|Grant Morrison: Is he really such a villain?|
The New Statesman published an interview with Grant Morrison this week in which he discusses his reasons for stepping away from superhero comics. It seems that his run on Action Comics and Batman Incorporated are coming to a natural end and a lot of his ideas seem to be leading him away from superheroes. He also states that he's finding the pace of writing monthly comics and having to co-ordinate with multiple artists to be a hectic experience. But there also seems to be another, more depressing reason. He's sick of being the bad guy. Morrison's sums it up in the following quote;
So I kinda felt that.. it just began to feel too unpleasant to work within a comic book fan culture where everyone was mad at you all the time and giving you responsibility for legal cases and things that I have got honestly nothing to do with in my life and will shortly have zero connection with. But I felt that. There was a sense of, a definite sense of the temple was being burned down and it was time to run away.
It does seem that a lot of the criticism of DC Comics' ethical practices and overall creative direction has been directed towards Morrison. One fan (this twat) even protested by eating Supergods, Morrison's book chronicling the history of the superhero genre. I'm not going to defend Morrison's views here, because he does a pretty good job of that himself in the interview. But what I will say is this. When Morrison writes superheroes, it sells. For example, sales on Action Comics went up 93% during the past year during Morrison's run. Morrison's superhero work then, is obviously admired by a lot of people. But Morrison has left superheroes behind due, at least in part, to the behaviour of a vocal minority. So it would seem that a minority has got it's way at the expense of the enjoyment of the majority. The behaviour of a relatively small group of people has resulted in a larger group of people not being able to enjoy new superhero work by Grant Morrison. Does that sound fair to you?
To be fair, this "unpleasant comic book culture" isn't the only reason for leaving that Morrison has given. For all I know he would have moved on to other genres anyway. But this interview does highlight an irritating trend amongst comic-book fandom. Fandom has developed a habit of shouting and stamping its foot until it gets its own way, and I'm sick of it.
These days, if a person doesn't like a comic it can't just be a case of "this isn't to my taste" or "this was poorly written or drawn". A poor comic is taken as a personal slight against the reader and an ethical and moral failure on the part of the comics industry. Spider-Man's not married any more so Marvel must have a vendetta against a certain demographic of fans, or the institution of marriage itself! Stephanie Brown hasn't appeared for a while so obviously DC don't care about their female demographic. Superman's dating Wonder Woman so there's a misogynistic plot to undermine the character of Lois Lane! It's not enough for some one to be upset because their favourite character has been changed, it now has to be dressed up as a serious issue that affects everyone! The problem with all this absurd hyperbole is that there are conversations to be had about serious issues like gender and race and ethics in comics, but when someone hi-jacks these topics because their favourite character isn't getting enough face time, it undermines the larger debate.
One of the common criticisms levelled at Marvel and DC by this kind of critic is "They're not listening to the fans!" For example, "By having Barbara Gordon as Batgirl instead of Stephanie Brown, DC aren't listening to fans" is a complaint that I see crop up a lot on Twitter. The fact is, sales on Batgirl have risen 96% in the past year. Barbara is selling more than Stephanie did. So what are DC to do? Revert to Stephanie, even though the majority of fans seem to want to buy Barbara's adventures? That really would be not listening to the fans! When people say "They're not listening to the fans" they really mean "They're not listening to me!" This is a perfect example of the arrogance on display from a lot of fans these days. By claiming that DC or Marvel "aren't listening" to you, what you're actually doing is saying that those who have views and tastes that differ from yours aren't worth listening to and somehow, don't count.
A prime example of how such self-righteous overreactions have gotten out of control occurred last month when one blogger decided to mark the passing of comics legend Joe Kubert by comparing him to Joe Paterno! That's right, in this blogger's view Kubert's contribution to Before Watchmen against the wishes of original Watchmen creator Alan Moore was the moral equivalent of covering up and ignoring child abuse. To be fair the blog published an apology and has since taken the piece down, but the fact that it was published in the first place demonstrates to what offensive levels fans are now taking their criticism, all the while claiming that they're fighting some morally just crusade!
I'm not saying that people shouldn't complain about their comics and I'm not saying that Marvel and DC are completely blameless and never make mistakes. All I'm saying is, sometimes a bad comic is just a bad comic. It's not the death knell for the industry, it's not a personal insult towards any specific group of people, it's not indicative of a creator or company's contempt for the readers, it's just a crappy comic. This self-righteous belly-aching is having consequences. At the very least, it has contributed to Grant Morrison's decision to leave behind a genre that he clearly has a lot of love for! So dismount your high horses people! Just remember, next time it could be your favourite writer who decides it's not worth the hassle.
A short addendum to this article can be found here.