Robot 6

Compare and contrast: Sean McKeever on editorial mandates

J.L. Bell, who knows a lot more about this topic than me, has a great post about Sean McKeever’s varying accounts of writing DC’s Teen Titans. McKeever was responsible for scripting the comic, but the plot was dictated by editors, who have control over continuity. Here’s McKeever talking to Newsarama about writing Teen Titans in 2008, when he was still on the title:

I know people throw around the term “editorial mandate” like it’s some great horror, but I was actually really grateful for everything they had in place for me. Titans [of] Tomorrow was a story that I really wanted to revisit, and it was also really nice to have a premise thrown at me that I could dive into, so that while I was working on that, I could think a little more on my long-term plans for the book.

Here’s McKeever talking to Titans Tower earlier this month, after leaving DC for Marvel, about co-writing the Deathtrap crossover with Marv Wolfman following Judd Winick’s departure from the companion Titans series:

Marv and I were left to put together this story that was never our idea, and we gave it our best, but we couldn’t read minds and so we weren’t making editorial happy. After two passes on the plot, we were sent a new document with a terse message like, “here — write this.”

It was really, really great to work with Marv, but I won’t kid you — the poor guy had to talk me out of quitting altogether more than once during that period.

McKeever also asked that credits be changed on some of his comics because “my approved-and-drawn scripts were altered by other parties to my dissatisfaction.”

McKeever’s varying opinions are entirely understandable and may reflect the difference between the enthusiasm he felt when he was new to the series compared to the burnout when he left. It also is a good reminder for journalists, though, that a creator doing a promotional interview for a publisher who is still paying him is likely to present only the positive side of the story. Often you have to wait for the creator to be cut free to find out what he really thinks, which is why it is always worthwhile to go back and ask.

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Memo also to fans: chill on the hate spewed at the writers and artists at Marvel & DC. As you see above it’s not always their fault for the awful comics coming out of DC and Marvel.

@PDH

Agreed. JT Krul seemed to have a similar issue on his hands with the Rise of Arsenal. Many readers were ready to write him off at that point, but there appears to have been a bit of turnaround due to his subsequent work on Green Arrow and now Teen Titans.

It’s also a matter of hindsight being 20/20.

I think while you’re working on a book, you want to be a team player. You want to work well with editorial, and establish a relationship of trust. Plus, with Marvel and DC, the writers don’t own the characters, they are merely charting their course for a set period of time. So there’s a desire to work well within that machine.

That can lead to some creative push-pull. And sometimes, that push-pull can even lead to some good stories. So initially, I think as a writer, you give a wide benefit-of-the-doubt berth.

I think creators just reach a point where they are feeling stifled. In Sean’s case, for whatever reasons, I don’t think he was ever given full reign on the TEEN TITANS. And it’s a real shame, because I believe the book could have been great if they allowed him to cut loose, and do his “teen drama” he does so well.

It’s also kind of tacky to trash your boss in public. ; )

I still stand by that first quotation. It’s not a great horror. It’s a part of the gig at DC & Marvel, and can be of great benefit when you’re trying to come up with new stories to have a guiding hand. On the other hand, when you’re force-fed over and over, eventually you just gotta vomit. :)

-Sean

I’d have to say the worst part of the McKeever run were the over arching plots, which it seems like McKeever got mostly stuck with. Titan books have mostly been recycling the same few plots since the Wolfman/Perez era (e.g. Evil Titans, traitor (or potential traitor) on the team, teams is breaking up). There were a number of decent character moments (which MCKeever has done in his previous books, too) but they were often buried in bad plots and overly excessive violence. I was hoping that the Marvel move would give him the leeway he needs to make good books, but it seems the problem at Marvel is quick cancellations and bad/marginal assignments (Does anyone really want a new Onslaught?). I guess maybe he needs to go indy again so he has some control and time to develop a book.

No great mystery there. Writing to order is okay when it’s something you have an impulse to do, soul-destroying when it’s not.

I never blamed McKeever because before his horrible run at DC, I noticed that many of the formerly good Marvel writers suddenly started writing horribly under Didio’s watch. Look at the dreck produced by so many formerly good writers in the Countdown for Final Crisis series. All these great writers suddenly churning out dreck.

The DC writers who seem to thrive under Didio are the ones who are big enough names to be given much more leeway, like Morrison and Johns. They’re allowed to dictate directions rather than follow them. Also the writers who are working on properties that are able to fly under the radar because they aren’t as “important.”

Hopefully things will change for the be

Perhaps an illustration of the point above by @T and @gricomet.

http://toobusythinkingboutcomics.blogspot.com/2011/01/some-thoughts-on-spider-man-loves-mary.html

How do you go about serving the fans and readers without writing fan serviice? Uh, like this.

Am I seriously the only one who liked McKeever’s Teen Titans run, and felt it was pretty well on par with the Johns run that preceded it? Really? It had a lot of the same strengths and played on a lot of similar ideas. Deathtrap sucked, but otherwise the whole thing was quite good. I thought, anyway.

I’m reading McKeever’s run right now after an absence from the Titans books and I’m sad to see that he got stuck with this situation. It reminds me of the situation Wolfman found himself in back in the 1990s when he was handed the “Arsenal Titans” after Zero Hour and had editorial dictating a lot of the plots, even to the point where he says that many of his scripts were changed before going to print. Frustrating.

@J_Smitty_ Thanks for the blog link, Spider-man Loves Mary Jane is just such a great work by McKeever.

The book was really a nice venue for McKeever to just write teenagers, which he does so well, with out the need for the continuity dictates and push for high levels of violence we see in main universe books (i.e. the stuff that “count”) His Titan run is sprinkled with nice little character moments, but they get drowned out by the big hyper violent action and the need for recycling the same Titans plots over and over again. Of the titan work his best might be the Ravager back-ups, which have quite a bit of violence and are pretty dark but do seem to actually reveal more about the character and her struggles with the world then we get in the generic Titan plot roles she often has to fill (loose cannon, can we trust her and the character on and off and on the team).

I’d have to say the worst part of the McKeever run were the over arching plots, which it seems like McKeever got mostly stuck with. Titan books have mostly been recycling the same few plots since the Wolfman/Perez era (e.g. Evil Titans, traitor (or potential traitor) on the team, teams is breaking up).

Honestly, from the moment Johns launched the title that’s all it was, just an endless recycling of the same few Wolfman/Perez plots (Raven’s so dark and can’t control it, Brother Blood is here, time for a traitor, Deathstroke is manipulating again, Deathstroke blames Titans for one of his kids’ problems)

Am I seriously the only one who liked McKeever’s Teen Titans run, and felt it was pretty well on par with the Johns run that preceded it?

I agree that it wasn’t that different than Johns run, as I describe above. Problem is, I think Johns run was a horribly overrated Wolfman/Perez rehash.

@T.

I agree with you on the Johns run being overrated. I haven’t read the whole run, only about 1/2, but it really seemed like just more Wolfman/Perez rehash. What the Titans really needs is for someone with a strong hand and little editorial interference to come in and just create a good teen book that fits with the modern day. The Titans name will help it to sell so as to avoid the fate of books like Young Allies. Titans is the young hero franchise for DC and it needs to focus on that, not become something completely different as we have seen recently with the Deathstroke lead Titans (the poor man’s Secret Six).

Has anyone else read McKeever’s The Waiting Place? It is an excellent read even if it shows some young writer growing pains and tends to suffer from mediocre art. I feel that McKeever has grown alot since the book, and I think he could make a really excellent straight up teen drama book without the need for super heroics or company wide events getting in the way of the story.

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