We’ve all had those jobs. The jobs that we want to storm out of, double-handed flip-offs on full display with a smile and a string of profane words so severe that they would make Andrew Dice Clay wash his own mouth out with soap. Sadly though, that’s just a fantasy for most of us. A “one day I’ll” that dances around in our brains during the blissful peace of a cubicle daydream. That’s why Chris Roberson (iZombie and Superman) is destined to become a momentary icon, not only did he tell his boss to go to hell, but that boss was DC Comics, and he did it in a very public, and embarrassing way by questioning their ethics and the way they treat writers.
Now, Roberson wasn’t explicit in speaking on the details of his mistreatment by DC, hell he didn’t even say he was mistreated — and who knows, maybe a few well placed tweets on the way out the door are merely the appetizers to a more stout statement on DC, everything is a teaser for another teaser nowadays, an ad for the big reveal. Maybe that’s how Roberson will play this, and maybe he won’t say anything more — focusing on his work and building a career away from DC. One thing is clear though, it takes guts to stand in against Goliath and it is something that is uncommon due to the long memory of powerful people.
Will there be light retribution and a steeper climb toward other work for Roberson? Maybe, and he knew that, but while he seems adamant that he will never again work for DC, Marvel may also be off limits thanks to his exit strategy.
For years now those practices that Roberson alluded too by pointing out David Brothers‘ op-ed on Comics Alliance about the depraved behavior behind not just Before Watchmen, but also the long raging war against Jack Kirby by Marvel, has been transitioning toward mainstream relevancy, racing there alongside the very characters at the center of those creator/corporation battles that are going on behind the scenes. A couple of months ago it was Marvel’s mis-treatment of Gary Friedrich, the creator of Ghost Rider, with stories popping up about a demand for Friedrich to pay the Disney owned publisher $17,000 for prints that he had sold at comic shows and conventions — a common way that many artists get by after they get tossed aside like crumpled paper by these companies. Then it was embarrassing for Marvel, but now, in the days leading up to the release of Marvel’s The Avengers, the culmination of years of work and countless dollars spent in development and marketing, Marvel is in no position to have anyone shine a light on their treatment of Kirby, the man who had a hand in creating the foundation of what is now Marvel and their stable of film-able and fiscally invaluable characters — least of all a pissed off young comic creator.
See, while people care about the plight of Kirby, Jack is dead, just like Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Joe Simon (who died this past December), and there is a sense, it seems, that Marvel can just wait until people stop talking about these men, their contributions to comic books, the fights that their families have waged in their names, and the injustices perpetrated against them all lost in time. After-all, ours is an era that traffics in the disposable, and Kirby and Simon’s contemporaries are fading away while the ranks of present creators who will risk the food on their plate to take a stand grows thinner and thinner in an industry that often devalues and undercuts writers and creators. Siegel and Shuster had Neal Adams and Jerry Robinson on their side, titans in their own right who weathered the storm to speak out against a wrong, and while Robinson is also gone, Adams continues, speaking on the Friedrich matter in a magnanimous way that sidestepped the anti-Marvel question and went right to the issue at hand, which was helping Friedrich.
The sad fact is, that even if Neal Adams had let loose a powerful diatribe against Marvel, the effects would have only been negligible and it wouldn’t have done anything to help Friedrich. No one creator can ably stand up to Marvel and DC for their practices and rock their foundations, not Alan Moore, not anyone save for Stan Lee himself, and that doesn’t seem likely what with his close ties to Marvel. Why? Because despite the previous Goliath analogy, this fight cannot be won by only one David. Marvel and DC are owned by massive conglomerates, and while there is a small army of journalists, the wonderfully and perpetually pissed off Mr. Moore, a few scattered comic creators and professionals from multiple eras, and now Chris Roberson standing on the soap box (or at least leaning in that direction) while calling out these companies for their past and continuing sins against the likes of Jack Kirby and others — it’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough, and it isn’t likely to change, because while Roberson walked out the door today with a high held head, there are far too many of his peers sitting in their metaphorical cubicals lost in a daydream.