Heroes Remembered

Time for another Marvel rumour from years passed. It’s 1997. Marvel are doing their suits-uber-alles stuff, with editors being overmanaged, comic “events” being ordered, and generally treating the company like a short term cash cow without planning for its long time future. You remember – Heroes Reborn. *shudder*

During that period, Jim Sokolowski, the guy in charge of contracts and publisher Sherryl Rhoades talk to a studio/agency representing Mike Deodato, Al Rio, Joe Bennett, Ivan Reis, and others to discuss a publishing plan. They tell them, “Marvel needs to publish itself out of its problems.” It was common before then to turn one title into three or four titles, hunting for extra sales — but this policy had failed, with the cancellation of titles such as Punisher and Ghost Rider. Many lines had imploded, and Marvel seemed to want a whole host of new “takes” on characters.

The idea behind it now sounds familiar: Go to some established, but not A-list talents, and get them to create complete books — story, art, letters, colours, as a one-stop-shop, under Marvel’s watchful editorial eye. Marvel would later do this with Marvel Knights, though within the building. They were already talking to Chaos! about doing a “Halloween” line.

This group of writers, artists, and colourists were asked to develop a specific batch of proposals for projects. This included their “take” on returning the Heroes Reborn characters to the Marvel Universe, and the relaunches of Captain America, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor – as well as new titles (and trademark protectors) for The Defenders, Millie the Model, Doctor Strange, Lady Liberators, and others.

They also got other Marvel editors to call with projects to be developed. It all looks rather peachy for Deodato and his friends – who could potentially produce over two dozen titles, under Marvel’s editorial eyes. These would also include comics versions of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the WCW, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, and Conan. In many cases, Sherryl and Jim wanted the titles to expand the current audience – attract some adult females, older males, and so on.

Sokolowski called this 1997 endeavour “Cradle to Grave”. He talked to comics agent Dave Campiti about reaching new audiences – based on the fact that Innovation, Campiti’s old company, had aggressively targeted and acquired female readers with Beauty And The Beast, Dark Shadows, Quantum Leap, and the Anne Rice titles. Marvel market research however, showed that this market didn’t exist for Marvel.

So, nearly 30 proposals, script and art were worked up. The first accepted one was a version of Millie The Model, renamed Millie The Supermodel. Great title. Anyway, Marvel were planning to do this as a tie-in with a foreign (Japanese?) clothing manufacturer – the clothes were supplied as reference and the company could use the character as a mascot. Millie was to be portrayed as Hawkeye’s trophy girlfriend, real life supermodels were tapped for their experiences in the business and the proposal was drawn by Al Rio in a very J. Scott Campbell style.

A Moon Knight mini-series proposal was dictated over the phone by the editor, who under then-Marvel rules wasn’t allowed to officially write the books he edited. The writer typed it up and fleshed it out. The editor also hand-picked the artists.

Doctor Strange looked into people’s nightmares, Fantastic Four was by Joe Bennett in a Kirby style, a horror anthology adapted Stephen King, Robert C. McCammon, and others, a romance title targeted adults with true relationship stories, there were the Champions; Black Cat, She-Hulk, Howard the Duck – even a revival of Conan, written by the novels’ current author. Millie the Super-Model was the first one to be okayed. Conan was next, though it went through normal editorial channels.

Then, three weeks after the proposals were in, signed off and sent on to Bob Harras, the axe came down. Sokolowski and Rhoades were gone. All 28 of the proposals were instantly “forgotten,” save for Conan which, going through a different Marvel publishing procedure, seems to have been missed.

After hearing creators inquire periodically over a couple of years, then-senior editor Bobbie Chase decided to review all the proposals herself to put the matter to rest. And she rejects them all. A key excuse was that few of the proposals seemed to hit Marvel’s current “target audience”.

The Black Widow proposal was rejected because Marvel would “never do” a Black Widow mini-series; Moon Knight, because it had a “stupid story idea” — her not knowing a fellow editor and colleague had plotted it; Millie, because Millie should only look like an Archie book – that the clothes were unrealistic and the stories without any basis in reality, and the talents knew nothing about the modelling business. The Captain America and Iron Man proposals were rejected because, “those have already been relaunched” – ignoring any possibility of using them as mini-series, fill-ins or Annuals. Doctor Strange was rejected because he, “never sells” and Marvel would never do another Strange book. Black Cat, because Bob Harras hated the character. The romance book, because it seemed sleazy and couldn’t possibly be of interest to Marvel’s target audience.

She also rejected the Conan proposal which Marvel had already published. Oops.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Cow Overboard?

I hear Paul Jenkins is seriously considering making the jump to CrossGen. Currently writer of Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man and the head writer for Top Cow, this has mostly come about with Jenkins falling out with Top Cow.

Paul Jenkins does not respond to inquiries, but I understand that CrossGen aren’t actively seeking any major new writing talent at the moment.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 4 Out of 10


CrossFans

There’s been some disquiet in the ranks about an upcoming CrossGen crossover. Despite promises to fans that the CrossGen books wouldn’t directly cross over, I hear from some fans that The First and Mystic are going to do just that! A quick check and it seems the events are slightly different – as has happened before, the same set of events will be seen differently through different characters eyes, but there will be no “Part Two” continued in a different title, and definitely no “Our Worlds At War”, or similar.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 3 Out Of 10


McFarlane’s Balls

I hear a fun Todd McFarlane story going through the ranks. Whether it’s true, I don’t know, but it’s a good gag, so here goes. “I hear that Todd was having a party many moons ago. In attendance were people that at that time were working for him, including ex-Spawn artist Greg Capullo. So I hear that Todd whips out two balls he bought. One had some significance and was worth big bucks. The other looked exactly like the other and was worth essentually nothing. Todd was remarking how funny that was because the balls looked exactly alike and Todd could only tell them apart because he kept them apart. So Capullo grabs them from Todd and passes them between his hands back and forth very quickly… then gives them back to Todd. Everyone stands there dumbstruck as Capullo laughs and walks out of the room. To this day Todd still doesn’t know which ball is which.”

This Has A Rumour Value Of 3 Out Of 10


Staff Management

Marvel’s legal department didn’t like our Bill Rosemann – Porn Star link last week, reprinting the link that turns Marvel’s Your Man page into something a bit ruder – funny, Bill seemed to find it quite amusing.

Anyway, to avoid legal threats, we agreed to remove the article. However there’s nothing to stop anyone going to http://www.pornolize.com and typing in any address they see fit. Have fun!

This Has A Rather Pathetic Value Of 9 Out of 10


Lacking In Authority

A number of news sources, including Silver Bulletins, have reported the announcement that Bryan Hitch’s Widescreen Authority has been dropped from the schedule, at Bryan’s request.

What hasn’t been widely spread is that the book will not be printed at all – something Bryan seems vehemently against if his recent post to The Art Of Comics is anything to go by.

Hitch writes:

      “I’m sorry to have to tell you that due to DC’s sensitivity on the subject they have indeed shelved the book completely. There were also a number of pin-ups which featured the WTC as background material, and for reasons of their own have decided that it should be written out of history and collective memory.

“I am as disappointed as anyone else. This book featured what I considered to be some of my best work, and would have featured the debut of my new colleague and inker, Andrew Currie, who also joins me on The Ultimates for Marvel. I certainly understand postponing it for a while, it was my suggestion to do so, but it seems they are only willing to publish (and this would be for second quarter next year) if the story was set somewhere property destruction was non-existent and noone was in any danger of dying. I was offered the Moon as an alternative to NY.

“Failing that I was offered the chance to write and draw a completely new story for the Widescreen book, but due to my exclusivity with Marvel and the rather heavy commitments on The Ultimates I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

“I can only apologise to those of you who are disappointed and hope that you will understand the situation. I hope that in the near future I will be able to post the story on this site for all who wish to see it. It seems more and more unlikely as time wears on that I will make another return to the Authority. I have made two such attempts which circumstances have seen fit to foil, and soon the book will moving to new creative teams with new stories and possible new directions. Things have to change to survive otherwise stagnancy sets in. The same is true for us creative types also. Contrary to what you may be expecting, the Ultimates is no Authority for Marvel. That may have been their original intention in hiring Mark and I to, in the words of Tim Burton, “re-imagine” the Avengers, but that isn’t how it turned out.

“Is it something completely new? No, nothing ever is, but it certainly isn’t the Avengers or the Authority, and is something new for Mark and I as neither of us has ever done anything like this before. Whatever our and Marvels original intentions were for this project, it has evolved beyond our expections. Wizard will be running a preview in number 123 which is out in Oct, I think. That will feature a few pages from the opening sequence set during Cap’s last mission in 1945, the complete set of character designs for the group and covers for issues 2 through to 5.

“So to the details of the book; the first issue will be out sometime in Dec and feature a wraparound cover and 48 pages of story. The whole creative team will be Mark Millar on lead vocals, with me on lead guitar. Andrew Currie will be on drums, with Paul Mounts on bass. We are all having the time of our lives, and one thing is becoming clear to Mark and I, and that is that two years may not be enough.

See you in the Ultimates.”

This Has A Rumour Value Of 8 Out of 10


Counter Offer

When Bill Jemas offered to publish the delayed/cancelled Authority issues for a small licensing fee, in order to see these works published, it was Larry Young who had the perfect response. On the Warren Ellis Delphi Forum, he made an open offer to Marvel for his company AIT/Planet Lar, publishers of Astronauts In Trouble, Channel Zero and others, to publish Brian Wood’s acclaimed Counter X run on Generation X as a TPB for a similar fee, since Marvel have shown no inclination to do so.

This Has A Rumour Value of 9 Out of 10


Only If It’s Funny

And last week’s Retailer Rally Presentation – held at the New York event that DC and Marvel had such a to do over. Was it only coincidence that it had the exact same initials as DC’s more clandestine operation, the Retailer Representative Program? Yet another swat from Marvel to DC…

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out of 10


Cap Still Outstretched

One thing – thanks to the many All The Rage donators last week. You’ve helped keep the wolf from the door, and yesterday received your first All The Rage draft sneak peek. If anyone else wants in, check out last week’s column, Cap In Hand, or send what you can to [email protected] via www.paypal.com – cheers!


 

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