(the blog is fixed!…took longer than we thought, but lets take her for a drive eh?)
Robert Kirkman vs…Valiant?
A “news story” popped up on my feed that I think has a couple of teachable moments to it.
The story appears via a comic book “news” website, that is clickbait, full of ads and has a well earned reputation for being way better at stirring up b*llshit than reporting any facts or getting any quotes correct…so I’m going to paste it here rather than put a link down. Trust me, this is for your benefit. For those of you who know/care very little of comic book publishing…Kirkman was the man who wrote and created The Walking Dead when it was just a comic book. Valiant Entertainment, Boom Studios, Dark Horse and Image are comic book publishers. Got it? good.
The title was –
“If Valiant Published Walking Dead – No One Would Have Heard Of It” – Robert Kirkman Throws Shade At ECCC 2017
This is the first teachable moment…note the title…now here is the story
Robert Kirkman introduced the Founders panel for the 25th Anniversary of Image Comics where, when they weren’t trash-talking Jim Lee, had Kirkman talking about the benefits of creator-owned comic books. And said that if he’d done the Walking Dead at Boom! then Ross Richie would be sitting on the seats, or if it were Dark Horse then it would be Mike Richardson, or if Valiant published Walking Dead then… no one would have heard of the Walking Dead.”
But because it was Image Comics, the people who made the comics were sitting there instead.
Just thought I’d add something to the bar gossip tonight… Dinesh Vs Kirkman in the Seattle late night bars?
bleeding cool news
That last line of the story I find particularly cute, it unwittingly screams “I’m on the outside looking in, but I want people to think otherwise”. But moving on to a larger point, we have no real context for Kirkman saying this. Was he angry while saying it, did he say it with stern resolve, or was he being a wise ass? What was said before or after by him or anyone else? I don’t know…neither do you, and likely neither does this website because the guy who wrote this lives in another country and I doubt he was able to fly in to go to ECCC. We’re getting second hand information from a muck racker. For all we know Kirkman’s friends with everyone he mentioned and was giving them sh*t in a friendly way. Or maybe he was sincerely taking a dig at all of them. We don’t know, and for that matter, I doubt anyone who was there knows, as dry as Kirkman is.
In the interest of fairness, I have met Kirkman a couple times, I do work for Valiant here and there, I know the people at Boom Studios…however I have my own book and endeavors and so the impression anyone has of either Kirkman or Valiant or Boom is the concern of others, and I doubt any of them need defending by me. Meaning, have no fear of my attitude being skewed one way or the other. Regular readers of my blog know full well, I call them like I see them…that’s why they come here.
Kirkman is an easy target to get people riled up about (especially when it appears he’s breaking bad on a publisher like Valiant which has a stalwart and vigilant fan base…it’s clickbait gold) because he is successful and because there was some…legal dispute between him and Tony Moore, the original illustrator of TWD comic book. When you come out on top you start becoming an easy target for people to project their personal issues, with someone else who came out on top and wronged them, on. When an intellectual property moves from being a comic book into some other medium the writer benefits more so than the illustrator. That’s just the way it is. And as much as you might not want to hear it…that’s probably the way it should be. Keep in mind , it is my opinion that the single most important job in making a comic book is laying out the pages. Transferring the script into a visual medium while retaining the integrity, mood, feeling, timing and charm of it is the difference between a story that succeeds and one that fails. HOWEVER, answering two questions gives you the reason that the writer benefits and the illustrator often gets left holding the bag.
1-Would TWD have succeeded without Tony Moore? Maybe, maybe not.
2-would TWD have succeeded without Kirkman? No, because HE created the story.
Look at any comic book convention, the artist alley is filled with talented artists…but it’s a desert as far as new good ideas. So Kirkman came out ahead, and to his mind probably deserves to have come out ahead. That doesn’t make him good or bad, it just makes him a continual target. For all we know Kirkman had to bring Moore kicking and screaming into the original book and ride his ass every second to get deadlines met…or maybe Moore took a chuck of sh*t script and molded it into a great visual story. We weren’t there, we don’t know. Since presenting his side of things isn’t worth Kirkman’s time (because he came out ahead and has a t.v. show to make) he gets a reputation for being a heel, and stories get steered to fan those flames, because drama gets clicks.
Being someone who’s been misquoted and taken out of context nearly every single time I’m mentioned somewhere, I can tell you that things are often not as contentious as they seem. Most of the time things are steered that way by people not bright enough to deal with the actual point of what was said.
Which brings us to the other teachable moment ( AND THIS IS IMPORTANT), which is what was glossed over in this story in lue of muck racking. And glossed over in every comment about this story by people who have never met the man, arguing about whether Kirkman is a hack or an a-hole. I’ve met the guy…he didn’t leave much of an impression on me one way or the other. So best then to focus on what we DO know..and that is- he has taken his story from a indy comic book to a TV ratings juggernaut and he made a POINT here, that is an important one. Kirkman’s point was that keeping your work creator owned is better than being published by a non-creator owned publisher.
He wasn’t there to grind some axe towards Valiant, Boom, Dark horse or anyone else…the man has a hit TV show, I sincerely doubt he was grubbing his hands together thinking about how he’s sticking it to Valiant. I mean…do you honestly think that? That he was sitting in his trailer on the set of TWD and stewing about how he can blast Valiant comics one day? He simply made his point in a clunky way (assuming this story got anything right) since Boom studios and Dark Horse are in fact willing to traverse in creator owned work and Valiant didn’t exist when he started TWD. When a mic is in front of you don’t have a lot of time to search your brain for the best examples. Why did those examples pop into his brain? My guess would be those where the three publishing booths he walked past on the way to the discussion panel. To search for any deeper meaning than that is to miss his point. His POINT was that controlling the destiny of your intellectual property is best.
This is a man who has been in the comic book industry for…I dunno…at least 15 years, and who has been successful in the T.V. industry and he is giving advice about publishing and about what to do with your intellectual property…and this story blew right past that. Did he expand on his point? Did he have anything more to ad? I dunno, the story doesn’t say. Perhaps this sites webhost charges by the word for upload and that is why anything interesting was left out.
Since this important point was glossed over, let’s deal with it here. I tend to agree with Kirkman. No one will ever care about, have as much ambition for, or work as hard for your intellectual property as you. The trade off, and thing you must consider when mulling over putting your work in the hands of a larger entity is this…will their considerable reach and resources get it further than you could yourself despite the fact that they do not have it’s overall best interest in mind to the degree that you do.
People who have succeeded in the creative industry will understand what I’m going to tell you. No one cares about your work as much as you. No one, not your manager, not your agent, not you promoter..no one. That is NOT a dig at them, anymore than if I said your mother doesn’t care about your kids as much as you do would be a dig at your mother. Some of the things I have done just to get as far as I am were irresponsible and insane. I wouldn’t and shouldn’t expect anyone to put themselves through those things on behalf of my work…it would be unfair to expect it or even ask for it. As a creator you’d probably be willing to have your left hand cut off to have your work become a movie franchise…the person who cares the second most, while that is an awful lot of caring…would not. That’s an extreme example…but only in the baseness of it. Often times, the opportunities that are out there have to be attacked with a degree of religious zealot like insanity/dedication. and you have that because it is your work…the next closest person cares 90% as much…follow that down the line to another publisher and it could only be 50% as much as you.
The simple truth seems to be that the longer the person who created the work stays in control of it…the better the work is . ( see Orson Wells)
There of course comes a time where you “reach the level of your own incompetence”, as the saying goes. There are things big companies can do better than you, and things they can do which you cannot. And there are times, as much as I am loath to admit it, when a second pair of eyes can see more clearly than you and prevent you from doing harm to your own work (see George Lucas). At some point you may well have to decide to hand the ball over. Kirkman clearly decided to hand the ball over to AMC to a certain extent, rather than produce the entire thing himself. Seems like that worked out. He knew a lot about making a comic, but not a lot about making a TV show. So it’s a logical place to hand it over.
The opportunities that have come my way and the ability to capitalize on them came because I was soul owner of the characters/stories. You only have to miss one stitch for something to unravel and if a larger company owns your work, and it owns a dozen other things, it’s easy for them to miss that stitch. Timing and charm and ambition, and staying on top of things like a tick on a dog are extremely important. Big hands can grab more things, and big hands can have a lot of things slip through their fingers.
The shorts I wrote for Comedy Central…there were months of back and forth and adapting and retooling. And all the while there was no shortage of competition for the same spots on that show. I don’t know all the details and who what where and when of how TWD went from a comic book to a TV show, but I will bet you that if even 1% less care and vigilance was given to it…TWD would have never aired.
There are of course instances of other people who would tell you that their work would have never been seen by more than a hundred people if they didn’t hand it over. It’s a tough call, and one each person in the creative industry has to weigh thoughtfully for themselves. And advice from a man like Kirkman should be taken into account(…more so than some off handed comment of his about some other publisher).
Kirkman kept control of his work as a comic book, that allowed him to keep his hands on the wheel while the show was being made, and keep his hands in it even now. And that my friends is why he was sitting at that chair and THAT was his point.
MY two points today are-
1- Don’t judge someone by some half assed news stories or by hearing only one side of things. Kirkman and anyone else you read about could, in private, be a serial killer or could have donated bone marrow to an orphan after rescuing said orphan from a burning building. My advice-If you don’t actually know the person, assume they are a bag of crap and just read on to see if what he or she is saying is of any use on it’s own merit.
2-Pay attention to the POINT of what people are saying and don’t get distracted by the bright shiny ball of unintended minor inaccuracies or slightly imperfect verbiage. Because when you do…there is no telling what you are missing- for instance you could be missing advice on how to follow your dreams from someone who went from a black and white comic book to a top rated TV show/world wide phenomenon.
***UPDATE TO THIS STORY***
You can watch the whole panel for yourself here, where it is plane to see Kirkman’s comment (around the 6:50 minute mark) was self depreciating in the beginning and a joke/bad guy pro wrestler pop at the audience at the end…and the quote itself was a bit butchered. But more important than that is the insight that is sprinkled throughout the entire panel about owning your work.
When Douglas is not complaining, he and his work can be found here