I'm trying to stay positive about Final Crisis, but two items in the most recent Lying In The Gutters have me concerned.
"Sources close to freelancers inform me that DC Comics has a new in house policy for pencillers. Aside from very specific contracted creators (such as Jim Lee), any penciller contracted to work on a monthly book must deliver complete turnaround of 22 pages of work in four weeks. Not a month, four weeks. If that schedule isn't maintained, they'll pull pages and assign them to other creators. And you may run short of future work. A reduction in quality is more acceptable than a reduction in quantity."
Looking at the DC creative teams listed in the latest Previews, and noting how many books have fill-in artists or books with the art chores broken up, I can believe this.
But I think it's a mistake. We saw how well this method worked for Countdown.
Nothing will kill a book like sloppy, rushed art or breaking up the art chores among several different artists.
The other side of the coin is, do you want a book that is late?
A little behind-the-scenes information as to what is at play when a comic book is running late.
My last two assignments at DC were the titles Arkham Asylum: Living Hell and Human Defense Corps. I was virtually editing them myself, and I did not want them to be late.
Management gave Arkham the priority. In contrast, my instructions for Human Defense Corps were, "I don't care what you have to do, just get it in. Fire people, replace people, anything, the book isn't worth it, just get it out the door.
Every issue of both titles came in on time, but Arkham took extreme care and work. Despite of the priority put on Arkham, I was encouraged several times to cut corners, split art to make deadline, to bring out the thumbscrews, everything. In the end, the only compromise I had to make was to shift inking duties from the artist (who was doing it all himself) to another person. But, even here, I had to make a search for an inker who had an appropriate art style and who both the artist and writer were cool about. The creative talent were very concerned about the artistic integrity of the book, and I had to take that into consideration.
If I had the current alleged DC policy in place, and just arbitrarily swapped out the artist or split art chores, several things would have happened:
1) The writer would have quit.
2) The book would have looked like shit.
In the case of Human Defense Corps, which they wanted to cut down from six issues to five (though thankfully that didn't happen), I had to let go of an inker and break up art chores on the last issue (which I "wrote" into the story as a framing sequence, so it didn't look too bad).
The experience I've had with comic book artists is that, while some can hit the monthly deadline, a good number of them can't, or will start off hitting the deadline and fall off. I think a four weeks or you're out policy will greatly reduce quality.
But, if you are running an editorial department like a "studio" to pump out material, then this strategy would be necessary.
This brings me to the second item in the LITG column:
A retailer who attended the RRP DC/retailer conference last week said,
"From a comics retailer perspective, however, there are some changes coming down the road that may not bode well. It will all depend on how the implementation of these new factors are handled by DC and Time Warner. Simply put, DC management I trust, greater Time Warner, I do not."
What could such a statement be referring to?
Is it referring to the way books will be ordered?
Or will something like mass-reboots of titles happen?
Mass reboots of titles -- starting it all from scratch -- would worry retailers. It might alienate fans. It might make the current books that the retailers ordered already "lame ducks."
But really, this is just speculation.
It's just that I had a sense that things were settling at DC, that they were entering a new phase. And think that they are still entering that new phase. But I have to wonder, at least for their superhero titles, if things are becoming more like an assembly-line to put out Product (with a capital P) out the door. There is nothing wrong with this, in theory -- if you're a business, you put out product. But, the creative side of things is going to suffer.
If there is any information to counter these rumors, I'm open to hearing them.