Tom King has had a roller coaster ride at DC comics, lolling wildly from bright new talent to neurotic hack from issue to issue. The apparent news that DC has had enough and will have Tom King removed from Batman early, with issue #85, must have felt like a slap in the face for the writer who had already previously announced he planned a 100-issue run on the title.
The reason for the premature dismissal seems to be increasing fan pressure leading to falling sales, and lest we forget, DC is owned by a massive company that measures success in figures. With print in decline and sales constantly falling, something has to give, and this time it’s King.
Problems became more and more obvious as DC gave King the keys to Gotham, and he seemed to fumble the ball on perhaps what could have been one of the greatest comic book moments ever: the marriage of Batman and Catwoman.
There was so much scope for incredible stories based around the marriage of these two iconic characters. The balancing of their love for each other, despite being polar opposites, has a dozen memorable storylines practically writing themselves, and the eventual realization that they can never be together would have been a heartbreaking, and above all motivational concept that could have propelled the two characters and their supporting cast into all manner of character-driven adventures, fueled by their heartbreak, anger and despair. Instead, we get a drunken judge on a rooftop wondering what the hell was going on as the bride and groom wallow in their own self-pity, weakness and neurotic paranoia before calling the whole non-event off. It has only since been matched in disappointment by the final season of Game of Thrones.
Worse than this, DC panicked and let the story leak before publication, killing any suspense that may have been built up for the remaining fanbase. Ever been to a midnight comic shop opening and there are six people there? It’s depressing and you feel like a klutz.
Tom King’s Heroes In Crisis mini-series has also received criticism for its disregard for beloved characters and slow pacing. The first issue launched with huge publicity and shocking storylines that led to 140k units being shifted, but by the 8th issue, it had dropped to 79k, a massive loss of readers. Similarly, and despite a strong critical response, his 12-issue Mister Miracle series was selling less than 40k by its 12th issue.
Who can tell what the real reasons may be behind Tom King being removed from Batman early, and I have no doubt that he will continue to work at DC, as he is still a name that shifts comics. But if the rumors are true and King has been pulled off the title, it shows the cracks in the ice at the company. Batman is arguably one of DC’s most iconic characters and should be treated with the respect he has earned over his decades in publication. Comic purchasing fans seem to have had enough of the deconstruction of The Bat and it may be time to get The Dark Knight Detective back, instead of the stale soap opera stories and characters that permeate this title constantly.
Batman sells around 88k a month. Just a year before, the title was hitting around 96k in the lead up to the wedding, In April 2017 it was at just under 100k, with a lenticular cover hitting 130k; in 2016 it was at the 100k mark.
If and when he goes, who do you think should replace him? My money is on Detective Comics writer Peter Tomasi, and with Morrison back on Green Lantern, is it too much to ask him to do another run? Let us know your thoughts.