So, usually here on What Were They Thinking (the series where we take a look at the stupidest and most ill-advised things to happen in comics history) we tend to look at storylines, what actually happens on the page. We might blame the people behind the scenes for their terribleness, but we've never actually called out the guys behind the scenes for being terrible. But today, we're going to be taking a look at Detective Comics Comics Inc. (yes, that it actually the full name of DC Comics) and the... lets just say interesting time they've had in recent years.
So, let's start off with a small one shall we. In case you weren't aware, the current Batwoman is gay. I mean that is kinda a big thing, a she is the most high profile lesbian character in comics at the moment and there are still people who are resistant to that fact, or to the fact homosexuality exists at all. And back in 2013, the writers wanted to capitalise on that fact by having her marry her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer. Hell, they even got as far as doing the proposal. But of course an editorial decision got passed down from Mr Dan Didio (can anyone tell me how to pronounce that please, it's a complete stutter-fest of a name), who is co-publisher of DC, that the marriage shouldn't go ahead. And what was the reason? It wasn't fear of fan or media backlash and fortunately it wasn't because of homophobia on Mr Dedede's part, although I kinda wish it was because the real reason is twice as stupid. The actual reason was because, and I quote- "heroes shouldn't have happy personal lives." Oh and then the writers, J.H Williams and W. Haden Blackman, left the series because of conflicts with management over storylines. And then a year later the series was cancelled.
Well done Mr Dedeino, you're an idiot.
I mean, it's not like around that time the company had hired Enders Game writer and renowned homophobe and vocal opponent to same sex marriage, Orson Scott Card (which in its self was a bad idea. I know Marvel had him on the books at one point, but still, their timing wasn't that bad and they got rid of him pretty quickly). It's not like any of this could be misread in any way, shape or form is there. You know you've bad some bad choices when the artist you have lined up for the project refuses to work on it and the series eventually never gets published due to the bad publicity and threat of boycotts. But I digress.
Let's now move on to something worse, because the Batwoman writers aren't the only writers that DC have absolutely shafted in recent years. Nick Spencer, the original writer for the newest Supergirl series, was fired before the first issue was released and he was only given co-writer credit on the issue by the way. Chris Roberson, the writer for Fables, Superman and iZombie, left the company and went on record calling the company "unethical" in the way they treat their creators and their general business practices. The creative team behind Superman Family Adventures weren't even told their series was being cancelled, instead finding out through a press-release that said that the 12th issue would be the finale. And going back to the Bat-family, Batgirl writer Gail Simone was fired from DC for no apparent reason without the series being cancelled, but was reinstated after fan backlash. Oh, and this is the company that got George Perez to quit because they wouldn't stop meddling with his work. That's THE George Perez, the guy who worked on Crisis On Infinite Earths and the 80's Wonder Woman reboot, the guy who made the Teen Titans the most popular superhero team of the 80's and the guy who has worked on practically every major character in both the DC and Marvel pantheons. On his way out he also criticised the editors for not even knowing what the New 52 status quo was meant to be (which explains a lot, because nobody else knew either), the amount of rewrites of his material and the inconsistency of said rewrites and the fact that his work on Superman HAD to be consistent with Action Comics, which was set five years prior and whose writer, Grant Morrison, would not share information on future storyline plans. In total there's a list of some 40 writers, artists and other creative staff leaving DC since 2009 due to any mixture of being fired, behind-the-scenes issues or series being cancelled without warning. And this company managed to get Rob Liefeld to quit because they were screwing with his material (which could possibly have been a good thing?) and the artist they gave him apparently couldn't art (Rob Liefeld calling someone out on their art? What is the world coming to? Oh well, I mean old Rob always was an utter hypocrite). I mean, when you're getting Captain Creatively-Bankrupt to leave because you're stifling creativity, you're doing something wrong. And considering that the industry heavily relies on free-lance writers and artists now, you've got to wonder, what the hell are DC doing? Well, what ever it is, they're doing it wrong obviously, or I wouldn't have said that they were doing something wrong in the previous sentence. But anyway.
Then you have the controversy surrounding the lack of female creators on the launch of the New 52, which dropped from 12% of the staff to just 1% (being Gail Simone and one of the alternating artists for Batwoman, Amy Reeder) and the sexist reboots of various female characters, Catwoman and Starfire in-particular (which we may well cover in the future), which don't paint DC in this period in any sort of good light at all.
So, basically DC wasn't the best place to be over the last few years, and probably will remain as such. It probably doesn't help that DC have been going through what can only be described as a second DC Implosion. The first happened back in 1978, I'm sure there are a few people who remember it, where DC started publishing around 20 new titles and then ended up cancelling the majority of them due to poor sales. Well, this has happened again with the New 52, proving that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Six new series were cancelled after the first year of the New 52 (2011), 10 after the second year (2012), a staggering 16 comics were cancelled after the third year (2013) and then in 2014 the company went mad and cancelled 20 titles, including some Batman, Superman and Justice League titles, the Teen Titans title and Nightwings solo comic. And because DC love to outdo themselves, 2015 saw the cancellation of 33 titles, including most of the Green Lantern centric titles, Supergirl's solo comic and an Aquaman title. That is THIRTY THREE titles in a single year that either ended or got cancelled. That is quite literally banana pants mental. Over the 5 years the New 52 was going on, DC published 135 new or rebooted issue #1's for their titles. Of those 135 unique titles, 85 were cancelled by April this year. That is ridiculous, it's something like 65% of their titles (I'm not that great at math, if someone could actually work that out for me, I'd be very grateful). What are you doing DC? No wonder you can't get a cinematic universe to work, you can't even do being a comic book publisher right. You might actually have taken Marvel's title of being the best at being the absolute worst away.
Personally, I blame Dan Dadano for having such a stupid name that it's put everyone else in the office off their work whilst they try to work it out. It's the only logical explanation. Either that or Dan Dededelewooop is secretly the Joker in disguise.
Very well written. I have enjoyed these articles.
This one in particular makes the Superman fan in me depressed. It’s sad watching the owner of your favorite hero being so stupid. I feel like they are taking their fans for granted.
There were a few titles such as Demon Knights that came out of the N52 that were really god but I couldn’t keep up on because comics cost time and money. Both of which I am short on.
I dropped DC 5 years ago with the advent of the New 52, despite having been a DC reader continuously for more than half a century specifically because of how big a cut from previous continuity they were making. I never read any of those 85 cancelled titles. My one exception has been the Bombshells series which has its own continuity, stands alone from the rest of present continuity and is an interesting variation of the continuity patchwork that I’m familiar with I am also an avid follower of the CW/CBS DC TV continuity. I miss the old DC, but the new DC has yet to show me anything but these two that seem to satisfy that lack.
In writing this, it occurs to me that the “New 52” came just a bit more than 52 years into my DC reading. From that perspective, what I miss was the “Old 52”, the 52 years from when I started reading Detective Comics with Batman and the Martian Manhunter until I cancelled my reservations.
I have to say I honestly have not read any comic books in a long long time due to time and money issues. So even though I follow the comic books news ( mostly for due to my position here ) I can’t actually testify to the current state of the comic industry. With that said I have to wonder if “Rebirth” is fixing the new 52 issues or is it making things worse ?
I have long held that corporate and sane are opposites. In recent years, writers have been given every bad treatment from being ignored to being fired to being eviscerated by lawyer.
Personally, I blame the paranoia of our society. Writers are, when properly espoused, supposed to encourage, describe, prognosticate, model, inspire, and even initiate positive changes. “Kill all the lawyers” isn’t actually ever going to happen in America, but elimination of certain types might be a positive change. Projecting the invention of submarines and light bulbs and space travel and robot surgery and neurally-connected bionics were all good things that writers have done.
That kind of power belongs to writers. The way to make that power safer AND more positive is to employ them en masse, pay them very well, and SCOFF WHILE SMILING at whatever they say that you don’t like. Double down by deliberately backing a few crazy ones. That reduces them to the same level as every incompetent middle manager from scary Klaatu-figure. No one ever need be the wiser.
JR, do you work in a comic shop? Your knowledge of the industry is impressive and enlightening. Same as others, I haven’t been reading comics because of time and money (along with a Kafkaesque living arrangement). Thank you for being a connection and a guide.
My personal opinion on writers, characters, and stories being controversial, provocative, or even inspiring is too much for the written word. Unless I am looking for introspection, I try to stay neutral. My reactions generally range from mildly amused to slightly irritated. Looking at you, Supergirl.
The fact that DC has screwed over so many writers is a problem. Sounds like the content board is nothing more than control freaks striking ideas in committee. Whereas at Marvel, it’s letting dumb ideas go to print.
I understand the need to protect a brand. You risk blowing huge bucks should you run afoul of the fan base. On the flip-side, You have to watch out for self-righteous busybodies.
That being said, I still wish that I had become a writer or even an editor. However, I wouldn’t want to be a starving artist. So… yeah.
DC’s problems have a long and storied history. A lot of it, no doubt, has to do with being owned by a movie production studio. As an example of how this relationship has damaged DC, I would have you think, first, about Marvel, over the last ten years.
Marvel has only recently been telling people that what happens in their movies doesn’t influence what happens in the comics. o_O I think most people who have any degree of knowledge of both comics and comic book movies, like myself, rejects that claim out of hand. DC, on the other hand, has been doing that type of thing for years and years. Now, they weren’t making many super hero movies, like Marvel has recently, but DC has had several films and several TV shows within the last thirty years that have all affected their comic book continuity or look. Marvel has been doing it to themselves until very recently (since Disney bought the company and has begun aligning Marvel with their other IPs in terms of themes and ideology), but DC’s biggest bosses at WB have been doing this same thing for yeeeears. And not very well, as has been covered in the article. I strongly believe that WB’s process of selecting who will lead DC and such subsequent decisions are why DC has floundered in so many ways, over the last several years. Even New 52 was, looking at Superman, seemingly an attempt to make comic Supes more like his new cinematic self.
These are, of course, just my opinions. Take it or leave it. 🙂
I quit comics 15 or so years ago. They were starting to leave the source material. I am glad I missed this and the marvel shakeup. I have wonderful memories of actual hero’s.
That has been my whole complaint. You want gay or progressive or some other ism, then create that character. Don’t take a character with a huge background, and introduce something that goes against so much cannon. I don’t mind characters with every kind of background, that is just life. Just don’t do a 180 and redo a existing character. Build and mold a good character, instead of tearing up and rebuilding one.
I totally agree with your sentiment, uh, “nerd”. ;-]
@nerd- The thing with Batwoman is that the original Batwoman was killed off back in the 70’s, whilst the new lesbian one was introduced in 2006. That’s a fair gap. What complicates this is that they share the same name, but the new version never appeared to be the same character as the one from the 60’s/70’s despite filling the same role and having the same name. And then in the New 52, they brought back the original version whilst keeping the new version. I do agree with you that they should build up new characters to fit the diversification criteria (that is a problem that certainly Marvel are having as they’re going around replacing every character they can find to mixed results), however in this case it isn’t as bad due to the fact that they treated her as a new character taking up an old abandoned mantel. But I do understand where you’re coming from.