Today, this column is going to be something of an editorial. Don’t worry. I won’t be too overbearing in my rambling. I’ll still speak to a “must read” comic of the week, something you need to make a “Wednesday Run” for.
There are times that I wish I was reading coming books during the age when I first started reading them: the no-internet age. During that naïve time, I’d visit my local comic book shop, pick up my favourite books off the wooden rack of new issues, and happily bring them home, unaware of the politics, business decision-making, miscommunication and broken promises behind the art form I so happily read.
In this Internet age, we learn about the behind-the-curtain relationships of comic book creators: writers, artists, editors and publishers, all too easily. There are websites dedicated to that kind of gossip. Once in a while, those relationships turn sour, affecting everyone involved, including us, as readers. Batwoman #25, out today, is, unfortunately, the product of one of those relationships gone sour.
Come, take a walk down the trail of pontification.
Written by: Marc Andreyko
Illustrated by: Various
Published by: DC Comics
This past September, celebrated artist and writer J.H. Williams III, alongside his co-writer, W. Haden Blackman, issued a shared memo on their respective websites. After two years of storytelling, they were walking away from their beloved and critically acclaimed Batwoman monthly series, published by DC Comics. Titled, “With A Heavy Heart…”, you can read that correspondence here.
In essence, the two creators were quitting the title due to editorial interference. DC had been asking for alterations or discards to long-standing storylines and character developments, all at the last minute and all after over a year of planning, plotting and writing. Now, I realize that I, and probably you, are not privy to the interior workings of DC’s editorial office and the communications that go back and forth between those offices and the various writers and artists on the comics they publish, but I think it’s safe to say (and has been said by both Williams and Blackman) that the editing group behind the Batwoman title had known and had approved of these storylines well in advance.
The character of Kate Kane (Batwoman) is an openly gay character. One of the plot threads would see her married to long-time girlfriend, Gotham City Detective, Maggie Sawyer. For whatever reason, DC’s “New 52” universe has a general internal policy of not having their characters married. I don’t know why. It confines growth of the character or heroes shouldn’t have happy lives. Something pretty asinine like that. At least, that’s what DC’s editorial staff has posited publically.
In the current storyline, a culmination from plot points read and seen in the first issue, Batwoman, placed in a corner by a shadowy government organization, was in conflict with Batman – and it was coming to a head. Arch nemesis Alice (actually Kate’s sister, Beth) had returned and Bette Kane (known as Flamebird – and also Kate’s cousin) was coming into her own as a hero after a horrifying physical ordeal.
There was so much to look forward to, which you can read about here. Alas, issue #24 was the last for Williams and Blackman and those concluding storylines will now never be told.
So, why pick up Batwoman #25? Written by Marc Andreyko, himself a respected writer in the industry, the issue concludes the showdown between Batwoman and Batman. Being a completest, I need to know how that storyline will wrap up. It should be one for the ages. Also, I want to give Andreyko a chance. Make no mistake. If he and DC want any success on this title, if they want anyone to continue reading through issue #25 and onwards, Andreyko needs to hit a home-run with his first at-bat on the character. It’s a lot of pressure. A near impossible task. And, to be honest, I have serious doubts as to whether it can be done.
Over the last few years, there has been constant rumbling on the internet and at comic book conventions about DC and their seemingly enhanced level of editorial interference with and into the storytelling of writers and artists. Some published titles have seen a carousel of creators. I’d say it’s been a decision for the worse, in terms of publishing entertaining and relevant stories. Well-known, respected, creative and acclaimed creators have left for success in other pastures such as Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics. These are names you used to see regularly on various DC comic covers: Perez, Cornell, Brubaker, Rucka, Wood, Vaughan. The list is long indeed – and growing longer.
Editors should guide creativity by letting writers write and letting artists draw. Heavy-handedness and micro managing is a recipe for failure in this art form.
That said, today, make the run to your local comic book shop and pick up Batwoman #25. Be witness to the end – or, if the company is extremely lucky, the beginning – of something special.
Oh. And thank you, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman for one of the finest monthly comics I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. (For those that haven’t read their Batwoman, softcover and hardcover collections are available – and come highly recommended!)
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!