Dan DiDio: The Crisis Years

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countdowntocrisis Dan DiDio: The Crisis YearsTo mark the first ten years of his stint as Executive Editor at DC, Dan DiDio ran down the top ten highlights of his years there on his Facebook page. It’s an interesting list that tells you everything you need to know about the last decade in superhero comics publishing.

1) BATMAN 608 HUSH. Work on this incredible run by Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb was started before I joined DC Comics but came out my first year there. The success of this series, putting a superstar team on the ongoing title instead of a miniseries (thanks Jim), showed that the periodical series still mattered, now more than ever. On the personal side, it was important to me because this run on was so successful that it allowed us to experiment (both good and bad) on the rest of the line while we began chartering the course for the DC Universe. The cover stated “It Begins Here”, and in my opinion, it really does.

2) IDENTITY CRISIS. Now, I’ve never been able to shy away from controversy (although I do think I’ve mellowed a bit), and this was first real controversial project of my time. This mini-series, (brilliantly written by Brad Meltzer and drawn by Rags Morales) created a complex and compelling story that would have once been considered an Elseworlds, and instead, placed it in the center of the DCU. It tackled tough issues and pitted hero versus hero and set the tone for things to follow. Personal note, for me, it perfectly captured the paranoid and unease of the post 9/11 world and put our heroes in touch we what people we feeling today, which is exactly what I was hoping to inject in the DCU.

3) GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH. We have done a lot of re-launches, re-starts and reboots over the last ten years but this is my first, and arguably, our best. Geoff Johns (remember that name, you’ll hear it again) and Ethan Van Sciver found a way to take everything that came before, and without casting it aside, returned Hal Jordan and Green Lantern to premiere status. Geoff’s love for all things DCU shone through every page, and he brought that energy and sense of respectful re-invention to Teen Titans, Hawkman and so many other books. For me, this reminds me of the all the fans questioning why we brought Hal back from the dead.. And as I liked to remind people, for the time that Hal was “dead”, he appeared in more series than when he was “alive”. Only shows how popular he was.
(Before we more onto number 4, have to admit, I cheated a little and looked up some release dates to some of our series to make sure keep this in some sort of chronological order. )

4) SUPERMAN/ BATMAN 8: SUPERGIRL. Now Jeph Loeb did an amazing job re-inventing World’s Finest for an all new audience with Superman/ Batman, but it wasn’t until issue eight that this series made its mark on the DCU. With the return of Kara Zor-El, one of the biggest walls from the epic series Crisis on Infinite Earths came tumbling down. Beautifully drawn by Michael Turner, Supergirl returned with the full grandeur she deserved. I know for some fans Supergirl will always be a protoplasmic matrix from a pocket dimension that merged with a devil worshipping teenager before being infused with the Angel of Fire, but for most, she will always be Superman’s cousin. It’s really that simple, and that’s why she came back.

On a personal note, this is where my brief but lasting friendship with Michael Turner began, he left a lasting mark and he is missed.

5) COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS. 80 pages for a buck, what’s not to like? Probably my favorite comic of all things published in the last ten years. Perfectly crafted by the first, true architects Greg Rucka, Judd Winick and Geoff Johns, (and a little unaccredited help from Brad Meltzer) it truly captured the scope, spectacle and humanity of the DCU. Arguably (there’s that word again) the best Blue Beetle story, it took us through all facets of the DCU as we followed one man’s struggle against all odds, never giving up, but ultimately failing. This story a sense of unexpected to the DCU that made even the most jaded fan wonder what would happen next. Personal side, I remember I could barely sleep the nights before this book came out, since the next two years of story hinged on its success. It was an all in bet that paid off in a very big way.

6) INFINITE CRISIS. Well, we had to countdown to something. When we planned to do our first company crossover, I knew only one person could write it. Geoff did a masterful job bringing all the stories of the last year and half to a single point and crescendo. All the sign posts led here. Death of Blue Beetle, Wonder Woman killing Max Lord, Destruction of Watchtower, Day of Vengeance, OMAC Project, Rann/ Thannagar War and Villains United, everything played out brilliantly. Geoff brought the characters to life, and Phil Jimenez (with help from George Perez, Ivan Reis and Jerry Ordway) brought them form, and together they did the impossible, they created the perfect sequel to the original, seminal maxi-series. To me, it’s my first, and our best. I never tire of reading it, and someday, maybe when’s it’s an absolute, we can print all our notes of how this came to be and what was supposed to happen after… maybe :)

7) 52. DC’s first, year long, weekly series. I know there were weekly series in the UK before this, but this was the first time we tried to do something on this scale in the U.S. We distributed comics weekly, so it only made sense that we made a comic that was weekly too. A bit naive, but why should that stop us.
The original plan was to fill in the missing year from the One Year Later jump (done in real time) but when you put together a writing team of Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Grant Morrison, the best thing to do is let the creators take their course, and craft a masterful tale. Geoff represented the present DCU, Mark knew its history, Grant had the scope, and Greg kept it grounded, and together they wrote every issue and made secondary characters like Booster Gold, Elongated Man, Steel, Black Adam and Question top sellers. And let’s not forget Keith Giffen on layouts and JG Jones on covers making this a complete package. We must have done something special here, as we did with Countdown To Final Crisis and Trinity, or other companies would have followed suit. They never did.

Infinitely proud of this masterful accomplishment, and while we’re on it, let me set record straight. I have never been more proud of what we accomplished on this series, after all, it was originally my idea, I assembled the writing and art teams, created the production method, sold the idea inside and outside the company, and cleared the way for the creators to take charge of the book. Of course there were bumps along the ways (with this much creative power, how couldn’t there be?) but to say I hated it is just plain silly.

Filling in the last three spots was more difficult than I thought it would be. Not because there was nothing to choose from, instead, it was quite the opposite. There were several more than worthy series that deserved to be on this list. New Frontier (Darwyn Cooke’s brilliant take on the early days of the DCU), Seven Soldiers of Victory (Grant Morrison’s epic re-imagining of the team), All Star Superman (one of the finest complete stories featuring The Man of Steel) All Star Batman and Robin (audacious yet incomplete) and Wednesday Comics (Mark Chiarello’s love letter to a soon-to-be forgotten format), to name a few. And while they all stood out from the rest, they didn’t exactly fit the criteria I had for the top ten. So, sure to cause some discussion, the final three…

8) SUPERMAN EARTH ONE. This is slightly out of order, but wanted to slot it eighth. When we produced original graphic novels, we usually came at our characters from the sides. The material was either very eclectic, tied to continuity, or rendered our characters unidentifiable. With the bookstore market growing at the time, we decided to meet it head on with new interpretations built for today (Remember, this was started way before there was talk of a New 52). Joe Straczynski not only built a new man of tomorrow but crafted the story as a true book, and not just a series of issues strung together. It was a new take on Superman’s origin that stood on its own, and Shane Davis brought the look that dubbed him Twilight Superman. On the personal side, I wanted this book to work to show that “one size” doesn’t always fit all and different formats require different styles of storytelling. Its success paved the wave for more series as well as imitation.

9) BATMAN, GREEN LANTERN, and the Five Year Plan. Or better known as, how The Sinestro Corps War and Batman R.I.P. got me through the toughest part of my career. First, some back story. In late 2007, and into 2008, we hit a rough spot. Our delivery was shaky, several series were starting to struggle for direction, and our next big event felt rushed (too many crises too soon). Yet, whatever pressure we were feeling across the line, it did not appear evident in Green Lantern and Batman. Geoff had a five year plan for GL that would see that character from Rebirth to Blackest Night, and Grant Morrison had the same for Batman, starting with Batman R.I.P. Batman R.I.P. preformed the herculean task of crossing over with an event book, Final Crisis yet positioned the story of “The Death Of Batman” to stand on its own if read separately. The Sinestro Corps War showed that you could keep the spectacle in the main title so the on-goings can have events unto themselves. On the personal side, they were the solid ground needed to regain our footing, and a reminder that consistency in story and character, and planning, will win out over the usual bags of tricks, if the usual bag of tricks is overplayed.
Which takes us to our final entry….

10) THE NEW 52. If you look at everything I’ve mentioned from one to nine, it feels like we were building to this moment. All that we learned over the years, from every success and mistake came into play as we terraformed the entire DCU. And, it was everything we hoped it would be, a positioning of our line and characters for the future and a shot of adrenalin to the entire industry. It was a wild mix of soft changes, hard reboots, and re-imagination with the hope of finally capturing a bigger audience with a wider diversity of product. And even if we returned to pre-52 sales numbers tomorrow (and don’t worry, that’s even close to happening) this would be, hands down, the biggest success I even experienced. And the best part of all this is, we’re not done yet, this is our universe for the future, and it is a foundation worth building on. To quote one of my favorite philosophers, “Nuff said.”

So there you have it, my top ten highlights of my first ten years. Thanks for reading along, it was fun taking this troll down memory lane with you. And before you ask about BEFORE WATCHMEN, don’t worry, I’m saving that to be number one on the list for the next ten years.


As if you hadn’t noticed, it’s also a list of some of DC’s biggest hits (FINAL CRISIS didn’t make the cut, sorry). Aside from HUSH (and arguably IDENTITY CRISIS), it’s also a list devoid of individual efforts, creators suddenly striking lightning as they tried to tell a single story. (DC: THE NEW FRONTIER, the All-Star line, and BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE are relegated to honorable mentions.) SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE went through multiple formats before it came out, starting life as DC’s “ultimate” Superman, so that hardly counts as a creator-driven book either. It’s mostly corporate, editorially driven crossovers, the crowning event being COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS, the crossover prelude to a two-year crossover.

Mind you, a list of Marvel’s highlights from the last ten years wouldn’t be much different in substance. But there wouldn’t be so many books with “Crisis” in the title, either.

[Via]

Comments

  1. Marco Polo says:

    Countdown must’ve been number 11.

  2. Frank says:

    It was the buzz-phrase at the time, but people talked about the Countdown to Infinite Crisis being the death of fun comics at DC. In retrospect, they were right. The new 52, while featuring some very good books here and there (Justice League not being one of them), is a joyless affair.

  3. Irwin Schwab says:

    Sad that Didio can only make superhero comics by dragging them down to his own level.

  4. Scratchie says:

    “We must have done something special here, as we did with Countdown To Final Crisis and Trinity, or other companies would have followed suit. They never did.”

    Or else, you know, it was the fact that Countdown and Trinity were total stiffs.

  5. David Ely says:

    “[...] it’s also a list devoid of individual efforts”

    Sure, but why would DiDio list something he didn’t have a hand in as one of his highlights? These are things he working on fondly from his tenure as editor.

  6. blacaucasian says:

    Haven’t corporate comics been editorially driven primarily since the beginning, or at least from the Julius Schwartz/Stan Lee error forward?

    Even a book many are saying should have been included on his list, Wednesday Comics, was an editorially driven book.

    Heck, even critically acclaimed books like The Losers, Scalped, and Unknown Soldier from Vertigo, were, in initial concept, editorially driven books. The new Dial H book is editorially driven and it’s getting also sorts of advance praise.

    Editorially driven is a term that has come to mean something negative, but I’m not sure the DC/Marvel regimes have been set up to be anything but editorially driven. I certainly don’t think I typically go to either of these companies for things that are primarily artistically driven. That’s why it’s great that publishers like Top Shelf and Fantagraphics and Image exist.

    And if Marvel had branded the term Crisis like DC had, you can be sure they would have used it as much too. “Secret Invasion” and “Avengers vs X-Men” certainly are far from new or exciting concepts in the world of Marvel comics.

  7. Marco Polo says:

    Editorially driven is different from “an editor solicited ideas on an existing concept.”

  8. Synsidar says:

    Haven’t corporate comics been editorially driven primarily since the beginning, or at least from the Julius Schwartz/Stan Lee error forward?

    As far as Marvel is concerned, no. During the company’s top years, creatively, in the ’70s, writers were allowed to tell the stories they wanted to tell, as long as sales were satisfactory.

    Editorially driven is a term that has come to mean something negative, but I’m not sure the DC/Marvel regimes have been set up to be anything but editorially driven.

    “Editorially-driven” is negative because it means, to many people, that editors dictate the content of stories, instead of only ensuring that the series they edit conform to quality standards. Editorial-driven comics vs. creatively-inspired comics is comparable to a crossword puzzle creator being given a list of words he has to include in his puzzle, instead of choosing the words he wants.

    SRS

  9. I credit Dan for supporting and believing in Justin and I to keep JONAH HEX alive and let us do the book our way for 70 issues. Single stories with top creators. He is the one that greenlit the book and fought for it even when numbers werent great.

    I like to give credit where credit is due. He has done a lot of good things in the past 10 years that arent on this list. A good man who loves comics. You may not always agree with him, but he loves these characters with a passion and doesnt do anything half way.

    I wish him another 10 years of success.

    Jimmy Palmiotti

  10. Irwin Schwab says:

    “he loves these characters with a passion and doesnt do anything half way.”

    Right. That’s why his reign has been spent making pornographically violent rape, gore, and dismemberment comics.

  11. All his achievements are a hard sell, since his greatest one erased all the prior ones away.

  12. Cory!! Strode says:

    “We must have done something special here, as we did with Countdown To Final Crisis and Trinity, or other companies would have followed suit. They never did.”

    Well, that and the editor who made 52 work ended up over at Marvel.

    Still DiDio’s tenure at DC has resulted in some very good comics, some not so good comics and some really painfully bad comics, just like everyone else.

  13. “the Julius Schwartz/Stan Lee error”

    Freudian slip? ;-)

    Sigh … well, this list pretty much shows and reminds me why I haven’t been reading DC comics for a long time. The few of these series I bothered trying (checking out from the library, of course) were depressing and largely out-of-character pieces.

    If this is what passes for greatness, count me out. I’ll stick with weird stuff, like Bulletproof Coffin, etc.

  14. Synsidar says:

    All his achievements are a hard sell, since his greatest one erased all the prior ones away.

    That’s the problem with fictionalizing structural changes. Such stories appeal most to certain types of readers; other readers will avoid the material, because it’s obviously not a story, or avoid the publisher entirely. Doing a “Crisis”-type storyline is like trying to explain the death of a character in a sitcom or writing out a star. I watched The X-Files for years, but when Duchovny left the series, I stopped watching it. I knew why he left, and trying to provide a fake reason why was useless.

    If someone sees the need for a reboot, either of a series or a universe, it would be better just to stop the series and start over, or to start over with a new universe than it would be to fictionalize a transition.

    SRS

  15. I say this without snark, but honestly, Dan DiDio’s list of his greatest accomplishments includes some of my least favorite comics EVER. Any “best of” list featuring multiple Jeph Loeb entries just isn’t trying hard enough. Okay, that was snarky.

  16. Marco Polo says:

    Yeah, Countdown to Infinite Crisis was sort of the perfect Didio comic. Take lighthearted character that doesn’t resonate with a large audience but has a devoted following. Build him/her up as being awesome for a few pages. Then murder violently.

  17. John Warren says:

    I’m confused by his description of his friendship with Michael Turner as “brief but lasting.” If it has lasted since SUPERMAN/BATMAN 8, it can’t really be considered “brief,” can it? Unless maybe he is some kind of immortal being?

  18. Marco Polo says:

    John, Mike Turner is dead.

  19. RAGGEDT says:

    So, we can dub Didio as the ultimate “Crisis Manager”? Should the last ten years be considered a Creativity Crisis? Or was “Identity Crisis” more of a zeitgeist metaphor than any of the creators understood at the time?

  20. Marco Polo says:

    Haha, I lol’d at “creativity crisis”, nicely done.

  21. Bryan L says:

    “I say this without snark, but honestly, Dan DiDio’s list of his greatest accomplishments includes some of my least favorite comics EVER. Any “best of” list featuring multiple Jeph Loeb entries just isn’t trying hard enough. Okay, that was snarky.”

    Snarky, perhaps, but it sums up my feelings quite accurately, too.

  22. I just find it odd that the first thing he lists is something he admits he had no hand in creating.

  23. The Beat says:

    C’mon, Shags, any publisher would list books they published whether they had a hand in the creation or not.

  24. Mikael says:

    Say what you will, but it made this DC fan an even bigger DC fan and without 52 there might not have been a Wednesday Comics. DC during the Didio years is a good thing no matter what the people above try to otherwise state. The 80s Crisis only brought about 2 or 3 years of some interesting storytelling. The 90s are hit and miss. The Didio era has rises and dips but on the whole, it was solid.

    As for the Marvel/Crisis title comment, in your quest to add some punch to your article, you neglected to do homework and realize Marvel does have a buzzword. “War”. From Secret War to Civil War to World War Hulk to War of the Kings. And then all the words that branch off from that such as Siege, Secret Invasion, etc.

    You’re welcome.

  25. The Beat says:

    Mikael, so true about the “Wars”…so we can indeed call this the War Crisis Era.

  26. nWoJeffDW says:

    “but he loves these characters with a passion and doesnt do anything half way.”

    I just have to laugh at this statement. Didio doesn’t love the characters. He’s spent 10 years replacing or killing them and with the New 52, he’s now rendered them unrecognizable.

  27. True, Heidi. As its publisher I can understand why he would be proud of its success, especially in his first year on the job. To me, it just seems if you’re going to make a chronological 1-10 list like this, something that was already in the works before coming on board would rank at 0.

  28. Carlton Donaghe says:

    As far as I’m concerned, Didio is the absolute worst thing ever to happen to DC.

    There’s so much about DC that I love, but I guess it’s right that all that ended about 10 years ago.

    There’s so much ugly and wrong-headed in the turn DC has taken under Didio that I’m not surprised comic sales are so far down in the crapper they absolutely have to do stunts like the New 52.

    His tenure at DC is not something I’d celebrate. At all.

  29. I know for some fans Supergirl will always be a protoplasmic matrix from a pocket dimension that merged with a devil worshipping teenager before being infused with the Angel of Fire

    Of all the statement vexing commenters, this is the one that will never actually make sense to me. And I’m okay with that.

    Are there really fans that fit this description? Fans who aren’t named Dan DiDio?

  30. MBunge says:

    “During the company’s top years, creatively, in the ’70s, writers were allowed to tell the stories they wanted to tell, as long as sales were satisfactory.”

    While Marvel in the 70s had a funky vibe, anyone who suggests they were the company’s top creative years needs to put down the bong and get some fresh air. Everything is second to Lee/Kirby/Ditko and company in the 60s and the 80s with Byrne, Miller, Simonson and Claremont leading the way weren’t exactly chopped liver.

    Mike

  31. Charles Knight says:

    Isn’t thematically and as a product infinite crisis a failure because it fails to do what it was suppose to do – that is to say that when announced and from his discussions in interviews it was largely intended to revitalise Superman and Batman and move them from rather the rather stale interpretations that the late 1990s and early 2000s gave us?

  32. Irwin Schwab says:

    “DC during the Didio years is a good thing no matter what the people above try to otherwise state.”

    That’s true, if you enjoy pornogaphically violent rape comics.

  33. As a former Marvel zombie, Identity Crisis was HUGE in getting me into DC comics. So much so that now my Marvel pull is down to 2 books and DC is in the upper 20s. Maybe as a new DCU reader the changes aren’t blasphemy, but I have a huge run of DC event books that I have reread and loved the hell out of. I can’t say that for Marvel whatsoever.

  34. Two Bed Two Bath says:

    “Of all the statement vexing commenters, this is the one that will never actually make sense to me.”

    It’s meant as a shot at Peter David — something Didio never misses an opportunity to do.

  35. “and Shane Davis brought the look that dubbed him Twilight Superman.”

    The fact that DiDio thinks this is a good thing exemplifies why I have lost all interest in DC’s current product.

  36. Bytowner says:

    What love he earned, he threw away with The Flashpoint reboot.

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