And Now This

“Thank you for informing that I never should pick anything that you write in the future. With your understanding of characters, Slade must be your limit.” –Porto

LOL! Well, he’s probably right. The response to my stupid “And Now What?” question was/is overwhelming. I’ve tried to respond to a few comments and am including those responses in this new thread so we don’t all get carpal tunnel from endless scrolling. I really do appreciate every comment, even the ouch ones. Thanks everybody. –Priest

1 Comment

  1. Priest Priest says:

    Alex, thanks for the seriously detailed reply:

    “I just hope this whole affair doesn’t tick you off too much…”

    Not ticked at all. I am seriously asking, what do fans want? I really am listening. I’m just having a hard time parsing the back-and-forth.

    ” The storyline is called “The Lazarus Contract” but the actual Lazarus contract is only briefly mentioned at the start and never actually ends up playing a part in the rest of the story.”

    Full disclosure: I brought that up to DC. Repeatedly. Loudly. Got out-voted. It was a marketing thing.

    “… solicits kind of gave away stuff too…”

    See my previous comment 🙂

    “… I also think Slade’s failure didn’t pack the emotional punch that some other scenes in the past issues involving his family had…”

    Entirely on me. Put on my tab. The original intent of Deathstroke Rebirth through issue #6 or so was to tell Grant’s story and pull a JJ Abrams of The Judas Contract. But because of bubble bubble toil and trouble there was no clear path to doing that, which is why the cutaways to the past– which were telling Grant and Joseph’s history– ended. I could not take the storyline where it needed to go.

    Re: Grayson: yes, I think it worked quite well, too.

    Re: Damian: I wrote him very differently in Deathstroke #5 and then Hosun (I blame everything on Hosun) made the case that I’d gotten him wrong. So I rewrote all the Damian parts for Deathstroke #5 but the editor, for whatever reason, preferred the original draft which had Dame out of character. The artist also drew Tim Drake not Damian Wayne., but that’s another conversation.

    So, this time, I wanted to be sure I was using the right template for Damian. So I read Damian’s contemporary appearances and, reminder, all of this stuff was vetted through three editors and two outside writers and this, I was told, is Damian: much like Deathstroke, he has problems saying things like “I’m sorry.” Like Batman, he’s completely convinced his way is the right way. He respects Grayson but is a little tone deaf (hence the exchange where Dick tries to reign Dame in and dame says, “Yes, I agree. Apology accepted.” Which I thought was hilarious but is never mentioned anywhere where I am being hung in effigy.

    If I got him wrong, I do apologize. He’s not my character, so I don’t know him as well as I know Slade. Fair warning: I think basic flaws are important to the Damian character. I think, the minute we allow him to outgrow those characteristics, it’s over for Bozo. Howard and Bernadette got married and that was awful. Leonard and Penny got married and I stopped watching the show.

    [Digression] this is what both amuses and annoys me about all the speculation going on about our upcoming “Defiance” storyline wherein Slade forms his own Titans group. We’re not actually allowed to call them “Titans” for some arcane reason, but that’s what they are. Fans calling me names and threatening to drop the book– that’s just hilarious. After 20 issues, don’t you *know* me but now? Do you really think I’d “fix” Slade to the point where he becomes unreadable? Here’s where advanced marketing kind of torpedoes things because people build up a lot of anxiety and negative energy because of perceived changes to their favorite hero (or, in this case, villain). But I’m the same guy who was writing him last week when you liked him. I can’t and won’t spoil Defiance for anybody other than to say, “Oh, please. He’s still Slade.” [/Digression]

    “I mean, the heart stopping thing was pretty bad as he shouldn’t take “death” so lightly…”

    I disagree. Damian’s been there, he’s been dead. And he’s expert enough with these League of Assassin techniques to control their level of severity. As for Damian showing regret: he has no idea Wally has suffered any long-term consequences. SFAHK, Wally is just fine. Now, how Benjamin and Dan handle this moving forward is up to them.

    Horace: wow, thanks– didn’t know anyone would pick up on the Nickelback riff (of course we could not use the actual lyrics). Yes, I will still be on Deathstroke while writing “That Inhumans Thing,” which is almost done (well, my part, anyway). It ships in August (gasp, that’s only two months away!).


    “…thing I can really complain about was how easily Damian seemed to “get away with it” so to say. Everyone just says “bad Damian” and moves on. It feels very hand-waved.”

    We discussed this. My point was (and remains) that, in a time of crisis, it would be wrong and out of character for a protracted rebuke of Damian, especially for things he did before anyone really noticed (like booting Nu Wally from the jet). Now, they could have turned around and went back for Wally, but the mission came first, yes? Dick does pull Damian’s coat and offers him advice, which Damian misconstrues as an apology because that’s who Damian is. Dick could have pressed the issue and we could have explored that more, but page count was especially limited. Actually, to be completely fair, if we had more pages, we would not have had to pack things quite so tightly.

    “… and when they see that Damian is still a fucking asshole, it damages that notion in their eyes.”

    People don’t change. Oh, they alter behavior, they learn, they even grow. But, at my core, I’m still the same guy. I have the same impulses and the same instincts. It is only the culmination of my experiences that modify my behavior. A little. And, as I mention above, if you fix Damian, it’s over. Bye-bye Bozo.

    “… I made my displeasure with the entirety of Charles Soule’s work on the Inhumans very much known to anyone who would listen.”

    Well, now I’m TRULY screwed. 🙂 If some fans hate my Damian, they will loathe my (16-year old) Black Bolt.

    “… very little payoff, of course the “payoff” being the upcoming story arcs it set up.”

    The crossover wasn’t what I wanted. It was what we, ultimately were able to do. While I personally thought it was a fun story arc, I can’t possibly be objective about it. And I take full responsibility because so much of it was me lobbying for my ideas.


    Re: Tumblr fans and Deathstroke: seems to me some fans are missing the point, one which is hard to disagree with: OG Wally’s main advantage is speed and experience using it. Now, Deathstroke– or Speedstroke as we called him internally– lacks the experience Wally has with the power. But, that aside, once you give Deathstroke the Speed Force, you have leveled the playing field.

    So now, instead of being an amazingly fast and seemingly invincible speedster, you’re just another schmuck standing in front of a trained killer. Now, maybe it would have made fans happy to have Wally suck it up and take on Deathstroke, but I don’t think that’s who Wally is. I don’t think Wally would risk all of existence as we know it–the entire timeline–on his ego. “I’ll show him!” Fight Fight Fight Fight Fight. That’s stupid. And who among us (raising my own hand) has not ever in life been freaking intimidated by a bully (or, in my case, someone pointing a gun at me in anger)?

    I love comics. We all do. But there is such a thing as “comic book mentality,” where logic and reason are swept away because the writer is all caught up in the spandex. I try to write a more grounded reality-based story where actual human reactions are at play. And, for that moment, two things were happening to Wally: (1) it was occurring to him that he was just another schmuck standing in front of a trained killer. (2) he was, at least for the moment, terrified. I’m sorry if Wally fans thought that betrayed their character. I think it made Wally something he absolutely needs to be– human. I can’t identify with Plastic Wally, Perfect Wally. This guy, terrified of Deathstroke, nonetheless sucks it up and races after him. That, my friends, is a hero. A hero is not without fear, a hero is someone who puts it on the line in spite of his fear. When was the last time Wally was afraid of anything?

    I was/am really proud of that moment and thanked Dan Abnett for allowing me to have it. It’s the kind of big moment editors typically object to because they want those moments to happen in their own books. Abnett was exceptionally generous throughout this process.

    ” Fans, incredibly, do just want fun happy times for their characters which I’ll never understand. They rather see Dick Grayson and Wally spend an issue having pizza and fighting petty criminals…”

    Really? I can do that!

    “…what was really missing was the emotional punch the 3 issues wound us up for. And when it wasn’t delivered, it was just disappointing…”

    Point taken. But I do think OG Wally, Nu Wally, and Damian all had major emotional beats. Jackson helping break down Damian’s assholery was big for Jackson, too. Yes, Slade was the “A” story and maybe some of that got drowned out by the noise, but this was a Teen Titans book, not a Deathstroke book.

    ” People make it a point to hate Slade, and refuse to read anything with his character.”

    Which is the stigma I’ve been fighting to overcome. The book generates a lot of noise from fan press and mainstream media, but the numbers are middling. I’ve presumed, all along, it’s because it’s a book about a villain. Such books have never performed well. But now I realize it’s because it’s a book about *this* villain, about Slade.

    “… Dick Grayson, who they believe should be portrayed as a flamboyant flower boy who hugs all of the Batkids and makes them all matching sweaters.”

    I CAN DO THAT !!!!!


    ” The problem with your statement, with all due respect, is that it assumes fully developed characters somehow become boring and flat by virtue of having shed off their old flaws. But that’s never been a problem for dozens of other comic book heroes who have been in comics and have been developing for up to 40 years before Damian ever came into existence and yet still find ways to be interesting, unique, and dynamic.”

    I think Superman is still Superman, Batman is still Batman. There are fundamentals that cannot and should not change. This is the headlock we’re in as writers. This isn’t Game of Thrones were we can freely and irrevocably change characters. At most, we can explore them and take them on journeys.

    “… we want … Damian at the level he’s achieved in his long struggle to become good.”

    And, see, I don’t know what that is. I don’t know how to write that. All I know is what my editor tells me and what I read in the comics. My Damian is consistent with both. A more thoughtful Damian? A more mature Damian? A more compassionate Damian? Isn’t that called “Nightwing”?

    “… there are plenty of ways to challenge characters that don’t involve them remaining in the state they have been in from the beginning…”

    Oh, yes, you’re right. But if Kirk stops being Kirk, what’s the point? A more experience Kirk, a more refined Kirk, is still Kirk.

    “… he started out as a total jerk, but over the years has become someone between Batman and Nightwing.”

    Does DC know that? Not trying to duck the question or even mock you– just please understand I’m only the substitute teacher, here. Don’t blame me for the course curriculum. 🙂

    Beyond that, if somebody asked me (and they have not), I don’t see Dame that way at_all. I don’t see Batman as a nurturing individual. He’s a guy who shouldn’t own goldfish, let alone be raising kids. And I see Grayson as an adult survivor of child abuse; a guy with all of Batman’s skills but who overcompensates in the area where Batman is least effective: compassion. Dick is more human and more available for empathy and real human connection than Batman could ever be.

    I see Damian as someone whose been raised by monsters. I agree with you that his evolution absolutely must be properly reflected but so should his immaturity which is chemical and at times beyond his control. His core values are more rigid than most anyone else in the DCU and simply the biological reality of a pubescent boy’s hormonal responses adds to his struggle to matriculate from one culture of discipleship to another. And that is not easy to define, not midway between Bruce and Dick.

    “In the end, it’s all about the subtleties: subtlety in characterization, subtlety in dialogue, subtlety in reaction. And I think there were times during the crossover where such subtleties were lost and it felt like Damian just completely regressed.”

    And you’re probably right. Without being defensive, please bear in mind the arc, and especially the Special, had a thousand moving parts. There really wasn’t room to stop and go, “Damian’s being a little shit, here, but he feels remorse and self-anger at his loss of self-control. He really has grown beyond these moments.” If I had more space, I probably could have expressed more nuance and maybe mitigated some of these concerns.

    But we had to stick and move, Steven. I’m sorry all of the shades weren’t reflected, but, both in my own interpretation and in my instructions from the bosses and Damian’s writer– *that* was an accurate portrayal of the character as he is currently being published. Which doesn’t make you wrong per se, but that, dude, there just wasn’t space to drill that far down into any of the characters, and it would have been wrong to run off on tangents to explain these nuances. In a team book, especially one this crowded, we paint in broad strokes. Damian soaked up a lot of screen time and got some of the best character and emotional beats. And I was still handed my head 🙂

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.


    “… the impulsive, downright sadistic mentality he used to have has gotten smoothed over…”

    Which is my point exactly, this “smoothing” of interesting characters. Let’s “smooth” over Bugs Bunny while we’re at it. I mean, surely by now Bugs should have grown and learned from his experiences with that Coyote, yes? I’m not taking a shot at you, David– I mean this with all due respect: evolving the characters to follow the fans is wrongheaded and has decimated this industry. This is the only creative industry I am aware of that does not invest itself in any real way into audience turnover. Mickey Mouse’s entire audience turns over every eight years, and Disney knows this. DC does not. Marvel does not. And that’s the mess we’re in.

    Which isn’t to suggest you’re wrong or that Damian cannot or should not evolve, but he should not change so much that he stops being Damian. Batman should not change so much that he stops being Batman. We don’t need to these extreme changes. We need new readers. We make almost no investment in inviting any to join us.

    “… he’s not this weirdly ruthless, uncaring monster he seemed to be in Lazarus Contract.”

    I can only speak to my end of it. I don’t see him being that way in my writing. From what I’m seeing online, I think fans–especially those claiming to have intimate understanding of the character–really miss the point of much of his actions. It’s possible that we (myself included) are all too spoiled by having every living thought of these heroes spoon-fed to us by these god-awful please-stop-doing-that first person narrative captions. Had I done that, I could have Damian explain his thoughts a bit more and maybe I wouldn’t be taking the clobbering.

    Damian is not uncaring. He didn’t rush over to console Raven because that would be out of character for him. The head pat was silly– shoot me for that, I couldn’t help myself. But hugging is not Damian’s first line of action. Attacking Kid Flash was strategic. Giving Nu Wally shit was well earned. Damian has clashed with Deathstroke one-on-one at least twice. He *despises* Deathstroke. Nu Wally helped Deathstroke, which irritated the heck out of Dame.

    Firing Wally was wrong, impetuous and stupid. That is exactly the point. Ans clobbering me or Benjamin (stop clobbering Benjamin– firing Nu Wally was my idea) just underscores how some fans who claim to be experts on Damian don’t know the character as well as they think they do.

    Whatever else Damian might be, he is first and foremost a child. Children don’t always have the ability to control their emotions. This business was an emotional act, one Damian, in my opinion, *immediately* regretted. But some children are proud; it’s tough to admit you’re wrong, that you did something stupid that you regret. That’s the point of the firing, and it was completely in character for Damian, regardless of how we may view his evolution as a character.

    The real question is, what will Damian learn from this? How will he fix it? In what ways will his character grow from this? That’s what we should be asking. It is entirely possible this special will read better six or eight months from now when you see how this all plays out.

    “… the rather out of nowhere and out of place scene between him and Raven.”

    We’ll just have to disagree about that. Damian’s refusal to help save Deathstroke was well-motivated. Wally’s fear of Deathstroke was properly established. Raven losing her focus because of tapping into Wally’s fear is perfectly in-character. This scene had a strong foundation and became a redemptive and important moment for Damian, one overlooked by most people out to hang me. Damian does care, he is compassionate. However, much like Sheldon, sometimes he has to get past his own discipline to find it.

    “How does killing Wally stop Slade from getting powers?”

    Well, first, let me just take that hit: I blew it. I thought this was clever but it obviously requires way too much ‘splainin’.

    If Kid Flash 1.0 died, there’d be no Wally Flash which would tangentially affect the Barry timeline and ultimately the Nu Wally timeline (and future Nu Wally). If there was no Wally Flash, Deathstroke would not have been alerted to this “Second” Flash and, therefore, not have concocted this plot to begin with. Thus: speed powers gone.

    Just a timeline nudge, any direction, would be enough to break the link between DS and Nu Wally and shut down Slade’ siphoning of his powers.

    “… everyone seemed like wallpaper except Wally, Wally, Damian, and Slade. Even Dick, who apparently created the titular Lazarus Contract, was pretty irrelevant to the proceedings. This seemed like a Deathstroke issue painfully stretched out across multiple books that didn’t really need to be involved.”

    A valid criticism which can be applied to most team books. We do our best to give everybody their moment, but at the end of the day it’s just impossible. Reference: Halle Berry wasting her time in the X-Men films.

    “… I understand if you waive me off as a blathering fan…”

    Never. I asked for your opinion, you took the time to send it. Least I can do is take you seriously and respect your opinion. This is a teaching moment for me, I’m going to class 🙂

    “… I absolutely hate the twist you guys attached to Wally here…”

    And I expected that 🙂 Personally, I am excited to see what Dan does with this. But we both knew the immediate reaction would be, “Oh, no, not this lame business again.” It’s not. Dan is a brilliant writer. Please withhold judgment until we see how this plays out– don’t assume it’ll be whatever it is you’re assuming.

    “… There is no world I can imagine where Wally West runs away while a person he’s responsible for letting get away goes around and murders people. There’s no world where Wally is a coward who runs away, then cries to himself about how he’s a coward to Jericho (someone Wally would literally never trust).”

    As I mention above, as I see the character, there is no world I can imagine where Wally would throw his life away–and thus risk the lives of everyone he knows if not everyone on the planet– in a useless attempt to stop a trained killer. Wally and Wally *alone* had the capability of engaging this threat. Going toe-to-toe with him would have been stupid and wrong. Wally does not have expert combat skills. Slade would have killed him, and all reality as we know it would have been lost. Wally NOT having fear, not being terrified of this monster once the reality of their speed parity hit him, would have been out of character. It would have been–no offense–fan mentality. Comic book logic.

    I’m sorry we disagree. Aborting the battle in order to formulate and actual plan was the most heroic thing Wally could do. Experiencing, and later expressing, his fear was the most human thing Wally could do.

    Not sure why you think he would not trust Jericho. Jericho was a Titan back when these books made sense.

    “I’m no writer…”

    I disagree. You know your stuff. I’m listening. You’re doing fine. 🙂

    “Wally would die to save people…”

    And it would have been a stupid, reckless, and irresponsible death that would have in turn led to the deaths of billions.

    “… Slade telling Wally he’s not the real Flash and then Wally proving him right.”

    No, actually, Wally proved him wrong. Going toe-to-toe with Deathstroke would be playing Deathstroke’s game on Deathstroke’s terms. And the real irony is it was OG Wally who ultimately saved Deathstroke’s life and, in so doing, ended the threat of Deathstroke (Deathstroke’s conversion experience). Dude: Wally rocks, man.

    “Even if … Wally isn’t the real Flash in DC’s eyes, it still hurts to see and is miserable to see it proven right.”

    David: I assure you that’s not true and is the exact opposite of what this episode demonstrates. Take OG Wally out of this story and we’re all dead.

    “I have no idea what the writer’s room was like for you, Abnett, and Percy…”

    Fun. The guys were amazing and extremely helpful and generous. More comics should be written this way.

    “I don’t think all blame falls squarely on your shoulders…”

    Yes it does. This was my idea. And I stand by it.

    “… unless you can point me to another hero with dead kids, a lost life, and a universe that doesn’t care about him…”

    I think I’m writing a character like that right now 🙂

    “… this trauma is both unoriginal and a great symptom of fear for Wally fans — massive character regression…”

    Because fans are assuming something based on old comic books. We need to stop assuming my Deathstroke Goes Straight story arc will be lame because you read some old comic books. Fans are assuming Dan Abnett is somehow unaware of the previous storylines throttling Wally’s powers.

    This is what’s so frustrating about some of this fan reaction: fans reacting to what they ASSUME we’re about to do just because they read some 20-year old comic books. It kind of insults me, actually. “I’m quitting Deathstroke because of what I assume you’re about to do!” Okay. Quit.

    Maybe give my friend Abnett a little credit for not being an idiot. 🙂

    “As a writer I can’t honestly comprehend how to do your job…”

    Neither can I, pal. Thanks again for taking the time to weigh in.


    ” The title Lazarus Contract made me think that Grant Wilson would be alive in the present…”

    We actually discussed it but I nixed the idea. Grant being alive means the end of Deathstroke. Now, an arc where Grant is running around? Ok, maybe. Let’s bring back Thomas and Martha while we’re at it. 🙂

    This is the core of who the character is: Dead Grant. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your view, appreciate it.

    And thanks everyone else– whew! Many other comments, but most echo those above.