Michael Davis, co-founder of Milestone Comics, writer, producer, artist and mentor writes:
Prologue: The Golden Age Myth
My views of the industry are my personal opinion; however, any event I share regarding treatment of me is 100% true, and I can provide documentation for any person or company disputing my accounts.
There was a time when the comic book industry was a place where the publishers decided everything. Artists and writers were interchangeable cogs in a machine. A machine the general public wasn’t even aware of and wouldn’t care even if they were made aware.
Comics were a momentary distraction to some a waste of time to others forgotten by most the moment the story was finished. No one gave the ‘funnies’ any thought there would be no outcry if an artist or writer were to be wrong in any way.
Ah, the 1930s and ’40s. Those were the days when you could create a Superman the most original and most imitated character in modern history and spend decades fighting for a small piece of your creation.
The 1930s and ’40s are considered the Golden Age of Comics. Really? That’s not correct if you believe the actual definition of the term Golden Age.
An idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness.
The period when a specified art, skill, or activity is at its peak.
Alternate facts are lies, people. They are not facts. Facts are facts.
You can tell yourself $130,000 was a donation to Stormy Daniels’ book club and the Donald just didn’t want the world to know he was such a kind-hearted, generous man, and that may very well be true (YEAH RIGHT) — to be fair, we have no way of knowing.
On the other hand, you’ve seen the art from the Golden Age of Comics — you think that rises to the level of art skill, or activity at its peak? The Superman art in both Action Comics and his own title were FAR from excellence. There were artists capable of fantastic work back then as this was, in fact, the Golden Age of Illustration. Artists did exist that could bring the creative noise. Norman Rockwell, JC Leyendecker, and Maxfield Parrish were at the apex of their careers back in that day.
Those guys drawing comics would have made a real Golden Age. It’s a pretty good bet they never considered comics as anything but tripe — if they considered them at all. Any superstar illustrator going to work for comics at that time would be the equivalent of Tom Brady leaving the NFL to play for a Pop Warner football team.
No, that’s a bad example now that I think of it. Pop Warner is a beloved, respected American institution — in the so-called Golden Age comics were not loved nor were they respected on the whole.
On the flip side of the art, ideas that came out of the minds of the mostly Jewish and Italian writers were indeed brilliant. I will submit that minus the art, the sense of wonder instilled in the stories back then was revolutionary for the time, and yes, the art got better — but a Golden Age?
An idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness. The period when a specified art, skill, or activity is at its peak?
If the description was just “An idyllic often imaginary past time,” I’d be good with that, but it’s not. Oh, and NOT all the writing was great, try reading Cat-Man.
For my money the real Golden Age wasn’t too long ago — it’s what most refer to as the second Silver Age. That was indeed a time in comics where the industry was at its peak.
The work being produced was beyond extraordinary. Watchmen, Dark Knight, American Flag, The Great Darkness Saga, Thor, The New Teen Titans, Daredevil, and Nexus were among a zillion other concepts so grand and new they set an industry standard unmatched to this day.
The work was indeed outstanding, and thanks to people like Mike Friedrich, Mike Gold, Dean Mullaney and Ken Levin creators were starting to be treated with a symbol of respect never even thought of in the ’30s and ’40s. Creator-owned properties once unheard of were championed by these man and many others.
Today we may be on the verge of another Golden Age. This time fueled by the non-stop creative power of the independent press and the Black Age of Comics.
You would think the sheer strength of comics content in 2018 pop culture there would be little or no horrible treatment of creators. Creators do have a lot more power in the playing field; although not level, it’s a bit more accommodating.
A little bit more.
Most of the creators I know came to comics because of love. Love brought me here, and believe it or not love is why I’m writing about the dark side of comics that few speak about openly. Dreams of working in comics are nightmares for many.
How many big-time creators have you heard of who vault from a publisher because they were mistreated? There have been quite a few, but Image Comics is the standard bearer.
The industry is too small for most wronged professionals to share stories about publishers or influential creators. They have too much to lose and don’t want what they have taken away.
So, I’ll speak for them because even in 2018 horrible treatment in comics exist.
I have nothing more to lose, and what’s been taken away I intend to get back. Writing this narrative may prevent that from happening.
So be it.
There are some things bigger than money.
Truth is one thing doing what’s right another.
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Next Week: Part Two: Uncle Tom’s Revenge