Tuesday, December 1, 2009

J. Michael Straczynski - Visionary or Prima Donna?


J. Michael Straczynski, better known as JMS to most fans, is a prolific writer that has worked in a variety of mediums, from novels and comics to television and movies.  His claim to fame is probably his work on Babylon 5, which won Hugos, Emmys and just about every other award is was capable of winning.  Babylon 5 is particularly noteworthy as it was conceived as a finite series with a beginning, middle and end in mind that, though it required adjustments along the way, was followed through on and saw the show end on JMS's terms.

Similar to his Babylon 5 work, Straczynski took his finite story-driven mentality into the comic book world with his first major work, Rising Stars, and, later, projects such as The Twelve, Thor, Supreme Power/Squadron Supreme and, to a lesser extent, even his work on Amazing Spider-Man.

While the quality of Straczynski's writing cannot be denied, the problems he's brought to every title and publisher he has worked for, from delays to behind the scenes squabbling and even public confrontations and unfinished work, has put a definite black mark on all of his achievements.  Let's take a quick look at JMS's works from over the years and the controversy surrounding each, culminating with the recent "ending" to his critically acclaimed and highly successful Thor run.


RISING STARS


Description: Rising Stars was Straczynski's first major comic book work and, if you had not heard of him from his work on Babylon 5 at this point, you certainly knew it after reading Rising Stars.  It told the story of a group of individuals with unique powers, their lives and how it all went wrong.

Spanning the entire lives of these super powered individuals, collectively known as Specials, it was a ground breaking piece of work that showed off the power of a finite story applied to comics, especially at a time when comics were at an all time low after the speculator boom and subsequent crashing of the industry.

While not the first time a comic had employed a finite story, it was an indy book featuring super heroes not by Marvel or DC, from a high profile television writer and was something new and unique at the time when everyone was doing the grim and gritty 90's never ending stories. 

The Controversy: Frequent delays marred the title from the onset as it switched artists shortly after starting.  However, the major problem came at the tail end of the run.  Three issues from conclusion, in a dispute over movie rights that, among other things, saw JMS withhold the final three scripts to the series, forcing the book into an indefinite hiatus until Top Cow relented.

It is worth noting that Straczynski was in the right here as Top Cow had promised him rights to it, but the fact he started a very similar project for Marvel, Supreme Power, during the interim and with how lackluster Rising Stars petered out clearly shows his heart was not in the project anymore.


SUPREME POWER/SQUADRON SUPREME


Description: JMS reimagines the Squadron Supreme with art by Gary Frank in a highly successful series going by the name Supreme Power that was very similar to his Rising Stars in tone and style.  Originally conceived as a MAX title, it migrated to a non-MAX branding and was renamed Squadron Supreme.

The Controversy: First, Gary Frank left the book.  While not a devestating setback, as JMS was still the driving force behind the new version of Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme, his art was distinct and certainly a major draw to the book.

Where it really went off the rails was when JMS left the title mid-story arc after a series of lengthy delays.  In fact, it was in the middle of a major fight sequence that would have only required one or two more scripts to complete the arc or even end the series on a high note.

As JMS was the sole reason the Squadron Supreme was dusted off and reimagined in the first place, this was the equivilent of a death nell for the title, though it still sees publication in various miniseries and failed relaunches to this day.  While Rising Stars did have major delays and controversy surrounding it, Squadron Supreme was the first instance of JMS simply not finishing his project and it's a wound that still stings fans of the book to this day.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN


Description: Magic, the retconning of Spider-Man's origin to include other characters and previous incarnations with Spider-Man-like powers, the changing of his power set, retconning of other past events, such as the much maligned romance between Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, which saw Gwen give birth to twins, a father/son relationship between Peter and Tony Stark, the onset of Civil War and the culmination of the run with another retcon, this time One More Day.

The Controversy: Personal tastes aside, the run was actually well received, though there was much controversy over several changes, particularly the Gwen Stacy/Norman Osborn relationship.  Much like his brief stint on Fantastic Four, JMS seemed to adapt well to the monthly grind of a mainstream Marvel character like Spider-Man.

However, during One More Day, all that went to hell in a hand basket as JMS made it clear he wanted no part of the storyline and even publicly stated he did not want his name included on the work, though he eventually gave in to this and shared credit with Joe Quesada, who was left to fend to the wolves in a series of interviews with every major comic news site regarding the story, JMS's departure and everything else that went wrong with it.  If the controversy surrounding Spider-Man's deal with the devil and the annullment of his marriage was not controversial enough, the public war of the words between Joe Quesada and JMS ended a JMS run on yet another negative note.


THE TWELVE


Description: Straczynski takes twelve super heroes from the World War II era of Marvel, back when they were known as Timely Comics (so ironic with how delay ridden their books are these days), and gives them the Captain America treatment, transplanting them into the modern era and watching how they react to how the world has changed and showing, through their reactions, how the world has changed, for better or for worse, since the WWII era.

The Controversy: The Twelve launched in January 2008.  It is now December 2009 and only 8 issues have been published. Earlier this year, Joe Quesada publicly announced that the title was on "hiatus" with no date set for a possible relaunch.  It was noted that JMS and artist, Chris Weston, were both involved in seperate film related projects and could not finish the work, though JMS continued to write Thor, Brave and Bold and several other DC related projects.  As of this writing, there is still no indication of the critically acclaimed title restarting in the near future.


THOR


Description: Prior to the JMS relaunch of Thor, the title had been cancelled for many years and all of the Asgardians had been killed off during Ragnarok around the time of Avengers: Disassembled.  JMS took Thor and the entire Asgardian concept and reworked it for modern times, dropping the Ye Olde English speech of many of the characters and, with the beautiful artwork of Olivier Coipel, gave fans a Thor book the likes of which they had not seen in years.

Employing a slow and methodical pacing, the book was free of the annual event driven crossovers that plague many books and allowed JMS to tell his story of the rebirth of the Asgardians, their trials and tribulations in their new environment and played to the strengths of the property.

The Controversy: In another public display of discontent, JMS made it known he would be leaving Thor due to editorial influence and how he was being forced to write what was then known as Siege of Asgard (now known simply as Siege) or, as JMS was 'affectionately' calling it, the Big Crossover Event.  He stated he was told he would be free of editorial influence and allowed to tell his own stories on Thor, which was a top ten seller for Marvel under JMS's tenure. 

The public acknowledgement of his discontent with Marvel led Joe Quesada to explain that Marvel had promised JMS a year's worth of stories free of any outside influence and even gave him above and beyond that number based on how far the book has gone without any events or outside influence.

JMS concluded his run on Thor with the Thor Giant Size Finale #1 last week, which saw an abortion of an ending that featured some Doombots attacking Thor's alter ego, Donald Blake and little else by way of an ending related to Dr Doom's and Loki's machinations or Balder's and the rest of the Asgardians trials in Latveria.  Even the much beloved Bill and Kelda subplot failed to come to a satisfactory conclusion as there was no resolution to it or even follow up to Bill's fate in JMS's part of the issue.

If you go back and re-read the entire JMS Thor run, you couldn't even say it ends abruptly, it simply has no ending, leaving fans hanging yet again.  If this had been a standard serial comic with the preset six issue arcs, this would be fine and dandy, but this was the makings of an epic like the past Walt Simonson era on Thor and was redefining how we looked at Thor and his fellow Asgardians.  To have it cut down in such an abrupt manner is jarring and completely unsatisfying.


JMS - Visionary or Prima Donna?

Getting back to the title of this piece, you've just seen a large portion of JMS's comic book work and how each has met with delays or other controversy.  While the quality of each work cannot be denied, is his vision as a writer and how he feels the story should go really so important that every one of these projects is met with the same ill-fated delays and non-endings?  For a writer that prides himself on the finite story telling process, why do none of his comics ever see true endings?  

I'm not saying that Straczynski is wrong to buck the horse with every project or that he is the one at fault for each misunderstanding between he and the publisher, but does that warrant his leaving projects unfinished and starting new ones almost immediately there after?

I'd be remiss not to mention the works JMS has completed on a timely basis and with no perceived controversy.  Those would include various miniseries from Marvel, such as Bullet Points and Silver Surfer: Requiem, as well as a brief stint on Fantastic Four, also for Marvel.  His creator owned work, Midnight Nation, also went off without a hitch.  Finally, his DC work, including Brave and the Bold and his Red Circle reboot, while lowkey, have been flawless in this regard. 

At present, however, I can only see JMS as the poster boy for the stereotypical indie creator trying to call the shots at Marvel or DC and acting surprised that they are trying to exert creative control over the properties they own and promptly 'taking his ball and goign home' with each new confrontation.  The fact that each of these controveries saw public airing of the incidents only seems to compound the negative connotations associated with his character.  Whether he is in the right or not no longer matters when he takes such actions and any goodwill is used up with the frequency of said controversies.


Conclusion

I just want to make it clear that I have no ill will towards JMS or his work.  I'm actually still a big fan of many of his projects and you cannot deny the quality of his writing.  Last week's "conclusion" to his run on Thor simply opened old wounds with regards to past JMS related projects and left me bitter and disappointed that yet another delay ridden project had come and gone with JMS tossing his hands up in the air and leaving the project unfinished.

I ask you, the readers, what do you think?  Do you agree with my assessment on the controversy that surrounds JMS's works?  Does the frequency of these controversies dissuade you from picking up his work?  Was the conclusion to his Thor run the final straw for you as it was for me? I know I won't be picking up any future offerings from him until they are long done and finished so that I can be assured there will be an actual conclusion to the project.


Related Posts


38 comments:

Ryan Schrodt said...

I can't look at JMS the same way again after having paid to see Ninja Assassin. Nothing he will ever do in comics can be as bad as that movie.

Klep said...

As long as he keeps putting out such high quality work, I can put up with some delays and egomania. And as far as I'm concerned, he's a hero for trying to stand in the way of One More Day. I loved his run on ASM in large part because of the many wonderful moments between Peter and Mary Jane and the depth and strength of their relationship he revealed, and having it end the way it did put the lie to all he had written.

Chris said...

I have to say that JMS' run on Amazing Spider-man was, for the most part, pretty good. I seriously wish someone had talked him out of "Sins Past" but other than that (well and OMD but he didn't want to do it) I think it was a very, very solid run.

Steve said...

I stopped following JMS's Spider-Man when JRjr left, and I still feel pretty good about that decision. The Romita volumes are a fantastic read, free from the controversy and much-maligned stories that seem to define the run for so many.

His run on Thor, however, was truly something special. As disappointed as I am to see him leave the title, and as badly as I'd love to see what he'd do with continued free reign, I can't help but understand both sides of the argument. Thor is a major player in the Marvel universe, and eventually it makes sense from a financial standpoint that they'd want his title to cross over with an event like Siege. JMS's departure is also a lot easier to stomach based on the outstanding work Kieron Gillen has produced since he started writing at Marvel.

Aside from these two books, I've not read much of JMS's other work, but his tendency (that this article so aptly details) to lose interest in projects is troubling. I don't care what sort of politics are happening behind the scenes; I would expect him, as an artist, to have enough passion and pride for his material to at least _finish_ a story.

Eric Rupe said...

Hiring writers like JMS is always a doubled side sword. One the one hand, they can turn out highly regarded work that can sell, and sell really well, but, on the other hand, they are not going to care for editorial influence and can simply walk away since comics don't pay the bills for them and they can afford to actually walk away.

The solution is obviously to either stop hiring them or let them do as they please but Marvel, or DC really, won't because both options have adverse side-effects, lowered sales or loss of control, so the cycle will continue.

Henry said...

He's both. Very talented people can often be very arrogant people, arrogance and talent go hand in hand. Marlon Brando, Peter Sellers, Stanley Kubrick, the list goes on and on.

JP said...

I have to agree with the above people in terms of how I enjoyed JMS' Spider-Man run, with the notable exception of "Sins Past."

I also firmly believe that JMS deserves a medal for standing up to the abomination that is One More Day. (I even read somewhere that JMS wanted to use OMD to erase his "Sins Past," so at least JMS realizes when he makes big mistakes.)

Also, your observations about JMS' half-finished work seems to be shared by DC in terms of how they have only given him limited work in the form of the Red Circle one-shots and the one-and-done stories in "Brave and the Bold" (which I have read all so far and enjoyed throughly).

Andrenn said...

I'm not too familiar with JMS outside of his Spider-man work and even that had it's moments (Sins Past, OMD, you get it) as those stories where more editorial mandates above all else (I'm pretty sure Sins Past was but I can't remember) which shows why he doesn't work well with those kinds of stories.

Though his Thor cut and run story was BS in my opinion. I'm glad I decided to skip Thor after #600 debuted since JMS didn't really end his run. He just stopped writing. That's crap. While I can understand he didn't want to write for Siege at the same time I think it wouldn't have killed him to finish the damn job, buckle down and really finish his run rather then just stopping and having someone else finish it for him. That's crap.

air said...

As a fan, the 'ending' of supreme power really did bite and left a real feeling on un-fulfillment.

Reading your article, one thought that struck me as a contrast is just how well Marvel's handled the last two writer changes on Daredevil. That's been one continuous tale, with changes in tone to suit the current writer, for...how long now? (and is DD being used as a bit of a mid-level testing ground by marvel, with Brubaker getting more and more since he left?)

Gyro said...

Would anybody here recommend Midnight Nation? I've always been tempted to get it even though I was a bit torn about Supreme Power. While I quite liked everything that dealt with Mark Milton/Hyperion, I found the rest of the story less than compelling. And Gary Frank's art was absolutely amazing.

Daryll B. said...

Gyro, Midnight Nation I would say is in his top 3 best. Themes of horror, heaven, lost souls, and redemption run throughout it. I would say go to your local library and check it out before buying..there are 2 or 3 scenes within that can be jarring.

I was firmly in the Pro JMS camp with my co-hosts Max and D-Burt...until the whole Twelve thing. I now love his work but you can't help but cringe at these stories. He's to writing what BattleChasers was to books...(I know I know that was harsh but...I got the same ill feelings).

BTW Kirk, I am sending this link to my partners as a story to discuss on next Tuesday's show. Any feel plugs you want for the page?

Stagger Lee said...

After I read this I was annoyed at how unprofessionally JMS behaved with Supreme Power (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=147912):
"Straczynski says that when the book went from Supreme Power to Squadron Supreme and the focus was taken off of Hyperion “I started to suck.” Straczynski asked that the book stop."

Leaving a title without an ending simply because you plan it badly and get bored is a slap in the face of the reader. Too bad Marvel didn't get Gary Frank to draw the Hyperion miniseries and end the series on that ominous "Hyperion will cause a disastrous future" note. At last that IS an ending.

Steven said...

Midnight Nation is an excellent story and available in trade form I believe.

About JMS, while he definitely battled to do Babylon 5, he is, in general successful in film and television and not considered controversial or hard to work with.

I don't think it would be hard to imagine Marvel being more at fault than it may seem on the surface. Most of the problems have been company mandated storytelling being imposed. And it is worth noting that generally the reading public has also been less than thrilled with those decisions as well.

Anonymous said...

This quote from the CBR article really doesn't make the dude come across like a prima donna: The one concern at the back of my head was that of being pulled into a Big Event that could affect the forward momentum of the book and alter its direction. I've said elsewhere that in many cases -- and this isn't just Marvel, the trend is pandemic -- such an event can sometimes result in the individual books serving the event, rather than the other way around, and you have to spend months and issues afterward stitching everything back together. I'm the kind of writer who likes to write in a straight line and know for certain the terrain he's standing upon. Some writers can handle all that and never break a sweat. For me, it's just not something I can do competently. That's a shortcoming on my part and I recognize it as such.

Prior to the reboot, when “Thor” was selling in the mid-50s, a Big Event wouldn't have been much of a concern, but now it was selling in the top ten month after month, and that increased visibility meant it could precipitate an event. And, again without saying much because this has to come from Marvel, such an event appeared on the horizon.

I agonized over this for months, then finally -- and I'm trying to remember when the email chain took place, but I think it was somewhere either just before or just after the first of the year -- I went to the ever-patient and wonderful [editor] Warren Simons, and the equally patient, warm and fuzzy [Publisher] Dan Buckley, and said of the coming event, "I really, really hate this, because creatively I'm having the time of my life, but I think I need to let go of the book or risk screwing it up when we hit the Event." It was an awful decision, not just because it's a hit book, but because it's the only place I could do that sort of faux-Shakespearean style of dialogue that I love so much. There's simply no other book out there where you can indulge in that.

There were no creative differences, no animosity, no rancor... just the question of how to handle being caught in the switches by my own shortcomings and ineptitude. I have to say here that Warren and Dan were absolutely understanding and supportive and gentle with me -- there are no horror stories here. They are gentlemen and scholars and the kind of business-men you want to work with, because through it all they remain human beings, and that's rare.

The publishing schedule for the book was then slowed down and stretched out to accommodate the search for a new writer, because finding someone to come on with short notice is tough. I have no idea who they've chosen -- I imagine that will be in the release or, at latest, at [Comic-Con International in] San Diego -- but I'm sure it'll be a terrific choice.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who reads the CBR article about the Thor story will see that dude doesn't come across like a jerk there. I'll quote one part to save you trouble of linking:

The one concern at the back of my head was that of being pulled into a Big Event that could affect the forward momentum of the book and alter its direction. I've said elsewhere that in many cases -- and this isn't just Marvel, the trend is pandemic -- such an event can sometimes result in the individual books serving the event, rather than the other way around, and you have to spend months and issues afterward stitching everything back together. I'm the kind of writer who likes to write in a straight line and know for certain the terrain he's standing upon. Some writers can handle all that and never break a sweat. For me, it's just not something I can do competently. That's a shortcoming on my part and I recognize it as such.

Prior to the reboot, when “Thor” was selling in the mid-50s, a Big Event wouldn't have been much of a concern, but now it was selling in the top ten month after month, and that increased visibility meant it could precipitate an event. And, again without saying much because this has to come from Marvel, such an event appeared on the horizon.

I agonized over this for months, then finally -- and I'm trying to remember when the email chain took place, but I think it was somewhere either just before or just after the first of the year -- I went to the ever-patient and wonderful [editor] Warren Simons, and the equally patient, warm and fuzzy [Publisher] Dan Buckley, and said of the coming event, "I really, really hate this, because creatively I'm having the time of my life, but I think I need to let go of the book or risk screwing it up when we hit the Event." It was an awful decision, not just because it's a hit book, but because it's the only place I could do that sort of faux-Shakespearean style of dialogue that I love so much. There's simply no other book out there where you can indulge in that.

There were no creative differences, no animosity, no rancor... just the question of how to handle being caught in the switches by my own shortcomings and ineptitude. I have to say here that Warren and Dan were absolutely understanding and supportive and gentle with me -- there are no horror stories here. They are gentlemen and scholars and the kind of business-men you want to work with, because through it all they remain human beings, and that's rare.

The publishing schedule for the book was then slowed down and stretched out to accommodate the search for a new writer, because finding someone to come on with short notice is tough. I have no idea who they've chosen -- I imagine that will be in the release or, at latest, at [Comic-Con International in] San Diego -- but I'm sure it'll be a terrific choice.

Anonymous said...

Basically JMS is saying, look if the event hadn't been based around Thor he could have handled it, but having a Siege of Asgard is going to pretty well muck up with plans to such a degree it would take ages to get back on track and it falls outside of his own skills set to navigate those sorts of shifts, fair enough.

PMMJ said...

As a big Babylon 5 fan, I was very excited by Rising Stars. Even more when it turned out to be excellent... until it just died a lingering death. Very disappointing. As a big Squadron Supreme fan, I decided to give JMS another shot... and got the same treatment. Reading this article, and seeing the same situation come back over and over, definitely makes me want to avoid his work in the future, until whatever project is completed and collected, and I know he didn't just sort of give up on it.

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous - The CBR article is after the fact and just making it official he is off Thor. There's nothing particularly noteworthy in that. The Newsarama one, where he first made mention of the Big Event Crossover and possibly leaving Thor because of it, however, is.

The entire Newsarama post is about Red Circle. For no reason at all, JMS goes into talks about how he hates events and would only leave books if DC forced him to do one. He then mentions "Of course, now that the Siege of Asgard Big Crossover looming I have to do some serious and hard thinking about the future."

He makes several comments about big events in general (he never calls otu any one at Marvel or anything like that though) and you can tell just by the tone of it that it is all about Marvel and his work on Thor/Amazing Spider-Man, which has nothing to do with Red Circle.

You could say he is right in every regard about what he says, but that doesnt make it professional. He's immediately put pressure on Marvel by implying he's going to leave Thor because he'd be given a major event centered on his storyline and book, something most writers dream of, and then this leads to fans getting upset at Marvel for "forcing" him to do something and making him quit.

We don't have the entire backstory on this one, but this isn't a professional way to handle the situation. Most would allow the publisher to make the announcement before putting out backhanded comments like the Red Circle interview. It's clear he's trying to spin things in his favour by being first out with it and painting it as all Marvel's fault (which it appears to be, but it would still be Marvel's fault if he hadn't revealed the information in such a way either).

His actions are clearly in a bitter nature and of the same variety as prefacing insults with apologies (sorry, dont mean to be rude and then say something rude). He gets off with being the good guy, but it's clear his intentions were not. It's not even a Thor related interview at that point and was him saying "I may quit if they dont give me what I want".

That is why I view his Thor departure as controversial.

Kirk Warren said...

@Daryll B - I'm not sure what you mean by "feel plugs for the page". Random quotes? Sources?

@Gyro - Midnight Nation is very good. Not quite a super hero story though, but comparing it to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for themes wouldnt' be unheard of. It's basically about a cop that gets his soul stolen and he tries to get it back. It's dark and covers ground on morality and other issues. You may wan tto read up a bit before buying it because, as I said, it is a bit different from his other work and standard super hero comics.

smkedtky said...

Here's the thing. As a creator at a company like Marvel or DC, editorial interference is a part of the business. Everyone knows this from EIC's down to the fans. JMS had a lot of freedom with THOR and when it was threatened, he walked. I understand his frustration but if he can't handle that particular aspect of his profession, then he should stick with independant, creator owned projects.

As a fan, I'm a little insulted by the fact that he walks away from something before it is finished simply because he dislikes a particular aspect of the business. When starting THOR, he knew, from every other book he did for Marvel, that editorial interference is a part of the process. It shouldn't have been a surprise since it happened on every other book he did for them. Maybe he thinks he deserves some special treatment but, despite his talent, he hasn't even earned it compared to other writers who have contributed more and for much longer. He is not Chris Claremont coming off of 16 years of UNCANNY X-MEN or Peter David with something like 10 years (I can't recall the exact number at the moment) of stories, under his belt, on INCREDIBLE HULK. These guys defined their respective characters during their careers and left them behind due to editorial interference. JMS repeatedly does the same thing, leaving, screwing the fans out of their investment in the story and the money they spent on the book up to that point. For someone who apparently demands so much respect from everybody else, he has very little respect (or concern) for his fans.

To conclude...Editorial interference is a part of the business. People hate it and, at times, prevents fun stories and ideas from flourishing (like Dan Slott not being allowed to use Nightcrawler on MIGHTY AVENGERS) but it is also responsible for maintaining, the ever important and controversy inciting, continuity that so many fans hold dear. It is important in a shared universe like Marvel's and JMS doesn't like to share.

J. Michael Straczynski...Prima Donna.

billpress said...

There are two problems with the article.

One, it posits that Superme Power started right after or in the midst of the situation regarding Rising Stars. This is factually incorrect, as Superme Power began literally years after Rising Stars was completed.

Two, the concern is about leaving books "before they are completed." But no ongoing title is ever completed, and let's be honest, writers leave titles all the time, whether in the midst of an arc or not. How many titles has Marc Waid jumped from or two in the last ten years?

It just seems hypocritical to isolate this one case when everyone else does it.

Kirk Warren said...

@billpress - Release dates do not coincide with when someone starts a project. They have months of lead time and it would most certainly have started during the time Rising Stars was being published/he was sitting on scripts.

And, yes, ongoings, by their nature, do not "finish", but writers tell stories and, writers like JMS, typically have themes and long running subplots that get wrapped up. Look at Fraction and Brubaker's Iron Fist. It "ended" with their Capital Cities arc,b ut the new team was able to pick up threads of it with ease.

Same goes for Bendis, Brubaker and now Diggle on Daredevil. That book sees significant status quo changes with each new writer, but each writerhas their own take on the character and subplots and themes int heir work. It is "ongoing", but Brubaker didn't just drop the book in the middle of his Mr Fear arc and say he didn't want to write it due to editorial influence.

Again, yes, ongoings do not end, but stories do and JMS's rarely do of his own volition.

As for Mark Waid, if this were the 80's or 90's, I probably would write something about him, but he's not writing several of the biggest books on the market today and promptly leaving mid story arc or sounding off in interviews prior to the conclusion to his runs on books today.

JMS, however, is and the fact I loved his Thor, Rising Stars, Supreme Power, etc and have put up with delays and non-endings for the past decade that sees his body of work amount to the same thing with every project's conclusion prompted a discussion on his work.


Finally, how is it hypocritical to discuss JMS, especially onthe heels of his Thor ending? I don'tsay no one else doesn't do it. I'm not saying he's the only writer to have leave books before they finish (I don't buy Kevin Smith books anymore due to his failures to finish up titles either). I'm discussing his work, his recently concluded Thor and similar trends that follow his work.

I would, however,be interested in hearing who "everyone else" that does it is. Millar, Morrison, Ellis, Bendis, etc all switch projects regularly, but conclude the ones they are working on. Ellis, in particular, frustrates me with how frequently he leaves a book after some inspiring work (Thunderbolts for one), but he never leaves (or I cant recall a time he did) before finishing his current arc or storyline.

So, please, tell me who you would rank up there for leaving stories unfinished on a frequent basis like the above examples for JMS. I'm not fighting with you here, I'm just honestly curious as I'm having difficulty recalling someone else. It may just be my frustrations with JMS's work, which I particularly like and enjoy, not seeing endings that is clouding my eyes and not allowing me to recognize others.

Matt Ampersand said...

I think the only other really high profile writer to pull stuff like this Grant Morrison: he didn't finish his run on either Wildcats or the Authority (not to say he didn't have good reasons), he also had editorial problems with the ending of his New X-Men run (the whole Xorn debacle that Marvel fixed afterwards) and Final Crisis (which contradicted earlier series, although those admitedly were not written by him).

Daryll B. said...

@Kirk Well I already cite you fine folks as sources for some interesting opinions on stories, such as the Greg Land debate and some of your top 10 topics.

The JMS story will definitely be one we bring up on the next show if I have my way and I just letting you know that I am citing your article as a source.

Plug wasn't the right choice of words..I apologize. LOL Damn late morning typing...

Jonathan M Perez said...

@ smedtky

That was an excellent point about Peter David you brought up. In fact, I think JMS can learn a whole lot from PAD.

Look at X-Factor. It's been going on for a full 50+ issues now (plus the Madrox miniseries). Within that time, David has woven the book into the larger X-Men storylines (and in fact wove into his X-Factor tapestry Layla Miller and Darwin, leftovers from other writers' event titles), as well as kept up with changes to the mutant world when the core X-titles basically abandoned them (M-Day, Decimation, etc). Throughout it all, it has felt like David's book first, X-title second without ever once forgetting that the characters in X-Factor belong to a larger mutant world in the Marvel Universe.

I admire JMS's work a whole lot--especially his Amazing Spider-Man run with John Romita Jr (the first arc plus the WTC issue and the Aunt May/Peter stuff after he reveals his identity to her are just spectacular). It's a good thing to me that a writer wants to flesh out a character in his own title and have it be completely unencumbered from the insanity of an event story, but he's gotta know that Marvel is going to want to do a big Avengers story at some point.

Why couldn't he have passed the writing chores onto a different writer (making sure that his work on Thor isn't completely undermined) for the crossover? I do think that there are ways he could have better balanced his desire for complete creative control over Thor and Marvel's desire for a big event story. Peter David does this consistently excellently (as does Greg Rucka).

Klep said...

@Jonathan M Perez: It should be noted that when X-Factor has been roped into crossovers like that, it has basically been terrible. It's only when PAD was allowed to go his own way and tell his own stories that X-Factor has really shined.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, X-Factor has been quite bad when forced into a lame X crossover and it always leaves the taste in my mouth that David just wants to be done with it and back to his own stuff. David can also get away with this because X-Factor isn't nearly as popular as the relaunched Thor was.

The whole situation seems to me to be that Quesada figured the relaunched Thor wouldn't be nearly the hit that it was and that he didn't care about JMS having the title to himself if it only sold moderately. Next thing you know, it is a huge relaunch and one of Marvel's biggest titles so, of course, they have to shoe it into the next big thing. Now I can understand that people aren't happy about the "ending" but the only other choice would have been to have JMS phone it in through some tie-in issues (which aren't even that important in the grand scheme of things since the bulk of importance will undoubtedly be in the Siege mini by Bendis) and then get back to what he had in mind or to let him go and get someone who is more willing to work in the system.

DC has handled him correctly as far as I can tell since his Red Circle stuff was limited and his Brave and the Bold issues have been continuity free (and very good). They know they can't stick him on some book that is a big pillar of their line.

Jonas said...

I can't say I'm an expert on these comics, but to me all of the examples are essentially cases of an artist standing up for his vision. That's not egomania, it's having principles. It's looking at comics as art rather than as a product.

sgib80 said...

You assume in the comment about "putting pressure on Marvel" that he used the public forum without informing his employer about his thoughts on Thor first, but he's been well known for speaking his mind to his bosses since the early 80s, so this seems an unlikely scenario to me.

smkedtky said...

@Anonymous - I don't thing Quesada doubted THOR would be a hit under JMS. In fact, I'll bet that JMS' fan appeal was the very reason Quesada put him on the book.

@Jonas - It is a great thing to stand up for one's principles. Still, at Marvel, the comic's are just as much (more, actually) a product as a piece of art. The business comes first for them and they have a long history of editorial control. Hell, it wasn't even a new experience for JMS. He knew going in that this was the case.

skfl said...

i wish he would finish the twelve - the trade of that is fantastic.

nature_boyHH said...

I commend you Kirk for raising a rather compelling case. The Thor "finale" was indeed weak, but I think JMS deliberately left most of his issues hanging to serve as a crutch for Gillen and whoever it is who will take his place as regular writer. (Isn't Gillen and Tan only here for the interim?)

I agree though that JMS' track record speaks for itself. It is undeniable that JMS has loads of talent, but the delays, unfinished projects and abrupt departures reflect poorly upon him.

Kirk Warren said...

@nature_boyHH - Supposedly, Gillen didn't ask for or even look at any of the material JMS left behind. Everything he is writing is his own vision of how it would play out from where JMS left off. There's no guide for what plot points to hit to finish it or anything like that.

And, yes, Gillen and Tan are on for an arc, then off for one and back for one more (or maybe ongoing? I'm not sure).

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen Joey Q., Tom "black people don't read comics" Brevoort or Steve Whacker write any books lately, but they sure have ruined a lot. I like a writer who sticks with his vision and tells the editors they're idiots. Leave him alone. Silver Surfer: Requiem was a masterpiece. So he bolts Thor rather than screw up his story. Good for him.

Brubaker, the superior writer, managed to keep HIS masterpiece intact until he was finally forced into mangling his Cap run, let Bendis dump all over him by bring Steve Rogers back while Brubaker still had him in limbo. Marvel took Brubaker's masterpiece and blew out the return of Rogers into a mega-event in a desperate move to counter Blackest Night. Unfortunately, Bendis and Joey broke Brubaker while JMS just flipped them off and walked.

I'd rather the writer mix it up with the editors instead of trolling message boards and picking fights with fans, or defending their terrible stories. I was looking at the Wonder Woman thread at comicbookresources.com, and picked up a running debate between Simone and a regular poster.

The poster, a black guy, was logically voicing an opinion that the name "Nubia" for a black fictional character is not necessarily racist--as Simone had argued. He cited his experiences and acquaintances and Simone talked about the opinions of "her black friends."

The dude countered, level-headed and without rancor, why he felt she was wrong. He could have easily have seized on Simone's twist on the "some of my best friends are black" garbage, but he just made better points and, frankly, crafts a far better sentence than Simone, who got increasingly snotty, petty and personal. She wouldn't let it go and let stridency take over.

Despite what her black friends tell her, she can never see the world through his eyes, though she tries to convince her 25,000-and-plunging
readers she can. PAD and Busiek do the same stuff--pollute the boards with snarky explanations about why their plots have become so ... played out.

This is a long way of saying that I admire someone like JMS, who walks away on principle. Brubaker hangs in their no matter how much Bendis, Loeb and Alex Ross wreck one of the greatest runs in the history of the medium. Alex Ross spent two years directing his own in-continuity Cap-Torch-Toro-Bucky story--horribly written and comically nonsensical--that subverted all the good stuff Brubaker had done to tidy up Cap's history.

FZ1/parthuman/JONQPUBLIK

oakleyses said...

replica watches, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, michael kors outlet online, jordan shoes, chanel handbags, nike air max, oakley sunglasses, burberry outlet, nike outlet, christian louboutin shoes, christian louboutin, oakley sunglasses wholesale, burberry handbags, prada handbags, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin uk, coach purses, polo outlet, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, gucci handbags, michael kors outlet online, nike free, true religion outlet, tory burch outlet, coach outlet store online, christian louboutin outlet, tiffany and co, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet, prada outlet, coach outlet, michael kors outlet store, coach outlet, ray ban sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet online, tiffany jewelry, kate spade outlet, longchamp outlet, kate spade

oakleyses said...

sac hermes, converse pas cher, timberland pas cher, jordan pas cher, mulberry uk, michael kors outlet, true religion outlet, north face uk, new balance, nike air force, michael kors pas cher, sac longchamp pas cher, vans pas cher, north face, ray ban uk, louboutin pas cher, hollister uk, guess pas cher, abercrombie and fitch uk, nike air max uk, air max, true religion jeans, nike free uk, ray ban pas cher, nike air max uk, nike free run, true religion outlet, polo lacoste, hogan outlet, michael kors, nike blazer pas cher, longchamp pas cher, nike air max, burberry pas cher, sac vanessa bruno, nike tn, oakley pas cher, polo ralph lauren, nike roshe, ralph lauren uk, hollister pas cher, lululemon canada

oakleyses said...

chi flat iron, hollister clothing, north face outlet, ferragamo shoes, mont blanc pens, nike roshe run, jimmy choo outlet, mac cosmetics, nfl jerseys, asics running shoes, baseball bats, hermes belt, new balance shoes, wedding dresses, nike trainers uk, mcm handbags, beats by dre, valentino shoes, babyliss, p90x workout, lululemon, bottega veneta, oakley, hollister, herve leger, nike roshe run uk, insanity workout, vans outlet, ghd hair, soccer jerseys, north face outlet, giuseppe zanotti outlet, timberland boots, abercrombie and fitch, longchamp uk, soccer shoes, nike air max, iphone 6 cases, nike huaraches, reebok outlet, instyler, celine handbags

oakleyses said...

swarovski, coach outlet, ugg uk, vans, replica watches, uggs outlet, uggs outlet, hollister, links of london, pandora uk, ralph lauren, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, marc jacobs, ray ban, toms shoes, uggs on sale, supra shoes, pandora jewelry, lancel, wedding dresses, thomas sabo, converse outlet, louboutin, hollister, ugg pas cher, pandora charms, ugg boots, montre pas cher, swarovski crystal, ugg, juicy couture outlet, juicy couture outlet, karen millen uk, nike air max, converse, gucci, ugg boots

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Crisis - Comic Book Review Blog. Comments are always appreciated. You can sign in and comment with any Google, Wordpress, Live Journal, AIM, OpenID or TypePad account.