The GeeksverseMercenary Creators

Mercenary Creators
Published on Thursday, November 11, 2010 by

So with the news that JMS is leaving Superman and Wonder Woman in the middle of his storylines in order to concentrate on the Superman: Earth One sequal, this got me thinking about the whole mercenary creator thing that happens.

I know mercenary has a bad image, and I don’t mean to convey that image. The way I mean it is that it just seems that some creators hop onto a project for a paycheck and not love of doing that book. They come in, do their newsworthy/epic storyline and then leave, letting others pick up the pieces and leaving their fans hanging.

From the articles, it sounds like JMS only meant to remain on Superman and Wonder Woman for 12 issues, long enough to finish the “Grounded” and new Wonder Woman storylines. Then what? He comes in, changes the status quo of those two characters and moves on? Leaving others to take that new status quo and deal with the aftermath?

With the Superman story, it’s not that big a deal. It’s not like the “Grounded” storyline is anything earth shattering or even status quo altering, if at all. It’s not like once Supes is done walking the country he’s not going to go back to the same ol’ Supes he was before.

Which does beg the question, why even do that storyline in the ongoing book at all? Isn’t the point of doing a story in the ongoing book because it alters and affects the lives of the characters? Otherwise it’s nothing more then just a mini-series. Nothing more, nothing less. In the case of Superman, it was putting a big name on a book.

But it’s Wonder Woman that really gets affected. JMS really altered the character and the titles status quo. He changed it all. It sounds like the original plan was for JMS to come in, shake things up, and then leave. So he comes in, changes the character, and then leaves so someone else has to come in and deal with the aftermath.

The storyline, as it seems to be going, would end with Diana finding out who adjusted history and then readjusting it with probably some changes (like the new costume). There has to be some change to the status quo otherwise there was absolutely no point in doing the story. So that would mean that another creator is left to deal with the aftermath, mainly how that new status quo affects Wonder Woman going forward and her place in the larger DCU.

If you’re going to do a storyline, finish it. Don’t make the change and not carry it through. If you, as a creator, are going to make a change like the one to Wonder Woman, then you better stay for the long haul and not be a mercenary.

It’s not fair to the character, the next creator and especially the fans.

Wonder Woman and JMS is just the latest example.

DC did it right with Grant Morrison and Batman. Marvel did it right with Brian Micheal Bendis and the Avengers. In both those examples, the big name creators came on board and shook things up. Except, instead of leaving after the big shake-up, they stuck around for the rebuilding and then some. They didn’t come and alter the status quo and leave someone else to deal with it, they stuck around and dealt with it themselves.

Does this mean that any creator that comes onto a book short term is being a mercenary? No, not at all. It really only applies to the extreme examples. It only applies to those that come on a book short term but do major shake-ups that change the book.

If you’re going to create a new path for a character, then you should stay around long enough to lead that character down the new path aways. Don’t leave the character at the foot of the new path wondering what to do. Don’t leave it up to another creator to come along and help guide that character.

And don’t plan on coming onto an ongoing series as the new creator and already have it worked out to ditch the title after 6 or 12 issues. You’re not the new ongoing writer in that case, you’re just a fill-in and it should be treated as such. It’s not fair to the fans.

If I start reading Book A because Creator X is going to be the new ongoing creator, then I expect to be reading Creator X’s work on Book A for a couple of years. Come into it with a 2 year plan. I wouldn’t expect (or want) 24+ issues scripted and written out. I’d expect the creator to know where he wants the characters to be after those 24 issues, not come in with this grand idea to change things.

Great, going to come in and change things up. Awesome. Then what? Finish your storyline. Take it to it’s natural conclusion. Don’t lead the character to the edge and then just turn around saying “you’re on your own”.

I’ve never liked when a creator comes onto a book and then leaves soon after. Do things happen that adjust plans? Of course. But to come onto an ongoing title with the plan of leaving after 6 or 12 issues?

To me that is being a mercenary. You can’t love the character if you’re just going to shake things up and not see where they go from there.

Matt Fraction could have left Iron Man after repairing Stark’s mind, leaving the character hanging with the knowledge of what he had done during the Civil War and afterwards, but not rememebering. But no, Fraction stayed on and is guiding Stark though the aftermath.

The short of it is that I want creators that truly do care about the characters and not just making a big headline splash with a shocking and groundbreaking storyline. I want creators that care about the lives of the characters as much as those that read them.

I want characters that say “yeah, I’m going to change this, but you know what, I want to stick around and see what happens afterwards.”

Go to the Pryde’s forums and join the discussion on this column.

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