It started with George Perez and Rob Liefeld. Then Chris Roberson. Then we saw Jim Zub (Birds of Prey) and Robert Venditti (Constantine) get the shaft by DC, being pulled off the books before they even launched. And don't forget the whole Gail Simone fiasco.
Then last week, Joshua Hale Fialkov walked off the Green Lantern books, and Andy Diggle dropped off Action Comics.
The primary reason for the departures are similar to why Liefeld left--editorial changes to approved storylines that were already in motion. In fact, that’s a theme that runs through pretty much all of the creative shuffling we’ve seen lately from DC. And that’s just the stuff we’ve been privy to. In reading books like Teen Titans, Superboy, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and countless others, you can almost see the wheels spinning behind the scenes issue to issue.
The bottom line is this: DC created a new universe, and they’re trying to make it everything to everyone on the fly.
It would be like Coca-Cola introducing a new version of Coke, and changing the formula every month, so that you never knew what version you were getting when you picked a two-liter up off the shelf. And then to compound the issue, instead of realizing that the drop in sales was due to an inconsistent product, Coca-Cola just kept tweaking, thinking there was one magical formula that would click with everyone.
Here’s the thing--not everyone is going to be happy with everything. Not every book is going to sell 25,000+ copies a month. Not every character is going to resonate with people. BUT, you have to give them a chance. You have to let creators tell their story. The characters, and the New 52 as a universe, needs time to breathe. Let creators establish the new histories of these characters. Give them time to find a foothold.
You can’t shift gears three issues into a six-issue arc. You can’t change the personality of a character three times in the first year of a book. These things take time to establish. And if you are going to make changes, they have to be gradual, and they have to be earned through good storytelling.
It’s no wonder creators are walking off of books at DC. Their names are being attached to books that have wildly fluctuating quality, and many times the direction of the books are out of their control. Worse still, creators are being threatened into not talking about the editorial interference, leaving readers to hold the creators solely responsible for books that are simply not worth their cover price.
It goes without saying that when you sign on to write or draw someone else’s characters, you are not going to have full creative control. But if you pitch a story and it’s agreed upon from an editorial standpoint, you should be able to tell that story and have it judged by the readers for what it was meant to be.
Maybe Fialkov’s run on the Lantern books would have been awful. Maybe Diggle’s take on Superman would have stunk. I highly doubt either of those things, but we as readers will never get a chance to find out.
And that means we all lose. None more so than DC, who continues to damage their brand and raise questions about the quality of their product at a time when their biggest competitor can seemingly do no wrong. Between Marvel NOW and the second phase of their movie universe kicking off, Marvel smells blood in the water. Batman is only going to keep DC afloat for so long, and what in the world is going to happen when Scott Snyder eventually leaves the Bat family? I'm sure DC doesn't even want to think about that.
I’m still reading a good amount of DC books, and I’m still a supporter of the whole New 52 idea. My biggest fear right now is that DC will pull the plug on the whole thing and go back to the old DCU, dismissing this whole initiative as a failure.
I don’t think you can judge it a failure if you never gave it a chance to work.