Friday, August 24, 2012

The DC Editorial Debacle

The latest news is Rob Liefeld quit working for DC and as he left he was stating the editorial interference has become too great at DC. This is a similar compliant that has been raised by many of the creators at DC. Personally I’m glad to see him go, but his leaving is symbolic and what is slowing hurting DC. Of course there is much consternation about editorial mandates at Marvel also, but the chaos level seems either better managed or at least reported on less then at DC. The hue and cry is DC has no clue what they are doing, the defense sales are better.

My view has been and continues to be that the short term gain will not be a long term turn for the better. I think the next year or two will prove my opinion to be borne out. If I’m wrong and the DCU continues going great guns, then congratulations, if I’m right that Didio and Harras will have to go.

In order to examine why I think DC is in long term dire straits one only has to look at Superman as one of the two foundation characters and he can barley carry two series, three if we add in Supergirl. The Batman family of books is what supports DC. Superman has floundered for years and with a few bright spot exceptions DC has not had a clue how to handle the character. The recent re-launch of Action and Superman were not even coordinated. DC has had a long history of trying to work off Grant Morrison’s work. It has been obvious from Countdown to the Batman Returns cross-over event either they are not talking to Grant or Grant is just f**king with them and changes his plot after he tells DC what he is doing. In this case the new Superman book by George Perez ended up reading like a different character then the one Grant was fashioning in Action. The result is Action is an okay book and Superman was a train wreck. Perez said the editorial interference was untenable and he went back to just being an artist. Supergirl is on reboot number six or seven and it has just doesn’t work because I have no real feeling for the connectivity with the characters or the history of the characters. Even the Batman books don’t hang together that well and I only follow Batman, Batman and Robin and Nightwing is on death’s door for me, 12 issues in and we have not establish anything for Dick.

This re-launch has been helter skelter at best. The creator rotating teams has been fast and furious with mid course corrections the rule of the day. It is also apparent that between the way the books are written and the other elements DC has been almost pushing a house style. It seems to have chased away some great creators with Brian Wood being the one that comes to mind. Also Harras has brought in his nineties team that was running Marvel into the ground. Instead of a well organized plan, DC threw the switch and marketed the hell of these books. With incentive programs guaranteed to jack up sales DC climbed back into the race with Marvel. It just feels a lot like the Emperor’s new clothes and once people start to examine what they are reading I envision sales collapsing.

To give them some credit I have enjoyed seeing DC injected some new blood with writers like Joshua Hale Fialkov, Matt Kindt and others getting books. I just believe the failures outweigh the successes. In fact in my mind the core of the DCU is the super hero book and only Batman, Batman Inc. and Wonder Woman really stay on my radar. Too often the excitement is that an element is being reintroduced (like the New Gods) and our excitement is to see their return. We have nothing invested in them it is just the short term thrill of a new girl friend. To work out for the long term you need to be in love with her and not just in lust with her. Much of DC’s success owes itself to the lust stage of a relationship.

Of course no matter what is going on Marvel and DC will pay well and that helps to make sure you have top flight talent and no matter what hurdles they can produce great comics, but the sense of a shared universe is gone, the connection to the characters is gone and anything that you liked about a character can be changed in a heartbeat. I sense no long term plan, no real building of continuity within the books I’m reading. The entire haphazard plan has created a house of cards that is already succumbing to planning for a major cross over event in another year.

Instead DC could have restarted the universe and gotten us all in on the ground floor. Or they could have pulled everyone together and built a long term plan for the universe and let the writers and artist be involved. When you are building a process the best way to get ownership of the people working with you is let them have input into the process. The best way to guarantee good sales and build a company is hire top talent and work with them to aid them in building a great product. My number one example is Batman Hush. I’m not a huge fan of the story, but Jeph Loeb was a big name and Jim Lee is a big name and the sales on that book were astounding. Instead we get retreads, de-aged heroes and fast and loose continuity. Who knows what has or has not actually happened in the new DCU, I don’t.  Worse I don’t care anymore.

Marvel with the Marvel Now launch at least appears to have a semblance of a plan. It has been reported they had the writers all throw out ideas and picked what they thought was best. Yes a lot of it was editorially mandated in that they rotated a lot of the writers, but it was a needed fresh coat of paint. Of course that is the problem I have with Marvel and DC, it is always the same house and we just keeping painting it, but tell everyone it is new.

Sadly it has become more entertaining to read about the DC shenanigans then it is to read the vast majority of their line. I’m not sure Diane Nelson actually cares that much about the comic side as the real money is in the movies, cartoons, product branding and cross marketing.

Okay that should be it for me until next week. For the short term I plan to do a Week in Review and What I'm Getting Column every week that I have the energy.


  1. I'm in favor of a less integrated universe. I'm only reading 4 DC books. Animal Man and Swamp Thing are interrelated, but Batwoman and Wonder Woman are on their own. That independence leaves the creators the freedom to explore the character, especially Azzarello on Wonder Woman. Perhaps if the rest of the DC titles were allowed to have writers and artists do their own exploration of the characters they'd be more interesting reads, too.

  2. I agree, I prefer to have books be there own thing for the most part, it is just any sense of cohesion is gone for me.

  3. Baroquen / Rob8/24/2012 11:12 AM

    I love continuity and connections between characters. As a kid, I always liked how something that happened in Superman might be mentioned in JLA or something. But I definitely see what you are both saying about creator freedom.

    That's the only reason I buy Marvel/DC books these days - if I like the tales a writer is telling. So all of these DC editorial shenanigans are depressing as it's chasing off good talent. (Not that I'll miss Liefield or other Harras cronies. Not really their stuff anyway).

    Ah.. good times in the field of comics.

  4. Although I think DC has lots of editorial issues, Rob's blowup this week on Twitter has been so mean-spirited that I cannot help but think he is a pre-madonna still convinced he's working in his 1990s heyday.

    He publicly called out an editor that even Tom Brevoort defended, but so did Gail Simone. Then he attacked Brevoort for defending the editor in question by making fun of his weight and that he got passed over for EIC. Then he agreed with a fan that the art by Scott Clark sucked on his book and called it crap. (He's one to argue about artistic talent.)

    The editors might be making life difficult, but at least when Ed Brubaker was done with Marvel he bowed out gracefully. Rob burns bridges and acts like a dick when no one at DC was saying anything about his dismissal.

    I think it speaks volumes about his character. And we can hope DC's editorial moves get better in the aftermath of creators leaving. Even Chris Roberson, who was a bit vocal after leaving the company, did not pick on the talent on his books or act like a bully.

  5. I agree Rob is an idiot, but he is just the latest voice to be heard from. His leaving was in my mind a plus for DC.

    Still, George Perez even spoke out about it and George has never been one to bad mouth people. I just think it has been this way for awhile under Didio, but has gotten worse since his promotion and Levitz's departure.

  6. I think DC and Marvel have editorial issues. I've been watching talent leap from both companies to pursue creator-owned books or go elsewhere. The difference is that DC seems to treat their talent on a tier level and Marvel has so many creators that it doesn't matter when they lose some.

    DC needs to pull itself together, but I'm still getting Batman, Animal Man, I, Vampire, Batwoman, Justice League Dark, Wonder Woman, Earth 2, and The Shade so they must be doing something right. I think its their lesser known character books and mid-level titles they need to work on.

  7. I still enjoy some DC books, but it just seems the chaos is chasing people away.

    Also it feels like there is a surge of creator owned work that is becoming a bigger draw then it has in years. Millar, Brubaker, Kirkman have all stopped doing any big two work and the names announcing creator owned work are some of the biggest talent in the industry (Quietly, Robinson, Morrison and more).

  8. Batwoman is dead to me with Amy Reeder gone...