Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'm not touching you

David Brothers over at 4th letter has a post up about the recent Before Watchmen announcements from DC Comics.  For those of you who have no idea what that is, the Cliff Notes version is that in the 80's Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons wrote Watchmen, one of the most influential superhero comics of the last few decades.  I've read and heard commentary about how Watchmen was more like the crest of a wave that was already building, rather than something out of the blue that made everything do a 180, but regardless, it's a hugely important book, one that says something and makes full use of its form (in terms of panel layouts, repeated imagery, and all those other things you can only really get out of a comic book).  Alan Moore has made a career out of writing influential, important comics, and he's been ill-treated by DC, but up until now Watchmen has been left mostly intact.  However, recently DC announced that there would be a number of mini-series coming out delving into the pre-history of Watchmen, written and drawn by creators who are not Moore and Gibbons, and with no input from same.  It's a pretty obvious cash grab by any stretch of the imagination; these issues are being created not because all these creators had a burning desire to tell these stories, but because there's money to be made.

I was going to write about this not because I have something to say about the situation that hasn't been articulated by Brothers (who is a phenomenal writer and has been killing it on creator's right in comics for a long time now), but because it struck at something that's been on the tip of my tongue about corporate power, and really power in general when wielded against the powerless.  It wasn't crystallized until I saw this interview on the subject of Before Watchmen and how it led him to leave/be fired from DC with Chris Roberson, writer of iZombie (which is not about a new, prohibitively dangerous but undeniably stylish Apple product).  From the interview:
...[T]he only defense that’s offered of things like either Before Watchmen or the counter-suit against the Siegels or any number of different things that have been done historically is that the company is operating within the bounds of the law. The company is doing nothing illegal. There’s no defense mounted to the ethics or morality of their actions, and in many cases they will make kind of passing nods to the fact that what they are doing might be interpreted as unethical, but that because it’s not illegal, you know, they’re going to do it.
That's really it, right there.  Hiding behind legality and pretending that makes it right.  This contract says I can fuck this guy over, so I'm going to do it.  Why are you mad?  It says I can do it, so that makes it okay?

It's exactly like the "I'm not touching you," game.  Anyone with a sibling knows this one.  Someone gets right up in your grill, like inches away, and obviously you react badly, because no one likes it when someone's up in their personal space.  You're afraid they're going to headbutt you, or tickle you, or sucker-punch you or get your right in the nuts, but they just wait, like the test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  Finally you snap and tell them to stop, likely getting upset because seriously that shit is annoying, and they smile that beatific smile of the confirmed asshole and say, "I'm not touching you."

Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich is no longer legally allowed to say he's the creator of Ghost Rider and get paid for it, because a judge ruled in Marvel's favor; furthermore, he now owes Marvel $17,000, which he doesn't have because he hasn't been getting paychecks for creating Ghost Rider for decades.  I'm not touching you.

Joanne Siegel, the model for Lois Lane, wife of Jerry Siegel, co-creator, with Joe Schuster, of Superman, died before seeing the rights for Action Comics #1 return rightfully to the Siegel estate, because DC Comics has a steadfast resolve to stick to the letter of the law and not the spirit.  I'm not touching you.

It's perfectly legal for the police to ask you for a strip search no matter what you've been accused of, according to the highest court in the land.  I'm not touching you.

Florida's Stand Your Ground law may exonerate a man who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.  I'm not touching you.

American corporations have hundreds of billions of dollars in untaxable off-shore accounts, which are "legally out of reach of the Internal Revenue Service."  I'm not touching you.

I'm not touching you.