Matt Wagner has shared some “distasteful news” with his community on Facebook. Wagner was recruited as a penciller for Tom King’s upcoming Batman #54 along with his son, colorist Brennan Wagner. Brennan Wagner had nearly wrapped up the project when Matt Wagner received word that his son’s art would not be used and that the coloring work would, instead, be done by one of DC Comics’ in-house artists.
According to Matt Wagner’s explanation of the situation on Facebook, DC’s “powers that be” had determined that Brennan Wagner’s work was too different from the series’ usual stylings. Matt Wagner said he received the news from Batman group editor Jamie S. Rich, who he claims “went to bat for” for the father-son team. Matt Wagner also revealed that Batman writer, Tom King, was a fan of how the issue looked.
“Tom’s script is a heartfelt look at a father-and-son relationship and, rather than capitalize on the fact that they had a celebrated father-and-son art team on board for this issue… DC instead elected to fire the artist’s colorist/son for producing distinctive work,” wrote Matt Wagner. “Needless to say, I thought Brennan was doing a fantastic job and think this is a terribly shoddy way to treat not only him -- this would’ve been his first full-length job for them -- but also me, one of their longtime and supposedly respected creators. Regrettably, I’m now sorry I ever agreed to this gig in the first place… because this is just fucking bullshit.”
Matt and Brennan Wagner are together perhaps best known for their work on the Mage series, which was rebooted in 2017 as Mage: The Hero Denied. Much like how the duo collaborated on Batman #54, Matt Wagner works as the main penciller for Mage, while Brennan Wagner is the series’ main colorist. Matt Wagner is also the writer for Mage.
Batman #54 is a deep dive into one of the hero’s most defining relationships -- the father and son bond he shares with Dick Grayson, the original Robin. Dick went on to build his own superhero career as Nightwing, but the issue is slated to team up the two for the first time since Batman proposed to Catwoman. The issue looks to explore how their relationship has developed over time, and how Batman helped Dick overcome his grief over the loss of his biological parents.
A new colorist has not yet been announce for Batman #54.