Dwayne McDuffie got the nod to write Justice League, supposedly DC's flagship title. Dan Didio even made a big noise about McDuffie using his Milestone characters:
The great thing is, we have Dwayne McDuffie who is one of the owners and creators of the Milestone characters working for us and also of course, writing Justice League of America, so he’s going to finding ways to incorporate the characters into the storylines that are going to be unfolding within Justice League.
And said the book was McDuffie's for as long as he wanted to write it. We all know now how that story ended.
Apparently, despite his being handed the keys to kingdom as it were, McDuffie ended up not having nearly as much creative control as he would've liked. He wasn't permitted really "[to find] ways to incorporate the characters into storylines." Why? Because company-wide crossovers and character use in other titles prevented him from telling the stories he'd planned:
I’ve had virtually no input into the composition of JLA. It’s DC Comics’ flagship book. They tell me who to put on the team, based on their needs elsewhere in the universe, and I do it. I believe I had influence in getting rid of Red Tornado, but even there I was forced to put him back in his body about two years before I had planned to…
There are a large number of changes coming up, mostly due to members leaving in the aftermath of Final Crisis. Again, I had little to no influence on how the team is shaking out. Dan and Eddie are allowing me to frequently guest star several characters who by rights should be written out of the book because of what’s going on in their titles. They also acquiesced to my request for a member rejoining the team (as soon as another project is done with him in about eight months). That character will be my first addition to the team, roughly two years after taking over the book.
This situation definitely sucks for McDuffie himself and for the readers as well, but I can't imagine this stuff with JLA and the Milestone characters came about because of the kind of perfidy no less than Tony Isabella suggests in the comment section at Pop Culture Shock:
As I’ve said elsewhere, I think DC’s main interest in the Milestone characters and the Archie super-heroes and the Thunder Agents and Doc Savage et all is to keep anyone else from using them. Well-done self-contained universes featuring those character would compete very favorably with the current DCU and, for that matter, the Marvel Universe.
Why would a company pay money just to eliminate competition, then sit on potential profit-makers? Why pay money and then not try to make that money back somehow? To suggest otherwise seems... well... a little too conspiracy theory for my tastes.
I'm not saying DC absolutely doesn't do this, just that it seems unlikely unless they truly are somehow evil. And I just can't believe that without actual proof. You know, a behind-closed-doors mission statement or Time-Warner strategy memo of DC's seeking some kind of monopoly or something. It'd make much more sense for them to buy or license the characters (which would fulfill the function of preventing their use by competitors) and then actually use them to make a profit (which would fulfill their function of being a corporation).
That's why I think it's more likely Dan Didio was telling the truth and DC acquired all those Milestone characters-- perhaps merely to use Static, as some suggest-- with just those kinds of big plans for some or all of them but things didn't or couldn't work out because of how many writers and editors they have crafting the overall narrative.
If the summer crossover The Death of the Infinite Final Identity Crisis Gods team have their own plans that include killing the central figure in your monthly narrative, suddenly putting someone else into the costume for whatever arbitrary reason or denying you use of a character you deem absolutely essential to your plot, then you have no choice but to change everything you painstakingly set up in order to maintain your status as a team player and preserve the corporate narrative.
How can a writer work under those conditions? Not well, I'm afraid. It seems your job would be merely to plug in other people's ideas and provide dialogue, perhaps covering for plot holes and whatnot-- remember Identity Crisis, the big prestige project from a few years ago was literally riddled with them like the big hunk of moldy Swiss cheese it really was and other writers had to clean up the mess in the monthlies afterwards and Jim Starlin couldn't actually end Death of the New Gods satisfactorily because a lot of the Fourth World concepts he was dealing with were due to come to their conclusion in Final Crisis, ultimately rendering his story pointless-- until you're not actually a writer, per se.
You're kind of a facilitator. A copywriter like the people who put all those words on the cereal boxes for the most part. Forget about writerly techniques such as foreshadowing or character development. Your plot points might get erased before you even get to them, and the character you needed for your big story moment may be unavailable when the time comes.
As a reader, I just can't get behind a kind of authorship or enjoy a comic book story where ten or twenty people with conflicting needs have a hand in a single ongoing narrative and may moot it at any point. A writer gets on a series and can't generate any kind of narrative momentum and is constantly undermined by big events. Consequently, there's no plot development I trust, no character I can fully enjoy for fear he or she might be desecrated unnecessarily at some point due to the whims of the group-think approach.
It's practically an axiom in films the more screenwriters you have, the worse the movie's going to be. With that in mind, I'm thinking of doing a series of essays on characters and stories ruined by corporate authorship. So outside of the creators of those occasional books that are just incompetent dreck for other reasons (the aforementioned Identity Crisis and the lamentable Redemption Road Batgirl mini and the Batman "As the Crow Flies" storyline I mocked the other day, for example), I can't fault anyone on an individual basis for any of this stuff. Corporate authorship at this level is simply a poor system for producing fiction. It does writers a disservice, ruins character development, renders stories moot seemingly at random, opens the editors to all kinds of paranoid charges, creates narrative chaos and ultimately undermines the idea of "story" itself.