Capping off a splendid encomium to Jack Kirby, this graf:
I can’t help but feel saddened and depressed by the notion that the greatest feeling in the world is sniveling at the feet of monolithic corporations for the privilege of aping people you admire, for twisting their work and motivations, for doing things counter to the way they would. It’s much more fulfilling and important to leave You-shaped holes in the world. Don’t crawl through the Jack Kirby-shaped ones. Build your own pyramids; building someone else’s leaves you nothing with nothing but a bad back and sore feet.
Why stop at comics when talking about this? It applies no less to other franchises that had a spark of greatness in them once but have since been bricked up inside their own legacy (Star Trek, Star Wars) and that now survive only by being fed the blood of the next generation of creators.
It depressed me when K.W. Jeter went from the likes of Dr. Adder to the Trek franchise, and then from there on down to writing authorized sequels to Phil Dick's work. I know it's in bad taste to second-guess peoples' motives in such situations, and that we could scarcely predict how we would react if someone offered us piles of money to put our name to something that already had an audience — after all, that's how we get noticed, right?
But the more I think about it, the more that just seems like a mildly less odious incarnation of the Huffington Post rationale that "exposure" is the new long green. And the reason they can get away with it is because they make it so much easier to capitalize on someone else's imagination instead of figuring out how to let you capitalize on your own. Given that we now live in a society that slurps up most of its gravy by way of selling people on things they don't even need anyway, you'd think they could bang together a couple of brain cells and solve the not-really-all-that-difficult problem of learning how to get someone's original work into the hands of people with a modicum of curiosity about it.
In the end, though, it seems to fall to the creator to do his own thing, whether or not anyone will help him spread the word. When I see people like Larry Marder going his own way, stubbornly and defiantly, and leaving behind exactly the thing he wants, I am cheered; when I see Stan Sakai being thrown a lifeline by one of the few commercial outfits in the business that gives a darn about its own creators, I'm heartened. Why, then, are they the exception and not the rule? Why do we insist on our popular culture being so reductive and disposable in every respect?