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B&N Week 175: Do You Really Want To Be In The Public Eye?

| April 29, 2014

BoltsNutsFeatured-public eye

We’ve got another spectacular Tuesday! I won’t bore you with talk about sunshine—there’s a lot of it here in Tucson. You can literally count the number of times its overcast all day here, or how often the daytime temperature dips below 65. I love this place.

Anyway, this week’s question is, like all of them, geared to make you think: do you really want to be in the public eye?

In ‘Murica, public figures have extremely little privacy. As soon as you step outside your home, as a public figure, you shouldn’t expect to have any privacy at all. That’s just how it goes here. Your life is on display for everyone to either look up to or condemn. Just looking at the news bears this out.

The recent kerfluffle concerning Donald Sterling and the LA Clippers basketball team is a prime example. Here’s a guy who is rich enough to own an NBA team, yet doesn’t have enough sense to have a racially charged discussion behind closed doors. Yes, racism is alive and well, no matter how hard we try to stamp it out, but when you’re in the public eye, you have to be careful about what you say and where you say it.

Steve Niles, creator of 30 Days of Night [remember, he sold a million dollar option for it?], has also had his share of troubles in the spotlight. Starting a relationship with someone else’s girl [she has blame in this, too, because it takes two to tango], but then leaving threatening messages on an answering machine… Not the smartest thing to do.

Comic book creators, once you get to a certain level, lose some privacy. They have some clout because of the number of books sold [as well as their reception], and they have some respect in the community, mostly from fans. So their privacy is compromised when they step out and do things that are newsworthy to creators and fans.

Justiniano, an artist of some renown, was arrested and sentenced on child pornography charges. More than likely, he’ll never get high profile work again.

It isn’t just about avoiding scandal. Sometimes, it just can’t be helped. David Sim was labeled a misogynist for a good portion of his career because of his beliefs. Now in what many would consider the twilight of his career, John Byrne is considered a crotchety old man. Public figures [by comic book standards], who can still be talked about today, even if they aren’t considered relevant by today’s standards.

Is this really what you want?

Public figure, actor, generally considered to be a nice guy who likes to have a good time and still remembers his true friends, George Clooney doesn’t take his celebrity lightly. He understands how it can be used and abused, and he actively shies away from it. He doesn’t have a Twitter account, no Instagram, no Facebook. [That isn’t to say he can’t change his mind. Robert Downey, Jr. just joined Twitter not too long ago.] As creators, I don’t believe there’s a way to not be on a social media platform, because that’s how we connect with fans, can sometimes get work, and communicate with others. We just have to be mindful about what we say and how we say it.

Yes, I’m on Twitter [@stevedforbes], and I’m also on Facebook. Well, I have accounts at both. I’m hardly ever on FB, and I tweet rarely. After writing two columns a week and being a moderator at Digital Webbing, I find I don’t have much to say, so I’d rather be silent and have people think me a fool than open my mouth and confirm it. I don’t want to be inane and talk about the breakfast I just had, I don’t want to be the guy who constantly talks about the wretchedness of some scripts I get in for a column, and I don’t want to gush overmuch about art for projects that I’m working on. I don’t want to talk about work because there’s too much ‘splainin’ to be done for 140 characters, and I don’t think I’m overly funny. So I’m pretty quiet, and I watch, and I try to be helpful and I try to join in conversations if/when I have something to say.

However, I also know that as my cachet increases, my expectation of privacy decreases, and the scrutinizing of everything I say and do increases. If I were to become “comic book famous”, then I’d have to be about as careful as I am now, but probably a bit moreso. Just a little bit.

Being in the public eye cannot be a picnic. It isn’t just the lack of privacy, it’s also a public perception. James Spader has played a bastard of one type or another for most of his career. The only thing that comes to mind with him being a good guy is when he played Daniel Jackson in Stargate. Everything else that comes to mind has him being a jerk of the first or second order. He’s also a very private person. What happens then is that people start to think you’re truly this giant jerk, because that’s who you play, and there isn’t anything else to counterbalance that. [He’s actually a pretty smart, funny guy, and is very true to the people he calls friend.] So, how do you react when the public who doesn’t know you, just doesn’t like you because of a feeling they get, or an air that you project? You’re trying to make a living, but because of things beyond your control, you’re just not liked?

This is not a “what would Steven do” situation. What I would do is not necessarily what you would do. Everyone wants to be a comic book celebrity. Comic book celebrities get work shoved at them, so they never have to go looking; they get nearly automatic coverage of their work, so they remain in the public eye; they get invited to be guests at conventions, so they can mingle and hobnob while lowering their out of pocket cost. People not only listen to them, but they pay attention, as well. [There is a difference.]

However, they are almost always upbeat in public about damn near everything. They generally work hard at not offending anyone. They answer questions either about the work they’re doing, the work they want to do, or how to break in so they can get work, and it’s all done with a smile. This is their public face. How are they in private? Very few people know. Those that do aren’t talking.

The biggest pitfall of being in the public eye is the scrutiny. Once you break someone’s trust, it is very difficult to get it back. Orson Scott Card, writer of the novel Ender’s Game, was also an opponent of same sex marriage, going so far as to become a board member of a group that actively worked against it. He changed his tune when the movie version of the book came out [which he co-produced], and has basically shut up about it since it is no longer illegal, but the damage has already been done. There are people such as myself who won’t put another dime into his pocket, and so won’t see the movie, won’t buy his books, won’t spend money on his work. That’s broken trust that he may never get back.

Do you really want to be in the public eye? Is it something you can handle?

That’s all for this week. See you in seven.

Click here to discuss in the ComixTribe forums at Digital Webbing!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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