Issue #123

The First Annual Finger Awards For Underachievements In Comics Editing

This editor's rationale – I'm paraphrasing – is their personal sense of malaise over what they feel is a general lack of professionalism among comics editors today, and their belief is that the easiest way to do something about the situation is to raise it to public awareness. Not that many editors really care what freelancers think about them – there are always more freelancers – but no one wants his boss to see him win an award for being least likely to return a phone call.

There are a lot of good editors in comics, and then there are those who desire to be petty dictators on their books, who lose work then claim the freelancer never turned it in, who never answer their phones and never call anyone back, who retaliate against real or imaginary "infractions" by freelancers by lying about them to other editors only too eager to believe the stories, damaging reputations and careers. (I know one very good artist who has been functionally blacklisted at a major company by someone who insists he caused major harm to an editor the artist barely had any dealings with at all, apparently because a story was made up and the someone chose to take it as gospel.) Curiously, some editors rewarded by fans for the books they put out (which were sometimes achieved in spite of their editor rather than because of them) have been among the most difficult for freelancers to deal with. My editor correspondent's main point, really, is that bad editors are like bad cops; they make it that much harder for good editors to do their jobs properly, and often good editors become tarred (or misdirected) by association with them.

So here are the rules.

1) The voting is open to comics freelancers only. Please include with your ballot a mention of comics you have worked on. (One or two will do; I don't need a laundry list.) All ballots will be kept strictly confidential and not used for any other purpose. Only I will have access to the ballots, and I promise to count them accurately. All participants will remain strictly anonymous.

2) Any editor currently working for any American comics company is eligible for nomination. While you may have grievances against editors formerly working in the business, they're a bit beside the point now, right?* Remember, these awards aren't predicated on the output of editorial offices but on how editors interact with freelancers, and should reflect repetitive behavior, not one-off incidents. (Everyone has a bad day now and then.)

3) I'd prefer that you vote on the basis of personal experience or, at worst, direct testimony from someone you know. Obviously, there's no way for me to know whether you're basing your vote on hearsay – and, given how many freelancers have been damaged over the years by hearsay spread among editors, I can't get too worked up about it – but we're better than that, right?

4) All preliminary ballots are due by 12 Noon Pacific Time, Sunday February 1 2004. No votes cast after that date will be counted. From that tally will come the three frontrunners (or maybe that should be bottomfeeders) in each category, whose names will appear on the final ballot.

5) If you'd like to include anecdotes of experiences with particular editors to back up your vote, feel free, but bear in mind that these may be used in the column (unless you specifically request otherwise) and, while your name won't be used, these may erode your anonymity.

6) The final ballot will run in the Feb. 4 edition of PERMANENT DAMAGE, and the final results will appear in the Feb. 21 edition.

The categories:

Most controlling editor

Least likely to return a phone call

Most likely to insist on an unreasonable deadline

Most likely to be your pal one day and fire you the next

Most likely to let you find out via Newsarama that you've been fired rather than telling you.

Least likely to explain what he/she really wants on assignment

Least likely to listen

Most likely to pontificate

Most likely to request a pitch then never look at it

Most likely to order you to make a change then let you take the heat when the publisher doesn't like it

Most likely to change the work without telling you

Most likely to not turn in your voucher

Biggest liar

Plus, just to be fair about it:

*SPECIAL AWARD: worst editor ever (whether currently working in comics or not)

SPECIAL AWARD: best editor (currently working)

It was suggested these be called The Goodwins, in honor of one of the best editors who ever worked in the business, but it would sound too much like we meant it the other way. I also decided against naming them for a bad editor because there aren't any bad editors I'd care to immortalize. Finally I thought it appropriate to name them after some freelancer particularly screwed over during his career by editors and publishers, and the name of Bill Finger (co-creator of Batman and many other Golden Age characters, and writer of thousands of stories, though you won't see his name in many credits unless put there under duress) kept popping up. Somehow the Fingers just seems the most appropriate name, and my apologies to Arnold Drake, who, I'm told, has been talking about getting awards called The Finger, in honor of Bill, off the ground for years. (If you'd rather we called these something else, Arnold, let me know.)

Get those ballots in, and tell any freelancers you know to get over here and read this. We want as wide a sampling as possible. Send your vote here.

Lots of letters on all sorts of subjects this week:

"Just to let you know, not every kid in school thinks Marvel sucks –

I'm a high school teacher, and once I let slip that I used to be a Marvel intern. For the most part they were pretty impressed... the Marvel name still holds a little currency with the kids, if only because they gave the world the Spider-Man and X-Men movies.

Our school has an Anime Club, and those kids are the ones who are nuts about comics. A lot of them like American comics and cartoons too, but they hold the "authentic" manga and anime in higher regard than, say, Teen Titans. They asked me to chaperone a field trip to an anime convention this spring, but they don't seem interested in things like Wizard World."

"About your latest column, the Marvel part of it.

The 8th graders said that Marvel comics sucked, and, frankly, I agree. Marvel doesn't have anything cool or new or "dangerous". Kids and people in general like reaching outside of their range, and something regarded as being dangerous has a strange elicit thrill about it. You talked about it in your "Comics as Drugs" column.

I think that, as with that piece, kids are also looking for a new thrill, new worlds and such. You can find it in Harry Potter, you can find it in manga. Going to someplace new, someplace different and, letting your imagination loose. There are no more imagination reactors like Jack Kirby at Marvel. Current Marvels are dull in comparison. Could be because of all the continuity, or it could also be that they are just stagnant superhero stories that seem recycled, with nothing new about them. Fresh sometimes, yes. New, no. New things can be done with them, but, that won't attract a mass amount of kids.

With DC now going to publish Humanoids work in North America, there might be another trickle towards that side. Maybe not immediately, but they have enough science fiction, and their artists seem more capable of letting loose and creating their own world, and being able to just simply get lost in the art. They might not pay attention to the story as much, but their imaginations would be more ignited.

Getting back to the point, Marvel has nothing new and nothing really imaginative where you can cut loose with your imagination, as a kid, and also tell your own tale.

However, there is also the fact that the "kids line" seems like they are putting kiddy gloves on, and holding their hands, guiding them through a museum or something. It's not so much a story. It can be dumbed-down and condescending. Some will take it. But they won't go searching for it necessarily. Most people (not just kids) will avoid it because it will just insult their intelligence. I personally don't like being talked down to. If there isn't something I know about, I'm willing to learn. A fair amount of people are like this; a lot are willing to learn and adapt and grow if given the chance. The kids line just doesn't do that. "Go at this pace, you can't learn more, you have to learn as much as the stupidest kid in the class, and then move on. We'll also show you every detail, so you can't imagine them for yourself, and won't discover them to your own wonderment. You will be only able to piece it together if we blatantly show you the clues, obviously, so that's what we will do."

There's also that, superhero comics aren't dangerous. They achieve the status quo, and don't thrill you like PREACHER or TRANSMETROPOLITAN or works like that. And when they try to seem badAss, they just seem like posers and really fake. Aside from it being with superheroes, I think enough kids would like AUTHORITY. But, it's with superheroes, and this might be more with the whole superhero industry, that it seems to be with kid gloves on. But, the intensity of Ellis' AUTHORITY, would have gotten a fair amount of 12-14 year olds curious. I know that my 11-year old brother would be interested in a heartbeat. It has intelligent undertones, and while it was on the extreme and graphic side, so is the evening news."

"You may want to start hyping Marvel's ESSENTIAL PUNISHER #1, which includes the PUNISHER MINI-SERIES issues 1-5.

Reasons why this is cool:

1) One of the few Essential books to go over 520 pages, yet the cover price stays at $15.

2) Rather than just jump to reprinting PUNISHER regular series 1-23, Marvel opted to gather together about 23 issues' worth of appearances, which happened to conclude with mini-series #5. (A neat and tidy package on its own, but also leaving the door open for an ESSENTIAL PUNISHER vol 2, Presumably to include regular series 1-23 or thereabouts.

3) Mike Zeck in black and white.

4) Looks to include the obscure origin that was reprinted in the now out-of-print "Classic Punisher" trade (MARVEL PREVIEW PRESENTS #2, MARVEL SUPER ACTION #1, I think.)

5) Royalties for you?

Reasons why this is not cool:

1) How many times is Marvel going to reprint Miller's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL and DAREDEVIL #182-184?

2) Marvel has lost many stats and films, so some of the reproduction in this might not be the best. ("DAREDEVIL LEGENDS VOL. 4: TYPHOID MARY" anyone?")

But the goods outweigh the bads, and this seems to be on sale next week, so it's time for you to start hyping it."

Not enough time today. How about you do it for me?

"What was that at the beginning of today's column, your proposal for Heroes Reborn: Ultimate Beverly Hillbillies: Chapter One? Or were you just feeling off-beat when you started writing so you wrote something decidedly different from what you usually do? Or was this a follow-up on that idea from a few months back, the one where you asked people to suggest characters that need a revamp, except instead of updating comics characters you updated TV characters? Or was it a commentary on America's quest for oil? Or... I dunno, what was it?"

Just felt like it. No telling what'll show up here from week to week, is there?

"Make the rich pay for it! -- You may have a great t-shirt in the making. Would be a big money-maker at WTO protests. I like it"

"I liked your populist "Make the rich pay for it!" campaign platform. I just wish you'd have included the critical point that America's rich are only rich because they're getting a disproportionate amount of the wealth that we as a nation collectively create. Doesn't matter how clever or creative Bill Gates is. Without all those essential other thinkers and laborers on his payroll, he'd be homeless too. Making the rich pay for it is simply demanding that those who benefit the most from this society put the most back into it."

Actually, the critical point I forgot to include was: does any family that produces Paris Hilton really deserve to have a lot of money?

By the way, if there are any other complex issues anyone would like to see solved with a simplistic populist sound bite, please drop me a line and let me know what they are. Why should the Republicans have all the fun, right? Meanwhile, remember:

Make the rich pay for it!

Iowa was less representative of the mood of voters than of the mood of those willing to brave the elements in this winter of our discontent. Dean's legendary organization now seems to have been geared toward getting lots of attention on the Internet but didn't translate to getting voters out in the cold. (Trust me, Iowa in January at night is something you don't go out in without strong motivation.) Still, there's circumstantial evidence that what ultimately sank both Dean and Gephardt in Iowa (like I said, it wasn't long ago both were considered the frontrunners in a race so supposedly set that Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman skipped it altogether to chase votes in New Hampshire) were their attack ads on other candidates; potential voters got so sick of them both candidates yanked them from the airwaves over the weekend and swore not to run more of them, thus admitting to being offenders. In what may be a bad omen for Dean followers, Dean, on Tuesday's TODAY SHOW, seemed not to have learned his lesson as he told Katie Couric that none of his spots were attack ads, and he was simply pointing out deficiencies of his competitors, which suggests he's going to try the same route again.

Me, I don't believe John Kerry will ultimately end up as the nominee, but I could be wrong. At least today I haven't had anyone hit me with the recurring litany that the Hand Puppet will easily retake the White House in November because "there are no strong Democratic candidates." Well, duh! That's what primary season is for, at least for Democrats. (Clinton, those who can remember past New Year's may recall, was hardly a "strong" candidate well into May, and faced what was considered, in January 1992, to be an "extremely popular" president. Which isn't to suggest history will repeat itself, because there are so many variables.) The main difference, when it comes to Presidential politics, between Democrats and Republicans, is that despite the public image of the Democrats as a bunch of Tammany Hall-style manipulators, the Democrats generally duke it out in public for presidential nominations while Republicans are the ones who tend to fix "whose turn it is" ahead of time. Nixon, Reagan, the first Bush, Bob Dole, the Hand Puppet... there was never really a moment when any of them weren't going to be the candidate in the years they ran. The party apparatus had already selected them, and upstarts like John McCain were ultimately just pissing into the wind.

So at least the Democrats are mildly entertaining. Iowa, really, means nothing, unless Kerry or Edwards snowball their burst of momentum into a consensus and then a mandate. (This is the first year I can recall the press making much mention of them at all.) Mainly what it did was open up possibilities – nobody, today, is speaking blithely of Dean as the candidate anymore – but what matters is what happens between now and August, and, hopefully, a strong candidate will have been built by that point and the Democrats will, uncharacteristically, not let the Republicans control the debate afterward.

I'm told MY FLESH IS COOL #1 (Avatar, with art by Sebastian Fiumara) will finally be in stores Wednesday, February 4. Oddly, sales rose over the course of the three issues, but you might have trouble finding it, so ask your retailer!

On other Avatar front, I was sent this press release from Vivid Video regarding their recent trade show appearance:

VIVID IN THE SPOTLIGHT AT AEE – The first week of January in Las Vegas is the adult entertainment industry's biggest week, and thousands of visitors stopped by The Vivid Entertainment booth at the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) at the Sands Expo Center. The Vivid Girls attracted huge lines of fans, particularly when Tera Patrick made her first major public appearance as a Vivid Girl. Tera -- along with Jenna Jameson, Briana Banks, Sunrise Adams, Savanna Samson, Mercedez, Kira Kener and Tawny Roberts -- signed autographs and posed for photos for hours at the booth (#6003, which remains open until January 11th). From time to time the Vivid Girls slipped away to the Davidoff cigar stores in the Venetian Hotel to help introduce the new Vivid Sophisticate Premium Hand Made Cigars. At one point actor-rocker Steven Van Zandt (of the E Street Band and Silvio Dante on the "Sopranos") stopped by the Davidoff store to check out the new smokes and pose with Vivid Girl Tawny Roberts, whose topless image is on a limited edition mini-poster wrapped around each cigar. Another highlight in Las Vegas this year was the introduction of the new line of Vivid Comix graphic novels, with an appearance at Vivid's AEE booth by famed comics writer Steven Grant. The big week for adult was capped by the 2004 AVN Awards show Saturday night at the Venetian Hotel, where Vivid has received a record 71 nominations.

Famed? I don't know about that, but I'll cop to notorious. A lot of people have been asking me when the VIVID COMIX. I'm told the first volume appears at the end of the month, but remember: you must be 18 years or older. (21 in some places.)

My fund drive has ended (not that I don't still need lots of money – who doesn't? – but a girl can't dance all night, know what I mean?) and I want to thank everyone who helped out. My Paper Movies site is still up, though, and I swear there'll be a whole bunch of new content on there real soon.

I could do my usual pitches, but I think I'll skip it this week. This running for President thing wears me out, but on to New Hampshire...

Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They're no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don't really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should click here.

I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

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