When higher-ups get involved, sometimes the results aren't so funny...
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Originally, Watchmen would have involved the Charlton Comics superheroes whose rights DC had acquired. They would not permit Alan Moore to do his proposed storyline with the actual Charlton characters, so instead he created Expies of them. Even before The Movie, many more comics readers will have heard of the Watchmen characters than the Charlton originals. Somewhat justified in that Moore wanted to kill off Peacemaker and the Question, whereas DC still had plans for them. Moore himself has said that he agrees with DC's decision, as his story was much more effective as it was written. He was able to do more with his own characters than he could have with the Charlton characters.
DC Comics executives decided they needed a newer, hipper Green Lantern, so they gave the writer of his series three issues to get rid of the old guy and all related characters. The result was Emerald Twilight, one of the most controversial comics of the Dark Age and a character (Kyle Rayner) who became a Creator's Pet for a good chunk of GL fandom.
Emerald Twilight was also a case of meddling. The original storyline was to have made Hal Jordan a Renegade Cop after the Zamarons took over the Corps, but the editors nixed the idea because no one knew who the Zamarons were. The writer quit, they hired a new writer and reused the story title for the storyline we ended up with.
Kyle Rayner fans ultimately got theirs, when the makers of the Justice League cartoon omitted Kyle from the show in favor of John Stewart. This move united the fandoms against John Stewart.
The irony of which being that the series introduced Stewart to a much wider audience and lead to the executives at DC reinstating him as a Green Lantern in the comics (he had earlier been stripped of his ring and crippled) and having him replace Kyle on the Justice League. So Kyle ended up not only being completely omitted from the cartoon Justice League, but the comic JLA as well.
In the DCU Crisis CrossoverInfinite Crisis, Nightwing was very nearly a victim of Executive Meddling, since Editor-in-Chief Dan DiDio didn't know much about his character beyond "not Batman or Robin." Eventually he was convinced that a character that had been published consecutively for more than sixty years shouldn't be killed on a whim, so he was spared.
DiDio is notorious for imbecilic ideas like this, earning him the fan nickname "The Didiot" on the forums. He has other names but there may well be young tropers reading this.
DiDio and the editorial staff had complete control over the storyline for Countdown to Final Crisis specifically because DiDio hated everything about DC's previous weekly series, 52. Many comic fans liked 52, while Countdown was universally loathed.
According to an interview with Mark Waid, DiDio declared Countdown to be "52 done right." His tastes obviously differ from the fanbase's. Though it has been said that by 'done right', DiDio was referring to the fact that Countdown told the story it was supposed to, while 52 quickly went off in a completely difference direction, hence forcing DC to create a side-miniseries to do what 52 was technically supposed to do (explain the changes that had happened to the DC universe during that one year period). Granted, DiDio and the editors backed off that statement and let much of Countdown be erased from continuity because of how loathed it became. (Grant Morrison, who wrote the main storyline of Final Crisis itself, stated that he completely ignored Countdown.) Still, it can be argued DiDio's frustration over 52 came from knowing that, despite how good a story it was, it wouldn't stop the millions of letters he'd get screaming "Why is Robin's costume different? How did Donna Troy become Wonder Woman? Dammit, DC, you were supposed to TELL US THESE THINGS!!!" (And yes, those letters would have come if not for World War III)
What makes this crazier is that, when it doesn't involve controlling storylines, DiDio seems to have made quite a few good moves. Yes, he fired Chuck Dixon, but he also hired/retained talented writers like Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison and Gail Simone (and now J. Michael Strazynski). When those writers are left to their own devices, the results are usually positive among the readers.
In the original Batman comics, The Joker started out as a sadistic serial killer; in the first two years he was used he killed close to 30 people. Eventually the Joker became less murderous and more of an Idiosyncrazy villain with a "jokes and gags" theme who robbed banks, built wacky gadgets, and pulled harmless pranks. Then in the 1970s Dennis O'Neil revived the character and made him a psychotic murderer again, even more dangerous than he was before.
They did and do have a point, admittedly. Batman's inability to permanently stop the Joker while simultaneously fighting gods and demons does make him and the Gotham legal system look bad. There's a thin line to walk.
It may have been bad for comics but it was better for them than being shut down altogether. The Code was a preemptive action taken by Execs to self police their industry because they knew they were about to be shut down completely thanks to a public outcry led by Wertham and McCarthy. Ultimately, the meddling performed by the execs was a good thing here.
Batman himself. In some early issues of Detective Comics, Batman himself would shoot criminals to death on a regular basis, until DC editorial director Whit Ellsworth asked the writers to tone it down and make it kid-friendly. This sounds incredibly jarring to modern audiences because Thou Shalt Not Kill has been Batman's defining moral principle for so long, rendering this early facet of his character almost unbelievable.
Batman killed a Russian gangster in those early, pulp fiction days. And I quote, "There is a sickening snap as the Cossack's neck breaks under the mighty pressure of The Batman's foot." The picture is easy enough to find if you do a quick image search on any decent search engine.
The Killing Joke turns out to be one big subversion: Alan Moore has since gone on record saying that, in hindsight, DC editorial should have reined him in on crippling Barbara Gordon but didn't. They may have actually gone along with it because they intended to remove Barbara altogether; if one former DC writer is to be believed, Batgirl Special #1 retired Barbara as Batgirl so they could dispose of her entirely in some means like The Killing Joke.
Though this is arguably a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, since Barbara's ensuing character development as Oracle took her out of Batman's shadow, made her her own character and served as the foundation of the acclaimed Birds of Prey series.
Cassandra Cain is an irritating example. Her Face-Heel Turn was forced by the EiC, which is bad enough, but the story could've been salvaged if the writer of that story bothered to do any research about the character he was about to write at all! After the damage got a band aid it was decided that Cassandra'd get a new mini series of her own. It could've been good, but executives gave the job of writing that mini series to the same writer who flocked up her character to begin with.
Which also leads to some serious Fridge Logic: if Batgirl is able to beat Batman in a fight and Tim Drake could defeat Batgirl does that make Robin a better fighter than Batman? Also, how come they chose the one female member of the bat family (who still fights) to turn evil even though she has even less of a reason to than Batman himself?
Even more jarring is what the writers had wanted to do with Cassandra when they were ordered to make her a villain - they had been planning for her to discover religion. That's right, the higher ups in DC decided that it would be better for a character who put on the cowl because of her status of The Atoner to arbitrarily decide she's beyond redemption and become everything she spent her life running from rather than learn about an organization that is intended to help people deal with the concept of sin and redemption.
Along those same lines, Gail Simone has confirmed that her "Death Of Oracle" storyline in Birds of Prey was supposed to lead to Cassandra adopting a new identity and joining the team (partly to offset complaints about the Monochrome Casting in the series). She claims she even began writing Cass' debut issue before being told that Cassandra's return would instead be handled in Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. title.
Writer Scott Snyder has since mentioned that Cassandra was present in his script for the first issue of the New 52Batman title, but at the last minute his editors forced him to write her out since canonically, she was still supposed to be living in Hong Kong. He was also barred from using Cassandra and Stephanie Brown in his Night of OwlsBat Family Crossover, making them very notable absentees in an event that involved every Bat-book being published at the time except Batwoman.
The meddling has continued with Bryan Q. Miller'sSmallville Season 11, with previews indicating Stephanie Brown would show up as Batman's partner Nightwing. Editorial intervened and had it changed to Barbara Gordon.
Stephanie Brown would make her New 52 debut in (a flash forward to) Batman Eternal, a year long weekly, as a civilian who would later become Spoiler. Cass has yet to show up, though given her mother in the old continuity is now Dick Grayson's age, she'll have to have a reworked backstory anyway.
It goes back further for Steph: The controversial story War Games which ended with Steph's death and took Batman to new levels of dickery, was created after someone high in DC's editing department, likely Dan Didio considering his apparent hatred for the character, requested a story that would end with her death. Then-Batgirl writer Dylan Horrocks opposed the story considerably and refused to have anything to do with it, save having Step guest star during her time as Robin (Horrocks was fairly fond of Steph, and loved writing her team ups with Cass).
Not Just Dylan Horrocks - Devin Grayson, writing Nightwing, vocally opposed the story as well. When it was forced, she seemed to take on much of the horribleness and try to write it as sensitively as possible - she'd previously demonstrated her ability to write characters being put through hell in a sensitive and nuanced way - see her on Nightwing just prior to War Games, in which he is partly responsible for the death of Blockbuster, who has blown up his apartment building, and is then raped by Tarantula. Grayson and Horrocks (as well as Ed Brubaker, writing Catwoman) are responsible for most of the decent writing in War Games, which is mostly really poorly written (though not as bad as the horrible aftermath, War Crimes).
Most of Dwayne McDuffie's run on Justice League of America. Despite writing what is supposedly DC's flagship title, issues he had to deal with include not being able to use any of the Big Seven, and having to constantly rewrite stories around the plots of other books. In one instance, McDuffie was informed that Hawkgirl was to be killed off in Final Crisis, but at the last second was informed that she wouldn't die after all. The latter news came after a scene reacting to her death was both written and drawn.
For the curious, that scene was in issue 31, where Roy Harper and Black Canary are talking about Roy's losing Hawkgirl to Hawkman. The dialogue rework is handled alright, but still inexplicably takes place in a cemetery.
The Death of Superman storyline was an indirect result of this. Clark and Lois got engaged in 1991 so 1992's big event was to be their marriage but by that point, Lois and Clark was in development and they wanted the couple to get married at the same time in the TV show and the comics. Now struggling to fill the gap in their storyline, one of the writers, as was often the case during story speculation, joked, "Why don't we just kill him?" — he was taken seriously, and the rest is history.
Writer/artist Francis Manapul has mentioned that he wanted to work in an appearance from Wally West in his new Flash series, but was barred from doing so by editorial. Wally wouldn't return to the Flash book, and the DCU as a whole, until after Manapul & Buccellato left for Detective Comics, and a new team was assigned. Wally is depicted as being Iris' nephew, but is younger (in the present, anyways. He's a teen) and is half black. The cries of Runied Forever came almost instantly.
Back in the mid-90's to early 2000s, the Bat-family comics editors had a lot of clout, practically mandating what could or couldn't be done with the Batman-related characters. This really got to Peter David in his Young Justice run as they came down on his over things the Tim Drake Robin could or couldn't do in his title, like being seen in public (During Zero Hour, they established that the Bat-family were now "urban legends". Despite Bats being in the Justice League.)
James Robinson allegedly had to fight tooth and nail against editorial fiat on the controversial Justice League: Cry for Justice miniseries. While the series is decried for its overly dark ending where Star City gets blown up and Arsenal's daughter Lian dies in the attack, supposedly editorial wanted more carnage, with Speedy dying alongside Lian and every fictional city in the DCU besides Gotham and Metropolis getting ripped apart.
He has recently left working for DC entirely, citing a creative split regarding how editorial pressures wanted to take his New 52 series, Earth 2 in a different direction. The departure is particularly aggravating considering the great deal of fan and critical praise the series had been receiving before the writer change. Robinson is now working for Marvel and starting to put out creator-owned titles as well.
J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman both walked off of Batwoman because of "Eleventh Hour Changes". These include a new origin for Killer Croc and not allowing Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer to marry (though they said specifically that it wasn't because they were gay but because of the brouhaha of superheroes marrying that's becoming something of a stigma in certain companies). To make this more aggravating, this caused the last two issues of their run (#25 and #26) to be thrown out by DC, which pushed back the finale of their run where Batwoman and Batman fight to a few months later for the next writer to tie up the loose ends.
They aren't the first ones to bail from DC since the start of the New 52 and they won't be the last. As early as the first few months of the reboot people had left, starting with George Perez, who left the Superman title because he couldn't effectively do his work because they kept changing everything, especially since Grant Morrison was busy trying to lay down the groundwork for Superman's past in Action Comics.
Gail Simone refused to write the crossover issues of Comicbook/Batgirl2011 for Death Of The Family, so she was fired. DC then rehired her after massiveFan Backlash.
Recently, Gail Simone was let go again, but this time for (hopefully) better reasons - a new editor came in for the Batman books and, tired of the True Art Is Angsty angle going on, let Gail go and brought in a new team to liven Babs up.
Rob Liefeld also cited this as the reason for his leaving the New 52 books. He was the first to do so.
Considering the quality of his output in the New 52 books he was involved with, let's just say that almost no one is upset over this loss.
Robin owes his very existence to this trope. Bob Kane thought that a vigilante having a Kid Sidekick was a stupid idea, but the higher-ups in DC insisted. Kane lost the argument, resulting in the creation of Dick Grayson and the start of one of the most iconic partnerships in comic history.
Another account claims that Kane had drafted a more fantastical sidekick for Batman, a young boy with the codename "Mercury" who'd wear a special suit that gave him powers. Jerry Robinson then convinced Kane to bring the child down to a more realistic level and suggested the name "Robin" after "Robin Hood" (the bird symbolism wouldn't come into play until much later).
DC's first run on Star Trek came to an abrupt end after issue 56 because Paramount decided to exert greater control over the licensing. DC kept the license and launched a second series in conjunction with the release of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, alongside an ongoing monthly for Star Trek: The Next Generation, but DC's writers had to submit their scripts to Richard Arnold's department at Paramount for approval, and characters created in the previous series were barred from being used.
The situation rankled Peter David, who found his scripts getting more and more negative feedback, leaving him to believe that Arnold had it out for him personally. Among the rejected ideas included Captain Kirk being involved in a fistfight, even though Kirk has been in many fights on the TV show and in the movies (including the still-recent Star Trek V). So even as he left the series, he turned in a script that was much more violent than anything that had been rejected, using a pen name, and said script was approved, seemingly confirming the grudge against him. The pen name David used? Robert Bruce Banner. The story itself would be published in issue #19, and IDW later reprinted it in their first Star Trek Archives TPB, "Best of Peter David".
X-Men: The original conclusion for the Dark Phoenix Saga called for Dark Phoenix being psychically lobotomized; however, then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter ordered writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne to come up with something more drastic as punishment for her crimes, and she was killed off. This is a positive example, as Jean's death is remembered as one of the most poignant and touching moments in all the Marvel Universe.
Comic book legend says Claremont's script originally provided proper punishment for Jean Grey's actions; however, when Jean consumed the star for power, John Byrne threw in the planet of plant people that died as a result of the cataclysm. That's why Jim Shooter demanded her death. But they did plan on bringing her back, just not having committed such a horrible crime.
It was meddling when writers were forced to kill her off again, even though it had nothing to do with the DPS at that time. They later tried to drop a bus on Jean to make sure she can never come back with "Endsong", but ironically the "final solution" (rumored to be the wholesale destruction of Jean's body) was changed by executive meddling to leave things so that Jean may one day return, assuming editorial changes.
Another X-Men example dates from the beginning of the series—Stan Lee wanted to call it "The Mutants," but the bosses said that very few readers would know what a mutant was. Lee's protest that nobody, including him, knew what an X-Man was had no effect.
The name change might've been for the best, because Stan Lee was originally going to call them The Merry Mutants, which would've been okay for mid-20th-century, but is completely laughable in this day and age.
While on the subject, Chris Claremont returned to the titles in 2000, and since his return he has fallen victim to this trope numerous times. Exiles was re-packaged as New Exiles and Claremont was told he could only use characters he created, or wrote, during his first run on X-Men, as the protagonists. Igor Kordey was replaced as the artist on New Excalibur, while already working on the first issue; nobody informed Claremont, the writer, at the time of the change in artists. During his third, and latest, run on Uncanny X-Men, Claremont had to drop an ongoing plot, namely the formation of a new Hellfire Club, while the story was in full swing. He was told to abandon the story because a different writer at the time professed interest in using the Hellfire Club. Eventually, it turned out to be all just a dream, making the forced abandonment of the plot in Uncanny X-Men a jarring example of executive meddling.
The polar opposite has occurred with Claremont's X-Men Forever, where Quesada has apparently assured Claremont he can do absolutely anything the title's rating will allow with his characters, starting with rebooting the series to just after X-Men (vol. 2) #3 and killing Magneto and Wolverine permanently — word of Claremont says they will never, under any circumstances, return in X-Men Forever (indeed, no dead character will come back from same again) — and having a big reveal that makes the mutant gifts of the X-Men a death curse that will burn them out before they're 50.
Another X-Men example, Claremont originally wanted to reveal that Nightcrawler's parents were Mystique and her female lover, Destiny, with Mystique having used her shapeshifting powers to turn into a man and impregnate Destiny. The higher-ups at Marvel wouldn't allow it.
The Reavers exist solely because of this trope. During Byrne's run on the title he made a habit of having Wolverine kill people off-panel (thought there would always be a veiled reference to it later in the same issue). Jim Shooter had a bad habit of having his assistants read the books, so he wasn't aware of his trend until he actually overheard John Byrne bragging about it to a fan during an autograph session. Jim Shooter then demanded that every character that Wolverine killed off-panel be brought back. Claremont ended up with the unsavory task, and brought them all back as cyborgs, who eventually formed the band of villains known as the Reavers.
For a brief period, Joe Quesada at Marvel Comics tried to encourage a "whoever is dead stays dead" policy, in order to combat the increasing perception that character death is meaningless in the medium. It wasn't an editorial mandate as is often mistakenly said (though there probably is some truth that he used the justification not to influence people not to bring back characters he disliked). This policy notably affected several high-profile works for the company: Grant Morrison had to give Emma Frost the diamond mutation to take the place the then-dead Colossus would have played, and Beast played the science-guy role that the then-dead Moira Mac Taggart would have had. This proved very unpopular with fans, and overturned by 2004 with Magneto being brought back (ironically Magneto was himself labeled "staying dead" even though Morrison always intended on bringing him back). It took four years before fan-favorite Psylocke was brought back to life in 2005 after being killed off in Xtreme X-Men, as she was originally slated to die in the Psi War arc, which was a few years before her actual death. Chris Claremont, though, merely planned for her death to be temporary, with the idea being that when she returned, she would be stripped of all of the Crimson Dawn stuff that had been added to her story (including her facial tattoo) plus perhaps even returning her to her original body (and not the Asian body she ended up in), however Claremont's plans were scrapped. Furthermore, when Joss Whedon took over what became Astonishing X-Men, one of the very few editorial mandates forced upon him was to bring Colossus back to life.
Kieron Gillen, during his tenure in Journey into Mystery, had Loki die to spring back to life as a new incarnation of himself, a teenaged godling without recollection of his past life and able to grow for himself a better, nicer personality. At the end of his tenure Gillen had "his" Loki utterly erased from existence, and replaced by the adult, restored, Loki in the teenaged body of the new Loki. He then explained on his blog how such a drastic plot twist was motivated by an attempt to avert some blatant, over-the-top cases of executive meddling screwing with his vision of Loki.
Spider-Man has seen two of the industry's most infamous cases of meddling:
One More Day, in which Spider-Man's entire history for the last twenty years has been Retconned out of existence after a Deal with the Devil, seems to have been written almost entirely on the direction of Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada for the sole reason of removing Spider-Man's marriage to long-time love interest Mary Jane Watson from continuity, thus prompting a healthy debate (to say the least) amongst fans questioning not only whether this plot development was necessary, but also whether a method of staging it which was less convoluted, ridiculous and both out of character and at odds with the overall tone of the series could have been devised. Writer J. Michael Straczynski agreed with the general idea and had been part of the planning process, but he and Quesada fought fiercely on the execution; when Quesada eventually vetoed him, Straczynski wanted his name out of the credits.
To be fair, the end result didn't throw out twenty years of canon: most changes didn't happen For Want of a Nail as it originally seemed, but during a Time Skip. The only actual change to previous canon was that the marriage changed to a very committed relationship — marriage in all but name. And if Quesada is to be believed, his conflict with Straczynski was because JMS was going ahead with changes that would have altered forty years of Marvel canon.
Before One More Day, there was the infamous The Clone Saga in 1994. It was initially supposed to be a six-month arc, but after sales were good, Marvel's marketing department forcefully stretched out the story by almost two years, ending in 1997.
According to That Other Wiki, it was far more complicated than that. The original plan was nothing like what eventually happened. note "Our plan was to structure the clone saga like a three-act play. Act One would climax at or around Amazing #400 — when we revealed that Pete was the clone and Ben was the real guy. Act Two would last around three months and follow Ben's adventures. In Act Three, Peter would triumphantly return as the one, true Spider-Man. Mark and I were hoping the Spider-crew could make Ben a viable character during his turn in the spotlight, and we planned to star Ben in his own monthly title after Peter returned. It was kind of like what I had already done with Thor and Thunderstrike — two very different titles based on a single concept." Unfortunately, it quickly escalated into several meddling executives — a changing roster of them, too, with some major overhauling of the editorial staff going on the whole way through — each pulling in their own direction and sometimes changing their minds (in drastic ways, such as going from "make Ben the true Spider-Man and write Peter out forever" to "make Peter the true Spider-Man"), and then you throw in the marketing department, which had more control than the writers at this point (writers' creative control by this point: very little), keeping it going because it was selling well. When you take Executive Meddling Up to Eleven and never, ever have the right hand knowing what the left is doing at any point along the way, you get this perfect storm.
Recently, "The Real Clone Saga" was written, with the writers telling the story the way they'd wanted to. And it was quite good. (And since then, bringing Ben Reilly Back from the Dead - he didn't die in "The Real Clone Saga" - is at least being discussed.)
One More Day and the Clone Saga are perhaps the textbook examples of Executive Meddling gone wrong on the comics pages; unfortunately for Spider-Man, they weren't the only instances. This three-part essay describes the whole ordeal for those who want a particularly detailed, opinionated history.
Another casualty of executive meddling (along with writer issues) was the identity of the Hobgoblin. They did, eventually, reveal the Hobgoblin to be the person who the original writer had intended all along. ( Roderick Kingsley) Recently they wanted a new Hobgoblin...
A Mini Marvels backup feature in an issue of Marvel Adventures jokes that this is what the Skrull invasions of Earth are attempts at — for the Skrulls, Earth is a popular reality show that they've gained ownership rights to, and now they want to exercise creative control. Unfortunately, Earth has turned out to have rather extreme Protection from Editors.
Steve Gerber's original idea for Omega The Unknown was about the difficult life of a realistic young man, but Stan Lee insisted he have powers and crossovers with other in-universe superheroes. Eventually, the book was taken away from Gerber entirely, and given to another author who summarily killed the characters off. Then, thirty years later, it was given to yet another author for an update, without so much as informing Gerber.
Back during the late 80s and early 90s, Todd McFarlane had popularized Spider-Man with having humongous eyes instead of the smaller ones he had for over 20 years (at that point), leading them to demand that Spidey's mask be always drawn with humongous eyes. Alex Ross had to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to use the smaller-eyed Spidey mask when he was working on Marvels, due to the fact that it was his favorite and having the big eyes while working on a series set in Spidey's earlier days would be inaccurate, not to mention very difficult to pull off as a plausible mask design in Ross's photo-realistic style.
In-universe example in Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four, with King James I offering...suggestions to William Shakespeare such as the witches in Macbeth. A couple of actors nearby comment that Will nearly wept when James ordered ghosts put into Hamlet.
A rare good example. When Marvel got the license to Star Wars after the first movie, Lucas forbade them to have Vader directly interact with the rebels, as it could interfere with what he had in mind for the movies. To still have him as a credible threat, Vader was written as a Magnificent Bastard, a characterization that is arguably a better one than what he eventually ended up with in canon.
Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog has a strange relationship with what it's supposed to be adapting, what it is adapting and who's doing it. However, exactly who or what is saying things is hard to pinpoint. According to Ken Penders, Sega was actually hands-off with the exception of a few moments, including sparing Princess Sally from her death in "End Game" and reaming out Archie for using Sonic The Hedgehog The Movie. If anything, the most Sega had done was ask them to do game adaptations. However, somewhere along the line, Sega started getting their head straight and started pushing for more game-centric stuff, which obviously clashed with then-writers Penders and Karl Bollers. When Ian Flynn came in as well and started adding in more game-related things was when Sega really started pushing their clout as to how things should be.
The ultimate in Executive Meddling could be seen in the case between Archie and Penders. To wit, it was said that everything made for the Archie comic was now property of Sega. That meant characters, concepts, etc. Back in the early 90s, it was obvious no one minded the house at Archie and when Penders caught on about 15 years later, he quickly copyrighted his characters, which lead to the lawsuits. When it became obvious that Archie didn't have a leg to stand on, they quickly forced the crew on the comic to dump all of Penders' characters in the middle of a storyline to save face. This would later lead to the Continuity Reboot that was Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide
According to conversations with Ian Flynn, one of the big mandates was that the video game characters couldn't have relatives. This would initially lead to Sonic and Tails being unable to call their parents by those familiar titles and Eggman's connection to Snively downplayed. When the Cosmic Retcon hit, Uncle Chuck was (apparently) no longer Sonic's uncle with the name being just an endearing title to the scientist and Snively being renamed "Julian Snively" with no connection at all to Eggman. This is despite the fact that both characters were part of the Saturday morning cartoon.
The British Sonic book, Sonic the Comic, was brought to cancellation because of Executive Meddling: the publishers did not have faith that the book would continue its popularity, despite selling more than 2000AD at one point, and began decreasing the budget and demanding that there only be one new story per issue, the others being reprints of older stories. Then the comic became 100% reprint, the cover illustrations being the only new thing in them, until finally, the comic was axed completely.
Nigel Kitching, a writer for the comic, wanted Amy to be a funny, Action Girl who teases Sonic for kicks and giggles. He wanted the two to have a bond similar to the ones in early twentieth century "screwball comedies" like, the 1939 film, It's A Wonderful World. A director decided Girls Need Role Models so Amy's personality was changed to be more sensible and Closer to Earth than the boys. Nigel noticeably has had Creator Backlash, saying Amy was a one-dimensional stereotype. He gave up writing her until Sonic Adventure, where she returned to her original persona.
Publishers operated under the bizarre, nonsensical idea that some comics won't last beyond a certain time despite what all sources and sales figures might say; they even considered cancelling 2000AD, Britain's most popular sci-fi comic book and the "birthplace" of Judge Dredd. Fortunately, the computer game company Rebellion bought the title, which continues to this day.
Amongst the other comics they did cancel at around the same time was Red Dwarf Smegazine, which was canceled just at the point when a sales spike from the 1993 series might have been expected. In an example of Tropes Are Not Bad, this ended up being the right move, as the 4, 2, and 10 year gaps between each of the next series would likely have killed it off anyways.
Bob Budiansky, original writer of the Marvel Transformers comic book, was continually forced by Hasbro to introduce new characters during his run, causing him to burn out as the quality of the stories took a nosedive. Eventually, a burnt out Budiansky passed the writing duties on to Marvel U.K.'s Transformers writer Simon Furman, who brought to the American title the pseudo-religious/supernatural themes such as Primus, and Unicron being a dark god (the original cartoon version was just something a Mad Scientist apparently whipped up for no discernible reason.)
One reason that Furman could introduce the "pseudo-religious" themes were the distinct lack of meddling on the UK title. As long as he didn't directly contradict the US stories, he could write whatever he wanted. There was one time time early on where Hasbro wanted the UK book to promote the Special Teams when the toys came out in stores, even though the US reprints had not yet reached the story where they were introduced. So Furman wrote a story which involves the Autobots looking into the future and seeing these new Transformers in action.
Simon Furman later got hit by this. He spent a few years writing a series of epic Transformers stories for IDW publishing that featured Loads and Loads of Characters, as well as interesting new concepts like the Dead Universe and a plausible Decepticon invasion plan that made vehicular disguises relevant to the story. Then, due to falling sales, IDW decided to truncate Furman's twelve-issue Grand Finale into four issues of the Spotlight series (necessitating each chapter focusing on a single character's thoughts in addition to all the action), and a five issue "Maximum Dinobots" series so that they can put their publishing power behind All Hail Megatron. Given the limited page count afforded him, Furman did an admirable job of wrapping up all his far-flung storylines.
Falling sales is debatable, while this was Denton J. Tipton's claim, his replacement Andy Schmidt later said that the drop in sales was nowhere as bad as Tipton claimed.
In 2010, the Transformers Collector's Club dropped their "Nexus Prime" plotline which had been running for about five years across various continuities. This is because Hasbro themselves have taken charge of stories regarding the Thirteen original Transformers.
In another case of Tropes Are Not Bad, the very graphic death scenes in Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers were, according to Nick Roche, put in at Hasbro's request, who had apparently grown tired of how easily resurrectable Transformers were starting to be shown and wanted some definitive kills to show that death still meant something in Transformers.
That said, according to the trade Springer, Kup, and Perceptor were all going to die in one version. Hasbro vetoed one, IDW another, and the writers wussed out of the last one.
The entire company of Image Comics is perhaps one of the quintessential examples of why Executive Meddling is not always a bad thing. Image Comics was founded in 1992 by a coalition of former Marvel comic creators, mostly so they could have greater financial and creative control over their work (Marvel's policy at the time was to merchandise the crap out of their characters while only paying artists freelance rates and modest royalties). Now in fairness, the success of Image did lead to a lot of changes in the structure of the comic industry, many of them for the better, and Image itself has changed a lot over the years. On the other hand, the early history of Image Comics in many ways practically personifies all the things modern comic fans despise about the Dark Age of Comics. The company's success only exacerbated the growing popularity of infamous Dark Age comic tropes like Darker and Edgier, the Dark Age of Supernames, and the Nineties Anti-Hero. Many of the more reviled icons of the Dark Age originate from or were associated with Image Comics. And all because someone thought it was a good idea to found a company based entirely on Protection from Editors.
Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine has talked about several strips over the years that his syndicate has asked him to change for one reason or another, and he has usually agreed(with the strips in question usually being so edgy that the risk outweighs the reward). In the latest treasury Pearls Sells Out, Pastis writes about a particular strip that his syndicate wanted changed because it showed the characters drinking beer. Pastis flat-out refused to do so, arguing that he wasn't "gonna keep looking over...[his]...shoulder" every time he submitted a strip and worrying about their attitude. With the exception of a few minor edits, Pastis says that the syndicate has since left him alone and that he understands most other syndicates wouldn't have even published Pearls to begin with.
In the early days of Dilbert, Scott Adams was planning on adding Satan to the strip's cast. The syndicate wouldn't let him, so he ended up creating the character of Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light, the ruler of "Heck". An example of Executive Meddling having good results since even Adams agrees that this was much funnier than his original plan.
The subject was Played for Laughs in a strip where Dogbert tells a writer to make a few changes to his manuscript so it can be more publishable:
Dogbert: Make the main character a purple dinosaur instead of a detective. Add some upbeat songs and eliminate the murder. Writer: It's a murder mystery!! Dogbert: Oh, that's original.
Spoofed in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, in which Greg's comic strip Creighton the Cretin is edited so instead of the character eating his math test, Creighton the Curious Student is asking the teacher a math problem and saying to visit during office hours.
A couple strips of The Perry Bible Fellowship have been removed because they were offensive. (Namely, a strip in which a boy gives a girl a pair of ballerina slippers and the final frame shows her in a wheelchair. Even the author admits it was rather offensive.)
The Muppet Show Comic Book was hit with meddling and an Executive Veto in it's Family Reunion arc, especially on the reintroduction of Skeeter, Scooter's twin sister. Another arc, "Guest Stars" was scrapped by a veto, forcing Family Reunion to be pushed up to fill in the gap; however, the Disney executives had not decided whether to make Skeeter a full cast member, or to bring her in at all, so they told the writers to make the story ambiguous. The arc was framed by two celestial beings, who are NOT Statler and Waldorf, who throw in various characters as a way of livening things up a bit, leaving it open if it was canonor not.
In the German comic Werner: The title of the sixth book, Besser is das!, had to be censored after the first edition because the Flensburger brewery understood it as comparative advertising in favor of Werner's recently launched own beer brand, "Bölkstoff". Werner had been drinking Flensburger beer all the time before, in fact, he was the reason behind the immense increase in popularity for the small brewery near the Danish border in the 1980s.
Likewise, merch with the "Red Porsche Killer" on it had to be censored upon "request" by Porsche. Also, the book Das Rennen names it "Red XXXXXX Killer".
Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck could have been rather different (and worse, as Rosa has acknowledged) without the input from Egmont editor Byron Erickson. He for example persuaded Rosa to drop a seven-page prologue of dense McDuck family history (because the story should be centered on Scrooge) and to completely rewrite chapters 3 and 8 (because the first drafts were rather lame).
Discussed in a positive way by Gary Larson in The Prehistory ofThe Far Side. He admits that he would occasionally go a bit overboard, and would credit his editor at the syndicate with making sure it didn't hurt him too badly (several strips that were halted due to fear of backlash appear in Prehistory). That said he did have a small gripe in the same book about when the editor didn't discuss changes to a strip with Larson first.
A positive example is The Simping Detective. Originally envisaged as one of many stories of a strip called Mega City Noir (The first story, Gumshoe, is under the MC-Noir name) which was to be a Sin City style strip featuring various characters around Angeltown and their dealings with both sides of the law. Megazine editor Alan Barnes felt that Jack Point was simply too good a character to be wasted as a One-Shot Character and he was given his own series. Mega City Noir was given a second story, which explained what happened to MuggroKeevish after the events of Crystal Blue and focused on mob enforcer Gaz. Unfortunately, it wasn't anywhere near as good as The Simping Detective and further plans for any more Mega City Noir stories have been indefinitely postponed.
Archie Comics' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures was cancelled due to this. The creative team at the time was preparing for its big epic storyline towards issue #75, "The Forever War", which would have brought back the future "Green Earth Turtles" and showcased the final fight with Shredder. However, the editors at the time balked at this as they absolutely hated the more violent path the comic was taken as well as the "Green Earth Turtles" (it was also because Mirage had started going color around this time and it was taking away from Archie) and they ultimately canned the creative team and, ultimately, the title.