Shaenon K. Garrity (shaenon) wrote,
Shaenon K. Garrity

The Hero Initiative is an excellent organization that deserves your support.

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.
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This asshole is actually inveighing against the Hero Initiative?

God, I hate the business. I hate it. Peace out.
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.
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.
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...
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...
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.
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

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).
Ditto, just donated some, too.

At least Kurtz is having some positive impact...
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!
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.
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?


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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.

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.
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