Last year, I did my first work for DC Comics in the form of a short story in their DC Universe Holiday Special #1.
As this detailed post on the Bleeding Cool news/gossip site lays out, quite a number of former DC editors who were either publicly or privately known to have been “let go” of their jobs are actually quite gainfully employed by the DC/Warner Brother family.
Last year over in Burbank, LA, within Warner Bros, DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns put a team together that included a number of recently-made-redundant DC Comics editors. And no one talked about it.
Titled DC Entertainment Creative Affairs, the group has a rather roving brief. Working on multimedia exploitation such as animation and live action, including DC Nation, Young Justice, Brave & Bold, Smallville’s final season (including another Geoff Johns’ episode), the Sandman TV show and other not-yet-announced projects up and running for development (including a possible animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns), it’s basically a Bullpen for a different multi-media world and a veritable West Coast Justice League Of DC Comics.
Among the group is Mike Carlin, ex-longtime senior editor at DC, and the guy who gave me my break on that Holiday Special. Mike was kind enough to give me a tour of the DC office last year when I was in New York for the NYCC show, and he was honest and professional with me during the whole process of getting my story into print. He even let me know privately about his transfer out of the publishing side of DC when it happened, since he was my main contact at the editorial offices (now that this story is public, I feel like I’m not betraying any secrets by mentioning it here). Over the last year or two, I’ve kept in contact with about half a dozen other editors at DC as well, sending them copies of my latest books, and just reminding them that I’m still out here. Well, according to the article, 2 more of those folks are no longer editors either: Adam Schlagman and Sean Ryan have both moved over to the new DC Entertainment Creative Affairs. So, yeah, most of my contact in DC editorial are gone.
To further complicate matters for new creators looking to break in, the kinds of writing gigs that in the past may have been open to folks like me (and I say may because even then, the odds were way against you, as you were competing with seasoned pros who were desperately looking for gigs as well) are now being filled with many of these same ex-editors:
And in a further twist, a number of the now-ex-editors working for this new department have been hired by Eddie Berganza to write comics involved in the Flashpoint crossover.
The upcoming Flashpoint event is a good example. The crossover comprises something on the order of 14 new mini-series and one-shots. You might think that somewhere in there, an issue or two (or maybe even a backup story) would be open to new talent. But a look at the creative teams shows that of the few not being written by DC regulars (folks like Tony bedard and Peter Tomasi), they are being written by current and former editors: Adam Schlagman on Flashpoint: Abin Sur the Green Lantern and Flashpoint: Hal Jordan, Rex Ogle on Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint, Sean Ryan on Flashpoint: Grodd of War, Pornsak Pichetshote on Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries, and Mike Carlin on Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket. Related to the above, a mini-series spinning out of the recently-concluded year long mega series Brightest Day, titled Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search, will be written by former Vertigo editor Jonathan Vankin.
(Aside: for another take on this topic, check out friend-of-the-ferret Caleb Mozzocco’s post What the Flashpoint creative teams tell us about DC’s strategy regarding talent on his Every Day Is Like Wednesday blog.)
I think the writing is clearly on the wall for writers like me when it comes to DC Comics.
Now, I’ve never had any illusions of writing comics for a living, nor of getting a “dream job” of writing the Batman monthly or what have you. But, I do have a connection to a lot of these characters that I’ve been reading for almost three decades now, and it’s definitely fun to “play in the DC sandbox,” as the saying goes. However, I think these days, more than at any other time, the door to that playground is firmly shut to new talent. So the choice is to keep beating my head against that wall (wait, did I just switch metaphors on you?), expending a lot of time, money, and energy in the process, or move on to other projects and opportunities.
I choose the latter.
This year, I’ve been concentrating my efforts on getting a few of my creator-owned projects off the ground. In many ways, that’s just as daunting a task as trying to “break in” to Marvel and DC, but if and when it finally does happen, the emotional rewards are much more gratifying. Already, I’m enjoying small victories. I just sold an autobiographical short story to the new Dark Horse Presents, and wrapped up another short autobio for this year’s Liberty Annual, to benefit the CBLDF. And if nothing else, the process of pitching my Persia Blues series has been a great learning experience, and a fantastic way to hone some writing skills unrelated to the actual creation of a story (those loglines and summaries are a bitch to get right!) Add to that The Unseen pitch (with artist and fellow PANELista Andy Bennett) and a couple of other in-development proposals, and I remain hopeful that at least one of my books will gain some traction this year. And of course, I continue to be involved with the PANEL group, which is my single biggest outlet for creative expression.
All of this isn’t to say that I won’t keep an eye on the industry and look for opportunities here and there, but unlike last year where I spent an inordinate amount of energy trying to play with the big boys, I’m going to be much more judicious with my time now. But as for me and DC, I think that first date may have also been the last. And you know what? I’m OK with that. I gave it my best shot, and ended up in one of their books with a story I feel proud of.
Now it’s time to dial it up to 11 on my own books.