Your Corporate-Owned Mythology

When I head that IDW Publishing was releasing a comic titled Rick Veitch’s The One, I wondered if it was another soulless reboot, or a continuation, or whether Veitch himself was involved. I’d read The One back in the mid-eighties, when creator-owned comics were still a fairly new thing. It’s a Cold War superhero parody/social commentary thing, but it was eclipsed by genre deconstructions like Watchmen that came soon afterward. Only intended as a mini-series, it ran for six issues, got some moderate acclaim, and then vanished. Today it’s pretty obscure.

Looking for information, I found an interview that Veitch did with Vulture. The short answer is that IDW is reprinting the original series for a modern audience, because some of the themes have become timely again. What’s more fascinating is some of the other things that Veitch said during the interview. Skipping over his politics and the fact that he’s a 911 Truther, his views on creativity got me thinking.

In the same world where corporations regularly raid the public domain to reimagine characters from history and literature, they own all of our modern mythology. We do not have the same privilege of reusing, remixing, and repurposing our heroes. Well, we do, because there is fanfiction and fan art and cosplay, but we do not own those products of our imagination because they’re derivative. Veitch goes on to talk about how he thinks things like cosplay are actually stifling peoples’ creativity, rather than providing an outlet for it.

“They’ll be like crowding the aisles of these shows. Instead of comics nerds looking for old comics, it’s people sort of strutting around, almost like a festival or Mardi Gras or something. What I don’t like about it is they’re not expressing themselves with images that come from themselves. They are dressing themselves in these prepackaged, corporate archetypes, and I’m not sure where that all goes. I think, as a creator, I want to stand against that.”

As a creator, there’s a lot for me to unpack in that. In order to make a living, I am beholden to certain structures. There are ways that I have to market and sell the things that I write and design, and there are expectations that potential customers have that I need to comply with to some degree or I won’t be able to pay the rent. It is incredibly frustrating sometimes. Not only do I have to choose between art and commerce, I need to realize that I’m supporting the boundaries and restrictions and misconceptions and sincerely held beliefs people have about art and commerce with the choices that I make.

What I need to do is find ways to think outside the box, while somehow staying inside the box. That’s where people are going to be looking for what I have to offer. I have to find ways to deal with these seeming contradictions, to express myself while still being able to earn a living. Hopefully, I can do so without going off the rails and embracing notions like 911 being an inside job.

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