I’m about a week late to the party on this one, but the parade of talent walking away from DC Comics has added Paul Jenkins, who did the opening Deadman arc on DC Universe Presents, as well as a pretty decent fill-in on Stormwatch, and until recently was writing Batman: The Dark Knight.
Jenkins apparently has made the decision to walk away from both DC and Marvel to work exclusively for Boom Studios, currently writing Deathmatch for them. Which is fine; creators sometimes make the move to creator-owned comics from the Big Two – if I wrote comics, I’d be pounding on every indie publisher’s doors with creator owned ideas in the hopes of getting a TV contract and the keys to the Rich Guy’s Pissoir where Robert Kirkman currently pisses into Perrier.
Jenkins, however, rather than simply walking away to pursue his own projects, took a page from well-known people person Rob Liefeld and dynamited all his bridges by publishing an open letter regarding his reasons for leaving DC at Comic Book Resources:
I hope those reading this will agree the discussion will be worth their time. I feel that we are once again moving in the wrong direction, creatively. I’ve been down this road before, and it’s a road we can and should avoid. I don’t need to tell you what Greg Rucka and numerous other respected creators have already told you – that the Big Two have removed their focus away from the creators and towards the maintenance of the characters…
I know when it was a lot easier, and that was back in the days of Marvel Knights. In those times, Marvel had been in bankruptcy, and they had little choice but to allow the creators the freedom and trust that so many of us deserve… I look back on “Inhumans” and “Sentry,” on my Spidey runs with Bucky [Mark Buckingham] and Humberto [Ramos], and on various successes with “Wolverine: Origin” and others, and I know – because I was there – that they succeeded in large part because I was given freedom to create without being handicapped by editorial mandates. It just hasn’t been that way for a while. In recent years, I have watched, helpless, as editors made pointless and destructive changes to scripts and artwork that they had previously left alone. It bugs me that the creators were a primary focus when the mainstream publishers needed them, and now that the corporations are driving the boat, creative decisions are being made once again by shareholders.
Wow. Okay, there’s certainly an discussion to be had about the state of both Marvel and DC in the age of the blockbuster superhero movie, and after each publisher has either been bought up by a huge multinational corporation, or more closely folded into the huge multinational corporation who already owned them. God knows that, as a reader in the early 2000s, I felt like there was a sense of experimentation and a focus on new kinds of stories that I hadn’t felt from almost anyone outside of Vertigo Comics since the early 90s.
But I thought that DC’s New 52 was supposed to replicate that feeling by blowing continuity out of the water and starting over with A-List creators and allowing them to run wild with these long-running properties, right, Paul?
DC is in the toilet right now. It reminds me of the way Marvel was just before we did Marvel Knights. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the similarities and connections. Suffice it to say they have created a culture of dishonesty that affects too many creators. And the worst part of all is that they bully their creators. They tried to bully me, and I told them to go to Hell. The horror stories are many and varied. I have a few of my own, and I have heard way too many of them from various creators who are being beaten into submission with the threat of losing their jobs if they do not play ball. DC seem to have developed a culture where they think “professionalism” is screwing a creator in some fashion, and then pretending to be friendly at a convention. Professionalism is about handing in quality work on time, or about being friendly to fans at conventions, or about working towards a mutually beneficial goal. Professionalism is about dedication to your craft, not about running around the offices like a demented gerbil telling everyone how busy you are – so busy, in fact, that you forget to do any actual work. Here’s what pisses me off about this situation: it does not take a rocket scientist to see that there are a lot of very unhappy creators at DC lately. Well, can you imagine how many more are unhappy that we don’t know about because they feel if they speak out they will be blacklisted? Can you imagine the miserable conditions some of these creators are subjected to? (Disclaimer: not all creators, I am sure. Some are perfectly happy. Just not me.) The point is that DC has begun to act like a bully, to subject people to shitty working conditions as if it is doing them a favor. If I have seen good comics come from the creator/publisher collaboration, why the hell would I allow myself to be subjected to that nonsense at this stage of my career?
Okay, the first question is: who was in charge of Marvel back before Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas took over and launched Marvel Knights? Yeah, that’s right: Bob Harras, the current Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of DC Comics.
So whenever someone quits a job in disgust – trust me, I know; I’ve done it at least twice, and if you never have, I must say that it is glorious. You should try it sometime! But I digress – the first thing you gotta consider is that there’s some personal beef between the quitter and the boss. Which is entirely possible; after all, Jenkins is up-front about being much happier at Marvel once Harras left. It’s entirely possible that, after Jenkins arrived at DC in July, 2011, he was blindsided by Harras’s promotion two months later, and just toughed the personal incompatibilities out until he found a place to land at Boom!. Shit like that happens all the time.
But there have been an awful lot of people bailing out of DC these days – we’ve got Liefeld, Chris Roberson, James Robinson, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Paul Cornell, and Andy Diggle – not to mention the people who have gone public over having their books messed with by editorial over and over again – hi, Gail Simone and George Perez! Throw in the cases of creator solicitation musical chairs, and that would mean one hell of a lot of people who have personal beefs with the Man Upstairs.
But maybe that’s just something about being at DC these days. After all, Bob Harras isn’t the only guy in charge, and he’s well thought of by people who worked with him at Marvel. Like Mark Waid:
Overnight, they forgot what a two-faced, cowardly liar Bob had been and what crap they’d all had to suffer through because of his shortcomings as a manager. Instead, everyone was lighting candles for Bob. Jesus. You want to know the truth? In my humble =koff= opinion, Bob did as much to help destroy the comic book industry during the 1990s than any other single human being alive. Yes, even more than Gareb [Shamus, Founder and CEO of Wizard Magazine]. I’d even let Ron Perlman out of Hell before I’d pardon Bob.
Or maybe not.
Look: I don’t know anybody at DC Comics; I’m just some douchebag who likes ranting about comic books. So I don’t really know what might be happening at 1700 Broadway. But I do know that, as I bag and board my books, I’m finding more and more DC books that I didn’t bother to read the week I bought them at my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me to not offer the paying clientele “a new 52 to play solicitation musical chairs, if you get my drift.” And the reason I haven’t read many of them is because there are too many consistently good comics to read and write about, and because some of the creators who made those books so exciting two years ago are on other books at other publishers.
But here’s what I do know: one time I worked for a woman who was a real fucking douchecanoe. She made constant ridiculous demands, arbitrary staffing decisions, and got at least one long-time employee fired for a lack of loyalty. One by one, almost everyone who worked under her, including me, found other day gigs and got the fuck out. Eventually, somebody higher up noticed, and she was fired herself, under the reasoning that an inability to keep experienced staff from walking out the door to work for competitors is not a good long-term management plan.
Something fucked up is happening at DC Comics. In my opinion, it’s having a detrimental effect on their comics, which should be flourishing under a lack of continuity demands the way DC books did for a few years after the first Crisis in 1986. At this rate, there’s a chance that you’ll pick up an issue of Superman and discover that I’m the guy writing it, because I’m the last one left… and trust me, you don’t want that and I don’t want that. I don’t work well with authority, and while I can scribble a mean dick joke, I have trouble writing little things like “character,” and “plot.”
Shit. Maybe I am qualified to write Superman. Or at least Catwoman.