing he was suggesting didn't exist is out there already and much easier to find than he's suggesting, if you're not just looking via Google alerts set for your name and the projects you're working on. He couldn't have spent as much time ever looking for such work as he spends discussing and dissecting a Howard Stern show. But he wanted to state to the world that the comic book industry is nigh perfect but for the lacking of deeper reviews and real journalism.
What I do know is that the current output coming from Bendis gives the appearance that he's not challenging himself. He looks like he has fallen into formula and into pushing out mediocre work to satisfy demand. The work gives the appearance that he's not challenging himself, not even with Scarlet. Maybe I have a higher opinion of his talents, but even with trying to write a book where he's breaking the fourth wall (admittedly not in his comfort zone), he doesn't seem to be applying himself to the best of his abilities. His work isn't reflecting the talent he has proven himself to have in the past, so I'd chalk that up to a lack of effort.
Whether you consider me to be a legitimate critic or not (I don't really care to argue for or against the label), you're kidding yourself if you think that critics don't point out a perceived lack of effort from an artist. An Ebert or Travers will certainly point out if they feel like an actor sleepwalked through their role or a director didn't bring their "A" game. If you want to take exception with the phrasing, that's fine...but with the type of observation tucked away in that phrasing? You're wrong.
As far as a personal ax to grind? I don't have one. There are several ways Bendis conducts himself that I don't like or admire. I think the way he handles his forum stunts his growth, because it surrounds him with far too many people who will blindly praise him and stroke his ego (and, as it appears to be part of an attempt to model himself after Stern, this may be intentional). Knowing what I've heard through back channels about his reaction to criticism of his work from outlets (be it their writers or just reader comments), I get the impression that he can be petty, which doesn't endear him to me.
But when he comes out with broad generalizations about coverage of his industry? When there are a ton of people I respect and/or am friendly with that he painted with that broad brush? When I know he's aware of the ways his employer stunts the growth of the legitimate journalism side of things? I get livid.
I have no personal experience with Bendis to have an ax to grind because of. If there were reason for anyone to have an ax, it would be from Bendis towards me for the Secret Invasion spoilers, which probably played some role in my rarely-used BenBo account being banned and his eventually blocking me from following his Twitter account. Which, for the record, don't generate an ax for me to grind: both steps just make it slightly more difficult to grab news generated from either.
For the record, I've had some sincere regret for the SI spoilers. As marvel_b0y faded from faded from memory, I lamented that sharing that information may have significantly reduced the impact of the first issue of the event for many readers. As wrong as I felt Marvel's viral marketing attempt was (whether they started or merely co-opted marvel_b0y), I didn't feel good about the possibility that some readers didn't enjoy the issue as intended and that Bendis might not have gotten the exact credit he deserved from the readership for it. That's why it was relatively easy for a third party to convince me to not directly run the next batch of SI spoilers and why I didn't run the Secret Avengers lineup months before the first issue hit, much to the chagrin of some spoiler-starved readers.
But I have no regrets due to any burning or blackballing. Not that it didn't have either of those effects on me; I just couldn't care less if it did. My problem with the way publishers lord access over the sites covering them is how they punish large groups rather than individuals. There was a time where people would watch 60 MINUTES on CBS and wonder, "damn, why'd they even agree to interview with Morley Safer/Mike Wallace/Ed Bradley? Haven't they watched the show before?" The guilty sat down to interviews they probably shouldn't have agreed to do. But no one expected that should mean the company would drop CBS from their press release list, ban them from their press conference or never advertise with them again. Or cut off all media completely.
But that's what Marvel did with review PDF access when someone leaked ads for Secret Avengers and OMIT on to the internet. They shut down the review PDF system for everyone. They didn't just limit it to more trusted sources (though there was no way of knowing whether the leak came from a retailer or a reviewer). They didn't decide to make PDFs without ads available (which, personally speaking, should have been the norm to begin with). An advertisement from a book was shared publicly a day or two early, so they pulled all access to reviewable product from all outlets.
It was fear of Newsarama receiving unjust punishment from Marvel for my disagreement with two of their writers that led me to quit working for the site for a long period of time. I was an unpaid contributor who had a personal disagreement, but Matt Brady or Troy Brownfield were going to suffer for my free expression? Someone's actual livelihood might be impacted because Marvel might be less friendly with access as long as I was there? Fuck that.
Bendis knows that is the reality and he should damn well know that the industry isn't so big that you'll always be able to find a publisher for your news article if it is good enough. Hell, the comic book industry isn't even big enough that insiders feel they can feed much information without it tracking back to them and hurting their career. Then again, he made such vague statements (that he says detractors misread, while supporters are adding all kinds of non-existent detail to) that one wonders if his point wasn't just to create a shitstorm that his name was at the center of. Scour his Twitter and message boards as I have, there doesn't seem to be an indication of what type of journalism he's looking for. A retrospective on an artist's career? That's the hard/long-form journalism we're missing? C'mon, that can't be it.
I'm interested to hear what some of you readers/lurkers think. Was pointing out a perceived lack of effort and desire to see more praise on Bendis' part truly a "personal attack" that "you wouldn't see a real critic make"? I don't care if you have to reply on a borrowed computer using your worst enemy's severed hand, I'd like to hear what you think. Hell, it doesn't even have to be in this comments section. Just work my name or the site name into the discussion so I have a hope of pulling it up through a Google alert to get the feedback.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I've seen some criticism of my reaction to Bendis calling Dirk Deppey's claims about blackballing "paranoia".
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
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The Hero Initiative (http://www.heroinitiative.org) is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays' creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010
As anyone who’s ever worked for The Comics Journal will tell you, practicing real journalism will get you blackballed in no time. Specifically: It will get you blackballed by Brian Michael Bendis’ employer in no time.
The response from Bendis? "Paranoia. another excuse."
Really? C'mon. Someone from Marvel's offices have called to threaten sites over bad reviews, let alone unflattering reporting. Rumors say a well-known weekly feature (in a Cup) switched sites in part because they got mad that a creator independently offered up info in an interview (that was run) that the publisher had supplied previously under terms of an embargo.
Thing is: I'm 99.99% certain Bendis knows enough about the stuff that goes on between Marvel & the sites that profit from covering Marvel to know that what Deppey says is NOT paranoia. So he's crossed over into flat out lying.
He could have left it alone, but insisted on addressing it with a false accusation of paranoia. It just gives further support to this being about Bendis wanting long form praise of his work and less instances of snark about it. The way to go about it is putting more of an effort into his work than it appears he currently is, not decrying the work ethic and integrity of everyone else and supporting it with bullshit.
The un-ironic way in which thin-skinned reviewers got mad at me for wondering why reviewers are so thin skinned is probably my favorite thing ever
So...in calling for less snark and more thoughtful reviews and hard journalism, he's made broad, uninformed generalizations and focusing most of his effort on jabbing insults at his targets. He gave so little time and effort in composing his thoughts on the matter that he's having to spend a lot of time...criticizing others for not seeming to comprehend what he said. He knew so little about what is actually out there that it wasn't long into his starting the "discussion" that he was presented with a laundry list of examples that satisfied exactly what, in theory, he was looking for (only in theory, because, as previously stated, he's largely looking for long-form, verbal fellatio from reviewers).
When even the creators supposedly calling for deeper stuff from comic book "journalists" are doing so through trading in the same snark that the readership seems to respond to (as evidenced by hits and their own snarky comments that hurt the po' widdle feewings of big time writers), can you seriously expect a productive discourse? Or respect the creator who is essentially saying we should get off the momma jokes because he just got off of yours?
(1. Yes, I know that continuing to talk about this in aggravated fashion feeds what amounts to trolling from him. 2. I know that isn't Bendis in the picture. 3. I like a lot of his work and actually like HIM whenever I see him speak about the medium at conventions, rather than his online antics. 4. I'm sure there are people who know me that have said they like me more when we hang out than they like my online antics.)
Friday, September 24, 2010
Bendis fails to see the irony present in his statements, and that is that he probably wants HIS comics to be reviewed and dissected like the work of Alan Moore. Which they clearly aren't. And it pains me to say that, because the last thing I want to do is compliment the work of Alan Moore, in light of all his recent moaning.
It's laughable to see Bendis and, on occasion, Quesada, plead for more journalism because they'll shut down and cut off any site that writes something that doesn't conform to their agenda. Just ask . . . anybody with a site.
The man is exactly the fragile ego/high profile creator that sites have to treat with kid gloves in order to maintain access to. Hell, if readers can leave scathing comments right under an interview with him on your site, he's that much less likely to consent to speak with you if he has a choice.
That's a huge part of the problem.
"Comics journalism", as is commercially viable, hinges on access to creators. When some of those bigger names (companies or individuals) are divas who will punish a whole site for how they allow readers to participate or maybe the opinion of a single contributor, exactly where do you expect "hard journalism" to appear? The sites that have the resources and contacts to throw at such an undertaking would be blacklisted before you blink an eye.
Hard hitting journalism would have examined some of the accusations about the workplace environment that Valerie D'Orazio's memoirs detail...or even some of the stuff the DC Comics Insider said. Sure, the insider made some claims you wouldn't want to reprint without corroboration (and some that you wouldn't run even then). But 99% of sites that cover comic books pretended it didn't exist, going so far as to delete message board threads that linked to the claims.
Hard hitting journalism would have gotten even the biggest sites shut off from DC Comics access. Quite honestly, it would probably have resulted in even Marvel shrinking away from the site, rather than feed the popularity of a site that is sure to focus the same attention on them when the time comes.
If even one blogger did that kind of "hard hitting journalism", it'd probably be the one and only major story they ever had. Most pros that work with the Big Two wouldn't be prone to interview with them for fear of it hurting their ability to get work. This isn't a big enough industry that you can count on another story within six months that could be culled from "confidential sources". This industry has secrets, but not enough really gripping ones to generate regular material from. Well, not that I'm aware of...and if I was aware of 'em, I guess they wouldn't be secrets.
As far as more in-depth reviews? Let's be honest: Bendis (nor most other creators) wants more detailed reviews that pick apart their work, just longer verbal fellatio (ala the Alan Moore treatment). Never mind that, as long as serialization is the norm, in-depth reviewing is going to be rare. Twenty-two pages can only be poured over so much and going back to review a six issue arc will lose out to reviewing new material nine times out of ten.
But, you know, let's blame the quality of people covering the material. Clearly, there aren't enough people with the quality of writing about the industry exactly the way Bendis wants and never the way he doesn't. Wouldn't we all be better off if that wasn't the case?
I wish there was more hard journalism in comic book coverage. But I can say that, because I'm not someone who would turn around and refuse to talk to a site because the company I work for doesn't like them anymore or because I don't like something they published. And if I was that sort of person, I wouldn't call for that coverage, pretending that I've never given shit to anyone over what has been written on their site (even by a reader in their comments section).
Why? Because, on this subject, at least, I'm not a dishonest hypocrite.