Activists Assemble? A Comics Blogger On Boycotting

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Not too long ago, comic critic Alan David Doane set up a petition calling for DC Comics to end any planned sequels to Watchmen (and the project hasn’t even been officially announced). There was some back and forth on a comics site or two as to whether a cause like this qualified as “economic injustice” enough to go on a site called Change.org, which holds petitions on more serious subjects (though they have given him grief, Alan Moore certainly hasn’t gone broke over DC’s often dubious manipulations).

What surprises me more is that there still hasn’t been any inspiration to put up a petition for Jack Kirby.  Decades after Kirby’s death, his family has recently tried and failed to receive any compensation from Marvel, which was a sore spot when Jack Kirby was alive.  Below is a reproduction of a petition that went out in the 80′s to help Kirby receive not royalties but his actual artwork, which Marvel refused to return.  In the end, a mere pittance was finally handed over.

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The closest I found to a more recent petition with anything to do with Kirby had to do with DC related toys.  And the Jack Kirby topic isn’t new.  It’s had its share of debate and flat out detractors (look upon the first comments on this news post with insults to Kirby’s family and despair).

Getting back to Watchmen, there are even back and forths from fans and creators about the pros and cons of a series of what seem to be Watchmen prequels (based on glimpses of art that DC demanded be taken down). This is something that could only happen after so much time has passed and Watchmen has become less of a sacred cow to new readers, who might even look at it and go, “It’s good, but it’s not Millar’s Authority.

But enough people care about Watchmen and fear it will get cheapened, and given what DC’s Infinite Crisis did to Crisis on Infinite Earths, this is not irrational thought.  So the very thought of a Watchmen sequel gets a petition.  But still there’s that thinking: Sure it goes against Moore’s wishes, but what if the new stuff is good?

Here’s my question: Why is that comics fans as a whole nowadays only get behind a boycott when the quality of a project is in question and not the morality behind it?

I’m thinking of Mark Millar’s post when he spoke against the idea of boycotting Frank Miler, an idea which resurfaced after Miller’s infamous post against the Occupy movement. The first thought that came to mind was, aren’t we already boycotting Frank Miller? And that wasn’t really due to the caliber of his moral code but the dwindling quality of his work. Yes, there were calls in the past to boycott or at least lambast his work due to 300, but that didn’t stop the book from being turned into a hit movie. Mostly because the book itself had enough positive qualities that the filmmakers generally ignored.

Today, no one really needs to ban Frank Miller’s Holy Terror because even before Miller’s ramblings, the book warranted a Spinal Tap style review (Two words: “Holy Shit”). It’s not that much of a challenge to issue a boycott for anything Miller related now.  Fans aren’t being wowed, so it’s easy for them to claim a moral high road.

Back  to Marvel, and the proposition of a Kirby-related boycott.  Sure, I would like to demand that Kirby’s family receive some overdue economic justice.  I’d like to say I’m boycotting Marvel books on behalf of that movement.  Problem is, I haven’t picked up a Marvel title for quite some time because the majority of them I find too crossover/multi-title driven and boring as hell overall.

But then there are the movies.

I admit I watched Iron Man in theaters and loved it when it came out.  Iron Man 2 was also fun, though maybe because I didn’t pay for it (thank you, Mom’s cable) and the Hulk reboot definitely wasn’t boring.  The other Marvel movies I’ve just skipped so far.  That was more due to time constraints originally, but since seeing Kirby’s family get raked over the coals by the courts and comics fans recently, I’m holding off even on $1 kiosk rentals of the big CGI movies and even the animation DVD’s that have trickled down.

I’ve wanted to express the idea of sticking up for Kirby’s heirs to other people.  Maybe even to fellow WGI bloggers and readers.  Maybe even go so far as to write other comics bloggers for their help in drafting an actual petition to not see the Avengers movie at least.  Maybe if the momentum picks up, I can even move towards a petition to urge people not to buy any Marvel titles that use Kirby characters.  Maybe not, but I can at least show some support somehow.

Trouble is, I have a strong premonition that I’ll get even more flack than the Watchmen petition did.  Why?  Because too many people think the Avengers movie is going to kick ass.

It’s hard to argue against that.  It will at least be more interesting than the Brian Bendis scripted comics, which rely on crossover upon crossover and no resolution.  I could make an argument that the non X-Men Marvel movies have been doing the same thing in a way,  building one ongoing story since the first Iron Man film.  With the films, it’s almost novelty.  It’s the comics mentality of everything crossing over in the same universe but applied to film.   It could also tank pretty hard and collapse under its own weight, much like the Marvel comics line has time and time again.

Still, I don’t want to try and argue the speculative quality of the movie to convince fans not to see it.  I just want to argue that it’d be nice to skip out on the hype because it would be a good symbolic gesture.  It could be a way to guilt Marvel into doing something good for the Kirby family.

DC, you could argue, treated Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster worse, but at least DC were guilted into correcting its behavior and have done right (or at least better) by other, more modern creators.  Maybe it’s because Kirby never starved, but Marvel seems immune to guilt.  They can put out Jack Kirby documentaries and their staff can sit in front of the cameras without any urge to turn away in shame.  They give lip service seemingly unaware of the irony that they’re part of the company that all but cast him aside.  It never ends.

I want to force myself not to watch the Avengers cartoon (which impressed me with its first season), and not see Iron Man 3 because it might be the right thing to do.  Maybe sacrifice the fleeting pleasure from seeing this movies for a greater cause.  It’s just hard not to feel a little foolish.  Maybe because it is foolish.  Or maybe I’m reacting to inevitable peer pressure and anticipating the backlash because, dude, it’s Captain America and Iron Downey, Jr. on film!

Are you disgusted by Marvel’s recent practices and dropping books?  Or are you dropping books conveniently because they suck?  This isn’t a good vs. evil question.  I just hope that in the future, comics fans think less of their own gratification before making a decision to support or boycott a creator or a company.

About Chad Parenteau

I'm a poet. I run the Stone Soup Poetry series in Cambridge that runs every Monday night. I review comics in my spare time.
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4 Responses to Activists Assemble? A Comics Blogger On Boycotting

  1. Wow, that’s a poser you’ve put there and I’m not sure I have a coherent response, more like some random thoughts. I was furious at Marvel for years over their treatment of Kirby, and that coupled with the general crappiness of their line in the mid 80s led to my not buying any non-Epic Marvel material till 2000. And I was one of the first signers of ADD’s petition, and still think it’s repulsive DC is even considering a sequel, prequel, or whatever to WATCHMEN. Partly this has to do with the rights issues, but also it has to do with that there is no necessity for it, that to do so would dilute the original, and that it’s purely for money and nothing else, to squeeze more cash out of something that already brings them profit.
    Yet I liked, for the most part, the WATCHMEN film and consider it the closest Hollywood has ever and will ever come to doing justice to Moore’s work. Granted, the competition isn’t exactly daunting. But watching it I felt it was, in fact, being done by someone determined to do their best by it, who loved it. And the Dr, Manhattan origin sequence was so right it actually brought tears to my eyes.
    In the case of Kirby, I’m not sure what to think about it now. Marvel has screwed the family and the estate for years. And I have no real concern about the Avengers movie or making it possible, especially after IRON MAN 2 turned to crap halfway through. (and I do not share your high opinion of that Hulk movie, I thought it only slightly less mediocre than the first one)

    Perhaps I have fatigue on the Kirby issue, especially as Jack and Roz are dead now, while Moore is still alive. To some degree it’s fatigue; Marvel won and there’s little that can be done about it now but absorb the lessons of it.

  2. Bryan says:

    so, I’ve been thinking abut posting a Boycott Marvel petition and your blog finally convinced me. It’s now up at change.org and here is the link:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/marvel-entertainment-give-credit-and-royalties-to-jack-kirby-and-his-family

    thanks!

  3. Pingback: It’s Here! The First Jack Kirby Petition (that we know of) | wegotcomicissues

  4. Pingback: Friday Reading: A rare 1967 Jack Kirby story from Esquire « All Day Comics

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