You Tell ‘Em, Tucker

Or “why reviewing is not a good way to break into the comic industry if you really want to write/draw/edit”:

I don’t want to make comics, ever, and I don’t ever want to have a professional job in comics past the one I have right now. They have nothing to threaten me with, nothing they can take away from me. I don’t need review copies or advance previews or insider access. I don’t need to be liked by people with no talent. I don’t need to hear the gossip about who is sleeping with Paul Levitz’ ex-girlfriend or the latest Scott Snyder office meltdown. Those are the things they try to ply you with: “Here’s a story, the real story, about why Mark Waid doesn’t work here anymore.” Go away.

— From the astounding interview Tom Spurgeon did with Tucker Stone. There’s a whole bunch of stuff in that piece about the industry as it stands right now, and while it’s blunt and negative, I don’t know that there’s much in there that can be disagreed with.

15 Responses to “You Tell ‘Em, Tucker”

  1. James Schee Says:

    He makes some good points, especially about the life of a reviewer and I think its good that he doesn’t have a desire to get a job in the industry. He’s even spot on about a number of the books he talks about (Though Hawk & Dove? Really?)

    On the other hand, I kind of scratch my head at his and so many others seeming astonishment at and then condemnation of the nasty side of the industry. Maybe I’m missing out on some great fields out there, because every job I’ve ever had (or that my friends have had because they gripe to me about it) has had infighting, people stabbing others in the back, and looking out only for themselves and maybe those closest, etc.

    Yet when it happens in comics people seem to be so shocked and surprised at it. Maybe its because of the old Stan Lee Bullpens and the whole “Team Comics!” that put rose colored glasses on everyone. I learned a long time go that the people working in comics are just people like anyone else. Some are good, some are not, most are probably neither and are just trying to make the best of whatever situation they are in.

    I’d never heard of Tucker before, from the interview I really don’t feel a need to seek his work out either. He honestly just sounded miserable doing whatever he’s doing, which just makes me wonder why he does it.

  2. Cole Moore Odell Says:

    He’s a hilarious writer, and through the caustic, jaded wit very insightful about comics; his site The Factual Opinion is must reading, despite the slowdown in posting. he also contributes (rarely) to Savage Critics, The Comics Journal and has a column at Comixology. I first noticed him when he marathon-live-blogged his straight-through reading of the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus, then finished up by burning it in a garbage can.

  3. Johanna Says:

    James, I think it’s a combination of 1) people getting into entertainment fields because of love for great work, so the contrast with normal unpleasant behavior seems worse to them and 2) expecting people who work on superheroes to take their moral code more seriously.

    Tucker’s work isn’t for everyone, since he’s in that foul-mouthed edgy “i”ll tell you the REAL truth” mode that I always associate with Warren Ellis fans. (I don’t know if he is or not, but that’s the connection in my head.) But Cole’s right, he’s also very insightful.

  4. Jer Says:

    Maybe I’m missing out on some great fields out there, because every job I’ve ever had (or that my friends have had because they gripe to me about it) has had infighting, people stabbing others in the back, and looking out only for themselves and maybe those closest, etc.

    Yet when it happens in comics people seem to be so shocked and surprised at it.

    It’s the same disappointment that sports fans feel when they find out that football/basketball/baseball/whatever is “just another business” for the folks who work in it.

    Take a fanbase whose fandom is a passion and expose them to the inner-workings of the industry that creates their fandom and you get ugliness.

  5. James Schee Says:

    Johanna, I guess I an see where it comes from. When you hired me to help host chats on DC Online at AOL, I know my perspective got changed. Though I think it was for the better as I could see the people, not just the names on paper.

    Like I said I don’t know Tucker, so I’m not casting aspersions on him, he’s entitled to write and be how ever he wants and more power to him. Its probably unfair from a small sample in the interview, but while I saw some good insights there were a lot of over the top things too.

    It honestly reminded me of a friend I have. He’d do anything I ask of him, and he’s not a bad guy, but I don’t hang around him a whole lot. Because every thing is a major battle for him, from if the food or service isn’t perfect at an eating place to traffic or what have you. He has good points but its TOO MUCH to be around him a lot.

  6. James Schee Says:

    Jer, quite right there. I have a friend who is a sports anchor for a local TV station. He went in being so gung ho about it, but now if it isn’t local sports he has no passion about it. He even turned down a chance to go up to Dallas to cover the Super Bowl.

    I guess the bottom line is that dreams don’t equal the reality of things very often I guess.

  7. Rebecca Says:

    It’s an interesting interview, to be sure. But I feel that this guy’s style hamstrings any points he hopes to make. In the section you quote, particularly in the context of surrounding paragraphs, he seems awfully bent on dropping as many names as he can while stressing that he doesn’t care about gossip. He struck me as attention-seeking and egotistical in his attempts to seem more “real” and “edgy” by being negative and blunt.

    It’s a shame because he also struck me as very intelligent and likely a lot of what he brings up has merit. But I find myself unable to unravel the narrative he seems to want to construct, which seems to be as much about his own status as the lone, truth-telling, straight-talker as it is about the industry issues he wishes to expose.

    I’m sure it’s a style that speaks to some. It’s not even a style I’m wholly against in broad terms – I sometimes quite enjoy the foul-mouthed, angry outsider aesthetic. But in this case, I found him to be obnoxious and self-aggrandising.

    Which is a shame, because your linking to the article (which I had already read), and your opinion that there is merit in his points, makes me want to reconsider my position, but I can’t help it. I feel like he’s using the issues to draw attention to himself rather than, well, the issues, and that makes me suspect hyperbole and sensationalism.

  8. Grant Says:

    I’m on the same page as Rebecca on this one. I want to take this guy seriously but I just can’t.

    The guy is funny but it’s hard to take the majority of what he says seriously because it’s laced with the kind of practiced “this will sound cool” cynicism I’d expect to hear from the Comic Shop Guy on an episode of The Simpsons. I will say that he has a level of sincerity that makes him a lot less trollish than the kind of commentary you get from the crew at Hooded Utilitarian.

    But when you start with that whole “people who work for (insert big publisher here)are evil talentless scumbag sellouts and part of the problem” then that’s the point where I no longer consider you relevant. And holding up Butcher Baker as the gold standard sure isn’t helping him either.

    That said, I did enjoy the interview.

  9. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    I imagine that it’s entirely possible that for some people their disappointment with comics’ ickier aspects come from the fact that they believed in Team Comics as a kid or that they love comics so much they get bruised by the bad parts.

    I don’t think that’s true of everyone, though.

    While I can’t speak for Tucker, and for all I know Jim Shooter beat him up and stole his girlfriend leading him on a lifelong quest for revenge, I want to suggest that many of us making those kinds of criticisms have worked and continue to work in different industries and/or cover them. For example, I’ve worked in television, newspapers and the ministry; I’ve covered law enforcement, pharma and theater. I really do believe that comics has uniquely awful aspects.

    That doesn’t mean I think comics is the only messed-up industry, because that would be absurd, but only that its peccadilloes are significant, worth noting and it’s worth one’s time inveighing against them.

    I also strongly disagree with the assertion that there’s too little attention paid these things. I think the level of saturation for exploitative behavior from casual to practiced is really high in comics, and very accepted, even relative to other arts industries.

    Just to look at it casually… If you regarded the entirety of film — an industry rife with horribleness — and you asked yourself, “I wonder who profited from all that’s been accomplished?” you might think of Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney, and indeed they made fortunes.

    If you looked at comics, and asked yourself a similar question, you might think of Jack Kirby and those guys that created Superman, and you’d be dead wrong.

    I mean, you can pick at that broadest of broad arguments and others like it, you can pick it to death, but to assert that comics doesn’t really have its crosses to bear or that those that believe in pointing and saying, “Hey, look: crosses!” are Negative Nancies seems to me more of an avoidance of truth that its confrontation.

    Your mileage may vary.

  10. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    “too MUCH attention paid these things” — i’m all egg nogged up, sorry

  11. David Oakes Says:

    I don’t dislike Tucker’s writing because he appears to dislike comics. I dislike Tucker’s writing because, like the work of Abhay and many other “crtical darlings” of the comics intelligensia, it is all about Tucker, not comics. The fact that this seems to go hand in hand with “Hey look, crosses” is a symptom, not a cause. Because when they talk about crosses, it is not to explain why they are there or to try and find a way to get rid of them, but just a smug satisfaction in pointing them out, as if they and only they are willing to talk about them.

  12. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    David, I have no interest in whether or not you like or dislike Tucker’s writing, or my own, or Johanna’s.

    I just wanted to present a counter-argument to the notion asserted above that that because all industries are terrible folks that argue against what they perceive to be bad things about their industry — in this case, comics — do so out of some aberrant psychological need rather than actually just sort of believing that some things are terrible and worth fighting — or at least pointing out.

    I’m afraid I don’t have your certainty about Tucker’s motivations, nor would I agree with the sweeping characterization you’ve made from that place of certainty. So there I guess we’ll just have to disagree. I do appreciate the critical rigor you’ve brought to your reading, and responding to my thoughts. Thanks.

  13. James Schee Says:

    For me its just about the way he comes off as miserable about the comics industry. When he talks about how a part of him wants to just read the old stuff in those collections that’s something I can relate to.

    Until I got an IPad for my birthday back in July, that’s exactly what I was doing. I’d get the strips collections, and runs of older things that had always interested me. So other than Brubaker Captain America tpbs there was a period of about 3 years where I didn’t read a single modern comic.

    Now with my IPad I’m reading some of the single issues and getting an enjoyment out of things that wasn’t there before. If he’s experiencing the same thing, though his seems to be more because of the who than the what of the comics. I don’t understand why he still does it. (he says something in your interview about wanting to keep up, but I guess I don’t understand the why of that)

    Every sane person knows Kirby, Siegals and Shusters, etc. got screwed. I have a hard time blaming the ones in charge now though, because they had nothing to do with it. (most weren’t even born) Though I’m glad that at least the Superman creators family may finally get some of their due back if all the great articles on the court cases are accurate.

    I don’t mind pointing out when things are bad but I guess I’d hope it’d be more relevant things than just gossip as he himself says he doesn’t want to hear more of. I’m glad people point out when … darn can’t recall his name, comes out promoting some fake con or supposed charity thing so people don’t get trapped. Or things of that nature.

    I guess I have a hard time feeling outrage though. Maybe its because I’ve worked in doing tax return industry and the postal service where I’ve seen such bad things and have lost my zeal. Maybe that’s just on me, I just don’t find myself understanding how someone get so… righteous about things as he comes off.

  14. Tom Spurgeon Says:

    Fair enough, point made; I think pretty much disagree with all of that, but I don’t get a vote on how you approach things.

  15. James Schee Says:

    That’s fine Tom, I know my views are my own and I don’t know if anyone else shares them or not. Hope you and yours (and everyone out there) had a great Christmas holiday. (or whatever holiday one celebrates)




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