Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life over fifty

I want to address a few things that have  been bothering me a lot lately. Bear with me, if you're a fan of my work or not. This comes from my perspective, with over 33 years in the comic book industry, and my experiences are common to many of your favorite seasoned comic books creators.

First off, I want you all to understand that I welcome , nourish and encourage new blood in the comic book world.  I think it's healthy for any industry, to be welcoming to new talent. When I started in comics, in 1980, many of my artistic heroes were in the same age group I myself am in now. I was thrilled to be in the same club as Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Gene Colan, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan, John and Sal Buscema, John Romita, Don Heck, Gray Morrow and many many others. They were all valued for their skills, and their experience, and most if not all all worked steadily into their 70's, or until they passed away. 

In my own experience, I have worked most of my years for DC Comics, and that was by choice. The people who worked there were good people, and I still call many of them friend. Like any young artist, I had offers to work elsewhere, and occassionally dipped my toe into other company's ponds, but always came back to DC. At DC, I have had many successes, and opportunities. I was thrilled to help establish the All Star Squadron and Infinity Inc with Roy Thomas. I was thrilled to be part of the original "Crisis" as well as "Zero Hour" and "Infinite Crisis," all major DC character event comics. I was thrilled to help DC share in the success of the 1989 blockbuster "Batman" movie by drawing one of the best selling comic book movie adaptations ever. 

I poured my heart and soul into reviving the character of Superman, working alongside John Byrne and Marv Wolfman at first, later graduating to writing Superman's adventures alongside people who became my best friends. I left the Superman universe at a time when our successes paved the way for a TV series, "Lois and Clark" as well as an unsuccessful attempt to bring the Death of Superman to the big screen with Tim Burton and Nic Cage. Superman as a property was revived, and led to a ton of Death of Superman merchandise, a higher profile in the public eye, and renewed interest among kids.  A cartoon series did make it on the air, and was terrific. Smallville the tv series owes a lot to what happened when I was involved in the comics.

 I moved on to pouring my soul into reviving Captain Marvel, and it was a wonderful experience that lasted through an original graphic novel, and 48 regular issues of the monthly comic plus an annual. After that, I seemed to suffer from the cancellation of Shazam, and a firing from the Superman books I had been invited back to, before I even started. Bad feelings ensued, and I stopped working for DC.

I went to work at Marvel for a few years, and enjoyed my work on the Avengers, Captain America, Thor, as well as drawing the company wide crossover "Maximum Security: and the spin off USAgent mini-series. When my opportunities dried up at Marvel, I went to work on a smattering of Wildstorm books, on comics such as Tom Strong, Top Ten, Planetary and a mini-series with Hollywood writers Danny Bilson and Paul Demeo, "Red Menace."

I returned to DC as well, drawing Wonder Woman with Walt Simonson writing, and then fell into the situation of being a "fill-in" artist, jumping from title to title, sometimes drawing a whole issue or two, sometimes drawing only a partial issue, when the regular artists were either in deadline trouble, or unavailable. I was offered, and accepted an exclusive DC contract in hopes that this would somehow help me to land a regular assignment, and steady work. After 9 years of being the guy who was thrown at late deadline material, I was still not any closer to getting regular work, nor was I being treated by the company as a valued employee. In my last year on exclusive contract, I was starved of work. Kind of hard to believe, but there it was.The contract had no clause to require DC to give me a minimum amount of work, as this problem never happened in the past, and could have happen, or so I thought at the time.  I drew the last two issues of JSA so that the regular artist could jump onto one of the new "52" comic launches. After that, I spent the summer trying to use whatever connections I had to get work-- any work. I was finally given a short Batman themed story to draw, a story that was never published. Dan Didio kindly invited me to join him on a new Challengers story, and Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey asked for me on their Freedom Fighters re-launch. That manifest itself as the now concluding Human Bomb four issue series, done after my contract expired, but promised while the contract was still in effect. 

I am thrilled to be well remembered, and respected in the comic book community, and to have fans willing to pay me to draw commissions, but I got into comics in order to tell stories, not to draw custom art. I still feel vital, and still want to be at that table. Do I think DC comics owes me anything? Yes and no. I understand that no company owes anything that isn't contractually stipulated, but in my heart, I think I deserve better than being marginalized over the last 10 years. I'm not retired, I'm not financially independent. I'm a working guy with a family, working for a flat page rate that hasn't changed substantially since 1995. I may have opportunities at smaller companies, companies that pay less per page than I made in 1988, with no royalties or ownership of any kind. I'm not at all looking down at that, but it is hard to reconcile, as I can't work faster, and refuse to hack my work out to match the rate. I have pride in what I do, and always have. As to my part in the history of dc for the past 33 years, I was a highly visible and successful part of it, not a minor footnote.

Getting back to the beginning of this essay, and to the artists I loved as a kid, all I ask is for some of the same consideration my generation of creators and editors gave to the older guard in the 1980's. My work is still sharp, my mind is still full of stories to tell, and I'm still willing to work all hours of my day to meet my deadlines. Why am I out of work from the publishers? Why are my friends, people who turned in great work, worthy of hardcover and trade paperback reprints, not able to get work? 

As a comic reader and customer, the publishers use our older work in collected editions, for what they call first copy royalties, no reprint fees. They publish the All Star Squadron trade, for example and you buy it for whatever the cost. My royalty is maybe a couple hundred dollars, if I'm lucky, for 11 issues worth of work. On a recent Absolute Infinite Crisis hardcover, I had 30-odd pages reprinted in there, a book that retailed for over a hundred dollars-- a book that DC never even gave me a copy of, and the royalty amounted to a few dollars, I couldn't buy a pizza on that windfall. I want to work, I don't want to be a nostalgia act, remembered only for what I did 20, 30 years ago.

Older fans need to voice their opinions, and ask the various companies why (fill in the blank) person isn't drawing or writing comics for them anymore. If you like the Superman books enough to spend a hundred dollars on a volume, I don't understand why your buying power can't wake the companies up to the fact that they have a willing and able talent pool idling. 

Oh and put in a good word or two for me as well, why don't you:)

174 comments:

Stu said...

Its a shame the way they're treating you. I really loved your artwork, and your inkwork on others. I don't know why they're ignoring you, but its their loss. Hopefully they'll wake up. The new 52 SUCKS. The heroes are anti-heroes. They're anything but heroes.

Diane Darcy said...

Sad to hear you've been haven't been getting any steady work. I absolutely loved your work on the JSA Annual and all of the Infinity Inc books, which were before my time. You are actually one of my favourite artists and wish I could draw as well as you do.

Chuck Dixon said...

Jerry, I hear you and I share so many of the feelings you express here. Like you, I feel underemployed in comics. To pay the bills I've turned to writing prose and stuff for movies and web content. It's work and I'm grateful. But It's not what I'm best at and not what I was born to do. I'm a comic book writer. That's what I want to do. DC gave me my biggest breaks and I will always be grateful. But, like you, they continue to re-print my work often but have forgotten I exist as a still-vital, still-working creator. It hurts that a talent as incredible as yours is not in demand and working steady. I have always been a huge fan and miss not seeing your work on a regular basis.

Mark Verheiden said...

I love comics but the politics and seemingly arbitrary decision making can put the machinations of the film and TV world to shame. Like Chuck I'm a long time fan and it's a shame you're not inundated with work.

Bill said...

Jerry, as a fan I've followed your work for years. As a comics creator, I've been inspired by that work. And as a person, been inspired by you in the way you've been in the public and in the industry. I met you at Chicago, I think, and you appear to be that same nice guy. I hope to see something positive, creative and rewarding happen for you and for so many other comics creator who have impacted my life these many years. Thanks.

Simon Williams said...

Hi Jerry,

As a long-time fan of your work, it makes me feel really sad to read this. I often wonder why artists I grew up reading and enjoying... artists who like yourself still have much to offer (and draw todays generation under the table, I may add!) aren't getting work. I understand that companies may want to keep their products fresh, but that shouldn't come at the sacrifice of those who helped build those products. Sadly, this dog-eat-dog business doesn't always look after us creators... happily discarding people for the next big thing.
I for one haven't bought Superman in a long-time. The new 52 version leaves me cold. I would however, buy it tomorrow if you were on the art-chores again. .. dodgy New 52 outfit and all ;)

Wishing you the very best, Jerry. I hope DC, Marvel and others will see sense and get you back into the spotlight. You deserve it :)

Michael Manley said...

Preach it Brother Ordway!

Cathy and Dave said...

Dave sez,

I believe 100% that you should be working on DC books. I loved All-Star Squadron, Infinity, Inc. and Power of Shazam.

But it is a huge shame that DC has moved away from the kind of books and storytelling that you would do.

I DO let my wallet speak. I'm not supporting much of the books in The New 52, because the purpose of the relaunch is to leave a mark. Only Aquaman seems to be about telling stories and improving a character's image and profile.

But the idea of reviving concepts that marginally worked thirty to forty years ago and marginally attempting to make them work again for grins and giggles.

I like to read good, fun stories.

I'm 47. The New 52 is NOT aimed at me. Very few new titles are any more.

I would LOVE it if you were drawing James Robinson's Earth 2!

Matt said...

Wow Jerry im so sorry. I love your work always have. I would do just about anything to see you back writing and drawing a superman book. I love the commissions you have done for me. The art is so amazing you still have it. Some of the new talent xant even hold a candle to your work.

joesmith7789 said...

Jerry,
Companies do not want workers over the age of 45 in most cases no matter how talented they are. Those that survive post 45 are doing well these days. CEO's are pushing hard for a 70 year old retirement age onto congress. Jerry look around, how many people over 50 are working these days for others? Imagine telling every NYC employee at age 50 they are not going to get a pension and they need to keep working? What you need to do Jerry is to publish a book with your own artwork from scratch showing what happens to the over 50 crowd in the USA when it comes to finding employment. You can then publish the book, embarrass those that ignore your talents, go on a book tour, make the rounds on TV and radio shows, collect large sums for this book, start a movement, testify to congress about your plight and then retire.

Kid U #not said...

I'd LOVE to see you doing some creator owned comics! Especially with the many talented creators that have post a comment to this post.

You're all great!


Kairam

Andre St-Amour said...

Jerry (and my idols and elders),
I REALLY don't understand the current corporate-comics-company mentality of NOT hiring masters to work on their titles. Perhaps they are worried that the elder masters would make the current crop of "talent" seem terrible in comparison.
Who knows.
If I had the money and resources, I would hire you Jerry and every other writer and artist that I admired and learned from.
Shameful state of affairs the "big bosses" have put the comics biz in.

Leonard Strazewski said...

Sorry to read this. During the brief time I worked in comics, you were always kind and supportive, even when DC turned sour on me. In the late 1990s I took an opportunity to become a college professor. Now I'm associate provost of Columbia College Chicago, the largest arts and media college in the country. I miss working on the big characters, but I don't miss needing to suck up.

Jim McClain said...

Jerry, it's a crime that they haven't given you more work. I've been a fan since All-Star Squadron. I'd like to chime in with others who have commented here and say that I'd love to see something creator-owned from you and that I'd buy it in a heartbeat. New 52 does nothing for me, either.

Graham Nolan said...

Jer-
This business has a long history of ignoring the talent that continues to bring cash into their bottom line. They make thousands reprinting your work. If that work is selling, common sense would say that there is a demand for it.

Ever read Herb Trimpie's article in the NY Times? I printed it out and re-read it every now and then as a cautionary tale that NOBODY is safe in this business.

You are GREAT. Don't ever let those talentless hacks define you. Sometimes you have to do an endrun around them to wake them up to your talent. It sucks to continually have to prove your worth but as long as the fire in your belly burns you will outlast them all!

Andrew Whitworth said...

I've always enjoyed your work. Sadly, I stopped reading modern comics a year ago. They seem too much like media events designed to get mention on the evening news more than stories these days and I stopped enjoying them so I can't help much on letter writing front. But I have often wondered why such and such artist who's work is indistinguishable from a 4 year old's scribblings continually gets work and all the good artists seem to have disappeared. It's a sad commentary on the future of the industry.

Andrew Whitworth said...

I've always enjoyed your work. Sadly, I stopped reading modern comics a year ago. They seem too much like media events designed to get mention on the evening news more than stories these days and I stopped enjoying them so I can't help much on letter writing front. But I have often wondered why such and such artist who's work is indistinguishable from a 4 year old's scribblings continually gets work and all the good artists seem to have disappeared. It's a sad commentary on the future of the industry.

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

Jerry, I fear we are at a time in our lives where Big Companies favor cheapness and current fashion over loyalty, hard work, and expertise. This is why I haven't written any comics lately -- or even done work-for-hire novels. There are a lot of us out here, and we're with you, buddy. (And I will ask around to see if I can find some decent comics work to throw your way.)

Unknown said...

Been a fan of your work ever since I discovered your inks on All-Star Squadron #1. And when you took over pencils on the book with #19, that book only got better. Every time I've seen your name listed on a book, EVERY time, I've bought it, regardless of character or company. The Human Bomb mini-series, most recently, has been awesome! Truth is, though I'm a Jimmy & Justin fan, it was Da Ordster being onboard the project that got me to buy the book. Anyway, bottom line, I'll continue to buy your comics work wherever or whenever I see it, so keep them pages comin'!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mikeyboy said...

There are entire series and blocks of series I stopped buying due to the fact I don't enjoy the art...i am not the only guy. Men like you Jerry are what can bring us all back. If you were doing Avengers or JLA... It would be a dream come true.
You are one of the guys whose work I love.
Yes...you should have a regular gig. I'd start buying comics again.

Dale said...

It's a shame, a real shame how mature creators are treated by both DC and Marvel. Is there any doubt that your work is still popular currently ? They don't seem to hesitate much when they want to release big bucks hardcover reprints of your previous works. I see Marvel reprinting the works of John Byrne over and over again, but mention his name and you hear the derision in their voices.

I dropped comic books cold turkey about one year before the Nu52. I was spending nearly 200 dollars every month on something that no longer brought me joy and the savings actually allowed me to buy my house faster than planned.

I still read comics, the ocassional hard cover Walking Dead, Invincibles, and I will seek out DC's reprinting of Gil Kane's Superman, Crisis on Multiple Earths, etc. Maybe I've outgrown it, or maybe I'm not getting the quality I'm paying for.

Andrew BK Tan said...

Hi Jerry,

I'm a big Batman fan and I absolutely adored your rendition on the Batman Movie Adaptation, as well as your interpretation of Batman in the regular monthly comics back in the 80s.

I sincerely hope that DC or Marvel will hire you again. In addition, I hope that you will get to work on cool projects from the independent publishers.

Take good care Jerry and God Bless!

Lancel Xavier said...

And another stone to the edifice of disdain and unrespect towards creators who worked for them Marvel & DC are building.
You're so right when you say there is a paradox into not giving work to people you make money with new editions of their previous work.

Chris Weston said...

Hey, Jerry, if it's any form of consolation, you are one of my ten year old son's favourite artists. (Which shows "good taste" is genetically inherited as I never try to force my opinions on him! I show him stuff but never prompt his opinions ). I gave him my old copy of the Batman Movie Adaptation, and I swear it never left his grasp for about a year. Your recent work on the Green Lantern movie stuff also delighted him. So, rest assured, your artwork IS being appreciated by a whole new generation, at least in my house. Hang in there. (On a side note: I've always wanted to see you draw a Judge Dredd episode. Maybe now would be a great time.) Very best wishes, Chris Weston.

Chris Weston said...

Hey, Jerry, if it's any form of consolation, you are one of my ten year old son's favourite artists. (Which shows "good taste" is genetically inherited as I never try to force my opinions on him! I show him stuff but never prompt his opinions ). I gave him my old copy of the Batman Movie Adaptation, and I swear it never left his grasp for about a year. Your recent work on the Green Lantern movie stuff also delighted him. So, rest assured, your artwork IS being appreciated by a whole new generation, at least in my house. Hang in there. (On a side note: I've always wanted to see you draw a Judge Dredd episode. Maybe now would be a great time.) Very best wishes, Chris Weston.

Chudmeister said...

I love your work why don't you have at doing your own creator owned work I have tons of ideas id love to share even if the first issue you gave away free online im sure theres enough people who love your art it would sell...sell sell the moneys with the t shirts etc these days you have drawn enough icons to design your own!,

Space Station Orbiter: Cloud 99 said...

Mr. Ordway, it's time. It's time to write your own stories. Draw your own creations.It's time to submit to Image, Darkhorse, IDW.It's time to cull your fans and rally them. On your Blog. On your Facebook Page. On Twitter. It's time to embrace those commissions for those fans to help make ends meet. It's time to whip your fans into a frenzy to help with a KICKSTARTER campaign to help support you while you do what you do best. It's time for you to work for YOU and make it work. It's time.

Mike Collins said...

Jerry, I feel your pain-- and echo Chris-- we should get you a Dredd to draw-- it'd be incredible!

Simon Fraser said...

Ordway on Dredd! YES!

David Jablow said...

Hell, if Image collected Wildstar I'd buy a copy in a second! I loved that series.

Gail said...

This is absurd, in what kind of world would people NOT want Jerry Ordway art and stories?

It's ridiculous.

Jerry, speaking as a writer, I would be ABSOLUTELY THRILLED AND HONORED to work with you on anything you deigned to draw. The little bits of things we've gotten to work together on made me ridiculously happy.

You draw like electricity, anyone can see that.

I hope some smart editor sees this and hears my words, WE WANT JERRY. The guy is a total pro, a brilliant artist, check out how he drew Black Alice to see he is AMAZING with young, hip heroes and female characters. Make a writer's day and HIRE THIS MAN.

William Hodge said...

I've been a fan of your work since All-Star Squadron. If you ever decide to do your own stuff, do it through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, I will definitely support it.

mik3cap said...

Jerry, what William Hodge said. Please consider an independently published project; Kickstarter can make this a reality, it has done so for many artists. Team up with someone who has a good record with Kickstarter campaigns to guide you through the process, and you can surely make some magic happen!

mik3cap said...

Jerry, what William Hodge said. Please consider an independently published project; Kickstarter can make this a reality, it has done so for many artists. Team up with someone who has a good record with Kickstarter campaigns to guide you through the process, and you can surely make some magic happen!

mik3cap said...

Jerry, what William Hodge said. Please consider an independently published project; Kickstarter can make this a reality, it has done so for many artists. Team up with someone who has a good record with Kickstarter campaigns to guide you through the process, and you can surely make some magic happen!

Juan Ferreyra said...

I always loved your stuff since the early adventures of superman!! I copied at lot of your drawings and learned from them! the love for all the characters you drew I could tell they were made with love! I followed you through WildStar (I always wished and wondered why you didn't keep doing creator owned stuff..), Shazam, etc.
I was wondering why you weren't getting more work, specially with so BAD BAD art on a lot of the current DC books... Shame on them!

buzz86 said...

I love your work Jerry. Power of Shazam is still one of my favorite runs on comics. It really sucks that your work is being marginalized. Hopefully they tap you for the Earth-S material on Multiversity if/when that ever comes out...

Brandon Clarke said...

You're one of the all-time greats, Mr. Ordway.

You are the reason many of us today still believe in Superman.

It would be great to see you take your talents to Image or Kickstarter to publish something creator-owned.

Jim Smith said...

I love your work. I would certainly buy an Image title, whether a mini-series or an ongoing, that was your creation, that you owned and which you, rather than Time Warner or Disney, would profit from. I'm sure there are many other people who feel the same.

Tim said...

I have been wondering why I haven't seen your art or writing anywhere. I've been searching for it. Your work on Captain Marvel and The Power of Shazam is the absolute favorite part of my comic collection. Not only is Cap my favorite character but you are my most favorite artist and writer who has ever tackled him. This new 52 of DC's is absolute crap. I hate it. Obviously, however, someone out there loves it because sales are high enough to warrant them continuing to produce this drivel. I want Ordway stories and art back. I want superheroes to be heroes again. I have always wanted to draw comics myself, however, I want to make art and stories in the same style as yours and if the current powers that be don't want to publish that kind of work then there is no use in me ever trying. I think maybe its time for another defection. Maybe you should lead a group to start another comics powerhouse in the same way the Image boys did in the 90's (Only with superheroes and not sci fi). It is time for a comic revolution! If that is not meant to be then just tell me who and where I need to complain to in order to get my artist and writer heroes back behind the pen so I can enjoy comics again! For the sake of all true comic book fans, I wish you the best!

Matt said...

Time to bring back Wildstar. If you have stories to tell, I am sure there are publishers who would be happy to print them. Image IDW Dark horse, go creator owned. Yeah the pinch might be in the paycheck at first but if it hits well you will be way better off. You already have a fan base and a character. Wildstar was one of the best Image books back in the day, and I would buy another Image book by you any day. I am not a Superman fan so never bought any of those books, but that doesn't mean that it was not your bread and butter and paid the bills. Hopefully something works out and this post is the snowball that starts the avalanche.

Mitchell Hallock said...

It goes without saying you know I consider you amongst the greatest artist ever in comics - and my list is Wood, Romita, Byrne, Buscema, Streanko, Kane just to name a few...

Your article just goes along with what I see is wrong with the comics industry in general - they are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel for a fast buck - and then move on - and forget the art of telling and a story - worse yet they are not getting the folks who invented the wheels to craft the stories! NIG MISTAKE!

Not to sound like an old fogie - but the saying "they dont make _________ like the used to" applies almost everywhere lately - including comics - where are the complicated stories, the actual skill of telling a story with great sequences - no one is speaking up - they just keep buying a diluted product. Fine it keeps comics going but is it quality or quantity? Publish 8-10 titles of the same character every week/month and just give the consumer overload and dilute the storytelling process.

The media has created this I think - the influence of movies and TV have made comics a fast food item - quick load it with empty calories and throw it out there - they all want the next Biliion dollar Avengers movie - or Walking Dead - not realizing it took decades of great storytelling to come up with a two hour hit - or in the case of
"the walking dead" - 10 years of comics for about 36 episodes of TV so far.

The big corporations forget that the JJ Abrams, Kirkmans, Whedons are all in their 40s and we all grew up reading the same comics.. and now they are the wunderkind of Hollywood - well why not go back to the guys who influenced them all and ask them to craft some stories for movies and TV and COMICS! - the Starlins, Wolfmans, Simonsons, and all the rest!

I know when I gather up guests for the annual CT - ComiCONN - the reactions from fans like me are amazing - its like we are Cooperstown and the legends like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig are arriving! Heck - I have to keep pinching myself when I realize I am talking to the guys who's work I would race to the comic shops week after week to see what amazing new worlds they world transport me to with each new issue with great stories and art!

Well if any of the comic creators out there from the 70s, 80s and 90s are looking to collaborate on the next BIG story - this wunderkind in Trumbull, CT has a few scripts gathering dust on the shelf that could well be the next "Avnegers", "Hunger Games" , "Walking Dead" or "Spider-Man" - so give me a shout! Or come to ComiCONN and meet the fans to whom all of you writers and artists are HEROES!

Unknown said...

I'm a longtime fan of yours and an artist/writer, myself. After years and years of trying to better myself creatively and attempting to get mainstream work from DC and Marvel, I eventually came to a stark realization that I'm only getting older and am increasingly going to run out of more time to tell the stories that I want to tell.

That said, after trying over and over to get mainstream work, I'm at a place in my life these days that as much as I'd love to draw/write Superman, Daredevil, etc., I'm more and more into telling MY stories. I'm now sketching out the 230+ pages of a western graphic novel that I've created and written and hope to eventually get out there into the comic industry wild west. I figured if I'm going to follow my passions and do what I want to do, I may as well create that which is most important to me. That's my western.

In light of all of what I've just typed, I must say, Mr. Ordway, that as much as I enjoy your work on characters like (my favorite) Superman and the other mainstream stuff you've done over the years, I'D LOVE TO SEE YOU DO SOME CREATOR OWNED STUFF!!! I REALLY loved your Wildstar book that came out of Image in the early to mid 90s and would love to see you bring that back or bring out another creation altogether.

Think Field Of Dreams on this one, man. "If you build it...THEY WILL COME!" The THEY in this case being WE-your fans. You build it...I'm sooo in!!! ;)

Built To iLL said...

You guys should get together and do some creator owned stuff. I know a ton of people who would buy a Dixon/Ordway joint

Penelopecat said...

As a longtime fan of yours, I echo what so many others have said: if DC and Marvel aren't giving you a chance to tell stories, maybe it's time to tell them on your own? It breaks my heart that companies whose output I used to love are no longer employing vibrant, vital creators just because they've had the bad manners to stick around too long and not let their talent diminish. If you were to put out your own creations, through Image or online or whatever other outlet is available to you, I would buy them. If you raised money through Kickstarter or whatever, I would support you. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.

surly hack said...

Jerry, I feel your pain. There is both a short term memory and business model at work here, as well as a general lack of class and respect. Unlike you, I didn't devote the bulk of my career at one publisher, and so I'm angry at all of them. If, as the Supreme Court has ruled, corporations are people, they are people without honor, without shame.

Hilary Barta, aka the Surly Hack.

R.R. Werner said...

I'll echo what a few others are saying in that the New 52 leaves me cold as well and that an Ordway book is one book that I would pick up.

I too fear the future with raised retirement ages and no company wanting to hire anyone over 40. Comics are becoming more corporate with quality not being valued and the bottom line is all that matters. So, in this economy, the best thing might be to make your own luck. Be your own CEO.

The Big 2 never really took care of many of their artists long term so the best thing might be to become a Creator. A TRUE creator. In that, I mean not just the writer or inker of someone else's product but of your own creation to ensure a greater percentage of the pie. Own that IP.

I know, as an artist, we just want to make art and be compensated for our quality of work but those with a little business savvy might make the industry work better for them during the long term. Maybe being that creation's owner is that solution?

I also wonder if today's hiring and editors isn't so much of a young man's game as also a social game of keeping connected with twitter, a web and forum presence, letting the industry know you are out there, etc.? Again, just more junk that keeps the artist from creating but it does seem like an important part of self promotion and the industry today.

You are appreciated, Jerry. The Fans and Pros here can attest to that fact.

Mark Casbeer said...

Such a travesty. I grew up with you as one of my favorite artists. From what I've seen of some of your more recent work, your still better then many of the artists DC uses for the New 52. Good luck to you in whatever you do next.

Frank M. Young said...

America has become ageist in its attitudes. If you're over 40, there's automatically something suspect about you.

1) Since you're that age, you're going to want more money, because you have all this experience. This was once an asset to a career. Now it's become a liability, due to the penurious attitude of employers.

2) America is in love with youth. Companies want sexy young faces working for them. Experience and wisdom are trumped by the bright-eyed facade of younger life-forms. America has always embraced its young, but it's become a religion, to the skewed exclusion of post-40 people.

3) Employers are cheapskates. They'd rather hire unexperienced youth that they can underpay. Most companies want replaceable cogs, instead of valuable, responsible leaders and movers. Even in comics, that lowly popular art form, they prefer kids who will do anything for lousy pay, just to get their work out there.

4) Younger people are outwardly condescending to older people. It's become commonplace in our youth-obsessed culture to dismiss and scorn anyone over 40. We're seen as slow, dull and hopelessly out-of-it. This is wrong, but it's become the status quo.

I don't know how this scenario will play out, but age, wisdom and experience are of less value than they've ever been in our society right now. It's a distressing state of affairs, and an ignorant, prejudiced waste of a tremendous and vital resource.

Amber Love said...

Hi, Jerry
I'm not sure what to say since I'm a new fan to comics but consider the old Superfriends and Amazing Friends a critical part of my upbringing. I'm also part of the fresh blood trying to make any kind of way in but DC is not my goal. Too many stories like yours have surfaced in the last year. The place once seemed like every fan's dream has done nothing to redeem its reputation with contractors or women in any capacity.

I know a ton of people have already said it, but DC's loss if they aren't utilizing you. If all of us, a community, could support the smaller press/creator owned efforts, maybe there could be respectable page rates coming from non-Big publishers.

Anyway, I still hope to meet you someday not even to talk comics but just about storytelling.

Amber

Roger Langridge said...

Jerry,

I wish I was doing another Rocketeer series now, so I could ask you to draw it! You'd be so perfect for that. I'd be honoured to work with you on anything at all, really - I've loved your stuff since All-Star Squadron. I hope things turn around for you. In the event I find myself in a position to ask for a particular artist on anything anytime soon, I'd be more than happy to put your name forward.

Godzylla said...

I fail to understand the short-sighted business practices in the industry. In many industries. I've been a fan of your work from the beginning and I miss your stories and art. I wish I could do more than impotently commiserate with you. It's contradictory for DC to want to return to the characters of the past (e.g., Barry Allen, Hal Jordan) but ignore the creators of those better-selling days and alienate the readers who contributed to those higher sales.

Your runs on Superman and ESPECIALLY Power of Shazam! are still some of the finest comics ever produced and I still wasn't more, greedy fan that I am.

comics said...

Dude, you work for the Man. You have no union. You probably have no health benny. You have not the right to your own authorship and art, just what the Man gives you.

If trade paperbacks are reprints you could sue and make what, another $2,000? A lawyer would chew that up just looking at the trade paperback and figuring out if you have a case. And if you live long enough you might collect the fee for the lawyer while paying upfront for the court fees and legal costs. Unless you lose and pay DC's legal fee.

And that is why when you write stories about how great the USA is and how bad the commies are and unions are thugs and we gotta win the war against terror you reap what you sow.

You got reaped dude.

Miserable Dreamer said...

It's outrageous that you aren't drawing a high-profile mainstream title, but the big two do not care what the fans say. All they want is dollars, and if they can pay a college-aged kid (with an apartment and no children) a pittance to draw this stuff, then that's what they'll do.

Personally, when I was in high school, Power of Shazam was my favorite graphic novel ever. I followed the series afterwards until it was cancelled. Your Superman stuff was some of the best work on the character. Good luck and I hope some of the powers that be will see this and come to their senses! (Same goes for Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, Mike Manley and anybody else of considerable talent!)

andy said...

You rock, Jerry, and I so hope all this won't bring you down. Your art will live forever.

Scott Cohn said...

hi jerry,

i've always been a fan of your work, especially during the superman days. when things got tough in my career, i took to heart that "necessity is the mother of all invention". you do deserve better, yes. but i see this as dating. when a company like that shows disinterest, i think it's best to move on.

what about european publishers doing graphic novels? i hear they better in some regards, and maybe more freedom too.

storyboarding for film/cartoons/commercials? you've certainly built up a name to the point any one of these, people would know you and open their doors with glee. GLEE. lucasfilm ignoring your calls? i think not.

illustration work for books, magazines?

learning a computer program or 2? the more skills you have....

i hate hearing that you're treated like this. not the first time, not the last unfortunately. i'd love to hear (well, SEE) you doing any one of these other things. i know you love comics, but they're not the only source for work, and you would kill in any of these other avenues, should you decide to branch out.

Press Oblivion said...

I saw this on Bleeding cool and I couldn't believe what I was reading! Your Superman work was really influential to me and my heart breaks to hear your plea.

As you mentioned, you have stories to tell and perhaps you should go the creator owned rout, I know that there is Mike Mignola success in your creativity, it's time to focus on you!
EJ

John P. said...

So, F those guys. If they don't want to take care of you then lets change the paradigm!

Tell you what, contact Cali Lewis or I and lets figure out how to launch something completely new and independent! We've got millions of followers and I'd be happy to work with you on a project where you actually have some ownership and incentive to succeed as a partner, not as a day laborer. Just email john or cali AT GeekBeat.TV.

Cheers!

John P.

John P. said...

So, F those guys. If they don't want to take care of you then lets change the paradigm!

Tell you what, contact Cali Lewis or I and lets figure out how to launch something completely new and independent! We've got millions of followers and I'd be happy to work with you on a project where you actually have some ownership and incentive to succeed as a partner, not as a day laborer. Just email john or cali AT GeekBeat.TV.

Cheers!

John P.

Spunk Monkey said...

Every comics professional needs to read this and take heed. And to every comics professional out there jsut remember this: If it could happen to Jack Kirby it can happen to you.

PEDRO ANGOSTO said...

As a fan of your work from waaaaay back that have followed your whole career all I can say is that I totally agree with you.

Certeanly DC has handled horribly your last years there, but hey, don't take it personal, Jerry. They do everything with the same lack of good taste.

If only we had some editors smart enough to develop projects that fit a classic artist like you...

But if they can't manage to produce 20 pages a month by a single artist, that would be asking too much of then, wouldn't it? So sad...

Mike Lynch said...

Take Wild Star to Dark Horse! I'll buy it!

Marv said...

It's a long line, Jerry. And it existed long before either of us were even born and will be true for the best of today (and today's best is truly excellent). The big difference is today there are more possibilities and opportunities. If I could draw half as good as you I'd be doing Kickstarter projects.

Rik Mikals said...

Huge Fan Jerry - I hope the companies understand that their are older fans like myself that want Ordway..Perez....Thomas...Conway...all my favorites from a time gone by .. I'm not interested in the young bucks as much as artists and writers of my childhood - you are only getting better at your craft and there are plenty of stories to be told from the greats IMHO..there are still fans that love your work - don't forget that

Arthur Monteath-Carr said...

Have you considered starting a creator-owned project on the Internet? It can be a hard graft, but several creators are making a living from webcomics now.

Kim T. Bené said...

Add my name to the long list of your fans and supporters. I really really loved your work on Shazam and would buy any new DC book you drew... I don't buy any of them now.

Jimmy Palmiotti said...

JIMMY PALMIOTTI

I feel like I won the lottery getting Jerry on human bomb...and the book looks amazing!

I would work on a kickstarter book with you in a heartbeat. I want to work with you again my friend...

Webmaster said...

So sorry you've been treated like this by the corporate comics publishers, Jerry -- you're one of the most gifted comics artists of the past 30 years. It's heartbreaking to think that this could be written just months after Rob Liefeld having, what, three titles on his plate for DC?

The absolute best thing that can come out of this is that future talents will stay the fuck away from comics. There's no better possible outcome at this point, comics is too far gone as an industry.

Joe Rubinstein said...

I get it .Except for some of the title details I have pretty much the same story.I was originally supposed to ink your Human Bomb pencils and I don't know how that job slipped away either.
Joe Rubinstein

Adam Wamer said...

Wishing you nothing but the best, I've greatly enjoyed your work for many years.

Pj Perez said...

Judging by the outpouring of love and support here, I'm pretty sure your lack of work has little to do with what DC editorial thinks is "in demand." I also don't understand why some of your peers (such as Alan Davis, Barry Kitson or Dave Gibbons) are still considered "headliners" while folks such as yourself have been marginalized. I'm sure it's MY own age showing, but when I think of DC, I think of Jerry Ordway. And vice versa.

For a while, it looked like both Marvel & DC were relying on mostly underpaid new talent from countries such as the Philippines to fill all but their biggest sellers as the era of the "showrunner" writer came to prominence. That seems to be less the case, but yeah, they're still reluctant to be associated with anything "old," which ... I guess is very much indicative of comics becoming just like every other entertainment medium. And, not coincidentally, more about the names attached to the product and not the quality of the product itself.

Anyway, it's of no help to you and those in your situation, but for the most part, on the flip side, the newer generation of creators? They won't find themselves in the same place. Because like Neal Adams and the like before them, they wised up to the reality of the work-for-hire industry, and that's why for every DC or Marvel superhero book people like Mark Waid, Mark Millar or Jonathan Hickman writes, they're writing/creating five more original properties of their own, properties from which they'll profit on long-term, especially if translated into other media. And it's also why talented people stopped creating new characters at the "majors" about 10 or 15 years ago. There's no point in creating something dynamic and new under a WFH contract. Nobody wants to be the guy who gives away the next Venom, Cable, or Deadpool.

All that said, put me in line with the rest of the creators who'd love to work with you, and find a way to create something together that will be screw-over-proof. :)

Chudmeister said...

Kickstarter graphic novel anyone?

Chudmeister said...

Kickstarter graphic novel anyone?

Jimmy Palmiotti said...

Joe, Jerry asked to ink his own work. He didnt want to just pencil it.

Donald Hayes said...

Jerry - Brilliant work on the first dozen issues of Infinity Inc. Have long been favorites of mine, in a collection that spans about 50 years (I just turned 40, myself).

I am in the Marketing field and would offer you these suggestions: you must aggressively market your works (both past and present) in such a way that it reaches a global audience, introduces new readers to your art and coerces long-time fans like me into buying more of your work. I saw a mention of kickstarter in a comment above. That's an excellent idea. Jerry Ordway is a brand (NOT a commodity!) that must leverage the power of that brand in the marketplace, creating a line of products that can only be purchased through avenues that you control. Signed works, limited editions, CGC, social media interaction, cultural zeitgeist, Comic-con audiences - all of these things are fair play (to use an old Mr. Terrific trope) and well within your grasp. I would love to be of some assistance to you and it would be my honor to work with you. - Donald

Dave Elliott said...

Hi Jerry,

I won't echo what the many others have said other than to urge you to be proactive. As you've seen on this thread both Gail Simone and Jimmy Palmiotti would both work with you in a second, so do a couple of Kickstarters. Many independent companies such as IDW, Titan Comics and Image Comics would take the book as well in a shot if you didn't want to do the fulfillment yourself.

You ARE a talent. Don't let a few make you think otherwise.

Don said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don said...

Jerry,

It saddens me that artists like you can't find work while companies continue to hire artists who think a deadline is the day they're supposed to stop playing their Playstation and start drawing.

Have you tried Dynamite Entertainment? They're putting out some good comics and, well, could use an artist or two who can draw monthly comics as monthly comics.

E. D. Bass said...

I will support/purchase anything you do Sir. You fed my imagination, and gave a chubby little black boy a place to escape to. i will do my part to aid your active return to the artform we love so dearly

Mitchell Turner said...

I haven't collected comics in probably 20 years but i do recall with fondness your work, especially you & John Byrnes Fantastic Four. Those issues brought back for me the classic Kirby/Sinnott days. I really saw your inking bringing out the best in Byrne's layouts.
I wish you well.

Dark Elf Designs said...

this seems to be rampant through many grat creators and artists out there especially from the late 70's through early 90's. It is a sad state and I am not going to pretend I have all the answers but I have a really great udea that could turn many of you guys inot what the big 4 are seeking as a valuable commodity again. I also sent you something on facebook Jerry.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

I'm reminded of when I heard Steve Rude was in danger of losing his house because he couldn't pay his bills. There is something seriously wrong with "the big two" when they can't recognize MASSIVE TALENT like this.

Jerry, I've been a fan of your work since I first saw that FIREFOX story in that B&W tabloid fanzine (a few years before ALL-STAR SQUADRON). I have often described you as one of the few inkers who has never turned in a bad job in over 30 years (sadly, inkers tend to drop off in quality-- lousy deadlines!). Joe Rubinstein is also on that very short list. HOW do you guys DO it??? But in your case, if anything, your pencils are even better than your inks.

The art on ALL-STAR was often much better than the stories. INFINITY fell off the cliff after you left. SUPERMAN was glorious the whole time you were on it (and Mike Carlin did his best work ever as an editor assembling the various talents on those books for several years-- the character was never as good after he left!). SHAZAM was a joy to behold-- the ONLY modern reinvention of Captain Marvel that I ever really liked. And when you filled in on JSA, you blew all the regular artists totally out of the water. I didn't even like those stories in WONDER WOMAN-- I bought it just for your art. Do you see a trend here?

COME ON, Publishers' Clearinghouse! Let ME win ten million dollars. I'LL hire these guys to do comics!!! (Hey, nobody at Marvel or DC has ever hired me... and it's not like I haven't tried.)

BrettJ said...

Jerry, been a fan since the day you showed up on ALL STAR SQUADRON (still a book with a dumb acronym). I'd buy most anything you did and I think if the "kids" saw you on a hot book, you'd get much more work. Perhaps more work on WORLDS' FINEST (loved the recent job) or a fill in with James Robinson on EARTH TWO? I also think you'd look great with Mark Bagley over on FF, giving it the old-time Joe Sinnott feel. Best of luck Jerry and regards to your lovely wife, who I met some years ago in Toronto.

dunbar said...

Mr. Ordway, you are an amazing talent. I have All Star Squadron issues from the early 80s, the Justice Society of America from a few years back, and a lot of your work in between. Your version of Superman from the mid 80s relaunch is my hands down favorite. If DC is too myopic to give you work, I echo what others have said - try your other options, whether that is Kickstarter, Image, IDW, or something. My wallet is ready to support whatever you do. - John D.

Tom said...

The question I have is how can an exclusive contract have no work or pay tied to it? Why don't writers and artists who are underemployed or underutilized take that down time to create work for themselves to fill that gap. Anyway, I enjoy your work Jerry and hope you can find a way to adapt and find a new audience with your work

Denver Brubaker said...

Dynamite,IDW, Valiant...I know I'm forgetting some but these three stick out because I feel they;re moving comics forward while simultaneously celebrating and embracing the past. The big two just aren't doing that. You are a phenomenal talent, sir and an inspiration to me and countless others. This essay is heartbreaking. Its so awful how these mega companies continually reap the benefits off you and your peer's amazing talent.

Denver Brubaker said...

Dynamite,IDW, Valiant...I know I'm forgetting some but these three stick out because I feel they;re moving comics forward while simultaneously celebrating and embracing the past. The big two just aren't doing that. You are a phenomenal talent, sir and an inspiration to me and countless others. This essay is heartbreaking. Its so awful how these mega companies continually reap the benefits off you and your peer's amazing talent.

Paul D Houston said...

While I am astounded by the lack of royalty pay for your past work with DC, I will be bluntly honest that your style is kind of old fashioned. While technically it's flawless, your style hasn't changed since your 90's work, but comics and people's tastes in art have. I have read an issue of the new Human Bomb and as I say it's technically solid, from the storytelling to the linework... it's just not catchy anymore.

I was a fan of yours once upon a time, but your art again while proficient and technically well done, is in this day and age...
boring.

Are you able to bring into your work another dimension to make it grow in style? As so many other top notch or legendary comic artists have(David Mazzuchelli for example)?

If you are done growing as an artist, then how can you expect to continue receiving work in an ever growing and changing art form?

All this should be obvious to you as an artist. I am a graphic designer by employ and I have to work hard to stay on the breaking edge of modern design just to stay relevant and continue working. It's a fact of life as an artist. It's harsh, be thankful you have had the jobs you did and I urge you to consider all options. Do a self published book with peers as suggested above. Do something creator owned, do work for smaller publishers and experiment. You can still draw, you are still alive, try something new and see what happens.

dave™© said...

Speaking as someone who has worked as a "graphic designer" for many years, let me just say that there's a great big difference between being a "graphic designer" and an actual "artist." I'm sure Mr. Ordway could get all sorts of "graphic design" jobs doing layouts, color codings, etc etc etc. I doubt very few "graphic designers" could get paying work doing what he's been doing for the past 30 years. Just sayin'...

Timbotron said...

I am stunned that your recent work was fill-in based. I had believed it was a huge "get" to have Jerry Ordway do a few issues of a title! Seeing all the fantastic talent seconding your story makes me furious. These comments read like a who's who of my favorites.

All I can do is buy what you guys write and draw. (Just try not to have it be New 52!)

Randall Cyrenne said...

Jerry, I've also loved your work for a good chunk of my life. I'm 42 now, and still have very fond memories of picking up the awesome All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc. (which blew my mind in its first arc especially), as well as your grand Superman and Shazam! work. And your inking on George in Crisis miraculously made his pencils even better. You certainly deserve to get work, and I mean high profile stuff. You remain one of my all-time favourite artists. I wish you the best!

Jimmy Palmiotti said...

Support Jerry and check out THE HUMAN BOMB, out this week. I think a kickstarter is in order my friend. Lets talk.

Quentin Primus said...

Count me in as another longtime fan of Da Ordster. Obviously there are years of pent up frustration behind Jerry's thoughtful essay.

Jerry there are several opportunities in the comments above from folks who'd be honored to work with you. Hopefully something will come from them or perhaps an editor at DC will read this & take notice.

Sadly, as Marv & others have said, this is not a new phenomenon. What's the Willie Loman line in Miller's (that's Arthur, not Frank) Death of a Salesman? Something along the lines of "a man is not a piece of fruit".
All the best, Jerry.

Quentin Primus said...

Count me in as another long time fan of Da Ordster.

Obviously there are years of pent up frustration behind Jerry's thoughtful essay.

Jerry there are several opportunities from folks who'd be honored to work with you in the above posts. Hopefully something to your liking will come from them or an editor at DC will read this and take note.

As Marv & others have said, this is sadly not a new phenomenon. What was Willie Loman's line in Miller's (that's Arthur, not Frank) Death of a Salesman? Something along the lines of "a man is not a piece of fruit".

All the best, Jerry.

Encyclopedia Bruin said...

I love your work so much, Jerry. I would love to see you do something with Dynamite--with Marvel-- perhaps with DC's non-continuity (or really, classic continuity, red briefs and all) Adventures of Superman series.

Your work on Power of Shazam was, I think, the last time the character was really done consistently well and true to the character's nature.

Can you tell us about commissions? I probably can't afford one but I may as well ask.

David
a fan

Arvin Bautista said...

Hi Jerry, it's so sad that DC or Marvel haven't thrown any work your way since (and leading into) the new 52. I grew up with your Superman, and I fondly remember a very well read issue of All-Star Squardon in my childhood! Your artwork has always been inspiring to me.

You are an amazing artist, and an incredible draftsman that can still draw ALOT of the 'newbies' in the industry under the table.

As I grow older, it saddens me to see the inner workings of the comic book industry and how it's creators are being treated.

But the time is ripe for creator work, and I will definitely be there to support you if you choose to go that route. I had no idea Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon were in comic book limbo too! I'll support them too!

I've always wanted to get into comic books (and am working on my own on my spare time), but I just couldn't get in and the life of a freelancer is tough.

I'm sad that the way the comic book business is run just hasn't evolved to take care of their own. It's a shock to me that someone with talents (and credentials) like yours gets over-looked!

Anyway, I just wanted to drop a line and share how much I enjoyed (and still enjoy) your work. And while I absolutely would love to see your own creator owned work, I also absolutely understand the need to have a 'steady' run of a series with the big two to pay the bills.

Either way, I hope to see more of your work soon! (I remember falling in love with your cat grant as a teenager!)

odkin said...

First, I've always loved your work. I'm a huge fan of exquisite inking, and you know how to do it.

Two comments. First, I think anyone who draws Captain Marvel with that ugly tunic flap is somehow invoking an ancient curse upon themselves. Even in the traditional uniform, he's cursed - Cap artists Beck, Costanza and Don Newton all had pretty sad ends.

Second, this will sound shitty, but as I recall back in the 90's, Curt Swan wasn't too fond of being retired. Neither probably was Kurt Schaffenberger. You worked on two of their characters at the time as the "hot young artist". This isn't a recent problem.

Mr. Acer said...

Mr. Ordway, first off I want to just say that since I got into reading comics five years back, I have put you on my personal list of favorite artists in the industry. But some of the meager assignments you've been getting--the Human Bomb mini, the Challengers story, a couple issues of 'Worlds' Finest'--are an insult to the talent. I think many here would agree with me that the problem is not the companies themselves, it's the charlatans who got put in charge of them. Remember, corporations have no feelings or thoughts, it's the people behind the curtain who do. I say that if real progress can be made, it starts with replacing the goons running the show right now with people more sympathetic to the arts and the creative talent. Basically, FDR's court-packing plan, but actually working.

On a lighter note, definitely would be glad seeing you at Emerald City Comic-Con in Seattle. It's not just rain, I'll tell you that.

Tim said...

Well said!

Tim said...

Next to another Shazam book, a dream come true would be a Shadow graphic novel both written and drawn by Mr. Ordway! Just a thought!

Prof G said...

This is a classic supply and demand problem in business. In most fields, workers age out and can no longer do the work, so they are replaced by younger workers. But in comics, so long as you can still draw and write, one can continue to be productive into your 70s or 80s (or even longer). But the industry doesn't have enough demand to keep all of those artists employed, and doesn't value their experience - and so little effort has been made to continue to use their skills. The only solution, at present, is to go into the idie world, as perilous as that is.

Bryan Cole said...

Someone made a comment about how in the 1970s that American artists lost out to Filipino artists who were willing to work for very low page rates.

I believe the same thing is happening today. In the last few years, DC has been using artists from Italy, Spain , Greece, Turkey adn South America for books such as Green Arrow, Legion, and Titans. These are areas with terrible unemployment an these artists may be willing for lower than scale rates.

I was very surprised about Jerry's comments regarding reprint royalties. I was under the impression that DC was actually very generous about reprint payments, so this came as something of a shock to hear Jerry was being paid chump change for his contribution to high-profile projects like Final Crisis.

James Robert Smith said...

One of my good friends who used to be a very popular inker in the industry once explained his current absence from the pages of Marvel and DC to me:

"Bob, I committed the one crime that Marvel and DC won't forgive: I got old."

KGammill said...

Well said, Jerry. I sort of burned out on the super-hero stuff and always had trouble keeping up with the work so I'm not mourning over my comics career much. But I'm very surprised that you aren't still much in demand for your clean, beautiful, reliable work. Of course, many of the artists of the '40s, and '50s looked out-dated to fans our age in the '60s and '70s, so you have to wonder how the work of us '80s and '90s guys is perceived by the young readers of today. Being over fifty is practically a kiss of death for all but the biggest superstars of any entertainment field and comics is no different I guess.

Jon Sagehorn said...

I'm just another random voice here, but I wanted to say that it was BECAUSE of your work on some of those things you mentioned in the 80's that I first began reading comics. And if you do go the Kickstarter route, you'll have more of my money than I'm willing to tell my wife about! Go for it!

Denver Brubaker said...

As this essay has went viral I've read more than one post about how a) Jerry's art style may not be the flavor of the week anymore and that's why he's not getting regular work or b) perhaps editors assume he (as a veteran) demands a higher page rate than any of the younger kids knocking on the door desperate for work.

That being said, maybe the more indie pool might be a cool place for someone like Jerry? I know I've heard horror stories about how awful Chuck Dixon has been treated by DC as well and that's just unbelievable considering all the work he's done for them! Can you imagine Jerry's work on some of Dynamite's pulp titles like The Shadow or Green Hornet! It'd be awesome! I feel like publishers like Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW, and Valiant (maybe Image to a degree)are all about moving the comics industry forward, but at the same time celebrating and respecting the industries history at the same time. Are these the companies Jerry and others like him should be turning to nowadays?

I'm not an industry insider--I don't make my living with art and publication, etc. but it's a shame that comics (now more than ever) couldn't adopt more of a film & television approach to their contracts considering how likely the work was going to be collected and re-published. Back in the day there were no trade collections like there are today. Comics were a one and done monthly magazine no different from Good Housekeeping. Certainly Good Housekeeping never would adopt a "6-issues and a trade" practice like the big two are cranking out today. Comics are different. They're "shelf life" is more akin to film/tv and the DVD market where the product is released and then collected/re-packaged at a later time. Actors and directors often see residuals and kickbacks for DVD sales or TV airings, etc why not comic book creators?

amkudelka said...

Jerry, I agree wholeheartedly with the many comments above that you need to move on to crowd-funding opportunities like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. You have so many devoted fans and piers and they will support you in your endeavors. Create your own stories and art and we will buy DIRECTLY from you. And in the meantime, DC and Marvel can go fuck their business models.

austinspace said...

DC lost me with the "New 52" launch. Except for the Morrison Action stories, everything else is loud flash and bang. Have you seen the new Superman book? Gah. But if you were hired to do it, I'd be buying it and recommending it to everybody I know. Not only would we be getting glorious art, but if anybody can interpret these new stories in such a way that people might enjoy them, it would be you!

I like the Kickstarter idea. Launch a new project. Watch the $$$ pour in!

Jerry Ordway said...

Enjoyed reading all your comments. Thanks for taking time to post something. Always good to hear from old friends as well as new ones. I do think the crowd sourcing aspect that has come into play in the last few years could be a very democratic way of putting creators we like, back into the business of telling stories. If I was a more shrewd businessman, I would have had a Kickstarter program ready to announce the day after my original blog post:) I've gotten a lot of support and I do appreciate it.

I know there are also folks out there who think I should shut up and quit whining:)I chose to post my thoughts here, rather than on Facebook because i have got fans and aspiring artists who like to see my scans of art, and my sketch-to-finish demos as well. I know that I am not alone, in falling out of favor with DC or Marvel, and I also know what the progression of events were for me, so I am qualified to tell my side of things. The reader can take from it what they want, but I find that this stuff is usually not talked about in an open forum for fear of blacklisting or burning bridges with companies. As I stated, I take responsibility for choices I made along the way, and am not asking DC for a pension, just the courtesy of returning my emails to tell me if work is available or not. Those of you not familiar with the business, might be surprised to hear that emails are often ignored, and our inquiries are often not answered. That is certainly part of my issue with the business in general. Many editors, before emails, would simply never return a freelancers calls. In my case, with so many years of doing work for DC, I am no stranger to them, and deserve courtesy at least. Sure editors are bombarded with requests for work, and they have their own books to keep moving, but they should respect the people who have worked for them, at the least. Not to pick on editors. I have done work for many younger editors who are very polite and efficient.

I wanted to address the comment on Curt Swan, and the fact that I displaced him on Superman. When Curt was moved off the Superman books, DC still valued the man, and he worked on many projects, from Aquaman to licensed comics, and even custom comics done through DC Licensing. Mike Carlin as editor gave Curt work on Superman stuff as well. Curt's work issues happened in the 90's, in some ways related to his asking out of his contract with DC. When Dan Jurgens heard of his work problems, he passed it on to me, and also people at DC who very much cared for Curt. We got him work on Power of Shazam, and others did as well on their titles. My point about age had to do with the fact that I'm 55, not 75. So many of my favorites WERE kept busy into retirement age.

I'm not broke, and I still have plenty of options, in comics. My main focus was on respect, and loyalty. In my time at DC in the 1980's and 1990's, DC had a heart. They made sure Don Heck had work, they made sure guys like Aparo were kept busy. They weren't perfect, but there was a feeling of family for me. I had offers al the time to work at Marvel, or elsewhere, but I chose to stay at DC, and I don't regret that at all. I only regret that they no longer have that heart, i guess.

I recall Jim Steranko saying in an interview how Marvel had changed, and how much a Christmas bonus check meant, not so much for the amount of money, but the act itself. That's my feeling about DC. It was always a big company, but back then it felt like a family business, with annual Christmas gifts, occasional invitations to their Superhero movie premieres, even calls out of the blue from the editorial coordinator, Pat Bastienne, to see how you were doing personally.

Mike Gold said...

Obviously, DC is content to constantly rearrange the deck chairs on their fleet of Titanics and enjoying the awesome profits of sales in the mid-four figures. This isn't a business: business requires investment, confidence, and creativity. This is pounding out animal crackers with broken heads.

Johnny Sarcastic said...

I don't even know what to say. I feel like if I say how much your art mattered to me growing up, it would be like rubbing salt in a wound or something.

But the fact remains that, in my mind, you drew the best Superman ever committed to a page, and because of that I followed your art wherever you went (I hate the Challengers of the Unknown, but I own those issues) and I will continue to do so.

To see some of your fellow creators show up to support does my heart good. I sincerely hope I can look forward to a monthly with you again soon.

WillSuffice said...

I've read that most successful Kickstarter projects are game related, such as the tabletop roleplaying books released by Hero Games www.herogames.com I love your work!

Doctor Fate-English 1323 said...

This situation is a shame. While I am still relatively new to the comic book world, your work with the Marvel family is what helped bring me into comics. You were one of the first artists I came to love and recognize.
I hope that one day soon I'll find myself enjoying new work from you, and that good guys like you win.

Thenedain said...

I can't really fully express how much your work meant to me as a kid. I think everyone else has already said it better than I ever could. I will say this though: I read through all these comments, and saw response after response by creators whose work I've read and loved, and who will always remain favorites of mine. I've seen all of them speaking about working with you, about pursuing something creator owned or through Kickstarter, and I'm damned sure I'm not the only person who would say that I would support that as much as I possibly could. If all of you were to band together and create some kind of anthology graphic novel, or project like that, it would be absolutely amazing, and many a fan's dream come true.

Fabio Marques said...

I am a long time from fan. I would love to see any new Superman story written or pencilled by you. I understand how frustating the current state of things in DC Comics must be for you and many creators from recent past. Back then in March 1997, when I had a letter published in Adventures of Superman #544, I complained that I wanted you back to Superman comics...
Keep the good work, you are one of the best!

Sergio Cariello said...

I'm one more among a zillion people who think Your Art is Amazing, Jerry. Loved your Shazam and everything else you've done over the years. Loved the Azrael covers you did while I did interiors. I never forgot what Mike Carlin told me when I was following up on a possible gig from him. "YOU have to find the work yourself. It's the freelance way." We're in this business by choice. It's a vast number of us, and more coming, each aspiring to be one of us. The companies are made by comic book lovers like us. They do what they do, based on their own assessments, which, many times, wont' match ours. There are a number of factors why things don't work out the way we hoped they did, as we read in many of these posts. Words from Joe Kubert stuck in my head: " It's not that they( the companies) are evil.They're looking out for themselves however. It's business.You cannot trust that they will take care of you.Be careful that you fully understand the agreements.The security comes from your head and your hands.Never depend on anybody for that security.It's your responsibility to look out for yourself." I believe you know all that and you've done that, as I read your post.You're doing that now, by posting this. My reply also serves others who might think it to be beneficial to them. . Your voice is important to shake up some bad behavior out there. It's a good wake up call to what goes on in our community, not only to small talent but Huge talent like yourself. I have a feeling you'll be better off than many for years and years to come!!!! Thanks so much for giving us so much Greatness in all those hard worked pages. Looking forward to see and enjoy many more!!!

Stu Neft said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stu Neft said...

Jerry,

I first met you at the Chicago Comic Con back in '85, and to this day still have the Dr. Fate sketch you drew for me as well as gorgeous examples of your work from Infinity Inc. and Maximum Security. It's a complete shame what the industry has done to the artists of your generation. The stuff you guys put out and what came before is what I think of when I think of comic art not whatever passes for it today. Too many of the artists currently working in comics learned to draw from reading comics. I highly doubt any of them have ever taken a life drawing class or even own a copy of Gray's Anatomy. Most of them certainly don't know how to tell a story visually the way you did. I stopped reading monthly comics around the time Power of Shazam came to an end because I just can't stomach to look at the art in most monthly comics. I have made my feelings known to both Marvel and DC, but unfortunately, I just think they no longer care. The comics just seem to be something cheap to put out to keep copyrights until another movie can get made and bring them some real money. I wish you the best my friend and would be back in a heartbeat if I ever hear that you're drawing a monthly book again

Bingham said...

Hey, Jerry,
—Nearly everything has been covered by the previous posts (a fan of your work, not just another artist, and sorry to hear they've treated you like so many others) but just wanted to add my note of support to a familiar situation.
—Here's me empathizing...
—While I certainly didn't stick around comics as long as yourself, nor have your impressive track record—I was (am) in love with the medium, but—I saw the end coming for me before it actually arrived. I saw what happened to Trimpe and so many of my predecessors. Hell, I saw the treatment of Kirby and said, if Marvel could do him that way... I recently heard a story about Gene Colan going into the Marvel offices and asking for work. He said, How about something Daredevil...? and the young editor saying, Can you draw Daredevil? Gene-friggin'-Colan?
—Then, after I had what was arguably the biggest selling graphic novel in DC's history at the time, I spent nearly a year begging for work. I don't do begging well, so that was when I decided to concentrate my focus elsewhere. My love of comics would not pay my bills for long and as we age we actually hope to improve our lives, rather than regress.
—Just last year I had the opportunity to work on one of the "Retro-" books. The editor said he was desperate to get it out in a hurry, could I please do him the favor and turn it around in less than a month? I put all my other work aside. Afterward, I learned from a fan that he had written a letter to said editor asking for more Jerry Bingham's Batman. The editor told him (paraphrasing—I still have the forwarded editor's reply letter I'm saving for posterity) that while many have "warm and fuzzy" nostalgia for the older artists, that DC was in the business of looking forward and "improving the quality" of their books. Regardless of an editor's personal opinions, I find it unconscionable that one would go out of his way to demean any hard-working artist (let alone one who just did him "a big favor") to a fan. Such is the nature of this sad business and, aside from my nostalgia for the comics I've loved all my life, I'm glad I walked away when I did. (I won't publicly comment on my opinion of the editor referred to, for obvious reasons.)
—All that said, I more than empathize with your situation, it is a too familiar story.

—I wish for you nothing but great stuff in your future, Jer. Be well.
—J (the-other-Jerry)

Kid said...

Not just a shame, but a crime. I always felt you were THE artist for a revival of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. I have an idea that you did work on the characters, but I can't remember for sure. (Sorry, memory problems.) However, if you didn't you should have. I much prefer the clean, clear, non-convoluted style of artistic storytelling which you exemplify, and the fact that most new comics no longer seem to embrace that style is one of the reasons I no longer buy them. I hope you enjoy a reversal of fortune and opportunity in the not too distant future.

Robin Olsen said...

Jerry, I'm sorry to hear of your plight, I didn't realize your reprint royalties were SO LOW, I thought DC was supposed to have made all of that right a long time ago, like back in the '80s? I enjoyed your recent work on JSA, nothing against Eaglesham who I also liked. I think a lot of the problem is today's younger fans will flock to the superhero movies but know nothing about the books, partly because they're overpriced books that you have to buy AT THE BARE MINIMUM 6 chapters (for collection purposes)for one story. I ran into a guy at the bowling alley here who had a Batman stuffed toy and said Batman was his favorite superhero, but he'd never read an issue of the actual comic.So the cluelessness goes both ways and it seems to me the ones who suffer are first the creators who after all have to make a living out of comics, and then the true longtime fans who try to stick with their comics but see the quality constantly dropping while the companies try catering to people who will NEVER be true fans while the cost of the pasttime (more than just a hobby as I see it)skyrockets. At this rate their sales figures will be THREE digets. Like them royalty checks.

Doccomix said...

I'm really sorry to hear about your trouble getting work, Jerry. Your art is great, and I've never heard about your ever missing a deadline. What more does DC want?

Aside from fresh meat, that is...

Michael T. Gilbert

Julian Chambliss said...

I will be one of many. I think your contribution and work speaks for itself. A recent announcement from about a new initiative from Comixology is something that might be of interest.

http://blog.comixology.com/2013/03/06/comixologys-submit-self-publishing-platform-for-independent-comics-creators-poised-to-transform-the-comic-book-industry/

The Passenger said...

Dear Mr. Ordway, you are one of my favourite artist of all time...I'd like to be a billionaire to hire you! ^_^

Sean Carrick said...

I wish you were drawing Earth 2. Do an image book with original characters. I would love to buy It...something that comes from your present experience with a sci-fy twist or superhero background.

Giselle said...

I second this motion!

I would also add that you could make a second graphic essay on the difficulties of immigrating to the US legally. I can give you good source material on the second and will gladly collaborate on both of these projects by translating them for the Spanish-language editions.

Giselle said...

He probably thinks Rob "can't draw feet to save his life" Liefield is a great artist, too...

Justin Kaye said...

Hi Jerry--

I'm glad you posted this. This industry has no model for protecting and rewarding the architects who build its own foundations, framework, & spires. I have yet to come across a reasonable, sustainable solution, but until then, the more folks who speak up, the better.

You are undeniably a solid, talented artist & storyteller, and I have enjoyed much of your work over the years. However, I do agree with the ongoing speculation that the Big Two aren't hiring you right now because your particular style is perceived as being out of vogue at the moment. Is that merely perception? I don't know. Would that be the case if they gave you a book? Maybe not. But the fact remains that they're targeting art styles right now that contrast drastically with the traditional look and feel of their product line. That sucks for you and for those who want to see more of your work, but it's also the way the pendulum inevitably swings. (And yes, I do hate myself for typing that.)

So caught in a bad spot in a changing market, what kind of solutions can be found? Here are my ideas (as if you asked):

1) My ideal solution would be to partner you with a popular writer whose work reaches a different audience than yours, giving you the opportunity to be wholly yourself in your work, while still being spurred on in new directions. And not necessarily (not even preferably) for the Big Two. Keep it creator-owned if you can find a way. The concept of royalties seems like science fiction to the larger publishers--treated as an unrealistic ideal that they all fervently believe in just as much as they believe it can only exist in an unattainable, utopian future.

2) If you determine that your style truly is perceived as being out of vogue, partner with inkers that fundamentally change the finished flavor of your work while preserving your original vision. They needn't even be artists who are traditionally only thought of as inkers. Sienkiewicz, Sook, Grampa, Stokoe... Mix it up, y'know? Personally, I love seeing a favorite artist filtered through another favorite artist's inks. It has this dual effect where it both changes the viewers' perceptions of the artists and revitalizes the artists themselves by forcing them to push in new directions.

3) Can you crank out layouts for titles helmed by other artists? Like, by the boatload? You obviously shouldn't be relegated to 'senior statesman', but shouldn't you--with your ample strengths and experience--be in some kind of teaching role that still keeps you contributing? How many monthly titles could you take on, just doing layouts? And wouldn't that unavoidably have you doing design work on those titles as well? That way, you're able to contribute a large amount of creative input across a broad range of titles. Whether you choose to teach your collaborating artists actively or passively, your gifts would still be put to good use, marking the finished product with a flavor that is still undeniably your own. I assume that there is a lower page rate for just doing layouts, but wouldn't you make up for it in volume? Plus, being able to take on several titles at once would seem to be rewarding due to the variety of properties and creative teams alone. I, for one, would like to see many artists switch up their layouts to deliver stronger storytelling. Granted, this is an odd approach from an oblique angle, but I feel like it would take a very brief conversation to sway some editors and creative teams into seeing the benefit.

4) Wildstar? If you're looking for a forum in which to showcase your talents with total freedom and remind the industry how vital your work is, you already own it. Or again, if the concern is reaching a changing market, partner with other creators on your own property. Just a cursory Google search turned up work like this: http://thechamba.deviantart.com/art/IMAGE-re-imagined-WildStar-352113621 so it seems your future partners are already out there and waiting.

(continued in next post)

Justin Kaye said...

(continued from previous post)

5) A new creator-owned property? Is it time to give some long-simmering ideas their own entry on the menu?

6) If what so many fans agree is needed in the New 52 is a more earnest, more traditional look at heroism, wouldn't you be the guy to do it? Joe Kelly's single issue of Superman that challenged fan fervor for anti-heroes is still cited for being incredibly influential, compelling, and resonant. Wouldn't now--with DC scrambling to determine the right tone for their new line, as their offerings continue to polarize readers--be the perfect time for an entire title dedicated to such ideas?

I realize I'm perhaps being more direct than I should, so I hope it is taken the right way. I want to see you back in the limelight and I'm eager to see what that looks like in such a new theater.

--Justin

Par said...

I am very sad to hear this news. I quit reading Marvel Comics in 2006 due to the directions they were taking and actually haven't been bothered to read the new 52 since DC rebooted everything. The main comics companies are so desperate to be fashionable they alienate long standing fans. I'd much rather see your work than many of the artists around now. That's not to say that I don't like new artists. If they're good enough, I'll buy them. However, increasingly, I find myself buying DC Trades for stories between 1986 - 2011 featuring guys I have enjoyed and not necessarily have read that collection of stories I am buying. I hope things work out for you bud. Would love to see you on a Superman or Captain Marvel gig personally.

Jay Zigleraf said...

You should be every credit on Captain Marvel, man. It's not every day you get a writer-inker-artist.

Dr.Watson said...

Sad to read that. I'm from brazil and your "Power of Shazam" is one the best thing's I read. It's a ugly industry and I think this should sound as a warning for everyone who want's to be a comic artist or writer.

Anderson Gomes said...

Hi Jerry, I call Anderson and'm Brazilian, and I grew up reading the great stage of Superman '80s, you along with John Byrne inspired me to follow my life proficional of illustrated didactic material. agrdeço you for everything! I agree with you, with proficionais luggage with you deverian be more valued not only for DC Comics, but also by others. Thanks and good luck in having new projects that are coming. If my English is quite passable in their eyes, is because I'm using Google translator, because I can not speak nor write English. the possibility exists that you send me your autograph? bye!

Martin Gray said...

Jerry, thanks for bringing attention to your situation, and that of your contemporaries. I've long loved your art and writing, and really miss having your work available to enjoy on a monthly basis. I hope some good comes out of your essay, for yourself and for the other people who've posted here. Respect and affection to you all.

Adam said...

Jerry, I feel your pain. It saddens and upsets me that long-time artists and writers are given the shaft due to shady policies made by two of the biggest publishers in the game. I've given up on single issues over a year ago due to lack of funds and the constant instability within the medium. I've seen great titles I loved reading have the legs cut out from under them just because it wasn't selling as much or wasn't performing to their overly high expectations. DC is perhaps the worst offender with their current administration and has made multiple mistakes within its New 52 relaunch that are too long to list in this post. They've abandoned their history, their legacy, and creative spark all in the name of making the quick buck. Marvel may be doing better with its continuity but its got flaws of its own (over-saturation of titles, little to no support of new content, etc.) that have driven me and other readers away.

Another aspect of this argument is the lack of a safety net for creators that are brought in to handle long-standing series like Spider-Man or Batman. What happened to you is unforgivable. This is further alienation of creators and fans due to crooked business practices that are doing more harm to the industry than good. And this applies to everyone, especially established writers like Gail Simone. She may have dodged a bullet with DC nearly firing her from Batgirl but how long before she ends up in the same boat as you. If there was ever a need for a union in the comic book industry, it needs to happen like yesterday. Relying on something like the Hero Initiative is not enough to help those in need of work.

I truly miss books that were fun to read without having to be dragged into worthless crossovers or aimed at an adult demographic that will not sustain it for much longer. I enjoyed your run on Power of Shazam from start to finish. It was one of the best adaptations of the Marvel family and it still resides as one of my all time favorites in my back issue collection. It had its mature side but it was still lighthearted for me and younger readers to enjoy. It never lost sight of who these characters were and it certainly didn't make them into something its not (the New 52 Shazam is proof of that, imo.) This industry needs to focus on books that will bring in new readers of all ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. It cannot keep its focused on one group forever because it cannot sustain the whole industry for so long. The market has multiple demographics that are starving for quality products and they should not be ignored at all.

I don't know if DC or Marvel will give you a call back and I highly doubt you should work for them again. Not unless they change their ways and start treating its creative talent as human beings and not as replaceable cogs in a machine. Companies like Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite, and/or Valiant seem like the logical choice. Particularly Image since it can allow you to bring back Wildstar or perhaps bring out a new creation of your own. Even Kickstarter has offered a place for those looking to launch their personal projects and you certainly have the name recognition to back it up. Heck, this blog post alone is giving you some great coverage to get it off the ground.

Whatever happens, Jerry, know that you're not alone in this. You have many supporters that want to see you continue on in this business and you can count me as one of them.

Carlos Trigo said...

Forget major publishers. Do your own creative project. Create your license.

Try crowdfunding, a major classic author like you would easily get a lot of backers, so financing shouldn't be a problem.

DiRT said...

I echo the Kickstarter idea. Choose your price. We'll pay it.

Claude said...

I find it idiotic that a publisher who considers him/herself a professional would treat Jerry Ordway like a first week intern. If, by hanging the carrot away from your nose and hitting you with a stick every time you reach for it, they think they're teaching you something, I'd like to know what that is. No less than Jack Kirby got treated this way by Marvel and DC. If a Jerry Ordway can get this kind of treatment by a company that desperately needs GOOD artists, then what is that company's reasoning? Do they want to serve as a write off for their parent company by underselling? On a personal note: I think that if Jerry Ordway were to draw Superman in the state DC has relegated THAT august character to, it would be INSIDE of the top ten sellers at Diamond and not in the top 45. If I won the lottery, I would hire Jerry at double page rates and have him do my book whether it sold or not. Quality is more honorable than quantity out here in the real world. Marketing people need to know that. I may be ranting here, but I don't care for a damned thing DC is doing these days. If they won't hire Jerry Ordway, there's IDW, Boom! and Dynamite among others. They may not be as high profile, but if Alex Ross is their cover boy, surely they have something for "Ordster" to work on.

Cord the Seeker said...

Hi Jerry,

Like many comic fans of my age, I am a big supporter of your work and your art style, which sadly just doesn't seem to be in vogue with the Big Two right now.
My suggestion is to maybe try to go the crowdfunding route? I'd bet there are a lot of fans that would enthusiastically support an original comic by you. Skip the bullshit of the big companies and their narrow vision and sell directly to the fans!

Oxnard Montalvo said...

Cheers to you, Mr. Ordway, for standing up for not only yourself and your considerable wealth of talent but for casting an uncomfortably bright light on an industry obsessed with change for the sake of change ... and nothing more.

I think it speaks to a bigger problem: Once you give the keys of the kingdom to children, you get the kind of self-indulgent, narcissistic editorial "leadership" that spawned "The New 52." When you have no grasp of comic-book history and a vitriolic need to marginalize (or better yet, expunge) it because your target audience doesn't have the attention span of a gnat, you don't deserve to pilot that ship. Marvel's just as culpable. Seriously, umpteen-thousand titles a month? To follow one storyline you have to buy a dozen different books? Who is that desperate to watch The Big Two take a dump all over their vanguard characters month after month? I had no interest in being there for the funeral.

The same people who make those decisions are the ones who think that Jerry Ordway is out of style.

Well, I've got news for them: Four bucks an issue for bloated production value is four bucks I won't be spending.

You'd have thought we'd learned our lessons after everything started to look like Rob Liefeld had scrawled it out.

Steven Viscido said...

I'm sorry to see this happening to one of my favorite comic-book creators. I was there for the entire Power of Shazam! run in large part because it was done by Jerry Ordway. I can't believe we have geniuses like Chuck Dixon and Jerry Ordway waiting around for work while we keep seeing absolute sewage produced in title after title every month. Who is making these decisions, and why haven't the decision-makers been the ones who've lost work?

I'm glad to see Gail Simone, one of my favorite writers, is willing to work with you, Jerry. I would love nothing better than to see a nice, long, healthy Simone/Ordway run on Batgirl. I get goosebumps thinking about it.

And I get frustrated knowing you'd both probably love to do it, but DC won't let you.

BrettJ said...

To respond to an earlier comment - Jerry drew some THUNDER AGENTS material when it was published by David Singer's company (illegally as it turned out) Jerry - enough people have suggested Kickstarter that I think it's a viable option. As a writer (in another field) had that existed 8 years back, I might not be working for chump change now.

Christopher Meaux said...

Jerry, I'm truly saddened to read this. You remain one of my favorite comic book artists. Your work is filled with vibrant energy, grace, and a beauty that is often missing in today's comics. Your figures look like real people, despite their costumes and the situations they are in. You are, to me, one of the greats. Your work on Superman and Captain Marvel is breathtaking.

Another artist from your time on Superman who can't seem to get any work today (from DC) is Jon Bogdanove. His work is also fantastic and brings a unique style and energy.

I hope that your article will get you the attention, acclaim, and most importantly, the work you deserve. How can anyone with functioning eyes look at your work, especially (IMO) your Adventures of Superman and Shazam graphic novel, and not have you on their payroll?

Here's hoping some eyes will be opened.

Christopher Meaux said...

Wow...Chuck Dixon! Chuck, your work on Batman and Punisher War Zone remain among the comics I consistently go back and re-read each year. You have also been ill-treated and I hope you will get the recognition and work you deserve.

Christopher Meaux said...

Okay, I keep reading more comments and seeing people whose work, along with Jerry's, brought hours and hours of joy to me growing up and still do today. Graham Nolan...the ONLY Nolan that matters when it comes to The Batman, IMO! Mike Manley...you and Graham on Batman in the 90s...astounding work. I recently reread the entirety of the "Knightfall" saga and it was the work of you guys (and Norm Breyfogle, of course!) that I had to keep going back and poring over. True talent that still resonates for me today and always will. You guys are to we children of the 80s and 90s what those guys Jerry mentions in his post were to him. Legends. Thank you for firing the imaginations of so many people.

jick said...

Jerry, I still thank you for giving me the chance to own one of your fantastic original covers to the Superman Man of Steel TPB. From that era, back to the All-Star Squadron era (which I was too young to live through), to the recent Human Bomb where I see your blog posts about how you composed the covers, you are still a true professional at the top of your game and hardly a nostalgia act. It saddens me to read your blog post, but life goes on, and given your incredible art and how it touched and continues to touch many, I am sure you'll be just fine.

Christopher Meaux said...

Have to comment on the idea some have posted that somehow, Jerry's art hasn't "evolved" with the times. Look at the work of guys with styles similar to Jerry's who are getting steady work from the Big Two: Alan Davis, George Perez, Dan Jurgens. I love their work as well, but there's no way it's any "fresher" or more "modern" than Jerry's.

Artful craftsmanship and storytelling are timeless. I hate to get negative, but just take a look at some of Jerry's work and compare it to that of people currently working on DC's books. Then get back to me and tell which is the strong work. One telling sign is that the work going on right now on some DC books makes NO sense without word balloons or captions. That's NOT sequential art and storytelling. It's the arranging of poses and action shots with the hopes that words can somehow string it all together. That's not comics, at least, not GOOD comics.

Vincent Laine said...

Dear Jerry,
I'm now 36 years old, a father of a 14 months-old daughter, French and living in London. I went to Colorado in summer 1993 and started collecting DC Comics because of The Death Of Superman. All the artists involved were/are immensely talented. But only one drew that absolutely overwhelmingly powerful and tragically beautiful page followed by the triple page spread of the instant of his death... Even now, 20 years later, I cannot look at those pages and not feel a lump in my throat... All the following Doomsday related minis you drew, the Power of Shazam series, etc., I read them all and for only one reason: you were the one behind the pencils and sometimes the words. I've loved your Challengers of the Unknown even though I don't care about the characters. Same with your Human Bomb. I want more artists to be like you. I don't care about the latest trends and "hot" new talents. Great composition, minutiae, an understanding of the human anatomy, believable expressions, and above all else an amazing skill at storytelling, this is what I want from my comics and this is what you deliver time and time again.
Wake up DC! I love you but you cannot treat your greatest collaborators like this anymore.
I know a lot of the comments are calling for more creator-owned stories and I would love to read stories that would be 100% you. But I also know that your love for the medium and your dedication to DC means that you care about those icons. You were a fan before becoming an artist and you still want to draw Superman and co. And you should. And I'll buy those comics. I want to continue enjoying your work and I want you to continue enjoying your work. Your gift. As you put it: what you were born to do. I wish I knew what I was born to do myself and have that kind of passion.
I went to the London Super Comic Con 2 weeks ago, spoke to Neal Adams (awesome), but was taken aback, sad, disappointed and a bit unnerved to see that at the signing/drawing table where all the other artists invited were seated, the ones being non-stop busy with hordes of fans were all relatively new "hot" talents (most I had never heard of... and assuredly very good at what they do, I'm sure)but Bob Layton(!) was absolutely and utterly alone... This was the definitive Iron Man artist, Demon In A Bottle et al... It seems however that he is quite happy with doing mostly commission work against telling stories but judging from what I saw in London he can't have had much success there... But I digress.
Bottom line is that I was very sad and outraged to read your comments and I want to offer you my support in everything you want to do. Thank you for so many years of great art and great stories. I'm looking forward to enjoying it all for many years to come and as regularly as you can produce.
Love to you and your family. Stay strong.

Ghendar said...
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Ghendar said...

This is truly sad to read. Jerry, you are an incredible talent. I have enjoyed your work immensely over the years. If Marvel and DC used more creators from your era, I might still be reading their comics.

Robert Hustwick said...

I think it's a shame the way that the comic industry is going. I don't buy too many new comics, but I probably would if you (and others similar in style to you) were doing the books. Keep us posted on your blog if you come up with any new creator-owned properties.

Vincent Laine said...

Dear Jerry,
I would like to apologise for completely messing up my earlier comments regarding the Death Of Superman... It was of course Dan Jurgens who did those particualr pages and I feel like a right fool for messing up so badly... But I treasure each and everyone of my complete Power of Shazam! collection. When the series was ongoing I was hoping that DC would one day publish an entire Art Book dedicated to your covers as I think they are some of the most consistently stunning in the business. They could all be posters plastering Captain Marvel's fans everywhere.

James McDonald said...

Jerry
I believe the situation you, Chuck and guys like Denny O'Neil find yourselves in to be repulsive. I grew up with you all. Often times I find myself reading the old rather than reading the current.

While I can't say there are not some brilliant writers and artists in the new crop, there is a ton of absolute crap. And they have been slipping into the industry more and more.

Two things are abundantly clear to me. One is that I finally had the honor of speaking with you at ECC and it was brilliant to finally meet you. Second is that DC and Marvel are both making the same mistake. The legends have much more to tell. Rather than AvX and a lot of the other trite junk being published, they should learn from the masters of the craft.

James McDonald said...

Boom talks big about themselves being the creator mecca. Why aren't the legends there?

Felicity Walker said...

This just goes to show that not only do we fans need to be critics and tell the companies which artists deserve work, we also need to be salesmen and introduce non-comic-fans to comics so that there is enough demand to support our favourite artists.

Does anyone have the e-mail addresses for the right people to contact at comic companies to recommend artists?

Felicity Walker said...

PS: From what I read online, it seems that the younger fans today do feel that the style of 1980s artists is too old. Not only do they not get why Ordway art is beautiful, they even consider young artists who draw properly (like Azaceta) to be too retro.

As a teenager in the eighties, I didn’t get the style of older artists like Kirby or Swan either, but as I kept reading comics and my tastes matured, I came to see the beauty in their styles that I couldn’t see before, when I had narrower tastes. I hope that the same happens for today’s young fans.

Alec Stevens said...

Hello, Jerry, we briefly met 20+ years ago at one of the NYC cons.

You may recall that Frank Frazetta, after doing those stellar romance comics stories in 1953-54, ghosted Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" for nine years. When he tried to go back to comic books in the early '60s he was told by Marvel and DC that his work "looked too old fashioned." As a result, he had to shift gears and go into paperback book cover painting and Hollywood film poster art. The rest is history.

The truth is, from the 'pop art' look of early '60s comics, his work DID look old fashioned. Incredible, yes, but dated, even when he drew it in '53-54. Frazetta, Krenkel, and company steeped themselves in the sensibility of artists like Joseph Clement Coll and J. Allen St. John whose work had that late Victorian/Gilded Age sensibility to it.

Those FAMOUS FUNNIES covers he did with Buck Rogers are some of the best covers ever done in comics, and the title cancelled one issue after he left (his last cover was rejected and used as E.C.'s WEIRD SCIENCE-FANTASY #28). The marvelous quality of his cover work did not keep the books afloat. The same can be said of those romance stories: beautiful drawing, but again, not enough to carry the books; PERSONAL LOVE cancelled with his final story.

What I'm saying is that most fans were not as attuned to great art as we would hope---then or now.

Secondly, today's comics market is SO fragmented that there are a plethora of titles out there---and so many creators---that very few work at this full-time anymore. For many it is done almost as a hobby or 'side job' because fandom is very spread out (a few buy this title, a few that one, but the days of seeing monthlies consistently pulling in 200,000 readers every 30 days are over).

Glad you have options for making money with your art; I know a lot of former comics artists - of fine calibre - who cannot get work either, and haven't for quite some time. The names would surprise you. I suppose you've heard that DC turned down Wrightson coming back to SWAMP THING---and he co-created the character! Remarkable. And lamentable.

Best regards,
Alec Stevens
www.calvarycomics.com

victimblue said...

Jerry i love your work. I would hope you go the image route to do your own book. i would definately buy it. Love your art. You are certainly one of the greats in the field. I support you 100%. Any new project from you is a welcome bliss compared to the muck i was reading from the new 52. first few books were ok...but then it started a spiral of horrible art and story telling. yes, you are a breath of fresh air.

doodledude said...

If Jerry Ordway can't get work at the Big 2 THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH COMICS.Go creator owned I loved Wildstar back in the nineties.You can write and draw well I remember your Superman comics.Do it and they will come.And I WILL DEFINITELY BUY IT!

Skullbaby said...

Jerry... I hear you, it sucks- go independent. Image, IDW, Kickstarter, whatever. Go independent. Have you seen this recent quote from Kirkman?
http://comicsbeat.com/quote-of-the-day-robert-kirkman-on-career-planning/
Kirkman's logic could be argued, but I think there's truth there.

ToB said...

As a fan who is sick and tired of top-down editorial control of creators, micro-market-management, and endless violent crossovers in the nu52, I would love to see Mr. Ordway and many of the people with experience in the industry who are commenting here go over to Kickstarter and start a project.

ToB said...

Further to what I said above, the big 2 may own big characters, but they don't own the creative capacity of the creators. Combine with other great creators in your position (I won't name names), go independent together with your own creations. Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. I would happily spend the money I give to DC every month on a better product instead, which comes from creators who understand the greatest aspects of the comics medium.

James Robert Smith said...

You have my sympathies. This is the kind of thing that is commonly done in the comics industry which is, today, more youth-oriented than it has ever been. I know several comics pros who stopped getting work at Marvel and DC when they hit their 50s. One day they could make a very good living, and the next no editor would return their calls. Part of the problem is a massive tide of youngsters champing at the bit to work on the iconic characters stolen from the great creators of days gone by.

Noah Mullette-Gillman said...

This is madness. Jerry is a better artist than most of the people working at DC today. Giving him a steady job would not be a work of charity, but just plain brains.

Yes, his work will always be associated with the unforgettable work he did in the 1980s, but that does not mean he is old fashioned.

Put this man on regular pencils for a book and I'll buy it!

die-yng said...
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die-yng said...

I have of course heard about this post before on comic news-sites and I have offered my opinion there, but I wanted to let you know about it as well.


You are an incredible artist, Jerry and have been for a long time.
I had of course noticed seeing your name less and less on the books I bought, but I admit, I simply thought you were working on stuff I didn't read. I never imagined you would have problems getting work.

I have in the past noticed the same problem you are talking about and have often wondered why talented writers and artists are suddenly not in demand any longer, especially when a lot of the newer artists seem to be less skilled and pretty generic (yes, DC looking at you here mostly).

Just one example I bought the new Captain Marvel title. A book with good writing and a great character but suffering from 3 or 4 different artists in 12 issues and artists simply not suited to this kind of book. I decided to drop the book, because I couldn't stand that anymore.

You'd be perfect for a book like that. I know you can draw an awesome Carol Canvers, both heroic and beautiful and here you are looking for work. It's not to believe!

I've heard there are some new things you are working on and I'm happy about this. I will make an effort to seek out and buy the work, when I see your name in the Previews-catalogue in the future.

Jesus Sanchez said...

A tremendous lot of people have commented here, and I agree with a lot of them. The new 52 does not have heroes, and I do miss writers and artists from back in the day. I buy old back issues of 80's books because you guys had the talent. A lot of the artists today just can't hack it. And I'm already doing my part not buying the new 52, I comment when I can and let DC know what I'd like, more kid friendly books and a return or if not a return then a small niche in their new 52 for less dark stories, and things like the original Young Justice. I think all your points are valid, but I've felt that DC is and has been guided by one or a group of individuals who are devil bent on selling their type of story and not allowing for the so called diversity they allegedly seek to offer. A diverse universe wouldn't need the creative guiding hand of one Chief Creative Officer.

My suggestions is all you young comic book artists band together and start your own universe over at Image. There are a lot of hungry writers out there without the talent to draw or the notoriety of some more famous and popular artists and I'm sure there are a lot of writers from your generation who aren't finding a lot of work writing comics either.

I'd buy your stuff in a heartbeat. I lament the lack of talented artists in today's comic books.

Alec Stevens said...

A postscript to my prior message: I drew for The New York Times Book Review from 1987-2001. When I started I had supposed that I'd be there indefinitely, having the kind of longevity that Al Hirschfeld had (though I did editorial illustrations in an expressionistic vein, not caricatures). Suddenly the work stopped. There were excuses, like the "increasing numbers in the talent pool, etc.," but it was nonsense, especially seeing some of the horrible art that was used in my absence (by new artists who very likely had a much lower pay rate). Also, magazines like to change their 'look' every ten to fifteen years, and I suppose that having passed through enough years, my work was suddenly 'dated.'

In 1988-89 I wrote and illustrated two graphic novels for DC's Piranha Press imprint. I remember how moved you told me you were by THE SINNERS, the first one. Jeanette Kahn promised me the moon, saying, "Create 10, 12 graphic novels in a row. Just create; you are on the cutting edge!" I was in my early twenties and swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. A verbal agreement for a third book was made, but a contract never materialized. The whole line was declared a loss leader, and, six rejected proposals later, it folded.

I've had good runs on a number of magazines as well (Tower Records' PULSE! and CLASSICAL PULSE!, NEW JERSEY MONTHLY, even THE NEW YORKER), but when new art directors come in it's like starting from scratch---if they even want to hire you at all. Whether it's the old boy network or the young hipster crowd the editorial cliques can be hard to penetrate.

I used to know everyone at DC in the late '80s - 90s. Now I probably only know one or two editors. So many people have moved on or passed away. Such is life.

I hope you find a good solution to your present situation, Jerry.

Best regards,

Alec Stevens
www.calvarycomics.com

Jerry Ordway said...

Hey, good to see the many new comments on this post, I appreciate them all. I feel like writing this blog post was cathartic for me, and helped me put a few things to rest, especially regarding DC. I tried to illustrate how I first signed on to the exclusive with the hope of getting a regular assignment, and then renewal by renewal, kept thinking "this is the year it will happen." Each time I developed a relationship with an editor who liked my stuff, that editor would leave DC, and I'd start over. This is a common problem, as noted in several replies here. For me, the contract and that quest for a regular assignment were linked. Now that I've been off contract for well over a year, I can put it to rest.
I want to address Alec Stevens, and say how much I've always liked your work. The ups and downs of freelance work are not for the weak of heart:) I think we are all seeing intense competition from the vast body of artists and writers competing for the same few jobs. I still like competing, to be honest, and harbor no resentment towards any other creative folk. The comic companies are beneficiaries of a huge pool of talent, which at first kept page rates flat for many years, and is now driving them down. I heard from one artist who told me he was offered 10 dollars a page for pencils and inks, by a known publisher,Oni Press, with no residual rights of any kind. That's just an insulting deal, but they know someone will take it. We spent countless hours learning to draw before we ever get a first assignment, and the skills we possess are worth more than 10 dollars a page. The message to younger talent is to be realistic, but don't ever sell yourself short-- by accepting poverty wages, you not only hurt yourself, but you establish a precedent for publishers to lower rates even further.

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DOC said...

What joesmith7789 said. Do a book of your own stuff. Maybe get some of the other under employyed creators and start a publishing group. Ut wouldn't pay much at first but it would get you out there. I support you all the way.
DOC Boucher
www.inter-fan.org

Mike Hoffman said...

I don't think there's much real security for people these days in any field or any type of work. It's everywhere, partly from Globalization and weaker unions.
I stopped working for Marvel, DC, etc. after getting the business from Dark Horse almost 20 years ago. Since then I've supported my family of four exclusively through art. I've done gallery shows, self-published comics and art books, created instructional materials and animation, run an eBay store (Powerseller) and made crafts for Etsy, recorded music albums, on and on and on, and hardly ever even touched a commission or drawn a superhero. I also have tons of properties that I own--which almost never happens with corporations. If I'd worked for them all these years, I'd have nothing of my own now.
I'm not saying all this to brag, but to point out that flexibility, imagination and multiple skills can help a lot. Admittedly some people don't multi-task that well, but I do think there's always an answer but it demands that the artist make some changes, not the World. I also don't think these giant companies owe anyone anything, loyalty, job security or anything else. And styles and fashions do change also.
I was horrified by early Image comics, for example, but things change, and if the Good Old Days were necessarily better--then to who? Old people?
The audience has to relate to the creator, and publishers can usually smell profits like sharks in bloody water. Their decisions aren't from spite but cold-blooded practicality, so of course we don't "like it". But we showed up and allowed ourselves to be included in the process. Just like Jack Kirby, you have to assume the position first.
And Jerry, it sounds like your audience is loyal enough to support any independent project you came up with. And you can use crowdfunding to help accomplish that.
I recently hired someone to handle online publicity, mainly because I don't want to do it, and he's young and understands social media. There's always hope, but as I suggested--flexibility as a creator is where stability will probably come from, if it comes at all.
I hope this is constructive.