Thursday, November 25, 2010

JMS, Guggenheim & Acton Comics

Death: What Happens To Some Pitches
Rich Johnston did a little interview with Marc Guggenheim to help promote his new book, Halycon. In it, he addressed some of the rumors that had surrounded his leaving Action Comics before he really got started.

A few interesting notes:
  1. Guggenheim, like JMS before him, stresses in his response that the two never talked about the situation. This is arguing against a straw man: no part of the rumors have anything to do with the two parties having words at all. When you refute an accusation that isn't being made, it implies you're doing so because you can't directly refute what's actually being said.
  2. In not being able to personally attest that no mandate was requested that Superman not appear elsewhere, he basically indicates that the pitch JMS made more or less requires Joe getting Kal-El all to himself. It's almost as if Guggenheim is saying, "I'm sure JMS is telling the truth when he says he never specifically asked for control of Superman...he let his pitch do the asking."
  3. The official version of Guggenheim leaving Action Comics said his pitch turned into something that he felt he wasn't the best writer for. Guggenheim's answer seems to suggest that Superman being out of Action happened sometime between his being picked for Action and JMS being announced on Superman. So HIS pitch was something else before editorial informed him that Superman would be confined to his self-titled monthly. 
  4. The pitch that he wound up not fitting was what was a mix of him trying to make lemonade out of the situation and taking editorial direction. "In fact, I'd worked out a whole story that would lead up to Superman's triumphant return to Metropolis -- in it's darkest hour, natch -- that turned his absence into a virtue. But then, as these things often happen, discussions ensued and ideas evolved and the focus started to fall more on Lex and the story started to become more about Lex's quest for a Black Ring... and I realized that while the story had become extremely cool, it had also evolved itself out of my wheelhouse." See right there? His own pitch, even after the JMS developments, was to focus on setting up Metropolis's darkest hour, not so much Luthor's jaunt across the globe and universe trying to find a black ring. Writers don't generally pitch something out of their own wheelhouse, but have feedback from above that steadily pushes it out. 
  5. It would seem that what led Guggenheim to not be a part of Action Comics was a combination of JMS taking advantage of his position in pitching an angle that required his owning Superman and editorial having strong feelings about what they wanted the title to be used for after the Kryptonian was subtracted from the mix. Which, when you boil things down, just reduces to Guggenheim being off the title because DC Comics kept changing the circumstances around the assignment until he was no longer comfortable with it. The discussion of the rumors have always seemed to center around it being JMS's fault, but that's ignoring that he only has the power to make a pitch, not accept the pitch and, by doing so, put limitations on the work of others. When you factor into it that Guggenheim seems to have been happy enough to stay on the title without Kal-El, the driving factor in his leaving would seem to be editorial taking even more of the freedom to tell his story away. 
But what's the point of the rumors if there's no malice behind the story?

It looks to me like Straczynski had a genuine idea that he wanted to execute. DC had an earnest desire to let him take a crack at it in hopes that it would move units. Guggenheim was still able to have enough enthusiasm to keep bouncing around ideas on where to go. Then DC seemed to want to hedge their bets by using Action to accomplish some other goal besides just telling interesting stories. 

Given the sales on the traditional Superman titles in the recent past when they didn't have Superman in them, you can't blame them for possibly having thought, "if we're going to risk pissing away money on the book, we can at least do so in a way that maybe helps re-establish a historically important supporting cast member while hopefully telling good stories." It's obviously a shitty spot for Guggenheim to have been caught up in, but the kind of bad situation that happens to good creators all the time. Tough decisions are made every day that pull sweet gigs out from under freelancers. I guess you could say the silver lining here is that it happened to a creator that is so successful in other avenues that he could afford to bow out of the project, rather than suffer from working on stories he had no interest in or having his reputation tainted by such stories that he felt ill-suited for. 

The surprise for me is that Cornell seems to have been given so much of the direction he's working on. He's still executing it in a very entertaining fashion, as even Guggenheim seems to agree. But I was more inclined to think he came up with much closer to 100% than it turns out. 

The way that both JMS and Guggenheim devote so much energy to denying that they ever talked about this leads me to feel that there may have been some degree of a debate or power struggle...SOMETHING that would explain their need to create a straw man here. But there's no way of confirming that happened right now and it's not likely to be a "sexy" enough story to encourage the effort it would take to dig it up. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mr. Anonymous No More!

Don't get excited. I mean that in the "Spider-Man No More" way, not as an indication that the formerly anonymous source stands revealed.

My insider has indicated that, for reasons I won't share for fear they might lead him to be identified, they will no longer be able to provide SCHWAPP!!! with privileged info. They may have told me this today, the last time I ran info from them or at any time in between.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


(or why I hope the CGI is still being tweaked in a movie I'm otherwise fairly excited to see)

The Internet Is A Powerful Tool

You should always be careful what you ask for.

The other day, I linked to where Marvel Editor Axel Alonso compared Age of X to Curse of the Mutants, rather than Second Coming. In the comments/board section of that same article, I found the following request by a fan:

On a more constructive note have you guys at Marvel ever though about doing something similar to what Top Cow did and let the fans vote on what ongoing series they would like to see.

Now, keep in mind, this is the thread born from a regular feature that interviews Alonso and Tom Brevoort. In the thread itself, someone using the account "stephen wacker" is seen participating.

And around noon on Monday? We get a poll asking readers to decide which of two Deadpool series survives. When Rob Liefeld indicates one of them was already scheduled to end at its twelfth issue. Meaning there could be such a quick turnaround time of Saturday to noon Monday, seeing as how the poll was folly, as its results aren't public and it is tied to a decision already made.

Or, of course, it could have been an idea earlier than that. But you never know. So be careful out there...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Green Lantern Trailer Hits Web

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Damnable Comparisons

So, over in the T&A column on CBR, Axel Alonso said the following about the new AGE OF X event:

This is an instance where a writer – Mike Carey – had an idea big enough that his editor – Daniel Ketchum – thought we should huddle up to discuss it. Upon review, David Gabriel and I realized we were looking at a tight and focused event, more along the lines of "Curse of the Mutants" than, say, "Second Coming." It's a big story, but it doesn't cut across lot of titles and it definitely won't outstay its welcome.

Aside from the big numbers on the X-Men #1 issue, has Curse of the Mutants been that strong in sales that you'd want to compare a new project to it? I don't know and can't be arsed to look it up. I just know everything I heard about no one wanting to be involved in that top-down project. If I were Carey, I'd be a bit offended to have my idea compared to Curse of the Mutants. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why I'd Doubt JMS's Explanations

(Editor's Note: yes, a string of JMS posts. I've been rather sporadic in updating this blog, but, when I do work on it, I shoot out a bunch of posts about a subject I'm passionate about. One thing I'm always passionate about: railing against bullshit when I feel someone's trying to shove a steaming pile in my direction. {sniff sniff} Whattaya know? I do believe I smell some...)

So, JMS has been giving more reactions to the news of him leaving monthly books to focus on Superman: Earth One (and possibly other self-contained projects). And, to my mind, he is giving people more reason to doubt his word on the whole thing each time he grants an interview.

Why is that, you say?


On Newsarama, JMS said on Friday, regarding Brave & The Bold:

I filled in a bit on The Brave and the Bold to kind of get my sea legs in the DC Universe.

And on CBR:

I came to DC primarily to do "Superman: Earth One," and filled out the time on "The Brave and the Bold."

Back in January on CBR, JMS sang a different tune about the series:

When we last spoke, you said you've told DC that by the end of 2010, "The Brave and The Bold" will be somewhere in the top 20 or 30 books and that you have a plan to make that happen. Can you share any details about how this will happen?
Step 1 is to build up the credibility of the book as something other than an oddity. We've made some good progress in that area, given the majority of the reviews and attention the book is now getting from critics and the blogosphere.
Step 2 is to start upping the ante, taking some real chances with the storytelling, getting more experimental.
Step 3 is a secret. I've talked about it with [DCU Executive Editor] Dan DiDio, and he's on board. It's our Manhattan Project, for lack of a better term. If we pull it off, it'll draw enough attention to bring the book the rest of the way up.
So, he was making declarations about how he'd turn his feet-wetting, fill-in book a Top 30 title...and he needed to get his sea legs in the DC Universe when the main focus of his hire was just Superman: Earth One, which is not set in that universe. Coupling a series you're just passing time on with bold claims of sales success you plan on having due to a secret master plan you've cooked up makes no sense, unless, possibly, if your name is Mark Millar.

He, also, contradicts himself on the matter of Wonder Woman, in my opinion, in his interview with Newsarama...and manages to do it all in one answer:

Nrama: Was this connected to recent delays on your comics?
JMS: No. First, there's only been one delay on Superman due to a recurring lung infection that has, happily, been resolved once and for all. There were no delays on Wonder Woman, and before the B&B hiatus, all of those issues came out on time.
Once the decision was made to shift me from the monthlies a few weeks ago, they put out the word that the next Wonder Woman issue would be pushed, but that was just to buy time to find a new writer to finish the story.
If your scripts were coming in on time, why is an issue that you should have handed in the script for long ago pushed "to find a new writer"? Where is the logic to that? Are you suggesting DC wants to scrap a perfectly good script that they surely paid for so they can have the new writer re-write it from your plots, JMS? Or are you, as I suspect, just trying to hide your repeated lateness issues behind excuses that insult the intelligence of the readers?

Let me say again, the answer boils down to this: he had no delays on Wonder Woman, but DC is delaying it because they needed to find a writer who would have nothing to do with contributing to the actual issue in question.

If the issue was held for any other reason than lateness on someone's part, the only explanation I can think of is that, contrary to public statements thus far, they plan on trying to condense the conclusion to the JMS storyline so they can bring in a new permanent writer sooner. If that is the case, then his "I had no delays on Wonder Woman" is accurate, but his explanation for the issue getting pushed back is a lie of omission.

Let's not ignore that he talks about Brave & The Bold going on a hiatus that was never announced that I can find. You know, he wasn't late on anything with the just took an unannounced break that had nothing to do with his timeliness. If you can find where it was announced, I welcome a link to it in the comments, dear readers.

What we seem to be seeing here, folks, is a pattern of inconsistency. Which is to say a pattern of making up excuses on the fly that seem to forget that Al Gore invented the internet, which allows us compare what you're spitting out now with previous statements and other known facts. Making up excuses is, also, known as bullshitting.

If you're going to follow J. Michael Straczynski's spin-filled statements and interviews on this subject, may I suggest you wear your high waters? Because he's shoveling on the readers pretty deep.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Earth One OGNs: Is Serialization After-The-Fact Completely Dead Now?

So, we all know that JMS had that famous statement at a SDCCI panel that he later chastised bloggers for getting wrong (when they didn't) about Superman: Earth One debuting as an OGN, being serialized afterwards, collected again and then further volumes debuting in serialized, non-OGN format.

DC attempted to address the tempest-in-a-teapot, but, as David Brothers pointed out, they seemed to sidestep directly answering whether the project would ever be broken into single issues.

I'm guessing that the reported success of the initial volume rules that out or at least tables it for the time being. As a huge proponent of OGNs, I'm glad for their apparent win here. As someone who'd have died of curiosity had he been born, instead, as a cat, I'm saddened that the OGN's performance likely means never knowing for certain whether there was anything to JMS's misstep.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

JMS: The Half-Term Governor Of Monthly Comics

So...anyone else embarrassed at this point to have rallied to JMS's side in the One More Day fiasco?

After publicly stating that he nearly requested his name be removed from OMD, it seemed the reaction from a lot of fans was "fuck yeah, JMS, you tell 'em!" Who knew it was more about being a prima donna or diva?

Since that, he left Thor because, after asking for and getting 6 issues without tying into a Big Event (TM), Marvel eventually needed the series to tie-in. And that was just too much to ask of JMS...and he blew that popsicle stand.

Leaving his last ongoing Marvel title made him pretty much full-time DC. That led to some more fun.

After the decision to relaunch the Red Circle characters in the Brave And The Bold title, going so far as several completed scripts and, apparently, completed artwork, he told DC Comics he couldn't do it and that he needed to do it as a separate event. He no longer wanted to do it that way, so he pretty much unilaterally decided it wouldn't be done that way. That is, if you believe his version of the story.

He gets put on Superman. has some really interesting rumors about it. Ones that, despite JMS protesting, appear to be quite nearly spot-on. This involves the idea that he required control of Superman, pulling him from his second monthly title and other regular books. This effectively ran Marc Guggenheim off the book. Given that the Superman books without Superman for a year had significantly dropped in sales, I really don't buy that DC Comics decided on their own that a pitch to have Action Comics star Lex Luthor with no Superman was the way to go (note: I'm glad that it worked out this way, because I'm loving Paul Cornell's run).

No, it seems much more likely that DC Comics was so excited about the idea of JMS bringing attention and sales to the Superman title that they were willing to give him control of the character and try out a creative pitch for a Superman-less Action. Even if it meant pulling the rug out from under a previously committed writer (Guggenheim) and replacing him with another (Cornell).

JMS was, also, put on Wonder Woman. While there are no rumors about the circumstances around that and no second series to be intruded upon, it does seem like he was given just as absolute control over her. One can't say that her lack of appearances elsewhere are a result of a requirement on the writer's part, it does present itself as a possibility, based on the rumored issues with Superman.

Then came the reader reaction to the directions JMS took two of DC's flagship characters. It wasn't good, but DC had committed themselves firmly to the story arcs that JMS laid out. I mean a serious deluge of PR. Pushing for coverage in major news outlets. With Superman, apparent attempts to coordinate with areas of the country that he'd be walking through for additional press. It'd be extremely difficult to extricate themselves from that without it being a major embarrassment.

What adds insult to injury? That JMS don't work cheap, as far as I can tell, and the books ain't selling.

But the news isn't all dire. The Superman: Earth One project debuts to a lot of press coverage and...shock...sales to match.

Enter the reality: the best way to get through this is to have talented, more affordable talent finish out the directions of Superman & Wonder Woman, while moving JMS over to a property that might just sell enough to justify his pay rate: his Superman: Earth One project. Seems like an excellent job of making the best of a bad situation.

But, you may ask, how does this cast JMS in a prima-donna/diva light?

Well, I believe he leaked the move to to try to get ahead of the news. Why do I think he leaked it? I love Rich Johnston as much as the next guy (or probably more, given how many bash him), but the fact that JMS chose and only to give a statement to regarding the move seems like one hand washing the other: Rich runs his leak (that frames the move to be about the future of publishing and NOT about sales not meriting his pay rate on the monthlies) and JMS will give him an exclusive statement on the issue later (one where he frames himself as it all being about the craft, indicating he's leaving substantial money on the table).

(Update: Rich Johnston, in the comments below, refutes my theory that JMS leaked the info to him and gave him the exclusive response afterward as part of a quid pro quo. It doesn't negate the overall idea that JMS, to some extent, used his statement to to spin the news.)

Just to be clear: I don't posit that theory in any way to knock Rich for it. Johnston often cries the loudest that he's not a journalist. There's been evidence of posting rumors/scoops on his site that were actually PR folks using him to generate buzz. He's there to generate hits and disseminate info that his audience wants to read. So I wouldn't fault him for agreeing to such an arrangement. I, also, don't doubt that he approached DC for a reaction, with both he and JMS being reasonably certain they wouldn't have an official one.

In JMS's official statement, he even appears to manage to blame his artist, Chris Weston, for the delays regarding The Twelve. But, you know, that's almost not worth noting, given all of his other incidents.

God help DC Comics if the future installments of Superman: Earth One don't sell similarly to the first one.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

UPDATE: It's With Sadness That I Point This Out

Update: On Newsarama's Twitter feed, the following was posted:

We're sorry about the batspoiler guys. Mainstream media had already gone wide w/ it & we had to have a direct hl for our synd. partners.
11:42 PM Nov 3rd via Echofon

Followed up later with:

@tonywolfness Still, next time hopefully I won't personally be out, and be able to work w/Mike on a mainstream AND spoiler-free HL -Lucas
about 6 hours ago via TweetDeck in reply to tonywolfness
I don't see how needing a direct headline for syndication partners changes next time. I don't see how one benefits from alienating your direct readers to satisfy syndication partners when, eventually, you tend to lose syndication partners when you lose standing/credibility in your niche coverage area with readers. If the site keeps offending the sensibilities of its readers, they go elsewhere. If they go elsewhere, their coverage starts lacking from one cause or another (less standing with the publishers, best contributors find work at a more visible/better paying site, etc).

I, also, don't see how indicating it is a crap shoot dependent on which editor has the "keys to the car" on a given Wednesday that decides whether spoiler etiquette is followed provides real comfort to the readers, either.


From 3:00am EST on 11/4/2010

So much of my comic-book-geekdom is tied to Newsarama. It was the first comic book site I frequented. It's the only commercial comic book site I've ever written for (and, hey, they even paid me SOME of the time).

But since Matt Brady left, it has not been the same.

Michael Doran (the top dog there, as far as matters like this are concerned) put up a "story" about the developments in Batman & Robin #16 at around 9am this morning. The TITLE of the story was a big, huge, honking spoiler.

The comment thread is, no lie, about 67% (24 out of 35 posts) filled with people complaining about the fact that Newsarama posted spoilers with no warning, particularly right in the title. The first complaint was the third comment in. 

Guess when they fixed it? As of 2:43am, THEY HAVEN'T. 

Three of the better responses from readers:

Re: (Big Spoiler Article Title I'm Not Reprinting Here)
by TheTwelfthDoctor » Wed Nov 03, 2010 7:32 pm
Good thing I managed to read Batman and Robin #16 before coming here! I can't believe that after all these complaints, Newsarama still hasn't bothered to change the stupid spoiler headline. I know this site has become a complete joke compared to what it used to be, but COME ON...

Re: (Nope, Still Not Reprinting)
by Adam G » Wed Nov 03, 2010 7:50 pm
I have to say this is all messed up. I was waiting to read this issue after I read The Return Of Bruce Wayne #6. Just because the books were released out of order does not mean I have to read them out of order. I buy them the day they come out but I do have some sort of self control and can wait while avoiding spoilers.
I go to CBR, notice in the title that something happens and I stay away from the article, I come here and see the spoiler in the headline. Very poor on your part Newsarama. I used to love this site and I think by posting the spoiler in the headline was some sort of last ditch effort to keep some readers.
Sad thing is, this has probably brought the most comments this site has seen in a while and not one was from you guys saying your were sorry

Re: (Notice I've Managed Not To Spoil It)
by skywatcher » Wed Nov 03, 2010 8:00 pm
Yes, it's a sign of how far the site has fallen that no one from the staff has monitored the responses to this news item. It's a bit late to do anything about it now, but a simple admission from Mike Doran (who has been around since Newsarama's original inception) that he made a mistake with the headline might have gone some way toward healing the damage.
Poor show, Newsarama.

Yeah, pretty poor show.