RON MARZ, SCOTT LOBDELL On Racism, Politics & Social Media

Hey, That

It was the Twitter conversation that had comic fans talking.

But not so much about comics.

Last week, writers Ron Marz and Scott Lobdell got the attention of comics bloggers and message boards with an exchange on Twitter.

It went like this:

Ron Marz: “Worst. Week. Ever.” — Racists.

Scott Lobdell: Dude, do you need a spoon or something to help remove that brain tumor?

Ron Marz: Probably, since I have no idea what that means.

Scott Lobdell: it means your daily Me Am Morally Superior To World rants are tedious and unoriginal. Let your work speak for itself.

Ron Marz: “Me Am Morally Superior To World”? Seriously? I was under the impression I’m allowed to think racists are bad people.

Scott Lobdell: Wow! What a stand: “Racists am bad” Why not use your writing to change hearts and minds instead of shooting fish in a barrel.

Ron Marz: Scott, please understand this is said with no malice: if my tweets somehow offend you, you don’t have to follow me.

Scott Lobdell: I find your pomposity fascinating. Take this as an Tweetervention: no1 stands up FOR Racism ‘cept morons. Ur impressing no one.

Ron Marz: It’s not my goal to impress anyone. I just say what’s on my mind. Sorry if that casts me as pompous in your eyes.

Scott Lobdell: Hmmm. Maybe you just need to think deeper thoughts.

 

It was a quick, short exchange. But the Twitter conversation immediately sparked interest from fans, who were already deep in a discussion of racism because of two revelations from last week: Peter Parker was being replaced in Ultimate Spider-Man by a half-black, half-Hispanic youth named Miles Morales, and Perry White, the white-haired, Caucasian Superman comic character, would be played in the Man of Steel movie by African-American actor Laurence Fisburne.

Within a few hours of the exchange, fans were arguing about what it all meant. Was it politically motivated? Was it a discussion of how creators should act online? Or was it something else?

Whatever the reasoning, the speed with which the creators' comments shot across the Internet speaks to the power of social media. Lobdell, who's writing three of DC's "New 52" titles, and Marz, whose work can be seen in Top Cow's Artifacts and the new DC title Voodoo, became the focus of a heated internet debate among fans.

In the wake of it all, some fans have even launched attacks at the creators. Others have labeled their actions in ways that were never actually explained. To clear up the whole thing, Newsarama decided to simply ask Marz and Lobdell to explain what the conversation was really about.

Nrama: Scott, Ron, is this your first experience with the speed with which an Internet post can spread and stir controversy? Or have you seen this before?

Scott Lobdell: I have never had this experience before, it was kind of interesting. I mean, I've had "conversations" with people on Facebook or message boards, but it is usually only one or two people you're conversing with at a time. This felt more like someone dropping a match in a state park and moments later there's this wildfire raging out of control.

Ron Marz: I think we’ve all seen it before, in one form or another. It’s just a little more instantaneous and pervasive with Twitter. It seems like the craving for information, and the snap judgments that follow, sometimes creates a perfect storm in which things take on a life of their own far beyond their actual importance.

Nrama: Did it surprise you?

Marz: The reaction on Twitter itself didn’t surprise me, because I don’t think there was much of a reaction. A few other people chimed in about the conversation, and that was pretty much it. Over and done with. I think what turned it into a “thing” was the coverage on Newsarama and especially Bleeding Cool. That’s when it started to get blown out of proportion, and turned into something it wasn’t. Bleeding Cool took two Tweets, from two different conversations, about two different subjects, and put them next to each other. That’s Rupert Murdoch kind of stuff. As if I could have even less respect than I already did for the jerkwad who runs Bleeding Cool. Yeah, I know, “I’m not a journalist, bah, blah, blah” but it shows a blatant lack of personal and professional ethics.

Nrama: Ron, you've been on Twitter awhile and are still pretty active on there, with more than 17,000 posts. What does Twitter represent for you, both in your life and your career, and why have you utilized it to this extent?

Marz: I truthfully never even signed up for Twitter. A friend of mine, Saurav Mohapatra, who is a writer and helps out with my website, signed me up and said, “Here, you need to do this.” And I was initially skeptical. I don’t even have a Facebook account because I’m just not interested.

But it turned out that Twitter was a good fit for me, I think to great extent because of the brief nature of it. I’m at my desk, at my computer, virtually all day every day. Twitter tends to be a palette cleanser for me, something I can do when I need a break from looking at script pages. So it’s an entertainment for me, as well as a way to generate awareness of what I’m working on, what books are coming out. It also became an outlet for what I happen to be thinking about sports or politics or pirating comics or whatever.

Being a writer or even an artist tends to be a pretty solitary pursuit, so being able to connect with people like that is a welcome opportunity. I don’t censor myself, and I’m not afraid of telling people what I actually think. I’ve had people say that they appreciate my honesty on Twitter, and I’m glad, but it’s not really a conscious choice. I just don’t know any other way to be.

Nrama: Scott, you stayed away from Twitter for awhile, but joined earlier this year. Why'd you join? And how have you been utilizing Twitter and other social media?

Lobdell: Okay, first let me say that when I reach 17,000 tweets you're allowed to shoot me in the head if I don't do it myself. (Kidding, Ron! See, it is exactly this sense of humor of mine that often gets me in trouble!)

Regarding Twitter, I don't know — maybe a month or so? It seemed like a good idea regarding self-marketing, but I think I have to admit to myself I'm not big on self-marketing. I'd rather just let my work speak for itself (Incoming!).

When I was "famous" in the '90s, the most far-reaching publicity machine was Wizard Magazine — and they held the publicity strings pretty tightly. Either you were in or you were out — you were either on their Top Ten or you were mostly invisible.

So you got covered or you didn't.

Nowadays, like the rest of the entertainment industry, you can take your story to the rest of the world with a click. Sometimes it is to promote your new work, other times to share your favorite new movie, or to complain about the person who cut you off in traffic. I think there are a lot of comic writers who are very good at Tweeting their way into comic stardom — sometimes their Twitter followers out-number the comic books they sell. I just don't think I have that skill set.

I left Facebook at about 5,000 friends. It just felt so... I don't know. Unreal? Some were family and best friends and others were fans and others were detractors. I just didn't feel comfortable "living in public" any more — and thought Twitter might be an alternative.

But it doesn't seem to be working out very well!

Nrama: Your purposes on Twitter were obviously at odds the other day. How did this whole thing start?

Marz: My impression is that it all started with a comment from a day or two before, which I think Scott interpreted as me saying all Tea Partiers are racists. That certainly wasn’t what I said, and it’s certainly not what I think. Do I feel like there’s a racist element in various Tea Party organizations? Yeah, absolutely, I think that’s pretty obvious. But I certainly wouldn’t paint the whole movement as racist. I think me commenting on mixed-race Spider-man, and Laurence Fishburne being cast as Perry White, must have seemed to Scott like I was painting with a broad brush, but that wasn’t the intent.

I completely understand Scott’s comments about shooting fish in a barrel because, let’s face it, it is pretty easy to make fun of the ignorance of racists. So, yeah, I was shooting fish in a barrel, but I think some fish deserve to be figuratively shot. I was honestly shocked and disgusted at the naked racism displayed in the comments following the USA Today article on Miles Morales. I’m not naïve, we all know that kind of stuff is out there. But I guess I’m just not used to seeing it in such blatant terms in an innocuous venue like USA Today. A lot of the comments were just incredibly ugly. So I said something about it, and honestly never thought about the Tea Party at all.

Lobdell: Without getting into the tit for tat of it all, I can tell you it started for me because I've developed such a low tolerance for the use of the word "racism." I think we are quickly coming to a time where the word is going to be mean nothing, or — even more frightening — it is going to be able to be used to describe anything.

 

 

Nrama: Kurt Busiek probably had the best immediate response on Twitter when he said, "Looking forward to that Superboy/Voodoo crossover real soon now!" Hearing that you two are still friends, was Kurt Busiek's post right? Will we be seeing a comic crossover between you guys now?

Lobdell: Too soon! Too soon! [laughs] I would always be happy to work with Ron and whatever characters he is writing!

Marz: Actually, when Scott and I ended up talking to each other, we figured out that there are some natural ties between what Scott’s doing on one of his DC books and what I’m doing on Voodoo. Who knows what might happen down the road?

Nrama: Wait, was this actually a hidden attempt by the two of you to promote your comics? Are you guys practicing viral marketing here?

Lobdell: No.

Marz: If this was a viral marketing attempt, less than a dozen tweets between the two of us would be a pretty slipshod effort. It’s actually kind of discouraging to me that people are cynical enough to think that. Like I said, I tend to be pretty brutally honest. For this to be a marketing gimmick strikes me as pretty dishonest.

Nrama: If anything, this experience speaks to the power of words on the Internet. Do you think you'll change anything you do in the future on social media? Or have any advice for others who use social media because of what you've seen happen in this situation?

Marz: Nope. For good or ill, what you see is what you get with me. I’m grateful for the people who pick up my books, I’m grateful for the people who follow me on Twitter. I’ve always found that if you say what you mean, and mean what you say, things work out a lot better. You might not like everything I say, you might not agree with it, but at least you know I’m not bullshitting you.

Nrama: Scott? Any change for you?

Lobdell: Gosh, I hope not. I think it is always important for people to talk — even when, or maybe even especially when — you disagree with them. Do I like being called a douche and a teabagger and a racist? No. But I do like that we are talking to each other from one part of the world to the other — where social media has allowed people in other countries to shine the light on their own plights, and where a kickstarter.com can raise the money for a Womanthology. It is great that people have a voice (even me!). Do I wish people were a little nicer with the words they chose — myself included — sure. I'll try to make sure that next time I write, I tone down the snark. Oh, and sorry Ron for causing all this craziness!

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