Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Michael Netzer Don’t Get No Respect

Michael Netzer has been blinging around the comic book industry since the mid-1970s. I think blinging is the right word. Imagine a pinball on one of Bally’s old machines.

After apprenticing under Neal Adams, Michael’s professional work (as Michael Nasser) first showed up on DC books like Superboy, Detective and World’s Finest Comics. From that point there were half-a-hundred stops and starts, which fans, foes, and ex-art agents attribute to any number of happenstances. One urban legend claims Michael wandered around the Galilee healing the sick while his walking stick sprouted myrtle. Another finds him sitting in a cave for three years eating nothing but dried carob and old Beach Boys 45s.

Regardless, Michael’s fans remain legion, and his presence in comics is firmly established.

Or so he thought.

A recent article at Newsarama on The Adventures of Unemployed Man—which Michael penciled slightly more than issue of—noted the creative team behind the comic but, oddly, left Michael’s name out. An accident? Maybe.

“I don't want to attribute a motive for columnist Albert Ching omitting my name so blatantly from the ‘several notable creators’ who were enlisted for the art on The Adventures of Unemployed Man,” Netzer replied when I asked him to comment on the snubbing. “The article was just posted yesterday and it struck me as part of a bizarre trend that I may be becoming an object of. Whatever the reason, it doesn't seem like it could be an oversight because I'm only one of three pencilers, and I did draw the grand finale of the book along with more than a quarter of its content. The omission, for whatever reason, indicates a severe lack of consideration in that crediting work properly and fairly in comics journalism has become a statement on the vital role of creators to a project.”

Like his mentor Neal Adams, Michael has always been vocal about the mistreatment of comics’ creators; his own blog posts and sometimes long-winded soliloquies on comics message boards and forums (which, in this authors’ opinion, are rarely self-serving) have earned Netzer both new fans and new foes. He doesn’t necessarily believe that Ching or Newsarma fall into either category, but…

“This book [Unemployed Man] falls between the cracks in the comics’ community because it comes from the wider book market and is not as one of our own,” Michael says. “As such, the writers who orchestrated the entire project astounded us time after time along the way. On the one hand, they certainly didn't have a lack of knowledge of the industry and its conventions. On the other, they seemed to be completely oblivious to some of the most basic tenets of comics’ culture. The cover, for example, only carried the names of the authors. How much more trouble or distraction would it have been to add Fradon, Veitch and Netzer under their names in type that's, say, about half the size? I don't think this was just an oversight but a conscious marketing decision that I believe is very unfortunate for the book itself.”

Michael points out that columnist Heidi MacDonald noted this problem, as well, in her review of the comic; that so many issues undermined the artists’ contribution to Unemployed Man that he is hard-pressed where to begin listing them. “This omission at Newsarama only compounds a serious existing shortcoming of the book,” he laments.

Personally, I‘ve taken more of a gonzo approach to the whole matter of comics’ journalism for many years now. But Newsarama is a more ‘serious’ enterprise and, as such, tends to reflect industry trends and attitudes. Michael is mindful of this. “When Newsarama does something like this, there's nothing left to do than to remind them that they are not doing artists and writers any favors with their coverage of our work,” Michael writes. “Indeed, it’s just the opposite. Most news sites and reporters wouldn't have a life in comics if it weren't for comics creators. It's the bulk of the thrust of their coverage, after all, and it behooves them not to play such infantile games.”

Michael notes that this is not the first time he's experienced professional dissing. He’s only done a handful of comics-related projects in the last year, which were his first after a 15-year absence from the mainstream, and the first of these were four black-and-white covers for Dynamite as a promotional vehicle for a pivotal and highly publicized issue in Kevin Smith's Green Hornet series.

“When Dynamite sent out the covers with the press release teaser,” Michael recalls, “they wrote a lengthy intro but made no mention whatsoever of the artist of the covers that were plastered all over comics news sites. I don't believe it was an oversight and I've heard excuses about these covers not being part of the book itself. But Dynamite went on to use one as an alternate cover, and the excuse is lame in the simple situation where a publisher distributes four loud and effective pieces of art and completely disregards the need to even place a small caption under the images crediting the artist. So I look at these two instances and wonder whether they are part of a trend. Or are they just indicative of a sloppy conduct of business?”

Considering Michael’s reputation as something of a ::ahem:: big mouth—as someone who says and writes things that some publishers (and journalists) might not be happy about hearing—perhaps there’s room to consider these oversights as something less than accidents. “The only other option,” Michael believes, “is sloppy conduct by purportedly professional entities. I'm not sure which of the two possibilities favors their subjects more.”

1 comment:

Michael Netzer said...

Thanks for telling this story, Clifford. I'm now happy to announce that Albert Ching and Lucas Siegel at Newsarama relayed a more than satisfactory clarification on the crediting mishap with "Unemployed Man"... and have revised the article. Good to make their acquaintance and to have them as new contacts Newsarama.