At the beginning of May, Rich Johnston compiled some of Dwyane McDuffie’s message board comments concerning his Justice League of America run and editorial interference. In his “20 Questions, 1 Answer” biweekly Q&A over at Newsarama, Dan DiDio was asked about the status of the title’s writer since Len Wein has been scheduled for various issues and answered: “As of right now, Len’s the writer of Justice League, and once his arc is done, we’ll be able to announce the new direction for the series.”
Dwayne McDuffie confirmed this on his message board, writing:
Nope, it was my own doing. I was fired when “Lying in the Gutters” ran a compilation of two years or so of my answers to fans’ questions on the DC Comics discussion boards. I’m told my removal had nothing to with either the quality of my work or the level of sales, rather with my revelation of behind-the-scenes creative discussions.
There’s a little bit more in that thread. I haven’t been reading the book after giving a few issues early on a look, but I’ve heard a lot of negative things about the writing — that seem to be explained by editorial dictating characters and story elements. My question: was McDuffie right to discuss those elements when asked given that he’s the writer and blamed for those faults and “clearing his name” makes sense, or is this sort of behaviour unprofessional? My take below.
I’ve always had certain issues with editors taking a heavy-hand in the creative process, often wondering that if they want to write the books, why don’t they simply do that instead of hiring someone and then leading them by the hand through every step of the process? They obviously hired Dwayne McDuffie to write the book for a reason — so why not let him write it?
I spent a bit of last week reading Christopher Priest’s accounts of working in the comics industry, which detail a lot of similar incidents of behind-the-scenes actions where books are sunk by (seeming) editorially mismanagement of various kinds (including Priest’s own actions at times). Mark Waid has discussed similar things, as has Chris Claremont and many others, so it’s not like these reports by McDuffie seem unbelivable.
However, I’m torn on what the proper course of action is for a creator to take when it’s his or her reputation that’s being damaged because of the actions of others. It’s easy for fans to say “Well, he should quit or shut up” since it’s not our job and paycheque on the line. There’s also the idea that while fans may blame McDuffie, comics insiders know what’s really going on, so McDuffie’s career won’t really be damaged, but accounts by creators don’t support that since it’s not uncommon for everyone involved in a book to blame someone else (ie. writers blame editors, editors blame writers), so who knows what the perception is of these events inside the industry…
Honestly, I want to side with McDuffie, but that’s because I’m not really sure what else he could do beyond quitting or shutting up, both of which either result in losing the paycheque (which he has) or allowing his reputation as a writer to be horribly damaged (which it hasn’t necessarily).
What do you think?