Nerd vs. Activist: The Battle of the Century!

My friend Gareth Skarka recently wrote about why he won’t go see the forthcoming movie The Avengers, despite being a big, old-school superhero comics geek. He makes what is, for me, a very compelling argument. Both major comics companies, Marvel and DC, have treated so many artists and writers as cogs in the machine (at best) and screwed over creators in ways that I find utterly reprehensible and indefensible. After reading Gareth’s blog post, I decided that I would also boycott the Avengers movie, even though Joss Whedon, one of my favorites, is behind it and my inner comics nerd is dying to see it.

And then along comes John Carter, another soon-to-be-released movie. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, the source material for the movie, is one of my all-time favorite novels, and the movie looks to be exactly the kind of high-imagination spectacle I love to see on screen. My inner nerd is again dying to see this. ButJohn Carter is a Disney production. Disney owns Marvel. Disney is also, on its own, one of the most litigious companies around. Disney will send a crack squad of high-paid lawyers against anyone, no matter how small, who they see as a threat to the “intellectual property.” Disney is one of the big reasons copyright law is so screwy in the US.

My inner nerd argues: “You’ve been waiting for movies like this all of your life! You’ve known for a long time what money-hungry, power-mad corporations make these movies and you haven’t let that stop you before! Why now? You know you’ll be sad to miss these movies! And neither company will really suffer if they don’t get your money. Just go see them!”

My inner activist counters: “It’s about time you started facing up to how shitty these companies are! Of course your dollars are just drops in the ocean to them, but it’s still important to vote with your dollars, which is all they understand, if for no other reason than to keep your hands clean and your conscience clear. You have to stand up for your principles! Who cares if The Avengers and John Carter are good? Isn’t it better to support new stories, independent, creator-owned stories?”

I’ll be honest, both voices are loud in my head. I haven’t really decided which voice I’m going to listen to.

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7 thoughts on “Nerd vs. Activist: The Battle of the Century!

  1. Even worse, the movie John Carter of Mars is based on a book that is in the public domain. Disney continues its long tradition of harvesting stories from the public domain while working hard to restrict the public domain further. The hypocrisy of that company is astounding.

  2. Exactly, David. Despicable.

  3. I also think that to have the money to spend on everything used to build and create such a visual spectacle doesn’t happen unless you’re a behemoth like Disney. IE: The kid down the street who draws an Indie comic isn’t making a movie like The Avengers. You might get Clerks out of him.

  4. Actually, Lex, the cost of filming and production is dropping rapidly, thanks to advances in digital video and editing. While you’re not going to see any indie special effects blockbusters like The Avengers (which I’m perfectly fine with), you’re seeing things like The Guild, Riese: Kingdom Falling, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. How expensive would it be to make something like Casablanca of the original Flash Gordon movie serials? Or even old-school Doctor Who?

    Of course, you’re not going to see these independent creations in movie theaters, but since I rarely go to the movies anymore, that doesn’t bother me either. I’d be happy to watch them online and kick in some money as a supporter or buy them on DVD.

  5. I’ve thought more about and decided I’ll almost certainly see both The Avengers and John Carter. But I’ll also probably send a letter to Marvel to express my unhappiness with their practices.

    And thanks for the link to the petition, BK!

  6. I should add that I signed the petition, but in general, I don’t think a dead artist’s heirs should get royalties for something the artist created. But I think the heirs deserve it more than the corporation that controls the characters. I’d rather see an artist’s creations pass into the public domain after their death. But I don’t see that kind of change in US copyright law happening any time soon.

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