When Obituaries Go Wrong

Yesterday, Joe Kubert, of Hawkman and Tor, of Sgt Rock and Fax From Sarajevo, died. Bleeding Cool received many memories, many notes of sadness, many recognitions of Kubert’s contribution to the art form, there was sadness, but also happiness of a life well lived and many lives enriched. We’ll be running one of those testimonies later. And DC employees paid their respects.

This morning however, the tone was different. Published on the DC blog was the following, under the title Remembering Joe Kubert;

“We are saddened to learn of the death of our colleague and friend Joe Kubert. An absolute legend in the industry, his legacy will not only live on with his sons, but with the many artists who have passed through the storied halls of his celebrated school. His latest work on BEFORE WATCHMEN: NITE OWL was among his best, and we are so honored to have worked side-by-side with such an unforgettable force in both comics and in life.” – DC Entertainment Executive Team

Reaction was swift and unforgiving on the blog, including the following;

Larry Hama · Works at IDW Publishing

This is what happens when a PR flack writes a memorial. Come on, DC, show the great man some respect with a retraction and a rewrite.

Martha Thomases · Writer at Self employed

Yes, it’s a disgrace to all of us PR flacks.

Jamie S. Rich · Works at DVD Talk

For a man who created so much for you, who provided so much in terms of a comic book legacy, the best you can do to honor his name is plug your current product? I’m not saying you shouldn’t mention his last work–though, what a terrible note on which to ring out a great career–but to leave all of his other accomplishments out of a tribute while selling the new brand is just embarrassing and disgusting. DC never stands for “Do it Classy,” does it?

Mike Mignola · California College of Arts and Crafts

Gross.

Steven Fino Temple University

Did you seriously advertise Before Watchmen in an obituary? Really?

Marc Siry NBC Universal

Unbelievable.

Michael Gross · Pratt Institute

this is IT? shameful…I doubt the writer of this ever met him.

Don MacPherson · St. Francis Xavier University

It seems perplexing to me that Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Dan DiDio and/or who knows who else at DC didn’t take a half hour to an hour Sunday night to write up something on behalf of the company. Dozens, if not hundreds, of professionals and fans did so last night. Why not someone in DC’s inner circle?And if you’re going to plug a project, why not the upcoming Joe Kubert Presents?

Tim Pilcher · Chair at Comic Book Alliance

Ill-conceived and poorly judged “PR”. Next time, think before you post.

Stephen Brown · Editorial Assistant, Knopf Books For Young Readers at Random House, Inc.

This is extremely disrespectful. This man was a fundamental architect of the DC universe and you use his death to try to sneak in extra advertising for a cash-grab project. So indicative of the recent years of DC.

And so on. This wasn’t just bad PR, it was bad PR being posted incessantly on their own website. Similar sentiment was expressed on Twitter, with Mark Waid leading the charge.

Fire whoever wrote that. Please.

When I die, I pray that my DC-written obit doesn’t include a link to a Comixology FLASH sale.

seriously, please get DC’s Kubert obit fixed immediately. It’s vulgar and classless. Joe deserved better.

Hours later the DC blog was then amended to the following;

“We are saddened to learn of the death of our colleague and friend Joe Kubert. An absolute legend in the industry, his legacy will live on through his remarkable talent, with his sons and with the many artists who have passed through the storied halls of his celebrated school. An important member of the DC Comics family, Joe made an indelible mark on the entire DC Comics universe including his renowned and award-winning work on iconic characters such as Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace, Hawkman and most recently Nite Owl. We are so honored to have worked side-by-side with such an unforgettable force in both comics and in life.” – DC Entertainment Executive Team.

And they also added a personal statement from Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, as well as an accompanying photograph.

For those of us who knew him personally, as well as those of us who knew him primarily for his remarkable talent and impact on our industry over the years, Joe Kubert was part of the DC family. On behalf of our executive team, as well as everyone at DC Entertainment who cares about Joe and the whole Kubert family, we send our prayers, our sympathy and our deepest appreciation for everything he’s contributed to comics over the course of his life and career. Until the very end, Joe was creating art that will live on for generations and we will all miss him deeply.

Mark Waid tweeted;

Whoever’s responsible–thank you for the DC Blog Kubert bio edit. Much classier and more fitting now.

DC Vertigo’s Karen Berger also wrote a longer, more personal account of her time with the man and his work, which should be required reading.

When Joe suddenly got ill a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about him. I remembered that in 1980, the first cover I commissioned as an editor was from him for House of Mystery #292. During the next several years while Joe was still editing Sgt Rock, he would come into the offices at 75 Rock once a week to handle business and to meet with writer Bob Kanigher, his longtime collaborator. The two of them couldn’t have been more different. But, they were both storytelling masters who loved to challenge each other. I always remember hearing loud voices coming from Joe’s office and seeing that gleam in his eye as he and Bob would go at it.

So what went wrong? Well DC’s PR people being based on the West Coast probably didn’t help, one of their main East Coast based contributors was on holiday, and it seemed that there was a perfect storm of of inexperience and an inflexibility so that Jim Lee’s tweets, for example, could not represent the company’s official line. There seemed to be many DC people who wanted to change the blog but were unable to. The response from many was an emotional one as well, which added to the invective. And I don’t believe the original piece was an attempt to run an ad instead of an obituary, but just the lack of context understood by the writer. And a mistake that DC fixed.

In an aging industry, obituaries are a regular part of the scene. As morbid as it may seem, it might help to prepare such statements in advance. Allow a greater flexibility of contribution to the official line. And even, occasionally, go to Wikipedia…