What’s Up With Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam?

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! debuted in July 2008 as a new all-ages series for DC Comics by Mike Kunkel. Kunkel previously self-published Herobear and the Kid, a series known for three things:

  • Critical acclaim
  • An animation-influenced look with visible construction lines
  • Never coming out on anything approaching a regular schedule
Billy Batson #5

Billy Batson #5

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the publishing schedule of BBatMoS (whew!) looks like this:

#1 – July 2008 (solicited in May, shipped on time)
#2 – September 2008 (solicited in June, making it a month late)
#3 – December 2008 (solicited in July, making it due in September and thus three months late)
#4 – April 2009 (solicited for the second time in December, which would make the reschedule due date February, so still two months late. Before that, it was due in November.)
#5 – Not yet released. Solicited in February, so it was due in April. DC’s website now says May 20.

Why am I talking about this? Because on Wednesday, April 8, Kunkel posted to his blog about the series that he’d heard through third parties that he was off the book:

i heard that it was announced last weekend by DC that Art and Franco of Tiny Titans fame will be taking over the writing of Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam. these two guys are so great and talented. i think you will most definitely be in good hands. i don’t know who DC is talking to about the series as far as artists, and even other writers, but i’m sure things will get announced as they get finalized. they feel it would be better that they put together teams to run with the book, and i think anything that puts out more Shazam is never a bad thing. … am i bummed? wellll, maybe a little bit.

That would suck, wouldn’t it, hearing that someone else was doing your title through convention news and gossip? He goes on to talk about how his work takes “a bit longer” because it’s a “labor of love” and that he will finish a two-part Dr. Sivana story (which sounds like it begins in issue #5). He appreciated working with editor Jann Jones, although “she’s gone from DC now and onto great new green pastures”. What? Jann Jones is no longer at DC?

But wait, it gets even stranger. The very next day, Kunkel posts again.

i want to thank DC for the very great continued opportunity to work on this series. and also a big shout out to Dan Didio. . . he’s always an awesome supporter and i can’t thank him enough for caring about the book and my creative drive of it.
it’s always a good thing at the end of the day to know that your editor’s got your back.

i love this series and i thank you all for sticking with it and enjoying the adventures of lil’ billy. there are lots more stories on the way. we may have some other writers/artists helping out here and there, but no worries, it will still be filled with the “magic of Shazam.”

That looks like the kind of thing that gets said in public after a freelancer gets a call from an editor. Especially the sucking up to Didio. Kunkel’s gone from sounding like he’s off the book to saying other people may be “helping out here and there”. Spin!

I don’t believe BBatMoS #6 has been solicited yet, so I know #7 hasn’t been. But when it is, it’ll be interesting to see who the creative team is.


20 Responses to “What’s Up With Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam?”

  1. Jay Faerber Says:

    I just read Mike’s original post about the new guys taking over the book, and he doesn’t say he found out that he was off the book through third parties. He says, as you quoted, that he heard “it was announced last weekend by DC that Art and Franco of Tiny Titans fame will be taking over the writing of Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam.” That doesn’t necessarily mean it was news to him — just that it’s now public, and therefore he can talk about it. Maybe he’s known all along. OR, maybe he knew DC was looking for a new creative team, but didn’t know who they’d decided on.

    Regardless, reading his post, I didn’t come away with the impression that he was just finding out he was being replaced. You seem to have made that leap, and I don’t think it was necessarily warranted.

  2. Johanna Says:

    That’s very possible, that I read too much into his “am I bummed?” line. While I know that there have been times where creators found out about changes through such public announcements, you’re right, this might not be one of those cases. I apologize if I’m jumping to conclusions.

  3. Hovy Says:

    I believe Jones left DC to move to California to be with her soon-to-be husband James Robinson.

  4. Johanna Says:

    That’s plausible. I know DC used to be horrible at allowing employees to telecommute — that’s one of the reasons why I left as well.

  5. Bill D. Says:

    I’ve been loving this book from the start, as it’s EXACTLY the sort of Captain Marvel book I’ve been wanting to read for a while now (you know, fun, as opposed to what they’ve been doing with the characters over in the main continuity the past few years), and it’s been great seeing Kunkel on a book again, but the lateness has been absolutely killing the series’ momentum, so I can’t help but think maybe some more helping hands can only be a good thing.

  6. Paul Sizer Says:

    I hate to say it, but NOTHING kills my respect for an artist faster than having a “hard time keeping a schedule”.

    Yes, I understand that things happen, that life happens, and schedules get screwed up; but that’s when you speak up ahead of time to your editor, plan ahead and deal with it like a professional artist. Kunkel’s art is just fine, but if he’s not able to keep a schedule, let him do a collection, not a monthly. Maybe something did come up that made him have to be late; no problem, it’s a fact of life. How you deal with this fact is where someone can really shine or blow it.

    It does suck how he found out, but to be fair, business is business, and if you can’t meet a deadline and deal with figuring out a solution, then you’re not a professional artist.
    This kind of thing makes it look like all artists are prima donnas who can’t make a date.
    Rant over.

  7. James Schee Says:

    The sort of sad part for me in this, is that its gotta be one of the best gigs a creator can get from DC/Marvel.

    Think about it for a moment here. You get to write and draw one of the handful of comic characters that even people who don’t read comics probably know. Its your own baby, as there is no continuity, crossovers or the like to deal with.

    DC and Marvel, for whatever reason rarely give a creator a book to do whole cloth like that. (they tend to like creative teams) Not being able to keep a schedule, no matter what the reason is sort of a blown opportunity.

  8. Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes Says:

    [...] artist, will only be providing fill-in issues to help keep the series on a monthly schedule. [Comics Worth Reading, Newsarama] Batman and Robin [...]

  9. Dave Snyder Says:

    At their Newsarama interview, Art and Franco definitely think Kunkel will still be doing his story arcs in parallel to theirs.

  10. Joel Says:

    This book keeps coming out but Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures is ending? This makes no sense to me.

  11. Dave Aikins Says:

    Kunkel is his own worst enemy. He needs to step back and remember who his target audience is– lil’ kids. His pages are waaaay too busy and his colors become muddy during printing. He might be on time if he simplified things a bit, and made the book a bit easier on young eyes. That’s a weird criticism- that an artists is doing too much, and making things too busy….
    But if you can’t make your deadlines, maybe you should try a new approach.
    Art and Franco? AW YEAH MAN!

  12. Johanna Says:

    Dave: I don’t know any more which to expect. That’s what happens when companies don’t make their messages clear.

    Joel: I know. But, you know, girls don’t read superhero comics. :)

  13. Evan Says:

    Kunkel told my friend who was interviewing him at Phoenix Comicon a few months ago that his day job as an animator is his highest priority and Bill Batson issues would be done whenever he could find the time to do them.

    My friend was saying he was getting pretty angry as he was stating as I’m sure he spent the majority of the convention having to answer that question.

    But what did he expect? The industry has always been well aware of his latness issues. I’m surprised DC gave him the book without having many issues already done in advance.

    Unfortunately his career in the comic industry is filled with errors and mistakes all over the place. And a bad form of responsiblity.

    Don’t take on jobs you knew going in you couldn’t handle. Specially based on past reputation.

  14. KBC Says:

    Evan is correct. Kunkel works full time for Disney, so I imagine his free time to work on comics is negligible.

  15. Loren Says:

    But if Kunkel knows he doesn’t have the time to commit to a regular comic gig, why take it in the first place?

    And in case anyone’s forgotten just *how* bad he could be on getting Herobear out, he never released the second issue of a 2-issue mini-series from 2002, and he never released ANY issues of a 3-issue Herobear mini-series that was solicited to start in early 2004. I believe the latter project was later declared to be a graphic novel, but it’s never shown up in that format either.

  16. mike kunkel Says:

    hey guys,

    just wanted to say hi.
    a friend sent me a link to your thoughts.

    first off, to those that have enjoyed the book…thank you so much. i always hope that i’m able to help you find something that brings a bit of joy in this crazy world.
    :)
    and two, yes…oh, yessss i do work fulltime in animation. and they are long days. currently i do at Disney, before it was at Cartoon Network. crazy huh?
    well, one of the main reasons is that unfortunately you can’t live on comic pay. especially, since this book pays the lowest rates because it’s a kid’s line book. and when i work on my own stuff(Herobear), i have to pay for it all myself and still pay for my family. so even I “remember how bad” i can be putting things out, not because i don’t care, but sometimes its costs a lot of money and time and life takes over sometimes. i wish it didn’t too. also, i work full-time in animation because i need to keep a certain amount of work hours every year for my animation union to keep health benefits for my family.
    i wish animation didn’t consume so much, ah, but it’s a necessity in my life.
    anyway, it was always known that i worked in animation, but DC has wanted an all ages Shazam for a while and they asked me to take that and run with it. thankfully, they liked what i came up with. :) we decided last year to do it bi-monthly on top of my regular day-job work. the original solicitations had to be adjusted. aaaaand of course, it still takes a while for one person to do writing, penciling, inking, coloring and covers. especially me. ;) 50 hours a week at a studio, then up til 3 in the morning on a book that you love but still hoping i don’t “blow an opportunity” is my constant state of mind. ;) i will always give everything i have to give you awesome fans something of value and enjoyment. i absolutely don’t want it to take forever nor do i not care about deadlines. believe me i want it out sooner too, because i want to share it with you.

    now, they are really liking the series and they want it to come out monthly. well, i can’t possibly do that. i so wish i could, but nope. so, putting teams on it is the only way to do it. put 4 people on an issue and then it can come out monthly. i am good friends with terry moore, who is simply amazing and is my hero, but even he doing a black and white book can only put it out every 6 weeks. and he’s the best of all the indie guys. so to put stuff out monthly, requires teams. and i think DC has some good teams they are putting together, so it should be some fun issues coming soon. and like i said… more Shazam is never a bad thing. ;)

    now, aside from allllllll that…one thing on this site that hurt the most is the statement that someone said about me being “angry at the Phoenix convention.” that really hurts so much because i love talking with fans about anything.
    i have never ever been angry at any Con i’ve ever been to. people who know me know how much i LOVE LOVE LOVE conventions and signings because i love getting to meet fans and talk and share face to face personally with everyone. my wife has alway had to peel me away to take a 5 minute water break because i don’t want to leave the table/booth and miss meeting people. it is one of my most favorite things at signings.
    all last year i spent every convention /personal appearance that i went to bringing a handmade Shazam Decoder(you can see it on the Shazam blog) to give away to fans as my gift to them, and i started it all at Phoenix. the Phoenix Con has been one of my favorite conventions. simply awesome people, fans and experiences. i went last year with my son and had an amazing time. total great ime together while my wife and daughter enjoyed their fun girl weekend together. and this year i went with just my daughter and had a father/daughter weekend that was the very best and happiest of times. she did original drawings and i loved encouraging her to share her artwork with all these great fans. and everyone was so great to talk with so… to tarnish that time by saying that i was angry about someone’s questions is very hurtful. that saddens me more than anything that can be said personally about me and my lateness or supposed lack of care for a deadline. meeting people at conventions and talking to them is one of my most enjoyable experiences. sharing that with my kids and other creators has always been a joy and i hope to do it many, many more times.

    well, thank you for letting me babble on here. . . :)
    i wish you all the very best in everything always. i know the internet forums are an easy place to “shout from the mountain” our thoughts and criticisms more than our compliments and encouragments, but i do hope you all know that i have always approached what i create with the hope to give fans the best possible creation/story that has the very best of myself in it. and hope i can brings happiness to you in some form or another with those stories.
    this has always been a dream to be able to share stories with people, and i always love creating books for kids and grownups together. i like calling it the “family event.” i hear from so many awesome people how they sit and read the books i make “together” with their daughter, son, nephew, niece, class…etc.
    oh my gosh, i love that! i love it because it brings people together to share the joy of stories!
    too wonderful. :)

    thank you and again, all the very best,
    mike . . .
    http://www.theastonishfactory.blogspot.com

  17. mike kunkel Says:

    p.s.
    i agree . . .
    Supergirl should be an on-going series.
    it’s really great. and those guys did a great job with it.

    :)
    mike . . .
    http://www.theastonishfactory.blogspot.com

  18. mdtk Says:

    Hi Mike,

    As you know I have supported your Captain
    Marvel series right from the beginning. What makes things frustrating to me is that a release date is set and then is moved back and sometimes more than once.
    Just recently issue 5 was moved from May 20th to June 10. I’m hoping this date is secure but I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t. That being said I’m delighted to see that you are getting some help with the book. This is a great series and it deserves to come out monthly.

  19. mdtk Says:

    Hi again Mike,

    Yaaah. Issue 5 has been moved up to June
    3rd. Well done!!!!!!

  20. mdtk Says:

    No, I spoke too soon. It’s back to the 10th.

    http://www.dccomics.com/dcu/comics/?cm=11516




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