Ever since the launch of the New 52 two years ago, DC Comics has had a somewhat prickly relationship with their creators, and that’s putting it mildly. It’s bad enough to the point where a lot of the talent has just thrown in the towel over editorial interference, like this week when J.H. Williams left Batwoman over DC’s last minute decision, among other things, to put an end to the title character’s marriage plans (which happened to be with another woman.) Has DC Comics become a place where no one wants to work, and editorial has complete dictatorial control over their creative staff? Sure seems that way. Here are just eight examples from the past two years of DC creative teams who were fired, badly handled, or had just plain had enough and said “take this job and shove it.”
8. Writer Andy Diggle Quits Action Before He Even Starts
The cover for the Andy Diggle issue of Action Comics that never was.
Superstar Grant Morrison was the man behind the Superman reboot in Action Comics, but his run was always meant to be a limited one. Of course, Morrison is a tough act to follow, considering he is one of the most beloved and well-regarded writers in the industry. Still, it seems most fans were happy when DC announced acclaimed British writer (and former 2000 AD editor) Andy Diggle as taking over the writing chores on Action, mostly due to his work on former Vertigo books Swamp Thing and Hellblazer. It looked like an interesting, kind of unexpected choice.
And then in March of this year, a few months before his first issue was to hit, Andy Diggle broke the news on Twitter that he was indeed leaving the book before it even began, leaving fans everywhere wondering what could have been. “Sadly, I’ve decided to walk away from Action Comics for professional reasons…. It was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make, especially with Superman’s 75th anniversary and Man of Steel on the horizon.” Diggle never said what exactly happened behind the scenes, but it is safe to say that one can read between the lines here.
7. George Perez Leaves Superman After Only Six Issues
Artist and writer George Perez is an industry legend going on nearly forty years, and was a key creative force behind DC’s last major reboot with Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985, and then the Wonder Woman relaunch that followed it. He was brought into the New 52 to write and do breakdowns for the relaunch of Superman, but only lasted a few issues before he just couldn’t take it anymore. “I became very frustrated,” Perez said at a convention appearance following his exit from Superman in early 2012. He explained that there were basic questions about the character’s new status quo that DC editorial couldn’t answer for him. When he asked the higher-ups simple questions about the new universe, he’d get silence; “Are the Kents alive? What’s his relationship with all of these characters? Who exists? And DC couldn’t give me answers. I said, Oh, my gosh. You’re deciding all these things and you mean even you don’t know what’s going on in your own books?” Two years later, and DC pretty much still doesn’t know what’s going on, George. At least you got off that sinking ship early.
6. Rob Liefeld, the Boy Who Cried Wolf?
Rob Liefeld is maybe the most hated man in comics, or at the very least the most made fun of, but he was the first high profile creator to really break the news that something was rotten behind the scenes at DC, less than a year into the New 52. But, since he’s Rob Liefeld and not a creator anyone really respects all that much, no one paid much attention.
Maybe they should have, though, because a lot of the issues he was having with DC editorial seem to have trickled down to everyone else at DC in due time. He stated, via his Twitter account, “I believe in what DC is doing, but had to preserve my sanity.” He later said “Massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything. Editor pissing contests… No thanx” Over a year later, and last-minute changes by the higher-ups seems to be the thing that is driving most creators away from DC. Say what you will about Liefeld, his tendency to draw pouches and little feet and whatnot, but in this instance it seems like he was a, ahem, Prophet of things to come.
5. James Robinson Leaves Earth-2
One of the highlights of the New 52 was James Robinson’s alternate universe title, Earth-2. Unlike other “partial reboots” of older beloved concepts, Earth-2 was a no holds barred, full-on re-imagining of the old Golden Age heroes of World War II, but as younger characters in the modern age. For almost two generations of comic book fans, characters like The Flash/Jay Garrick and Green Lantern Alan Scott were old men, somehow still fighting the good fight despite presumably being ancient. But James Robinson, himself a huge Golden Age comics fan, found what was essential to the core of each hero and brought those qualities forth in younger, 21st-century versions. And he had long term plans for the book too, at least until the end of 2014. And then abruptly, this past summer, he went on his Twitter account and let it be known he was quitting.
“So as of today I am leaving Earth 2 with Issue #16. It’s been a blast. Yes, this also means I’m no longer working at DC Comics. Best wishes and regards to Dan (Didio), Geoff (Johns) and everyone.” He never said exactly what it was that made him quit, and he basically kept things professional, but in various interviews he’s done since, he’s implied it was editorial interference, just like with everyone else. (the other rumor is that DC promised Robinson a second Earth-2 title, and decided to give it to someone else.) Earth-2 is now in the hands of Injustice: Gods Among Us writer Tom Taylor, but it remains to be seen if anyone can have the passion for these classic icons that James Robinson does. I’m not holding my breath.
4. Kevin Maguire Fired From Justice League 3000
The only Kevin Maguire JL3K artwork that will likely ever see the light of day.
Here’s another instance of a creator being fired before the book ever even hits the stands. Justice League 3000 is set to be another cog in the ongoing Justice League franchise machine, this time set in the future 31st century, essentially replacing The Legion of Super-Heroes as DC’s future super team. What made the prospect of this book exciting for longtime fans of the DCU was the re-uniting of ’80s/’90s Justice League International creative team of Keith Giffen, J.M. Dematteis and artist Kevin Maguire, who breathed new life into that series back in 1987 and took the book to new heights of popularity. That team made the League witty and hilarious, but still filled with enormous sense of heart. In some ways, it was Joss Whedon before Joss Whedon.
So naturally, the former JLI team, when Justice League 3000 was announced, said although the characters would be all new, their approach to witty, comedy oriented superheroics would remain. After all, why hire those guys if you want grim n’ gritty? Well, it seems DC wanted grim n’ gritty after all, and so they fired Kevin Maguire from the book, even though his first issue was all done. They rescheduled the book from October 2013 to December, and gave former JLA artist Howard Porter (who, in fairness, designed all the new characters) his old job. As you’ve seen, this has become a pattern here, Maguire went to his Twitter page and said “I think I was just fired. Anyone have any comics they need drawn?” Luckily, Brian Bendis at Marvel almost instantly put him on the Guardians of the Galaxy book. Sometimes it pays to bitch publicly.
3. Gail Simone Gets Fired (Then Rehired) for Batgirl
This is where things just get really weird. Gail Simone is perhaps the defining writer for the character of Barbara Gordon, having written her for the better part of a decade in the pages of Birds of Prey, as the handicapped former Batgirl in the new identity of Oracle. When the New 52 initiative was announced, and it was said that Babs would assume the Batgirl role once again and have her disability removed, Simone was reluctant to do it, realizing that Oracle was an inspiration to many real life disabled readers. But DC was going to do this with or without her, so better for her to make sure they handled it right than let someone else screw it up.
I totally understand her reasons. And for the most part, they did handle it right; Gail Simone’s Batgirl has been a consistently good book in the New 52, and instead of waving the magic “it all never happened” wand, she’s dealt with Barbara’s recovery from spinal injury in a realistic and thoughtful way, all while giving us some of the best Batgirl stories ever. Oh, and it was, on almost any given month, one of DC’s top twenty (and sometimes even top ten) selling books.
But DC doesn’t reward success so much these days, so naturally, Gail Simone was fired. She took to the Internet to let her readers know that editorial was going in “another direction” and she wasn’t going to be asked back to the book. Even worse, she was fired via email. SO tacky. Considering she was one of DC’s only female writers, not to mention the fairly high sales of the books, fans were OUTRAGED. And rightly so. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but within days, Gail Simone was rehired to the book, supposedly from someone at the top of the DC food chain, who probably didn’t want the bad publicity that firing the only high profile female writer on one of DC’s most high profile female heroes would entail. Gail Simone is still on Batgirl, but the entire incident remains a big WTF moment for the company.
2. Chris Roberson Leaves DC for Good Over Before Watchmen
Although not directly related to the New 52, creator of iZombie Chris Roberson, back in April of 2012, laid down the gauntlet and said he would never work for the company again, due to the way the company was treating creators.Mostly he was referring to the specific instance of Alan Moore, who was none too pleased about DC doing a prequel to Watchmen.”My reasons for no longer wanting to be associated with DC don’t stem from anything to do with my personal experiences there, but from watching the way that the company has treated and continues to treat other creators and their heirs. The counter-suit against the Siegel estate and the announcement of the Watchmen prequels were the specific incidents that crystallized my feelings on the matter. Ouch. Roberson was just one of the first, along with Liefeld of all people, to really make a stink about how DC was treating creators. He would not be the last.
1. Batwoman Not Allowed to Get All Gay Married, Creative Team Walks
DC did the LGBT community proud with the creation of Kate Kane, the new Batwoman, back in 2006. Originally thought by many (including yours truly) to be a token character created just to grab headlines, under the auspices of writer Greg Rucka, and later writer/artist JH Williams, the character flourished and became a fully rounded and awesome superhero in her own right. Although Rucka left DC prior to the New 52, artist JH Williams suprised everyone with how good his Batwoman run was at the start of the New 52, writing and drawing some of the most beautiful looking comics DC has ever produced. In fact, for two years Batwoman has been a consistent bright spot at the company.
And then this week, it all went to hell. Creative team J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman announced they’ll be leaving Batwoman, citing DC’s editorial interference and the company’s total refusal to allow characters Kate Kane and her girlfriend Gotham City police officer Maggie Sawyer, to marry each other.Earlier this year, Batwoman proposed to Maggie twice, and the fact that DC didn’t make a big public thing about it should have been a warning sign that they were never going to go through with it. “We were told emphatically no marriage can result,” said J.H. Williams via Twitter. Although he felt that the idea “was never put to us as being anti-gay marriage” it just seems DC doesn’t want any of their heroes – be it Superman and Lois, or the Flash and Iris – to be married. Because marriage is for old people, and we all know no-one over thirty reads comic books.
Regardless of whether or not it’s actually homophobic (I honestly don’t think it is, just DC being stupid) to most people it comes across that way, and worst of all, it has cost DC one of their very best creative teams. But DC is just going to keep doing what they’re doing, until readers have finally had enough and just walk away from it.
Previously by Eric Diaz: