There's one more thing I want to get to before I close out my run of Ken Penders posts, and that's fanboy rationalization.
There's a meme that I've seen infect the anti-Penders fanboys, since the suit was settled: "If only Ken had been nice when he asserted his copyrights, the fans wouldn't be so angry at him."
Here's somebody named Strike Carson making that argument to me in a 2013 comments thread at TSSZ News (via archive.org since TSSZ News appears to have nuked its comments section in a software upgrade):
Penders did something behind the backs of Sega and Archie that strained the relationship and almost got the comic cancelled. Maybe I’m mixing the two stories up… But still, Archie may have ignored him for the royalties, but it was Penders decision not to let Archie know what he was going to do if he wasn’t given the compensation he deserves as stated by law. You know, that whole threatening legal action thing if he’s not paid for what’s legally his? Had he done that in the first place, perhaps he would have had much more sympathy from us.
And here's the same argument, as put forward by Tylinos on the Ken Penders messageboard:
While it'd be silly to deny that The Spice Must Flow is a significant factor in it, it should be pointed out that the most commonly cited reason here was the attitude of the whole thing, and how absurd it all looked. (Even outsiders who don't read or even dislike the comic have been among those against how Ken went about it.)
Ken could've even underminded The Spice Must Flow mentality a bit by easing into the situation with some psychology, starting out slow with a "Well, I did make these characters" and nothing more and slowly building support up to saying "I should get payment for their use," instead of immediately starting out with that.
Heck, odd as it is, even among people against how he's acted, there's been near-unanimous agreement toward him getting reprint compensation for the stories he wrote. (Which, I know, isn't in the way of the spice anyway.)
The Spice Must Flow definitely factored in, but it's fairly clear that going about the whole thing a different way would've changed fan reaction immensely, and could've bitten past it.
And jameygamer in the same thread:
If he had been a lot less uptight when this whole mess started, he would be better off in terms of reputation.
These are people who, during the years Archie was suing Penders, said they were mad at Penders because his claims were frivolous and false. Since it turned out his claims weren't actually frivolous or false, they've changed their rationalization; now they say they would totally have been on Penders's side if only he hadn't been so rude about the whole thing. We have always been at war with Eurasia.
Of course, that's nonsense; it's rationalization. They're not arriving at their conclusion based on facts; they're starting with their conclusion (Rrrr, Penders bad!) and then cherry-picking facts to support it.
A rational person changes his opinion when confronted with new facts. When I first heard about Penders asserting his copyrights, I reacted with disbelief; I thought it was unfathomable that Archie would have neglected to make him sign a contract.
As it became clear that I was wrong and that was exactly what had happened, I changed my opinion. (Not for nothin', I also admitted I was wrong and apologized for being kind of a dick about it.)
These fanboys, of course, are not rational; they haven't changed their opinions, only their justifications for those opinions.
And, needless to say, I don't believe for a second that there is anything Ken Penders could have done differently that would have prevented fanboys from howling for his blood. If he'd done exactly what Strike Carson, Tylinos, and jameygamer said he should have done, then Strike Carson, Tylinos, and jameygamer would be up there saying that they would have taken his side if only he'd done something else instead.
Well, maybe not Tylinos. He seems like a pretty reasonable guy, at least.
And I'm not just saying that because he was (at least partially) agreeing with something I'd said earlier. When he said "The spice must flow," he was referring to a phrase I'd used in a post about Jim Starlin back in 2012:
Guys like that? It's not about the law and it's not about the ethics. It's The Spice Must Flow. It doesn't matter how Marvel treats creators, as long as it keeps putting out product to consume.
There's always a fresh rationalization on the horizon. "He signed a contract." No he didn't. "Well, he's dead now." Okay, but this guy's alive. "The character we know is the work of dozens of creators over a period of decades, so no one person can really claim credit to him." Even if that were true in some cases, Thanos is unmistakably Jim Starlin's character. "Well, it was only a tiny cameo, so he's not entitled to anything." And once Thanos has more than a cameo, it's going to be "Well okay, that's terrible, but the industry's not like that anymore; it's all better now." (A point Scott Kurtz raised recently, right about two weeks before Static co-creator Robert Washington III died of multiple heart attacks at the age of 47 and his family had to turn to charity to get him buried.)
There is and will continue to be a vocal minority of comic book fans who will side with the publishers no matter what. (Oh God how I hope it's a minority -- but I think it is. You can find a vocal population of people on the Internet who will angrily, zealously defend absolutely any dumbass position you can possibly think of.)
And here's what I said to Strike Carson:
Every single comic book copyright dispute in history says the fanboys would have been just as enraged no matter what he did.
Siegel and Shuster sell Superman for $130? Tough titty; they signed a contract.
Jack Kirby gets no royalties for any of the work he did at Marvel? Tough titty; he signed a contract.
Point out that Jack Kirby didn’t actually sign a contract? Well, that’s just how things were done back then, man!
DC continues to exploit Watchmen against Alan Moore’s wishes, even though in 1985 they made a big thing of how it was a creator-owned book? Tough titty, man, he signed a contract!
Marvel demands $17,000 from broke Gary Friedrich and demands he stop referring to himself as the creator of Ghost Rider? They’re just protecting their interests!
Archie screws creators out of royalties for decades, grinds anyone who legally challenges them into paste, actually removes Dan DeCarlo’s name from reprints, then a creator comes along asking for what Archie legally owes him, Archie doesn’t respond, he provides sufficient evidence to back them into a corner and get them to agree to a settlement — and you’re complaining that he didn’t issue enough legal threats beforehand? Seriously, dude?
Yeah. I’m sure if Penders had threatened to sue Archie in 2010, all the people in this thread who are crying for Penders’s head for the crime of, um, asking for the rights he is entitled to by law, would have totally been on his side.
To the anti-creator fanboys, the facts don't matter, the law doesn't matter, the ethics don't matter, and actual human beings do not matter. All that matters is that they get the comics they want.
They'll tell you differently, and they probably believe it -- after all, most people don't realize when they're rationalizing, and most of these are individual people opining on individual cases. By and large, the guy dumping on Penders is probably not the same guy dumping on the Kirbys is not the same guy dumping on the Siegels is not the same guy dumping on the Shusters is not the same guy dumping on Wolfman is not the same guy dumping on Friedrich is not the same guy dumping on Starlin (or Ditko or Gaiman or Moore or DeCarlo or whoever). If you're not the sort of person who follows these stories, who's seen this conversation play out dozens of times in different permutations, you don't see the pattern.
But there is a pattern. And the pattern is, there are always fanboys who care more about the product than about the human beings who created it. That's the long and short of it. The justifications may change from case to case, but the attitude is always the same: "Fuck that guy, I just want my comics."
That's it for my Penders coverage. But I'm sure we'll be right back here talking about exactly the same things the next time a comics creator has a dispute with a publisher.