Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why I Quit Static Shock

This post is to clarify some comments a made on facebook, which were picked up by Bleeding Cool News about why I left the comic book series Static Shock which was one of the 52 titles that were part of DC Comics' much celebrated relaunch last fall. The comments were made in a Milestone specific group and were meant more to shed light on my feelings about the missed opportunity to show the true potential of the character of Static, and what I had hoped to do with the character, and series, when I was asked to write it, and less to do with my reasons for leaving. Because the comments were made casually, I left a lot of room for interpretation for anyone reading them, which isn't fair to any parties involved, so I'm taking this opportunity to offer some clarity.

Initially, I had never intended to openly discuss the reasons why I chose to leave Static Shock. My reasons were my own, and I felt that after expressing them to the powers that be at DC Comics and after discussing them with Bob Harras that the situation was resolved amicably and that there was no reason to say anything further than acknowledging that I had indeed left the series. However, since the announcement that Static Shock would cease publication with issue #8 ( I was only involved with issues 1-4) there's been a lot of online chatter about why the series failed, and I've received a lot of angry email blaming me for wrecking the series, the character, and the opportunity for an African-American character to take center stage at one of the big publishing companies. I've had people announce that due to the low quality of comic that they would no longer buy anything that had my name on it. I've had an editor at a publisher other than DC say they weren't interested in having me write for them because they thought Static Shock was a poor comic book series.

I don't really care what people think of me personally. Not everyone is going to like me, that's a given. That's okay. I don't really care if people don't like my work. I can't please everyone. No one can. That's okay, too. There are enough people who do like my work that I'm happy to have them, and happy to let those who don't like my work read the stuff they do like. That's all good. I finally spoke out because I'm unwilling to have my professional reputation damaged because of something that is not my responsibility. I've always been very vocal about crediting my collaborators for their contributions, or for others for inspiring aspects of my work, and always been completely willing to take responsibility for something I did that turned out to be less than it could have been.

This brings me to Static. When I was asked to write Static Shock for DC Comics, it was no doubt because of my long relationship with Milestone Comics (where the character originated, as did Xombi) and because of my long, close friendship with Static's creator, Dwayne McDuffie, who died nearly a year ago. I was excited by the opportunity. I loved the character, who I'd previously written in an issue of Kobalt way back when, and was looking forward to writing something so radically different from what I'm usually offered, but still infusing it with my own sensibility and giving the world a comic book series full of creativity, crazy ideas, and a lot of fun and humor unlike any of the other 51 titles that DC would be offering up last September. I thought Static had the potential to be one of DCs A-list characters, and not simply some supporting character incorporated from an outside company's pantheon of heroes. I never felt that Xombi lent itself well to full incorporation into the DC Universe and would always have to exist as it's own pocket world in the DCU. With Static Shock, however, I was fully looking forward to embracing all areas of the greater DCU, and also using the series as a gateway to not only showcase how cool all of the other Milestone characters were, but to bring them into the DCU in their own right.

To say I was disappointed with how things turned out is an understatement. From the first issue on, I was essentially benched by Harvey Richards and artist/writer Scott McDaniel. All of my ideas and suggestions were met with disdain, and Scott McDaniel lectured me on how my method for writing was wrong because it wasn't what the Robert McKee screenwriting book he read told him was the way to do things. The man who'd never written anything was suddenly more expert than me and the editor was agreeing with him. Scott had also never read a Static comic book, nor seen the cartoon series, yet was telling me that my dialogue didn't sound true to the character and would "fix it."

There was more concern about seeing that the title sold and didn't get cancelled than there was in telling good stories and having something coherent to bring readers in. This is what led Harvey to insist on the stuff with the two Sharon's and cutting off Static's arm. He had no answers for how to resolve these things, but thought it would keep reader's wowed enough to stick with the series. This, too, was frustrating. It was a lot of grasping at straws and trying to second guess what would keep it selling. It was decided that "bigger action" on every page of every issue was the key.

Static's alter ego, Virgil, who was more important to the original series than his super hero persona, was put on the very back burner because Harvey said it wasn't important and that the book just needed to be all action. One of my scripts was deemed too slow because there were a total of 4 pages where no one was hitting or shooting anything. Essentially my job was to transcribe Scott's voluminous and often clunky dialogue into a script format. Any efforts I made to try and finesse, edit, or reduce his dialogue or captions, offended him, and everything had to be changed back to how he'd originally written it, while my dialogue always required his improvement. Scott, to be fair, had a lot of great ideas, but did not have the writing skills necessary to make these ideas compelling stories, but was not willing to take any suggestions, or changes that I'd give him. As a writer, I understand the desire to want to protect you ideas and to believe that they are all golden, but this was supposed to be a collaborative experience, and I was supposed to be the writer with experience. To give credit where credit is due, my meager contributions to Static Shock amount to including Hardware, naming the school after Dwayne McDuffie, giving Virgil an after school job at S.T.A.R. labs, the Pale Man, Guillotina and the random line of dialogue. That's about it.If you didn't like any of those things, blame me.  Everything else was Scott and Harvey.

It could be said that it's Harvey's right as editor to decide that Scott's ideas, and writing in general, were better than mine, and maybe he was even right. In that case though, why keep me on the series as co-writer? Scott could have transcribed his own dialogue into script form. No one needed me for that. I was hired as writer, and the series was being published with me listed as such even though there was little to nothing between the covers of the comic that came from me. Even worse, it was all material I didn't believe in, and thought was substandard fare that we'd seen in a million comic books before.

It was a miserable experience, which I tried to weather professionally, and see if I could turn back into my favor, but that never worked. I was also determined to stick with it out of loyalty to Dwayne McDuffie hoping that I could fix what was going very wrong with this series. I even voiced my unhappiness with Harvey Richards who promised me that the situation would change.  When I received an email from Harvey telling me that he and Scott had been plotting out the series without me, after Harvey had promised me that I'd be back in the driver's seat as the writer, I'd had enough and quit. The experience as a whole was incredibly stressful, and I became physically ill just seeing an email in my inbox from either Harvey, or Scott.

My quitting was something that I spent a lot of time considering. It was while promoting the then forthcoming first issue that I first began to think about leaving. Even though I pushed the series, including here, where I posted the various villains in the days leading up to the issue #1 debut, my heart wasn't really in it. I avoided most interviews because I couldn't bring myself to lie about being enthusiastic about a book I had little to do with, and which I felt was not very good. I never  announced the publication of any other issues for the same reason. I couldn't encourage anyone to buy them.

Again, it really came down to how this was affecting my professional reputation. No one outside of Harvey, Scott and myself knew what was really going on behind the scenes. When I saw that a lot of people were buying Static Shock because of how much they enjoyed my pervious series, Xombi, I felt that it was unethical and irresponsible for me to let them be deceived into buying something that I had made no real contribution to. I won't take credit for work that's not mine -- good, or bad.  I also felt that after nearly two decades in the comic book industry and finally being recognized for my work with Xombi, I was unwilling to see that erased with Static Shock, which I felt was a mediocre comic book series, at best, a view which a lot of readers seemed to share, and blame me for.

I was stunned by how unprofessionally I was being treated by my editor, with whom I'd previously had nothing but a positive working relationship with for the bulk of my career in comics, and by Scott McDaniel, who seemed like a nice, personable guy, and the interactions he's had with his fans that I've read would indicate really is one. My negative experience was exclusively with these two people and not with anyone else at DC Comics, or with DC as a whole. As I said, no one knew any of this was happening until I quit and let the executives at DC know why. Anyone who wants to believe that my experience was some general DC policy would be wrong to think that. Bob Harras, Geoff Johns, Dan Didio, and Jim Lee did not tell Harvey Richards to reject all of my contributions on this. Harvey decided that, himself. All of my other experiences with a variety of people at DC going back to the 90s have been overwhelmingly positive. Again, they handled the situation, once I quit, rather well, I thought.

As a side note, some people read into my comment about looking for work from other publishers when I left Static Shock as some veiled hint that all was not good between DC and I. As anyone who freelances could tell you, new projects take months to reach the point where actual work is being done on them, and anyone is being paid. While I do have projects under consideration at DC, I'm still interested in working on other things. Since Static Shock, I've been concentrating my efforts on a project outside of comics which I can't announce yet, but was a nice change of pace. I'm still looking for things to do with other publishers as well, and am always willing to consider projects.

Static Shock did not get cancelled because DC has some racist motivation against minority characters, or the Milestone characters. Static Shock was cancelled, in my opinion, because it wasn't a good comic book. If it had been, people would have stuck with it, just as they have with Animal Man, who is a C-list character elevated by the talents of its creative team being allowed to do what they do best. DC wanted Static Shock to succeed as much as anyone did. They would never have started the series if they didn't think it had a chance to do so.

If you enjoy Static Shock, which by all means you have the right to do, then thank Harvey Richards and Scott McDaniel. They deserve full credit for everything you've read. Scott, constantly while rejecting my ideas and dialogue, would say he was doing it in an effort to put out the best comic book possible. I believe he was really trying to do that and was unfortunately saddled with me, a collaborator completely unsuited to his sensibility, and apparently unskilled enough to handle the task.  From the first interviews supporting the launch of this series, I went out of my way to suggest that Scott was doing it almost single handedly. That wasn't me simply trying to be gracious. It was the truth.

If you hated the series, and like me, felt that it could have been something much more than it was, I'm sorry. Good, or bad. This is not the Static Shock that I had hoped it would be. It's not the way I would have written it.  I hope this isn't the last time that Static will be given his own series. Even if he does manage to return, chances are high, I won't be writing it.

I don't plan to say anything else about this experience, and never had planned to say anything at all. Again, I'm just trying to correct assumptions made and preserve my professional reputation as a writer, and to keep people from making assumptions that my negative experience stemmed from some general policy at DC Comics. I plan to continue creating work for DC for as long as they'll let me.


Vinnie Bartilucci said...

From the moment Dwayne began working with DC towards bringing Milestone back, I kept seeing weird moves being made. They handed him JLA, and then kept asking him to do things that were not in his plans.

After swearing blind that they had plans for the entirety of the characters, it became abundently clear to me that they saw Static as the real prize, and the rest of the characters as the bland-tasting cereal you had to choke down to get to the prize. Every attempt to get the rest of the crew in front of the readers was hobbled and put out with nary a line of promotion.

Even Xombi, as entertaining as it was, felt like reaction as opposed to action. People kept screaming for more Milestone (indeed, ANY Milestone) so they picked one at random. If it had been after lunch whe they decided, you might have been writing Kobalt.

So when they went with Static as on of the new 52, I figured it was mission accomplished - we got a strong character leading a title, and they got to ignore the rest of the Milestone characters. And what I read was good, or at least good enough.

I honestly don't think this was all a ploy by DC so they could throw up their hands for the next ten years and say "Hey, nobody wants black folks in their comics". Indeed, it sounds more like, in a weird way, they were trying too hard. It's as if they didn't trust you, or the character as he was created, to be good enough to be the hit they wanted. So they tried to "fix" it. And they never seem to remember how poorly similar attempts to Fix things go.

J.R. LeMar said...

I believe that both you and Vinnie are both giving the PTB @ DC a benefit of the doubt that they don't deserve. They've been frakin' up non-White characters ever since the first decided to create one (as Tony Isabella recalls: the racist White man who turns into a superpowered Black man), and continue to do so to this day. @ what point do we finally realize this can't all be coincidental?

Ken H. said...

It's really sad to hear about all the weirdness between you and the other two. I had high hopes for the series, both in exposing you to people who might have been put off by the weirdness of Xombi and in how it might help introduce more of the Milestone line to new readers.

Hopefully this won't adversely affect your ability to find work much longer and I'm looking forward to whatever's next on your plate.

Jamal Igle said...

I have to say I admire your frankness and integrity. We've all had that untenable situation come up while working in this business. Thank you for being so honest.

Jamie Rosen said...

I said this over on Goodreads when this was cross-posted, but I appreciate your openness about the situation, and hope the experience doesn't affect your professional life. Your name on a comic remains one of the few that practically guarantees a purchase from me.

Comic Book Candy said...

Thank you, we need more conversations like this when a book gets canceled. Like many readers, I'm fed up with the big two blaming every cancellation on low sales (which may indeed by true), that is a symptom of the real problems. Finding out WHY a book fails to find an audience begins and ends with looking at what the publisher is failing to do, whether it's in need of changing a creative team (or keeping the one you have and trusting them to do what they were hired for), changing the marketing, or being honest about what isn't working. Hell, even changing cover art work in some cases would help a title reach its intended audience. Instead, they'd rather try and trick their targeted audience into picking up something that so closely resembles everything else they loyally purchase. These publishers have a social responsibility to make change and they are failing to do so and hoping that "it doesn't sell" will be a suitable excuse. As a whole readership is way down, even with the relaunch, and business as usual won't cut it.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry to hear that you had so much difficulty working on Static Shock. I could tell from the very first issue that it didn't have the same feel as the show or the previous comics, and now I know why. I really hope that someday they'll give Static another shot and do it right.

M Kitchen said...

Thanks for writing this. It confirms many suspicions. This is exactly the reason why I'll always prefer creator owned independently produced comic books over corporate comics. It's rare when a creative team can really rise above the corporate politics and have their voice shine through in tact on the page (Dan Slott seems to be doing a good job with that these days over at Amazing Spider-Man).

It's too bad Static Shock turned out the way it did. There were so many missed opportunities to appeal to new audiences who maybe watched the cartoon as kids, and could come back to a Milestone inspired comic adventure.

Who knows... maybe you can do your own creator owned project and do it right!

Votapardo said...

Mr. Rozum, may I suggest you make a Static Shock-like character and send it to an indie publisher? Surely they won't treat you as DC has and you can write the book you want.

Anthony said...

As someone who entered the "new 52" with very little experience with comics, I knew Static Shock was complete garbage and stopped reading after the second issue. I heard a lot of positive buzz about your writing going into the series, and after hearing that you left I had a feeling it must have been the other writer who was doing such a poor job. However, I have to admit that I was still wary to pick up other titles under your name because I wasn't certain whose fault it really was. I have a feeling I'm not the only one who was reassured by this blog post, and you've probably done yourself a really big favor by putting it up.

Ultimately, I have to say I was happy to hear about Static Shock being canceled. The idea that anyone was getting paid for that type of writing was pretty maddening. Although I will say that between Mister Terrific and Static Shock, it's sad to see African-American characters getting the shaft.

Anyway, I look forward to your future stuff.

John Rozum said...

Thanks everyone for the support.

As I've said the reason I decided to speak out about this was because people's reaction to the book was impacting on my means of making a living. If editors and readers told me they would never read my work again based on my work on Xombi, Detective Comics, or even Scooby-Doo I would find that fair. That's my work, and as I said, I don't expect everyone to enjoy it. But when the same thing is happening because of something it's been perceived as being my doing, but actually isn't, I'm not willing to suffer for it.

I can only speak out on my own experience, and as such, DC as a corporate entity, nor the people in charge had any wrong doing in this. if anything, it was my fault for not bringing the situation to their attention earlier instead of trying to fix it myself.

For those of you who tried Static Shock because you'd heard good things about me as a writer and found yourselves disappointed, I recommend that you pick up the trade paperback collection of XOMBI by myself and Frazer Irving which will be available in early February. It won't be to everyone's liking (I suggest you read the first few pages before deciding) but it was an example of a truly wonderful collaboration and something I embrace fully.

JMY said...

I think this was a fair piece and I hope to see you on another series soon.

Darryl Zero said...

For the record, Mr. Rozum, some of us familiar with your writing kinda thought this was what went on (especially by issue #3). Thanks for confirming it.

Rev Sully said...

This is a great blog. Thanks John.
What an experience!
Your work does speak for itself. I've only come to know you recently through XOMBI nonetheless that was one of the best things I've read in a while (your battery partner wasn't too shabby either ^_~).
Yet your writing...your storytelling was superb. I laughed aloud to the puns and cringed at the macabre.
You'll have no problem finding work with evidence such as that really awesome 6-issue story.
I wanted more of that!

kriya shakti,
Rev Sully
the Hhub of the Multiverse

Eric O'Sullivan
Boston, MA USA

Anonymous said...

I'm aware that you've stated this wasn't an issue with DC as a whole, and it would be ludicrous for me or anyone else to blame every single member of the DC editorial staff... However this topic brings up a series of long running issues I've had with DC, especially in the post-DCNU climate:

The first is the demand and reception for ongoing titles starring African-American characters. These series are generally launched with the wrong mentality. A fan accuses a writer or publisher of being racially biased, that publisher then feels the need to overcompensate to avoid the media backlash. The idea of telling a great story with a great character, regardless of race, doesn't really come into play in that scenario.

That's not to necessarily say that was DCs main motivation, I can't speak to the inner workings of the company. That said, I don't believe it was a coincidence that several months ago, after several fan blowups at conventions regarding minority and female creators and characters not being given a fair shake, that the relaunch wasn't partially designed around appeasing that vocal majority.

I digress... The fault lies with both the fans and the publisher when these books falter. We demand them out of righteous indignation, DC responds out of fear of being labeled prejudice. When in reality it's not their fault that the most popular characters were created in a predominately Caucasian-oriented time period.

What is their fault is that our demands meeting their appeasement generally leads to titles not being given the creative push they need. They don't put their top-selling talent on the books (No offense intended, Mr. Rozum), they don't market it half as well as the books like Justice League which are so well-established that they don't need marketing; and as stated in this very article/post they often assign writers and mandate me-too ideas in the hopes that some of the popularity of a Batman or Superman title rubs off.

These books can sell, but they need to be launched for the right reasons, not just a lack of skin tone.

Anonymous said...

The second issue is something I've noticed in many "mainstream" comic titles for years, and DC books in particular: Throwaway characters and concepts with no long term resolution. I'm sure you've noticed, but nearly every DCnU title has had one or more new villains launched as well. This is all well and good, new ideas and concepts can be wonderful. In this case however it leads to a lot of abandoned characters and storylines we will never see again.

Take the new Green Arrow ongoing for example. That title has some interesting takes on Ollie, his company, and a Smallvillian take on his heroic alterego. Yet we're also introduced to the obligatory throwaway rogues gallery. I admit I'm fuzzy on the details, but I bet I hit a few of them with the following: four-six arms strongman, ninja-ezque assassin girl, cyborg implant fellow with high-tech weaponry, snarky leader type with delusions of grandeur.

How many times must we see these character archetypes? Often replicated, rarely ever mentioned after their initial story-arc.

That leads to a phenomenon I call comic escalation, where each new storylines leads to a new, noname throwaway villain who is somehow more threatening than the last... Only to do the very same thing in the next arc, and the one after that. This also goes for story elements like cutting off Static's arm. It screams of sales desperation and little else.

Do not get me wrong, I don't believe we should constantly recycle Lex Luthor and Joker appearances at the cost of new ideas, I'm merely pointing out that many of said "new ideas" are tired rehashes and cash grabs. "This week, Red Robin faces his most deadly threat yet!", (you know, unlike every other week).

Last but not least, I think it's time the industry realizes that while it's great to launch a new book with a beloved character, the market isn't what it was in the 80s. Though DC has had more luck with this than Marvel. We need to start thinking, hey, maybe the era in which a Black Widow, Moon Knight, or Mr. Terrific book would sell is over. Comics are now, on average, about $4, so higher profile books are generally going to take centre stage when it comes time to open that wallet.

I don't mean to suggest we should stop trying to save those franchises, just that realistically maybe their isn't enough demand to support a Hawk & Dove title when a triple-A Justice League book is sucking up our dollars. When it comes time to choose betweennthe two, well, things get dicey.

Like many others I'd also like to state that I greatly appreciate your openness regarding this issue, Mr. Rozum. We need more transparency like this in the industry. And thanks for hearing me out, to those that read these two posts.

Jonathan Stover said...

XOMBI was my introduction to your writing and I loved it and the art. Glad to hear that it's at least getting a tpb. Best of luck on getting a book or books where you again have some reasonable measure of creative control.

SCARCEXL said...

I think you made the right move talking about this. I am one of the people who bought static, dropped it and felt so disapointed that, despite the good impression Xombi gave me, I was ready to avoid any future serie with your name on it. Not anymore.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of folks not recognizing the uneven playing field in comics...especially when it comes to black superheroes. I have heard so many people say that the success of a book has absolutely nothing to do with race. Here is a hypothetical question for all of you...what if Marvel Comics brought out a new version of Blade that was written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Bryan Hitch. Furthermore...this series began to outsell Wolverine or Spiderman and became Marvel's top selling title. Do you think this is what top brass at Marvel wants or do they enjoy their present status quo? Would Marvel ever let Blade or Luke Cage outsell X-Men or Spider Man? We will never know because they won't make the investment...therein lies the racism.

Anonymous said...

Hey John.

I always meant to pick up a copy of Xombi, and just strangely never got around to it.

I promise to buy a copy of the TPB when it comes out. After reading what you've gone through, which I really respect that you communicated in a non-bitchy way, I sincerely want to support you more.

Anonymous said...

Scott McDaniel is one of the worst comic-book artists in the business. Every comic he's ever drawn for DC has been painful to look at. If DC wanted the book to succeed, they'd have hired literally any other artist but him, in my opinion. Any attitude on his part other than humble gratitude that somebody actually is willing to pay him for the ugly chicken-scratches he puts on the page would require an almost pathologically inflated sense of his own self-worth. If his name in the credits wasn't a serious disincentive to buy a comic book before this sad situation with Static came to light, it sure as hell is now.

Yan Basque said...

This is a heartbreaking post.

As you said before, Static Shock deserved better. I also think YOU deserved better. Xombi was the best comic DC published in the last couple of years. You should be given the same kind of creative freedom that people like Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder and Paul Cornell seem to enjoy.

cartoonboy09 said...

I knew something was up. I'm glad I know now. I really wanted Static to work, too. I got the feeling from issue one that something was wrong. Xombi was so frakin' good, and Static shock was just awful.

At any other corperation, if Harvey was a manager, he would have been fired. So would Scott for being a douche.

I don't want to write a book in a comment, so here's my leave.



As a fan of the Static cartoon and one disappointed in this series, sorry to hear that you not only got the short end on the deal, but are taking all the fallout for it. I admire your openness about the situation, regardless of its necessity. Too often a lot of questionable things happen behind the scenes in comics that leave fans and the media in the dark, and it's good to hear now and then that the collaborative process isn't as collaborative as it could and should be. It paints a very real picture of the less glamorous side of comic writing, and also helps serve as a cautionary tale for incoming writers who may not be aware of the levels of drama in which it can reach. For that alone, I thank you.

I hope this post does what it's intended and you continue to find opportunities to redeem your name within the industry. And, hopefully, whatever fanbase you accumulated during your career recognized that the work being produced wasn't your own and continues to follow and support you.

Christopher Allen said...

Hi John,

I feel for you, and commend you on the honesty and class you showed in the post. I think you went out of your way here to present this sorry scenario as a true case of creative differences between people who may be have just been a bad match. I hope DC and other publishers read this and realize you're not talking out of school and are only trying to protect your reputation, without throwing anyone else under the bus that doesn't deserve it. I'm one of those who hadn't read your work until Static Shock and while I dropped out quickly, I will definitely give the Xombi tab and future work a look. Good luck on your future projects.

Unknown said...

I only recently got back into comic book reading. I'm barely just starting to build my reputation as a freelance artist and with enough time, as a freelance writer as well.

Since I have almost no knowledge of comic book writers/artists I can objectively say that if what you have written is true then I wholeheartedly understand why you did it. What you tried to do is commendable. And I have some rudimentary understanding of how hard it is to do what you could with what you were working with during your collaboration.

If your past projects are as methodically well written as this blog I would be a fool not to at least look into what you've worked on.

A friend quoted something from you on facebook from this blog which piqued my interest. Otherwise I never would have made this discovery and I probably wouldn't have clicked on the link if I hadn't been aware and a fan of Static Shock through the TV series.

Good luck on your future endeavors.

TheGreenDeath said...

I downloaded from Comixology the first issue of Xombi after reading your post. I'd ncorrect,y judged your work based on what I read in static, why I wasn't blown away by and want to give you a better chance. Liking forward to reading it now. Thank you for the thoughtful and sincere post.

Unknown said...

To be fair, I've never liked McDaniel's art, so Static Shock was never going into my read pile while he was on the book regardless of how much I've enjoyed your past work.

Reading this, I was stunned by his arrogance over claiming his understanding of McKee's STORY trumped your years of experience in this medium. People who think writing comics is just like writing for the screen are going to be terrible at one, if not both.

Here's hoping I get to see you teamed up with a more respectful set of collaborator's in the not too distant.

Nemo said...


I enjoyed your Xombi run, and I was honestly glad you chose to clarify the situation. I think you are a very talented writer, who was given a situation in which a character you liked and story you had planned was ultimately overwritten by an editor and artist.

At some levels, this is about editorial control and a very difficult if not impossible mentality that pervaded Marvel comics in the early 1990s, and seen most clearly during the Morbius run. I think that you needed to clarify your position, and needed to do so now for your professional standing.

As for myself as a fan, I look forward to your future work, and I wish you much luck in the future!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being honest in regards to your situation.

This sounds a bit like sabotage. Very similar to what Comic Artist Guild (CAG) pulls on certain members.

dicecipher said...

All I can say is thanks for letting folks know what was up.

Emily Lavin Leverett said...

Really interesting post. I've only recently started reading comics, including the new 52, but not Static Shock. My SO swears by Xombi, and when he picks up the trade, I'll read it.

But what interested me about the post was the process it revealed. I'm working on being a writer (though not of comic books) and the writer/co-writer/editor relationship you discuss is fascinating. Ultimately, it's sad because it turned out a failed project, but you highlight the way(s) that it can go wrong. Thanks for the frank and tactful discussion of the circumstances.

Jeff said...

I was really looking forward to Static Shock, but after reading the first couple issues, decided not to continue.

I'm glad to hear you didn't have much to do with it, as I really enjoyed Xombi (except for the colors). I'll keep an eyeball out for what you put out next.

Tracy McWilliams said...

Thanks for you candor, John. I must say that I didn't read Static. I chose to go with Mister Terrific first. I dropped it at #2. The art was terrible, and the writing was so hackneyed and awkward (racial matters were brought up on the second page of issue #1, and a potential interracial love triangle was forced and stupid). So I didn't even bother trying Static.

I wish I read that it would have been better that Mister Terrific. But, alas.

At any rate, onward to bigger and better for you, I hope.

Derrick said...

You were right to leave. McDaniel and Richards are clowns.

John Rozum said...

Again, thank you for all of the support everyone.

Hopefully my coming forward with this will make it easier for anyone else who may be in a similar situation to find a solution to their own problems, or make it less likely that such situations arise in the future.

A lot of interesting and valid points have been made about race and comics. I'm not going to get into a discussion on that here, since it's not part of why I came forward. I do have some opinions on this though. I think the problem is a circular one between publishers, fans, and retail stores and less an issue of quality. I guarantee that if a comic book series starring a non-white character was selling really well, the publisher would be thrilled. Their goal is to make money. They don't care what titles are bringing that money in so long as it comes. Sadly, from a promotional standpoint, they put all their money, advertising and promotion behind the guaranteed sellers (such as Batman and event series) and not behind the more chancy stuff that they publish in an attempt to publish more variety.

Terence said...

I too am glad that you posted this. I understand why you've defended DC here and in interviews, but I remain skeptical of those at the company who are making the publishing decisions. To the best of my knowledge, no one at DC has publicly explained why the company cancelled Xombi despite overwhelming critical acclaim and stronger sales than many of its mainstays. Certainly, no one at DC bothered to respond to my letter of support for the book.

John Rozum said...

It's true I'm not looking to burn bridges at DC, but I'm willing to accept that I probably have. My excusing them in this situation is genuinely because I do not hold anyone other than Harvey and Scott responsible for my situation. If anything, I'm to blame for trying to be a team player and deal with it myself without bringing to to the attention of anyone one else at DC until I'd decided to quit.

I do think that they completely dropped the ball on Xombi. I don't think there was a lot of faith in it, for whatever reason. I was told that Dan Didio was the most enthusiastic about my pitch for Xombi than he'd ever been at any other DC meeting, so I was surprised when no one in charge of DC really stood behind Xombi even when it was gathering up rave reviews by the fistful.

I also think that the abundance of available free downloads of the comic really hurt sales. It was clearly being read by more people than were buying it.

Hopefully the trade paperback will sell enough that DC will want more Xombi.

PretenderNX01 said...

I wish more writers were as honest as you. It really is for the best.

People were circling around to blame you and maybe even the failure of Static was hurting the chances of Xombi.

If I may, can I ask who's idea it was to move Static out of Dakota?

I felt losing his supporting cast hurt Statitc/Virgil. They're part of the reason I liked him to begin with and I just wondered.

It seemed like his previous use at DC in Titans also took him out of Dakota too.

John Rozum said...

Dan Didio is the person who decided to transplant Static to NYC. I'd already written the bulk of a first issue set in Dakota which included Virgil's friends from school as well as about a dozen Milestone villains (mostly Static's though there were others) as well as some newly created ones meant to imply that Static's kept busy since we last saw him.

I agree that it was a lost opportunity. I thought it would have been an excellent means for reintroducing the larger Milestone universe into the DCnU and was looking forward to making Dakota as iconic a city to the DCnU as Gotham, Metropolis, or any of the others.

I was okay with having Static in NYC though and felt there was much that could be done with that, but in the end it just wound up being a bland generic superhero comic without much to distinguish it from any other superhero comic we've all seen a million times.

Anonymous said...

I love how everything comes back down to 'racism'. You dont support Obama because he is socialist, your a racist, you dont like blade because he is too violent, your a racist, DC doesnt do justice with Static Shock, they are racist.

Mark H said...

Static Shock #1 is the only DC52 comic that I've read. I thought it had potential and even when I heard about the cancellation, I was thinking "Hey, maybe it's a cool 8-issue arc and I'll finish it out." After reading this though I'm thinking otherwise. Hopefully when/if the next launch comes, it'll take all the good elements of previous incarnations. Good luck on your endeavors, John. The 2nd review down is my full write-up on the issue -

Kwesi said...

Hi John,
As an aspiring comic book writer and a big fan of Static I really appreciate this post. Static was the first of your work that I thought I'd read, and honestly from the get go it was off... It felt too ham fisted in its writing; the point you made about Scott and Harvey trying to make the series all-action is something I noticed early on and perceived as trying too hard. Static did deserve better than the crap that was spewed out... Although I am still curious to see how they tie up the series.

daingermouz said...

wow you wouldn't believe this but I just went online to buy Static Shock 1-6 and now I discover this news. Think I'll try it anyway but thanks Mr Rozum for the heads up.

I'm a BIG fan of the Milestone line and have nearly every issue in storage (if my ex-wife have not thrown them out)so I feel compelled to grab everything Milestone no matter what. Good luck on all your future projects.

Unknown said...

It seems to me that the move to NYC was the unintentional start down the spiral to ruin for the book. If you didn't have to jettison what you had originally prepared for issue #1, then Richards and McDaniel wouldn't have had the opportunity to take over on the writing side.

Optimous Douche said...

Thank you for posting this John.

I did my fair share of reviews on XOMBIE (some quotes of which made it to the covers) for Ain't It Cool and I absolutely bought STATIC SHOCK because of that work.

I didn't fault STATIC SHOCK for not being XOMBIE, but it was eminently clear that the voice was drastically different.

My 2 cents, you work best in an unfettered state -- your universe, no baggage.

Vertigo would be smart to get you working in their disparate universe of titles.

Optimous Douche - Ain't It Cool News (

Robert Gordon Eicher said...

I find it unfortunate that one would choose to speak badly of a collaborator; in order to try and salvage one's creative reputation.

If any would be at fault in this situation... I would say that would be the editor; in that he makes the final decisions.

As for the rest of it...
Rhetoric of integrity to the character and etc...

Life is politics.
Play the game or go home.

John Rozum said...

KH - The move to NYC did derail my original plans, but was not something I thought was disastrous. I felt that it presented its own opportunities. It did unfortunately have an impact on the schedule giving us all less time to work with it than was ideal.

OD - I owe you a great deal of thanks for your enthusiastic endorsement of Xombi (which is quoted on the cover of the TPB). I prefer to work with my collaborators trusting that I know what I'm doing, just as I do with them. This usually means that our collaboration is stronger and suggestions going in both directions are more harmonious and lead to stronger material. Frazer Irving was the perfect collaborator for me and I'd work with him again in a heartbeat. I'd be happy to go back to doing work with Vertigo and have not ruled that out.

RGE - Speaking badly of a collaborator was not something I set out to do, nor was it an easy decision to make. As I stated, I only went forward because work that I didn't do, but was presented as being responsible for, was impacting my professional life.

I tried to keep my statements as polite and factual as I could, and did not elaborate with details which would have, while being true, been unnecessary and served no function other than to be petty and vindictive, which I am not. I found both named parties to have been entirely unprofessional in how they dealt with me regarding my role in the work, and felt I needed to explain the basic manner of what went on to explain in what manner this was done.

My feelings for Scott's writing, or the resultant finished issues of the book are from a personal standpoint and are not meant to suggest that I find him to be a bad person in general or a substandard penciller. I thought Static Shock was a poor product and in no way represented anything I would have written if left to write the series. As I said, if people liked the comic, then great. Let Scott know how amazing you thought his work was. I have no problem with that.

My issue is that it's represented as something I wrote and I did not. Even if I thought STATIC SHOCK was an outstanding comic book I will still feel the same way. It's not my work. I shouldn't be credited with it, or blamed for it. That is all.

Snakebyte said...

I really appreciate your honesty. I hadn't read any of your work prior to Static #1, and... apparently I still haven't read any of it. Best of luck in your future endeavours.

The Mighty Monarch said...

This is fairly close to what I felt when I was reading this series. I wrote my own review, and noted specifically I was barely able to see your influence on it.
So to hear that this was the case is kind of a huge relief in a way. Thanks for all you tried to do, the appearance of Hardware was pretty much the best thing that happened in that series, it gave me so much hope that I'd see more Milestone popping up in the DC Universe.
Now I can continue to say that I've never read a comic written by you that was anything less than stellar. When the Xombi series last year first got announced, all I could think was 'Oh hey, Milestone stuff is coming back.' Then I read it, and instantly I decided Xombi was the Milestone series I wanted to find back issues for the most. I hope someday soon you'll be able to continue David Kim's story, and hopefully still with Frazer Irving.

Carlos Millan said...

Mr. Rozum-
I just finished reading Mr. McDaniel's account of events.

Despite your (pl) protestations to the contrary, it seems to me that you both were treated poorly by DC and not given conditions where most people could reasonably be expected to succeed. Neither of you should have been placed in that position... or played off one another as was clearly the case.

It is unjust that either of you should be judged by a project hadn't been given the proper attention needed to ensure it would work. (As the New DCU marches forward, I think you will find more and more of your fellow professionals in the same situation, which should lessen any potential stigma.)

But honestly- it really sounds like what they had was a publishing deadline instead of a comic.

Best of luck on your future endeavors.

Social Media Management said...

DC comics is no longer in the market today. But in the 90's they were boom in the kids collection series, even adult too.

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind my input. It is not so much a comment on Static, buta comment on the Dc relaunch so please bear with me.

Justice League was the book they pushed that was the big opening to this grand new universe. It contained: poor dialogue (disguised as being hip, cool or modern); Slow pacing (Batman and Green lantern wasting a lot of time talking about fashion sense among other things for the first issue); average storytelling (at least Mr. Lee git his perspective correct except for the cover); and poor characterization (I didn't care whether these people succeeded or not).

It seems to me like editors do not know how to direct or edirt the material or even give paramenters with which you can play. i recall Dick Giordnao's hands off policy. As an example using the Batman titles he dited, he wanted Commissoner Gordon fired and then rehired and a restoration of Wayne Manor as the main home for Bruce Wayne. I also recall Julius Schwartz involved with the plotting and letting the writer go with what was a brainstorming process.

It seems like neither of these things were done. My impression with the relaunch is that Dan Didio was failing, and corporate pretty much put him on the line to come up with something quick, or find a new job. With that premise, it just doesn't surprise me what happened. The fact that McDaniel is lecturing on writing after things were "approved", then the editor didn't do his job. Look through some old Image comics and tell me that isn't the route DC is going. Also inquire about Louise Simonson and her incidents with Rob Liefeld on X-Force which among those included her stuff rewritten in order to have characters in civilian clothing changed to costumes so Liefeld can sell his original art for big bucks. Welcome to Image and '90s Marvel, Mr. Rozum.

Anonymous said...

as a huge static shock fan, i appreciate you atleast trying to bring back the character.

John said...

I stopped reading after issue 2. I disliked the artwork and the stories did not have a recognizable (i.e., fun, dynamic, interesting, and introspective) Virgil/Static. I was very disappointed, because I had enjoyed the character in his original Milestone run (I loved most of the Milestone comics, especially Static, Hardware, and Icon) as well as his cartoon series.

From the hints and suggestions you have made, it sounds like I would have enjoyed your (actual) take on Static. That was the series I was hoping to get. Instead, I got something bland and dis dispirited -- two words that should never be associated with one Virgil Hawkins!

Good luck with your future endeavors.

Huge static fan... said...

Well i am of the younger generation of readers, so when it comes to art i don't know much. story and over all awe at a static comic compelled me to buy and read them. i love the character like family. the show taught me so much. i still have the series and still watch it today. thats when it hit me that something was wrong, with the show i watched one episode and then the whole season and my afternoon is consumed with Static/Virgil. i picked these comics and read them once and never touched them again. this shocked me and which i comes to this post. and i know it probably be a waste of time but can you make a fan-fiction(which if enough people liked could be the new unofficial-official story in which i would read for years to come.) to show us what you intended to make the character to be. Obviously you probably want to move on but i don't want static to end this way and i am sure that i am not the only one.
p.s. from all the posts i read this xombi comic sounds awesome so i will be trying to find book one and start from there. good luck on ur future endeavors and hope that u r never put in this situation again. gl

Jeff said...

i highly doubt this was racially based guys, im sure it was more so that they didnt know what to do with static. we have the mcduffie source material to go on, and then of course the bruce timm universe made future static out to be the single most powerful being in the DCU. so its like how do we take him from little virgil hawkins to static, the man who can rip open space and time with his electricity? i know, lets give him a bunch of crazy new abilities and a new lab and new friends and a new city. i mean there were a few things i really liked (his ability to see in different wavelengths, the static bubble around him that protected him from bullets, hell even the arm reattaching if they would have explained it)those were all great ways to evolves his powers, but they didnt go anywhere, and the two sharons thing was just ridiculous. hopefully static will get a reboot in the near future and get some writers who can do him justice, no offense john i know it wasnt your fault, so present company excluded.

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

I am far late to this discussion, but I loved Static Shock in general, and I loved his old, brass, persona from the old TV series.

I did notice the drastic change of writing in the middle of the 52 reboot, and thought maybe the writer was deliberately changing tone- and the twin sister thing was just confusing.

I'm not one to straight-up hate the new comic, but I was sad that it didn't live up to my expectations, and the whole arm-thing was really goddamned weird.. and never explained.

I hope it comes back, but I hope a writer like you will actually be able to write it next time.

Oliver said...

And I say to you what I said to Scott McDaniel: devoting thousands of words of blog post to a character and comicbook as minor as Static is like writing a Master's thesis on why Marvel changed the colour of Razorback's costume from turquoise to green.

A fellow writer and big fan said...

My heart weeps to discover that the people working on the Static Shock comics never watched the show and would not listen to the man who worked with his creator.This confirms what I have suspected for some time now. DC is hiring idiots and firing or back burning the geniuses already in employ. I really wish you could get a team together and start making the cartoon series again. That would make me SO happy! Barring that, making your own Static Shock Comics. I would totally pay $10 an issue if you did!

Anonymous said...

It's horrible that the way they treated your ideas. Especially since Harvey never read a Static comic book or watched the show.

Lionel Braithwaite said...

Anonymous #3: DC's constant love of old concepts like Batman '66 and the selling of that to a dwindling older fan-base is getting tiresome. There are young people of color that want to see a Static Shock title, and if it's well-written (and promoted), will pay through the nose for it. I don't know anybody that cares for shit (and it is shit) like Batman '66 (how many Batman books does the world need?) I don't blame said buyers for being pissy.

My hope is that with the recent appearance of an online only Static Shock book, that Static can get his due, and that DC can see how wrong they were in micromanaging the offline book so that it would be cancelled.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to be a little harsher on you and it is not for the sake of being a jerk. I hope that possibly what I say will be considered and allow you to have further succes and avoid such situations as this one. Honestly, this post could have a greater negative impact on your career then a comic run that did not reach its potential. A short run that did not find succes is just one source of material. Wether or not you had any part of those initial 4 issues is a small reflection of you as a writer either way. You have other material that shows your strengths and greater succes. That series does not define you as a writer. Your concern was being associated with the material but a potential employer is more likely give an opportunity and chalk it up to a stumble. By not shining a huge Spotlight on Static Shock all your material is considered by a potetial employer and it is judge based on your merit as a writer. However, that ship has sailed. With this article you effectively given potential employers reason for concern completely separate from your writing. Now your ability to work with others, your character, and wether you are liability will be a concern. I have no way of knowing if everything you say is completely true. However, let's just say that all of it is 100% accurate. Employers with doubtless be more skeptical but let's just say the way you see it is correct. I am personally inclined to take your word for it but by no means does that make it all acceptable. First off, it is bad form to bad mouth a co-worker's material. It is completely unprofessional to be as negative about his static shock writing. It's one thing to not approve of his behavior towards you as a co worker but intirelly another to repeatedly talk poorly of his skill as a writer, how he lacks the ability, doesn't know what he is doing, and how his material in static shock was terrible. You don't see other writer behaving that way towards other writers in DC. At least not the ones that are successful or still employed. Nobody wants to hire someone who has a history of bad mouthing his co workers on the same book. This isn't management. These are the people working woth you. If none of Static Shock is your own then obviously there will be concern over your ability to teamwork, overcome opposition, problem solve, and work things out. Even with a stubborn co writer who wants to do it differently employers are going to want somebody who can still find a way to work it out. They don't want to pay you do just let the other writer take control. You are an adult. I find it difficult to believe that this was the only possible outcome. That there was just no possible way to contribute. Your co workers were hired. They were working for DC. How is it possible that they made it anywhere in this industry with and additude of I'm writing this my way and screw everyone else. Maybe you just need some team building exercises or a boost in confidence so you can stand up for your ideas. Unless you were okay with being shut out. Unless you didn't have a problem not being a part of the book until you realized it wasn't having succes. These are all things that potential employers might not know much about or have nearly as much information about if you hadn't fealt the need to stand up for yourself and basically say. I had no hand in Static Shock so therefore I cannot be blamed for how terrible it turned out. However, you do hold partial blame. If it was taking such a poor direction do something about it. even if your co workers were so extreme you could not find any solution within the team then be proactive. Go over them and express your concerns about the direction of the book and your frustration over not being a part of does this article help you? You end up quitting before trying anything different and then when there is backlash you heap all the responsibility on everyone else. You take no part in it and excuse yourself while simultaneously portraying your experience and co workers in a negative light.

JCM3 ( said...


You and I exchanged a few letters (back in the snail mail days) during Xombi's original run.

It's still among my favorites of all time.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience on this comic. I will tell you now what I told you 20 years ago... I'll buy ANYthing with your name on it.

J.C. Macek III

katar said...

Its unfortunate that you had that experience with DC, while on Static. However, the N52, roll out was problematic for a lot of the creative teams on books. As someone stated before, "they were flying by the seat of their pants", no real planning for the long term with a lot of the books, characters and creative teams. However, it takes two to tango. We really don't know what impact the Dwayne McDuffie estate had in not allowing the Milestone brand to get off the ground. Its easy to blame DC, who doesn't have a great track record when it comes to black heroes. The latest roll out took sometime but was it due to Mcduffie's wife, who overseas the estate along with other stakeholders? Mr. Mcduffie, did so many things while at DC comics,from books to tv. And for a black-man to have that type of power and pull in the media is very rare, he had a lane that very few we able to drive into. He opened doors not only in comics, for animators as well. DC management is always looking for the next big thing, that "DeadPool, Thor, or X-Men, series of books. Young Justice was a hit with fans but, DC decided to cancel it due to poor toy sales, again, another missed opportunity. In conclusion, you will have many more chances to write other books. I see a lot of your peers are self publishing, doing online campaigns to get books in readers hands, so all is not lost. Take this as a learning experience, to uplift yourself and reach out to other professionals in the business.But, make certain you do your research before signing on to any new project with any company.