By Todd Allen
In comics, were one privy to what goes on in the editorial suite, you could probably do “The Hour In Creative Differences,” not “The Week.” That said, there have been a couple cases of creative differences that have bubbled to the surface in the last week or so: the circumstances of how John Rozum came to leave Static Shock and the demise of The Infinite from Robert Kirkman and Rob Liefeld.
First up, we have Rozum. Rozum should be best known for his wonderful Xombi comic, which found plenty of love from critics but not nearly enough love from readers last year. Rozum found himself in the odd position of being hired to write a comic, but wasn’t actually asked to do any writing. OK, you’re thinking this isn’t that unusual… but this time, there wasn’t an Event dictating the plot, just his artist/co-writer and editor. In Rozum’s words:
To say I was disappointed with how things turned out is an understatement. From the first issue on, I was essentially benched by Harvey Richards and artist/writer Scott McDaniel. All of my ideas and suggestions were met with disdain, and Scott McDaniel lectured me on how my method for writing was wrong because it wasn’t what the Robert McKee screenwriting book he read told him was the way to do things. The man who’d never written anything was suddenly more expert than me and the editor was agreeing with him. Scott had also never read a Static comic book, nor seen the cartoon series, yet was telling me that my dialogue didn’t sound true to the character and would “fix it.”
Essentially, Rozum didn’t like where the book was going and was reduced to dialogue coach by the sound of it. Hearing the story, I’m a little surprised he left his name on the book and swap in Alan Smithee or some such pseudonym as a placeholder. From someone who with Milestone’s original incarnation, this must have been pretty frustrating. On the other hand… something went wrong at an editorial level with a Dwayne McDuffie creation?
But, if the book’s not remotely what you were trying to do and you’re getting a negative reputation with both potential employers and fans, I don’t see where you have any choice, but to make a statement. These things happen.
Rozum also goes out of his way to diffuse some of the charges of institutionalized racism that have been making the rounds on the message boards:
Static Shock did not get cancelled because DC has some racist motivation against minority characters, or the Milestone characters.Static Shock was cancelled, in my opinion, because it wasn’t a good comic book. If it had been, people would have stuck with it, just as they have with Animal Man, who is a C-list character elevated by the talents of its creative team being allowed to do what they do best. DC wanted Static Shock to succeed as much as anyone did. They would never have started the series if they didn’t think it had a chance to do so.
Personally, I’d be up for more Xombi… but I suspect the sales were just too low for that to be happening.
Then, just so you don’t think that creative differences only happen at DC and Marvel, we have the strange case of The Infinite. This is the Robert Kirkman/Rob Liefeld project over at Skybound. News broke on Liefeld’s twitter and then hit the wires.
The short version? Liefeld used a new inker on issue 5. Skybound/Kirkman apparently didn’t like the inked pages. Everybody walked away unhappy. Or at least that’s what Liefeld appears to be saying. I haven’t heard the Skybound/Kirkman side of the story yet.
On the other hand, it isn’t like both Kirkman and Liefeld don’t have plenty of other projects to pay attention to. Schedules like those two have, one problem project could have a domino effect on two or three others if they’re not careful.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.