The Dangers of Corporate Comics

Ever since I was a little boy, I've loved superhero comics.  There's something about their bright colors, the heroic exploits, the crazy ideas and the ever-changing and ever-growing narrative that has always had my attention.  Even today--I'll give creator owned comics a shot now and again, but they have to be incredibly interesting to catch my eye, and even then my heart is still with superheroes.

That's why it saddens me to read things like this Bleeding Cool interview with writer Paul Jenkins, which discusses in detail all the horrible experiences he had while working for DC during the earliest part of their "New 52" initiative. It's a story that isn't at all out of place these days, with so many creators leaving DC for similar reasons.  It began with Greg Rucka and Mark Waid leaving DC to work for Marvel (and in Greg's case, leaving Marvel as well to do indy work), and has continued fairly consistently since about six months in to the New 52.

I'll be honest; I've entertained thoughts of working for DC (or Marvel!) Comics before.  What fanboy hasn't?  I've never made a serious attempt because no matter how much I try I can never come up with a take on their characters that feels as interesting as some of the better ones I've read.  But discussions like this make me refrain from even dreaming about working for them.  You spend a third of your life at work; who wants to deal with an untenable situation with their bosses, having your name dragged through the dirt for work you didn't even write, and being told to rewrite a work five times for no explainable reason (and no additional pay)?  I certainly don't, and I wish the best of luck to the people at DC who have no choice, and hope sincerely that they change their business practices soon, because see here's the thing:

This isn't a sustainable business model. Sure, DC gets a brief reprieve since their yearly sales grab is coming in a few months, but...have you seen Marvel?  Here they are publishing some of the best comics they have in over a decade (Hawkeye, Daredevil, Young Avengers and oh so much more), and they show no sign of stopping any time soon.  In fact, they're gearing up for another wave of Marvel NOW, and reclaiming all of the marketshare DC managed to get when they spent the truckloads of money it took to announce the New 52.   Eventually you have to pick up on the hint: you're publishing sub-standard, mediocre work.  And there's no excuse for it.   There are tons of talented creators who grew up on these characters, and most of them know that given a chance to write them those characters STILL aren't theirs so they know not to break the toys, but come with tons of passion and willingness to work on characters they will never own anyway.

Eventually, even the hardcore fans will notice that the work has stagnated.  Worse, you don't even have your continuity to fall back on anymore.  As weak and scattered as Countdown was, at least when you followed it you felt as if it was a part of something.   Parts of it were bad, parts of it didn't make sense, but it still felt as if it "mattered", and sometimes that alone will sell a comic.  But with the New 52, everything's "new".  We don't know what's in-continuity, what isn't, or what matters and what doesn't.  Which means we have no real reason to be invested in these characters besides the most important reason: the creators telling the stories are ones we want to see.

But what happens when all the creators we want to see are off somewhere telling stories for Marvel?  Or BOOM!, or Dynamite, or Dark Horse, or through Kickstarter?   Personally I would hate to see my favorite comic company fail, but I hate even more the idea of fellow creators dealing with disgusting work environments.   So, from a die-hard fan?   Get it together, DC.  Quickly, please.


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