Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Comic Book Business: Who Does the Heavy Lifting?

As I have been surfing around the internet checking out different comic book related websites, it is extremely obvious that DC is suffering from a distinct lack of organization and is being strangely quiet about it. In most circles, this means the hammer is about to drop big time or that someone is being silent, hoping it all goes away like a bad dream.

The always insightful Graeme McMillan (now coming to you from gives his usually correct opinion about the stirrings meaning that the axe is about to fall on DC honcho Dan Didio. Read it to get the accumulation of interviews and pieces he has worked together. It is an interesting bit of reading.

Occasional Superheroine Valerie D'Orazio has done several pieces recently, utilizing her insight from working inside the industry, and musing about what needs to be done in light of all the discouraging bits coming out on the 'net. She also talks about creators and their conflicts with comic book companies, specifically with regard to Chuck Dixon and his relationship with DC ending. In a bit of a side note, it is always comforting to me to know the truth, and to sort it out on my own time. As someone who has been through hell and back, I know how damaging it can be to not be able to defend yourself, so I think full disclosure can be somehow the most healing.

At any rate, back to the problem at hand.

When Final Crisis #1 hit the shelves, the readers were in general pretty confused. Things were out of continuity and no one was sure if this was a weird zen Grant Morrison moment or if things had gone wrong with DC editorial. After checking out Graeme's piece, musing about Val's words, and in general taking a stroll around the internet to gauge reactions, it is transparently clear that the editorial staff and/or management is at fault here. Morrison started working on Final Crisis well ahead of the Countdown weekly series and the Death of the New Gods mini-series. Morrison didn't care how the titles went down as long as they fit with where he was starting. Unfortunately, we all know that didn't work at all. Everything was damned confusing.

What troubles me is that this kind of crap happens too often. Books get retconned with no apparent explanation. Creators take extreme liberties to tailor characters to their vision. Editors clamp down and sweat the small stuff while letting big FUBAR's get through. It goes on and on.

In most businesses, gaffes of this size require at least one head to roll. It sounds like it may be Didio at this point. I ask you this- was it Didio that made the editorial error because he micro-managed or did one of the editors just flat err? Was the editor in question not made privy to Morrison's script? How top secret was the first issue of Final Crisis? Didn't writers of Countdown and Jim Starlin, who wrote DOTNG get to see the script?

What the hell happened here?

If I was the one that made the error because I was in the dark about the script, I would feel innocent and justified. On the other hand, if I was the editor in question and I just let this happen, I would expect to be cleaning out my desk. Wouldn't that happen most anywhere?

The comic book industry mystifies me. I have never felt that it was truly run like a business in need of profits. It seems like someone wants comic book companies to lose money. I am sure Time Warner wants a tax write-off or that Marvel has to have something to offset the booming movie business. That is the only explanation I can come up with, other then that the folks in the business are the most "good old boy" network in the world. It is always the same old faces that resurface, and it makes me wonder when the people running the show will get a clue and send these faces packing for good. What is it- does someone have naked bribe pictures so they keep their job no matter what?

Can anyone who has been in the business explain this crap to me? At my job, we are supposed to be accurate and careful while working at a fast pace. It is the American way, right? If we make too many mistakes, we get canned and go flip burgers. We don't go make the same mistakes at the next place because we had drinks with the head guy at some show!!

Who runs a comic book company? Who there makes the ultimate decisions? Are people that are given the titles doing the jobs they are hired for? I worry that there is a divide between the business types and the creative types that can't be breached. I remember going to a show and asking a guy who was a former bigtime editor and his buddy who was a writer how come creative types got away with so much stuff and that they seemingly weren't called on it and getting a blank stare in response.

I could write a book of a blog on my irritation and confusion on this matter. Even though I have been a business professional for many years, I just can't relate to the comic book industry. It is unique in so many ways that it makes my head spin.

What do you think when you read about the gaffes in Final Crisis and the bits and pieces about Didio? Do you think Didio should be canned? How much fault lays with the editors and creators?

Please someone help me understand this.


DVDPop said...

Very interesting article. Being an EIC of a comic book related news site,, I receive plenty of press releases from the various comic companies. I always get the impression when going through these releases that DC is way behind the curve. They don't seem to do anything to put their brand out there. Sure they'll send the occasional preview but other than that I see them as being way behind in regards to the other comic companies so I'm sure that extends further than just their marketing department.

Craig said...

Killer post!

I bought Final Crisis #1, but not a single issue of Countdown or DOTNG. I've also recently become a bit of a Chuck Dixon fan. All this goofiness makes me happy about my caution with my money, and sad for the diminishing prospects of spending it on DC.

I see two ways that DC could fix this: Either lop off some heads (unlikely), or get their PR machine in gear. DC could get out there, apologize to their fans, and pledge that they have identified what went wrong and how they can correct it. That wouldn't be much, but it might buy them a little goodwill.

'Cuz right now, the DiDio-detractors are acquiring more ammo than ever.

Unknown said...

Yeah, great post, Heidi. Time does, indeed, seem to be running out for Didio. I thought he did alot of stuff right early on, but he's really fumbled the ball and alienated alot of people over the past couple of years. The advent of the weekly series may have been the beginning of the end, as Didio seemed more interested in the short-term profits of the weekly series "sausage factory" than the long term profits of promoting solid, cohesive storytelling. The number of odd projects he's green-lit lately are baffling as well...and can't look good for DC's bottom line.

Swinebread said...

Dan seems to have dug his own grave here so I'm not going to add to the misery but, lose the core fans and make it hard for new folks to come on board then you’ve got nothing...

and I didn't like that cartoon with ambush bug as Didio. That was pure evil

Lisa said...

Funny, a year or two ago people were thinking Quesada would be the one to get the ax.

I think this is a great post!

This kind of thing seems to be a cycle in the comic book industry, especially in the last 6 years or so. I don't know why, but sure would like to.