Sometimes, I despair of DC Comics.
J. Michael Straczynski is a writer best-known for his five-year television epic Babylon 5, which he created, saw through from start to finish and frequently wrote and directed along the way. For the past eight years, Straczynski has written numerous comic books for Marvel, most prominently Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. Last year, he relaunched their Thor series and has been knocking it out of the park commercially. He also wrote the screenplay for Changeling, a film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich that's set to debut at Cannes next week.
You could say, in other words, that Straczynski's career has just reached a new high point. For Marvel, now, that's tragic, in some ways: A contract exclusively securing them the writer's comics-related activities ran out without being renewed in 2007, and there was a bit of a fall-out between Straczynski and Marvel over creative differences concerning "One More Day," the controversially received storyline ending Spider-Man's 20-year marriage that concluded his work on the character. While Straczynski will apparently continue writing for Marvel - notably Thor and a limited series called The Twelve - it's quite clear that he's become a bit disenchanted with the publisher over the last couple of years.
So J. Michael Straczynski, cult TV creator, best-selling comics author and high-profile Hollywood screenwriter, wants to work at DC Comics now. Hey, looks like DC just hit the jackpot, right?
Well, not so fast. People at DC Comics are busy, you understand. They've got their ways of doing things. They've got countdowns and crises of their own, and they're not going to drop everything just because some cult TV creator, best-selling comics author and high-profile Hollywood screenwriter wants to lend his services to their properties. They've got their priorities, you see, and all the Superman and Batman and Justice League projects for the coming ten years are set and shan't be meddled with, anyway.
And so they give Straczynski The Brave and the Bold.
Estimates have it that The Brave and the Bold, a book launched by prominent creators Mark Waid and George Pérez back in 2006 that is set on the fringes of the DC Universe, currently sells around 40,000 units, falling rapidly. Pérez recently left, and once Waid and his successor Marv Wolfman are done with it, DC can be ecstatic if it still moves 30,000 units. The artist Straczynski will be paired with is Jesús Saiz, who does good work but - like many artists who have been working at DC for the last five years - hasn't really been built up by them commercially. If Straczynski's name gives The Brave and the Bold a really good boost, perhaps it goes up to 50,000 - which still wouldn't quite place it in the Top 30.
Decisions like this one are, of course, precisely why DC is being thrashed by the competition month in, month out. Have they totally lost the plot? It certainly looks like the people in charge are unsure how to properly maximize and market their existing resources to an audience younger than 40. If they were Marvel, rest assured that the hell would be marketed out of this. Straczynski would probably be doing the same thing, mind you. But it would be relaunched and called Ultimate Batman Team-Up, drawn by Steve McNiven and set up during Secret Invasion. And anything less than 100,000 units sold of issue #1 would be considered a disappointment.
At DC, though, it's called The Brave and the Bold #20-something, and we're shooting for the Top 50. The announcement is emblematic of the publisher's woes over the last couple of years, really, and, to be frank, it doesn't inspire great confidence in their post-Final Crisis plans.