Shawn: Editors are in charge of the creative vision for their titles and are supposed to help their writers and artists tell the best stories they possibly can. At DC I think there are two things at play:
- Trying to unify the books into one Universe. (Marvel really isn’t worried about that right now. A case in point: Captain America is in another dimension AND it is not even noted in the Avengers.
- The editors thing their ideas are better than the writers they hire to write.
The big difference between DC and Marvel is that Marvel, by and large, are not afraid of letting their talent create stories. Sure they may all be retconned or forgotten tomorrow if they suck, but Marvel knows how to work with their talent better. DC only works with their top tier talent.
I do not know how much of this has to do with Bob Harras directly, but I do know one of the reasons Marvel became the go-to creative place in mainstream comics post-Harras was because Joe Quesada had a much better relationship with writers and artists than Harras ever had. You know I buy many DC books as gifts, but they are all from their Vertigo lineup. I think about how writers like Garth Ennis, Jason Aaron, Mike Carey, and Brian Wood wrote some of my favorite Vertigo titles and instead of getting mainstream DCU work they all eventually moved to Marvel. Carey wrote X-Men for years. Ennis had a seminal run on Punisher. Aaron is writing some great titles right now. And Wood seems to be Marvel’s next big writer. Just under two years ago Wood thought he was writing Supergirl for the relaunch. Instead, DC editorial took the book away from him, let his exclusive deal run out and cancelled Northlanders. DC’s current editorial team has burned bridges with many creators.
I really thought writers like Fialkov should be the next big thing DC should have been cultivating. His I, Vampire was amazing. During his run he utilized a great version of Batman, and he wrote both Constantine and Stormwatch better than any other incarnation of their characters in the New52. Some of these other writers DC has coming up could be the next Aaron, or Wood, or Carey, but I honestly do not trust DC to help foster that talent. Speaking of which, Dan Didio has been with DC for a decade now. A DECADE. What has he done to stick around this long?
In February 2003 Warren Ellis was still writing for Wildstorm (Global Frequency), Joe Casey was writing Wildcats 3.0 and Automatic Kafka, Mike Carey was writing Lucifer and Hellblazer, Brian K. Vaughan was doing Y: The Last Man, Grant Morrison was on The Filth, Paul Pope was on he fifth issue of 100%, Azzarello was on 100 Bullets, Alan Moore was writing Promethea, Kurt Busiek had Astro City going, Geoff Johns was on Flash and Hawkman, and co-writing JSA with David S. Goyer. Ed Brubaker was writing Detective Comics, Gotham Central, Sleeper, and Catwoman. There were plenty of forgettable books, but these titles were all amazing! I would deal with DC’s mediocre secondary books if we had talent like this on other titles.
Jim: Shawn and I are in total agreement. The news is so fast and furious that it come out that Fialkov left because they wanted him to kill John Stewart and he refused. Now the word leaked and DC has reversed what they are going to do. This week I dropped Aquaman (again), Flash (again) and Talon. I will be dropping Green Lantern and GL Corps with issue number 20.
I can’t even commit to DC with new talent because these could be the best writers ever but the editorial mandates will force them to write someone else’s stories. In TV often you have an overall vision of the season with something like Game of Thrones, but writing an actual screenplay for 10 episodes is too much and other writers are brought in to do the actual screenplay. Comic books are not TV shows. A writer who has a desire to write a character usually has a story they want to tell about them. That is how we get Waid’s run on Flash, Ennis on Punisher, Morrison on Animal Man and the list goes on and on. Take that out of the equation and you can get a professional story being told with no heart. Marvel books have heart, Fraction is having fun with his books, Aaron had a vision with Thor, Remender is doing drugs while writing Captain America but he is taking Kirby LSD. I’m enjoying the books because the writers are having a blast and doing their best work. Alex Alonso who is running the show at Marvel started at DC as a Vertigo editor. He trusts writers to have vision and then they review the proposal. If they like it the editor helps but does not write it.
Didio has been a master of constantly changing things from Infinite Crisis to the end of 52 (over writing Rucka, Waid, Morrison and Johns for crying out loud). He hires Harrras who hires Chase and the old Marvel 90’s regime is back in charge. Now we have seen a mass exodus of talent from DC and Vertigo being dismantled. Heck the Before Watchmen stuff was being handled by a Vertigo editor.
DC is now a marketing company. It was a brilliant relaunch and the poor planning and lack of commitment and whatever else has caused it to crumble in less then 2 years. The 52 is down to 50 in June. Outside of the Batman books (and they have been buoyed by the tie-ins) and what Johns writes (with the best artists DC has for the most part) the line is dying. Morrison is almost done with the regular DCU and that leaves Snyder and Johns as the stars. I think Lemire is a go to guy and I like his work but nothing he has done has caught on big. The only DCU book that seems to be its own thing and I love is Wonder Woman. I’m sure Didio and Harras will screw that up soon by having Superman fly into her book for a quickie.
DC is relying on gimmicks. The WTF cover month was apparently partially a cover idea done and given to the writer to make a story around it. This is a cute stunt in the Julie Schwartz days of two stories in an issue of a comic, another thing in the middle of a story. The zero issues and the promise of more gimmicks smack of desperation and I’m getting off the train. I used to follow characters and would suffer through bad creative spells, but with all the great indie books I don’t have to do that anymore. The new 52 changed all the characters into versions I don’t know, so now I follow the creators and the character. Now DC has told me that the creator has no control so outside of Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow, not sure I care to follow any of their books.
I know I’m all over the place, but this stuff breaks my heart as I now leave DC behind and will watch as it slowly burn itself to death. Maybe when it is ashes someone will hand the keys to Mark Waid as the EIC and then throw money at Ellis, Rucka, Wood, Brubaker, Aaron, Kindt, Fialkov and others and let them write and hire artists whose style fits the book and story and not the new DC house style.
Shawn: I agree with you Jim. It breaks my heart. My favorite mainstream DC books (non-Wildstorm and non-Vertigo) was Mark Waid’s Flash run, and James Robinson’s Starman. Both relied heavily on DC’s legacy of heroes, and both had tie-ins here and there that never infringed or derailed the stories in the books. I have not seen those kinds of stories in a long time. I understand not every book can reach those heights; nevertheless, that is what the line should be shooting for.
It has taken them almost two whole years to get a definitive take on Superman, and I am not sure the Snyder/Lee book will be more than a large mini-series. Flash is boring, but pretty. The GL books feel like they are on life support. There are gems like Earth 2 and All-Star Western, but for the most part I am not very excited about DC’s books when I read through them for reviews. Marvel Now has succeeded because they are allowing talented people to tell the stories they want to tell. DC is failing for mostly doing the exact opposite.
If I was in charge, I’d throw a ton of money at Karen Berger and ask her to come back to run the whole shebang.
Jim: Awesome idea Shawn. Karen would be the best person to right the ship. Shawn and I could probably go on and on, the bottom line DC is f**ked up. I’m cutting DC more and more and have no reason to trust any announcement that makes me excited about a book anymore.