So I am on the road once again. This time I went from Austin to Baylor (Waco) to Galveston. I'll be in Galveston until Thursday afternoon.
This traveling doesn't mean I'm completely out of touch, and thanks to the power of the Blackberry, I received an email today from CanadianSimon directing me to a story from DC Comics' own blog stating that writer John Michael Staczynski would be leaving the two major DC titles he'd taken over with tremendous fanfare just a few months ago (around July, I guess).
To be fair, DC isn't severing ties with JMS. The man just launched Superman Earth One, which is, apparently, doing quite well as a graphic novel. DC wants to trade in on this success, and that's the context in which they've chosen to announce JMS is leaving the monthly comics to turn to the OGN (Original Graphic Novel) format.
But I also don't think its a huge secret that despite the comicsphere media build-up, JMS's take on Superman and Wonder Woman hasn't exactly set the world on fire. In truth, I haven't read any of JMS's Wonder Woman as I was waiting for the trade collection. I have read his Superman, and its definitely an odd book. He's writing the now semi-infamous "Grounded" storyline, in which Superman decides to trek across the US, on foot, to try to get back in touch with "the people".
The premise itself met with both legitimate and typical knee-jerk reactions. I fundamentally don't agree that it was a "bad" idea or that "Superman would never do that". In many ways, I can see a post 1990's Superman doing exactly this, but I don't see a general audience necessarily "getting it" unless JMS really sold the heck out of the concept. I am afraid I can't give him an unqualified pass for the few issues that actually have made it to print that I've read (issues 701-703). Frankly, JMS seemed more enamored with his idea of the walk then he ever seemed in convincing readers this was a character-driven choice. But it also wasn't ever quite as kooky an idea as some would have had you believe.
The legitimate criticism is that Superman had been out of his own books for far too long before the start of "Grounded". While, yes, that's Superman in those issues, we've seen entirely too little of Superman as the hero of Metropolis since the book soft-relaunched in 2006, and its entirely too easy for readers to feel that the world of Metropolis Johns and Busiek were trying to create is just a flickering memory at this point.
Its actually surprising that with the catastrophe of the New Krypton, 12-month storyline that DC decided to commit to another year-long arc with so little room for change and alteration. In a lot of ways, anything less than 12 issues of Superman hoofing it across the US is admitting failure, but seeing another writer take over at the midway point (which, really, we just dealt with when Johns left Action and the Superman titles), doesn't look great for editor Matt Idleson.
I feel for Idleson. He's a cog in a very big machine at DC, and its a machine that's increasingly powered by superstar writers. "Superstar writer" is, of course, a pretty iffy term in an industry where pushing 70,000 copies is a huge hit, but writers can certainly give a book a huge boost just on their name alone.
It is, of course, very likely that the departure of JMS is not seen at DC as due in part because of iffy reviews and reception, but because of his outstanding success on Superman Earth One, and, hey... more power to him.
I'd just really like to see DC try to put its basic universe back together again, just for a while. Its now been since 2005 (or earlier) since we've seen the DCU as a whole in operation.