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In our second newsletter, you'll find some art previews for Velvet and Kill or Be Killed, and some of Ed Brubaker's rambling thoughts that hopefully have a point, maybe. 
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Okay, so here we are for our second newsletter, and I hope some of you out there are looking for a short diversion from how depressing and anxious the world has been the past few weeks, so I can show you some artwork and talk about comics for a while. Art is the greatest of escapes, I guess. When I'm at my lowest I always want to crawl into bed with a good book or some magazines with interviews of my favorite writers or artists or filmmakers or musicians. 

Anyway, enough about the real world. Let's look at some artwork, right? But first, a quick HEADS UP: Last time I forgot to ask people, if they work at comic sites, not to just take all the art I include here and put it on their sites as previews. Please don't do that.

Feel free to share any of the art here on places like twitter and tumblr, but don't run them as if it's an official preview from Image. Last time, several sites took the extra black and white pages and ran them right after the 6 page color preview, but left out the context explaining why I was showing two versions of page 6, which, if you hadn't seen the newsletter would seem very confusing. 

So, please share art or anything else on here that you want to, but please provide context and a link back to the newsletter. That's all I ask. 

Okay, so VELVET 15 is going to print this week, and it's the grand finale of the first big Velvet story. Here's a few unlettered pages from the first half of what is a nearly double-sized issue. Here's the black and white pages and the colors, for the same sequence: 
That's one of my favorite sequences that doesn't spoil much from the issue. Steve and Bettie are so fucking good. Thanks to everyone who's hung in there with the various delays, all of which are on me, not Steve. I took on too much of a workload at the same time that Velvet got incredibly complicated and hard to write, and it sometimes took far too long to write the issues, as I agonized over every decision. 

I'm just starting the script for our next project (still top secret) and it's a huge weight off to be at the beginning of something brand new, and I'm excited to be giving Steve a chance to draw something unlike anything on the stands right now. More on that in a few newsletters down the line, when there's something official to announce. 

And no, that doesn't mean VELVET is over. In fact, there's lots of huge VELVET news I've been sitting on that I can't wait to be able to talk about. VELVET will return. 
QUESTION TIME

One of the things I'd like to do in this newsletter is answer questions from readers. So, whatever questions you've got: about the business, about TV and film, about the history of comics, or the business practices of corporations versus working for yourself, about indie comics, about whatever... send them in to: criminalcomic@gmail.com with the subject line QUESTION! and from now on, I'll answer three of them every mailer, as honestly as humanly possible. 

And as a prize for your participation, everyone who's question gets picked will get a signed comic or graphic novel from me, maybe even a variant magazine or something. So, ask away... 
I can't show any more pages from issue 1 of KILL OR BE KILLED, but I thought you might like to see Sean's cover for issue 2, and two of the sketches he sent me. 

Cover sketches are just about the only time I get to see Sean's pencils or layouts anymore, and give him my opinion. In this case, he sent some sketches and pointed out his favorite, which as usual was mine too. Every now and then I'll have a suggestion to adjust an angle or crop something differently, but mostly I just pitch an idea and Sean runs with it. 
SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN BUGGING ME

So, I've been trying to figure out how to say something about this for a few weeks, and I'm not sure I know how to express this thought with the clarity I'd like it to have, but I feel like it's worth saying, because it seems to have been forgotten:

WATCHMEN was once held up by DC COMICS as a victory for creators rights.

I was actually there, as a kid, at the SDCC when Alan Moore and DC discussed this, and it was very much a thumb in the eye to Marvel at the time, who were involved in a very public fight with Jack Kirby and his wife Roz, over the return of Kirby's artwork (most of which was stolen from Marvel's storage facilities and sold to collectors). 

This was the summer of the creators right era (look up the Creator's Bill of Rights), and even though Marvel had done their Epic line that actually had full creator-ownership, they were still perceived as the bad guys because Kirby had been screwed and he was standing right there telling an industry he helped build that he was pissed. 

At the time, there were alternatives to DC and Marvel, but it was considered a huge deal at the time that DC was doing "creator-owned" books like Ronin from Frank Miller, and then Watchmen, from the biggest name in comics. Alan Moore was not just the most popular writer of the era, he was also the most outspoken on creators rights. If you only know the grumpy cantankerous Alan Moore who's been pissed at mainstream comics for about twenty years, then you missed the man who inspired many other writers and artists to stop putting up with bad treatment from their publishers. 

We all know the story of what happened with Watchmen (most likely). It helped spark the graphic novel as a format and became a perennial seller, and so the rights to the work never reverted to its authors. And in fact, the contract is so bad that DC's public statements of creator-ownership have turned out to be completely untrue. DC has the rights to Watchmen, and they can and will do with them whatever they want to.  
Now, I'm a freelance writer with many books in print, so I know that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons make a good living from Watchmen, but I also know it's nowhere near what they could have made if they'd owned it outright, or if DC had decided to renegotiate their deal when they realized the book would never go out of print. We can debate the merits of legal rights versus moral rights all day (we won't because it's a waste of time) but Paul Levitz at least respected the spirit of DC's deal with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, even if he couldn't give them back ownership of Watchmen (can you imagine how quickly he'd have lost his job if he'd given back the rights to their best-selling book?) he at least let it stand on its own. 

There are various stories about why Alan Moore left DC but what it basically comes down to is they did what all comics publishers used to do, they promised something that turned out not to be true. 

I've signed deals I regret. I don't know anyone in comics that hasn't. It's almost a fact of life as a freelancer. Sometimes you need the work badly enough not to care or you don't have a lawyer and you don't notice the loopholes. It's less common now, because most creators have good lawyers, but back in the days of Watchmen, few creators had their own representation, and lots of bad deals were signed. 

When Before Watchmen happened after Paul Levitz left DC, I was angry at DC for disregarding their promises to the creators, but I also knew that the life of a freelancer is spent waiting for that big book, for those moments that the money truck might somehow get backed up. Few are lucky enough to get those moments in comics. It's never happened for me, and I co-created The Winter Soldier. So I couldn't hold it against any of the people working on the various mini-series, some of whom are friends of mine, because I know how hard it is to make a living in comics as a freelancer. 

But at the same time, I was dismayed, because there was Alan Moore screaming "Don't do this!" and a lot of people basically said "screw you, you made a bad deal, live with it" or "this is comics" or wrote think pieces defending a giant corporation's legal rights, which no one was actually questioning. 

So look, I made a living writing Captain America for a long time, and I know the history of comics. I know that Martin Goodman promised Jack Kirby things he never honored. I know every story about creators getting screwed over or lied to or betrayed by other creators (like Bob Kane who helped DC fuck Siegel and Shuster a second time in the 40s), but the thing that keeps sticking for me is, I can't ever remember a time when Superman or the Avengers was held up as a victory for creators rights. But Watchmen was. 

So, now Dr Manhattan is in DC's new reboot, even though Alan and Dave were not even asked about it this time, and almost no one has said anything this time. The floodgates were already opened five years ago, and this is how it is, so we all just shrug. But I feel like it's important to point it out. I think this sucks, and I think it's very sad that Watchmen again has to serve as a reminder for how poorly creators can be treated. 


(and for the record, Watchmen isn't my favorite Moore book, that would be V for Vendetta or From Hell). 
WATCHMEN is (c) copyright by DC COMICS, sadly. 
All right, I guess that's enough rambling from me. I hope there's a point in there somewhere that means something to some of you.  

So, that's it for this mailer -- Remember, send in questions and I'll get another one of these out in a few weeks or so. Have a good day and be kind to each other.


 
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