Wednesday Comments – Loosen the Reins

For at least the past year, every few months comes a horror story about DC’s editorial department. George Perez complained about it interfering with his run on Superman. Rob Liefeld famously ranted on twitter about it. And most recently it cost DC the highly publicized Andy Diggle run on Action Comics.

And looking at all of the creative team shuffling that’s gone on with the various New 52 titles, it does seem pretty obvious that there’s something wrong with how things are working on DC’s titles. Clearly DC is holding the reins incredibly tight. So tight that it’s costing them talent.

I’d really like to see those reins loosened a bit. Ok, loosened a lot. But hear me out.

Let’s look at the most critically acclaimed stuff that DC’s done in the past 25 years. The Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. Kingdom Come, New Frontier and to a lesser extent The Golden Age. And that’s not counting Vertigo.

See a pattern?

To me it looks like a couple things. First and foremost, all of those stories take place outside of the main DCU continuity. This isn’t to say that awesome things don’t happen in regular monthly comics, but it is saying that those regular monthly comics are pretty much only for fans.

Also, those stories are instances when DC handed over their toys to writers and artists and let them create. Yes, in the case of The Watchmen the characters were changed, but originally they were DC/Charlton heroes.

Another thing they share, with the exception of The Golden Age and Kingdom Come, they’ve all made their way to dvd. And a final thing they’ve got in common is what while they took place outside of continuity, most of them eventually affected DCU continuity in some way.

So to recap; when DC allows creators the freedom to create stories with their characters, not only do the books become critical and financial successes, but they generally get made into movies and those stories inspire other creators. At least that’s what it looks like to me.

Of course all of those projects were initiated under the previous DC regimes. For some reason I don’t see the current powers that be at DC giving the greenlight to anything particularly creative, especially given how the regular monthly books are handled.

But DC could be luring creators into the fold by allowing them to tell the dream story they always wanted to tell. I bet there’s a big name Marvel creator who has a great idea for a Green Lantern story in the vein of Dark Knight Returns bouncing around in his head. But since DC is focusing on the New 52, he’s got no reason to believe the story could even become real. And so he just chucks it.

Here’s a more concrete example; Scott Snyder. Scott is arguably the biggest writer DC has at the moment. His run on Batman opened a ton of eyes and his Swamp Thing made people forget how much they cringed at the idea of Swampy returned to the DCU.

But Scott started writing Batman stories when Dick Grayson was filling in as Batman. And he has more stories of Dick as Bats to tell before Flashpoint went and mucked things up.

Now imagine if DC decided to resurrect the Elseworlds banner or even Paradox Press, and allowed Scott to tell those Dick Grayson stories. Given his stature, they’d be successful. The comics would sell, the trades and omnibuses would sell. DC would have yet another successful title on their hand, even if it was a miniseries.

And can you even imagine the awesome things Gail Simone would cook up?

But no, DC is willing to leave that money on the table, because they are stubborn. They want so desperately to stick to their New 52 guns. They’re afraid that by putting out a book that doesn’t take place on the New 52 Earth, that they’d be accused of backpedaling or admitting failure. When really they’d just be letting a creator create.

Because for all of the flack that I give Flashpoint, it did give us Batman: Knight of Vengeance, which was an awesome reimagining of Batman mythos.

It’s frustrating.

Oh well. It’s Wednesday, go out and buy some fresh new comic books!

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