‘Superman’, ‘Batman’ Writer Joshua Williamson Admits Outrage Sells Comics: “It Sucks, But It Is A Pattern That I’ve Seen In My Time At DC”
According to long-time DC writer Joshua Williamson, one of the most stark lessons he has learned throughout his ongoing tenure with the publisher is that, simply put, outrage sells more than satisfaction.
The current Superman Vol. 6 writer shared this insight into the comic book industry while speaking to The Popverse’s Graeme McMillan in promotion of his and artist Tom Reilly’s new G.I. Joe series for Skybound Entertinament, Duke Vol. 1.
Per an excerpt of their conversation provided by McMillan, at one point during their talk, Williamson lamented how “Sometimes people get really angry and they spend money, which is the saddest thing.”
“But it’s been the hard lesson that I’ve learned from DC,” said the Dark Crisis writer. “It’s that when people are happy, they spend less. It sucks, but it is a pattern that I’ve seen in my time at DC.”
Turning to offer his own personal thoughts on using this knowledge to his own advantage, Williamson then explained, “I don’t want to make anybody mad. The thing is that I would want to say, ‘First and foremost, trust me.’ It’s not just about, ‘Oh, I want to piss people off.’ That’s not what you’re doing at all.”
“What you want to do is you want to establish some kind of trust first and then say, ‘Listen, this is going to be a rollercoaster ride,” he elaborated. “It’s going to be crazy at times. There’s going to be some ups and downs and it’s going to be nuts, but trust me to come on this ride with me.'”
The Flash Vol. 5 scribe then noted that while any good story sees its characters facing some sort of struggle, those which subjected them to nothing but an endless torrent of pain and misery -*coughcoughZebWells’currentAmazingSpider-Manruncoughcough* – were far from what many readers would consider ‘satisfactory’.
“In any kind of story, the character kind of has to go through it,” explained Williamson. “They have to go through hard times so they can reveal who they are. It’s one of those rules of Pixar, they talk about this a lot. You root for them for trying. They have to try and they have to get kind of beaten up.”
“Man, when you’re watching anything, any movie, or reading a book, and the characters just get the crap kicked out of them, and then they get up and they’re just like, ‘Let’s keep going. I’m going to keep going,’ he added. “It’s like Captain America saying, ‘I can do this all day.’ That’s the stuff that you’re like, ‘Hell yeah!’”
Unfortunately for those curious, Williamson concluded his time with McMillan without having provided any specific examples as to which recent DC series, if any, were produced with the goal of farming what little extra outrage dollars fans are still willing to shell out.
However, even a cursory glance at their recent output returns a number of editorial decisions made throughout various books which could have fit this criteria.
From Wally West being turned into a mass murderer in Heroes in Crisis Vol. 1, to Jon Kent being turned into a walking avatar for neoliberal social media addicts in Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 1, to a walking strawman of the same group’s every pet grievance being revealed as the secret white supremacist leader of America in Wonder Woman Vol. 6, to the entirety of The Gotham War event being based on the intentionally obtuse argument that Batman is only beating up on the truly desperate in society rather than outright criminals, the list of DC series which could have been made with at least some intention of angering readers truly goes on and on.
To be honest, at this point one could throw a dart at a wall of the publisher’s last decades worth of solicits and, more often than not, the projectile will land on something made with such ill intent.
The second issue of Williamson’s aforementioned Duke Vol. 1 solo series is currently set to deploy on January 31st.
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