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watch who you beef with

February 28th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I screwed up with the Stephen Wacker thing. I take this stuff seriously, and I shoulda been better than I was.

I took his insults personally. I think he was being a jerk, but that him being a jerk gave me a chance to choose to either be a jerk in kind or bail out. I chose to engage, then I bailed out, then I engaged again. He got me, and he got me good. I helped turn my site into the exact type of comics site I hate. That’s on me, no question.

I shouldn’t have engaged him. I think that I was correct in what I said to him, but I should’ve picked my battles better, rather than stepping in with both feet. My comments should’ve been a expanded into a fully-reasoned post, or something. I don’t know. But I screwed up, and I failed myself and my readers. So I’m sorry for that. I’ll do better in the future.

I’d be lying if I said I was happy with how anything or everything went down, but it is what it is. Wacker’s actions were definitely reason to stop holding out and take a break from Marvel for a while. The company’s a bit sour now, so other than two posts I’ve got in progress, I’m done for a bit. No boycott, no big statement, none of that. I just can’t do it. I’ll reassess later.

Tomorrow, look for a brief post on Marjorie Liu & Phil Noto. It was going to be the third and final part of my look at creative teams, but it feels limp now. Thursday or Friday, look for a 4 Elements on Kaare Andrews Spider-Man: Reign. Whichever day doesn’t have Reign should have an exploration of clothes & colors and why I’ve been consciously branching out past black and dark blue.

Don’t let the comments be a Wacker hate-fest or whatever, please. I’m over it! I would much rather do drugs and play NBA 2k12 than deal with more of that.

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this is what they think about you

February 27th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

I grew up on Marvel comics. I liked them as a kid, but our relationship is more complex now. It’s honest. I like a lot of things Marvel does. I dislike or ignore several other things. But overall, I think of Marvel fondly. They’re where all my favorite heroes came from, and their artistic bench is deep. I write about comics online, including Marvel comics. Sometimes I love them and slobber over them for weeks. Sometimes I hate them and write about why. I try to do it without breaking down into ad hominems and all the garbage that litters comics internet. I’m a smart dude, too smart to fall into those traps. I think my posts reflect that. I even have this unspoken rule about cursing on 4l!. Excepting times when I’ve quoted other people, I’ve probably cursed less than ten times over the however many years I’ve been writing for 4l!. I don’t not-curse. I just like the challenge of expressing displeasure without going for the easiest routes. (I think it’s sharpened my sword, personally, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I say this to point out that I’m far from a Marvel hater. I did some freelance work for Marvel.com last year, and I’m not the type of guy who can work for someone he hates, no matter how many cool drawings of Spider-Man are on the checks. Just last week, me and David Uzumeri found an obvious error on Marvel’s website that let people grab jpgs of comics published in the past and, from what I saw, as far as two weeks into the future. Rather than updating the investigative/conjecture post we came up with, I emailed someone at Marvel directly. I’m not a hater, and I was surprised when Marvel editor Stephen Wacker came to my site and treated me like a hater after I expressed my opinion on the creative team changes over at Marvel.

You can see him in this post, which was about why double-shipping as Marvel has implemented it devalues the artist and hurts the comic, and this one, where I talk about instances (including a Marvel example) when art changes have been done, or will be done, in cool ways. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I’m expressing opinions, obviously. David Uzumeri, a good buddy of mine, disagrees with me. He understands why I think the way I do, and I understand the way he thinks, too. I’m not giving the sermon on the mount, here. I’m talking about something I like, and how something else interferes with that thing I like. I skirt up against the edge of insulting someone, but it’s still framed as my opinion of his work, rather than his person.

And when Stephen Wacker finds the post, rather than ignoring it (which is cool) or engaging in discussion with me on the issue (which is rare, but totally awesome), he came out firing shots at commenters and generic pundits before finally condescending to me. He implied that I’m just looking for something to be mad about (a stupid and incredibly ignorant argument to make), that I hate Marvel because I love Image (he did this in the comments of a post where I praise a Marvel comic, and shortly after commenting on a post where I praise other Marvel comics), and then he betrays the fact that he didn’t even read my post before commenting. Instead of addressing my points, he talks about things I don’t even mention, he calls me defensive, he calls me angry, and he generally turns the passive-aggressiveness all the way up in every single interaction he has with me and other commenters. He tells me that I’ve bought into Marvel vs Image before asking me why I think the time I complained about will be different. I tell him this:

I’m not buying into any shtick, and I can’t believe you’d even say something as stupid as that. Especially this idiotic rivalry you’re trying to pitch–did you miss the part where I praise Immortal Iron Fist to the high heavens and point to it as an exemplar of what can be done with multiple artists? I could’ve talked about T-bolts, another Marvel book that does well with this sort of thing, or like Chris Arrant says, DC’s Animal Man. In the post itself I explain exactly what you’re asking me to explain.

But yeah, since you want to come at me with condescension and disingenuous arguments, but sure, let’s get into it.

Other than the “Image-GOOD!/Marvel-BAD!” schtick you’re buying into (congrats to Image marketing for that coup!), what makes you think this isn’t the case here?

I don’t think that’s the case here because you went for the pass-agg condescension instead of explaining what Kano or Samnee bring to the book and how well they work with Waid. We all know they’re good artists, obviously, but how do they fit into the structure of DD? What do they add to the recipe? It would take you two entire sentences to do that. “Chris Samnee’s clean style brings to mind the swashbuckling Daredevil we haven’t seen in a while, and Kano has an incredible aptitude for fight scenes. Pham’s blockier style is somewhat reminiscent of JRjr’s run on Daredevil with Ann Nocenti, and I thought he’d be good for this story because it’s a big classic cape comics action story.”

That’s why I don’t believe you. Instead of talking to me like a grown man or pointing me toward some interview on Marvel.com, you treat me like an idiot. I’m not one of those douchebags who constantly harass you online. I hate Kbox. Why do I get treated like him for saying “Yo, I don’t like this, and here are several reasons why?”

and he says this:

You are very angry. I can see why what with it being a discussion of comics and entertainment.

I don’t believe i’m at your beck and call to explain my creative choices at your bidding, but I do interviews regularly, so my advice would be to look there and or ask our PR people for an interview. (though given your needlessly hostile tone, I’m not sure that’d be such a great way to spend my time.)

Essentially though anyone on DD or any books I oversee is there because I like them (except for Paolo who’s here because he’s dating Waid).

Who’s KBox? Is he an enemy of some sort? I don’t think you’re an enemy for what it’s worth. I don’t even know you. You’re just wrong about some stuff as are some of your posters here.

And setting aside my surprise at getting u madded (it is the penance stare of the internet, and for a brief moment, I saw the shape and color of my soul), “You’re not the boss of me” is an incredible response to an intentionally provocative request. Either way, I admitted defeat and bailed out. I knew that it was going to go nowhere but south, and frankly, I had paying work to do that was only slightly less frustrating than arguing with this guy.

I could point out more and more of his garbage. He left 18 comments between 1130 and 1430. They’re all generally the same–wondering where we get off telling him what to do (we aren’t, we’re talking about what we think is a problem on a site that isn’t his [it's mine]) and what, should he just stop publishing Daredevil because some, snerk, “pundits,” heh heh, don’t like Chris Samnee? And when someone says no, we all like Samnee, and you’re not talking about the discussion at hand, he switches tactics again to something else.

I put an end to things by banning him. He said this in a comment: “Again I’m under no orders to deliver whatever information you or David might command at a given moment. The books speak for themselves.” and you know, I’d had enough. No one’s commanding anything. I’m one voice on the internet. My commenters, all fifteen of ‘em, don’t have enough buying power to sway anything. Except for a couple bad apples I have to keep on track, my comment section is pretty good. It was all rational conversation. More of it agreed with me than I expected, but whatever, there were still good discussions down there. We’re not commanding anything. We’re doing the exact same thing people do in comic shops.

But let’s recap. I state an opinion on a website in a pretty respectful and civil manner, other than saying that I don’t like one guy’s artwork. Commenters pop up and agree or share stories about books they liked. Wacker shows up and poisons the entire well with his passive-aggressive behavior and constant disses. When called on it, he doubles down, because we are so mad that we just gotta get our Marvel five minutes hate in. When called on that, he doubles down again, because this time we just don’t like the artists. And on and on down the toilet. Later, after a couple hours of nonsense, he @s me on Twitter. I tell him:

I’m frustrated at this point, and trying to decide whether or not to ban him or let him have it out with the commenters. He makes it a point to @ several people I spoke to on Twitter about the argument. I lose my temper and tell him off. Pow.

I called it quits on the argument in the morning, and then he kept on with it and I stopped that, too. I wasn’t going to post about it because the whole situation was embarrassing. I haven’t gotten into many public fights with creators or other writers, but it always looks stupid in hindsight. I’m not that guy. I thought I learned this time because I stepped away. I was gonna stick to my resolve until I see this on my way home from work:

So, okay. Maybe it’s an innocent favorite. Maybe he really liked how I said what I said. But considering how unbelievably childish and passive-aggressive this guy has been all day, I’m going to take this as a shot. I hate being condescended to, and he got under my skin. An hour or so ago, he follows me on Twitter. So fine. Here. Listen.

Stephen Wacker: I’m not your enemy. I’m not those guys that follow you around and ask who would win in a fight, Spider-Man or the Hulk. I’m not that guy that commissions explicit Spider-Man porn while typing missives about how Marvel doesn’t know anything about the real Spider-Man with his withered claw of a jerking hand. I didn’t particularly care about the spider-marriage going away. I don’t spend all my time talking about comics I hate. I’m not even a The Comics Journal guy, not even close. I’m not that dude.

I’m that dude that’s been very fond of your books. I praised Brand New Day to the high heavens, and it still has some of my favorite Spider-Man stories ever. I read and enjoyed 52. Daredevil? Punisher? Avenging Spider-Man? Osborn? Shadowland Elektra? I’m that dude who buys your comics and talks them up to his friends. I buy the floppies and then the trade because I’m too stupid to realize how small my apartment is. I’m your customer, homey, specifically yours over the past few years, and, in a way that I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with, I’m also your free PR. But that’s a neurotic meltdown for another day (or a day in November 2011, I think, but tomato, tomato.) I buy your books, I read your books, I enjoy your books, and I like the creative teams you tend to pick out.

I’m not that other guy. I’m me, and I’m over here talking about something I like and my concern about something I see as being a problem with that thing I like. I’m not ranting or screeching out unintelligible complaints. “I like this, but this new thing? I dunno, I’m worried.” And somehow, that gets me treated like the scumbaggiest of your target audience? I get accused of demanding things to you when I wasn’t even talking to you in the first place? I ask in the post for consistency in the comics I spend three and four dollars on a couple times a month, I guess that was the demand? Is that where we are now? You either get blind, unquestioning fealty or I’m an enemy?

I don’t make big proclamations about boycotts or quitting series or whatever whatever. It’s easier to just do it and not tell anybody. Not everything is a statement. I’m not going to do that here, either. But, Stephen Wacker. I want you to do one thing. Look at yourself, look at how you treated somebody who committed the cardinal sin of expressing concern about something he likes and wants to continue liking, and then think about whether or not being talked down to, insulted, and harassed is something that would make me want to keep buying Marvel comics. That’s not a threat, either. I’m one drop in a bucket that’s several hundred thousand people deep, I know, but take a step back and look at yourself and maybe conduct yourself with some class instead of immediately pulling the knives out.

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