Robot 6

Mark Waid on, well, everything

Ka-Zar #1

Ka-Zar #1

Ain’t It Cool News has a lengthy and engrossing interview with Mark Waid up. I only intended to skim it and come back to it later, but I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It covers everything from his early memories of reading comics to his current role as BOOM! editor-in-chief, and hits on maybe every major title he’s worked on in between. Even his run on Ka-Zar, which I really enjoyed.

It’s also very candid; if you ever wanted to know Waid’s take on the “suburban” Fantastic Four/Bill Jemas debacle, working with Alex Ross on Kingdom Come or how things worked at CrossGen, it’s in there. As is his take on the biggest challenge of 52:

BM: 52 was a series that featured multiple writers on the same weekly title, of which you were one. Was that a difficult challenge?

MW: Oh, it was an unbelievable challenge. But there is not one ounce of PR or fabrication in the statement, “We loved it because all four writers respected one another immensely.” Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and I viewed one another as peers, each able to bring something unique to the process. But under the coordination of editor Steve Wacker (and later, Michael Siglain), we had two or three big in-person summits, participated in big conference calls each week, and kept in constant contact with one another throughout.

The biggest challenge was actually, wisely, kept from us by Steve. EIC Dan Didio, who first championed the concept, hated what we were doing. H-A-T-E-D 52. Would storm up and down the halls telling everyone how much he hated it. And Steve, God bless him, kept us out of the loop on that particular drama. Siglain, having less seniority, was less able to do so, and there’s one issue of 52 near the end that was written almost totally by Dan and Keith Giffen because none of the writers could plot it to Dan’s satisfaction. Which was and is his prerogative as EIC, but man, there’s little more demoralizing than taking the ball down to the one-yard line and then being benched by the guy who kept referring to COUNTDOWN as “52 done right.”

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The whole thing makes me think that DC should have something similar to Marvel’s Ultimate line, or even what Marvel is doing with characters like Thor and Hulk, by just handing them off to creators and giving them free rein over whatever. An interesting piece to read would be David Uzumeri’s post on Savage Critics – http://savagecritic.com/2009/04/batman-didnt-tap-david-reviews.html

That’s messed up. 52 rocked and countdown sucked. Didio really concerns me.

Ka-Zar was awesome. So hard to find now for some reason though.

About Countdown being 52 done right, most seem to focus on the quality of the final products for comparison. Remember, DiDio is EiC, not a critic or creator or fan buying the product. 52 failed miserably when you looka t it from an EiC standpoint. It was designed to fill in the gaps in everyone’s stories for OYL time skip and deal with a year without the Big 3. It told a 52 week long story, but it did nothing to follow through on the premise otuside of some throw away scenes in the WWIII one-shots at the very end that were thrown together to try and do the 52 week maxiseries’ job for it.

This doesn’t even take into consideration non-story driven reasons. 52 didn’t have any tie-ins, no crossovers or reason for readers to pick up other books, was poorly planned (story changed throughout and was not a set goal nor did it accomplish what it set out to do for OYL timeskip), had little follow up or longterm effects (Multiverse nonwithstanding as it was only shoehorned in at the very end of the last issue to set up Countdown) and, in the end, tied up the 4 biggest creators working at DC on a single project with no big payoffs otuside of the 52 issues.

In comparison, just look at what Morrison and Johns did once free of 52. Green lantern titles are now the best titles at DC and will headline the next event. MOrrison did the last event with Final Crisis and has made Batman a top seller for most of his run. Both writers sell more titles per month with their monthly work and spinoffs (entire Bat line is bolstered by having Morrison on one title upping interest, Johns was free to do JSA, Flash Rebirth, GL, Blackest Night planning, etc). 52 ate these writers’ time up and limited output for all 4 of the biggest writers so they could write basically 4 books a month that required a huge time committment above and beyond what amounted to an average of one issue a month for each of them.

Countdown did similar, if lower, numbers to 52 with a fraction of the talent involved and sold boatloads of tie-ins, tied into other titles, bolstered the line by including other books (quality be damned) and was building to Final Crisis and had other spin offs and initiatives to go with it. It was also planned and more than likely running much smoother with only Dini in charge of story direction (McKeever, Beechan, etc did the heavy lifting filling out scripts though) compared to 52′s ever changing and more fluid planning. Less high profile talent also means less high concepts and primadona head butting over story direction.

From an EiC standpiont, I’d take Countdown over 52 anyday. As a fan and critic, 52 is obviously better, but just look at it from DiDio’s perspective and you can’t say 52 was better than Countdown for the line (at least in the short term, long term, lower quality products will obviously turn off fans) since it was basically an out of continuity book off in its own bubble for a year with your biggest creators and no real affect on the rest of the line or any sustained or future profitability from tie-ins and followup projects.

The criticism that 52 didn’t lead to anything would hold more weight if DC hadn’t completely ignored the whole “One Year Later” branding thing in an effort to get back to the status quo as soon as possible. There’s really no point in spending a year to tell a story that basically amounts to “everything ends up being the same as it always was” and no self respecting writer would spend a year of their life working on it either.

Also, 52 is going to have continued success years down the with trade sales, where nobody is buying Countdown trades. The point of comic books is to sell comics both short and long term, and to not anger your customer base. Countdown may have sold a reasonable amount of comics in the short term, but it’s a complete failure on the other 2 counts.

It wouldn’t hurt if DC remotely attempted to find new writers outside of their main cabal (Morrison, Johns, Rucka, Robinson, Tomasi, Gates, Simone). While Marvel’s busy raising new talent like Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron and Paul Cornell, DC’s putting G. Willow Wilson on a Vixen miniseries and letting Jason Aaron go after a single Penguin oneshot.

So… What does Didio have to say about all the crappy books DC has put out on his watch since 52? I mean, does he actually like stuff like Countdown, FInal Crisis, RIP, Trinity, Amazons Attack, and the continuing debacle that is JLA? Just wondering…

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