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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

DC Comics Threatens Writers, Artists, and Creators- WTF?

I was reading on Dark Knight News, in the aftermath of coming behind Image Comics’ The Walking Dead and Marvel NOW! in sales, DC Comics editorial is alleged to be threatening its artists, writers and creators. The punishing measures include loss of future work, and taking down interviews about new creative teams that are being terminated.

It’s clear The environment at DC Comics is hostile. First Gail Simone is fired from Batgirl by e-mail, now threats of loss of future work for other writers and artists.

It looks like DC Comics is having a Crisis. A Crisis of Editorial Direction. Which is damaging the brand infinitely.

I find it ironic that Co-publisher Jim Lee is allowing Dan Didio and Warner Brothers Management to enact such a draconian policy to be enacted at DC Comics. Twenty years ago he left Marvel Comics to form Image Comics with fellow artists Rob Lifeld and Todd McFarlane to get more creative control over their characters and stories.

Now that he’s in charge at DC he and DC’s editors deny other writers and artists creative control they insisted on getting to tell their stories back in the 1990’s.

It’s also ironic that after Jim Lee left Image and sold his creator owned WildStorm characters to DC that Image actually became a better company publishing numerous creator-owned indie comic classics like Bone and The Walking Dead. Could it be just Jim Lee and his Wildstorm/Image cronies don’t know how to create good comics? Could they be stuck in the 1990’s creatively?

It sounds like DC’s editiorial gang of four (Didio, Lee, Harras and Johns) are frustrated by the mixed reaction the New 52 is receiving. Big numbers to start with a significant drop-off back to the old 2009 Sales numbers.

Worse, no new readers, especially those in the younger demographics. So for all that hoopla, the impact of the New 52 is negligible.

And it sounds like the editorial management at DC is trying to take a page from Jim Shooter’s book to correct the course of their misdirected New 52.

Only it’s the wrong page.

Threatening writers and artists future work isn’t a smart thing for a publisher to do. Especially when over the past few years DC has alienated top writers like Greg Rucka, Warren Ellis, and John Rozum. And driven away top artists like George Perez and Rob Liefeld (Okay, Lifeld kind of sucks, but still…that speaks volumes about how bad it is at DC when he’s complaining about creative control).

Seriously, editorial can’t threaten writers into creating stories that sell. All that’s going to do is drive talent away from jobs at DC and into working at a competitiors’ brand.

It’s not the writers’ fault that editorial mandated they work within a flawed story structure framed with an inconsistent five-year timeline. Nor is it their fault that that editors refuse to talk to them or re-write their stories without consulting them.

For a creative type, working in that kind of environment is frustrating and downright aggravating. I couldn’t imagine showing my friends and family a book with my name on it knowing that 90 percent of the dialogue was re-written by an insecure editor who didn’t trust my talent and ability.

Most of the people who know my style would immediately point out that my distinct style and distinct dialogue weren’t there. They’d point out that the work wasn’t good enough. They’d clearly see that the work was micromanaged and I was prevented from writing the best possible story in my own inimitable style.

I really feel for all the writers and artists at DC. They’re doing the best they can within a set of fucked up story parameters established by a dysfunctional up group of editors and executives. It’s been clear to me back as far as 2004, DC has a problem. And that problem is at the top. An editor-in-chief that knows absolutely nothing about publishing.

As a professional with close to twenty years in publishing and writing, I know it’s a long-haul business. There are going to be more hard times than great times. And it takes a grit, tenacity and determination to overcome all those obstacles and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
A Seasoned editor and a seasoned publisher will tell readers the truth. That a gimmick like the New 52 will bring some short-term sales.

But it won’t help develop long-term growth. Nor will it take the industry in the new direction it desperately needs to go in. Threatening creators, writers, and artists only exacerbates things at DC and further prevents the industry from moving forward.

What Dan Didio doesn’t understand is along with that tough love Jim Shooter showed his writers and artists there was guidance and support. Yes, Shooter was strict. But he had the help of seasoned editors like the late Mark Greunwald and Tom DeFalco to help him work with writers and artists towards making the best quality comics possible.

Even as brusque as Shooter is alleged to be even he himself knew how far to take it. I doubt he’d even be as cruel to threaten to deny talent future work. Those are the kinds of hostile words that can come back to bite a publisher in the ass four or five years later.

That same writer or artist could be horrible at DC and then go on to do spectacular work at Marvel, Archie, or an indie like Image, BOOM!, IDW, or Dynamite! And become a household name. It’s funny how a change of environment can lead to some of the most inspired work from a creator. When given the space to really cut loose and the guidance to keep that creativity within a structure, that same talent Mr. Didio is threatening could flourish.

They could go on to make the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while DC and its New 52 become a forgotten brand like Ultimate Marvel. It’s not smart to threaten creative talent with draconian policies. They may cross the bridge after it’s burned and never return.

There’s a reason why The walking Dead is the Number one comic. It’s creator-owned with minimal editorial oversight. The writer and artists have the breathing room to craft a quality story that grabs the reader. And they have the skills to keep a reader coming back for more.

Didio, his editors and Warner Bothers executives just don’t understand the publishing business. Sure the New 52 would sell comics at high numbers for most of 2011. The concept was new and exciting then. But a year has passed. And the Old 52 is just not NOW. Competition like Marvel has introduced new products and titles like The Walking Dead continue to build on their following while DC continues to have the same editorial problems that have plagued their brand since 2004. In spite of all the changes of the characters and the costumes, and the numbers on all the DC Comics, it’s clear the mismanagement of the Dan Didio editorial administration is the same.

1 comment:

  1. Which is the big reason why the "new 52" is screwing up and failing big time. Being since I know the old DC universe should return eventually, it looks like for them, for the idiots in DC, it'll get worse for them, before it gets any better.