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DC doin’s


Yesterday’s “Lying in the Gutters” was a sound outing, with not only Rich Johnston cleverly coaxing a confession from the Fake Art Adams, but two modest items that had the hot stove league going to inferno level:

A familiar source known collectively as “New York comics industry employees talking in bars” tells me that the last issue of “Final Crisis” is further delayed as it is suffering from serious rewrites. It appears that DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio was unhappy with the way the story concluded and the implications for the DC Universe for a while and had ordered changes from a, naturally, rather unhappy Grant Morrison. Considering this is the way he wrote the pitch for the book.


Morrison is not the only person having difficulties with DiDio’s direction. I understand that James Robinson and Dan had a stand up argument that led to Robinson quitting the Superman books and the DCU in general.

Adding in the fact that in recent interviews Dan DiDio has been hinting that most of the books in the Superman and Batman families won’t be about Superman or Batman any more, and the announcement that BATMAN will be taken over by artist turned writer Tony Daniel, and you have a recipe for very long message board posts. Marc-Oliver Frisch has a succinct, if grim, analysis:

Needless to say, neither of the two rumors is the kind of thing DC should want to be dealing with right now. But both would fit into the pattern established over the last two years: hideously late major books; talent and supposedly “regular” creative teams coming and going on a range of titles like through a revolving door or even leaving in a public huff (like Chuck Dixon and Jim Shooter, most recently); repeatedly botching a whole number of high-profile relaunches; getting hold of J. Michael Straczynski, one of the industry’s few superstar writers, and asking him to work on a commercial lame duck like The Brave and the Bold; giving a major event like Battle for the Cowl to a completely unknown quantity like Tony Daniel; as well as an ongoing string of last-minute editorial changes, sometimes long after books have been solicited in Previews, like in the cases of Batman and the Outsiders or Titans.

A dull moment at DC? Unlikely.

Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman has been busy killing off Batman in a USA Today story that was covered on yesterday’s Howard Stern show.

“This is my last Batman story,” he says. “And in some ways, it could be seen as every last Batman story.” Working with artist Andy Kubert, Gaiman will try to reconcile the various versions of Batman, some wisecracking, others brooding, over the Dark Knight’s 69-year history. “There are infinite Batmans,” he says. “It has been really hard on Andy because I keep asking him to draw in so many different styles.”

In his blog Gaiman says this isn’t exactly what he said. Gaiman had issues with another piece, Graeme McMillan’s Sandman wrap up piece:

It may sound like hyperbole to say that The Sandman changed the face of entertainment, and it is, to an extent – but there’s no denying that Sandman changed the face of the comic book industry, and that comics are one of the more dominant forces in pop culture these days (Don’t believe me? My friends Iron Man and The Dark Knight may be able to convince you). The series also made a star out of writer Neil Gaiman, allowing him to step into the roles of screenwriter and New York Times-bestselling novelist, and also inspired careers for people as disparate as Tori Amos and writer G. Willow Wilson. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’re the five ways in which I think that Sandman changed the worlds we watch, read about and imagine today:

To which, Gaiman responded:

I don’t think that Sandman actually did any of the five things he lists it as having done, and a lot of the things presented on the page as if they’re facts are opinions, and dodgy ones at that. (Which sounds remarkably ungracious, considering it’s a blog entry that says nice things about Sandman. If so, blame it on the author being in bed with a cold.) (And, before people write in asking about the “lost Sandman role playing supplement”, and before it makes it into Wikipedia, the Mayfair Games Sandman event someone talks about in the comments is more or less entirely fictional. I think I had a chat about a potential Sandman game with Dan Greenberg, who wrote the DC Magic supplement, but it went no further and Mayfair went down soon after — I’ve never before encountered the idea that the two things were linked, and no Sandman game was ever written, made, solicited or cancelled.)

Internet feedback, a wondrous thing.


  1. Does not DC have a corporate genome of strong editorial control? Or is this an example of DC changing horses in the middle of a steeplechase? If the new ending is insufficient to readers and stockholders, will the be a shake up? Or will they just rearrange the deck chairs as the band plays on?

  2. I’m sorry, but this is all so dumb. Why do we need to kill Batman off? What does this say about, or do for comics in this day and age? Nothing, as far as I can see. Is this the only reason we can offer people to go check out a major superhero book these days? They say, “Tune in and see him die!” Great. “Hey look, Twilight’s coming out on DVD.” Please. As a reader, I’d just see this as one more cut I can make in my comic spending. It’s like they never got over, What Ever Happend To The Man Of Tomorrow, or Death In The Family, I don’t even get to phone in, to vote. Of course, I could be wrong. God knows there are talented people on the project. Maybe, they really will give the Dark Night a wonderful send off. I will admit, if it’s a truly good story, I’ll want to read it, but after that, I’d welcome Flex bringing all the true heros back for new adventures. I’m going to go take some M&M’s. Piece.

  3. DC is throwing things at the sales wall and seeing what sticks. hmm. Sounds like the desperate machinations of a befuddled executive.

  4. I am getting worried. I am a big DC fan and see Didio squandering one great creative team or title after another. When is someone going to step in here? He is taking Grant Morrison and Paul Dini off Batman for Tony Daniel? He is letting James Robinson leave Superman?

    I really hope someone steps in soon and gets a new editor in there, before I drop anymore of my DC books.

  5. Presuming these rumors are indeed true, what is going through DiDio’s mind with all of these last-minute changes on major books? It’s the same stunt that he pulled on INFINITE CRISIS, among others, and we all know how well that turned out.

    And does this mean James Robinson’s new JUSTICE LEAGUE series is off the table, or is it doomed to suffer a BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS-like neverending creative shuffle?

  6. I’m really curious as to what changes Didio asked of Morrison. Where was Morrison going with this storyline and where would it have put the DC Universe?

    Also, what pissed James Robinson off so much that he’d leave? I was starting to warm up to his Superman stories (even though the art’s a little stiff at times).


  7. “I’m sure the good people at the Beat are working to verify these rumors, right?”

    I’m sure they’ve put Jess Lemon on the case.

  8. There WAS a role playing game called Sandman. And it came out right around the time the sandman comics were catching on. It always confused me back when i would see it on the shelf, and I wondered if it had anything to do with the comic, But in retrospect it clearly did not.

    Here’s some details on the game: http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=7356

    Perhaps the existence of this game (present in most game/hobby stores in the late 80’s) helped contribute to the rumor/urban legend that there was a Sandman role playing supplement.

  9. Dan Didio may appear like the Jim Shooter of the new millenium but the difference betwen the two is quite clear: While generally unliked among the creative community, Jim Shooter was still responsible for some of the most compelling, original and oft imitated quality stories in the history of the genre. Marvel was at a creative and sales height during his time that is still revered among readers today. So, say what you will about Jim Shooter but you can’t ignore the fact that the man delivered.

    Dan Didio on the other hand is responsible for some of the most god-awfull, incomprehensible nonsense in the history of DC Comics. DC may be making money due to the increased cover prices and sales of trades (mostly by creators who worked for DC while Dan was still an adolescent fanboy) but he is also responsible for the largest erosion of consumer confidence resulting in the defection of more individual readers in the history of the medium. In fact, even when DC had their abomidable reputation in the 70’s, DC’s circulation wasn’t as shameful as it is today.

    His list of failures is palpable. The artistic mess that was Infinite Crisis; Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman disappearing from the stands on a monthly basis for the first time in 70 years; printing stories out of order during that time; the disaster that was The Flash, One Year Later and all of its well promoted tie ins that are all but dead and cancelled; Death of The New Gods, Countdown To Infinite Crisis. The list is endless. And the success of Green Lantern pales by comparison with his inability to deliver comprehensible material on any kind of basis on the rest of DC’s line.

    Surprised that Michael J Strazinsky (Sp?) is on Brave and The Bold? Why? He put George Perez there first. Since Dan came on board, he is not only responsible for the largest defection of readers but quality creators as well and now, the soon to be James Robinson and maybe Grant Morrison? I don’t know, Grant said he had tons of Batman stories to tell even after RIP but with the announcement of Tony Daniel as writer, who the heck knows. As a matter of fact, no one knows what’s going on at DC, even from Dan himself.

    For over 7 years readers have been calling Dan Didio out on his poor work output and many condemned those readers for doing so. Now, 7 years later, people are witnessing not an increase in quality but serious and obvious declines. Batman gone and no more Superman in Action? Dan claims it will be the first time in the history of Action that this is done. Well, not so Dan because Action was Superman-less when it was a weekly beginning in #601 and that was a failure as well. Now, he is going to bring back the Milestone / Archie characters — because they were so successful when DC did them ten years ago? Because he can do them better, like he has done for every other DC title?

    DC has been in an infinite crisis of problems since this man stepped through the DC door. One can blame the readers, blame the creators from now until doomsday but there comes a time when one needs to stop looking at everyone else and recognize that maybe the problem isn’t everyone else. Maybe, just maybe, that problem is Dan.

    You know, that comparison from Dan to Jim is ironic. If Jim was in charge, at least DC might have been enjoying some semblance of great sales and consumer, if not creator, respectability.

  10. Brett says:

    “Batman gone and no more Superman in Action? Dan claims it will be the first time in the history of Action that this is done. Well, not so Dan because Action was Superman-less when it was a weekly beginning in #601 and that was a failure as well.”

    No, ACTION was not Superman-less during the period it was ACTION COMICS WEEKLY. Superman had a 2-page feature in the center of the book, drawn by none other than the legendary Curt Swan.

  11. “…taking Grant Morrison and Paul Dini off Batman…”

    Morrison is always late with all his books.
    Dini’s Detective isn’t selling well, although the stories are pretty good.

    “…letting James Robinson leave Superman…”

    He wasn’t going to stay very long anyway. He is Hollywood these days, not comic books.

  12. “Once Morrison is done with DC, so am I.”


    Or should I say Didio.

    It is, I think, mainly due to his rather ineffectual overseering of the DC Universe proper (ignoring outside gems like Fables or Ex Machina) that I have dropped title after title over the last several years, only concentrating now on whatever Morrison has been involved in. Should Morrison find himself displeased with having his creativity stifled & altered by Didio’s less than mediocre vision of the future, I see little reason to drop serious overinflated coin on anything that comes from the DCU should Morrison decide to walk.

    It’s a real shame that someday in the future, after Didio is gone, that DC will have to resort to yet ANOTHER ret-con of its universe & major characters to undo the damage being done here. You know it’s coming. Maybe they’ll name it The Son of the Return of the Infinite Final Crisis; No Shit, This Time It’s For Reals – Honest!!

  13. Fred said: “The Brave and the Bold is the PERFECT title for JMS to write. ”

    Historically, some of the most memorable comics runs have come from books with low sales and low expectations. Some examples include:
    – Jack Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen
    – Neal Adams’ X-Men
    – Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams on Batman and on Green Lantern/Green Arrow
    – Dave Cockrum’s Legion of Super-Heroes
    – Frank Miller’s Daredevil
    – Peter David’s Hulk

    Right now, DC might be a good place to start creating some bang-up stories. If they could finally get away from the multi-issue crossover epics which totally tank any chance for a decent storyline.

  14. It should be pointed out that Tony Daniel is not an “unknown quantity,” as Marc Oliver suggests. The guy has written numerous creator-owned comics dating back to 1997’s “The Tenth.” I actually enjoyed his writing quite a bit (particularly on the Dark Horse series “Silke”) and was kind of disappointed when he went back to doing art-only work-for-hire jobs. He’s no Morrison, of course, but he’s hardly untested.

  15. Morrison has said that he’ll be writing Batman after the RIP aftermath crap. Has that changed?

    Also, is Robinson really off Superman?

    (Anyone who would like to commit some actual journalism with respect to these questions and others raised by that yentah Johnston is enthusiastically encouraged to do so.)

  16. Good rant, Brett! The only comparisons I had in mind were the Shooter style of micro-management and his launching of “Secret Wars,” a “mega-event” at least as hollow as Infinite Crisis, but I’ll grant that he occasionally showed some stones, though in some cases he was no better a custodian of the Marvel characters than Didio seems to be of the DC heroes.

  17. “It should be pointed out that Tony Daniel is not an “unknown quantity,” as Marc Oliver suggests. The guy has written numerous creator-owned comics dating back to 1997’s “The Tenth.””

    I know – see an earlier post of mine from last week.

    But the last comic written by Daniel was published in 2005, he’s only written his own creations to date, has never garnered any critical acclaim for his writing to speak of, and the total number of comic books he’s written seems to be below 50 in a span of more than ten years.

    You can argue whether that makes him an “unknown quantity,” but bearing all this in mind, in the very least, he’s a very odd choice DC for a major Batman story – particularly in the middle of Morrison’s stuff, who was meant to return to the book after Gaiman’s two-parter.

  18. “Dan DiDio” is the culmination of a diabolical plan concocted by the Secret Society of Super-Villains in the late 1970s (circa the cancellation of their own mag and therefore never published) to inject themselves (as “DiDio”) through time into our reality during Grant Morrison’s Animal Man hey-day, kill all the renowned editors, replace them with misguided fanboys, and subject the fictional post-Crisis, post-Zero Hour, post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe to lots of mayhem and destruction. It was the ultimate “cross-over,” and it worked. The villains don’t care about sales, only chaos. And they won.

    Only Larry Lance, the last of the dead DC characters yet to return, can save us now.

    Now…with that REVEAL…doesn’t the Dan DiDio DC Universe suddenly make sense?

  19. Hibbs: I stand corrected. I was buying Action during its weekly tenure but didn’t even remember the Superman 2-pg’ers. I should have said it’s the first time Superman wasn’t the ‘main’ feature. Still, I love your columns, they’re quite insightful and enjoyable.

    Gene: I beg to differ. Not saying Jim was perfect (the 1st JLAvengers) and I wasn’t even a huge fan of Marvel during Jim’s tenure, I was more of a DC guy at that point in time but again, say what you will, during Jim’s tenure he gave readers…

    – the Classic Claremont / Byrne X-Men (which some may have believed he clucked up killing Phoenix but then, with that, he made that story the infamous tale it is today and we wouldn’t have had the Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Romita Jr art that followed when Byrne left to do…)

    – the Classic Byrne FF
    – Walt Simonson’s Thor
    – Frank Miller’s Daredevil
    – George Perez Avengers

    And again, among many, his time at Marvel is considered classic, well revered amongst fans and sold pretty darn good. Which the same can’t be said for Didio.

  20. Davidson…

    As said above, I do stand corrected. The point is, Action was mainly a book without Superman spotlighting other characters instead and while some might blame the weekly format, it still failed, many believe because the main draw, Superman was not prominantly featured.

    And given Dan’s 7 yr track record, its highly unlikely he’ll be able to make the Milestone or Archie characters interesting or successful either. Even if he hires great creators, chances are, they will fly the coup like all the others if they don’t agree with Dan’s direction.

    Bottom line about his direction? Dan seems to think his brain is like a Great House of Ideas but given his record, that’s one house that should be scheduled for demolition, or especially in this time, due to abysmal sales, foreclosure.

  21. How exactly is it kissing your boss’s ass to point out that info relayed from bars to the web may not be 100% reliable and accurate?

    Did anybody bother to follow up and try to verify those claims? Maybe they’re accurate and maybe they’re not but even Fox News has better journalistic standards than that.

  22. “Did anybody bother to follow up and try to verify those claims? Maybe they’re accurate and maybe they’re not but even Fox News has better journalistic standards than that. ”

    Well, no, they don’t.

    And besides, Rich is very clear about the fact that he’s reporting gossip. You can argue about the ethics of that until the cows come home, but you certainly can’t claim that he’s trying to fool anyone into regarding what the column says as factual.

  23. When facts and gossip get mixed within blogs and across blogs, I just think it gets a little blurry sometimes, that’s all.

  24. “Battle for the Cowl will be written and drawn by Tony Daniel, which we’re very excited about. This is the first time Tony’s written in a while, and he’s just champing at the bit to be able to do this, and we’re excited that he’s on the series. ”

    As I read it, Didio’s not saying Daniel’s taking over Batman, simply that Daniel’s wrangling the overarching thingawhatsit before we get back to actual Morrison. Which I translate as another two-to-three month blip on the far side of Gaiman’s dealy that’s -also- not Morrison. Call it Morrison’s much-needed vacation. I don’t imagine any of it will affect his overall plan for Batman. There was a similar interruption very early on, the Ostrander & Mandrake blip in ’06, followed by the tepid & pointless ‘Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul’– which many fondly remember as Daniels’ first appearance on art chores.


    Because Morrison’s Batman is the only DC title I’m reading now I want to defend Daniels. But I can’t. Every time I find something to appreciate about his work I feel as though I’m denying reality. I’ve even tried to blame it on the inker, but… I can’t unsee the similarity between what he’s drawing now and his debut on ‘X-Force’ in ’95. The compositions & linework are just as awkward & forced. Not to be unkind, but his art style’s developmentally stunted.

    And this is the guy drawing the only DC title I’m reading.

    A FLAGSHIP title.

    Neal Adams’ old turf.

    Sometimes I re-imagine parts of ‘R.I.P.’ as though they were drawn by Michael Lark and weep for what could have been.

    Anyway, I sincerely doubt Didio’s going to ruin his already tenuous public partnership with Morrison by handing the reins over to Daniel. I hope to god not. My pull box is emaciated as it is…

  25. “sean mckeever go back to writing one of the worst runs in titans history and stop kissing the ass of your boss”

    Wow, you sure put me in my place, Anonymous Person Without Anything to Add to the Discussion! One more terrible comic coming your way, posthaste!

  26. “If the new ending is insufficient to readers and stockholders, will the be a shake up? Or will they just rearrange the deck chairs as the band plays on?”

    Stockholders? Of what? Time Warner, a vast media conglomerate of which DC publishing is a small, hardly noticed facet? Someone with a vested interest in Time Warner is going to get angry about a small part of TW’s business that remains profitable as an IP mine and a publisher for media tie ins regardless of who is in charge of editorial?

    I’m all for holding comics publishers to a high standard, but I think it’s fair to say that we’re flying far below the radar here.

  27. sorry sean mckeever. loved your marvel work. hate your titans. found the wonder twins as dog food issue to be frankly repulsive. but i read your post as defending dan didio when it was probably just calling out gossip for what it is. i was blinded my ‘dad didio must go’ rage. i used to cherish an entire line of comics that i now mostly loathe due to his stewarding of that ship. i guess that is why people want to believe any gossiped about mistake he may or may not make.

  28. “Historically, some of the most memorable comics runs have come from books with low sales and low expectations. ”

    Sphinx, I can’t tell if you’re agreeing with me or disagreeing with me.

    “sean mckeever go back to writing one of the worst runs in titans history and stop kissing the ass of your boss ”

    YEAH! or better yet, go back to writing The Waiting Place! That book was great! **messing with McKeever. I haven’t read Titans or much else he’s written other than The Waiting Place which was a great book and everyone should read it. **

  29. I really enjoy the Titans right now. One of the few DC books that I continually look forward to right now. So thanks for that Sean!!

    But I do echo the sentiments of some of the posters here. Regardless of the truth (or not) of this gossip, there is something that just doen’t “feel” like DC going on in the DCU. Marvel stories seem to flow better, the cohesiveness is more apparent, the stories tighter. Not sure why, but it does impact my enjoyment of the DCU when these elements are missing.


  30. I should clarify that I really enjoy the Teen Titans right now, not Titans so much. That’s a title that seems to be “missing” something and that’s more evidence of a failed re-launch IMO.


  31. “For whatever it’s worth, this same “NYC bar crowd” also had a nugget about me to share with Rich which was 100% untrue.”

    It’s worth more now considering that James Robinson isn’t leaving Superman.

  32. Josh Says: “I really hope someone steps in soon and gets a new editor in there, before I drop anymore of my DC books.”
    Well considering the titles that are getting canned, maybe they might just drop the books for you.

    Meanwhile, it’s a very good point that fans are promised long running creative teams only to have them swap out left and right. Can anyone think of a team or even a single writer or artist who’s stuck around as promised without fill ins or swap outs? And if there is a book that did, is it on the canceled list?

  33. “Can anyone think of a team or even a single writer or artist who’s stuck around as promised without fill ins or swap outs?”

    DC only or any? Outside of DC, Mark Bagley is solid, but it remains to be seen if he meets his DC requirements.

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