Based on statements by past JLA writers like Grant Morrison and the late, great Dwayne McDuffie's, it does seem as if DC puts the JLA writer at the mercy of every other DC book's story decisions. If Geoff Johns doesn't want Hal in the JLA, Hal goes away. If the Titans book wants Cyborg back, or just wants him gone, he's gone.
Bruce-as-Batman was killed off and has been "busy" since his return, so Robinson was only allowed to use Grayson. Martian Manhunter was yanked because DC would rather give him to Johns for Brightest Day. Black Canary "belongs" to the editors of Green Arrow and JSA, and can be pulled from the book at any time.
Grant Morrison, for example, didn't want to use Electric Superman or to replace Wonder Woman with Hippolyta; he also seems to have plotted the "Rock of Ages" Injustice Gang storyline with the classic Big Seven, but then John Byrne temporarily killed off Wonder Woman, leaving Circe with precious little to do in the entire story-arc. He was also apparently given some restrictions on using Batman due to the No Man's Land storyline in the Bat-books.
Dwayne McDuffie was quite vocal about having storylines rewritten and vetoed by editorial, often at the last minute. The most ifnamous example is around Final Crisis -- McDuffie was told that the Hawks were dead int hat storyline, and wrote (and had pencils for) a good chunk of a JLA issue dealing with the team's reactions. Then the deaths were undone by a late editorial; decision, meaning that a third of a completed issue had to be redone at the last moment.
That seems to be DC editorial policy, not the decisions of the JLA writer. If Robinson' using obscurities, it's likely because obscurities are the only characters he can safely use on a regular basis. DC handles the JLA the opposite of the way Marvel handles the Avengers, where Brian Michael Bendis seems to get to make status quo changes and keep characters regardless of the lower-selling solo titles' writers. That approach has its own problems, though.
Having said all that, I think Robinson has not handled the situation as well as McDuffie and Morrison did, and that his plots have been quite lackluster regardless of which characters are in them. That, to me, has been the real problem of his run -- it's not delivering good characterization, nor is it making up for the shallow characterization by providing crazy cosmic scale or clever plotting. Robinson just doesn't seem cut out for this title.
>>>Having said all that, I think Robinson has not handled the situation as well as McDuffie and Morrison did, and that his plots have been quite lackluster regardless of which characters are in them. That, to me, has been the real problem of his run -- it's not delivering good characterization, nor is it making up for the shallow characterization by providing crazy cosmic scale or clever plotting. Robinson just doesn't seem cut out for this title.
1. Thanks for mentioning Duayne McDuffie, who was a fantastic writer and didn't get the props he deserved.
2. As always, you hit the nail on the head. I'm not understanding why JR's not tapping into his considerable strengths here. He's more than able of creating atmosphere, characterization, and at building complex and satisfying stories. He hasn't been doing these things here.
This is what I think he should do.
1. New artist. I like Mark Bagley, but they're mismatched. Can you imagine if STARMAN had been drawn by Bagley?
2. New color scheme. Robinson's stories need a dark, lush color scheme.
3. Keep Dick Grayson and Donna Troy, Get Barry, Oliver, and Hal. Get Batwoman, Etrigan, and Mon-El.
4. Insidious villains, heavy hitters with long-range schemes and meaningful goals. All that mayhem Prometheus caused in Cry for Justice was just gratuitous destruction.