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Thoughts on Andy Diggle, Exclusivity and Timing

If you can find it (lord knows I’m not going to go through the effort to look for it), you’ll see discussions between me and various people back in late 2004/early 2005 about what Andy Diggle should do after his awesome Adam Strange mini-series was ruined by being forced to tie-in with an Infinite Crisis lead-in.

At the time, it was interesting to note that the consensus (well, the consensus among the people I was talking with) was that his best fit, if he wanted to move into superhero territory, was to follow Brian Michael Bendis on Daredevil. However, even then, Ed Brubaker was rumored to be getting that gig (it is simply astonishing how long Brubaker was rumored to be following Bendis on Daredevil. He did not take over until 2006, but I assure you, it was already being talked about like a sure thing in late 2004).

But what was seen as a bit of a foregone conclusion at the time was that Diggle definitely should (and would) move to Marvel Comics when his exclusive contract expired at the end of 2005.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum - he renewed his DC exclusive for another year. And when the one year extension ran up, he became the regular writer on Hellblazor.

Finally, almost two years later, he finally ended up where we all figured he was heading back in 04/05, writing for Marvel. And now he is going to be succeeding Ed Brubaker on Daredevil (and he surely will do a wonderful job), so it’s just like we all figured would happen – just over three years after we figured it would happen.

This situation strikes me in two ways – one, how the heck did DC use Diggle so poorly during the THREE YEARS they had him under exclusive? I mean, we got some excellent comics, to be sure (Losers, Green Arrow Year One were my favorites in particular). But you’re telling me that he couldn’t even get, say, a Peter Tomasi-esque workload? Andy Diggle would have been golden on anything DC gave him, and yet the highest profile assignment he had was…an arc on Batman Confidential? For serious? This is not like the Kuberts – while sure, that did not do much for DC, but that was more the Kuberts being late. This was DC deciding that while they liked Diggle enough to lock him up, they didn’t like him enough to put him on, like, Nightwing or some such title. That’s so odd to me.

The other thing that strikes me about this is how it really drives home how important timing is. Diggle is going to come on to Daredevil soon, and he is going to be great. However, he could have come on to Daredevil in 2006 and been great as well. It just so happens that that Ed Brubaker was primed for the book then, as well (and don’t get me wrong, Brubaker was great, too – this is not a “Oh man, I wish we had had Diggle instead of Brubaker!), so instead, Diggle had to wait three years to get his shot at the book. Imagine, though, if he had NEVER gotten his shot? Karl Kesel seemed always to be on the cusp of writing the Fantastic Four, but it never happened. I know plenty of folks who waited years for Christopher Priest to finally get a “major” book. It never happened. What other writers can you recall who always seemed to be on the cusp of being “big” but it never quite fell into place?

45 Comments

one, how the heck did DC use Diggle so poorly during the THREE YEARS they had him under exclusive?

When you’re talking about Didio-run DC, you never ask how they used someone so poorly, because using people poorly is their norm. The answer’s always the same: “Because Didio’s in charge and he’s clueless.” It’s better to look for examples of them using someone well, and then asking “How the hell did they actually manage to use X writer well during his time there?” Because THAT is a true rare occurrence that can’t be explained.

Karl Kesel seemed always to be on the cusp of writing the Fantastic Four, but it never happened. I know plenty of folks who waited years for Christopher Priest to finally get a “major” book.

I never understood why Kesel never got the Fantastic Four, especially in light of the writers they DID put on it who weren;t even that good at it. Kesel could easily have done much better than Waid, McDuffie and Millar for example

Priest on the other hand, I totally understand why he doesn’t get major books. His writing simply isn’t that good, it’s cynical, mean-spirited, convoluted for the sake of coming off deep, and overcomplicated when he tries to go for “complex.” I think he has very passionate and vocal fanbase that makes him sound more popular than he actually is, but I think there are even more people he drives away than attracts with his work. I for example will not read anything I know he’s written. And I’ve met many people who feel the same.

Thanks, Dan, but I meant discussions pre-blog, even! (was there ever such a time?!?!) Discussions on the CBR message boards.

And now he is going to be succeeding Ed Brubaker on Daredevil (and he surely will do a wonderful job), so it’s just like we all figured would happen – just over three years after we figured it would happen.

DiDio’s DC is stunningly similar to Jim Shooter’s Marvel. Giving a title like … say … Nightwing a creative team like Andy Diggle and John Paul Leon might result in something interesting. Dick Grayson might develop his own fan base, who have their own opinions about the title. That would limit the ability of DiDio and whoever his pet writers of the moment are from moving the guy around like a chess piece. That, in turn, drives talent out of the company.

DC got some great material in the 80s from the flood of talent fleeing Shooter’s Marvel. Now, DiDio is returning the favor.

What other writers can you recall who always seemed to be on the cusp of being “big” but it never quite fell into place?

Is it too soon to say Will Pfeifer?

He was gaining traction with HERO, Aquaman, and Catwoman and wrote Captain Atom: Armageddon, which acted as the set up for Wildstorm’s “soft reboot” under Morrison. But, then came Amazons Attack, which seems to have derailed his career.

I guess he could still mount a comeback, though.

I missed a few years there, but whatever happened to D. Curtis Johnson?

Just to play devil’s advocate, maybe Diggle didn’t want to work on certain titles or titles that he wanted to work on were already promised to others. Obviously it’s silly to sign someone to an exclusive contract and then not use him or her (unless the whole idea is to keep him/her away from the competition — but that’s not really the case here), so I figure that there must be a little more to it than Didio forgetting to give him projects. Yes, Didio and DC make some boneheaded decisions, but I am not sure if we can just automatically chalk this up to being his fault.

Pfeifer can easily recover from one bad crossover — even one as horrible as Amazon’s Attack. Look at Bill Willingham — War Games was garbage, but his work on Fables is incredible.

Let’s not overlook the fact that his Batman Confidential arc was pretty poor, and while his run on Hellblazer started off strong, it started to run out of steam.

Yeah, but let’s not forget everything Bill Willingham writes that isn’t Fables: It’s still garbage.

@ Dean (somewhat)
Bendis’ DD got me into comics and I’m absolutely loving Brubaker’s run. I’m hanging on for Diggle because of all the praise he’s getting, even though I’ve never read any of his work. Having said that, I can’t think of any noteworthy titles that Diggle could’ve written for DC anyway. The way I see it is that the majority of DC’s books plays to a higher concept or feature writers that are more or less a perfect fit.. The Bat-books are all about to tie in. We have Superman Weekly. Simone is taking care of WW and SS. Tomasi and Johns are doing the Lantern books. I don’t see how Diggle could fit in or replace anybody with anything that would have given us a better book or given him a better image. Despite Marvel’s linewide status quo changes, all of the books stay more or less independent, which gives them a lot more options creator-wise. Whatever the case, I’m glad he’s on DD now. If he’s half as awesome as everyone says he is, DD is in good hands.

I was probably the one guy (outside of the Marvel editorial staff, I guess) who was always relieved when someone else was hired to write Fantastic Four over Karl Kesel. ;-) I just didn’t think I would care for it (his IMO not-too-good issues of FF 2099 didn’t seem encouraging).

Of course, as the years went by, the demand (online, at least; no idea if other readers cared) for Kesel to write Fantastic Four built up so much I wonder if it’s just as well he never got the book. How could he have lived up to expectations like that?

Bri I think you’re being too hard on the Adam Strange series. Yeah it was no fun that it had to tie into Infinite Suckfest but it didn’t ruin the series for me. I can still go back, re-read it, and enjoy the hell out of it, even if the ending ain’t great (and I think Diggle did a decent job given what he had to work with).

GA Year One and Losers were both really very good as well. Probably the best Green Arrow story written since Grell.

“(his IMO not-too-good issues of FF 2099 didn’t seem encouraging).”

Hasn’t he written like a million FF one-shots and fill-ins since that? The only FF of his I’ve read is that What If? one shot where Be Grimm became the Hulk., but I seem to remember that was part of the demand; people really liked it whenever he got a crack at writing them.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 5, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Kesel could easily have done much better than Waid, McDuffie and Millar for example

Well, his arc that he co-wrote with Waid wasn’t the best story during the Waid run, so I wouldn’t say that.

Mike Loughlin

April 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Kesel wrote a Thing-in-the-future FF Annual that was outstanding. His Daredevil run was great (and lighter in tone than most DD comics). I thought his “FF: Death in the Family” one-shot was enjoyable. I know he did a couple issues between Waid & JMS, but I never read them. Still, I think Kesel’s writing has the right tone for FF, and he has a good grasp of the characters.

T., I’ll agree with one point of your assessment of Priest’s writing: it got too complicated, at times. Otherwise, I thought that he brought humor and humanity to Black Panther, and crafted memorable characters and dialogue. Quantum & Woody was funny as hell (although the later issues lost some steam). I like a most of his one-shots & minis (although Captain America & Falcon was virtually unreadable, mostly due to Sears insisting on those random half-page character drawings). I’m under the impression that he has burned some bridges in recent years.

I wonder what happened to Len Kaminski. He seemed to have a decent fanbase. Similarly, I haven’t seen many comics by Doug Moench in the last 5 years.

Kesel did a bunch of FF one-shots and fill-ins indeed. All I read were quite good. But I did enjoy his (very short) run on FF 2009, so make of that what you will.

If he had written the Wieringo FF instead of Waid, that run could have been great – and he is certainly better than Millar!

I’ll never understand why doesn’t Marvel give him a proper run.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I’ll second the Pfeifer nod – his Catwoman run is some incredibly good superhero comics, and his work there weaving in and out of crossovers while maintaining the books themes and characterization should far outweigh the editorial nonsense of Amazons Attack. Is he even still writing comics? I thought I read somewhere that he wasn’t, which would suck.

I like McDuffie’s FF quite a lot.

I’m kind of surprised Marc Andreyko hasn’t been given something big, but that may be his choice – I think he has plenty of non-comics work.

Oh, and Phil Hester can’t get something big from DC or Marvel to write? That’s some bu11$h!t right there. I’ll buy anything he puts out, except for Witchblade or whatever Silvestri has him on, although that’s a smart hire for an Image studio.

DiDio’s DC is stunningly similar to Jim Shooter’s Marvel.

I wouldn’t put it that far, because Shooter’s Marvel ran a tight ship with no lateness and great books, and put great writers and artists on great books that suited them, even if the system did eventually run off talent in the long run. So it had a pro. Didio’s DC produces crap comics that are habitually late and utilizes talewnt badly AND it runs off good talent, so it has none of Shooter’s redeeming qualities.

Maybe Didio’s DC is more like Harras’s Marvel?

Well, his arc that he co-wrote with Waid wasn’t the best story during the Waid run, so I wouldn’t say that.

Given that every Kesel-written FF I ever read was great, and every Waid-written FF I ever read was godawfuil, I’ll just blame Waid for anything that was bad in that story.

Not for nothing, but the thing that (in my mind) makes Diggle special enough to have this entry just on him is the fact that he was signed to a two-year exclusive (plus a one-year extension). It’s one thing to say, “Why didn’t DC use that good writer?” It’s another thing to say, “Why did DC specifically sign that writer to an exclusive and then not use that good writer?”

While we’re talking about it, where DID Kesel go? I loved his work on the Superboy title.

And I’ve yet to read anything from Diggle that was better than above average. I’ll give his DD run a shot with the first trade, though.

It’s never occurred to anyone that Diggle (whom I love. Thunderbolts might be the most underrated book on the market right now, and Losers is indescribably awesome.) may be a Dan Slott-type writer who simply can’t juggle the workload of more than one book? In terms of talent and sales, Gail Simone ought to be writing a number of books for DC, but she’s openly admitted that she’s only capable of writing two monthlies maximum without burning out. Not everyone is Geoff Johns.

Admitted, Brian, you have a point where Diggle earned higher profile work than Batman Confidential, but it’s possible the draw DC had for him (which Marvel really doesn’t have) is Vertigo, and the opportunity to create or develop properties without the pressure of delivering for corporate icons. I mean, at this stage in his career, would you expect Marvel to release an Icon book by Diggle? I’m sure it would be good, but its sales would pale in comparison to Powers or Criminal. I think the opportunity to have a little more freedom with as little mainstream cred as possible is the carrot that DC dangled for Diggle so long.

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes info that even the hardcore fans are not privy to, to justify a lot of points made in the original post.

It’s one thing to say, “Why didn’t DC use that good writer?” It’s another thing to say, “Why did DC specifically sign that writer to an exclusive and then not use that good writer?”

Same answer as always. Dan Didio is incompetent. If Diggle was actually used well, then you’d have an interesting question for us to work with. Mckeever, Bedard, Dini, Diggle, Bruce Jones, David Lapham…Didio is just the anti-Shooter. He gets the worst work out of his talent more often than not. Instead of dwelling on why Didio messed something up, I instead would pose, “How did Didio manage to get so much decent work out of Gail Simone?” Given his track record, I’m quite surprised that turned out so well.

stealthwise: Kessel is currently the mind behind the Marvel Apes universe.

Let’s hope he gives us something a bit different on DAREDEVIL. Brubaker was good, but I’ve had enough of the faux-noir Miller-esque depressiveness. DD needs new villains, new plotlines and a bit of lightness of touch.

What about Mark Waid on Superman?

“Dick Grayson might develop his own fan base, who have their own opinions about the title.”

Um… are we talking about the same Nightwing? Because Nightwing fans are about the most outspoken in comics (witness the shitstorm caused here with the “torture porn” review).

“Maybe Didio’s DC is more like Harras’s Marvel?”

Well, except for the whole “profitability” thing….

Ron Marz is kinda in that place right now – he’s doing very good work with Witchblade, has a good track record, but is essentially persona non grata at DC and never got anything for Marvel since I suppose they pidgeonholded him as a “cosmic” writer. He’s exclusive with Top Cow now, but that’s no real excuse for how barren his cupboard was in the aftermath of the CrossGen flameout.

I’ve never seen so many writers whose work I don’t care for mentioned in one thread before – Diggle, Moench, Priest, Marz, Kesel. I’m just waiting for Matt Fraction to be mentioned.

I think it’s probably a bit too soon to say Will Pfeifer never made it big, but it’s looking like that one might slip away.

I always thought Tom Peyer got a bit of a rough end of the stick. He’s a good writer who seriously deserves a good long run on a high profile superhero book.

Christos Gage seems like a writer on the cusp of breaking out, but never quite gets there. He’s Marvel’s go-to guy for fill-ins, one-shots and random event miniseries, but he never seems to get that ongoing or body of work to get him over the top. He recently got a handle on Avengers: The Initiative for himself, but the book was left like a ship without a rudder in the aftermath of Secret Invasion. I’d be surprised if it even survives the year, despite Gage’s best efforts.

Jack Harkness

April 6, 2009 at 9:58 am

Shooter’s Marvel gave us Simonson’s THOR and Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR and Miller’s DAREDEVIL. Let me know when Didio puts out anything close to that good.

As for Gail Simone’s success under the Didio regime, I’ve always suspected that she’s served as useful cover for the rampant misogyny and abuse of female characters at DC: “Sure, we gruesomely killed off all these female characters, but we have a WOMAN writing this book! An actual WOMAN!”

What about the Hellblazers wot he done?

Right on. Vertigo has been consistently good to great with bouts of amazing.

I’m no big supporter of any given EIC (well, I like Lee’s personality), but the fact that we’re just filling in guys from the last five years pretty much proves that it’s possibly the worst job in comics. Seriously, every time Didio shows up at a con and doesn’t just open fire should be seen as near-superhuman feat of restraint and good humor.

five = twenty-five

Christos Gage seems like a writer on the cusp of breaking out, but never quite gets there. He’s Marvel’s go-to guy for fill-ins, one-shots and random event miniseries, but he never seems to get that ongoing or body of work to get him over the top. He recently got a handle on Avengers: The Initiative for himself, but the book was left like a ship without a rudder in the aftermath of Secret Invasion. I’d be surprised if it even survives the year, despite Gage’s best efforts.

Gage is also Wildstorm’s go-to-guy, but that’s another thankless gig. I’ll be amazed if Authority and Wildcats are still around in a year’s time. Gen13 and Stormwatch: PHD certainly won’t be — which is a shame, really, as I’ve been enjoying all of the books in the Wildstorm Universe.

Wait, people *don’t* like the Mark Waid ‘Fantastic Four’? There hasn’t been a better ‘Four’ since at least Simonson’s run.

Philip A Moore

April 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

ok here somthing to consider may be Andy DIggle wanted to write comic books that weren’t DC for a change.

Diggle is almost always a limited run guy. so it not like dc could give him many on goings I don’t see Andy staying on either Daredevil Or Thunderbolts for more the a year. the only series I’ve seen him stay on for more the a year was The Losers.

I haven’t seen many of the creators people bitch about because they went exclusive complaining

How much work they will get is garenteed in in there contract before they sighn as well as how much they are expeted to do. it is a pat on the back to the creator that DC or Marvel want to work with you exclusivily. the choice was Andy’s. I haven’t heard him complain about he was treated at DC . some time one needs to change job or die of burn out . so in stead of bitching just in joy the fresh air your favorite creator is breathing in . good day

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

April 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Waid’s FF was great fun when he wasn’t using the supposedly “classic” FF characters like Doom and Galactus. With them, his usual insistence on all-evil, all-powerful running antagonists meant that his portrayals of them felt…well, generic. Galactus went from being Kirby’s take on Old Testament God to being a really dangerous alien, and Doom exhibited only a single note of the symphonically melodramatic personality he’d built up over the years under various other writers.

Weirdly, Waid wrote a perfectly brilliant Doom story in Empire; because Waid, quite legitimately, writes villains as a means to explore his heroes and nothing but, he tends to miss a bit when he includes antagonist characters who’ve moved a partially beyond “plain-dealing villain” in terms of their established story roles. Has Waid created any especially memorable ongoing villains in his work on superhero-protagonist books?

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

April 6, 2009 at 4:29 pm

That should be “antagonists,” not “villains” in the first sentence of my second ‘graf. Golgotha was a perfectly good villain, as I wrote, but I think that’s largely because he wasn’t the antagonist in the book.

Philip A Moore

April 6, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Ok what the heck Does FF have to do with this post ? I mean I was always more of a fan of Roberto Sacasa
then waid but honestly why not just post another thread about FF ?

good day

Shooter’s Marvel gave us Simonson’s THOR and Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR and Miller’s DAREDEVIL. Let me know when Didio puts out anything close to that good.

As well as providing a superior ending to what Claremont originally planned for Dark Phoenix saga, putting Roger Stern on Avengers for a classic run, Sincweicz on New Mutants, the Simonsons on X-Factor (VERY underrated 80s run) plus a lot of other great decisions. Comparing Shooter to Didio is just bad in my opinion because yes Shooter burned bridges but improved the quality of the line overall with runs that are considered definitive to this day. Didio just burns bridges to make the product worse. Although he does occasionally strike gold with non-continuity stuff like All Star Superman and New Frontier. Vertigo I credit Karen Berger for, I think Didio’s best contribution there is probably just not getting in the way and letting her do what she wants.

If anyone watches basketball, I think the perfect analogy for Didio is Isiah Thomas from the Knicks when he was in charge. Isiah didn’t make decisions with any long-term team-building plan in place, but rather just seemed to recruit players for marquee power, to fan enthusiasm and buzz among fans and the media and to sell seats by attracting the fans of these players. I also think he tied up players just to keep other teams from getting them, even if he didn’t have much need for them. But he had no long-term viable strategy for integrating these puzzle pieces into a cohesive winning squad, he didn’t care if said players skill set was redundant or actually what the team needed the most to win. He didn’t care if they shared the same philosophy he had in mind for the franchise. He worried about that later. He just wanted to focus on making announcements, generating cheap buzz, having marquee names and short term planning. I think Didio’s the same way. For all his faults, whenever Quesada announces a big name signing, it’s not long before he announces a big property they will be working on, and it’s often a great fit. There have been exceptions for sure, just like there’ve been exceptions with Didio where he occasionally manages not to make a horrible decision or pull defeat from the jaws of victory. But overall, Quesada signs with a long-term plan. Brubaker gets signed, and Daredevil, Iron Fist, Uncanny X-Men and Captain America announced soon after. Bendis gets signed and is soon on Ultimate Spider-Man and eventually on Daredevil. Winick is announced and is soon on Exiles, probably his most acclaimed non-creator owned work to date. Millar is announced and is soon on a series of high-profile projects. Diggle gets a good Thunderbolts run and is moved on to Daredevil. Hickman gets announced for FF, plus his Secret Warriors book seems great. Fraction and Aaron seemed to be signed up with a general plan too.

Didio, ever since his first rash of signings when he first was put in charge years ago, when he took a bunch of writers from Marvel like Morrison, Simone, Bruce Jones and others, seems to just sign people just to get the fanbase excited and show that he got one over on Marvel. And from the beginning, just about everyone he signed with the exception of Johns and Rucka, whose styles fit better with DC characters anyway, has done worse quality work when under Didio than they did when they were taken from Marvel.

So in answer to Brian’s question about why DC resigned Diggle when they had no plan, it’s because Didio is like Isiah Thomas…both of them HAVE no ability to plan beyond short term stunts and press releases.

Mike Loughlin: “I wonder what happened to Len Kaminski.”

Yeah, so do I…

Me too. I remember him doing research, rather publicly, for some further DC work some 2 years ago on the Engine forum. I’ve wondered often why he didn’t get more DCU work and just assumed he didn’t want it though, or he and DCU editorial didn’t get along.

He seems to be doing more work now that he’s at Marvel, in addition to his other work such as BIONIC COMMANDO and a creator-owned project reportedly.

When it was announced he was going to be on Daredevil, I was surprised people weren’t also surmising that Jock would join him at Marvel to do an arc.

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