Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Greg Rucka Decides Not To Renew Exclusive With DC

Is editorial micro-management of plotlines and events starting to give their writers "fatigue?"

Greg Rucka has decided to not renew his exclusive with DC Comics, saying in part:
"I’ve been in a slump for the last six-to-eight weeks or so, dealing with a variety of issues related to writing in general, and my writing in particular. Continued frustrations in dealing with people who really ought to know how to do their jobs properly, for instance..."

Rucka had been exclusive to DC since 2003. And while it is not confirmed that an adverse reaction to editorially-driven comics is what partially drove him to make the decision, I would have to think that some writers are starting to get a mite frustrated with The System.

Personally, I think that the editorially-driven approach -- especially with those writers who have been around enough to maybe deserve a bit better -- eventually wears the talent out. It can demoralize them, make them feel like they're not writing their own stories. And when the work itself suffers because of mandated plotlines or crossovers, and the fans complain, it falls in the writers' lap. They are just trying to fit in the mandated plot points, but it comes out stiff and inorganic to the story. And then the writers get blamed.

Just some thoughts.


  1. I think this is a good thing. There's no reason that writers shouldn't be able to go back and forth between two companies with such similar output. And I think it's generally harmful to their careers when they do stick with one company for too long.

    As to the specifics of Greg Rucka, seeing him take another whack at Marvel will be interesting. His first tenure was mostly marked by forgettable miniseries and a Wolverine run that many people suspect was affected by Jemas decompression mandates. When he went exclusive with DC, his Wolverine run continued on for another 10 issues or so because he had churned out so many scripts, and they were panned for having very little to them (though I hear his Elektra run was better received). This time around I'd like to see him more in his element. A new Nick Fury/S.H.I.E.L.D. series would be welcome.

  2. What with the Writers Strike and all, this now begs the question (and please excuse my ignorance of such matters):

    Are comics writers (and indeed other workers related to the comics field) protected by something akin to the Writers Guild, or are they part of the Writers Guild?

    If they are part of the Writers Guild, would the fact that they're still writing during a strike shine badly on them as a group?

    If not, then why aren't they given the opportunity to do so? Surely as writers, they should be able to keep a certain amount of control over their written word? I understand the need of editors to try to have everything make a cohesive whole (even though making fifty million tie-ins do seem superfluous and designed in some way to make the writers scream), but surely if they wanted to control the flow of writing completely, then shouldn't they just give up their job as editor and become a writer themselves?

    Or are they just scared of no one hiring them if they start to advertise "writer" on their resume?

  3. Moviegirl, I'm pretty sure that comic writers aren't covered by the WGA, nor are they otherwise unionized. More's the pity, as far as I'm concerned, but there ya go.

    As far as editors doing the editing and letting the writers write, hear hear. But that doesn't seem to be the strategy that DC (and Marvel, to a lesser extent) has chosen.

  4. Rucka is my DUDE. While I like him on DC stuff (& think Checkmate is an overlooked gem) I think getting him out of a slump is GREAT news. Maybe he can be put in charge of Maria Hill: AGENT OF SHIELD! or CRAP SPIDER-WOMAN XO XO!

  5. I guess I might be different in this of not thinking too much of this.
    I mean, it's one thing to say you're not re-upping, it's another to say that you're going to quit writing all comics from a certain company.

  6. OccSupes... it probably does all have to work that way, but I can't help but think that there could also be better ways of doing it.

    I mean, look... 52 was the most significant comic experience I can remember since my early days of comics. It brought me back, it was so good. yes, it was just one book, but it was a book that came out 2 to 4 times more often than most comics and had a whole crew working on it.

    What would happen if DC got a bunch of writers in a room on a bunch of different books and said: "OK, guys... sky's the limit, but we want to plan out a year of stories such that we all tie into each other and lead up to some big craziness."

    In theory, the ideas could start flowing and people would get their piece and and people would be really excited about a big shared collaboration.

    As it is, it sounds like DC gets a few writers together, finds a trajectory they like and then rams it down everyone else's throats. No good.

    I guess I'm just saying that crossovers are sort of cool when they work and big cross-overs, in my opinion, have never lived up to what they could be if a company actually managed to get everyone to view them the way they should and could: a big, really awesome collaboration on a scale unseen in any other artform.

    On some level, on the big big picture, comics are an enormous collaboration on a level unseen in any other artform, but that's only the nature of continuity and on a very loose level.

    I think a good leader/editor could make it work for a big crossover in a way that writers would see as exciting, challenging and stimulating. Not an awful slog.

    I guess what I'm saying is this: I dream of the freaking MOBY DICK of cross-overs someday. There have been some good ones, but true unadulterated greatness has never been attained. CIVIL WAR was close for me, but not quite even there.

    I guess I'm also saying that everything about DC's style seems so command and control these days... I'm not so sure it's the crossovers themselves or the know-it-all attitudes of the bosses that would make people suffer whether or not it's crossover season.

  7. Something I meant to say... 52 was awesome... and what does DC learn from the loose, awesome collaboration between a group of writers...
    they tighten it up. They control it MORE, put it in the hands of one writer, mainly and then make that one writer's story dominate the whole universe.
    Wrong lesson from one of the great comics successes of the last decade.

  8. Didn't Keith Giffen just sign an exclusive with DC? (I kid, I kid...)

    Seriously, though, I'm with Henry on this. GR *hasn't* said that he won't write for DC, and he hasn't said that he's going to write for Marvel. Indeed, this interview excerpt from late February (posted at Newsarama exactly as it appears below by LITG's Rich Johnston) suggests that he won't be doing an exclusive with anyone else:

    GR: Right. This is the thing that started things out. “Whiteout” leads to DC which leads to “No Man’s Land” which leads to me in this cage at DC! [laughs]

    CBR: Oh, they let you out every once in a while.

    GR: Sooner than you think! [laughs]

    CBR: Are you saying your jumping ship?

    GR: No, I’m not signing with anyone else. I’m under exclusive until the end of July. This isn’t a mystery - more me citing my own fatigue and my desire to get out of doing so much unrelenting comic work.

    (I hope Rich doesn't mind me reposting this, but it seemed important to point out. And, as far as I know, he isn't everywhere at once.)

  9. yay!!! Nothing personal but Rucka's writing of late has been pretty subpar and actually quite boring. I use to really enjoy his work but not lately. Maybe a change in scenary will rejuvenate the creative juices for him.

    Mark Waid is seems to be suffering the same malaise and probably should follow Rucka's example (and no editing other people's books don't count).

  10. Pretty much the only reason NOT to sign an exclusive with DC is if you want to write for Marvel. They seem to be willing to allow an exception for almost anything else.

    Mark Waid already did follow Rucka's example (he's now EiC of Boom, and he's co-writing the latest issue of Spider-Man family).

    As for crossovers... there are a lot of great writers who just want to write their own stories, no matter how great the crossover or event is. Should we bar them from superhero comics? I hope not. Although if JMS couldn't refuse Sins Past and OMD, maybe it's inevitable.

    And to answer moviegirl's question, it's essentially a historical/medium thing. During the period that modern writers unions were formed (the 1950s), comics weren't taken seriously, so they were never taken into account. As a result, comic writers continue to get terrible deals to this day, when compared with any other medium. Although they're taken more seriously now, they're still small potatoes businesswise, so it's unlikely any existing unions would be willing to take them on.

    The only thing to do would be for comic writers to form their own union, which has been tried several times (first by Neal Adams in the '60s, and others more recently), but hasn't succeeded for the usual reasons; it's difficult to get all the writers in the industry to agree on anything, especially when it comes to issues that could affect their work.

  11. Orrrrrrrr it's the obvious reason that he's pissed off how DC editorial has run screaming away from Question and (especially) Batwoman because they're afraid of getting mainstream press about lesbian superheroes all of a sudden.

    Occam's Razor says the guy writing precisely no editorially-mandated plot arcs right now might have other reasons for being upset with the editors.

  12. I'm a little confused about the use of the phrase 'editorially driven'. Aren't all comics published by DC and Marvel editorially driven to one degree or another? At both companies, editors have historically done a lot more than check spelling errors, act as continuity cops, and make sure that the writer wasn't going too far over the line. I feel like too many people are substituting a process critique for a substantive one.

    On the other hand, I've also never worked at a comic company, so maybe there's some insight Valerie has that I don't. But I'd be very interested in finding out.

  13. There have to be degrees of these things. It's one thing for an editor to discuss a script with a writer and request changes here and there so it fits broadly with continuity in a shared universe.

    It's another thing when you've had essentially a linewide crossover going for years now, and editors are dictating to you each month what you need to write to fit into the crossover, and changing ideas and plot points at every turn because it interferes with the crossover. I'd say that's the case for virtually every DCU book right now, and it probably gets pretty restrictive for some writers.

  14. Ask JMS, he asked that his name not even be on Spiderman OMD but backpeddled cause he didn't want to piss Joe Q off.

  15. Jamaal- I think it is that "one degree or another." It is one thing to say "Hey, Johnny Writer, The Crazy Caliban can't go to Unicorn Island because he's still on Prospero's Island at that point" & another to say "Okay, John Writer. I need the Crazy Caliban to break up his marriage with the Amazing Ariel. Because...well, lets just say the devil made him do it. GO!"

  16. Matt: The first attempt at unionizing comics people came way back in the 1950s. There are Bernard Krigstien interview out there somewhere where he describes an early meeting.

  17. Interesting, I didn't know that. That must have been a particularly tough era for creators in terms of leverage.

    It strikes me that another thing that sets comics apart is that the creative people are more closely attached across professions. If a comics union is ever successfully established, it will most certainly include both artists and writers, but you'd never see, say, screenwriters and cinematographers in the same union.

  18. I've heard from various sources that the reason there have been so many exclusive deals cut with writers at DC who aren't necessarily considered top-tier talent is because these are the guys willing to bend over backwards to get the editor's vision onto the page. I'm not saying this as an indictment of those writers or even DiDio (which is a first for me, I'll admit), but it does sound like DC's almost looking for soldiers vs. creators these days.

  19. Is this the first time a writer or artist has not reupped an exclusive contract?Doesn't things like this happen in almost all industries?

    I don't know about DC getting their talent to do only what they want but I see/read a lot of good stories from the company, at least two of them by Rucka.

  20. No it happens all the time. Just recently, Mark Bagley went from being exclusive to Marvel to exclusive to DC. The Kubert Bros. did the same thing prior to that.

    Probably one of the more famous/infamous ones in recent years was Morrison jumping from Marvel back to DC after really making a mark on the X-books.

  21. Mordicai,

    I appreciate the distinction, but I also think that both companies do the latter (the command) more than we think. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it's direct. But it is a command.

    Sometimes I think that message discipline and effective marketing have a huge impact on our perceptions of the two companies.