Wild Dog update: Earlier this week, Bleeding Cool broke the news that the upcoming Suicide Squad: Get Joker series by Brian Azzarello and Alex Maleev, to be realised alongside the new Suicide Squad movie, featured Wild Dog as a member of the squad, boasting of having led the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol building. And in doing so, defecating on Nancy Pelosi's desk. And he's not joking, he's serious. How serious?
The creators of the character Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty are not happy, Max Allan Collins spoke to Bleeding Cool yesterday and gave us the following statement.
My first reaction at discovering Wild Dog had been recruited into the Suicide Squad as the leader of the Jan. 6 Insurrection as a defecating Proud Boy-style seditionist was bewildered shock. Basically, "Huh?" That quickly grew to rage, expressed mostly as, "F-ck DC," and "F-ck the writer." I shared these sentiments with Wild Dog's artist/co-creator, Terry Beatty, and he basically tried to calm me down. But, obviously, it gradually worked him into a rabid lather, too.
For me, it's settled into disappointment and disgust. Wild Dog was conceived as a home-grown costumed hero. No cape, no cowl, just what could be put together out of such items as a hockey mask (with its Jason resonance) and body armor and real-world stuff from a hardware store and a home workshop. The usual "what if" all fiction writers operate from – "what if" somebody decided to actually be a costumed hero?
The results were not always beneficial. When Wild Dog found himself confronted by a would-be Bucky to his Captain America, despite our hero's best efforts to discourage the Pup's participation, the child is nearly killed. Terry and I pursued this with Ms. Tree – she was a vigilante, too, but wound up both in jail and in a mental institution. I might add in the Ms. Tree feature, Terry and I explored such then-current (and still current, unfortunately) topics as date rape, abortion clinic bombings, and gay bashing.
Some defenders of what we see as a perverted use of our creation dismiss it on the grounds that Wild Dog is a minor, forgotten character. Well, tell that to DC, who have used the character in at least three other comics, most recently as a cast member of the Cave Carson comic book, and to the CW network, where Wild Dog was a recurring character on Arrow.
Wild Dog debuted in a four-issue mini-series, had a regular slot in Action Weekly, and a "Special" double-length one-shot. In addition Terry is an Eisner-winning Batman artist, and we were Eisner nominees for our Ms. Tree work at DC. I wrote a year of Batman as well as two Batman graphic novels and was the initial writer of the Tim Burton-era Batman newspaper strip. My graphic novel (with Richard Piers Rayner), Road to Perdition, generated an Academy Award-winning film that is often cited as one of the best comic book movies ever made, and the graphic novel itself appears on many "Best of" lists. As recently as 2011 Terry and I did Return to Perdition for DC.
So what? So Terry and I both have long relationships with DC and might have expected better where one of our creations is concerned. Yes, DC owns the rights to the character, but simple courtesy and common decency might suggest going down this path with Wild Dog was ill-advised – and that at least the creators should be warned. After all, invoking the Jan. 6 riot was bound to attract attention and controversy – shock value was the point, after all.
Of course we weren't informed, just as we were not told about Wild Dog being used on the Arrow TV show. We weren't paid for that (one of the few things our contract gave us) until that fact went public. I have worked with many terrific people at DC, but DC itself remains what it's always been – a corporation built on the bones of two Cleveland teenagers.
As for Brian Azzarello, who I have never met, I have to wonder what kind of writer uses the creation of another writer in such a reckless, disrespectful manner. Azzarello is one of a generation of comics writers who owe a certain debt to our Ms. Tree, the first successful crime comic book in decades when it appeared in 1981. Still the longest running private eye comic book of all time (50 issues plus specials), it paved the way for everything that followed. We might have expected better thanks than this.
DC owning Wild Dog doesn't stop it being characterized as my work – the fame of Road to Perdition guarantees I will be mentioned in the context of a character who is tied to a political movement I abhor. But a modicum of consideration from the publisher, and some respect from the writer, is too much to expect from the company and talent who ignore Bill Finger's Batman in favor of Batman fingering Catwoman.
This is not the Wild Dog Max Allan Collins and I created. We are both angered and appalled at this offensive and out of character reworking of our hero. Yes, he was a vigilante. Yes, he was a gun nut.* But he wasn't a conspiracy theory idiot or leader of a mob. This blatant disregard and disrespect for the creators' intent is a slap in the face to both of us. It seems additionally insulting, considering the positive portrayal of Wild Dog as a POC on the CW ARROW TV series. To now make him the leader of a mob of racist, violent, moronic goons pretty much destroys any possibility of future use of him as an actual hero — vigilante or not. As the co-creator of Wild Dog, I need to say loud and clear, that what DC and Azzarello are currently presenting is not my Wild Dog, and neither Max nor I approve.*Only in that he had an arsenal of weapons to use as Wild Dog. I don't think he fetishized them at all.
He also added;
There was already pretty much zero chance of me ever working for DC again. If they didn't call when they did the recent Batman Adventures revival, they're not gonna call. As noted elsewhere, the damage is already done. There will forever be a comic book panel in which a character I co-created brags about taking a dump on Nancy Pelosi's desk.
While later adding further;
Sorry to continue ranting on the matter, but I've had a number of people ask, as regards the Wild Dog/Suicide Squad situation, "But what if he's a mole, and this is just a fake out?" Doesn't matter. Damage is done. Sure, that'd be better in the long run if he eventually is revealed to have been lying about his role in the insurrection — but it doesn't change the fact that the initial news story is out there, and there are people reading that who'll never see the (potential) resolution in the comic books. In their minds, the character I co-created will always be the guy who bragged about taking a dump on Nancy Pelosi's desk. And trust me, there are people out there now who are LOVING that notion, and will embrace this messed-up version of Wild Dog as their hero — Pepe the Frog, anyone? And if you don't think that doesn't make me sick to my stomach, you'd be pretty darned wrong. The Wild Dog Max and I created would be standing up against right-wing militias and hate groups, not standing with them. And if this IS a fake out? Then why weren't DC and Brian Azzarello smart enough to get out ahead of the fuss and contact Max and me before the dump hit the fan on the Speaker's desk? DC has our contact info. We're not hard to find. But no, no one emailed. No one called. No one thought that maybe they should let the creators know their character was going to be portrayed in this manner. Because the creators don't matter. DC owns Wild Dog. Who created him matters not a whit to anyone else in this equation. No one let us know he was going to be on the ARROW TV show — I found that out on Facebook! DC has a long history of treating the talent like dirt. It's almost like it's a tradition at this point. When we created Wild Dog, part of the notion was to represent the Midwest — an area of the country largely ignored by superhero comics, which were mostly set in New York, or fictionalized versions of New York. When the series came out, folks in the Quad Cities were THRILLED to see themselves represented in a medium and genre that hadn't acknowledged them before. Later, when Wild Dog was introduced on the ARROW TV show as Rene Ramirez, rather than our Midwestern Jack Wheeler, Hispanic and Latino kids were thrilled to see themselves represented by a heroic character that was like them. Wonderful. I hate to think about who is thrilled now.
Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1 is published in August by DC Comics. Let's see if anything changes between now and then…