Thank the gods for horrible decisions by comic publishers. Makes my job so easy.
Not really though, I’d rather just not have a column and have good books to read and publishers I trust. But that’s not the world we live in, so we get my sad little column.
About two and a half years ago I wrote about Batwoman’s fate as Greg Rucka abandoned the DC Ship, and here we are again, talking about Batwoman’s fate, as her creators are forced to jump ship, and DC scrambles to pretend it was their idea in the first place. Two years is actually a pretty long run, and so if this decision had come a bit more professionally – rather than creators being forced to jump ship in order to save their sanity and honor the stories they intended to tell for the character, it wouldn’t be too bad. But frankly, we could have talked about any number of characters (and books) fates over the last two years at DC (I’m sure somewhere there’s a list of all the creators that have left or been removed from “New 52” books – update: here’s a really great timeline breakdown). There was even a freaking summit about how they (DC) were going to lessen their editorial interference and a further commitment to stabilizing creative teams. That seemed to last about a week.
It’s funny, this story had a lot of different angles since it first showed up last Thursday: at first it had an anti-gay bent in that it appeared DC was refusing rights for their most prominent gay character; and then it just came back to their utterly bizarre anti-marriage bent that applies to all their characters, not just the gay ones; and then it became the “we don’t tolerate happiness for our characters” party line, which we all knew given the state of the “all new” “grim & gritty” DC Comics but which is almost refreshing to hear admitted out loud, and I hope now that they’ve done that and they see it in print they realize how ridiculous it sounds, along with how terrible and joyless it has made their books – but one thing that never changed in this story was the refrain that they do not value creators.
The takeaway is, and always has been on this story (and for a long time now), that DC doesn’t care a bit about creators. But my larger concern is why don’t we?
There’s one reason and one reason only that Dan Didio and Co. can have an absolute disregard for creators – and it’s because they have learned time and again that we won’t actually stop reading. No matter how much of a fit we throw, we don’t actually stop buying, or at least not in significant enough numbers to make it matter.
And it’s hard to blame readers, because why should a character like Batwoman be punished because of something that has nothing to do with her. In fact, Batwoman is the perfect example because it’s taken so long for readers to get an openly gay hero headlining her own book. So do we risk losing that, something SO important in order to protest creator treatment? It’s a tough call.
There are scenarios in which either argument can work. And certainly a major gay hero headlining her own book would be worth it, but at this point as a reader, I have no faith that she’s in good enough hands to make it worth supporting the poor treatment of creators. Because I know that creators don’t matter at DC, I also know that the best writer on earth can’t save Batwoman, because ultimately they are no more in charge of her fate than Rucka was or Williams and Blackman were. And it will never change. DC Comics has decided they are the only ones in charge of her, no matter what that means, and so, no, I have decided that it’s not worth the risk, even for Batwoman, a character so important to me. For this reader, I can’t continue to tolerate, or worse, quietly endorse this behavior by continuing to read these books no matter how shabbily DC treat creators.
For those of you that might feel Kate Kane is safe in DC’s hands, and that the creator should not matter, I’d urge you to look at the facts from DC’s own lips. Beyond the fact that Dan Didio doesn’t know her freaking name (repeatedly calling her Kathy Kane at Baltimore on Saturday), they also seem to be making their decisions primarily out of spite. Sure, you can make an argument that they are trying to limit the readers abandoning ship once the arc concludes, and you can also argue that the tie-in status of at least one of those books might bump sales and thus give them the “appearance of making the right decision” for the book. However, those are company/financial decisions. Not “best for the character” decisions. There’s no way that shelving the final two issues (one already complete) planned by the creators who have been so devoted to her for two years are “in the best interests” of the character.
But shelving those issues is definitely a way to make everyone know that you’re the boss. I mean, nobody was doubting that to begin with, but good job guys, you definitely proved that you’re the most powerful, spiteful, petty dudes in the room. Good work!
And no matter how many other quotes you throw out there and how many unconvincing stories full of spin you come up with you can’t undo the actions of throwing away perfectly good finished professional material in order to make room for more hastily assembled mediocre gap-filler books.
This past week I had to review one of the worst comic books I’ve ever read, and perhaps the worst “big two” book I’d ever read and I opined how such dreck could make it through the assembly line and into readers hands, but this Batwoman clusterfuck has reminded me yet again that the editorial in charge at DC is not a place I trust and hasn’t been for a long time. So of course books of that laughable quality can make it through the process.
The process is undeniably broken.
The reveal by Williams and Blackman that their writing on Batwoman has been constantly undermined at the last minute is not much of a shock, or it shouldn’t be, given all the problems we’ve heard about this and the constantly shifting creative teams. But I just can’t help but be flabbergasted by DC’s inability to grow beyond this problem. Interfering to the degree that almost all of their best creators have been forced to leave is a potentially fatal problem.
I mean, how absolutely mind blowingly dumb do you have to be to let J.H. Williams III slip through your fingers? Easily one of the most talented artists to ever work in comics, probably the most talented and ground breaking artist to CURRENTLY work in comics.
You move heaven and earth to keep that guy.
You certainly don’t make his working life so difficult that he finally has to abandon a character he loves. And if you can’t keep him, you know what you do? You move heaven and earth to stay on his GOOD side. Because even if he leaves, there’s a huge difference between leaving, and leaving and never coming back. But you know a good way to make sure he never wants to come back? Tank his last issues, for no good reason except spite.
Maybe this is naïve of me, but I do expect legitimate companies to make decisions based on things other than pure spite.
As of Saturday morning, Marc Andreyko is the new Batwoman writer. I like Andreyko. I’m a fan of his Manhunter series, and I’ve written about him for this column before. He’s a good writer and a solid pick for a Batwoman book, but I don’t know why anything should be different for him than it has been for the slew of good creators before him. What’s that saying about the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yeah, that’s it.
I wish Andreyko the best, even though I cannot in good conscience follow, but mostly I offer a bit of advice:
Run away, Marc, run away as fast as your feet will carry you.
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