Tales Of The Beanworld
by Larry Marder
(from Patreon Update Bone & The Strange Death Of Alex Raymond: Part 10, 31 January 2016)
...I first met Larry at Petuniacon back in '84 in the fanzine BEANWORLD days and then again when he had quit his advertising job to do BEANWORLD full-time... and was, self-admittedly just not producing. Like Bissette with TYRANT: "My big chance to do my dream comic for a living!" and then he just froze. Inexplicable but far from rare. The IMPRESSION that he always left was of someone who intended to self-publish but, in retrospect, that might have been play-acting so he could be associated with self-publishing while not actually self-publishing. His next major appearance was at the Northampton Summit in '88 where he just sort of arrived with Scott McCloud -- which made me think, "Well, I know what LARRY is doing here: but what are YOU doing here?" And, of course, Scott waylaid the whole process of the Manifesto we were putting together, defining the boundaries where distribution/publishing/self-publishing overlapped and pulling that 180° over in the direction of a labour/management agreement from labour's side, his Creator's Bill of Rights. That really pushed me out of the picture, but all I had really been concerned about was the Right to choose how to distribute my work (i.e. sell direct to fans when that made more economic sense). Kevin and Peter had started publishing other artists and Richard Pini -- who was doing "work-made-for-hire” at WaRP -- was there. So I figured "Let THEM hash out the labour/management thing". Missing the point that without ME pulling all these people into the same room they weren't going to continue meeting. Kevin and Peter would continue to use work-made-for-hire on TURTLES work they didn't do. Richard Pini would continue to use work-made-for-hire on outside ELFQUEST titles, Kevin would start Tundra as a creator-owned imprint (I suspect to APPEAR to offset Peter's stricter work-made-for-hire way for the two of them to run Mirage). And Image would come along four years later portraying itself as the ideal of creator ownership -- and almost immediately the partners were hiring other creators to do (what I would consider) "their" work for them which the partners owned lock, stock and barrel. There's nothing ILLEGAL about work-made-for-hire, but it tends to be UNETHICAL: people ending up at the end of their careers owning nothing while their work continues to generate large sums of money. That was what I was trying to fix. Society has evolved in the direction of fixing that -- no one thinks anything of a creator selling a book on Kickstarter AND making it available later through Diamond. But no one foresaw that the Internet would STRUCTURALLY change everything roughly fifteen years later. Gerhard was never work-made-for-hire. He had the right to reproduce anything he worked on and still does -- Sean is under strict instructions to provide Gerhard with restored scans of any CEREBUS page he worked on and Gerhard has the right to reproduce it, which is what he does, paying A-V a courtesy royalty of 4% on sales of his prints. He could certainty sign a deal to do a GERHARD ART book without asking permission. If you worked on it, you have the right to reproduce it is my position -- and the agreement I have on TURTLES 8 and SPAWN 10, as an example. Gerhard was a definite (if you'll pardon the expression) Bone of contention at the Northampton Summit because my position was fully formed even then. Gerhard couldn't sign with Disney for a CEREBUS movie, but HIS work is HIS work and HE has the right to reproduce it. I was a dissenting contributor on the "We have the right to FULLY own what we FULLY create." For me it's “We have the right to reproduce and sell what we create.” Someone can draw Cerebus on a print and sell reproductions of it without asking permission because he or she created the print. It's really not a problem. The instances of someone doing that are anecdotal. There is no cost or cost to the copyright holder. Just a misapprehended mindset that if you don't jump on people with legal hob-nailed boots you risk losing ownership. The law profession propagates that myth for obvious reasons: they make (or used to make) lots of money from cease-and-desist letters. A kid drew an ELFQUEST character into a freelance art job for a crossword puzzle magazine. Richard saw it and jumped on the kid with hob-nailed boots and the kid was crushed and quit drawing for a living. The Spermbirds used CEREBUS on the front of their album cover "Something To Prove" and their t-shirts to this day. I don't see how CEREBUS or Dave Sim are harmed by that.
It was a Comic Art Metaphysics "Something To Prove" and I think I proved it and continue to prove it each time the band sells a t-shirt.
In terms of Larry, I think that it was not uncommon to have an inaccurate self-perception particularly in terms of what both Larry and Jeff would have deemed "tribal matters" -- being both strong adherents of what I would call an "overly romanticized" First Nations view of the nature of Reality. Larry always referred to Comicon as "the gathering of the tribes," as an example. Most of BEANWORLD can be construed as Larry's inferences of Hopi Indian culture made into iconic narratives. Of course, Larry isn't a Hopi Indian. But that kind of cultural misappropriation -- which First Nations are beginning to "call out" people like Larry and Jeff on -- tends to lead to the idea that you are whatever you perceive yourself to be. "I self-identify as a native American" or, at least, NON-white, NON-European. If all that's required for self-identification is self-declaration then it isn't that difficult to say, "I self-published an ashcan for this convention, therefore I'm a member of the self-publishing tribe. Even though I'm really shopping for a publisher." Jeff has a more valid claim there, since he's published by Scholastic but self-publishes his own projects and the complete-in-one BONE volume. Self-publishing a behind-the-scenes book in violation of your Dark Horse contract JUST so you can call yourself a self-publisher seems... odd... to me. I don't think it benefits self-publishing because it creates a smokescreen which hides ACTUAL self-publishers behind semi- and demi- self-publishers. But I think that's the UNCONSCIOUS impulse behind it: the last thing the Feminist Theocracy wants is AUTONOMOUS MEN freely expressing creative political entertainment independent of the levers of feminist control: pressure on advertisers; pressure from editors and publishing executives; pressure from licensors.
It's really Larry leaning on and trying to maintain his Nexus of All Comic Book Realities stature, which was true to a degree: he did fit in with a lot of disparate people. But, as I say, I think the self-publishing distinction is important because of the (increasingly?) potent threat posed to creative autonomy by the (increasingly?) restrictive forces of political correctness. I hope it's not too late to come up with a means of dissipating the smokescreen with a strictly defined SELF-PUBLISHERS ONLY website context (which I’m working on right now)... [Read more at Dave Sim's Patreon site...]
Backcover, Cerebus #167 (February 1993)