6/08/2009

"Entitlement issues..."

When a lot of the stuff you like is comics or sci-fi novels, it's easy to forget it's still "art" or "literature" and that the creators/"artists" are allowed to work on their own timelines. We expect a monthly comic to be out on time, each and every month, upholding the quality and never disappointing us and we get real mad when a series of books or a mini-series or whatever falls behind or disappears for quite some time. But the real sin of deadlines is when you break that deadline, maybe even destroy that deadline--and the work's just not that good.

Mark Millar's constant delays are infuriating because there is rarely a payoff, the characters and overall plot seem to change direction every issue, like he can't decide on where it's going--the story falls apart and the long gaps cause many to lose interest. In contrast, David Petersen's Mouse Guard, is worth the wait. Each and every issue of the original series and the new "Winter 1152" has been continuity-driven enough for long time readers, but also inviting to newcomers. We are rewarded by the wait on Mouse Guard because being allowed to take his time, Petersen can work on the lore of the Guard as a whole, while making each issue engaging on it's own.

Recently on Neil Gaiman's blog, he responded to a question from a fan regarding what level of commitment a writer of a series has to their fans. The series in question is written by George R.R. Martin, the fan feeling "increasingly frustrated with Martin's lack of communication on the next novel's publication date." Gaiman's initial, pithy response is "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch." This is completely legit, because he is, in fact, not the bitch of Gareth or any other fanboy who expects things from writers. This isn't Marvel Comics or DC we're talking about, it's a single man writing a series with characters who he owns, and can do with what he pleases.

If you take the time to head over to Georgie-boy's blog (or rather, not a blog, a Livejournal), you quickly learn that it's more of an insight into the man himself, and not his work. He posts pictures of his role playing game figures, thoughts on movies and his excitement over the series in question being filmed for the big screen. Martin makes a point to not talk about his book's progress or the contents of the new stories, which could be because he wants to keep everything a surprise or because he's not working on anything. No matter the case, it's his right as not only an artist, but a goddamned human, to write about what he choses on his personal website...and it is certainly not his responsibility to keep anyone but his publisher updated on the status of his books.

When did fans become so demanding? If each and every writer took the advice of all their fans and tried to make everyone happy, their books would never come out or be released with a different story than the author wanted. Authors should be able to take the same time with their writing that painters take with their paintings. It is a process to create and that takes time and energy, two things that aren't always available. Who knows how many times George R.R. Martin has started but could not finish the next installment, or how many times he's gone back to completely change the entire book because he himself has learned something new about one of the characters, or was inspired by a new place or person he met. Who knows if Martin even wants to continue writing the series?

Recently Marvel started rereleasing Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine, the first two issues had been released in December of 2005 and January 2006, but the full series was set-back by constant delays. Although I wanted the entire series, the two issues in existence were, in a way, perfect, and the cliff hanger ending of issue #2 left you wanting more, but satisfied with the series. The artist Leinil Yu's popularity grew after drawing Secret Invasion and so they brought back the series, but it sucked. I wish I had never read the third through sixth issues because the beauty of the first two had been tainted by the downright awful four new issues. It felt like the series was over for both the writer and artist, and so they just finished the book not really caring about where it went, but that it closed a chapter in the Ultimate Universe.

If they had had the time in the beginning, if the interest of the fans was there, the series may have been one of the best "Vs." books of all time. Even the two single issues that were written for the six issue series were better than most full, completed story arcs. The two creators lost interest in the series, but because of "Ultimatum", an event in the Ultimate Marvel Universe where all the heroes and villains die, is taking place right now, Marvel just wanted to tie up some loose ends. The series should've been left alone, but because the creators had their hands forced, it ended poorly, and now when I think of the series, I'm just bummed about the half-assed completion, and I'm not at all excited about the great first two issues.

Most sci-fi and comics readers (see: nerds) are obsessive in a way they don't realize, knowing every DC super hero's secret identity, all of the names and back stories of everyone in Jabba's Palace or all the Pokemon and their evolutionary lines. They have a love for the work and have devoted a part of themselves to it.

The kinds of fans who want more stories do one of two things: bitch and moan on the internet, expecting things from people they don't know, or take things into their own hands, making fanfics or creating their own new stories. They want something more from the characters, not the writers, and because the characters are so alive to them, they don't understand that someone has to give them life, and if you're one of the former and don't have the imagination, you are left waiting. You write on message boards theorizing about what's next and are angry that George R.R. Martin is just so damn lazy.

If Martin forced himself to write books he wasn't ready to write, as Gaiman notes, his fans would scold him for ruining the series they loved. It's better to enjoy what someone has given you than to expect the writer to push themselves too hard and give you one book that ruins the other four. Just be happy that you liked the first part enough to read a sequel, even if you never get it.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

ok, according to ICV2, Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine sold 100000+ on its first issue and 97000 on its second, that's top 10 books. It was not canceled because of the lack of interest, it was just late. Very late because the writer is a damn tv writer who has something else to write. You know, like LOST scripts...
The so so quality has nothing to do with the lateness of that book.
Please, check your facts before writing.

Aaron Poehler said...

Yeah, it's pretty hard to take anything else you say seriously due to the Ult HvW comment, that's a huge gaffe on a well-known, well-documented, and easy to research issue.

samuel rules said...

Yea, I flubbed that one. Even so the book suffered from the delays and the writing of the four new issues didn't flow properly with the first two, almost as if it was an entirely new series. They don't touch enough on Hulk's journey, and it ends as a buddy book. The comic suffered because of the gap, the unfinished piece was still better than the whole.

brandon said...

The so so quality of it has everything to do with the lateness. Whether Sammy messed-up or not has little to do with that point. I sure do wish people would comment to say interesting stuff--there are plenty of posts here that make good arguments and don't flub facts...

Anyways-
I don't agree with a lot of this post, but there's certainly a sort of complicated thing with writing/creating, in that the deadline or lack thereof is often contingent upon the quality of the work.

It's my opinion that comics work best when they're on deadlines and novels work best when they aren't, an UH/W is a great example.

There's such a noted tonal shift--even if the story was to play-out exactly as it did, had the issues run within months of one another--that it was clearly the result of the lateness. Something was lost between issue 2 and 3. I also think the gap in years (years!) put a a huge sense of importance on its return that a lot of dopey, event-y type stuff had to happen so like She Hulk falls from the sky and all this other stuff.

I'd also argue that a writer could write LOST and a couple fucking issues of a comic, and the reasons for the gap are more complicated than that, but that might be me being a demanding fanboy?

Anonymous said...

Yep, that might...
You know, he wrote the books that way. You like it, god bless you, you don't like it, god bless you as well.
The point is : you're not the fucking writer. Stop thinking as if you were.
Maybe he was planning this story like it was published from the beginning. Maybe not. we'll never know.

david e. ford, jr said...

i don't know what the deal is with the weird animosity coming from commentors not even willing to identify themselves, but whatever.

"you're not the fucking writer. Stop thinking as if you were"

a comment like this suggests that you've no conception of any proper function or value of criticism, which begs the question, why are you reading and commenting on a critical forum. if you are not willing to accept somebody putting themselves in the position of the creator in order to make judgments or commentary on a creative work, then you really don't have any business participating in a critical act. it's as simple as that.

the bottom line, as i see it, is that the first two issues of ult. hulk v. wolverine represented much of the best of what mainstream american superhero comics can do and then the latter issues were shit--basically a summation of the very worst of those same american superhero comics. if you really think it is plausible that the series was planned to run the way it did from the get-go, you obviously haven't been paying attention.