As was probably going to happen all along, yesterday’s announcement that the Batwoman creative team would leave amid creative differences with editorial brought out the worst in many Internet commentators.
Some bloggers latched onto the fact that one of a number of storylines editorial spiked during Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III’s 27-issue run on Batwoman was the wedding of Batwoman and her fiancee Maggie Sawyer, and ran with the story, essentially, that DC had prevented it because it was a gay marriage.
We noted at the time of our original reporting that, barring new evidence to the contrary (which never came), there did not seem to be any information available that indicated that was the case. Indeed, Williams seemed to reject the notion early on, before it ever really became an issue.
“Not wanting to be inflammatory, only factual- We fought to get them engaged, but were told emphatically no marriage can result,” he tweeted. “But must clarify- was never put to us as being anti-gay marriage.”
Given the fact that The Flash and Superman’s marriages were dissolved in 2011′s New 52 relaunch and that other married characters like Enlongated Man and Aquaman suffered the same fate or worse in the new DC Universe, it seemed as likely that DC simply doesn’t want their superhero characters married, as that it was an issue for Batwoman to be married to another woman.
Nevertheless, sensational headlines seemed to take over much of the narrative and DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio spent some time on Facebook in the hours since Blackman’s announcement fending off harsh criticism from readers.
“We are still early into the world of the New 52 and we want to keep all story opportunities open,” DiDio said, echoing sentiments that both DC and Marvel have expressed over the years that marrying a character closes off “swinging bachelor” and casual dating stories and “ages” the character in the eyes of readers–who, the publishers hope, will skew young enough that many of them are not married themselves.
Confronted with a remark that suggested DC was behind the times with regard to gay marriage, DiDio told a fan, “That’s a completely misinformed statement, and don’t forget that Batwoman has been a lead character for DC since 2006 with her own stories in Detective Comics and her own series. Please let me know if there is any other publisher as committed as that.”
That last bit, of course, may be a bit of a barb directed either at Marvel, or at fans who have been championing Marvel’s Northstar wedding as part of the argument against DC’s handling of the situation. Northstar, a supporting character in the X-Men family of titles, briefly took center stage when he was married to his longtime boyfriend, but quickly faded back into the background. While most fans and critics agreed that the marriage storyline itself was handled well, many have also criticized the fact that it felt very much like a gimmick that was quickly set aside.
DC typically does not address these creator departures in an official capacity, and editorial staff trying to clear the air with fans one-on-one is often the closest you get to “hearing the other side” when a creator airs their grievances publicly. This has led to a sense–right of wrong–that DC is experiencing unprecedented attrition and low employee morale in recent years.
That position is bolstered by some creators saying that relations at DC (and sometimes Marvel, too) are as bad as they’ve ever been, but many acknowledge that the give-and-take between editors and creators has been going on for quite some time and has only recently started to garner a lot of attention, due to the twin rises of “star” creators and social media.
“The push-pull between editorial and creators has been going on as long as there have been comics,” writer Ron Marz–who himself left a DC title over creative differences early in the New 52–told Newsarama. “Editors are supposed to safeguard valuable properties, while creators want creative freedom. The system works when there’s compromise and collaboration, and most importantly trust, on both sides. I think it’s a cyclical thing. There are periods of more creative freedom and less creative freedom, as publishers exert control over their properties. I think in the recent past, there’s been more editorial control because comic-book properties have proven themselves to be million- and even billion-dollar franchises. Corporate parents understandably want to protect those interests. So individual creators have to decide what parameters are acceptable to them….The marriage of art and commerce is almost never without incident. But like any marriage, trust is what makes it work.”