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The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

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Dwayne McDuffie got fired off of Justice League of America after revealing his frustration over behind the scenes maneuvering. James Robinson has stepped in to replace him, but has the situation gotten any better?

You can tell there was something off about Dwayne McDuffie’s run on Justice League of America. McDuffie is a great writer—his Damage Control series over at Marvel is an underrated gem and his work on the Justice League cartoon is a classic—but this didn’t show through on JLA. His work there seemed rushed and incomplete. It made a lot of fans question if he had a plan for the series or was just making it up as he went along.

But McDuffie did have a plan, a number of them actually. He had plans for the Injustice League arc to be bigger, but the plot of Salvation Run (All bad guys will be exiled off planet) made him cut it short. He planned to develop the character of Hawkgirl, but wasn’t allowed to because she was set to die in Final Crisis (She got a stay of execution until Blackest Night, a change that also caused problems for McDuffie). He had plans to keep Red Tornado trapped in the Justice League computer, but DC needed him in the metallic flesh for a miniseries they had in the works so McDuffie had to bring him back.

This information was all given by McDuffie directly in a thread on the DC Comics Message Boards. It painted his run on the title as one completely hampered by editorial mandate. He couldn’t use any of the classic JLA membership, he couldn’t use time travel or alternate earths. And he would start writing one story only to have to stop and make changes to it when events in other DC books made the story obsolete.

McDuffie didn’t provide this information in anger, he was simply responding to reader questions. It was just a matter-of-fact explanation of the inner workings of the comic book world. But this wasn’t sufficient for DC, who fired him off the book for revealing behind-the-scenes creative discussions (in an ironic twist, McDuffie had been revealing these discussions for over two years on DC’s own message boards but the company didn’t take notice until Rich Johnston picked up on it in his Lying in the Gutters column).

The firing, to me at least, seems less motivated by McDuffie revealing information but rather by what information McDuffie revealed—that DC editorial is a chaotic mess with serious problems with communication. But the information really isn’t anything new.

Grant Morrison was vocal in his criticism of DC’s lack of coordination and communication after the first issue of Final Crisis came out. He requested that there be a hands-off policy placed on the New Gods because they were a focal part of his series. Instead, he got Orion dying at least twice before he died at the beginning of Final Crisis, totally blunting the impact Morrison was going for.

In the climate of line-wide crossovers and major storylines, some might think that it is unfair to expect editorial to keep a handle on everything that is going on across an entire line. But that is their jobs. And the problems McDuffie experienced could have been avoided if communication was better at the DC offices. And his stories would have been better if he didn’t have to constantly rework his writing when something that he should have been informed of months prior suddenly came to light.

This leads me to ask, will James Robinson, McDuffie’s replacement, have an easier go of it? Well, since it appears DC is making moves to accommodate the writer, I’d say yes. If this line-up is to be believed, over half of the new JLA members are ones that Robinson has already written (The Atom, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Congorilla from Justice League: Cry for Justice) or is writing (Mon-El and Guardian from Superman) so conflicts there should be minimal. Dr. Light is a carryover from McDuffie’s run and has no ongoing book to worry about. There are four Titans on the team (The Dick Grayson Batman, Cyborg, Donna Troy and Starfire) which might cause an issue with the Titans book, if that one still exists after Blackest Night is over.

Of course, this leads to the question is the new attitude for Robinson’s run DC learning from their mistakes, or is Robinson higher on DC’s pecking order than McDuffie so the company is more willing to be accommodating? It would be nice if it was the former, but experience shows that it’s probably the latter. And that is why maybe keeping their talent quiet instead of fixing their problems is the best idea for DC.

Also out this week:

DCU Halloween Special 2009 #1:

It’s that time of year again. Just over a week to the scariest day of the year, Halloween. Halloween is a lot of people’s favorite holiday and I’m sure that much of the DC staff likes the holiday as well because these specials are a yearly event.

The anthology features work by a mix of veteran creators and relative unknowns in 13 tales designed to instill terror. The characters range from Guy Garner all the way to Bizarro and each story deals in some way with Halloween.

Holiday specials are often overlooked. But they usually contain some really good stories and feature work by creators who later go on to make a name for themselves. So, if you aren’t too scared, you might want to give this issue a try.

Various (W), Various (A), DC Comics, $5.99. One-Shot.

The Waiting Place:

Before Sean McKeever was Sean McKeever, he was responsible for this. A reprint of one of McKeever’s earliest works for the first time in one volume, this collection shows why Marvel and DC have trusted him with so many of their teenage characters. It also features one of the first comic book work for artist Mike Norton.

The title refers to the town where McKeever’s mostly teenage cast resides. It signifies that their lives are in a state of stasis. They are waiting for something—an improvement to their life, being old enough to move away, for anything that excites them. This is the alienation of youth as seen in small town America, and apparently the story resonated with a lot of people, including some very influential people at the Big Two.

Sean McKeever (W), Mike Norton, Brendon & Brian Fraim (A), IDW Publishing, $29.99. Graphic Novel.

Titanium Rain Double-Sized Relaunch #1&2:

Archaia has late books, just like every other comic book company in the world. Sometimes comics are very late.  The company does have an interesting way of dealing with that lateness. This issue is an example of what they do. It is a double-sized issue collecting issue #1, which was released last year, with an all new #2. This way, new readers have an excellent jumping on point and ones that bought the first issue are instantly caught up.

The series is a futuristic tale that deals with what global warfare will become. The lines between man and machine will become blurred. And soldiers might be forced to sacrifice what they are for the upper hand at combat. But will the sacrifice be worth it?

Josh Finney & Kat Rocha (W/A), Archaia Studios Press, $4.99. Twelve-Issue Miniseries.

Zero Killer #6:

As post-apocalyptic stories go, Zero Killer is a good one. Taking place decades after a nuclear war, it is a reality where Manhattan is under water, Africa is the one untouched paradise in the world and gangs rule. An anti-hero looking for passage to Africa undergoes a dangerous job that makes him a target for all the gangs in town.

As good as the series was, it was hampered by delays. The first issue was released in 2007 and the series went on a two-year hiatus after its third issue. It returned this August on a monthly schedule so the miniseries could be completed. But the two years between issues might be more than could be overcome. It remains to be seen if anyone is still around to see this series reach its conclusion.  

Arvid Nelson (W), Matt Camp (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

The Stand: Soul Survivors #1:

Marvel’s adaption of arguably Steven King’s greatest work enters it’s third installment and starts off with the tale of the mute Nick Andros and the child-like Tom Cullen. Dealing with the Captain Trips virus was tough, but surviving a bike ride through Oklahoma and Nebraska is much worse. The only question is: which provide more of a danger, the tornados common to the area at that time of year or the evil found amongst their fellow survivors.

This adaptation is one of the best that Marvel has ever done. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Mike Perkins are firing on all cylinders and have captured King’s story perfectly. The characters are riveting, the scares bone-chilling and the tragedy heart-touching. If you have passed on the previous miniseries, well, come to your senses and jump on now.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (W), Mike Perkins (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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  • Fletch Adams

    Fletch Adams Oct 20, 2009 at 11:46am

    The entire McDuffie/Justice League drama was actually quite interesting. It's unfortunate both that such a talented writer couldn't really run with his story, and also that fans were no longer able to see "the curtain lifted" on what the world of corporate comic books could be like. Regardless, the fan in me is excited for Robinson's Justice League, as I'm always entertained by his work.

  • Fletch Adams

    Fletch Adams Oct 20, 2009 at 11:49am

    I also can't recommend 'The Waiting Place' highly enough...great book, with "The Greatest Rave in the Universe" being one of my all-time favourite single issues

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