One (Year) After 909 – The Backlash Begins Here

We are now officially in that future world
where you gladly pay for
the 3D animated corpses of rock stars
to dance on your face forever.

Today was a sad day for me. Today was the last we would hear Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC Radio 1. I imagine there is just a week to listen again on the iPlayer as usual… No fears, she has plenty going on, as detailed on her new website I’ve been listening to Mary Anne every week for as long as she’s been on the BBC’s internet stream… previously with the Breezeblock show and in the last few years the Experimental Show. I have a hard time imagining any kind of replacement on radio for this kind of steady sequence of electronic musicalawesomeness.

The last month or so has seen the end of many cultural bits I’ve gotten used to. Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina has ended. The final Scott Pilgrim volume has been released and the movie is out. Bad Machinery is about to take a break for a fortnight at least a month and a half, and that will be a long and lonely six or more weeks.

Let’s flash back now to a year ago….

This week and a half last year saw events in comic book publishing and music videogames that clearly signaled that we entered a new era in popular culture. It all came to a head on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 with the announcement of major shakeups at DC Comics and with the release of The Beatles Rock Band.

The Beatles Rock Band and Johnny Cash and Kurt Cobain as playable figures in the videogame Guitar Hero 5 just depress me. It feels deeply wrong in so many ways.

Although DC Comics has been owned by Warner Bros. Studios (now a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. (TWX)) for four decades, the publisher has enjoyed a certain autonomy from it’s corporate parent, with management and editorial largely coming from within the comics community (the notable exception being Janette Kahn). On that Wednesday that all ended.

On the proverbial other side of the street, Marvel Comics was absorbed by Disney.

At some future point this changeover will likely be framed as being similar to the collapse of the Hollywood studio system in the middle of the 20th Century and its takeover by faceless corporations.

I appreciate that Warner’s move was a smart move, and probably long overdue. More than anything, it serves as a historic sign post that the change is there and that it is permanent.

I hope that efforts like Vertigo and the sadly discontinued Minx will continue under this new regime to foster new talent, but I know that the reality is that the focus will be on developing new properties to exploit, and finding new ways to exploit the old ones.

I find it charming that the Marvel workers will be ‘cast members’. That’s certainly an elevation from such demeaning titles as ‘the talent’ or ‘creatives’. As Warner and Paul Levitz showed us a year ago in unprecedented tragic fashion, if you work for these companies you are just a tool.

Character Licensing Farms…

Gone are the free range, grass-fed superheroes of old.

Maybe people will start to understand where Alan Moore is coming from, instead of dismissing him as a nut. [Clearly something is in the air this week, please go read this interview with Alan Moore about his troubles with DC Comics, and then go read Tom Spurgeon’s commentary, where, as always, he delves into these basic creators’ rights issues far more eloquently than I can.]

It’s sad. It should serve as a wake up call for creators on how much of their life and their work they want to give to a big entertainment Corp.

Levitz going back to writing the Legion after all that is profoundly tragic.

Enjoy the fucking feedback loop

I predict a serious exodus of talent and many new and exciting ventures.

Who knows…