Yesterday at WonderCon, writer Greg Rucka announced he’s off Batwoman and finished at DC Comics. As a big fan of Rucka’s work and someone who’s particularly in love with his Batwoman run, I’m incredibly sad. Rucka will, of course, keep producing comics under his label Oni Press, as well as continuing to write novels.
While I won’t speculate on what went on behind closed doors between Rucka and DC Comics, I do know this: DC has lost a great talent. When I look at my own DC-reading, Rucka’s really the writer who made me read more DC Comics. With the exception of Batman: The Animated Series, a cartoon not book, I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan. Not due to any brand loyalty or rivalry or something equally ridiculous as pumped by marketers. But in that many ways, I’ve consistently found Marvel Comics more accessible story-and-continuity wise and my buy patterns reflect that. When I look at my DC Comics shelves, 40% of my DC Comics were penned by Greg Rucka. I won’t deny that I’m an author follower when it comes to my reading choices — probably a byproduct of my Creative Writing degree.
The biggest loss to DC Comics is the way Rucka made 70+ years of comic book continuity accessible to everyone. I started off reading Gotham Central by Rucka and Ed Brubaker. In Gotham Central, the themes and tone I’d so enjoyed in the children’s cartoon were actualized into an adult comic. Like the brilliance of the cartoon, I didn’t have to know Batman’s entire history. I didn’t have to know every villain or every character’s origin. Rucka and Brubaker brought individual characters to life and explored their stories, which is how both new and old readers got to know those characters. In this title, Rucka wrote the storyline “Half a Life” the best coming out story I’ve ever read — and I’ve read far too many — which featured Renee Montoya. Interestingly enough, Renee originally appeared in the cartoon, but was brought over, like Harley Quinn, to the main comic continuity. Rucka gave me and other readers a favorite character.
Then years down the road, Rucka created Kate Kane, the new Batwoman and ex-girlfriend of Renee. Kate came onto the scene with a ton of press surrounding her being a lesbian. DC got another diversity notch on its belt, but even better, they got an amazing character created and shaped by Rucka. With artist J.H. Williams III, Rucka took Kate center stage in Detective Comics, the longest continually running America comic book, and they put out what I consider to be one of best comic book runs of all time. And I’m nothing if not a bitchy, snobby reviewer. But then, for whatever reason, DC editorial changed their minds and pulled Kate out of the book early. There was an announcement about a solo Batwoman title with Rucka and Williams, but that’s currently not happening.
What the hell, DC? You really lost.
The second major loss I see for DC is the presence of Rucka as a thoughtful writer on panels and in the press. Last month at Emerald City Comic Con 2010, Rucka was suspiciously missing from the DC panel. I blogged about some of the atrocious shit coming out of Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler’s mouth in relation to the treatment of Lian Harper in Blackest Night and women-in-comics in general and how the panel clearly missed the presence of the-token-woman-in-residence Gail Simone, who’d canceled at the last minute. (Simone, her writing takes up another 20% of my DC Comics.)
Looking again, Rucka’s presence was also missed. Missed in that he’s thoughtful to women and women characters. Missed because in every other DC panel I’ve sat witness to either he or Simone or both of them are the ones to answer questions about women characters. Instead, this panel had Sattler and his boy’s club rhetoric and James Robinson’s unapologetic inability to write women characters, except as motivation for men. Good thing no one asked Geoff Johns why the Star Sapphires still wear less clothing than strippers. I don’t think I’ve witnessed such sloppy, offensive answers since San Diego Comic Con 2007 and to keep things even, that was a Marvel panel.
If I was DC, I’d be pulling out all the stops to retain Rucka as my top talent. And maybe DC did — no one knows how negotiations went — but somehow I don’t think they did.
Everyone keeps talking about how to retain readers and how to grow the comic book audience. How to get more women and minorities reading comic books. How do you do that? You retain talented and thoughtful writers such as Greg Rucka and hire more like him. You support the creation and growth of characters like Kate Kane and Renee Montoya. You support characters who that audience, that market-share you seem to want so badly, identifies with because those character look like them and act like them. You can’t talk the talk if you aren’t willing to walk the walk.
I know Rucka will continue to write wonderful characters, and I’ll keep reading his comics. Hey, and maybe someday, DC will look up and realize what they’ve lost. Because they are the true losers here.