B comics, fair skin and lessons in copyright

If I wrote for comics, I don't think I would be interested in taking on the big superheroes like Superman or Batman, although I think I probably have a few good X-Men stories in me. What I would really like to do is write stories of B titles like Jonah Hex, Challengers of the Unknown, House of Mystery and Adam Strange. I think my talents would be better placed in the service of these titles rather than some of the big ones. Maybe I'll try my hand at a spec script at some point, although I hear that getting into comics is harder than getting into film.

I'm thinking about this partially because I've been thinking about comics most of my life (since 5th grade anyway) and just got home with a stack of titles that range from Darwyn Cooke's Parker adaptations and the I, Vampire reboot to Green Arrow Year One and Hellblazer. I love the medium of comics and believe that it may be the purest form of storytelling there is in the media zeitgeist right now. You get exactly what you want on the page regardless of budget. Movies can't give you that. Just something I'm thinking about.

This past week was a massive, unpleasant and exhausting learning experience for me. First, I spent some time out in the field working manual labor, which wasn't bad, except for the fact that I felt like I was performing these tasks on the surface of the sun. Due to my fair skin, without the protection of sunscreen or a radiation suit, my Celtic-ass tends to go up like a roman candle. Field work hasn't been a main part of my day job for about two years now, so whenever it's thrust upon me, it takes some getting used to. It was also during this brief foray into field work, that I had to deal with a mistake of my own making. Let me explain.

Some of you may have heard the name Harlan Ellison, as well you should, the man is a fantastic writer of some of the best fantasy fiction in the 20th and 21st century. If you haven't read any of his stuff, look him up. If you don't care for his fiction, read some of his essays, you will not be disappointed. Some of you may also know that I occasionally write articles, blurbs and blogs for a site called Nerd Reactor. The other day, I took it upon myself to write a small piece about the fact that Harlan Ellison is now on YouTube. This is big news given the man's disdain for computers, and I was pretty sure that no one else at the site was going to cover it. I'm starting to be their obscure literary guy. I typed the short write up, and when I finished, I posted a picture that I found online at the top of the piece. It was a great picture of Mr. Ellison holding his typewriter a little cockeyed, wearing a hat that says "Got Ellison?". The piece was posted and two days later, I got a message via Twitter. The sender of the message said I should contact the him about the picture I posted on my write up.

Instantaneously, I knew what this was about.

Mr. Ellison is notoriously protective of his copyrights, and why shouldn't he be, that's how he makes his living. Well, it appears as though Mr. Ellison found my picture Wednesday morning and called the owner of the photograph, Steve Barber. It was Mr. Barber who contacted me. Through the course of the day, via mobile, I corresponded with the gracious Mr. Barber and greatly apologized. Mr. Barber couldn't have been more understanding, and simply asked that I credit him for his work; I was only too grateful to oblige. No offense was meant. No trouble was had, and Steve Barber and I are now twitter pals. He said he told Mr. Ellison and others that I was helpful and addressed the matter promptly. I was relieved that the problem could be solved and that no one was angry. This was a much needed reminder for me and everyone else that everything on the internet is not free. People work hard to make the stuff we enjoy, and they deserve credit for it.

I informed my EIC at Nerd Reactor of the faux pas, who was understanding as well. In the end, I am grateful for the experience, as it has made me more conscious of people's work. I should have asked Mr. Barber about his photo, as he was kind enough to grant me permission after the fact. Lesson learned.

I should also note that I agree with Mr. Ellison's philosophy on creator's rights. As an artist myself I should have thought better of my actions. Also as an artist, I will be sure to take a harder stance on my own work in the future, I've already turned some people off with my insistence on being credited. To a less successful degree, I know how it goes.

Take care,

-Rob

[Steve Barber's site and photographs can be found HERE]