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Editorial Mandate: What to Do When a Publisher Blacklists You

Written by Christian on Monday, April 29 2013 and posted in News with Benefits

Editorial Mandate: What to Do When a Publisher Blacklists You

Editor in chief Christian Hoffer talks about DC's blacklisting of the Outhouse.

Well, C2E2 was pretty momentous, wasn’t it? Charles Soule is writing Thunderbolts, there’s some more Hellboy coming out and they announced the title of X-Men’s 50th Anniversary Event. While I'd usually be happy to talk ad nauseum about all the fun stuff coming out of C2E2, the biggest story for the Outhouse wasn’t what was announced at the panels, but rather who we talked to. Actually, it was more who we didn't talk to. See, the Outhouse was formally informed by DC Comics we've been blacklisted for posting satirical articles critical of their company, and that until we discontinue this criticism they would deny us access from any of their creators.

We first caught wind of the blacklist when a marketing representative from DC turned down a request from Eric Ratcliffe a couple of weeks ago to bring a creator onto his long running “Why I Love Comics” podcast. Unlike the dozens of interview denials DC had sent us in the past, their marketing rep wanted Eric to call him to explain exactly why the interview was denied. We never followed up and dismissed the unusual request as one of the many, many weird things coming out of DC over the last few months.

Fast forward to this weekend, when one of our staff writers was told to go through DC’s marketing rep to talk to some of their creators. DC’s marketing rep scheduled a meeting, brought our staffer into an office and then told him that our interview requests would be denied because he didn’t appreciate the satirical articles criticizing DC’s recent editorial decisions.

He also offered to rescind this ban if our staffer agreed that our site would stop publishing articles critical of DC, despite our staffer explaining that we make fun of every aspect of the industry and that our satire wasn't unique to DC. This message was repeated to a second staffer when she walked into the room after she jokingly asked “Uh oh, are we in trouble?” The look the marketing rep gave her made it clear that we were.

Now, I’m not going to pretend to be heartbroken by DC denying us interviews. They’ve been doing a fantastic job of that over the years. While we had some success with the Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints, DC Comics has consistently either not responded to interview requests or straight up denied them when we’ve gone through the proper channels over the last few years.

Even worse, DC has shut down interviews that we independently set up, with creators apologetically explaining that we couldn’t run interviews because DC had given exclusives away to the likes of CBR. So, I’m content with not having access, because they never really gave it to us in the first place.

In fact, it was DC’s constant pushing us aside that helped push the Outhouse to the snarky, satirical site you see today. After years of being denied interviews and review copies while constantly kissing ass, and posting the same bland press releases in the hopes of being seen as “good soldiers”, we decided that we didn’t want to play ball anymore and decided to be a voice for change instead. And I haven’t regretted that decision one bit.

It’s been almost a year since we first started the “News Initiative” that spawned all the snark and satire you see on the front page. While we’ve had a few industry people upset with us from time to time, most of the industry professionals we speak to range from ambivalent to pretty positive about the site’s new direction. At the very least, most people seem to at least be appreciative that we’re taking an honest, unfiltered fan approach towards covering the news. At least ‘til yesterday.

When we started the new direction of the site a year ago, we did it knowing that we’d probably piss a few people off. We knew that some of our jokes would fall flat; we knew that we’d occasionally bark up the wrong tree, and we knew that some people just wouldn’t get our humor. And while that’s all happened, we’ve enjoyed record traffic, made some new friends and reenergized the writing staff’s love of writing about comics.

Am I surprised that we pissed off DC to the point that they felt the need to lecture our staffers? Nope. Remember, this is a company who fired a creator, rehired her and then pretended like it never happened. This is a company who just ended a weekly column with CBR because the website had the gall to ask their editors a real journalistic type question instead of the fluff promotional crap they were promised. This is a company that's become synonymous with creator mistreatment and can't go a month without some creator being shuffled off a book prematurely. This is a company that's turned alienating female readers into an artform. And yes, the Outhouse has covered each and every single one of those stories with gusto.

Considering the company's recent PR stance has been "Kiss our ass or we'll quit and start our own feature on our blog," it doesn't really surprise me that they didn't want us to come within ten feet of their creators.

But, we’re not going to discontinue our satirical criticism of DC in order to talk to creators for five minutes. We love talking to creators at cons, but losing the privilege of asking them a few fluff questions and posting their answers on the site isn't going to ruin us. And if DC doesn’t want us to make fun of how dysfunctional they are, they should probably stop having weekly public meltdowns and start trying to publish better comics. It’s their god given right to blacklist us for not kissing their ass, and it’s our god given right to mock the hell of their continued incompetence and expecting us to keel over when they try to get grumpy at us.

The best part about it is, had we gotten those interviews, it probably would have been the most positive DC coverage our site has seen in weeks. For all of the snark and bullshit we like to give, we’ve always believed in treating creators like people, because that’s what they are, and our years of interacting with industry professionals have proven that. Instead, DC has created yet another sideshow distraction that makes them look like a band of idiots and I get to sleep tonight knowing that DC’s given us a whole new bag of material with which to mock them.

Stay tuned to the Outhouse, my friends. Things are about to get interesting.


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