Newsarama’s Interview With Dan Didio

April 17th, 2009 by | Tags: ,

In this interview, Matt Brady asks Dan Didio about, among other things, Jason Todd’s recent killing spree.  Didio responds with this:

Let’s take this one from the very beginning. When a story is going to be told where we feel that a character crosses a moral line, we just don’t put that in arbitrarily. We think through how that affects everyone around him, and what the long-term ramifications of that action will be.

The perfect example of that was when Wonder Woman killed Max Lord. We thought that all the way through – we saw how that affected the relationship between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. We saw what happens when that relationship breaks down, and how that affected the entire DC Universe, as well as how it was ultimately resolved. We saw those causes and effects all the way through. Or another case – Identity Crisis – we saw those events, the effects of those events, and how they played through the DC Universe. Every time that we try to do a major story where we feel a moral line has been crossed, there are always ramifications because of it. Things that you’re mentioning with Jason – of seeing him kill – are all potential stories for the future. Unless he doesn’t make it out of Battle for the Cowl, these are all story beats that we’d like to see play out throughout the DCU, and they’re all fodder for future storytelling.

Although I can see the point that he is trying to make, and although I recently wrote about this very issue as it pertains to Jason Todd, Didio’s response rings false to me.

In the first place, can’t any development become a set up for future stories?  If Jason Todd were to unexpectedly come into his own and become the hero of Gotham City, wouldn’t that be a good set-up for future stories?  It could be a call-back to the earliest version of Batman, a man who carried a gun and who regularly killed criminals while still being a respected hero.  If Jason Todd were, instead, to be captured, it would also be a set-up for future stories.  The Batfamily would have to band together to get him out.  If Jason Todd were turned into a frog, it would be a set-up for future stories.  (Best.  Zatanna story.  Ever.)  Since this justification can be given for any story at all, it becomes meaningless.  It doesn’t matter that an action can cause interesting events in the future if there is no reason for that action happening now.

Secondly, Gotham has been rather heavy on set-up lately, while being light on story.  Remember War Games?  It was a multi-title, multi-month event that set up Black Mask as the ruler of the city.  Then he didn’t do much.  Then he was killed.  Now he’s back.  And he’ll have, I suppose, a lot of competition for supremacy, since Face The Face was a long story that set up White Shark as the crime boss of Gotham City.  Where has he been lately?  Maybe he was bumped off by whoever it was who came out on top in Gotham Underground.  The name escapes me, since I’m pretty sure there have been no stories told about them, either.  Or maybe he’ll fight the Al Ghul family, headed by Ras, Nissa, Talia, Ras, Talia?  It’s not that DC hasn’t published some great ongoing stories.  It’s just that I’ve been hearing a lot about a set-up for future stories and comparatively little about the stories themselves.

Finally, there is Didio’s line, “Unless he doesn’t make it out of Battle for the Cowl, these are all story beats that we’d like to see play out throughout the DCU.”  Didio has a tongue-in-cheek interview style that doesn’t always come through in writing, so perhaps he’s making a joke.  If he isn’t, the entire paragraph falls down.

I don’t want to descend into angry fanism, but I’m growing a bit tired of hearing that no decision is arbitrary, that there haven’t been any mistakes in characterization, that there will be a justification for a certain character’s actions in a year, another book, an unannounced-and-unplanned-yet-possible storyline.  There should be a reason why a character acts a certain way.  That reason should have something to do with the character’s actions, attitudes, or immediate wants.  “We can write about it later,” is not that reason.

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6 comments to “Newsarama’s Interview With Dan Didio”

  1. “We can write about it later,” is not that reason.

    THIS. This right there. Very much..

  2. Great comments on the interview,and thanks for taking the time to write this.

  3. Countdown was quite a while ago, and Todd appeared in lots of issues – isn’t it a bit much to expect writers to have read every single issue of a comic that features a character (not Todd exclusively) just so they can maintain continuity across as much as five or six other appearances? They might be expected to read as many as twelve comics if that were the case.
    They’re paid to write the current issue, not slave a character to a model of behavior that maybe just doesn’t fit the story they want to tell, on top of which there’s maybe only ten people on the internet who care about continuity anyway.

    The ‘story now, fuck the character model’ approach is probably best for modern writers who maybe don’t want to have to read lots of comics by other writers who maybe don’t work for the company or aren’t in favor with management anymore – seriously, is there anything left of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s run on Batman? Does anyone actually care what happened to Ace the Bat-Hound?

  4. @DJob: It’s true that everyone draws a different line on how much continuity they’re going to keep up with. Certainly I don’t read all comics. However, I think it’s important to know a lot about the character you’re writing.

    Under your model, honestly, why bother giving characters names? Why not have a group titled ‘Generic 20-Something Male Anti-Hero’ and ‘Standard Strong, Modern, Female Protagonist.’ There needs to be some sense of character maintained over a period of time.

    But that’s not really what this post is about. Someone was asked, ‘Why is so-and-so doing this?’ He replied, ‘So we can set up more stories later.’ That’s not a story at all. It’s an exercise in genre convention.

    When a guy goes from shooting drug dealers to shooting an innocent pre-teen boy, there needs to be a reason for him to do that.

  5. @Djob

    No one is blaming the writers. This falls squarely into the domain of the editors. Why even employ people to keep continuity in the Bat/Superman/Big Event books if they aren’t going to do their jobs? Is it that hard to keep a company wiki?

  6. I think BM was the big cheese for at least a year before he was killed off, but yeah he didn’t do anything special.

    GWS’s power was mentioned once in Dini’s DC, then he got demoted in GU

    and I believe the name you were looking for was Johnny Stitches.