The GeeksverseNEWS Round-up | Week of March 22, 2013

NEWS Round-up | Week of March 22, 2013
Published on Friday, March 22, 2013 by
Another week, another mess of creative team shake-ups at DC. It’s your News Round-up for the week of March 22, 2013! ALSO: Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin launch a DRM-free, pay-what-you-want, creator-owned digital comics platform and more!

Diggle leaves Action Comics, Fialkov off Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns

In separate developments earlier this week, British writer Andy Diggle has publicly announced that he is leaving DC’s Action Comics while Josh Hale Fialkov has confirmed that he will step down from his writing duties on both Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns.

The news of Diggle’s placement as Action Comics‘ writer after Grant Morrison wraps up his run with this month’s issue #18 was well received by the fans at NYCC 2012, but now the critically-acclaimed scribe of The Losers and Hellblazer is off the flagship Superman book before his first issue has even hit the stands. On Wednesday, Diggle sent out the following series of messages on his Twitter account:

diggle_quits_action_tweets

DC Entertainment executive director for publicity Alex Segura has announced that Action Comics artist Tony Daniel will take over the title’s writing.

Josh Hale Fialkov (I, Vampire, Echoes), confirmed last month by DC Comics as the new writer on both Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns, is also cutting his run short before the issues see print. On Wednesday, Fialkov wrote on his blog that he is

… no longer the writer of [Green Lantern Corps] and Red Lanterns for DC Comics. There were editorial decisions about the direction of the book that conflicted with the story I was hired to tell, and I felt that it was better to let DC tell their story the way they want. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’ll miss working with the entire Green Lantern team.

Segura later sent out a tweet stating that Van Jensen (Pinocchio the Vampire Slayer) and X-O Manowar‘s Robert Venditti will replace Fialkov on Green Lantern Corps and Charles Soule—who is also set to succeed Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing later this year—will take over Red Lanterns.

Fialkov’s blog post and—to less of an extent—Diggle’s series of tweets, are just the latest public pronouncements by departing DC contractors that reinforce a growing impression of a systemic conflict between the publisher’s editors and writers.

Readers will remember Superman writer-artist George Pérez voicing his frustrations last year about the editorial work-process at DC during the 2012 WGBS Superman Celebration event, stating that he left the book after just six issues because

… I was made certain promises, and unfortunately not through any fault of Dan Didio, he was no longer the last word, [there were a] lot of people making decisions, going against each other, contradicting [each other], again in mid-story. The people who love my Superman arc, I thank you. What you read, I don’t know. After I wrote it… I told them, ‘Here’s my script, if you change it, that’s your prerogative, don’t tell me. Don’t ask me to edit it, don’t ask me to correct it, I don’t want to change something that you’re going to change again if you disagree… ‘

I didn’t mind the changes in Superman, I just wish it was the same decision issue 1 or issue 2, and I had to keep rewriting things because another person changed their mind, and that was a lot tougher, it wasn’t the same as doing Wonder Woman, I was given a full year to get Wonder Woman established before it was folded into the DC Universe properly, I had a wonderful editor Karen Berger who ran shotgun for me. They wanted me to recreate what I did on Wonder Woman, but it’s not the same age, not the same atmosphere, I couldn’t do it any more, and the writer who replaced me, Keith Giffen, was very nice. I’ve known Keith since we both started in the industry, he called me up when they asked him to do Superman to make sure I wasn’t being fired off Superman. And regrettably, I did have to tell him that I couldn’t wait to get off Superman. It was not the experience I wanted it to be.

Pérez’ public comments were soon followed in August by those from Rob Liefeld, writing in a series of tweets announcing his intention to quit his DC books that

[My reasons for leaving DC] are the same as [everybody else’s]. I lasted a few months longer than I thought possible.

Massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything. Editor pissing contests… No thxnjs [sic]

Then there was the sudden resignation of the aforementioned Karen Berger in late 2012 amid speculation that she had been forced out by management who disagreed with her going to bat for certain creators, followed by Gail Simone’s unceremonious firing from Batgirl for unclear reasons and her immediate re-hiring after DC executives seemingly caved to the public outcry the dismissal generated. This then set off something of a domino effect, with Ray Fawkes—who was scheduled to replace Simone on Batgirl—being reassigned to joint writing duties alongside Robert Venditti on Constantine and Jim Zubkavich being replaced on Birds of Prey by Christy Marx, a move that some have suggested was public relations-motivated, intended to counter rumblings in the comics community that DC isn’t particularly receptive to hiring female comics professionals that had found renewed strength in the wake of Berger’s resignation and Simone’s dismissal.

Early last month, Bleeding Cool‘s Rich Johnston invited DC professionals to offer their suggestions—anonymously, of course—on what changes they would like to see at the publisher. Some of the suggestions included the following:

Editorial has a right to dictate how their lines should progress, but not at the last minute and while changing other parts. Stop trying to please all of the people all of the time and just try to tell a solid story.

 

Let Creators Create. Instead of asking creators what is happening in the books that would lead to shocking revelations during WTF month a dozen editors sat in a boardroom turning the event into Why The Fanfic? Then they wonder why 52 writers are left asking Where’s The Fun?

 

It is okay for someone other than Dan Didio to have an idea. 52 books means 52 writers have been hired to write 52 books every month. That is a huge creative pool to draw from. So why does every idea have to get bottle necked through one man?

 

Every editor should write a book. This way they can all be acutely aware of the pressure of a monthly schedule as well as the daily drudge of having to incorporate random and contradictory notes from ‘editorial.’

During a February creative retreat in North Carolina, DC co-publisher Dan Didio allegedly apologized to DC Comics creators for the last-minute and sometimes contradictory editorial directions given to writers and artists, promising that from that point on, editorial interference would be minimized once story directions have been agreed upon. Judging from Fialkov’s comments however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

If this whole situation of writers quitting their books in protest against last-minute changes and instructions, exceptional editorial interference in their work, and committee-driven imperatives deflating their enthusiasm for creation sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because this has happened before. Talking about his reasons for leaving X-Men in 1991 in an interview published in Wizard: The Guide to Comics #22 (cover-dated June 1993), Chris Claremont had this to say:

What you have now are editors, in a lot of cases, who do not view themselves as facilitators but who view themselves as active participants in the production process. They say, ‘I am going to tell you what the story is. I am going to decide the direction of the book. You will help enable us to get there’—rather than the writer coming in and saying, ‘This is where I want to go’ and the editor saying, ‘Okay,’ or not. If you want to hire a writer to write the book, let him write it. If you want to write the book yourself, do that.

… The perception may be that, in a time when you cannot guarantee the quality of the writers, when you have to hold together a vastly expanding, convoluted, Gordian knot, cats cradle of continuity—maybe this is the only way they figure they can do it. I think it’s wrong. I think you end up with a lot of second-rate work. By the same token, none of the people involved—save perhaps the editorial staff—have any long-term vested interest in what they’re doing…

You may goose in some stuff around the edges, you may throw in a line or a character that speaks to you, but these are grace notes on a symphony that’s being written, fundamentally, by someone else. Why should I—or anybody worth the name—waste their talent executing someone else’s vision, especially when you get into the moral question of why the person whose vision you’re executing doesn’t go write his or her own stuff?

Peter David, fresh off quitting X-Factor, expressed similar sentiments in an interview published two months later in Wizard: The Guide to Comics #24:

When you’re doing comics in that kind of an environment, where everything is being coordinated and there’s a great deal of gang mentality—’This must be done in this book, this must be done in this book’—and you start to reach a point where you realize, ‘I’m just too old for this crap,’ it can go a long way toward killing the spontaneity. To my mind, it was no longer an environment I could work in consistently. Certainly other people can. Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell have no trouble with it. God bless ‘em. I wish them the best of luck. Marc DeMatteis is going to be dialoguing X-Factor—great. It’s not something that everybody can do. It’s a question of what you are individually capable of handling, and I just couldn’t handle this anymore.

… If I had continued writing X-Factor, the story would have lacked—I think—whatever that ineffable quality called enthusiasm might be.

In an article that appeared in Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty Collector’s Edition, former Uncanny X-Men editor as well as X-Factor and New Mutants writer Louise Simonson confided that

My problems [as a writer on New Mutants and X-Factor] were really with the editor, who was not handling things well at all…

… what [the editor] did to me, to Chris Claremont, to Peter David, and to Jo Duffy was to nickel-and-dime us to death. He would change plots and blame it on the artists. He would change dialogue, and then say ‘I’m sorry but I tried to call you and you weren’t home’ or ‘I’ll be sure to tell you next time.’ He would change some of the dialogue but not the other parts, so the things people said wouldn’t make sense.

Recounting his brief 1991 stint writing X-Men and Uncanny X-Men in Tom DeFalco’s excellent Comics Creators on X-Men, John Byrne complained that

… the books were terminally late when I was asked to script them. Jim [Lee] and Whilce Portacio would both send me the plots and then they’d send me three pages of pencils. I’d script those because they had to be scripted right away and fax the scripts directly to Tom Orzechowski, who was lettering the book.

Then I’d get one more and the one page didn’t match the first three pages because they’d taken off on a tangent, and they were both doing this. So I was constantly writing and re-writing, and re-writing and writing and re-writing, and re-writing and writing. It was just a nightmare.

And who was Claremont, David, Simonson, and Byrne’s editor at the time that they quit on the X-books? No other than Bob Harras, who currently serves as DC Comics’ editor-in-chief.

Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, launch new digital comic, distribution platform

Me_gusta_the_private_eye

On Monday writer Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Ex Machina) and artist Marcos Martin (The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil) launched their digital comic The Private Eye on The Panel Syndicate, their new digital distribution platform. The duo describe The Panel Syndicate as

… a site where we can deliver our original comics directly to a global audience, for whatever price each reader thinks is fair.

The Private Eye #1 is available in English, Spanish, and Catalan in CBZ, CBR, and PDF formats without DRM or encryption. Within hours of the digital comic’s release, it was reported by Bleeding Cool‘s Rich Johnston that the site’s payment system had crashed from the sheer volume of requests, although this was resolved with relative promptness.

Server teething problems aside, we really, really hope this project takes off: If it proves to be economically viable, it will offer a means of monetization for comics creators that should offer them better compensation for their work than existing print and digital outlets. As Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich noted in this blog post, the creative team on a $2.99 digital comic purchased for iOS or Android devices receives anywhere between 18¢ to 24¢ from each sale, with the bulk of the grosses going to the distributor (i.e., comiXology), publisher, and Apple or Google (depending on the device’s operating system).

Time to hit the books

The e-mail listing the course readings for Ball State University’s free massive open online course (MOOC) “Gender Through Comic Books” has been sent out to registered students. If any of you regular readers enrolled in the class missed the e-mail, here are the week-by-week readings:

  • Week 1: Strangers in Paradise Vol. 1 (Abstract Studios), Strangers in Paradise Vol. 2 (Abstract Studios), Rachel Rising #1 (Abstract Studios)
  • Week 2: Superman: Birthright #1–12 (DC Comics), Action Comics (1938) #1 (DC Comics), Action Comics (1938) #267 (DC Comics)
  • Week 3: Captain Marvel (2012) #1–7 (Marvel Comics), Ms. Marvel (2006) #1 (Marvel Comics), Ms. Marvel (1977) #1 (Marvel Comics), Daredevil (2011) #1 (Marvel Comics)
  • Week 4: Wonder Woman (1942) #1 (DC Comics), Wonder Woman (2011) #7 (DC Comics), Secret Six (2008) #1–7 (DC Comics), Birds of Prey (1999) #56 (DC Comics), Batgirl (2011) #0 (DC Comics)
  • Week 5: Batman (2011) #0 (DC Comics), Swamp Thing (2011) #0 (DC Comics)
  • Week 6: Y: The Last Man #1–6 (DC/Vertigo), Saga #1 (Image Comics)

All the above comics and collections are conveniently grouped together and discounted on comiXology and most can also be found in any well-stocked library’s graphic novel/trade paperback comics collection.

Spawn‘s Angela to appear in Marvel’s Age of Ultron

Angela, the popular Spawn supporting character whose ownership was the subject of a long legal battle between co-creators Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman—which the latter ultimately won—will be appearing in Marvel Comics’ Age of Ultron mini-series. The character is then set to guest-star in this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy #5, which will be written by Gaiman and Brian Michael Bendis. There’s no firm word yet on whether Marvel has actually acquired the commercial rights to the character or, if this is a limited-time licensing deal with Gaiman, what the terms and conditions of the publisher’s use of the character are.

Angela vs. Guardians of the Galaxy's Gamora: The fight you didn't know you wanted to see.

Angela vs. Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Gamora: The fight you didn’t know you wanted to see.

That’s your NEWS Round-up for this week. Until next time, don’t forget to READ BETWEEN THE HYPE!
2 Responses
    • My guess is that Angela is on limited use for Marvel from Gaiman. I don’t see him selling off a character that he worked that hard to retain. The character hersef strikes me as less interesting than the legal battle around her. She seems like a Lady Death type of 90s bad girl, but then again, I’m not a regular Spawn reader so maybe I missed the fuss.

      • It’s easy to forget how big Spawn back in the early 1990s because of how under the radar the property is today and how relatively quickly the shine came off the title, but the first issue did sell some 1.7 million copies when it debuted and McFarlane had snared heavy-hitters like Frank Miller, Dave Sim, Neil Gaiman, and Alan Moore into co-writing the title at various points during the series’ first year of publication.

        And while the creative merit of those collaborations might be open to some argument (personally, I don’t remember what happened in the stories, although I do recall reading them all), they did sell well: By the time #7 came out, Spawn was down to selling 500,000 copies per issue which was still huge, but a drastic step down from its first four-issue story-arc. Alan Moore’s stint on #8 boosted sales to an estimated 800,000 copies, and the Neil Gaiman co-penned #9—which featured the first appearance of Angela—sold an estimated 700,000 copies, good enough for #3 overall on Diamond Distribution’s sales charts. note: all numbers taken from Comichron.

        I recommend reading Maggie Thompson’s comprehensive coverage of the McFarlane vs. Gaiman case over the ownership rights to Angela and other characters Gaiman created while writing Spawn for some some great insights into the state of comics at the time and some (unintentional?) humor from the presiding judge’s comments about superhero comics and McFarlane’s sense of character design.

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