I've always tended to be a bit more on the cynical side. Still hopeful, but cynical nonetheless. Lately, though, I've felt that cynicism growing more pronounced and I suspect it's due to several factors. First, there's news almost every day about some selfish bastard screwing over hundreds, if not thousands, of people for their own greedy purposes. AIG execs, Madoff, take your pick. I also happen to be reading two books that deal with the issue: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Leadership Redefined by Todd Dewett.
Rand's book is a work of fiction, but there are any number of characters whose petty and small-minded schemes continually hamper the few characters that are trying to improve things. True to Rand's Objectivist philosophy, the most sympathetic characters are indeed money-loving capitalists, but they are honest and forthright about their intentions. They speak plainly and seek the most efficient and elegant ways of achieving their ends, and are repeatedly thwarted by myopic dimwits who are more interested in maintaining their comfortable status quo.
Dewett's book is non-fiction and is squarely aimed at business managers who want to become better leaders. His style is considerably more casual, even flippant at times, but he tends to take a cut-the-bullshit-hype approach. (I had him as a professor in one of my MBA classes, and he's like that in person as well.) But, despite his generally upbeat and positive approach, he still acknowledges that some people you'll deal with in the business world are smarmy, power-hungry so-and-sos who will actively get in your way if your attempts at efficiency also happens to tread into their little cubicle fiefdom.
And don't get me started on some of the crap I'm dealing with at my day job these days!
All of this has fed my own cynicism, and I've caught myself thinking how pleasant my neighborhood is because I can walk my dog 9:00 at night and everyone's already gone in for the night.
"Sean, what in the hell does this have to do with comics?!?"
Civil War. Countdown. Secret Invasion. 52...
Pick any company produced comic series. Heck, any of their regular titles: Action Comics. Uncanny X-Men. Justice League. Amazing Spider-Man...
These books are created under the same business circumstances. No, I'm not talking about "editorial interference" or anything like that. Editors, by and large, hire the writers and artists they think will do a good job on a specific title. But there's a much larger business behind that. Do you think Tom Brevoort or Matt Idelson or Mike Marts or Axel Alonso only have to deal with their creative teams?
No, of course not! They have to deal with their bosses, their peers, the printing reps, the distributor reps, the office admins at all sorts of locations... the list goes on and on. Now, certainly, some of those people are going to try to be helpful and do the best job that they can. But some of those people will also undoubtedly have their own agendas, which may or may not coincide with the production of a good comic book.
Maybe the printing rep is just hanging on to her job because he gets to fly from Winnipeg to New York regularly and wants to sit in on a taping of Letterman. Maybe the editor from down the hall feels like he's gotten all the crap assignments and conveniently mislays other editors' files in a petty attempt at sabotaging their projects. Maybe the office admin really wants to be a fashion model, and is only working there to pay the bills until his "real" career takes off.
The individual impact of any one of these people might be small, but the cumulative effect can be huge. Especially if you're not Marvel or DC (whose relative sizes give them at least a little leverage).
The 'So What' here is that there is an alternative. An option where there aren't dozens of people getting between the creator and the reader. An option where the only person to be cynical of is the creator him/herself. There're no office politics. There's no catering to sensitive egos. There's no having to deal with incessant fools if you don't want to.
The option, of course, is webcomics.
(You knew that was coming, right?)
Now, go read Tozo or Charles Christopher or Odysseus or something!