After reading about what happened with the creators on Batwoman (J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman) and their walking away from DC Comics, the question ran over and over in my mind: Why are we still reading DC Comics?
This is something of a huge question to ask. This is asking a monstrous fanbase of dedicated, character-loving fans to potentially stop reading comics full of characters and stories they love. It’s preposterous, right?
Let’s lay out a few things on the table here: I’m not a dedicated, passionate DC Comics fan. My span of knowledge of DC and their characters comes from a mass of hours reading on Wikipedia over the past eight years, reading some of the “big stuff” (Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight series, What Ever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?, Watchmen, Batman: Hush to name a few), and reading a handful of DC titles from the New 52 (Batgirl, Batwoman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Constantine). I’m not a master of knowledge, but I don’t feel I need to be for the sake of this article.
I’ve been reading comics for about eight years. In the past four, I’ve started to pay attention to details outside of the pages and panels of the comics I read. I notice the creators: the authors, the editors, the artists, the inkers, etc.; I get picky about them. And going a step further, I start to research said creators and get more into the comic book medium and industry. I follow news and solicitations and gossip and “drama.” I feel as if I’m “in the thick of it,” so to speak.
And while being “in the thick of it,” I’ve witnessed some of the ridiculous stuff that seems to go on in the comic book industry (which isn’t to say it doesn’t happen in other industries, I just happen to follow this one more than others). Rob Liefeld’s rants after someone harassed him at a con, the dispute between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane, how the Kirby Family is sort of getting screwed by Marvel, and, most recently and most prominently, DC’s editorial staff being absolute dicks to their creators.
Go ahead and take a moment and click through all of those links in the last bit of the previous paragraph. The last link being the best sum up of what I’m saying, but all of them being incredibly relevant. It’s mind boggling. Am I going crazy thinking that something isn’t right here? Why is DC’s editorial staff being so backwards about a universe they rebooted?
The New 52 was supposed to be a new era for DC. It was supposed to be a new beginning for every hero, villain, and story. But instead of letting stories be told with that in mind and being bold and new and interesting, DC seems to be trying to conform their creative staff to some ideal that seems to only be known by them.
Maybe we’re not in on the master plan. Maybe DC is doing something much bigger than we all realize and we are (I am) being short-sighted, but… I just can’t believe that. This isn’t a comic book. There are no grand-master plans by big corporations and in the end everything turned out great. I’d be a fool to think that.
But the better question now is, and I’m sure you’re asking this yourself: What does it matter if the comics are still good?
Frankly, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. If the comics being produced are well written, pencilled, inked, colored, etc. then we really don’t have a problem, do we? But I still grind my teeth. I still think to myself, “When do these creators who are doing a fantastic job draw the line and all walk away?”
I worry we may hit that moment where the creators who aren’t clued in on the grand scheme of things simply walk because of some major dispute and the bottom falls out on DC. It’d almost be like Marvel in the 90s. Then again, if we end up with another Image Comics, we might be better off.
But back to where I was going with things: If the comics being shipped are good, should the conflicts of creative differences of a business really affect the consumer? Should we take up issue with the problems of a company having (indirect) issues with female creators or of homosexual characters getting married or of higher-up decisions dictating the creation of a comic out of the blue?
I think we should.
I think that as these issues slip in and out of the industry surrounding them, they will certainly play out into the comics (How long has it been since DC did something stupid?). In fact, they have already if we go back to what’s happening with Batwoman.
Instead of what was sure to be a very well told story–given the already released issues of the series–of a naturally progressing relationship, we will be denied to go in some other direction. An editorial decision. It could be the death of Maggie Sawyer (a damn Woman In Refrigerator story) or some eventual, out-of-left field reason for her to leave Kate, or just a prolonged relationship that drags on. We can’t know for sure, but nonetheless, marriage is apparently out of the question right now. Or it seems that Kate Kane can’t have a happy personal life.
As a fan of the series, I’m upset. And sure, this is something that happens to fans. We get upset and outraged at decisions. Don’t get me started on anything going on at Marvel. Regardless, this problem that DC’s editorial staff has (and quite possibly others we don’t entirely know about) seems arbitrary and… wrong. Hell, it could be said that her not getting married to the woman she loves is out of character.
Maybe if DC were a conservative company, or against gay characters (they’re not, but do tend to use them as emotion-fodder or sudden bad guys), or it was just entirely out of character for this to happen it wouldn’t be a problem, but that’s not it. DC hasn’t had issue with their relationship before, so why now? Why this? What could J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have had planned for Kate Kane (outside of marriage) that would have been so bad for the character?
Perhaps we (I) shouldn’t say what dictates how a story is told, but I can’t be the only one wondering why isn’t DC letting their creative talent tell the stories they want. And if they’re worried about ludicrous storytelling, why aren’t they filtering it out before a story is agreed on?
It’s funny, but as I was in the middle of writing this piece, The Outhousers posted a story about Dan DiDio’s responses to some tweets on the subject of Batwoman and the creative staff leaving. It seems like DC just doesn’t care–at least at the senior staff level. What does this say about the company if they’re willing to take two Eisner Award winning writers and let them walk off a book? Surely these two aren’t bad writers by any means.
@dandidio1 that is what seems to most frustrate creators. Not changes, but changes to things already signed off. It seems a common thread.
— Rich Johnston (@richjohnston) September 6, 2013
Rich Johnston adds a fantastic point to all of this: Why is DC editorial changing their minds about pre-approved content? It seems like that seems to be the root of the cause.
Follow that up with DC’s response to all of this claiming superheroes can’t have happy personal lives… It’s baffling. That is their master plan.
So I ask again: Why are we still reading DC Comics?
And maybe instead of asking a question like that, let me rephrase it: What is DC doing right?