Thursday, June 19, 2008

Warren Ellis On The Current State of DC & more...

Apparently someone on the Comic Forums posted a message Warren Ellis sent to his mailing list regarding Morrison, Dixon, DC, etc.. (I obviously have no direct link to the mailing list email, so if this is an inaccurate posting of the contents of the message, please let me know).

In the message, Ellis gives praise to the DC leadership while at the same time expressing disbelief at what he views as a series of current debacles. The only seeming blame he has is directed at "some lifers at DC editorial":

"People like talking shit about Dan Didio online. The truth is that he's actually a smart guy who, on entering the company, had to make some tough decisions fairly quickly. It's also true that some lifers at DC editorial are very resistant to any kind of change. Are some of them just plain nasty and dumb enough to say, "screw Morrison, we'll do our own story, and if it blows his big reveals, well, fuck ím''? I would hope not, but it does seem to have happened anyway."

Personally, after reading a number of posts in the last couple of days, including the fairly extensive io9 one by Graeme McMillan -- and just having time to think about it -- my intuition is telling me that all our speculation, pros, cons, guesses, defenses, offenses, parsing, analyzing, etc. is moot at this point.

The tipping point has been reached.


I used to be fairly good at intuiting stuff. I still am, but choose not to focus on this faculty as much as I used to, as it just got in the way and made life appear as one big Happy Days rerun.

The night before Acclaim Comics shut the doors of its NYC location and laid off about 75% of the company, I had a dream that we were all sitting around the conference room table, looking at a cake. Suddenly, everybody cut a slice of the cake, pulled it up close to themselves, and ran away. Then, in the dream, I saw strange people walk through our offices pulling down posters, unplugging computers, and repainting. I even saw one of my coworkers -- one of the few who were kept -- crying and walking the halls aimlessly.

So then I wake up from that, go to work, and get laid off. And it was still a shock, but then I thought back to the night before, and I was like "huh."

The night before one of my bosses at DC got fired, I began work on a short story about a person who worked in the industry for a long time and was suddenly fired and felt disillusioned. I wrote this long, uncomfortable scene where he gets called into the boss's office and let go. I completely didn't know my boss was going to get fired, but maybe I intuited it; picked up on subtle cues in the office that other people missed. Maybe writing that story was my subconscious way to cope.

The morning before another boss got fired, there had been weird rumors going around the office that something to the effect was about to happen. Being a practical, rational soul, I did the only thing I could do -- consult my online tarot cards. When I asked if my boss was really going to get canned, the Death card immediately popped up -- one question, one card. And so I was like, "huh." And when he was let go later that day, I had to fake surprise. Because I had already experienced all the emotions already.

This is all to say, I think I care far too much what happens in the comics industry. I'm supposed to have intuitive flashes about global warming and world wars. Five years from now, the current line-ups at the companies will be largely different, anyway. In some fundamental ways, the medium will be different, too. So what is going to happen in the industry one week from now, one month from now, or one year from now are not really that key. But it might be good for some general online discussion, and a few good books might come out of it.

Even with a complete regime change, it would take nearly a year to get DCU's output back on track, or to have changes really show in the books themselves.


I find Grant Morrison & Alan Moore's esoteric views regarding comic book narratives and how they can reflect reality very interesting. Grant has already admitted to putting "sigils" into some of his comic book narratives in order to create change in the world. In an issue of Promethea, Moore has Hermes/Mercury turn to the reader and wonder about where the boundaries lie between the narrative/reader and fantasy/reality. Crazy stuff, to be sure. But speculated about by two of the most high-profile writers in comic books. Thank God for the sober world of Frank Miller, no?

Over the last five years or so we've seen DC go through an Identity Crisis, an Infinite Crisis, and a year-long Countdown to their Final Crisis.

In the mid-80s, the original Crisis in DC Comics launched a period of, in my opinion, really great comic books by the company. Crisis was the bridge DC crossed to finally leave the camp and "old way" behind, and to embrace a far more adult and literate approach to producing comics. Sure, there were good and smart books that had come out before Crisis, but it was in the aftermath of the event where all the great stuff really burst forth.

I really see Final Crisis as being at the other end of the continuum of that great original series. Crisis launched a period of great expansion and growth for the company. The 1989 Batman movie was like its zenith, coupled with the output of the entity that would soon be Vertigo. Then things began to very slowly devolve. Change stopped in favor of a status quo where people thought they would and should stay in their jobs forever. And yet, there were still great books being put out. But still, there was this slow, steady decay.

DiDio's arrival at DC WAS their new "Crisis." Seen through the eyes of a Morrison or Moore mindset, the events that followed reflected the panic and upheaval in the offices as DiDio applied, to paraphrase a line from the Batman movie, an "enema" to Gotham City. So we had Identity Crisis: "who were we going to be as a company?" And, like in that mini-series, several people were sacrificed in the midst of that period of confusion. But, this happens in every company. Only in comics, we've got the colorful costumes.

I deeply believe that every great period of history and art is proceeded by a devolution to complete and utter chaos. And I firmly believe that the last several years were the DCU's birth pains into a new and better comic book line. Of course, that will not happen as the result of "business as usual." And it won't.


But what do I know? I wanted to see "The Love Guru" in the theaters.

(Final Crisis image found via Comic By Comic)


  1. It's kind of funny how schizophrenic I realize I am with this whole mess. When I read about it on forums and think about it and write about it, I think it's a big shameful clusterfuck. Then I start reading my week's stack of DC comics and I'm just like "that was fun!" Maybe thinking about stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be.

  2. It reminds me of the conceit DC had going on after Crisis on Infinite Earths...that eventually evil would win, and chaos would reign due to the Kali Yuga cycle. It seems like that's reflected in their books, and now it seems to be reflected in the chaotic nature of the company, behind the scenes.

  3. Assuming Didio does get fired... it wouldn't just be for Countdown, would it? Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, 52... those were all successes. It only takes one botched event?

    Maybe I'm too naive. If I ever had to fire anyone, I'd probably just tell them they were doing a heckuva job and give them a raise.

  4. Someone posted the Ellis comments on Millarworld as well. If they're not legit, at least they're consistent.

    I think you could be right, and a tipping point may have been reached. But it'd also be cool if people chilled about all of this for a bit, out here on the tubes.

    Then again, on the other other hand, this whole thing does seem to prompting people to write some interesting reflections on the industry as an industry, pieces like your post, and like Greg Hatcher's analysis over at CBR.

  5. One of my favorite movie quotes is applicable here... maybe?

    Harry Lime: Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.

    Of course, under their version of similar conditions, DC has produced Supergirl, Amazons Attack and now this Crisis stuff.

    But it could get better. I'm an optimist. Seems like at this point it could ONLY get better.