Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Dan Didio Leaves DC Comics

The news broke last week that Dan Didio was out as publisher at DC Comics. Here is a link to where I read it first - The Hollywood Reporter of all places:

I am in the medical profession and I know nothing of the inner workings of publishing. I never wish ill on anyone.

What I do know is that under his tenure, I often didn't recognize the DC Universe I was reading. It was often a very dark place. The overall feeling was often dark, grim, dismal, depressing.

He would say things like this.

Heroes shouldn't have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests,” he said, according to reports. “That's very important and something we reinforced.

Heroes can't be happy. They can't be married. They can't have families.

He would promote books like Heroes in Crisis where a beloved hero, the hallmark of hope in the DCU becomes a killer.

"I do believe you need that visceral impact in a story," DiDio continued. "Heroes In Crisis is really going to be a book that I think will really reclassify and redefine what it takes to be a hero again in the DC Universe."

Visceral. As if you couldn't have a story where a hero could do good because it was the right thing to do. Where a hero could be happy about being a hero. Where it wasn't all hands being cut off and offal.

It was a universe where evil was relative. Where you might have to root for something evil because it was the lesser of two evils.

Is that the DCU we know?

And then there was Supergirl under his tenure. Of all legacy characters, of all characters with a history, Supergirl was one who was a beacon of hope and optimism and brightness. I don't think he understood her at all.

Within her first arc, she was sexualized. She was turned evil. She was doubted by Batman.

In her solo title's first arc, she became Dark Kara.

In her title's second year, we learned she was sent to Earth to kill Superman. She had shot up a high school on Krypton with her deranged father.

All this darkness was rejected by long term Supergirl fans. People who want angsty characters won't read Supergirl. Supergirl fans don't want her angsty. It is a recipe for disaster. In 3 years they tried it three times. It never works.

Thankfully, Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle came on and righted the ship. But then that universe went away.

In the New 52, she was angry. She hated Superman. She wanted to be left alone. She was willing to blow up Earth with H'el to save Krypton. She left Earth and was killed by the Cyborg Superman (she got better).

Not dark enough?

They made her a Red Lantern.

As always, it didn't work.

Then Rebirth happened and after some rough spots we were in a good place. Supergirl was the hero of National City. She accepted Earth.

So of course the plug was pulled. She was made the Mistress of the Axe. She was a near killer.

Not dark enough?

Let's infect her with the Batman Who Laughs and make her a villain.

Guess what, it didn't work. The book was canceled.

Welcome to the wash/rinse/repeat cycle of Supergirl darkness. If something dark doesn't sell, we should only make it darker. Until sales plummet to the point that we either redeem or cancel. And then, a couple of years later, we'll try the darkness again.

It is like Supergirl is a microcosm of the warped view we saw over and over under Didio's watch. 

And yet ...

And yet ...

We got Morrison's Action Comics run.
We got the DCYou revamp with books like Black Canary and Starfire.
We got the Gates/Igle run of Supergirl.
We got Multiversity.

There were high points. But it reminded me of a line from Peter Milligan's Extremist comic. They were like 'perfumed hankerchiefs in a field of sh*t'. Bright spots on a dismal canvas.

And then, on line, I saw many creators, people whose work I love and admire, compliment Didio for his passion and dedication for his work. They talked about how Didio wasn't behind everything but he took all the on-line abuse, protecting his creative workforce.

I often loathed his overall DCU.
But I loved some books under his tenure.
I couldn't help but think someone with a clearer vision and love of the DCU would be better in his position.
But I know nothing of publishing.
And creators whose work I love lauded him.
But Supergirl was misunderstood by him and those beneath him.

Perhaps it is simply too big for me to grasp.

Will the DCU be better under the next regime?
I can only hope.


Anonymous said...

Gee, it's like double D was driven by deep-seated misogyny or something. Like, look at what he did with the Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld reboot (hint:first issue opens with a gang rape). Of course, Supergirl is a bit tough to solely be a rape victim....quick make her crazy and or evil. Because girls are icky or whatever. How's Wonder Woman doing?

Anonymous said...

DiDio struck me certainly as the public face of DC - the main evangelist, the PR guy, the one who wrote the columns in things like DC Nation. It often looked to me like he agreed to take the hits, be the loyal punching bag, when needed. And to promote whatever consensus direction DC was moving in.

But what of Jim Lee - not just co-Publisher, but also "Chief Creative Officer." Wouldn't someone with that title be far more responsible for the overall content?!

And what of Bob Harras - Editor in Chief?

They seem to get a free pass. Harras in particular seems to hide, in deep undercover. What's the last quote you can attribute to him? Even when DC Nation, in its 6 issues a couple of years back, was printing interviews with lots of editors, the one guy never mentioned was Harras. Isn't Harras heavily associated with Marvel's bankruptcy era?

In normal publishing, the publisher has more of a business responsibility, while the editor in chief is in charge of content.

If we think of publishing initiatives, an area where I''d expect a publisher to have a lot of input, DC has moved into successful areas:

- DC Original Graphic Novels for Kids (aka Zoom)
- DC Original Graphic Novels for Young Adults (Ink)
- Black Label
- Prestige Plus format books
- Wonder Comics
- Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane
- Bendis (love him or not, if Snyder is Doctor of Dark, Bendis is Lord of Light!)

DiDio has been writing Metal Men, and wrote Sideways, and were either of them dark? I don't think so.

I would be interested in reading the behind-the-scenes someday!


H said...

I would generally agree. The outside of main continuity stuff at least was good (Cosmic Adventures, Superhero Girls, etc.). I liked most of the digital-first series. But yeah, the overall direction of things was not good. It seemed like some of the mistakes they'd made got expanded on instead of fixed and learned from. It'll be interesting to see who steps up and what they do with things.

And, on a more personal level, something about Dan Didio just looks creepy to me- don't ask what.

Bostondreams said...

He is the one who I believe issued the edict that woman could not work in the Superman offices because he valued a serial sexual harasser over female artists, writers, colorists, and editors. https://www.polygon.com/comics/2016/5/16/11683136/dc-comics-eddie-berganza-sexual-harassment

Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl.

I read your article after i have readed something for the generation five : i am lost with the futur of dc comic.

But i understand one thing, they wrote one of a concept of supergirl : she is a "teenager superman" and she have "all superman's power with the bad behavior of a teenagers". And what does a teenager do ?

Fight with parents and autority, have bad romance and difficult friendship, do stupid things ... and they learn ! dc comic doesn't allow Supergirl to learn, to grow and live.

So i hope with you for a best futur.

And, i finished to read the martian manhunter 2019. I will buy it whhend i would find it and i recommend this story for you (Steve Orlando is the writer).

Max Ands said...

So, I don't usually comment about anything, even though I follow the blog for years, but I had to come and say that I'm really tired of Supergirl stories in the past years.

I started Supergirl with the 2005-2011 run, and she became my favorite character right away. Even in the first New 52 issues, I saw something interesting and potential for growth and great stories. For me, I like when she's a badass and kicks and punchs hard, but I admit that the "punch first, ask later" attitude can only take the character to a certain point. I like the Injustice version of Supergirl. And she's much more than I was expecting.

I just really hope that someday, someone will be able to make a really great supergirl comic. Right now, that doesn't seem possible. It really feels like it's not just a writer's choice, but a wrong concept that the forces above have about dark and "visceral" stories working better. I guess Geoff Johns captured a really beautiful message in Doomsday Clock that SHOULD pave the way for the superman family, but well... Believing that could be possible it's really what I call Hope.

Chris said...

I know I shouldn't be happy seeing someone out of a gig, but I kinda hope the door hit him repeatedly on the way out. This was long overdue.

Anonymous said...

Dunno if Dan Didio was the cause or the treatment for the Grimdark DCU, but I think I can say sans demure he certainly couldn't contain the spread of THAT particular contagion. The problem with DC is that there are individual good creatives and good books, but the corporate culture is self destructive, incapable of getting out of it's own way and sodden with a pathetic envy of Marvel's success. Fans like different characters for different reasons, DC thinks all fans will like their books more if they are grim dark Marvel knock offs, and so sales plummet, fans feel ignored and belittled and the cycle spirals down. Whoever replaces Didio needs to first free themselves from this malign form of groupthink...until that happens DC will simple recapitulate prior mistakes in search of different results. So given that likely whatever the plans are for Supergirl they will be either 1.) half baked 2.) half baked cheap heat or 3.) Half baked grim dark cheap heat....my money is on #3.


Seth said...

I've been a very devoted Supergirl fan for almost 3 years and I have to say... Supergirl volume 7 has been the most depressing thing I've read from Supergirl yet. I personally liked New 52 Supergirl. I see the major flaws but it still holds a place in my heart.

What they have done to Kara in the past year is unforgivable. The Killers of Krypton storyline started out promising, considering the fact that it was taking away all character development and especially Jeremiah and Eliza, but it was drawn out into a long and tedious storyline that led into another somewhat promising storyline with Jeremiah and Kara reuniting, only to immeimmedia be thrown away for the Supergirl Who Laughs abomination of a storyline.

Dan Didio leaving might be a good idea, but I also think he was the only thing protecting the jobs of actually good writers(probably artists as well). I hope this plays out well.

Anonymous said...

If anything is more of a visual explanation of what Didio does to things isn't his work on the ironically titled Reboot, I'd love to see it. Look what they did to Enzo :(