This afternoon comics legend Matt Wagner (Mage, Sandman Mystery Theater, Batman) took to Facebook to tell a rather curious tale regarding his work on the fill-in issues Batman #54

In case this post disappears at some point, here’s the text:

Hey gang…sad to say, I’ve got some distasteful news to share. As previously announced here, I recently signed on to provide the art for an upcoming issue of the monthly BATMAN title for DC Comics (#54) from a script by Eisner Award-winning writer, Tom King. Brennan Wagner was, of course, enlisted to color as well. I finished work on the issue several weeks ago and Brennan was nearing completion on his end of things, producing his typically beautiful, thoughtful and evocative color renderings over top of my B&W art. But just yesterday I received word from Batman group editor Jamie S. Rich that the DC “powers that be” found Brennan’s coloring to be too different from their regular fare (because, y’know…different is bad) and so have decided to pull him off the book and have the entire issue re-colored by one of their in-house colorists—at this point, I don’t even know who that will be. Even though Jamie went to bat for us, claiming that both he and Tom King loved the way things looked…he was over-ruled from the higher-ups. Tom’s script is a heartfelt look at a father-and-son relationship and, rather than capitalize on the fact that they had a celebrated father-and-son art team on board for this issue…DC instead elected to fire the artist’s colorist/son for producing distinctive work. Needless to say, I thought Brennan was doing a fantastic job and think this is a terribly shoddy way to treat not only him—this would’ve been his first full-length job for them—but also me, one of their longtime and supposedly respected creators. Regrettably, I’m now sorry I ever agreed to this gig in the first place…because this is just fucking bullshit.

It does seem rather sad that a father/son creative team should be bounced off a comic about fathers and son…especially since Brennan Wagner has worked with his famed father on many books, including the current Mage book and on DC work including variant covers. And no one threw the books in questions across the room in a rage because the coloring was “different.”

The outpouring if industry report in response to Matt’s post was universal, including several artists saying they would REQUEST Brennan’s coloring in the future.

Brennan Wagner had his own pithy response.

Neither Wagner has minced words here – they’ll get plenty of work elsewhere should DC bridges burn – and the idea that “Different is bad” marks the return of a certain DC mindset that had vanished for quite a while. But more on that soon.

Here’s the cover as solicited:

wagnerbatman.jpg

 

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. An absolute shame. Speaking as a major DC fan, I’m deeply embarrassed by DC’s actions here and feel for both Matt and Brennan. There is nothing wrong with a different style of coloring, DC. For that matter, there’s nothing wrong with something that’s different, period. What is this? This is not how I want your artists treated by you, DC.

  2. Oh, no! DC didn’t respect one of their artists?!? I guess there’s a first time for everything!

    Seriously, though, when you lie down with dogs…

    It’s too bad this happened to Brennan. It’s too bad what happened to Siegel, Shuster, Moore, Roy Thomas, etc., etc. to infinity. But corporations don’t exist to protect artists. In an ideal world they would and should but that’s just not going to happen.

  3. This is a bad move by DC. Why piss off a great creator like Matt Wagner that they should be trying to recruit?? Also if Tom King liked it then maybe keep your golden goose happy!
    The coloring by Brennan looks great, a bit flatter than DC’s house style, popsp more that way. Given the father-son storyline it’s a horrible PR move.

  4. This story is very odd for any number of reasons.

    1) As pointed out, Brennan Wagner has colored the great majority of Tim Sale’s variant covers that have appeared on this very Batman series. Surely everyone at DC was familiar with his style. And if he tried something different on these pages, why not request Wagner himself make any changes? They know what he’s capable of.

    2) Tom King had enough sway with the company to get the previous Batman editor–not exactly a lowly position–moved off to other projects when they had a disagreement. Relative to that, getting approval for the work of the previously contracted colorist on a single issue of the series seems pretty minor, yet he doesn’t have enough sway for that? What are the priorities of these higher-ups?

    3) “House style” for color at DC is the Alex Sinclair school, pretty much. Have these higher-ups taken a look at Batman lately? Elizabeth Breitweiser’s work hardly fits that house style–very much to her credit. Jordie Bellaire and June Chung don’t really fit too well, either. Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey are really the only full-on DC house style art team this book has had. I don’t think anyone could plausibly argue the title has suffered, commercially or artistically, from a lack of house style coloring.

    Yep, this looks bad on DC higher-ups.

  5. Yeah, the weird thing is considering that this is following Weeks and Breitweiser. I came speak for what the Wagners’ art looked like before it was rejected, but I can only imagine it must have been farther afield than Weeks/Breitweiser. Either way, it’s a sticky situation when you get this far without guaranteeing artists meet the house style.

  6. I could be wrong but I feel like something may be omitted from this story…

    – Did Brennan still get payed?
    – Did Jaime change his mind and “passed the buck”?
    – Is this about more than just “coloring style”?
    – Is Brennan off of ALL DC books because of this color palette?
    – Did DC give Brennan the option to revolt and he refused or did they just blindly switch?
    – Who are the actual DC “Higher ups” that are vaguely named?
    – Has DC publicly responded to any inquiries about the matter?

  7. DC own the book, they own the characters, it is entirely within their right to decide how they want the book to look. If Brennan Wagner’s work didn’t fit in with a house style that management want to publish then frankly it’s tough ****.

    And bitching about it online is not going to endear him to DC, it also speaks of a sense of unearned entitlement to think that his work should be accepted without question.

  8. Jeeze. If DC was a character and they were about to witness the killing of Bruce Wayne’s parents what would they have done ? With this scenario probably run away. A corporate power can do good but it must have courage. Another reminder that corporations do not live by the precepts of the tales they make money from being told.

  9. “Has DC publicly responded to any inquiries about the matter?”

    This sounds like a DC response:

    “DC own the book, they own the characters, it is entirely within their right to decide how they want the book to look. If Brennan Wagner’s work didn’t fit in with a house style that management want to publish then frankly it’s tough ****.

    And bitching about it online is not going to endear him to DC, it also speaks of a sense of unearned entitlement to think that his work should be accepted without question.”

    “Did Brennan still get paid?”

    You could ask the DC rep hiding behind the Getwokegobroke screen name, but this is DC being talked about, so probably not….

  10. @Steve – You disagree with someone so you throw out an implied insult, nice.

    I don’t know if he got paid for this or not, it depends on DC’s policies on unsatisfactory work I suppose. Brennan Wagner got a leg up into the industry through his well known artist father, but like many millennials he doesn’t seem to be able to deal well with some mild adversity and gets his daddy along to fight his battles for him, he seems to be reacting to this like an “artiste” rather than like a commercial artist.

  11. If “GetWoke” is a DC plant, then “Steve” is just another bitter colorist, whining on line about an issue that is totally bogus because NO ONE HAS SEEN THE BOOK IN QUESTION. all this faux outrage is horse manure.

  12. Idk this sounds like some entitlement issues here on dad’s part, like at no point did he explain why the kid (this better be a child and not a grown man) DESERVED the job. Being Wagner’s son and showing me one page isn’t gonna convince me his work was objectively good.

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