Well, that settles it. My e-mailophobia virtually guarantees I could never work for DC Comics. I check my inbox so sporadically, it’d be weeks before I even knew I was unemployed.
If you’re the kind of person who manages to avoid the internet over the weekend
tell me your secret I am drowning in tweets I will pay you I have the unfortunate duty of breaking the news to you that Gail Simone does not write Batgirl anymore. There were rumors and whispers about it through much of last week– the solicitations for upcoming issues without her name on them certainly didn’t quiet things down– but over the weekend Simone made it official: the book’s new editor had informed her she was out. He had informed her via e-mail.
Nice, eh? What are your feelings vis-à-vis them apples? On one hand, the writer loses her job but gains an exciting new business opportunity with a Nigerian royal all within the span of minutes. (Which message took longer to write, do you reckon?) On the other hand, the editor is able to cross that spot of unpleasantness off his to-do list without confronting so much as an uncomfortable pause over the phone. That’s how you send off one of your best writers in style.
Here’s the thing about Batgirl: I don’t care about Batgirl. Or I didn’t until Gail Simone started writing her for the New 52, anyway. When I was deciding what I was going to try amid that one-month deluge of reboots and Westerns and vampires and war stories and cookbooks and videogame walkthroughs, Simone’s name was one of the deciding factors in which titles made the cut. I still went in with my arms crossed: “So, Barbara Gordon’s spinal injury wasn’t erased, but now she’s just up and walking around? This oughtta be good.” Then it was. Fourteen months later, virtually all of the books I tried have either been canceled or dropped, but Batgirl is still on my pull list.
It was until this week, anyway. So much for that. I wonder how many other readers are saying the same thing.
What direction could they possibly want to take the book in that Gail Simone couldn’t or wouldn’t do? How often is a move like this the harbinger of a vast improvement in story quality? “Eventually, we found a writer from the nineties who was willing to shoot all the supporting cast members in the spine for our Déjà Ouch crossover, and that year they didn’t even bother inviting anyone else to the Eisners, the end.”
“What are we going to do about this? Her fanbase is too loyal. Month after month, sales are a significant improvement over the last volume of this book. If we don’t screw this up quick, people are going to start thinking there’s a place for female-oriented books in this marketplace. Get Dave Sim on the phone, and be quick about it.”
The same day Gail Simone was getting fired via a method I wouldn’t use to dump a girlfriend who tried to burn my apartment down, I noticed two books right next to each other on the stands, Punisher: War Zone and the new Thunderbolts #1. The former is Greg Rucka’s final arc on a book he made interesting for the first time in my memory as part of Marvel’s “Big Shots” relaunch. The latter is the bewildering team book Marvel put the Punisher in without mentioning it to the writer of The Punisher. I am sure it’s great, unless you were someone who liked the book they pulled Red Hulk out of, someone who liked Thunderbolts the way it was, someone who liked the previous iteration of Uncanny X-Force, or someone who thought Greg Rucka’s take on Frank Castle was the first one that had worked in years. Even if you weren’t… you land Greg Rucka, and this is what you do with him? When he came over, did he happen to mention to any of you why he stopped working for DC?
How many more times is this going to happen before the year is out, do you think?
A few years ago, when Robert Kirkman was beating the drum for creator-owned comics by urging creative and talented writers to abandon Marvel and DC, it bugged the smoldering hell out of me not because I have any loyalty to the corporate behemoths but because his revolution would have effectively wrecked half the books I was enjoying. “Back off, man,” I thought. “I want to see people get rewarded for their creativity, but I like Bendis on New Avengers right where he is. I like Fraction on Uncanny X-Men and Brubaker on Captain America. I don’t want to suddenly be buying the newbies’ practice books until they build up names for themselves.”
These days, though, who needs Kirkman? The indie world’s best recruiting tools this week appear to be DC and Marvel. There’s no need for the siren’s song of creative ownership to shoo them away from the mainstream when the mainstream is doing such a good job of it all by themselves.
Jim Mroczkowski is buying the exact same number of DC books as he was two years ago, but he pines for Gotham Central even now.