DC's Black Label line may not survive exposure of Batman's L'il Wayne

Over on Comics Beat, Heidi MacDonald is writing that the whole flap over Batman: Damned #1 and Batman's Batawang might have sabotaged the Black Label line: "Todger Turmoil: Batman’s Junk May Have Sunk Black Label Line"

Heidi MacDonald wrote:

While it’s still not clear how much of the furious Barcon gossip was fevered speculation and how much actual facts, it all points to the few shadowy panels of Batman naked in Batman Damned sending shockwaves throughout the WB/DC executive suites.

In particular, the Batjunk arrives just as WB’s new President of Global Brands and Experiences Pam Lifford was taking over the job running consumer products and DC and all things branding. It seems she was not happy with being greeted with this tempest on her first week, and DC publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio were strongly admonished (some say chewed out) that this was not the kind of thing that sells Batman lunchboxes for children.

Potential bodies to be thrown under the bus to atone for the mess include DiDio and Lee, Vertigo editor Mark Doyle, editorial consultant Will Dennis, and creators Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. A rich rogues gallery there.

Although these are all speculative, it does seem that the #1 perp on the list is the Black Label line itself. I was told that it’s basically dead in the water at this point. Batman Doomed #1 will not be reprinted, and the next issues may not be printed individually – instead the whole thing will be collected in an edited version, although this could still change.

Nothing like starting new job having to clean up an unnecessary, self-inflicted mess ... 

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On the Colbert show the two panels (front and rear) were shown with pixelation in one spot on each. The naked Bruce is apparently walking across a room, so they have no story value. This was an arrogant move that intelligent creators should have known would cause major blow-back. Fighting against censorship is usually a good thing but picking your battles carefully is also a good thing.

I hope they don't fire people over this.

I'm not so sure someone or someones doesn't deserve to be fired over this.

Like you say, fighting against censorship is usually a good thing, but the internal reaction at DC tells me that nobody at DC had that in mind before this project hit the store shelves.

Yes, intelligent creators should have known this would cause major blowback. I'm not going to offer an opinion on the intelligence of the people involved, but I sense that they didn't think they were picking a battle because there isn't a Comics Code any more. Boy, were they wrong.

It also seems that since WB's new president of Global Brands and Experiences was completely blindsided by this, the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. Had she or her office been clued in good and early, this could have been handled differently. The product could have been packaged and/or marketed differently, and they could have been ready to proactively handle the blowback.  

I agree with Heidi MacDonald that the defensive way of handling the blowback is excessive: "Sinking Black Label and neutering Vertigo seems to me to be the worst possible reaction." As she continues:

Heidi MacDonald wrote:

The reality is that adult content and Batman toys have coexisted peacefully for more than 30 years.

And even in this world of instantaneous social media outrage, they can continue to co-exist peacefully. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are ideals that can exist on many levels at once. And both DC’s bottom line and the comics medium as an art form have been greatly benefitted from the pioneering work done at the Vertigo line.

I'm sorry, but anyone who picked up a copy of something called Batman: Damned and thinks it should be suitable for children is an idiot. Anyone who published a thing with that title and thought that it was "lunchbox material" is the same thing.

Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, Dan Didio, and Jim Lee did absolutely nothing wrong. It didn't surprise anyone who was paying attention. If anyone was blindsided by this, it's their fault for not doing their responsibility being the prude in the first place.

I'm sorry, but this is not okay.

Somebody should have seen this coming before the book was published and prepared accordingly.

Mr. Baron Johnson is right! Better yet, if they had a problem with it, they should have spoken up then.

The Baron said:

Somebody should have seen this coming before the book was published and prepared accordingly.

The problem is, as dumb as it sound sto us, there will always be people who see "Batman" on something and think "Kid's stuff."

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

I'm sorry, but anyone who picked up a copy of something called Batman: Damned and thinks it should be suitable for children is an idiot. Anyone who published a thing with that title and thought that it was "lunchbox material" is the same thing.

Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, Dan Didio, and Jim Lee did absolutely nothing wrong. It didn't surprise anyone who was paying attention. If anyone was blindsided by this, it's their fault for not doing their responsibility being the prude in the first place.

I'm sorry, but this is not okay.

I can agree that Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo did nothing wrong. I can't let Dan Didio and Jim Lee off the hook that easily. Their positions call for them to take a wider view of what goes out under the DC banner than just, "wow, this is cool."

I think the retailers who fielded (or made) complaints were paying attention and were still surprised and blindsided, too. They and the readers didn't see these pages until the book was in stores, correct? 

I still think that a book called "Batman: Damned" should have been a pretty big waving flag that this might not be for children.

ClarkKent_DC said:

I think the retailers who fielded (or made) complaints were paying attention and were still surprised and blindsided, too. They and the readers didn't see these pages until the book was in stores, correct? 

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

I still think that a book called "Batman: Damned" should have been a pretty big waving flag that this might not be for children.

Sure. But does that title, alone, tell anybody that image is inside? 

I would probably only expect that from a comic called Batman: The Penis.

ClarkKent_DC said:

Sure. But does that title, alone, tell anybody that image is inside? 

People would probably still think that the Penis was a new Bat-Villain.

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

I would probably only expect that from a comic called Batman: The Penis.

ClarkKent_DC said:

Sure. But does that title, alone, tell anybody that image is inside? 

Looks like Black Label will make it after all:

For Immediate Release:

DC BLACK LABEL EXPANDS 2019 SLATE ADDING ‘WATCHMEN’, ‘THE KILLING JOKE’ AND OTHER CLASSIC TALES TO ITS ROSTER

 

DC announced today that some of its most legendary stories will now be a part of the DC Black Label imprint. The recently launched publishing line, dedicated to giving premier writers and artists the ability to tell unique, standalone stories set outside DC continuity, will release several iconic comic book collections featuring the most famous DC heroes from the archives beginning this December through the end of 2019.

 

“The DC Black Label line will house the best and most evergreen stories from DC,” says DC Publisher Dan DiDio. “The company has a long history that includes some of the most recognizable and renowned storytelling in comics and we want to honor that history by putting them under one banner.”

 

The quintessential tales that first inspired the creation of the line include complex and emotionally engaging narratives with stunning visual storytelling from some of the greatest creators in the industry. The list of reprinted collections and their release dates through 2019 can be found below:

 

  • ALL-STAR SUPERMAN—Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely—available 12/04/2018
  • DC: THE NEW FRONTIER—Darwyn Cooke—available 2/19/2019
  • WATCHMEN (HC w/new slipcase)—Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons—available 3/26/2019
  • KINGDOM COME—Mark Waid & Alex Ross—available 4/23/2019
  • RONIN—Frank Miller & Lynn Varley— available 5/07/2019
  • ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER VOL. 1—Miller & Jim Lee and BATMAN: YEAR ONE—Miller & David Mazzucchelli—available 6/11/2019
  • BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN—Miller—BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS—Miller & Klaus Janson—available 6/18/2019
  • BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT: THE MASTER RACE—Miller & Brian Azzarello & Andy Kubert & Janson—available 6/25/2019
  • LUTHOR 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION and THE JOKER 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION —Azzarello & Lee Bermejo—available 7/09/2019
  • BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM—Morrison & Dave McKean—available 8/13/2019
  • THE JOKER: DELUXE EDITION—Azzarello & Bermejo—available 9/10/2019
  • BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE—Moore & Brian Bolland—available 9/17/2019
  • WATCHMEN (TP)—Moore & Gibbons—available 9/24/2019
  • BATMAN: YEAR 100—Paul Pope—available 10/08/2019
  • SUPERMAN: RED SON—Mark Millar & Dave Johnson & Andrew Robinson & Killian Plunkett & Walden Wong—available 10/22/2019
  • BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN—Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale—11/05/2019
  • BLACK ORCHID—Neil Gaiman & McKean—11/12/2019
  • BATMAN: DARK VICTORY—Loeb & Sale—11/26/2019
  • BATMAN: HAUNTED KNIGHT—Loeb & Sale—12/17/2019
  • CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME—Loeb & Sale—12/31/2019

 

These collected editions are in addition to new original content that was previously announced. To see more of what’s to come from DC Black Label, check out DCComics.com.

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