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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
The Hero Initiative is an excellent organization that deserves your support. 
24th-May-2012 10:31 pm

I don't like to rant on the Internet.  I prefer the surgical strike.  Precise.  Cleansing.  But sometimes a lady just gets all pissed.

So the Cartoon Art Museum has a new show up, a retrospective of the history of MAD.  Thanks to the generosity of many lenders and the hard work of the museum's tiny staff, the show includes Kurtzman cover roughs, classic Elder parodies, Jaffee Fold-Ins, Spy Vs. Spy strips by both Prohias and Kuper, one of the two covers ever drawn by Sergio Aragones, and work by present-day contributors like Keith Knight and Chris Baldwin.  Andrew, the curator of CAM and my main squeeze, says it's the best show he's ever curated, but he says that a lot.

I wrote the wall text for the show; I do that for CAM shows when the staff is swamped.  While I was at it, I also wrote up text for a set of extra labels, just fun facts: how many issues Sergio Aragones has appeared in, this funny thing Al Jaffee said, etc.  One of the common criticisms the museum gets on places like Yelp is that we don't provide enough context for the pieces, and I'd like to correct that by giving visitors a little bit of inside information.

Yesterday I noticed that Andrew hadn't included my little factoids in the show.  When I asked him about it, he confirmed that, no, the museum didn't print them.  Because it couldn't afford to.  The Cartoon Art Museum is on such a tight budget that it can't afford the cost of mounting a half-dozen extra labels on foamcore down at the copy shop.

This goes on all the time, of course.  CAM survives by cutting its operations down to the bare bones.  But that doesn't make each penny pinched any less painful.

So you can imagine my delight today when I learned that webcartoonist Scott Kurtz is busy trying to convince people not to donate to comics nonprofits.

To be fair, Kurtz's post isn't directed at the Cartoon Art Museum.  His primary target is the Hero Initiative, an organization that pays the medical costs of cartoonists who lack health care.  Many of the Hero Initiative's beneficiaries are older comic-book artists who, to put it bluntly, got screwed over by their publishers.  Kurtz is opposed to the donating to the Hero Initiative because...

Okay, I don't know.  I'm not sure if he even believes half the things he posts on the Internet.  I hate responding to him at all, because, when he dismissed giving to the Hero Initiative as "slacktivism" and sarcastically mocked the people who do so, it's likely that the only thought going through his head was, "Holy shit, some people who aren't me are getting attention!  And frankly, they're getting attention because they're better people than me!  To my blog!"  By acknowledging his little online asshole dance, I'm just giving him what he wants.  So I'm a sucker.  Sue me.

Kurtz doesn't like that a small online movement has started encouraging people who enjoyed the movie "The Avengers" to give to comics nonprofits--mainly the Hero Initiative, but also groups like the Cartoon Art Museum, MoCCA, the Cartoon Research Library, and the Pittsburgh ToonSeum--as a gesture of support for the artists who created the Avengers, because Marvel and Disney have been adamant in their refusal to do so.  This little movement isn't telling people not to see "The Avengers."  It's just saying, "Hey, the companies that made the movie aren't supporting the original writers and artists, so let's step up and support them ourselves."

Kurtz is mad about that.  Because I don't know.

I don't get the mindset that makes people write this stuff.  I just don't.  I mean, okay, sure, sometimes we all think things like, "Man, I hope the artists I admire die penniless and suffering, and no one reaches out to them in their moment of need."  But most of us, before we share this thought with the world, stop and think again, and we realize, wait, no, that's awful.  If there's one thing the Internet has taught me, I guess, it's that some people don't have that crucial second thought.

Comics nonprofits run on the thinnest of shoestrings.  They're not a popular target for grants or large donations.  They live or die on the generosity of individuals who love the art form, people who can't give a lot but somehow manage, together, to give enough.  Telling people not to give to these nonprofits--actually mocking people who do so--is rotten behavior.

Kurtz visited the Cartoon Art Museum a couple of years ago--in fact, at the same time the museum was putting up a show of work by artist Ed Hannigan, who has multiple sclerosis, to benefit the Hero Initiative.  Kurtz seemed to have a good time.  But maybe he was thinking what a shame it is that we get just enough help from fans to stay open, and hoping he could change that situation.

Or maybe he doesn't think about a blessed thing that pops into his head before he posts mean-spirited crap on the Internet.

Anyway.  Rant over.  And here's the Hero Initiative website again.
(Deleted comment)
25th-May-2012 07:13 am (UTC)
This asshole is actually inveighing against the Hero Initiative?

God, I hate the business. I hate it. Peace out.
25th-May-2012 08:02 am (UTC)
his little online asshole dance

The perfect description.

It's difficult to give someone who does so many asshole dances attention because, well, you figure they're doing their dance because they learned (perhaps unconsciously) that it gets them attention.

But you get attention when you speak out, too. Which is why I joined the Hero Initiative and made a donation just now.
25th-May-2012 08:03 am (UTC)
Wow, my credit in Kurtz just took a nose dive. Particularly at the part where he says "It's all fixed now because they changed the copyright laws to have better protections for creators".

The didn't. Copyright laws have been changed almost exclusively in the benefit of distributors. "Work for Hire" still exist in the US. It is still standard practice in many industries to screw the writer.

And even if you do the dance, get an agent, try to protect your creative interest as best as you can, "screw the writer, take the profits" is still leading US Showbiz.

Ask Dan Harmon.
25th-May-2012 10:29 am (UTC)
In the MighyGodKing post you link to someone in the comments pointed out a link where Kurtz had the TOTAL OPPOSITE stance two years ago in regard to the X-Men franchise and Dave Cockrum. Making Kurtz' current attention grabbing even more bizarre...

Though this does remind me (again) that I should go over my next two week's budget and see if I can donate to the Hero Initiative or the like...
25th-May-2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
no, that kurtz flipped his behavior like that makes perfect sense. he wanted to have a very controversial opinion so he could be a relevant talking point in his industry, and his own artistic works aren't going to provide that.

i used to think he was just a very dull person hopping on the webcomics bandwagon, but i've yet to hear about anything non-assholish he's done...
25th-May-2012 02:12 pm (UTC)
There, I just donated you guys some money so you can make quirky trivia cutouts next time. There is no excuse for anything preventing you from sharing your massive database of trivial knowledge, because it should be shared with the world.

However, the CAM page returned a 404 after I donated.
25th-May-2012 02:39 pm (UTC)
FYI, I just donated to the Cartoon Art Museum. After completing the transaction, I was sent back to the site, to a 404. Might want to let whoever runs the webpage know about that. (Also sent a few dollars to THI.)
(Deleted comment)
25th-May-2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
On the plus side, if it hadn't been for his shitty assbagging bullcrap I would have never heard of The Hero Initiative, which I have now just donated a reasonable amount to.

This also reminded me that I should renew my CAM membership, which I let lapse since I only went like once the last time I had an active membership and so it sort of fell off the radar for me. I also need to get better about going to CAM. Which I really should do more often since it's basically on the way home from work for me now (or something I could do at lunchtime or whatever).
25th-May-2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
Ditto, just donated some, too.

At least Kurtz is having some positive impact...
25th-May-2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much for the support, everyone! On the Cartoon Art Museum donation, does the "404" show up after a PayPal donation has gone through? If so, do you have any suggestions on how to fix that? Just asking in case it's something I'll be able to go in and repair myself.

Thanks again!
25th-May-2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
What I got out of it was way different. The Kurtz I saw never literally said don't give to the Hero Initiative. He only mentioned it in one sentence, and it was about whether or not forum warriors telling OTHERS to donate over guilt about something that happened 40 years ago can really "balance out" that thing's karma.

You already know how I personally feel about giving money to (currently alive) cartoonists. Definitely Pro on that one.

But: Every $5 that goes to Hero Initiative is $5 that doesn't go to [Struggling Webcomic Artist X]. Is it worth it? Maybe! People have the right to argue that it is- but others have just as much right (like Scott) to argue against. I for one will keep routing money, but to the living cartoonists. If Marvel wanted to open up their profit sharing paths more like DC like Andrew was saying, that would probably be a smart business move for them and might improve their sales to me as a customer. But it's ultimately up to them.
25th-May-2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
The Kurtz I saw never literally said don't give to the Hero Initiative.

That's true. He never literally said that. He made fun of people who give to the Hero Initiative, called donating to the Hero Initiative "slacktivism" (as another commentator pointed out, giving to organizations is in fact what we call "activism") and "hand-wringing," and whined about the fact that other people donating makes him feel guilty. He ended his essay by comparing supporters of the Hero Initiative to the villain Loki (because I don't know why, he's a terrible writer) and calling us "worms."

And he apparently left people like you with the impression that you have to choose between sticking up for indie creators and sticking up for mainstream artists who need help.

But he never literally said the words "don't give to the Hero Initiative," so no harm done, I guess?
25th-May-2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
My understanding was he said the people who complain on forums to others without doing, giving, or creating anything at all (and there are plenty of those) were the Slacktivist Loki Worms. (Good band name?) He literally said the "worms" are those who "create nothing". Hero Initiative was eight paragraphs in the rear view mirror by the time he was talking about who he thinks the real worms are.

As doers, givers and creators, we are exempt from his rant. Hero Initiative is too except he thinks it won't be able to right a wrong 40 years in the past that the industry (especially DC) has already adapted to. I think hard-pressed creators just feel so much sympathy for Hero Initiative they are thinking the rant was 100% locked onto them.

He was ranting about do-nothing forum warriors. Hero Initiative, which got a one-sentence mention at the very top, got grazed in the crossfire.
25th-May-2012 11:15 pm (UTC)

For you to assert that while I was doing that signing at the CAM, I had evil ulterior motives, is not only insulting but it's friendship ending. I was honored to speak at the museum, and was proud that my wife and father could be present for it. It was an amazing weekend that you shared in and for you to pretend that you don't know my true intentions during that visit, to pretend we didn't share a meal and smile and laugh and have a genuine time in support of the museum is beyond disappointing.

Because we disagree that a person should feel guilted to donate to a charity to make up for enjoying a movie that many MANY creatives worked hard to make for them. That a company fronted hundreds of millions to make...I mean, I can't even finish the sentence.

Because you disagree with me, you're willing to spread lies that I'm out to harm non-profits and that when I do help them, I must secretly be hoping that they fail...

I thought that you and Andrew were professional enough to engage in discourse. Instead you seize the opportunity of the unpopularity of my opinion to lie about me and promote your museum. You try to position me as an enemy of your good work there.

I don't know what to say. Over the last week a lot of professionals, bloggers and comic fans have said some really nasty things about me. And none of it really bothered me. But this does.

I'm genuinely hurt.
25th-May-2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
Well, what was going through your head, Scott? Did you consider that sarcastically mocking people who donate to nonprofits might cause them to stop donating to those nonprofits? Do you think about anything before you post it online?

I don't expect to be able to convince you to stop being a dick on the Internet. Better people than I have tried. If McCloud couldn't do it, I'm sure I can't.

All I can do is remind you that the things you post online are real things. When you call people who run and support comics nonprofits "worms who never had the courage to create anything themselves," you hurt organizations like the Cartoon Art Museum. If you enjoyed your time at the Cartoon Art Museum, you should not call us those names.

Your father was a delightful man and clearly got a real kick out of traveling with you. I hope you continue to appreciate him.
25th-May-2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
I think we need to get on the phone. Clearly there is some serious confusion if you're claiming I called people who support CAM or any other non profit worms.

I was calling the people trying to guilt those who see the Avengers movies worms. The "slaktavists" are not those who donate to the cause, they are those who tell others to donate via twitter and facebook but dont actually do anything themselves.
26th-May-2012 12:01 am (UTC)
And in fact I do recall laughing and smiling with you at CAM, and you having a good time. That's one of the reasons I'm pissed at you now. That you could laugh and smile and have that good time, and then not even consider how much you might hurt the museum, and organizations like it, with these insults and accusations, is frustrating, to put it mildly.

I mean, when you wrote this:

They are our Loki. The people looking to pit fandom and an entire industry against itself to make themselves feel powerful. The worms who never had the courage to create anything themselves looking to forge an identity on the internet by getting in a good dig. By being the guy who got the awesome last word in. These are the real bad guys of our world.

you were writing about Andrew. You know that, right? He's been going around Facebook stumping for the Avengers/Hero Initiative drive. You had a conversation with him about it a while back. It was a polite and reasonable conversation, you parted amicably, and then you went back to the safety of your blog and told your fans that people like him are "the real bad guys of our world."

I don't trust you, Scott.
26th-Jul-2012 02:04 pm (UTC) - With the benefit of hindsight...
...and not having read Scott's original post, the part you've quoted (especially "worms who never had the courage to create anything themselves") isn't referring to people like Andrew because Andrew has created things and he does put his money, effort, time, etc. into the causes he believes in. It's talking about people who haven't done any research into the issues, who blindly pick up on the latest outrage and become incomprehensible raving loonies when spreading the word through social media.

It also doesn't seem to be talking about regular people who may not have the money to donate right away and choose to do so quietly later when they're more flush with cash. Or the others who don't have the money, but have done their research, believe strongly in the cause or initiative, and want others to be similarly educated. But perhaps I should put my fingers and eyes where this comment is coming from and go and read Scott's original post.
26th-May-2012 02:23 am (UTC)
Every $5 that goes to Hero Initiative is $5 that doesn't go to [Struggling Webcomic Artist X].

Wait, what? That's not true. I've given to THI and bought Shaenon's books (and given to other webcomics in the past). I would suspect that people who donate to THI are the kind of people who happily buy webcomic products and donate on the webpages.
26th-May-2012 02:42 am (UTC)
Money for The Hero Initiative *does* go to living cartoonists, by the way. That's not money that's going toward the Kirby family's legal bills, or building a statue of Don Heck, but to artists who've fallen on hard times.

I know as well as anybody that there's only so much time and money that a person can give, so I'm always thankful when people give their time and energy toward the Cartoon Art Museum (like Scott Kurtz did on a recent visit), or when they pledge money to Shaenon's Kickstarter drive, or when they buy a CBLDF t-shirt or any number of ways that people support comics (or any other charity).
26th-May-2012 01:08 am (UTC)
I just got off the phone with Scott, and we managed to clear the air. I'm grateful that he took the time to visit the Cartoon Art Museum on his last trip to Northern California, and I have no doubt that he and his father sincerely had a great time when they were here. Scott's done work to support CAM, the CBLDF and the Hero Initiative (dating back to their days as ACTOR) in the past, and I'm confident he'll lend his support to each of those organizations in the future.

The essay touched a nerve for me and a lot of cartoonists, and it seemed to have something for everyone to get worked up about. For some, it was proper credit, or creator's rights, or proper compensation for your work as an artist. Shaenon and I zeroed in on the non-profit sector since that's been my life for nearly eleven years (almost twelve, counting my time as a volunteer with CAM). The razor-thin budgets, the long hours, cheap lunches, going out of pocket on work supplies--and we're all glad to be doing what we're doing.

I disagreed with a lot of Scott's essay, and I think an extra few sentences here and there would have made it a lot less inflammatory. I don't care if you give to the Hero Initiative because you feel guilty about the Kirby Estate or that Don Heck's unknown even to most comic fans or if you give because you got a lot of enjoyment out of the movie and want to give something back to the comics community or because you lost a bet. The twenty-five bucks you give them today is money that someone's putting toward groceries tomorrow. Or arthritis medicine so that an artist can put in another couple of hours drawing commissions. Or a warm sweater to offset the fact that you can't pay your heating bill this month.

Rather than questioning people's motives for giving, I wish there'd been a line applauding people for it, and telling people that it's not enough to sign petitions and forward Facebook memes, but that you should give money or time to groups like the Hero Initiative. Find ways to give back to the comics community.

Scott, you've got a lot of fans and you've got a lot of influence. You didn't discourage people from giving to the Hero Initiative, but the only mention of them in your essay was in the context of people cynically drumming up donations for them for the wrong reasons, and that's what ratcheted this up from "I disagree with this essay" to "this essay really, really pissed me off." I'd love it if the next essay that you wrote got me that worked up, but in a positive way. Not rage directed at you or at a corporation, but (now I really sound like a stereotypical northern Californian) a need to go out and fix the system so that Ed Hannigan has a pension from Marvel, and that Russ Heath doesn't have to go broke getting his knees replaced, and that William Messner-Loebs isn't couch-surfing while wondering how he's going to put a roof over his head. Time being mad at you, or at Marvel, or at Disney is time that I'm not working on ways to make the world a better place.

In the meantime, let me sign you up to sketch for an hour at the Cartoon Art Museum's booth at Comic-Con this year, and I'm pretty sure the Hero Initiative would welcome an appearance from you, too.

26th-May-2012 04:25 pm (UTC) - Just, you know, without the cool car and the ass-kicking chauffeur.
Here's a... not a contrarian perspective, exactly, but a lateral one.

Consider the following possibility:

Scott Kurtz is the Green Hornet of webcomics aggro.

Here's a guy who, deservedly or not -- it doesn't matter in this context -- has teeming hordes of Internet people who think he's a douchey windbag. Those people, no matter what Kurtz says, are going to do the opposite just to feel like they're sticking a finger in his eye.

If Scott Kurtz tells people not to donate to worthy causes like the CAM or the Hero Initiative (I admit I haven't read his post), is that really going to cause people to say to themselves, "Gee, I'm going to take this money and spend it on hookers and blow (okay, comic books about hookers and a six-pack of Jolt Cola) instead"? Not many people, I'll bet. I suspect the net effect will be:
  • A very few people will be bullied into not donating, which is bad, or at least not admitting they DID donate, which is also a little bad because others will not get the benefit of their good example;

  • the vast majority of people will not have their behavior swayed at all; and most importantly,

  • A non-trivial number of people will hear a tale of douche-tastic windbaggery and be moved to donate where otherwise they either wouldn't have known of the opportunity, or would be planning to donate but wouldn't have gotten around to it without the added impetus of giving Kurtz the finger.
I figure that's a net benefit.

That's right, a man's scurrilous reputation has been used for good!

Of course, the Green Hornet did it on purpose, but no analogy is perfect.
2nd-Oct-2012 02:41 pm (UTC) - Nice
Blog look just great. I create blogs all the time but I think yours is great good luck.

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