Daniel Pussey: Alienation in the Comics Industry Part II – Dan Pussey’s Development: Yearning for both Artistic Merit and Wealth

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When I first heard that Rob Liefeld was a multi-millionaire I could not believe it. How could anyone produce such tripe and actually get paid doing it? I was disgusted by the success of such individuals, who cannot even draw hands or feet, but still manage to earn an astonishing amount of wealth. My initial reaction to these individuals was that they could not possibly enjoy creating material that seems so immature and redundant. Additionally, these individuals must know that they are producing material that is cheap. However, Young Dan Pussey provided some insight into to the career trajectories of modern actors in the industry like Rob Liefeld, who may produce material that seems equally mundane—at least to myself. Perhaps these ‘artists’ that consistently put out what I consider to be garbage actually enjoy themselves. Perhaps they remain in the industry for so long, because even after making millions of dollars they still enjoy producing what I might consider crap, and therefore they continue to create. Moreover, perhaps these individuals want to be recognized and appreciated as artists. After reading some of the excerpts from Dan Pussey, I felt sorry for individuals like Rob Liefeld. Dan Pussey yearns to be reputed as an artist, but he is working in a faction of the industry that seems to supress creativity; Pussey also wants to make a lot of money. It is probably the latter that is more significant to him. Rejection in the high art sphere of the industry forces Pussey back into the mainstream faction of the comics industry, which consistently spews out mediocrity and is obsessed with efficiency and profit.

Initially, our protagonist is employed with Infinity comics, which is a start-up company that seems to provide similar content to the mainstream comics industry. Dan Pussey has a great deal of respect for his employer and mentor Doctor Infinity, who is an older fellow committed to creating his own line of Super-Champion comics, which seems like the same thing as conventional Superhero comics. Dan Pussey and co. are not paid until they finish producing their sections. This is analogous to standard practices of DC and Marvel, and contract work. Furthermore, artists from the golden age were more efficient, and they were able to produce more pages in a shorter period of time; the doctor seems to be value speed and efficiency as the trademarks of an exceptional talent. It should also be noted that the Doctor did not even bother to look at Pussey’s work before hiring him. As discussed in part one, Doctor Infinity is purely interested in capitalising off of anybody who will work for him, because anything associated with his brand will most likely succeed due his legacy in the industry, especially cheap newcomers. Newcomers may have malleable styles and a lack of credentials, which allows them to be easily exploited both creatively and economically.

After a few years at Infinity, Pussey develops an ego from all of the hype associated with his work for the Start-up company Infinity Comics. A friend then suggests that Pussey has developed a reputation in the industry that may support a solo career—free from external influences and other actors who dilute his earnings—which would allow him to earn more income from his work. The realisation that he could potentially make more money encourages him to take a creative writing classes at Acme night school, where he falls in love with his creative writing teacher. His teacher admires comix and brings in examples of alternative productions that happen to be quite expensive. After seeing that these ‘hi-brow,’ artsy pieces sell at a much higher price than his conventional superhero comics, Pussey decides to pursue a career with the underground publishers.

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Despite moving to the alternative faction of the industry, Pussey’s style does not shift. His superhero comics are completely rejected by all of the ‘artsy’ labels such as “Hi-Brow,” which appears to be a rip off of Fantagraphics. When Pussey’s English teacher suggests writing about everyday life, he draws a blank, and cannot possible create anything other than superheroes. Consequently, Pussey crawls back to Doctor Infinity in order to remain in the same position we found him at the beginning.

Young Dan Pussey was doomed to fail in his pursuit of the high-art from the beginning. This is mainly a result of his intent, which was to capitalise off of higher prices. Pussey entered a faction of the industry that has consciously tried to make comics an art form, whereas he was merely interested in making more money. Our protagonist was clueless about the way comix operate.  Daniel Clowes’ series offers a satirical perspective into the lives of contributors who may be inherent outsiders to the high-art form faction, or comix.

I began to feel sorry for contributors like Dan Pussey. Perhaps they really enjoy re-using old plots and creating fragmented story lines that make little, to no sense at all. The polarisation of high-art versus low-art in the comics industry must be an extremely alienating feeling. On one side, we have the same trite that has served its purpose since World War II, which depicts power. I imagine that many creators working in the superhero realm used to admire the very same style when they were young. And, on the other side we have a rejection of the superhero genre, which may be exclusive to those who are interested in producing more superhero comics. This side is consciously trying to act as art and is challenging the stigma associated with comics.

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References:

Heer, J., and K. Worcester. A comics studies reader. Univ Pr of Mississippi, 2009. Print.

Eightball #1, #3, and #6 (Daniel Clowes)

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