This afternoon, Bill Willingham tweeted some typically frank thoughts about working on superhero comics — in recent years, he wrote JSA for DC, and before that, SHADOWPACT, a group book featuring several of DC’s more supernatural characters…and Detective Chimp. And as many have said before him, working with recent brands of editorial direction tended to mitigate against spontaneity:
To answer your question, no, I am not done with superhero comics. I surely love me those heroes. But the next thing will take a little time. Past superhero series I’ve been involved with had too many captains trying to pilot one boat. Characters taken from me mid-story. Plots imposed from above, and then changed arbitrarily. That’s no way to tell any story well. So the next project will be one I create from the ground up and control fully. No more begging permission from distracted gatekeepers.
It wasn’t just a matter of characters taken away for big crossovers and such. I had one character, Liberty Belle, taken from my JSA……to join the JLA — but no one told me. I learned far after the fact from @matt_sturges who read a script of mine and wondered why I was still using her in the JSA. Call from editor? Nope. Call from fellows who took her for the JLA? Nope. Silly way to run a circus.
Yeah, Shadowpact was another example of abrupt changes made constantly to stories that had been approved for months…… starting with 1st page of 1st issue, and never letting up. Too bad. I had hopes for the series too.
Don’t get me wrong. I think work for hire is a reasonably fair system, provided you know what you’re getting into. But to hire a fellow to write a series, approve the stories, but then do everything possible to disrupt and derail those stories seems odd.
No editorial hasn’t increased over the years, they’ve gotten (at least in one house) more chaotic. Today’s idea supplants yesterday’s idea! Now, everyone implement the changes on the fly! Hold on! We just had a new set of ideas at lunch! Everyone get ready for new changes! No I will not list all of the changes required for any series, only because it would be too long a list. But to say changes were called for on every page of every issue wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
Willingham still enjoys his FABLES experience, however:
Good question. On Fables there is editing, well in advance of production, but never last minute whim changes required. And no one at DC can grab Fables cast members, without my say so, for other stories. That’s the job of big TV networks.
Yesterday, Willingham had tweeted:
Fables is # 1: tinyurl.com/3z87sf6 Suck on that, two TV networks with Fables-esque series coming out soon (not bitter, but prepared to be).
in reference to Once Upon A Time, an ABC show about fairy tale characters trying to break an evil queen’s curse.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.