Monday, March 11, 2013

The people in charge at DC Comics need to have their heads examined

When I was a kid, and I did something that didn't make any sense, my mother would say to me, "You really should have your head examined."  This was her way of asserting that I wasn't thinking clearly -- that, in fact, I was engaging in such murky thinking that my illogic rose to the level of a clinically diagnosable condition.  She was, of course, using hyperbole. But to this day, whenever someone does something that is so illogical that I can't imagine anyone thinking it makes sense, I will wonder out loud if he should have his head examined.

Today, I am wondering just that about the people in charge of DC comics -- the editors and "front office" people.  Only in this case, I am not using hyperbole. I am actually wondering whether these people are in need of honest-to-goodness psychiatric evaluation.  And I find myself believing strongly that they do need professional help.

Why do I say the people in charge of DC need to have their heads examined?  Because they have been making decisions, for years now, that I just don't think anybody sane could possibly make under any circumstances.   I could cite any number of obvious examples about their bone-headed decision-making process, but today, I want to focus on their refusal to hire incredibly talented creators, while giving jobs on title after title to people whose abilities are mediocre at best.

Case in point: a blog entry last week by long-time comic-book writer and artist Jerry Ordway.  In the blog, he describes, as a fifty-something creator, how difficult it has been for him to get work over the years -- hell, how difficult it is to even get a polite "no thank you" when he inquires as to whether he can have work at all.  That he should be in such a state, groveling for work from DC and getting "talk to the hand" treatment, is incredible to me.

Jerry Ordway, in case you've never heard of him, has been in the comic-book industry (at least nominally) since 1980, although he has gone for more than 10 years without steady, reliable work.  Jerry was well known as an artist, and later a writer, primarily for DC comics.  He inked over Geogre Perez in the famous Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series, and after that series ended, was responsible for the reboot of the Shazam! franchise, both writing and drawing the Power of Shazam! series for several years.  He also drew many other comics, including Superman and the Justice Society.

At all times, Jerry Ordway turned in top-notch, classical comic-book creations.  His stories were good, and his art was beautiful.  When people my age think of comic-books with fond memories, we are thinking of the creations made by folks like Jerry Ordway.  His work defined many of DC's greatest characters. You would think that someone like this should be in high demand, just as veteran actors or directors are in Hollywood.

But that's not the case.  Instead, Jerry Ordway has been spending years scraping the bottom of the barrel, begging DC comics to give him work.  DC, for their part, has mainly spent the last 10 years ignoring him. And they've ignored many of the other talented guys who came up with Jerry as well.

Their reason for this?  DC would tell you that they are "moving forward" to "better" things.  By this, we must infer that they mean they are hiring "better" artists and writers than Jerry Ordway (or his colleagues like Chuck Dixon, another famous writer from the 80s and 90s who still wants to work in comics but can't find anyone to hire him).

Now I ask you... if you read the New 52 -- where is this "better" talent they claim to have? Who in DC is drawing better layouts than Jerry Ordway used to draw? Who is writing better stories than Chuck Dixon?  About what "talent" does DC have to boast?  They've given the silent treatment to geniuses like Jerry Ordway, but then given top-flight titles to the Scott Lobdells, Grant Morrisons, and Ken Rocaforts of the world.  I ask you... can anyone seriously compare Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam! from 20 years ago, both in writing and in art, to the absolute sewage being passed off as Superman since New 52 issue 13, and possibly say the new stuff is better?

I submit that anyone who honestly believes Rocafort's indecipherable nonsense scribbling is better than the beautiful lines of Jerry Ordway should have his head examined (or at least his eyes).  I won't even mention Lobdell's impenetrable writings... I don't think anyone with more sanity than the Joker could look at his scripts and find them comprehensible.  And when the two of them team up the produce such a swirling vortex of poor quality that it has made even a die-hard Superman fan like me cry "uncle" and stop collecting the title, you know it has to be bad.

Is that what DC means by "moving on" to "better" things? Incomprehensible stories and indecipherable art?  If they think "talent" means "never letting your readers understand what they are reading", then I guess I can see why Jerry Ordway is having trouble finding work.  But I don't think most comic fans want to be confused and nauseated by what they are reading. I think we want to enjoy good stories and beautiful art -- at least I do.

Here's a news flash for the people at DC: Lobdell and Rocafort aren't from the same planet -- hell, the same universe -- of talent as Jerry Ordway.  Jerry Ordway is whole alternate dimensions better than they are.  Anyone who would employ Lobdell and Rocafort instead of Ordway is crazy.  And that's why I think the higher-ups at DC ought to have their heads examined.

If you are a fan of old school comics -- comics the way they used to be, the way they were meant to be -- please visit Jerry's blog and "+1" his article.  And if you wish, leave him a note to let him know you support him. We can't control what DC does, nor can we force them to get professional help, but one thing we do know is that they always listen to their marketing gurus.  If the marketing types see enough support for Ordway, maybe, just maybe, they will convince the editors to throw him some more reliable work.  Maybe, just maybe, if we're really lucky, we'll see a collaboration between Jerry Ordway and Gail Simone, to boot. Wouldn't that be something special?

And while you're at it, as a sign of protest, join me in refusing to buy any more Superman issues by Lobdell and Rocafort.  It's time we sent a message to DC.

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