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.


  1. I'll tell you this straight. JMS did NOT leak to Bleeding Cool. I found the original story through an initial source, then backed up by others. JMS was not a part of that.

    I had the story about his move to OGNs only before anyone else and ran it. But before that I'd emailed Joe for confirmation without reply. After the DC blog suddenly ran a piece an hour or so afterwards, he replied to me at length. I asked him if I could use the relevant section of it in a follow up piece and he said yes. I also asked Weston if he wanted to comment, but he chose not to.

    You see conspiracy where there is none.

  2. Conspiracy would seem to be overstating what I've posited above, Rich. But if you're on record as saying it wasn't him and the exclusive response you received from him wasn't out of respect for you running the earlier story, I believe you.

    It doesn't change the fact that, despite the fact that his leaving two major ongoings before their halfway point on a whim would better keep with my "prima-donna/diva" angle, I feel confident that there's more spin than truth to the stated reasons for the move.

  3. I am definitely on record saying that. You may want to amend the piece if you have changed your mind.

    It looks to me that DC have rearranged his schedule, and taken Superman and Wonder Woman off his plate. Earth One was his first committment coming to Superman and there have been plenty of distractions since. See similar with Jim Lee and Grant Morrison. Not that they weren't willing distractions at the time, but DC does seem to decide their creators' priorities when they have a lot on.

  4. I'm not generally one to scrub what I said previously, so I won't be taking any of that down. But I did add the following:

    "(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.)"

    If I offended you with my theory, I apologize, as it wasn't my intent.

  5. No, it's just I didn't want to see you posting that you believed something - if you no longer did.

  6. Fair enough, sir. Happy to hear there was no offense taken.

  7. You know what, Rich? Upon further review, I think you're more right than I was willing to acknowledge. I assume JMS wanting to spin his exit, simply because it seems to jive with past behavior. But, really, doesn't DC stand to gain more by this having the appearance of being the creator desiring to drop the two under-performing projects and their being more than accommodating than JMS has? The development potentially demonstrates a COLOSSAL miscalculation on their part in putting him on the two series that they gave such high profile pushes to.

    Oh? You weren't trying to say I simply had the wrong party, but that I was ascribing secret motives where there likely weren't any? Oh...well...still. ;)


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