Saturday, June 24, 2006

Growling In The Rain

I hate it when it happens. You're just putting the finishing touches on your work when BANG! out goes the power the whole day's work is lost. Annoyance plus frustration. I'm not the kind who can easily reconstruct my lost work, so I'll just go ahead and do something entirely different, but I will include some stuff I remember writing about.

Michael Netzer has created yet another web-site. Interestingly enough he draws attention to the fact that he's not that in demand in the comic book world these days, thus he has more than enough time to work on these kind of sites. Now that amazes me, that an artist of Mike abilities, who's grown with each year that passes and is better than he ever was feels the need to create web-sites in order to remain active. Incredible. Especially when you look at some of the chicken scratching that pass for pencils these days. If anyone's out there reading this, then hire Mike Netzer. It'll be worth your while.

The fine folk over at First Salvo have released a preview of their latest issue of Saga Six. They've issued a number of pages and a one-sheet character design over at Norm Breyfogle's forum. Well worth a look. So far First Salvo has assembled a crew of talent that'd be the envy of any mainstream publisher, let alone small press: Tom Smith, Mark McKenna, Bob Almond, Joe Rubinstein, Norm Breyfogle, Sal Velluto, Kevin West, Ron Frenz, Jason Armstrong Pat Oliff, Paul Rivoche, and Jerry Ordway have all contributed to the First Salvo line, and that alone makes them books to watch out for. Feel free to interact with the First Salvo team over at their forums.

Publisher Thad Branco has told me that he intends to shop the line around to publishers such as Image. If Image have anywhere near a brain they'll pick this up and run with it. If you're having trouble getting copies here in Australia then let us know and we'll arrange for a copy to be sent out. Otherwise just visit this link and buy as much as you can carry.

Over on the Comic Art mailing list there's been a bit of a fuss about the recent Mike Wieringo image sending up John Byrne. A lot of people were accusing Wieringo of being totally unprofessional with his public 'attack' on the poor, helpless Byrne (don't bother looking for a link to Byrne - if there's one thing I've learnt it's that Byrne hates my links). Let me just say this, and it's a bit of a watered down version from what I originally wrote, that if John Byrne, or his sycophants, don't like what Wieringo has done, then perhaps Byrne should remember back to his dim, dark past and recall this attack on why Gene Colan was fired from Marvel back in the 1980s:
"Because Shooter wouldn't let them get away with murder, is what it comes down to. Shooter wouldn't let Gene Colan do the kind of crap that he's been doing for the last -banana feet and duck hands- that he's been giving us for the last five years. Shooter wouldn't let him do that, so he went over to DC where they said "Sure. Come and do garbage. We'll pay you for it.""

How professional was that? Byrne didn't stop there. He sprouted more and more about why he felt Colan was a hack and was basically no good. He then turned his focus and attacked Roy Thomas on the same panel discussion at a comic book convention and appeared happy when it was printed in The Comic Journal. However he wasn't happy when Roy Thomas threatened to sue over Byrne's highly professional comments. Forced to recant, Byrne offered up the weakest of weak apologies. But that's Byrne. In recent times he's found the need to attack people such as Peter David, Erik Larsen (which he had to apologize for - again) and the entire community at Wikipedia, where he felt a conspiracy was afoot against him. The only conspiracy against Byrne lies in his head.

I'll always remember Byrne as being the man who refused to sign the Jack Kirby art return petition. At the time Byrne was pulling in a hefty six figure annual sum by writing and drawing one of Kirby's most famous co-creations: The Fantastic Four. Byrne had a lot of clout back at Marvel in those days and was one of their most successful money spinners. As he was working on one of the flag-ship titles he was also in a position to exert a great degree of pressure onto Marvel for the return of Kirby's art. Over 200 other comic book creators signed the petition. Alan Moore, Gil Kane, Frank Miller, Norm Breyfogle, Steve Rude, Kerry Gammill, Jerry Ordway, Jerry Siegel, Jerry Bingham, Burne Hogarth, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, R. Crumb, C.C. Beck, Mike Barr, Mike Baron, Dan Adkins, Sal Amendola, Mark Farmer, Harlan Ellison, Steve Englehart, Brian Bolland, Tom Grindberg, Harvey Kurtzman, David Mazzuchelli, Dave Simons, Dave Sim, Doug Moench, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Roger McKenzie, Jim Starlin, Tom Sutton, Frank Thorne, Matt Wagner and too many more to name here signed. DC issued a letter against the Marvel policy towards Kirby, as did Will Eisner.

A lot of the people who signed the petition were risking both their current and future employment at Marvel and indeed within the industry as a whole. All stood up for Kirby and against the Marvel policy. I can't recall ever hearing of any one person who was fired by Marvel for signing the petition, or was refused work at Marvel in the future. None.

At the time Frank Miller wrote the following;
"On the telephone the other day I mentioned Jack Kirby to a cartoonist who makes a six figure income by writing and drawing the adventures of superheroes brought to life by Jack Kirby. The cartoonist mumbled something I didn't understand and changed the subject." You work out who he's talking about. For all his flaws Frank Miller does stand up to be counted. John Byrne does not - he stands on the side of who's paying him, as he did with the Kirby case and as he did against his fellow peer Marv Wolfman when Wolfman took Marvel to court for ownership of Blade. Gene Colan and Marv Evanier stood up for Wolfman during the court case, Byrne didn't. According to the court records, Byrne spent the bulk of his time when not giving testimony poking his tounge out and making stupid faces at Wolfman. That's Byrne for ya!

I'd love to know how much he made from his Fantastic Four work, his Fourth World work, his Demon work, OMAC, The Hulk, The X-Men, The Avengers, Captain America - all his Kirby work, because that's what his soul is worth and it's not often you discover a man's true worth. Byrne has shown on more than occasion that he's a man without honour and that's he's ever eager to feather his own nest. It's funny, but get an industry professional off the record and ask them about John Byrne. You'd be stunned by the responses (I know I'm always amazed at what I'm told).

Byrne has continued to carve out a career on the back of Jack Kirby's creations. Byrne's own serious attempts to create, the Next Men at Dark Horse, vanished a few years after they began and haven't been seen since. Mind you the whole concept reeked of Kirby, as did his next effort, Danger Unlimited, which was yet another Kirby concept, recycled and regurgitated by Byrne. But the failure of his creations aren't his fault - the blame lies at the feet of the public for not buying the books when they came out and the retailers who band together and refuse to order his books.

I find it amusing when people attack Stan Lee as being a villain in the Jack Kirby story when Byrne has made more in a year from Kirby's creations than Kirby probably made over his entire career. I think the world has lost count of the number of times Byrne has swiped - whoops, sorry, paid homage - to Kirby's famous cover image of Fantastic Four #1. Out of interest I know for sure he's used that image on the following books: Fantastic Four #264, What If #36, Danger Unlimited #4, Avengers West Coast #54, X-Men: The Hidden Years #20 and Marvel Age #14. I expect that there's more of them out there. Does Kirby get a cent from any of that? Nope. Why should he? He just designed the cover, and, after all, it's a homage. I might go and remake Citizen Kane, shot for shot but with different actors and call it a homage because it'd be exactly the same as what Byrne does to Kirby's cover design. The shame is that a lot of Byrne's early work - Iron Fist, X-Men, Avengers and yes, even his Fantastic Four - is more than readable. His Superman reboot was as impressive as anything else he's ever done. A lot of his latter work is barely adequate.

So when the sycophants start the wailing about the injustice against Byrne by Wieringo, just ignore them. They've long been blinded to the world at large and indeed live in a John Byrne World.

As for his comments about Colan producing shit at DC? Take a look at Generations III or Lab Rats - the latter being a book so bad it doesn't even feature on a lot of Byrne's checklists - and compare that against Gene Colan's last years at DC. Then you tell me who hacked it out and foisted garbage onto the world at large. At least Gene was capable of drawing backgrounds, a feat that has eluded Byrne since he left Marvel back in 1986.

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