Robot 6

Geoff Johns’ post-promotion charm offensive

DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns

DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns

It’s tough reading the tea leaves when it comes to the actions of DC’s new management team. Aside from the customary reassuring department meetings, high-level powwows (with the likes of writer Grant Morrison and WildStorm Vice President-General Manager Hank Kanalz) and renewed sense of energy reported in the hallways of 1700 Broadway, the immediate impact of the advancement of Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns has been difficult to gauge.

But this being 2010 and all, there’s always Twitter to consult. And in Johns’ feed, at least, we can see some evidence of fence-mending with a couple of creators who’ve left DC and its imprints for presumably greener pastures.

On Monday, Johns wished The Losers and Green Arrow: Year One writer Andy Diggle a happy birthday, tweeting “Still miss your writing at DC… :)” (Yes, complete with smiley-face emoticon.) Diggle, currently a Marvel-exclusive creator, has described leaving DC after coming to feel he was an uncomfortable fit in both its superhero and Vertigo lines. He also took to his own Twitter account a few months back to express his frustration with the unavailability of DC/Vertigo’s Losers collections. Obviously it’s in everyone’s best interests to get along, what with the high-profile movie adaptation of Diggle and Jock’s The Losers on the way — Jim Lee promoted a recent signing by the team on his own Twitter, for example — but still, that’s a fairly explicit overture.

Yesterday, Johns tweeted this in advance of a meeting with WildStorm: “They’ve done some of the best comics in the last decade — many by @WarrenEllis. Have much to discuss! :)” (What can I say, the man likes his emoticons.) Ellis has long had a stormy relationship with DC; in recent years he decamped almost entirely for Marvel (with whom he signed an exclusive work-for-hire contract) and Avatar (home of most of his creator-owned projects), while his WildStorm stragglers Planetary and Desolation Jones experienced a famously long delay and indefinite hiatus, respectively. Lately he’s been characteristically blunt about the current state of the company, referring to Johns’ writing style as “wall-to-wall evisceration corpseoramavision … Yelling, shrieking, squirting hysteria” (in all fairness, that could be what a Warren Ellis compliment looks like — it was his way of linking Johns’ work to Stan Lee’s, for what it’s worth), comparing the new management team to the unfavorably remembered “group editor-in-chief” power-sharing regime at Marvel in the mid-’90s, and noting “Jim Lee hasn’t created a new property since 1997, [and] I think Geoff Johns has only one created property in his oeuvre” by way of predicting DC’s future as one of management of existing characters and concepts rather than creation of new ones. That said, he did speak well of Lee and Johns personally and wish the new team well.

Ellis and Diggle are just two from a long list of major DC creators who’ve taken their corporate-superhero business to Marvel during the past few years of the Levitz/DiDio and Buckley/Quesada reigns, including Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid, Jason Aaron, Jeph Loeb, Mike Carey, Ed McGuinness, Carlos Pacheco, Phil Jimenez, Abnett & Lanning, Simone Bianchi, Daniel Acuña and most likely a few others I’m forgetting. The reverse commute has been comparatively rare. Its highest-profile example is J. Michael Straczynski, whose initial DC projects, The Brave & the Bold and the Red Circle books, haven’t exactly set the world on fire, though Superman: Earth One looks promising. Longtime Marvel artist David Finch, meanwhile, kicked off his DC-exclusive tenure with a much-talked-about Brightest Day cover, so that’s a step in the right direction.

It’s with all that in mind that I’ve been viewing Johns’ and Lee’s promotions. Both are creators first and foremost, not unlike Marvel’s Joe Quesada; in speaking with Marvel talent over the years, I’ve lost track of the number who’ve pointed to Quesada’s background as a writer and artist as a primary ingredient of the creative environment they find appealing at the House of Ideas. What’s more, both are serious Nicest Guy in Comics contenders, as their ever-chipper Twitter feeds can attest. It wouldn’t surprise me if wooing talent — both those who’ve left the fold, like Diggle and Ellis, and brand newbies — was a major part of their new gigs’ respective remits.

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29 Comments

Cole Moore Odell

February 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Ed Brubaker is another writer who trekked to Marvel from DC/Wildstorm and soon found himself writing super-high-profile material; in the other direction, DC landed the Kubert brothers but that seemingly imploded pretty quickly.

I knew I was missing someone. Thanks, Cole.

But recall that Rucka and Morrison were also big ‘gets’ from Marvel at the start of Didio’s tenure. Heck, Waid was too. More recently Tony Bedard was writing exclusively for Marvel before he came over to DC, and he’s now becoming bigger and bigger.

DC’s big problem, to me, isn’t an inability to ‘poach’ talent from Marvel, but rather an inability to nurture their own. Matt Fraction is probably Marvel’s biggest recent success in that regard, and I suspect Hickman and Aaron will be the next generation to blow up.

Don’t forget Scott Kolins’ and Mark Bagley’s defection from Marvel to DC. The balance is still in Marvel’s favor, but it’s not THAT lopsided.

Corpseoramavision. Love it, love it, love it.

Two random tweets begats an article about mending fences? Like Paul said, it’s not that lopsided. And when you factor in that DC is far friendly in terms of ownership/royalties, especially at Vertigo, it really is no contest. Why else do you think the Icon line is languishing? Marvel is great at promoting their creators. DC promotes their characters. Different philosophies. It’s really the only reason why we think Marvel has more in their stable. Because we’re constantly told this fact by Marvel. lol.

Are you high? The Icon line isn’t “languishing”, it’s elite. They don’t let just anybody write a book for Icon. And Vertigo takes far more ownership of your comic than Icon does, since they demand film rights and a whole host of other shit. Icon is a venue for Marvel creators to publish their creator-owned work through Marvel. The creators still pay for it – it’s otherwise indistinguishable from Image. It’s just at the front of the catalog.

And yes, it IS still lopsided, especially if you look at the net gains since Infinite Crisis or so. Yes, during DiDio’s first few years he stole a number of creators from Marvel, but recent history has shown DC getting — who? Bagley, Andy Kubert, Adam (for a while, he’s back at Marvel now), Tony Bedard (who’s just now, years later, finally getting work worth his time), McKeever (who bailed back to Marvel), JMS and David Finch. And at this point, I can’t fathom DC being able to steal ANY of Marvel’s top writers. We’ll see some artist shuffling back and forth, but I don’t expect to see any change to the pattern where Marvel gives successful Vertigo writers meaningful superhero work far, far sooner than DC is willing to.

For God’s sake, look at Jason Aaron. He was like two issues into Ghost Rider and Wolverine by the time DC finally published his fucking Penguin oneshot. They barely ever gave Andy Diggle substantial work (and when they did, they screwed him over, like making him change the ending of Adam Strange: Planet Heist), while he’s purportedly having a great time doing Daredevil at Marvel.

There’s an established pattern so far of DC having great talent right under its nose and not being able to see it. They refused to publish Sean Murphy comics, for God’s sake. They clearly need a new approach to recruiting, sustaining and promoting their creators, and I think Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are a big step in the right direction.

funkygreenjerusalem

February 25, 2010 at 10:07 pm

“Jim Lee hasn’t created a new property since 1997, [and] I think Geoff Johns has only one created property in his oeuvre”

Jim hasn’t created one since ’97, but Joe Q hasn’t created one since ’95!

I just think it’s odd for Ellis to pick on them for being character caretakers, when Marvel have how many Deadpool and Wolverine comics each month?

The Icon line isn’t “languishing”, it’s elite.

Not too many books coming out from it, and they don’t sell too well when they do.

Not sure what you consider languishing, but it’s not flourishing.

Guys, David’s right about Icon. It’s not SUPPOSED to have “too many books coming out from it.” It’s a prize for creators they want to keep on board as much as possible, like Bendis, Brubaker, and Millar. It’s not supposed to be, say, a full line to rival Vertigo.

As for whether the talent flow is lopsided or not, first of all, it is, based on sheer numbers, even with the additional guys y’all have pointed out. But moreover, look at the circumstances under which the various talent left DC for Marvel–Jimenez and Paceco after drawing big event comics, Waid after an abortive Flash relaunch, Aaron and Diggle getting snapped up from Vertigo after finding minimal-to-nonexistent superhero work at DC. Then look at what those who’ve left DC for Marvel have done at their new home vs. those who’ve left Marvel for DC, in terms of sales, in terms of prominence, in terms of their role in piloting the creative direction of the company at story summits and suchlike.

I’m not going to start listing examples because then it will look like I’m taking sides in this idiotic “Marvel vs. DC” framework so many people are sadly addicted to. (If you don’t actually WORK for Marvel or DC, why on Earth would you look at things that way?) But as a neutral observer who enjoys many comics put out by both companies and personally likes many of the people who work for them, it seems that DC have had a problem recruiting and retaining talent over the past several years.

DC’s issue isn’t just that they don’t have “name” creators it’s that they don’t use the ones they have well. The the Fantastic Four became available Marvel gave it to Hickman and when Ironman needed a writer they got Fraction on it. When Green Arrow was available DC gave it TV writer who had written some episodes of the Simpsons( and left after less than year on the title). After Grant Morrison left Batman for Batman and Robin they replaced him with Tony Daniel.

I read Ellis’ comments about Johns’ writing as a compliment.

Based on some of Ellis’ other comments, I’d be surprised to see him jump back to DC anytime soon. He doesn’t seem to be interested in doing much at Marvel either to be honest. I think he’s more interested in his creator-owned stuff at Avatar.

One fence that I’m curious to see if they try to mend is that with Alan Moore. Putting Jim Lee in place might’ve been a step towards that. Surely the execs at DC are looking at the butt-load of Watchmen trades that sold last year and wondering how to tap into that again.

“They clearly need a new approach to recruiting, sustaining and promoting their creators, and I think Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are a big step in the right direction.”

I don’t know. Maybe. Quesada actually proved himself as an editor who respected creators’ visions before being EiC. Johns has really only proven to write decent selling books. Also, based on some comments from other creators who’ve left DC, it seems as if Johns is more interested in writers who will fall in line to his vision rather than having a vision of their own. That’s just my perception, though. Lee has done, I think, a better job in that respect, but then the WSU titles aren’t exactly lighting up the charts.

“When Green Arrow was available DC gave it TV writer who had written some episodes of the Simpsons( and left after less than year on the title).”

Who was that? I don’t follow GA, so I’m curious.

I thought the same thing about Moore, KentL, but my impression is that regardless of what I believe are his warm feelings toward Lee, he just has no interest in writing front-of-Previews comics anymore.

“I thought the same thing about Moore, KentL, but my impression is that regardless of what I believe are his warm feelings toward Lee, he just has no interest in writing front-of-Previews comics anymore.”

Based on recent interviews, I don’t get the impression he’s interested in writing ANY comics these days. At least not what the US direct market is looking for. I also would imagine he has no interest in mending that fence regardless of what they might try. Once bitten, twice shy (or some other Great White lyrics that may apply).

Well, he’s still doing the League for Top Shelf. Honestly it’s hard to make heads or tails out of a lot of his sweeping declarations of disinterest in “comics,” because he always prefaces them by saying how many years it’s been since he’s read any, and he just seems unfamiliar with a lot of what’s going on.

The next big thing after zombies, secret infiltrators, civil wars, and fighting Loki is to go up against Cthulhu. C’mon DC, let’s tackle an assault from another of the 52 Earths (not Earth-2/Earth-3).

@KentL

Andrew Kreisberg

As much as I dislike johns, hey Ellis , what the fuck was Black Summer if not libertarian corpsearamavision? Fuck off and die, sellout.

Thanks, kwaku. I remember that name now. wondered where he came from.

Sean, you forgot that Valerie D’Orazio left DC for Marvel.

Wow, no one has mentioned Scott Kolins? Marvel did nothing to utilize his talents and DC even gave him his own solo gig on Solomon Grundy when he came back. Johns will probably keep him in work for years to come, too.

“Guys, David’s right about Icon. It’s not SUPPOSED to have “too many books coming out from it.” It’s a prize for creators they want to keep on board as much as possible, like Bendis, Brubaker, and Millar….”

and David Mack

@hikaru- It’s not a good idea to brag about that Solomon Grundy gig. That was some awful writing. Truly truly awful. It looked pretty, but itwas a crappy story. If they let him draw, great, no writing. Same goes for Tony Daniel. The sales of BFTC do not mean that he is a good writer.

Terry and Rachel Dodson left DC for Marvel.

And before his untimely death, Michael Turner did too.

DC picked up Fabian Nicieza from Marvel.

“@hikaru- It’s not a good idea to brag about that Solomon Grundy gig. That was some awful writing. Truly truly awful. It looked pretty, but itwas a crappy story. If they let him draw, great, no writing. Same goes for Tony Daniel. The sales of BFTC do not mean that he is a good writer.”

Ah, no I’m not “bragging” about the Grundy miniseries, I was just bringing up an example of an artist that DC has done better things for than Marvel. I think the only thing I remember of Kolins output for Marvel was the Annihilation Prologue. A terrible waste of talent.

in the past 5 years the story has basically been that if you don’t completely agree with dan’s and/or geoff’s vision you get canned. i don’t see that changing anytime soon.

to the person who said joe q hasn’t created since 95: didn’t joe q create nyx?

He also wrote and drew six issues of Daredevil: Father, AND drew all of One More Day. He’s been doing a few things here and there.

funkygreenjerusalem

February 28, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Then look at what those who’ve left DC for Marvel have done at their new home vs. those who’ve left Marvel for DC, in terms of sales, in terms of prominence, in terms of their role in piloting the creative direction of the company at story summits and suchlike.

Brubaker’s the best example of crossing over and taking charge, but what massive books are Diggle and Aaron on that are piloting the direction of the company?

(Personally, I think Aaron is rather ill-suited to superhero work).

Lee has done, I think, a better job in that respect, but then the WSU titles aren’t exactly lighting up the charts.

They were though, up until the DC takeover.
Maybe now he’s a bigger boss, they will again.

It’s not a good idea to brag about that Solomon Grundy gig. That was some awful writing. Truly truly awful. It looked pretty, but itwas a crappy story. If they let him draw, great, no writing

I haven’t read his Solomon Grundy, but in the various Holiday specials, he’s done some great eight pagers that he’s both written and drawn.

(If there’s another Wednesday Comics, I’d love to see what he could do).

to the person who said joe q hasn’t created since 95: didn’t joe q create nyx?

Good point.

I’d totally forgotten about that.

(As had most others I’d assume!)

He also wrote and drew six issues of Daredevil: Father, AND drew all of One More Day. He’s been doing a few things here and there.

I think Ellis meant ‘create’ as in something totally new – because Lee has been doing plenty of drawing, just with established characters.

You are all forgetting where DC’s hemorrhage was the biggest: in editorial positions. Marvel has recruited some of the highest profile editors from DC: Axel Alonso, Steve Wacker, Stephanie Buscema… And it lost Scott Dunbier and Bob Schreck, the last one to create the All-Star line, brought Matt Wagner back to DC, got Bá and Moon to Vertigo…
There is nothing more explicit of DC problems than that.

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