This Dwayne McDuffie/JLofA Thing Annoys Me.

This Dwayne McDuffie/JLofA Thing Annoys Me.

May 29

As first reported (I think) over at Robot 6, Dwayne McDuffie has been “fired” from Justice League of America, where even fans of the book would admit he’s had a troubled run, saddled with inelegant dictates to tie his stories and characters into whatever crossover or event happened to be the hype du jour.

My first thought upon hearing it was of a classic blog post by the cantankerous Dirk Deppey over at Journalista, in which he coined a genius term and hit upon what makes the backstage dealings at DC so fascinating and complicated at the same time:

Add to this the opaque nature of DC’s inner workings and pretty much all commentary turns to Kremlinology, reducing speculation from how the company works and what it can actually do, to little more than which apparatchik is in or out of favor at a given moment. Even comments made by creators defecting from the company need to be seen in this light: Who was giving them information about the chain of command? Their editors? How much of it is real, and how much of it is ass-covering? How many people have passed the buck up to DiDio because he’s the figurehead that they see, how many just want to protect their turf – and how many actually know what they’re talking about? The more you think about it, the more suspect most speculation becomes (including, I hasten to add, my own).

So, yeah. Kremlinology. Suspect speculation at best. Part of me doesn’t want to indulge, cause even at a high level, it amounts to gossip.

Still, it keeps gnawing at me, this Dwayne McDuffie thing. It should not have been this way.

jla311

I think first and foremost, I just believe McDuffie is a creator who should never be driven away from a major comics publisher for any reason. He’s just that good. This is a guy who brought us the highly-regarded Milestone line of comics and several seasons of one of the best (maybe THE best?) superhero cartoon shows of all time, Justice League. In the realm of what he does, superhero genre entertainment, he’s indisputably a top talent.

So then why can’t McDuffie find a good gig at DC…or even Marvel for that matter? He had an aborted but genius run on Fantastic Four right before Millar and Hitch came on board; now he’s had an aborted run on JLofA, long thought to be another “placeholder” while DC lined up its ducks for a “superstar” to take over the writing duties. Speculation has long suggested that Geoff Johns would be that “superstar.”

Over at Comic By Comic, Rich Lovatt brings up some good points relating to the specifics of McDuffie’s work on JLofA, and I can’t say I disagree. I guess my frustration deals less with the specifics of what he dealt with on JLofA and how he handled it, and more about the kind of editorial environment that would allow him to be “fired” from a book in the first place.

I could be overestimating McDuffie’s popularity, but I don’t think I’m overestimating his abilities. He’s not a Geoff Johns or a Grant Morrison, but he could be, easily, given the right environment and opportunities. If not that level of stardom, he should at least be a fixture at DC or Marvel, always on some book to do what he does best.

To me, becoming a “superstar” as a comics creator is about opportunity as much as it’s about talent, and frankly, it pisses me off that McDuffie does not ever seem to have been given a great opportunity at either major publisher to do what he does best in a collaborative environment. I guess it could be argued that he had a shot with JLofA and lost it, but when you’re being asked to suspend a storyline to participate in a one-shot event, or having team members dragged away in mid-arc for some other writer, how is that a real opportunity?

This may seem like a bold statement, but Dwayne McDuffie should always be working in corporate superhero comics, if he wants to. Good comics, real creative opportunities, not books shackled to whatever the latest whim of editorial may be. This guy deserves better. Whatever his offenses that got him “fired,” whether he was indeed airing dirty laundry online or just trying to respond honestly to fans with even-handed, non-judgmental information (I lean toward the latter), he should not have been in this situation in the first place.

I want to read Dwayne McDuffie on a big superhero book for the Big Two, being supported in the right way, and I can’t. That sucks. And I think whoever is responsible for not making that happen is doing a shitty job.

6 comments

  1. You know, I read the LitG post with its compilation of quotes and they don’t sound that bad to me. I can’t figure out if this is because I’m more familiar with Marvel creators, and the Marvel atmosphere these days at least SEEMS to be more contended and collegial. Even when I suspect there really is a huge difference of opinion, they seem comfortable making jokes about it. So was McDuffie really saying worse things than Marvel guys sometimes say, or is it just that he didn’t have editorial approval to say them? The whole thing just seems like such a weird situation.

  2. Read “contented” for “contended”. That’s a different thing :).

  3. Jeff

    Kremlinology is a very apt term. Considering that McDuffie isn’t exactly fired from DC and that this isn’t the first ‘interesting’ firing in the DC stable over the past year, I think we can take McDuffie at his word, especially because he isn’t saying anything too inflammatory. The people that I know inside DC basically corroborate what I think many of us suspect: that the Executive Editor has a tight grip on the line of comics DC produces and bristles at creators rebelling against his (often mercurial) plans and especially hates it when the curtain is pulled back for the fans to see. Which is what Dwayne McDuffie did. Which is why he was fired from the book that he should be a shoe-in to write.

    Of course, who knows if this is really the way it went down. As said Executive Editor once said to me, “Part of my job is jumping on grenades for the creators.” It’s such a closed shop there that it’s difficult to know the truth. Hell, they have their publicist running their (admittedly well-done) blog instead of someone with more insight into the product/culture.

  4. McDuffie’s run on FF wasn’t aborted– he’d read Millar’s first script before writing his first issue. He had about a full year on the book, I think, and knew enough about what was coming up that he could tell a few solid stories before his time was up.

  5. Matt

    I didn’t realize that. Still wish Marvel had offered him another ongoing rather than just a Damage Control mini…right? If I recall correctly at least…

  6. Jeff

    Maybe they offered and he didn’t want to do it? You can never tell with these things. I wish he’d have handled the Black Panther relaunch instead of Hudlin.

Leave a Reply