Friday, February 08, 2008

Fangirl Fridays: Where Is DC's Matt Fraction? (And Other Questions)

" I actually had a different approach to the character. I had an opening four-issue arc that was very, very different that I was going to do, and I took way too long to come up with it. I was right on time getting it in before my first issue deadline -- and of course I didn't tell anyone what I was going to do. [Laughs] Then I turned it in and found out that there was a very specific continuity problem with the core aspect of what I was going to do, and so I had to start over and go really, really fast to come up with something for the first issue. So I'm not where I should be with the character and what I want to do with her. "
--Kelley Puckett on his current run on Supergirl

The question popped into my mind as I entered the comic store the other day:

"Who is DC's Matt Fraction?"

Matt Fraction is of course the writer on The Punisher, Iron Fist, etc., the originator of the "kicksplode" school of comic writing. His style is very distinct and he is, what they refer to in the current nomenclature, as a "hot young writer" [Fat Cobra = Character of the Year!].

Marvel seems to be developing a whole stable of these new voices, it seems, not content to merely rest on the laurels of Bendis and Brubaker. Here are a few names just off the top of my head: Matt Guggenheim, Greg Pak, Brian Reed, Dan Slott, Daniel Way, Jason Aaron. The actual list is far longer than this.

On the other hand, DC's writing lineup hasn't really changed all that much in the last 5 years. Grant Morrison is still the guy All Hopes Are Hung Upon. Geoff Johns and Keith Giffen are still the emblematic DC writers. Judd Winick is still the guy nobody understands why he is still writing these books but somehow he is.

Around the time Countdown launched, DC seemed to have an influx of new writers, and the anticipation was great. Tony Bedard, Sean McKeever, Dwayne McDuffie. And yet, what has happened?

Bedard gets caught in a (to my mind) a particularly cruel game of "writer musical chairs." I haven't been able to read a long enough run of his DC work to formulate an opinion of it.

McKeever & McDuffie get their debuts tangled in the editorially-driven clusterf**k.

Veteran writers like Tom Peyer, Kelly Puckett, and Chuck Dixon are without warning suddenly plopped into existing titles, forcing them to hastily come up with a new storyline and direction. Bedard is now added to that mix with Birds of Prey.

A great writer like Will Pfeiffer gets crucified by readers for a miniseries that was largely out of his control, a slave to editorial dictates.

Mark Waid & Greg Rucka are for the moment out of the picture.

Pete Tomasi might be considered as part of the mix of DC's hot new crop of writers, but frankly the fact that he was so very recently an editor there and now suddenly has two high-profile titles makes it slightly harder for him to prove himself. Personally, I have not read enough of Nightwing to make a determination one way or the other.

Gail Simone is the great writer who has proven herself for years -- but if her current run on Wonder Woman doesn't do fabulous, DC will use her as an internal example of why "woman books don't sell, and women writers don't sell" (I've heard this argument before).

And then there is DC's most high-profile writer of all: DCU Editorial.

Case in point: Countdown, which reads like it was put together by robots, by the same manatees that write Family Guy. No humans actually wrote that series. It was just a bunch of post-it notes strung together. That series was written by overworked, jaded editors, not Paul Dini, McKeever, Bedard, et al.

So what is DC's game plan in terms of writers? Can it be that all the DCU books are lame ducks anyway because Final Crisis will change everything? Should I even bother buying another DCU book until that time?

If I was sitting in the DC executive seat (sometime around when pigs fly and that The Dark Knight Heath Ledger talking doll with a pull-string comes out), I'd probably look to get Brian Michael Bendis & JM Straczynski . I have no inside information on that, I'm just trending this out.

And if I was at Marvel, I'd find a way to complete my collection of the best and brightest and look up whatever young DC talent is left. Including Brian Wood, who would be the biggest prize of all. Again -- no inside information, I'm just trending this out. I'd also find a way to get Neil Gaiman doing more projects. Call it the Morrison Vs. Gaiman free-for-all.

That said, 2008, in my estimation, will be interesting. Because whatever the situation at DC, if it doesn't improve it will change. And for Vertigo this goes triple (tho Will Dennis on the whole seems like a good developer of new, "kicksplody" books).

The answer to a lot of these woes is to get editorial staff who can seek out aggressively new talent. And retain them. The best they have right now is Mike Marts. He was the result of a strategic investment on DC's part, poached from Marvel. And Joey Cavalieri is like their quiet talent hunter, especially for indy talent, though I don't think he gets the recognition for it that he deserves.

That "strategic investment" aspect should drive everything DCU does from this point forward. This industry is entirely too competitive to do otherwise. There is a whole wide world of talent out there. And there is talent under their own banner that have been mishandled.

Anyway, those were just some things that popped into my head as I was buying comics the other day. Have a great weekend!


  1. I like that Matt Fraction is "THE Matt Fraction" now. Since...he is kinda awesome.

  2. DC seems to be going for the tried and true vets like James Robinson, Chuck Dixon, John Ostrander, Steve Gerber, John Shooter, Keith Giffen etc.

    There are a few new hot writers like Tomasi and Duncan Rouleau, Sturges, etc but not a whole lot. BTW I've heard/read almost nothing but praise for Tomasi's Black Adam mini and Nightwing readers on the boards seem to think he is the second coming of Christ.

    There isn't anything particularly wrong with that, as long as good stories are being told. Also, there older guys have to retire sooner of later.

  3. Marvel also has Ellis, Whedon, and Vaughan doing stuff here and there, as well.

    The reason DC doesn't have any (other than Brian Wood), is because Marvel has them all!!

    And I bet Marvel is just foaming to get Wood on the bandwagon.

    Honestly if it wasn't for Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer, I would never have read DC.

    I'm sooooo not impressed with McKeever, or McDuffie, or any of the new DC writers.

    Johns is the only thing that keeps me around.

  4. I have to say that, with all the talent at Marvel... I'd scream like little girl in June if they were able to get Darwyn Cooke from DC.

    I mean, I'd sooooo freak out.

  5. Believe it or not, gotta agree about the assessment of DC writers. Wasn't long ago that DC was THE place for the best writers in the industry, and Vertigo was THE cutting edge imprint. Or hell, maybe it was long ago, and I'm just showing my age.

    But I am enjoying Pete Tomasi's work. Check out Light Brigade, if you haven't before, its good stuff. Darwin Cooke is great, but not prolific enough. I want to see more Ennis on DC projects (Hitman was one of my favorite books.)

    You know, recently got TiVo and have been watching the Justice League cartoons and holy hell - why is that cartoon so much better than the books? Its night and frickin day!

    Ok, in closing, so I've heard a bit about Fraction, never read his stuff - what exactly is 'kicksplody?''re absolutely right about Countdown needing a recap page, desperately. But then again - I would support that measure for all books. $2.99 an issue should cover the extra page for recapping, shouldn't it?

  6. Shouldn't the question be "Why isn't Matt Fraction writing a DC title?" or "Why hasn't a DC editor hired Matt Fraction?"...

  7. Bendis and JMS? Uh... I'd go for someone else, but that's just me. Bendis was great until he started listening to the voices in his head and while I have the greatest respect for JMS, he's more suited for certain types of story (read, stuff that can forgive overwrought, half-Shakespearian dialogue) like Thor. Not exactly who I had in mind when I think hot young/new writers.

    Hopefully the Zuda thing will yield some results...

  8. I have to agree with all your points. DC's stable of writers doesn't feel all that stable (in the sense that they can be removed from a title at a moment's notice), nor do they have "oomph" factor that Marvel's current writer's do. A few months ago, a friend and I geeked out and created a list of our DC creative "dream team" which included Bendis/Maleev on Batman (imagine if they could do for Batman what they did for Daredevil?), Paul Chadwick on Animal Man, Los. Bros. Hernandez on Doom Patrol, Frank Miller on Hawkman, Michael Chabon on Action Comics, and a whole bunch of other great creators on otherwise neglected books. Pie in the sky teams, but teams we thought would rock people's socks off.

    Not to indulge in tasteless self-promotion (since there's not much to promote about my blog) but you can check out the list here if you like:

  9. Marvel seems to be providing a freer hand with the writers right now--Brubaker's clearly left to his own devices, and Marvel's gotten more press on Cap then anything they've published in a while, Fraction is obviously left to his own devices unless the sales get abysmal (the order)--while every little leaked complaint at DC seems to be that writers are being forced to knuckle under to an editorial mandate. Even without any real statement from the DC crew, it seems pretty unlikely that anybody there can be happy having to deal with the rampant Amazon/Countdown/Crisis/1 year later stuff that keeps showing up. Even if that stuff was perfectly pulled off, how much can a writer enjoy getting treated like a tiny puzzle piece, while they can look at the shelf and see books like Iron Fist, Daredevil, Captain America--books that stick with teams, and get to operate without major interference? Hell, even terrible books like Wolverine:Origins are left to screw around interminably, with nary a mention of what's happening in the Initiative.

  10. Terence, I think that when you look at the sheer volume of work Bendis puts out there, his track record is outstanding. I mean, the guy's written so many Marvel books that I've loved and then you have Powers.

    And FORTUNE AND GLORY got me into making comics. Other than, perhaps the Clone Saga of Ultimate Spider-Man, he's been extremely entertaining.

  11. Richard, I've been waiting forFUCKINGever to see Hawkman really go to town on someone with that mace. For all the great stable of writers they've had there, I'm amazed we haven't seen these characters really being badasses.

    In the cartoon series, JLA is a much more badass group than in the comics. There's a grimmer storyline in the books, to be certain, but I never see that "OH NO YOU DI-ENT" scene with Wonder Woman, Superman or anyone else.

    Hmmmmm... Frank Miller's All-Star Batman is a fucking badass. But only in this book. I'd love to see him take on Hawkman.

    It's as though DC has this stable of thoroughbreds ready to fly and they just can't ease up on the reins.
    They should just let them go crazy. Miller is running loose and that book is awesome.
    I put Paul Chadwick on SWAMP THING.

  12. Aw man, still no love for John Rogers on Blue Beetle. =p

  13. Tom: Powers was amazing when it came out - so was Jinx, etc. and I still find Ultimate Spider-Man a good read. However, it's hard to reconcile that Bendis with the Bendis that did Civil War. It's like he's bought into his own hype.

    It may very well be that Bendis is one of those writers who do very well when playing with their own creations (or characters close to their own voice) but not so well with others (*cough*Millar*cough*). Daredevil as opposed to, oh, the Illuminati, say.

  14. "Who is DC's Matt Fraction?" Okay, I think you've got the question backwards. Phrase it like you're on Jeopardy and it flows-

    Q: Who is Marvel's Peter Milligan?

    A: Matt Fraction.

  15. Good point on John Rogers. I think the reason no-one remembers his name is because the penciler on Blue Beetle's surname is Albuquerque. Seriously, it just rolls off the tongue. Albuquerque. Alburqerque.

    One thing that did confuse me though: Loeb gets to screw up- sorry, screw around with- Superman/Batman as much as he likes, but no-one else gets to cut loose on books?

    And sadly, yes, Miller would make for an excellent Hawkman. What happened to that book anyway? The trades I read of it seemed pretty cool...

  16. I believe JMS has had serious issues with DC over the way they treated the Babylon 5 comic. And Brian Bendis has a loyalty to Joe Quesada that means he couldn't work for DC while Joe is EIC. The whole Daredevil/Batman/Bob Wayne/Joe Quesada debacle cemented that one.

  17. However, it's hard to reconcile that Bendis with the Bendis that did Civil War.

    I'm just guessing here, but that might be because Bendis didn't do Civil War.

    Granted, you might be thinking Secret Wars. But the awful artist delays on that book resulted in some major rewriting to reflect changes in the Marvel universe in the years since the first issue was released, so I'm not sure the disjointed nature of the book is entirely Bendis' fault.

    The problem with JMS for me is that I don't think he's a good writer for a book set in a shared universe. If you could separate his Spider-Man run entirely from the Marvel Universe, I think it would hold up much better. But it's when you try to reconcile what JMS did with Spider-Man with the need for Spider-Man to appear in other Marvel books, it gets dicey.

    I think you're dead on with your comments on McDuffie. I would love to read a McDuffie JLA that didn't have the fingerprints of DC editorial all over the book. Hell, McDuffie's not even writing the lead story in the book right now. How depressing is that?

  18. I think the bigger question is where is Marvel's or DC's Tite Kubo? For some reason, even though America invented the comic book, we can't sell them to anyone outside the established aging readership. Until New York editors start looking for established talent from other countries, it's all just rearranging chairs on the Titanic.

  19. Me, I'm still *stunned* that DC let Jason Aaron get away.

    John Rogers is doing great work on Blue Beetle, though -- hopefully he'll get a second, higher-profile title soon.

  20. David: Actually, I did mean Civil War, although your points about Secret War are well taken. While Millar was the perpetrator-in-chief for Civil War, the idea came from Millar and Bendis, and Secret War certainly provided some of the basis for Civil War.

    I really disliked Avengers Disassembled and the entire "New Avengers" thing as well, so that's where my fondness for Bendis's writing took a real beating.

    But as always, that's just me. YMMV.

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  22. In fairness to DC, they HAD a Dan Slott - his name was Dan Slott. He did Arkham Asylumn - Living Hell and a few DC younger imprints. :-)

    The problem with both DC and Marvel is that, as in many publishers, a lot of the titles are 'editorially driven'. DC seem to be suffering from this at the moment, a year or two everyone was saying that Marvel was suffering from it. It yoyos across, left, right and center.

    Granted, exclusives don't help, but face it - exclusives seem to have so such leeway these days that they're not really exclusives, but a non-direct competition clause.

    Both the editors at DC and Marvel are consummate professionals no matter what anyone thinks, and the various posts around the net that go 'ah the editors don't care about comics' are crap. Every editor I speak to, deal with, be they big two, small press, UK or US all became editors because of the love they have for the industry. They could make so much more moeny out of the business, and have less hate mail. But still they put these books out!

    Just because the industry is wobbling at the moment, don't shoot the middleman.

    DC has quality writers. Marvel have the same. Currently though, Marvel just has better PR people getting the message out and less bad press. As I said, two years ago? It was the other way round. Read Tomasi's Light Brigade and Black Adam series. Read Diggle's Year One. read Dini's Detective, ANYTHING by Brian Wood, Dwayne McDuffie or Greg Rucka.

    And then tell people DC has no writers.

  23. That's exactly what my problem has been with DC... they've GOT the writers, they just haven't been placing them well. Wood, Diggle, Azzarello, Aaron and so many more from their Vertigo imprint... why can't we see them on DCs super hero titles? Why can't they seriously try to enliven their Wildstorm imprint with some of these talents?

  24. What about Mark Andreyko?