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November 11, 2010


Portentapalooza: One Publishing News Story On One Mainstream Comics Writer And What It Might Mean

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Compelling story hitting the mainstream comics news sites after an announcement via official means about popular writer J. Michael Straczynski working on a sequel to the Superman: Earth One graphic novel effort. Those sources were pretty quick to pick up on the writer announcing that he would be transitioning from active writer to a kind of producer role on his all but brand new, high-profile serial comics writing gigs with the Wonder Woman and Superman characters. Phil Hester and Chris Roberson will take up the day-in, day-out writing chores on those respective assignments.

I'm not exactly the most insightful watcher of mainstream comics, but this story fascinated me for the variety of things it suggested about the state of DC publishing right now and through it a rather broad window of insight into mainstream comics generally.

One thing that pops for me is that this highly-publicized stand-alone books initiative seems not to have had the confidence of a second volume until sales figures turned DC around on the matter. That strikes me as odd -- who launches a line of anything thinking they'll be done-in-one? -- but also in line with some of the things I noticed (not without argument) about the way that book was launched. Another thing that interests me is that it seems to me that losing a high-profile writer on two high-profile, mega-character gigs doesn't speak well to overall editorial consistency right now at the publisher. There's a certain trust that exists between publisher and buyer that sudden moves, particularly of the progressive or backtracking variety, weaken. I like Roberson and Hester and I think each will do a fine job, but I'm not sure that I'd see it the same way if I'd hopped on board with those titles as the kind of serial comics reader I was 25 years ago, lured to a series by a big-name writer doing big-name writer things. The move also points out the relative lack of big names at that company, or even the sense of talents-in-waiting that come with an active talent development component. This isn't a distinction that matters to me personally on any level, but seems to me again something worth noting in terms of how these companies operate. The final notion is that Straczynski basically indicates that the future is stand-alone works and short runs, which strikes me as a terrible vote of no-confidence in terms of such a company's -- an industry's! -- bread and butter. If JMS doesn't want to write continuing series, doesn't that suggest that fans might want to reconsider reading them?

Update: About a half-dozen of you have written in to suggest that another factor in play here could always be one of an array of personal issues of the kind that can weigh on such vocational decisions, that the release might not actually tell the whole story. That's something I definitely don't follow mainstream comics closely enough to know -- not even the rumors. Still, that kind of thing does happen, so it is a possibility, and if that's the case here I apologize for any insensitivity that may have resulted.
 
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