I’ve been trying to get to the root of what’s bugging me quite so much about the upcoming ‘Batman/Watchmen’ crossover ‘The Button’ lately, and I think I’ve hit upon the root of it.
(TL:DR Version: Everyone knows Scrooge McDuck. No one knows Carl Barks.)
The state of games publisher Konami is my problem.
For the unaware, Konami is a video game publisher that have released games even the most casual will have heard of Pro Evo Soccer, Frogger, Contra, The Simpsons, Castlevania, Turtles, Dancing Stage.
And relevant to this, Konami released two of the most iconic and influential video game franchises in history
Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill.
Both are literal game changers: They added ideas, jokes, references, mood, interface innovations, storytelling in video-games as an intelligent concept beyond ‘Walk Right, Punch People. Rescue Lady as Win Sex Prize.;
Both, while not one man efforts, are clearly the work of a person with a single vision. Keiichirō Toyama directed ‘Silent Hill’ for the PSX, being released in 1999. He no longer works for Konami, now doing games for Sony. After the legendary Silent Hill 2, the game has been passed around various dev teams to decreasing acclaim ever since, although there was a brief flurry of excitement when ‘Silent Hills’ hit the Internet.
‘Silent Hills’ was to be the most recent installment of the franchise, co-directed by Guillermo del Toro,and Metal Gear Solid maestro Hideo Kojima, with art from ‘Uzumaki’ artist Junji Ito and featuring ‘Walking Dead’ actor Norman Reedus who featured in the now sadly removed ‘Playable Teaser’.
Kojima had worked for decades at Konami on a number of titles (Including, obviously, the MGS series.) until a corporation restructuring in March 2015 suggested that Konami would be committing themselves to a number of Metal Gear products. After Hideo had said that ‘Metal Gear Solid:The Phantom Pain’ would be the end of the Metal Gear story.
Oh, and after Konami quietly removed both Kojima and Kojima Productions’s name from the Metal Gear Solid website and all of the Phantom Pain’s production materials.
The fallout from this was demoting Kojima from executive content officer to freelance status and a full cancellation of the Silent Hills: P.T. project*. Just because Konami could
With Konami now focusing it’s effort on low rent mobile games, Kojima left Konami on Oct 9 of that year. Konami had already changed the artwork of the final cover art to physical copies of the PS4 version of ‘Metal Gear Solid’, removing the words ‘A Hideo Kojima Game’.Konami covered Hideo’s absence as his ‘taking a long time off from work.’
MGS 5: The Phantom Pain sold very well, and the final knife from Konami came on Dec 3 as MGS 5 won two awards at the 2015 Game Awards. Kiefer Sutherland (who voiced Snake.) accepted the award for ‘Best Action/Adventure Game), followed by the Awards organiser Geoff Keighley explaining that Kojima was not allowed to pick up the award himself (which he fully intended to do.) due to being banned from doing so by Konami.
Kojima was not allowed to pick up the award for his game due to the actions of his publishers, who’d already removed his name from the cover.
Several verified reports from staff at Konami report a litany of simple employee abuse, a disinterest in any respect for the creators of the games that created their empire (To the point that Angry Joe couldn’t even SAY the words ‘Hideo Kojima’ at an E3 show.) and no interest in those actual games beyond how to exploit them as cheaply as possible for the maximum repeated profit.
Konami are now very happy to shill out the concepts they have to whoever wants them (And if you want an example of how bad a game can be when none of the original dev team are involved, have a look at the difference between ‘Batman:Arkham City’ and ‘Batman: Arkham Origins’.) and a quick look at their website will show you their main focus in 2017: Themed Mobile Gambling Apps.
So how does this relate to ‘The Button’.
I’ve read various reasons given why publishing houses were loath to run credits for creators on comics. ‘It’d confuse readers.’etc. The most obvious answer, as far as I could see, is that crediting the artist/writer of a work introduces them to the audience and forms the idea of ‘Creator As Brand’ that can then be used to argue page rate, reprint royalties, etc.
As long as the strips were presumably dropped in from the Magic Elves in Disneyland, readers wouldn’t know if Pat Mills or Bob Mills were writing the latest Judge Dredd story and wouldn’t know to follow them from project to project. Once that system of ‘JACK KIRBY DREW THIS!, WILL EISNER WROTE IT!’ etc was in place, the publishers had their full power of the deal negated.
There’s an obvious, built in sales increase to a Neil Gaiman or Frank Miller writing, say. The Flash that wouldn’t be matched by an uncredited writer and for a time, while it hasn’t been by ANY means perfect, we’ve been living in a time where a creator was a major draw in the buying of a comic. I mean, to me, that’s the only reason I buy any comic anymore. If Chaykin writes Lady Death, I’ll buy Lady Death. When he stops writing it, I’ll stop buying it.
‘The Button’ is almost the final result of Variant Pre-Order culture in the last few years which is: Order a large amount of comics sight unseen, get a rare cover for that comic that you can sell on for several times the cover to people who haven’t worked out how Google Images work yet.
As the comics are now being sold to retailers based on the ratio based covers, the creative team is totally irrelevant. To the point where Marvel are now attempting to solicit pre-orders from retailers without any information on the artists and writers responsible for creating the thing.
Which is my problem, ultimately, with ‘The Button’. At least with ‘Before Watchmen’, DC knew they were walking into a critical minefield by touching that property and led their advertising by explaining that some of the best in the industry would be working on it.
But in this instance:
Quick, who’s drawing the issue of The Flash it ties into?
Sure, those in The Biz know, but it’s been so low on the list of things mentioned in the hype, I’m surprised DC even bothered mentioned it. It wouldn’t be the first time they tried soliciting a big-ticket item without pushing the team on the book since they tried selling their second wave of 3-D covers to retailers by asking us to check their website rather than putting that information in Previews.
That is the essence of the problem. Watchmen is an incredibly idiosyncratic and influential work that I genuinely believe no other creators could have created together (Certainly there was nothing in DC’s output at the time that was anything near it, in terms of ambition beyond ‘Let’s hope we don’t get cancelled.’ or ‘Who hasn’t Batman punched this month?’) that is far, far more than the superficial elements of funny speech patterns or superheroes being a bit miserable.
And honestly, I think those elements have been ripped off badly so many times that I think DC thinks that’s all Watchmen IS, and obviously doing what looks to be essentially an expensive issue of Brave And The Bold doesn’t require Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons or in fact any creator who’d demand a high page rate.
Which is why I won’t be buying ‘The Button’. I think to do so would be telling DC (Intentionally or otherwise.) that their properties are far more important than the people who work on them. That any characters they happen to own should be treated as commodities to be exploited as cheaply as possible and the creators are interchangeable worker ants who should be worked hard, paid little and only credited if you have.
I learned better than that.
March 11, 2017 | Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: Alan Moore, DC Comics, Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima, Konami, Metal Gear Solid 5, Norman Reedus, P.T., Silent Hills, The Button, Video Games, Watchmen | Leave a comment