Dwayne McDuffie fired as Justice League writer

Several comics news blogs including CBR’s Robot 6 and Comics Should Be Good have picked up the sudden announcement from JLA writer Dwayne McDuffie that he has been dismissed as the writer of Justice League of America.

Len Wein had come on board as a JLA writer for a few fill-in issues to, one assumes, give McDuffie a beak so that he could focus on his other projects. However, the topic came up after one of the regular Q&A sessions Dan Didio (DC’s show runner) with Newsarama. Didio was asked whether McDuffie was still writing JLA and answered,

As of right now, Len [Wein]’s the writer of Justice League, and once his arc is done, we’ll be able to announce the new direction for the series.

It’s noticable that Didio’s response pointedly avoids mentioning McDuffie. The reason for that became clear after McDuffie was asked about the situtation on his own forums. He explained that,

Nope, it was my own doing. I was fired when “Lying in the Gutters” ran a compilation of two years or so of my answers to fans’ questions on the DC Comics discussion boards. I’m told my removal had nothing to with either the quality of my work or the level of sales, rather with my revelation of behind-the-scenes creative discussions.

McDuffie came onboard as the JLA writer after Brad Meltzer’s acclaimed year long run on the relaunched title. Brad’s run set up a slew of plot threads, including the return of the Legion of Superheroes, that are still running through the DC Universe. However, many of the plot threads were delibrately left danging for the incoming JLA writer to run with. McDuffie had not only to cope with a recently reorganised team and their ongoing development, but he also had to factor in crossover plotlines from the Salvation Run and Tangent: Superman’s Rein mini-series. And on top of that, events post-Final Crisis meant that Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman (Bruce Wayne version) off the table.

I’d noted the Lying in the Gutter’s article before, but I’m personally surprised by DC’s response. I always thought that Dwayne had been very professional and honest about what he’d said. I never thought he was casting DC in a bad light. He was just expressing the natural frustration anybody feels when working in an environment where you aren’t in full control. It’s a pity to lose such a fantastic writer for something like this,  but I’m beginning to wonder if it its proof that being JLA writer is something of a poisioned challace.

Rich Johnson publically apologized to McDuffie on the same forum thread.

I’m so so sorry. I certainly thought that since comments had been published by, you know, DC’s Message Board, without being removed or edited… well, I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect that.

I know many people found your forthrightness enlightening, interesting and thought provoking, which is why I wanted to share them.

Indeed, I didn’t get any kind bitterness or anger from you. Just an valuable, insightful, explanation of the way things work in commercial art. Compared to, say, Mark Waid’s comments on working on 52 and about Countdown, they hardly seemed as offensive or critical. Just accepting.

Unfortunately I honestly don’t think this will be the last example of something like this. Fans crave information about how their favourite book or TV show is produced. We want to see what the Great and Glorious Oz is up to behind the curtain. Its this interest that feeds everything from Lying in the Gutters to convention appearances. However, its an avenue that is largely outside of the control of the corporate PR department. I even remember a reference to actors from the new Doctor Who show having a contractual clause that stopped them from attending conventions without a corporate handler in attendance.

Dan Didio’s entire speel at conventions is about connecting with the fans, his DC Nation, and DC have recently started the Source, their own blog, to speak to the fans. It’s something that the entire industry is up to – Marvel have even started using Twitter. Dwayne McDuffie, on his own message boards and on DC’s message boards, has been very forward about engaging with the fans. Indeed, DC’s own boards specifically label their creators so it could be thought that they were actively encouraging such interaction.

The development of all of this promotion by the companies and their freelancers has been every organic. However, its generated the general expectation of transparency, that everything that goes on behind the curtain is up for public discussion and revelation. What we’ve seen here is DC finally saying, “okay, that’s too far.”