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Dan Didio As Savior & Valuing Freelancers

Much has happened and been said and written in the days following news of Blackman and Williams’ shocking departure as co-writers of Batwoman. Family circumstances have kept me from saying much on the matter till now. Originally ending their award winning run at this conclusion of the latest arc in issue #27, the one in which Kate (after revealing herself to be Batwoman) has proposed  to Magge, TPTB have cut things even shorter by bringing on Marc Andreyko (Manhunter and Dark Shadows) with issue #25. I’m unclear on whether there will or won’t be a new artist. The aborted wedding brought charges from some of homophobia against the publisher; charges that were in my opinion hard to retract and embarrassing once they were easily proved groundless after the writers stating it was never the case. Rather, the status quo of relationship among DC’s stable of characters  has been decreed that none of them shall be married, a state perceived to limit storytelling and character development options. Already noted in articles on other comic sites is the fact that no DC characters are married. Readers had assumed Aquaman and Mera were in part because of Geoff Johns’ writing and in part because of past continuity. I think it’s a similar situation with Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. Looks like Ralph and Sue Dibny won’t be married if they ever appear now.

This entire matter comes down to two factors in my opinion. The first being editorial’s vision of the company’s characters trumps creator plans and work, often at the eleventh hour, and artists having less value placed on their talent and job performance and therefore being considered replaceable and interchangeable. Part of the editorial vision is the idea that married characters aren’t and can’t be interesting. The question for me isn’t whether or not married characters belong in superhero comics, but rather can a writer effectively convey interesting situations for married characters. Some writers know how to do that and others don’t or perhaps unwilling. Grace Randolph makes an interesting observation about the now terminated Kate and Maggie marriage in this video at Bleeding Cool. Then there’s the matter with editors making last minute demands for changes to work that’s already in process or done. I do not think editors shouldn’t have their hands tied but they also need to trust the people they’ve contracted to work on series. And why approve story ideas way in advance and put a stop to them as the idea comes so close to reality? That seems to be either bad job performance or an indication that there’s more to the incident, such as an edict that was decided by Didio or higher up after Williams and Blackman’s plan had been approved.

Rich Johnston tries to make a case for Dan Didio saving not just DC but the entire (mainstream) comics industry. I had read before that Didio wanted this relaunch, had even planned it to happen, a few years back, only to be stopped by then publisher Paul Levitz. Johnston cites sales figures that show an increase post relaunch not just for DC, but other companies too. According to Johnston, Didio is under intense pressure by Warner Brothers execs to keep sales as high as possible so we should smile and be thankful and be happy with what we get each Wednesday. Well, okay. Thank you. Yes, Didio may have single handedly resuscitated DC and given a jolt to competition, and yes, Didio has to or increase sales and may I point out that nobody likes a martyr and messiahs get crucified? Not an enviable position to be in.

Treating artists and writers badly isn’t a new phenomenon. Editors receive the same treatment on rarer occasion. As Douglas Paszkiewicz bluntly states, Williams and Blackman could start their own company and own the work they do. Starting a new company isn’t a realistic proposition for everyone. Besides, DC has characters that lots of writers and artists want to work on and opportunities to gain exposure and get the bigger bucks, Still and all, don’t treat writers and artists as if they’re cogs in a machine, especially when those people have won awards for work on your characters. Let’s face it: the reputation that comes from undervaluing and mistreating work for hire will steer prospective talent to other publishers because it’s easier to be headhunted by a business rival looking to raid talent to boost its own bottom line. Far better to keep your freelancers happy and working for you than frustrated and disgruntled. Sure, DC will survive, but look at the rifts that happened between Jack Kirby and Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff as proof of what can happen when people become tired of abuse. Imagine what DC would be like today if Schiff and Kirby hadn’t had a falling out! Imagine how the comics industry would look like today!

So, raise a glass with me to toast Dan Didio! Thank you for saving DC! May you learn to trust others besides Jim Lee and Geoff Johns and may the revolving door on freelancers become firmly closed.

March 7, 2015
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