The bosses of our mass media — press, radio, film and television — have their aim of taking our minds off disaster. Thus, the distraction they offer demands the antidote of maximum concentration on disaster. (Ernst Fischer)
Just a quick one tonight, inspired by Sony Pictures’ firing of Dan Harmon. Whatever you think of Community, Harmon was one of the few show-runners in television with such obvious concern and care for the quality of the product he put together; if this made him hard to get along with for the moneymen, then I guess I’d rather have an asshole who agonized over getting every decision right than a hack who’s happy just to collect a paycheck. Sony’s decision, and let’s not pretend otherwise, was about making more and easier money for Sony, and the way they chose to go about removing him from the show he made is just another example, if any more were needed, of the way the businessmen who control art will go to great lengths to remind creators that they are the least important figures in the creative process.
Harmon will be staying on as a “consulting producer”, which means that Sony can’t legally be fully shed of him and they’re handing him a paycheck to stay far away from whatever episodes remain to be produced. Apologists will put on their REALIST hats and talk about inevitability and impracticality the way they always do when it’s time for the bosses to hand out another beating, but I won’t be watching the show anymore. As far as I’m concerned, it had its very satisfying series finale last night — something it’s now increasingly clear Harmon could see coming. (If you have any doubts about Sony’s intentions, all you need to know is that not only is Harmon out, but so are at least two of his writers and three of his producers, including the Russo Brothers.) People will shrug and scoff and remind you that this happens all the time, but that’s what it always is: an excuse for swallowing the shit they serve you.
This is a situation with more than a few parallels to what’s currently going with Marvel’s huge success with the Avengers movie and their refusal to share the nearly incalculable profits with anyone who helped create the franchise, and DC’s decision to move ahead with a series of pre-Watchmen comics after having screwed Alan Moore out of his rights to the material he created. So I’ll leave you with a chat I had with my friend Calamity Jon Morris earlier today; hopefully he won’t mind me sharing it. (And if you’d like to actually do something about the ongoing hammering these billion-dollar corporations are dealing to creators, why not do as Jon suggests here, and match the money you spend on seeing Avengers with a donation to the Hero Initiative?)
Jon: He certainly doesn’t say it’s a “returned rights letter to Alan Moore” or a “show of actual respect letter to Alan Moore”.
Me: “We love Alan, in the sense that we love he created these characters we made a pile of money off of, and we love how easy it was to fuck him out of the rights to them.”
Jon: Why does DiDio even try to spin it? Is there an endgame here of respectability? The world knows for certain that there’s a crowd out there with at least three and a half billion dollars burning holes in their collective pockets that they’ll happily dump out over a six year period just to see the Hulk ‘be awesome’. Not one of them holds back so much as a penny out of fear that Dan DiDio may personally not actually take the feelings of Alan Moore into account. Is DC not going to attract top talent because creators fear getting screwed over? Hello, their offices are bustling. He’s either putting on a show for his bosses or for himself, because who the fuck else cares.
Me: Here’s my favorite part. Because being the Marxist asshole that I am I always think this shit has to do with putting the creator in his place an reminding him that he’s the least important person in the process, underneath all the bosses and middlemen. DiDio goes on and on about how much he loves and respects Alan Moore — -not enough to actually do right by him, but still, he praises him to the high heavens as long as it doesn’t cost him anything. But then he’s gotta stick the knife in: “Realistically some of Alan’s strongest works at DC outside of Watchmen were built off of characters like Swamp Thing which was created by Len Wein, Superman, Batman, so many of our great characters he’s worked on and they helped build his career.”
Jon: What a favor DC did for him! They certainly didn’t hunt him down because he was already creating critically-acclaimed and trail-blazing work!
Me: Yeah, if he hadn’t just lucked into Watchmen, he’d be remembered as just some random schmuck who wrote one issue of Batman. And it’s not like they put him on Swamp Thing specifically because he was a shit-hot writer and they wanted him to invigorate a title that was in the fucking toilet. Which he did largely by creating a new character in John Constantine that everybody loved.
Jon: Remember the issue of Swamp Thing that happened alongside the Crisis? And it did this amazing job of illuminating exactly how weak-ass the mainstream line had become and how also there was nothing but potential in all of those characters, if only looked at through eyes like Moore’s? I honestly think his brief descriptions of the Justice League in that Floronic Man arc did more to define their characters for the next decade than any story written for almost any of them.
Me: Yup. The thing is about creator’s rights is, for every guy like Moore who is gonna say “No thanks, I’d prefer not to piss on my legacy”, there’s a thousand guys like Stan Lee or Rob Liefeld or Todd McFarlane who will say “Sure, let’s make 200 movies and any plastic crap China can churn out.” You’re really just letting one more guy in on the money train. It’s not like it’ll destroy the industry if you give creators their due, because most of ’em like money as much as the next guy.
Jon: The contempt of the board of directors cannot be underestimated.