The Safe Haven of Batman

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.

Batman.

bat1 The Safe Haven of Batman

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.

bat4 The Safe Haven of Batman

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?

bat2 The Safe Haven of Batman

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?

Comments

  1. blacaucasian says:

    I’m glad you wrote this. Great analysis. I’ve noticed this has seemed to be the case since Mike Marts took over the Bat office. The Gail Simone kerfuffle seemed to occur after Bobby Chase had been promoted and Brian Cunningham had been placed as the new editor. It seems that a lot of the good will that seems to happen on the Bat office book comes down to not only Mike Marts himself, but the editors he (I’m assuming being a senior editor) chooses as his associate and assistant editors on these book. Despite the ill will Liefeld had towards him, Gail Simone had nothing but good things to say about Brian Smith.

    With the whole Batgirl fiasco, I”m wondering if that was senior management making an decision for a new editor over Mike Marts. Because when that all went down, it simply didn’t seem like the way his office has handled things (even the Batwoman controversy that happened with Amy Reeder seemed to be handled fairly quietly compared to a lot of the other blow ups that were going on around the same time.)

    While different editors obviously are going to have different management styles and characteristics, it seems the fact that the Bat office has been so rock solid for such a seemingly long time now under Marts leadership, you’d figure other editors would strive to have the stability and success he’s had. I realize he’s only one man and can only do so much, but I wish his example was more widespread throughout DC as a whole. I think it would lead to at least a perception of more stability in what’s going on line wide right now.

  2. Marts deserves all the respect in the world. Would love to see him take an expanded role at DC/Warner in the coming years. It might be a little geeky to get excited about editors, but as a fan, I’m really digging what he’s done with his corner of the New 52.

  3. You’re with The Beat now, Jonny! Getting excited about editors is What We Do.

  4. Eventually all DC will publish will be Batman,Green Lantern comics, and Superman comics.
    When was the last time something non- Superman,Batman,Green Lantern and Geoff Johns related that sold well?
    It`s been a long time.
    DC could put out an Alfred the Butler comic book or Lois Lane comic book and they would outsell the majority of any announced upcoming DC new 52 replacement comic books.
    respectfully
    “The Amazing Stam”
    Make Mine Marvel

  5. blacaucasian says:

    @STAM – The Aquaman relaunch has been doing pretty damn well, finding itself in the top 10 and 20 regularly.

    Just sayin’.

    And I don’t think DC is looking for or needs any of the 2nd or 3rd tier characters to be top sellers. A lot of the reaosn for the relaunch I feel was in boosting sales on their midline titles, which they were able to do for the most part. Books don’t have to sell 100K+ to necessarily be considered a success.

  6. @blacaucasian
    Hence why I said non- Superman,Batman,Green Lantern and Geoff Johns related. Aquaman is written by Johns, and now that Johns has left writing Aquaman we shall watch the sales drop to the bottom of the ocean(pun intended). :)
    respectfully
    “The Amazing Stam”
    Make Mine Marvel!

  7. Apollo 9000 says:

    With the consistent sales and decent reviews of the Bat, GL, Justice League, and Superman books the case can be made to just have ongoing comics under those umbrellas while putting out B and C, even D list titles as mini series.

  8. For as long as I can remember Batman has sold well. Even when the book sucks it sells because it’s Batman. Batman is like pizza even when it’s bad it’s good.

  9. Chuck Melville says:

    For what it’s worth — and I know I’m in the minority here — I’m not finding the current Batman books to be at all enjoyable (except for BATMAN, INC) and have dropped all of them from my list, the first time I’ve ever walked away from the Batman line in decades.

Speak Your Mind

*