Saturday, June 09, 2012

Week of 6 June 2012

I did not see any LSH content in DC comics this week.

Also of interest:

World's Finest #2, written by Paul Levitz, is out, for those who are fans of good storytelling.

DC has announced that September will be Zero Month, with all issues numbered 0 (again). Apparently, the goal is to tell some of the backstory of the relaunched New 52, since readers have "questions...about how these characters came to be, especially when we started in the middle of their story." There's a lot of talk about "revealing new things about these characters" and "keeping the storylines fresh and exciting."

 Storylines and characters aren't kept "fresh and exciting" because of gimmicks like reboots, alternate Earths, and "revealing new things." Storyline and characters are kept fresh and exciting by good writing. If you constantly feel that you have to revert to an endless series of one-off gimmicks, then you need better writers.

I don't know precisely why DC doesn't have better writers. I have some guesses, based on anecdotes and my own feelings as a writer (although I write science fiction, not comics).
  1. Good writers want as much autonomy as they can get. This means a minimum of editorial control and adherence to arbitrary mandates (reboots, Zero Months, I'm lookin' at you). Note that Paul Levitz was able to resist a complete reboot for the Legion this time around.
  2. Good writers want to work on something they care about. Again, Paul Levitz with the Legion is a great example. I don't know exactly why he's writing World's Finest, but I'm betting that he cares about it.
  3. Good writers want respect for themselves, their creations, and their artistic judgment. If Alan Moore thinks a Watchmen prequel is a bad idea, listen to him. Give creators credit and a share of the profits before a court orders it (and without fighting endless lawsuits). Consult with creative teams before ordering wholesale changes in their creations.
  4. Good writers want to be make a living. I have no idea what DC's pay structure is like, or how it compares to other publishers. Perhaps it's fine. Probably there is some room for improvement.
If DC gives writers these things, they will attract good writers.

Let me digress and tell you about a story I just sold to a new anthology. I sold the story for a pittance; I'm fine with that. The editor is a friend, she asked for a story, I figured the exposure would be good, and I plan to use the story as part of a longer work in the future.

However, I had problems with the publisher's contract. (It's important to know that the editor had no control over the contract terms or timing.) For one thing, contracts weren't actually signed until after the book was in print, which is at least a major annoyance and at most copyright infringement. One strike against the publisher.

Then, there was a clause in the contract stating that, in perpetuity, authors could not allow their stories to be reprinted in any format without notifying the publisher months in advance.

Think about the implications. If my story were chosen for a Best of the Year anthology, I would have to notify the publisher before allowing it to appear. Now, I've had other stories in Best of the Year anthologies, and the quick turnaround would make it impossible to comply with this advance notice clause.

Beyond that, if I wanted to issue an ebook version of the story (I do), or include the story in a longer work (I do), or sell audio or video rights (I wouldn't say no)...I couldn't do it without notifying the publisher months in advance. And this would be true even 10, 20, or 50 years from now.

I protested against this clause. I asked that, at very least, it be given a time limit: say 6 months after publication. My requests were ignored. So when I signed the contract, I simply struck out that clause.

But...and here's the point of this whole dreary story...I also swore a mighty vow that I would never again write for that publisher.

This is what good writers do when they feel they've gotten a bad deal: they don't write for you again.

I note that this publisher seldom has anything from big name writers. (In this particular anthology, the two biggest names are Rosemary Edghill and me. All due respect to Rosemary, but neither of us is what you'd call "a big name writer.") Seeing their standard terms, I understand why.

And DC has to resort to gimmicks rather than writing to keep their stories "fresh and exciting." This tells me that they can't get enough good writers...which tells me they haven't been giving their writers a good deal.

Just my two cents worth....


Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing..

pblfsda said...

I think I know why Paul Levitz might want to do a the World's Finest title. For one thing, he wrote the three-issue Power Girl story in Showcase (1978) which provided her origin. He was also writing All Star Comics when the Helena Wayne version of the Huntress was introduced, concurrent with her origin story in DC Super Stars. Being Earth-2 legacy characters long before the introduction of Infinity, Inc. or Young All-Stars they were becoming friends (or at least mutual confidantes) when the DC implosion hit. The JSA story lines had to be tied up in the dollar-size Adventure Comics, then Huntress became a back up feature (written by Levitz) in Wonder Woman while Power Girl was either her guest star or participating in the annual JLA/JSA crossover.

In the 1985 Crisis OIE, Helena was wiped from existence and Karen's origin was sacrificed so that she could stand in for Supergirl in DC history. I'm just guessing here, but I would expect that if Paul Levitz is scripting the new World's Finest series it's because he had been planning something like it since 1978 and has seen the opportunity yanked away from him at least twice.

Meerkatdon said...

pblfsda, that's great info, and makes perfect sense. Sometimes it's hard to think of Paul Levitz being passionate about anything other than the Legion.

(That issue of DC Super Stars that introduced the Huntress also had a Legion story, so there's a coincidental LSH connection.)

Anyway, I'm enjoying what he's doing with World's Finest and I'll continue reading.