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Thursday, August 16, 2018

DC Comics Disrespects Comics Legend Matt Wagner

DC Comics Disrepects Comics Legend Matt Wagner

Matt Wagner is one of the most respected creators in comic books today. His status is legendary as the man that brought fans beloved characters like Mage and Grendel. His work on Batman over the years has been met with appreciation and reverence.

It should be noted that I’m a huge Wagner fan and devotee of his Grendel franchise, so this article includes plenty of my own opinions, which as the sole editor, writer and creator of Legions of Gotham, reflect that of the website.

Recently, Wagner had signed-on to do the cover and interior art for the upcoming Batman #54. The issue features a story about Batman and Dick Grayson…about father and son. A nice touch was the inclusion of Wagner’s son Brennan on colors. Brennan and Matt have been working together as a father and son team, so it was a special treat for the fans. When the project began, Brennan was given no guidelines and his prior work with his father’s art was plain to see. Unfortunately, the “higher-ups” at DC Comics made an abrupt decision to fire Brennan because he supposedly wasn’t going along with their color vision for the book…a vision that they never provided to him. This firing was an outright disrespect to Brennan as an artist and to Wagner as a comics legend. Way to burn a bridge, DC.
Batman #54

This is a hilarious and sad level of bureaucracy getting in the way of the best interest for Batman. This particular book comes out bi-weekly with various creative teams and without any clear vision that I can see for the title. To be honest, the inclusion of Wagner on the book is the first thing that has made me want to buy a Batman comic in years. The way that DC Comics has treated the Wagner team is laughable at best and a fantastic way to shoot themselves in the foot. The colors of Brennan Wagner perfectly compliment his father’s work and we look forward to seeing their collaboration for years to come…just not on Batman.

Matt Wagner posted the following to Facebook on August 8th:

“Hey gang…sad to say, I’ve got some distasteful news to share. As previously announced here, I recently signed on to provide the art for an upcoming issue of the monthly BATMAN title for DC Comics (#54) from a script by Eisner Award-winning writer, Tom King. Brennan Wagner was, of course, enlisted to color as well. I finished work on the issue several weeks ago and Brennan was nearing completion on his end of things, producing his typically beautiful, thoughtful and evocative color renderings over top of my B&W art. But just yesterday I received word from Batman group editor Jamie S. Rich that the DC “powers that be” found Brennan’s coloring to be too different from their regular fare (because, y’know…different is bad) and so have decided to pull him off the book and have the entire issue re-colored by one of their in-house colorists—at this point, I don’t even know who that will be. Even though Jamie went to bat for us, claiming that both he and Tom King loved the way things looked…he was over-ruled from the higher-ups. Tom’s script is a heartfelt look at a father-and-son relationship and, rather than capitalize on the fact that they had a celebrated father-and-son art team on board for this issue…DC instead elected to fire the artist’s colorist/son for producing distinctive work. Needless to say, I thought Brennan was doing a fantastic job and think this is a terribly shoddy way to treat not only him—this would’ve been his first full-length job for them—but also me, one of their longtime and supposedly respected creators. Regrettably, I’m now sorry I ever agreed to this gig in the first place…because this is just fucking bullshit.”

And an update on August 9th:

“Hey gang…first off, Brennan and I both want to say thanks for the generous outpouring of support in regards to our experiences producing the art for DC Comics’ BATMAN #54. Your kind words and shared indignation over this aggravating scenario have really meant a lot to both of us. Also, there seemed to be some confusion over the image I included in my original post with some folks assuming it was a panel from the interior of the book. In fact, that image was a detail of the cover art (seen here), which we had produced several months ago at which point it was approved and used for solicitation. Posting the detail upside-down was just my way of expressing how frustrating this situation has been. Brennan utilized both of the color schemes you see here in his approach to the interior art…before being told, after he was nearly finished, that this was wrong. Secondly, I’d like to share the latest updates in this controversy. Perhaps feeling the sting of public outcry from so many of you, the DC “powers that be” have back-pedaled a bit and offered to let Brennan take another crack at this issue…provided he conform his colors to match the style of Tomeu Morey, the series’ regular colorist. Nothing at all against Tomeu, but Brennan can’t simply change his stripes to be something he’s not, anymore than I could somehow crowbar my drawing style into looking like the work of Lee Weeks or Tony Daniels, the series’ regular (and incredibly talented) artists. Besides, this tone-deaf attempt at reconciliation basically amounts to a whole lot of too little, too late. Brennan was told to cease coloring BATMAN #54 and he did. But he then had to immediately shift gears and he’s now drop-dead busy finishing the colors to the next issue of a lil’ thing called MAGE: THE HERO DENIED. Any chance to make this right by him has passed. Lastly, I’d like to provide a bit of clarity. Several of the comics news websites that picked up this story have focused on the final lines of my original post with some claiming that I regret ever drawing this issue whatsoever…which isn’t quite what I said or meant. I regret nothing about the creative end of things. Jamie S. Rich is a sharp and supportive editor and I thought Tom King’s script for this issue was both clever and humane. I heartily enjoyed drawing it and Brennan loved coloring it. What I regret is accepting a gig that would subject our creative efforts to such arbitrary and heavy-handed corporate intervention. I’m no stranger to mainstream publishing…I know how things work. But I thought that they’d treat us both with more respect…and unfortunately, I was wrong. Thanks again, one and all.”

And again on August 14th:

“Hey's a follow-up to the whole Batman #54 debacle. I'd just like to this point none of the DC higher-ups responsible for this decision and controversy have made any effort to reach out to either Brennan or myself; no phone call, no apology and no attempt at any real reconciliation. So basically...still bullshit.”