Some early morning ramble to go with your coffee. While all around us creators are struggling with editors, artists are flying from one series to another every three issues, books are chopped and movies are cut – there is a little oasis in the middle of the DC desert.
When the New 52 started out, the books were all organised into different groups such as “The Edge” or “The Dark”. And whilst the books in those two lines have been particularly shattered by cancellations and quickfire changes in creative teams, there is one group which has managed to somehow protect themselves from such hassles: the Batman group.
Mike Marts seems to be doing a fantastic job at maintaining the most prominent of DC’s franchises, and keeping everything together. There have only been a few creator changes in the line, despite it accounting for around one fifth of all DC’s monthly comics. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have stayed in charge of the main series, whilst most of the other creators have remained with their books since the start.
And of those who have moved on, things appear to have been planned in advance, and amicable. Judd Winick, for example, left Catwoman after 12 issues because he wanted to commit more time to his creator-owned projects, whilst Tony Daniel dropped his writing duties in order to draw Justice League. Controversies like Starfire were dealt with smartly, and in many cases addressed on-panel and corrected – and after a rocky start, most of the Batman books are now very well-reviewed.
DC have even been able to move past cutting off The Joker’s face in issue #1 of Detective Comics and somehow turn it into a highly-praised Batman ‘event’ storyline. The decision to have Barbara Gordon step out of her wheelchair – ending the story of perhaps the most well-regarded and admired disabled character in mainstream comics – sparked only initial dismay. The Batman books have risked more – and gotten away with most of it.
There have been a few recent swerves from the Batmobile, however, with Gail Simone apparently getting fired and rehired within a few days. Lord knows what was actually going on here – whether this was all a plan from DC to draw attention from Simone’s vocal fanbase and create a criris, or if somebody wrote a wrong email, if Simone was making a power-play, or if DC actually did fire her and then change their minds. It was a public squabble, but it resolved with all parties apparently satisfied.
Birds of Prey has also started to see a wobble after writer Duane Swierczynski left the book for personal reasons. Originally we were to see Jim Zub take over, but now Christy Marx – whose other title Sword of Sorcery has coincidentally just been cancelled by DC – brought in despite some slightly dodgy interviews about her interest in the book and characters.
This aside, most of the writers – and in several cases artists - have remained within the Batman franchise for the entirety of the New 52, even through two across-the-line crossover events. How have they managed to achieve this when every other line – wait, no, the four Green Lantern books have all remained strong – appears to be in constant crisis. Is it sales?
None of the Batman books have been cancelled yet, even though DC have been slowly expanding the line over the past year to include Talon and Batman Incorporated (with Red Robin rumoured to be announced shortly). Is is so simple to say that the Batman titles have sold well, so they haven’t had to be interfered with by anybody? Is this a case where DC have decided not to mess with something which is clearly working for them?
Or is it because the Batman editors are doing a very good job at keeping their creators happy, and working well with other editors across the DC line? They let Travel Foreman take over as artist on Birds of Prey when, for personal reasons, he asked to leave Animal Man. And across the line, you can see creative teams who have a history of working together – Gail Simone and Ed Benes, Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason. And whenever writers do leave their books – such as Scott Lobdell, leaving Red Hood in order to focus on Superman – they’ve ensured that the writers are allowed to finish their current storyline.
DC have a lot of problems within editorial right now, and they’re getting a lot of justified criticism for it. But it appears that Batman is their safe haven for the time being, where they can trust in their creative teams and editorial staff to keep things cohesive, and keep readers buying. With rumours suggesting anywhere between 3-4 of the new-wave books this Summer will be related to Batman, it’s a corner of DC’s business where creativity seems to be valued, and sales have followed.
Having said all this, the same is true for Green Lantern! Although that is a far more concentrated, smaller line made up of only four titles. Has that consistency led the books to good sales, or have good sales allowed them the luxury of consistency?