What did Judd Winick do wrong?

Friday, September 21, 2007

I've been surprised by the anti-Judd Winick response to a recent Newsarama story about the upcoming Titans East series--many fans are adamant that Winick not be the writer (I think the writer's Kurt Busiek, but that's just me). We were starting to talk about this in the comments section of a Collected Editions post, and I thought, let me ask this aloud: what did Judd Winick do wrong?

Personally, I'm a fan of Winick's work. Pedro & Me (click for our review) is of course a classic, and his Batman and Green Arrow work has been just fine--not everyone agreed with the decision to bring back Jason Todd, but the writing of the stories themselves was imminently readable. Outsiders has been controversial for its adult language and themes, but really--Outsiders is supposed to be controversial, and though the title's had some slow points, it's also had some great points, too. And certainly if you compare Superman/Shazam: First Thunder (a great story; review coming soon) to Outsiders, it's apparent that Winick is a writer who can write a great range of stories, from mature to all-ages.

So I ask, and I hope you'll chime in, where does this backlash against Judd Winick come from? The response on Newsarama surprised me, and I'd like to understand it.
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  1. I'm glad you asked this question, and considering that other commenters have strenuously objected to your praise of Winick in the past, I was hoping a few of them would weigh in, but I'm disappointed that no one has. I initially took him as a good or at least enjoyable writer, but I have wondered lately if I've been too complacent in that view (although I would of course hate to change my opinion just because most people feel differently).

    Anyway, I guess you could do this as well yourself, but there seem to be two main camps of Winick-bashing. Those readers more oriented towards feminism decry his depiction of female characters. This initially puzzled me, but I have found some specific criticisms to be more convincing than I would have initially supposed (I am, unquestionably, very biased towards feminist perspectives myself).

    The second kind of criticism comes from (broadly-speaking) the old-school oriented readers, who believe that he has defamed characters like Ollie, the Marvel family (in Trials of Shazam), anyone who appeared in Outsiders, etc. by virtue of his "extreme," "mature audiences," cynicism-laden approach to superheroes. I haven't read as much of the offending material in this case, but, particularly considering the direction some stories have gone more recently, I can increasingly sympathize with the feeling that, for instance, Winick shouldn't have had Ollie sleep with Black Lightning's niece when he was still going out with Dinah.

    So, I hope that helps, but like yourself, I would have preferred to hear it from the horse's mouth. And admittedly, some people just state that he is a bad or mediocre writer without recourse to either the feminist or old-school perspective. Others state that his creator-owned work was suberb, but his work-for-hire superhero work has been subpar or fallen into these anti-feminist or anti-old-school ruts.

  2. Carl, thanks for starting things off. I get what you're saying (and I understand you're presenting others' views and not necessarily your own), but I was hoping you could expand on the first part, regarding Winick's portrayal of women. I understand how Ollie sleeping with Joanna Pierce reflects badly on both Ollie and Joanna (though, to be fair, it's not really out of character for Ollie); are there other examples of Winick's portrayal of women?

    And, as you'll see in a few weeks in my review of Trials of Shazam, I agree that Winick's take may have been somewhat misguided, though I think the writing is good, if not the story, if that makes sense.

    But my goal here is not to defend Winick necessarily, but more to understand some of the arguments against his writing. Thanks again, Carl, for your potential explanation.

  3. Well, the reason I didn't just link to some posts in the first place was because it seemed like the ones I've read recently were, by nature, referring to recent events. I've fallen behind slightly on new comics and I'm realizing the obvious, namely, how perilous it is to continue reading the blogs when one is not currently reading the comics, at least if one prefers to be unspoiled (as I do). I don't know how strongly you feel about it, so I'll assume you agree.

    However, this post actually doesn't refer to anything more recent than his Green Lantern run, so I think it'd be better for me to just link it rather than try to summarize it:


    You might need to avoid the comments, however.

  4. Hey guys, thought I'd chime in. I am not sure Winnick is getting a fair shake. I think it's moe DiDio. I think Winnick is not a great writer but he has moments. His GL issues were decent enough. But he's also sort of a corporate lackey. Graduation Day sucked. The Wedding thing apparently has sucked (I haven't read it). And Outsiders could've been better. All of them have come out of the editorial edicts by Dan DiDio. Now, I know a lot of people think I just have a real obsession with the guy but I'm starting to wonder why others are either refusing to see what I've said for years (that DiDio hates any kind of fun in comics) or just can't see it.

    I think that given a proper editorial hand Winnick can be a fine writer of fun comics. His Barry Ween is hysterical.But he's sort of like Ben Affleck. IMO, Affleck is a fine actor but he has to have the right director. The vast majority of his movies aren't any good and he's no good in them because of the inferior direction.

    As contrast, take a look at a writer like Mark Waid. The guy can write everything and doesn't need an editor to hold him back or guide him near as much. Mark Waid is the Tom Hanks, to stretch the metaphor.

    Again, for whatever reason people seem to want to not blame DiDio (though some are coming around) so they instead blame Winnick or Bendis or whoever else. I am not sure if it's because they are afraid that they've been wrong all these years in defending DiDio or if it's just sheer naivete. Again, just my own opinion, as valid as anyone elses (and not more).

    Anyhoo, sorry it's been so long since I've dropped in but I have been busy and will try to drop in more.

  5. Dude, seriously, you DO have an obsession with Dan Didio.

    Dan Didio may be the editor-in-chief (or whatever his title is called) but he doesn't directly edit Judd Winick. Mike Carlin edited him on First Thunder - I don't know who his editor on Green Arrow and Outsiders are.

    And lots of writers have to work with Didio's "editorial edicts" and they've turned out some excellent work (Gail Simone on Villains United for instance).

    Sorry, I know I'm not contributing anything to the Judd Winick thing, but I'm extremely annoyed at being told that I'm "afraid of being wrong" or "naive" - it's rude to dismiss other people's arguments as irrelevant.

    Okay, back to Judd Winick. First Thunder was excellent, because it was just such a fun book (with great art). Batman was fun, too, but the (lack of) ending ruined it for me.

    That's pretty much all I've read of him, so I can't speak to what CE and Carl's talked about. I will say, though, that regardless of Internet criticism, his books do appear to sell, and that's all the critical acclaim you really need.

  6. Dan DiDio must die!

    No seriously, folks, I think our next debate should be on "fun," something I've really wanted to unpack for a while now.

    On the one hand, I start to feel queasy when bloggers harp on the issue of "fun" as if this is the only criteria that one can judge a (superhero) comic by. Certainly, I enjoy many films that are not fun at all, but are instead challenging or compelling or what not. Now some of this seems to have to do with the notion that superhero comics are inherently crap and are only good for fun, while manga, or indies, or whatnot, can be compelling, challenging, and so on (and also fun of course).

    However, let it be said that I am quite conflicted on this, because when bloggers ferevently recommend a comic because it is "fun," I usually end up enjoying it a lot. The most recent example of this was The Brave and the Bold. To a lesser extent, I do find myself disliking the "un-fun" comics, although not as consistently (there certainly are things that strike me as entertaining seems to be "anti-fun").

    So... what is fun? Is it really okay or ideal to use this as the sole aesthetic criteria? Should I just get my own blog and push these debates there? :P

  7. Jeffrey, I never said DiDio was the sole reason Winnick turns in inferior work (imo), I said he was maybe part of the reason. As I stated, Winnick's Barry Ween is a lot of fun. Speaking of which...

    Carl I totally get what you're saying. For example I wouldn't consider Spike's attempted rape of Buffy on BtVS as "fun" it does play an important part into the overall arc of that season and I think that season is rather fun (there's a musical for gosh's sake!).

    Comics as a hobby should be judged on how "fun" they are in some sense since they aren't nutritious or whatever. We don't NEED them. So if they aren't fun, what's the use? That said, I also think comics, even superheroes can be used to explore lots of different types of stories. The difference is this: When does it become not exploring or telling a intelligent and thought provoking story and just become about a meaningless bloodbath or an exhibition of gratuitous shock for shock's sake?

    As before, I have to say that Winnick is a good writer but he does better under his own steam. And yes, some people might think Gail did good stuff under DiDio but I don't. And considering every interview she gives about her upcoming WW run is about how many fights WW will get into and nothing about actually telling a good story...which I see from looking over the rest of the DCU line has to be coming from editorial...see the pattern? Mike Carlin might be the title editor but he doesn't sign the checks and he has a boss himself.

    One more thought on "Dan DiDio Must Die!". I think I agree with Occasional Superheroine on this one. No one should wish anyone dead. I get the joke but I never have for an instant wished DiDio any more ill than losing his current job. I always include that I wish he'd go back to soap operas and make his money there.

  8. Hey Michael, I take (if I'm reading you right) it you thought I was serious about the "must die" comment, which I can't blame you for as I didn't really offer context. I suppose I was being sarcastic more than anything, I can't really work up any real negative feeling against him, and even if I could, I wouldn't personally express it in that manner publicly. I'm not sure where I stand on whether it's "wrong" for others to do so, as I see both sides.

    I do, however, definitely support Gail Simone. Are you telling me that how many fights Wondy gets into and how good the story is are two seperate things? I must be reading the wrong genre, then! (I kid, I kid).

  9. We're off Judd Winick somewhat, but I'll mention that I was re-reading Green Lantern: Rebirth this past week (it's a whole 'nother post why that story remains just. so. good!) and it struck me that Johns has Hal Jordan punch Batman as kind of setting right the whole Guy Gardner "one punch"--I mean, that Justice League issue was quintessential "fun comics," but looking back on it, was Batman punching Guy Gardner really good for the DC Universe as a whole? This goes to Carl's fun versus challenging discussion--maybe there's a side of the spectrum that's "too much fun," too.

    Carl's link to Written World does shine more light on the Judd Winick question, so I'm adding it again.

    Thought-provoking as always; thanks everyone.