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Apparently we misunderstood: The New 52 doesn’t refer to the number of titles DC Comics publishes each month but rather the number of times each title changes creative hands. That’s what it seems like sometimes, what with firings by email, quitting on Twitter, rehirings and more. The general impression from behind-the-scenes tales is that the New 52 is in chaos. However, the end product might suggest DC is actually somewhat holding it together.
Creative changes are nothing new; turnover is inevitable. The key is how that turnover is managed. The ideal is to have a long and satisfying run by a cohesive team smoothly transitioning to a new team. Lord knows that doesn’t always happen, and we’ve certainly been hearing about it not happening recently.
With all of the news of creators coming and going, or going before they even get there, it’s easy to get distracted from the results of the finished product. So, I decided to take a look at a sampling of DC’s New 52, from its launch in late summer 2011 to today, and see how the stability of various titles was affected by creative changes. For my survey, I looked at the Justice League family of books, which includes the flagship Justice League, as well as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and others generally associated with the JLA that haven’t had a big Hollywood movie.
DC Comics this afternoon announced the May cancellations of six more series, a mix of first-, second- and third-wave New 52 titles: Deathstroke, The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, The Ravagers, The Savage Hawkman, Sword of Sorcery and Team 7.
They follow DC Universe Presents, I, Vampire, Saucer Country and Superman Family Adventures, which end with with their April issues.
“There’s a variety of reasons for when we unfortunately have to cancel a book,” DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras told Comic Book Resources. “The main focus on this, and this is the big picture, is we try to take a look at it as, these characters will not go away. Even though, yes, Savage Hawkman is being canceled, you’ll be seeing a lot of him in Justice League of America. We have also plans for Deathstroke going forward. So even though, as I said, the monthly title is going away, the characters are still going to be very important to the ongoing storyline of the New 52.”
The Twitter tirade unleashed by Rob Liefeld last week when he announced his abrupt departure from three DC Comics titles boiled over this weekend as the outspoken creator took aim at Batman writer Scott Snyder and Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort.
On Wednesday Liefeld, who had been writing and penciling Deathstroke and plotting Grifter and The Savage Hawkman, criticized DC for what he described as ‘massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything” and “editor pissing contests,” singling out Associate Editor Brian Smith as “a little bitch” and “a big dick.”
Snyder, among other creators, came to Smith’s defense on Twitter, writing that, “from my small experience with him, [Smith] has been a great guy to work with. To be fair, I know absolutely nothing of what went on on Rob’s books (Rob has always been really supportive of me and Jeff and others). But I’d feel bad, having worked with Smitty on N.O.T.O. [“Night of the Owls”] and now Joker, […] if I didn’t say that he’s been a stand-up guy to deal with. Again, nothing against anyone, just deal w/Smitty every week now, and I’d feel bad not saying.”
About that time Liefeld tweeted to his followers, “It’s not you. It never has been. It’s Batman.” That apparently triggered a direct-message exchange with Snyder that Liefeld later made public, first by copying the writer’s private comment, “I can assure you Batman doesn’t sell the way it does because it’s Batman. It sells that way because of me and Greg [Capullo],” and then by posting screencaps (below).
Rob Liefeld, who teased last month on the heels of Grant Morrison that he too would be leaving DC Comics soon, announced his abrupt departure this morning with a flurry of tweets criticizing his editors and the handling of the New 52. Although he’s listed in the solicitations for Deathstroke, Grifter and The Savage Hawkman through November, the writer/artist states that next month’s zero issues will be his last.
“Officially got off the DC52 treadmill this morning,” he wrote, adding, “I believe in what DC is doing, but had to preserve my sanity. I walked off all 3 books. Can’t wait to see any attempts to spin. I have every email.”
Liefeld was among the original creators when DC launched the New 52 a year ago, penciling and later also writing Hawk & Dove before moving in May to Deathstroke (writing and penciling), The Savage Hawkman and Grifter (plotting both).
“This is the 4th time I quit in the last 4 months. This time it will stick,” he wrote from a theater, where he was watching The Expendables 2. “Never thought the Image section of my book would be topped. This last year was a humdinger. The DC52 chapters will go top all of it. […] Reasons are the same as everyone’s that you hear. I lasted a few months longer than I thought possible. Massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything. Editor pissing contests… No thxnjs. Last week my editor said ‘early on we had a lot of indie talent that weren’t used to re-writes and changes … made it hard.’ Uh, no, it’s you.”
Liefeld is only the latest creator to exit DC’s New 52 titles amid complaints of a relaunch plagued behind the scenes by disorganization and indecision. Notably, George Perez expressed his frustration over the repeated rewrites and lack of creative freedom that he contends led to his run on Superman being cut short.
“Don’t look for any tell all interview with me,” Liefeld added. “Just follow this feed. … the best stuff has not been shared — not even close!”
“The Hipsters don’t know what to do when I draw feet. It confuses them.”
– Rob Liefeld, following the release of DC Comics’ solicitations for July, which include his covers for
The Savage Hawkman #11, Deathstroke #11, and Grifter #11. Characters’ feet are visible in all three images.