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BACK IN BLACK (OPS):

ALLRED ON ALL THINGS ‘X-FORCE’

[Doop]

While the entire X-Men family of titles from Marvel Comics are being shaken up to one degree or another this spring, it’s hard to argue that “X-Force” isn’t undergoing the biggest change.

And while the concept is getting a serious tweak — more on that in a minute — the facelift the book is getting by artist Mike Allred is the most dramatic break from the book’s past.

Allred has done projects here and there for major companies in the past, but he’s best known as the independent creator of “Madman” and “The Atomics,” and the first rumors of him working on a Marvel title — an X-book, no less — a scant two weeks ago were greeted with outright skepticism in most quarters.

His decision to work on a monthly Marvel book began with the new Ultimate Marvel line.

“Well, a couple months ago, I guess, maybe longer, Brian Bendis asked me if I wanted to do one of these Ultimate team-up books,” Allred told the Comic Wire on Thursday. Bendis is the writer of both “Ultimate Spider-Man” and the new Ultimate team-up book. “I was allowed to choose whatever character I wanted to do. It’s no secret that I have a lot of affection for old-school Marvel. So I picked Iron Man.”

Rumors that Allred was taking over “Ultimate Spider-Man” — this was before Marvel had publicly announced the Ultimate team-up book — began almost immediately, Allred said.

Allred’s willingness to do more than just a single freelance art assignment is owed to the arrival of new editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, he said.

“Then Marvel had a face. To me, it was always a monolith. You either play by their rules or not at all. But with Joe there … it had a face. It seemed accessible,” he said. And in a phone conversation with Quesada, he told him: “‘I think I could work there now. If you thought that was appropriate, we could work that out.'”

The word that Allred would be up for working at Marvel spread almost instantly after that phone call.

“It was like 15 minutes, and [editor] Axel Alonso called me up, soon after [editor] Tom Brevoort. ‘Here’s what we’ve got, what sounds interesting to you?’ It was very flattering.

“Nothing really struck me as something that I was really up for. But then, almost embarrassed — and this really surprises me — [Alonso] says ‘well, I am in charge of ‘X-Force’ and they want me to retool it, and they want to have each book have their own look and feel. How would that be?’

[Orphan]

“I wasn’t really familiar with the characters. ‘Actually, we would like you to invent new characters.’ Then when he said he had [writer] Pete Milligan on board, it was like the heavens opened up.”

The two had worked together previously on a story for DC/Vertigo‘s “Shade, The Changing Man.”

“As much praise as he gets, I don’t think it’s enough. He’s phenomenally talented,” Allred said. And while he writes his own books as well, Allred said putting those chores in someone else’s hands pays real dividends for his art, historically: “Every time I work with another writer, it just has exploded me creatively.

“It’s been years that I’ve been given a script from somebody else’s mind that challenges me to draw things I wouldn’t think to draw. I welcome that.”

Working on one of the X-Men family of titles has him very excited.

“Man, the first comic I remember on the stands was an X-Men comic book. The X as an icon is so powerful. And the concept of mutants I’ve obviously adapted into my own work. Really,” he laughed, “I’ve spent the past year auditioning for this” with “The Atomics.”

Of course, the vocal fan response to him being named to the title in just one week has made him appreciate being on a second tier X-book.

“It’s an X-book, but it’s not THE X-book,” Allred said. “I’ve been on the phone with [new “X-Men” artist] Frank Quitely. … Boy, the pressure they must be under.

“As we’re finding out, Marvel fans, especially X-book fans, are really staunch,” Allred said. “There’s no way I would be allowed to do what Peter and I are doing on ‘X-Men’ or ‘Uncanny X-Men.’ There’s no way. It’s a phenomenal opportunity.”

And while he naturally wants fans to give his and Milligan’s take on the book a chance, he understands why fans might be a little protective of what has come before.

“I know people have an affection for the current characters,” he said. “But I’m really hoping I can show this is going to be a book that, every month, is going to rock their world.

“It’s as scary as it is exciting. But I’ve never felt as challenged as I do now. … I consider myself as fragile, perhaps an overly sensitive person, but I’ve surprised myself how this has juiced me up. I am buzzing, I am excited.”

Of course, most of what fans are responding to at this point are a few illustrations of some of the team, and some very basic descriptions of them and their mission. Such brief information is “very deceptive. On the one hand, I think there is a spirit, or the seed of a spirit, in those illustrations. But at the same time, they don’t reveal the depths that we’re going to be getting to on this book.”

Alonso “totally steeled me to the reaction on this book. … People are going to be just spinning until they see this book.”

But Allred isn’t bothered by the sometimes hostile responses the new “X-Force” is getting prior to its debut. Quite to the contrary.

“The book hasn’t even come out yet, and it’s changed me in a phenomenal way. It’s improved my confidence. I thought that it would shake my confidence, but it’s really improved it,” he said. “I’ve never looked at my work through so many eyes before.

“I thought that I couldn’t possibly me more enthusiastic or in love with the comic book medium. But it’s like I’ve fallen in love all over again. It’s got that feel, you know, when you first meet the love of your life, and years later, you meet her again, and you’re even more excited. I’m just so in awe of this opportunity. But I’m also stronger — if this just doesn’t fly, if this is just an absolute commercial failure — I’m so excited, this is so full of potential, I know it won’t have failed for a lack of trying. When it comes right down to it, we want to make the best comic book possible, given what we bring to the party.”

Allred’s wife Laura is a frequent collaborator — she’ll be coloring the new “X-Force” as she does for many of her husband’s projects and she’s equally excited about the opportunity. “Laura and I keep looking at each other the past few weeks, saying ‘can you believe this is happening?'” (True to what Allred’s fans associate with his work, Mike will be handling inking and lettering on the series, in addition to penciling.)

“Laura’s on the verge of exploding with the colors, too. I think people are going to be very impressed … she’ll do these subtle things that will make the book come alive. There’s a lot of strength in subtlety.”

So, what is the new “X-Force” going to be like?

“I think it’s going to be deeper and richer” compared to most of Allred’s previous works. “It just feels like there is more meat on the bone. By virtue of Pete’s involvement, it’s going to be darker. I think it’s going to be more real, which is always strange in regard to comic books. … I think there’s going to be a level or realism to it. It’s a lot more realistic than my Snap City stuff.” Snap City is the setting both “Madman” and “The Atomics” revolve around. “It’s going to have a wider scope. I think with ‘The Atomics,’ the emphasis is more on an adventure romp, lightheartedness, maybe. With ‘The X-Force,’ there’s going to be serious events that will range from heartbreaking to gut wrenching.”

As for what the new X-Force’s mission is, “we’ve come up with dozens of relatable analogies. … Sports team is probably the best. These are the mutants that embrace celebrity. They take the most dangerous, life-threatening missions. Here’s the contrast in it: Most of the missions that they are involved in are black-ops, top secret, under-the-radar kinds of missions, but they have a publicist. And they’re privately owned. There’s a whole publicity aspect of it. For instance, if you’re famous for getting the job done, but nobody’s actually sure what the job is that you’re getting done, it keeps the business going. You’re famous by virtue of being famous. … They can enjoy the celebrity, but be amazingly tight-lipped about what they actually do.

“Of course, there’s certain events that actually give them a public profile. They’re well-paid, they live a very glamorous life. They’re well-rewarded for living their glamorous life.”

This team of celebrity black ops mutant heroes will feature an all-new team of characters designed by Allred.

[Venus]

“I was warned up front that there’s going to be casualties. So the challenge for me was to not hold back and make a half character because it might not be around for a while,” he said. And when those deaths come, “if we have characters that are rich and deep and that you care about, it’s really going to mean something.”

Among the team members are the armored Orphan, the Anarchist, the potato-shaped Doop, the energy being-in-a-suit Venus di Milo, narcoleptic teleporter Go Go Girl, La Nuit, the “nerdy Wolverine” Vivisector and team manager Coach.

Team leader Zeitgeist has been described in a tongue-in-cheek fashion by Alonso as having a super-regurgitation power, a description that’s had some fans up in arms.

For the record, Allred said, describing Zeitgeist’s powers that way is “like saying that [X-Men veteran] Cyclops spews tears at people. It’s not entirely accurate. His power reveals itself orally. I guess that’s the best way to say it.” Zeitgeist shares some other traits with Cyclops: “This is the tragedy of this character. He’s the golden boy. This Zeitgeist character, if you were going to be a superhero, he’s who you’d want to be. Incredible good looks, smart … the contrast to that is his tragedy. I can’t discuss this in detail too much, because this is one of the things the initial arc of the book is going to spin on.”

The panic over a new X-Force led by a mutant who would puke all over their opponents highlights a misperception of his work, Allred said.

“I think there’s a perception in general that my work is campy or not to be taken seriously. I reject that notion. … I think the overall theme that I’m trying to get across with ‘Madman’ is one giant adventure/fiction story that is just an example of living the golden rule, which I think is the philosophy that everyone in the world should live by: just treating people the way you want to be treated. … To have someone love you unconditionally, and inspire you to be the best that you can be, THAT’s what ‘Madman’ is all about. … The bottom line is to not accept your weaknesses, but to see them as something to overcome and defeat. If you follow that message, it’s about everyone being a hero.”

In any case, “X-Force” readers need to wait to see the actual book before making up their minds, as at this point, they “have seen the public persona. … They haven’t seen the black ops, haven’t seen them in their shadow gear, their under-the-wire mode. We’ve thrown out the initial bombastic, comic-booky,” he laughed, “images.”

Allred also emphasized that Milligan is writing the book, although Allred designed many of the basic character concepts.

“I think this is the biggest percentage of input I’m going to have in the book,” he said. “From there, I’m completely confident with how Peter’s going to approach the scripts.”

Another character that’s drawn strong reactions — in this case, from only a drawing of the character — is the amorphous Doop.

“He’s a lightning rod. Man alive! I mean ‘he/she.’ We haven’t even decided on a sex for Doop,” Allred said. “There’s already people begging for Doop beanbags. It’s funny that people are having such reactions, since isn’t that what the mutant thing is about to begin with? … Some people have really embraced the Doopness, but others are so offended. … I find I’m fascinated by how deeply felt and passionate people are with their opinions. If we can get people to still feel that way, but still pick the book each month, then we win. … I want to knock people back on their heels, and just go ‘WOW.’ If we can provoke thought with a mutant superhero book, SCORE!”

Leaving aside gender issues, what exactly is Doop?

“Doop is an all-purpose carryall. He can ingest anything, then expel it, for use.”

Vivisector — described by Alonso as a cross between Peter Parker and Wolverine — “is brilliant,” Allred said. “He can come up with all these great inventions, and he’s kind of the communications guy.”

Doop then ingests the inventions to bring them to the field.

“There’s an infinite amount of space inside Doop. Doop could wrap his mouth around a tank. If you need a tank, there’s a tank.”

“Hands down, my favorite character is the Orphan. … Orphan is Bruce Lee times ten. Just the most phenomenal fighter you can imagine,” he said. “More skill than strength, but exceptionally strong. But what makes him really unique is his sensitivity that he can adapt to any situation instantly.” His heightened sensory ability is a double-edged sword, though. “His suit actually doles and controls his sensitivity. Also his helmet, which kind of protects him. He’s way too sensitive.”

Venus “is also dependent on her suit. … When she uses her energy, it tends to scatter without the suit.” It also allows her to retain some resemblance to the woman she was, even if it means she now wears a wig.

With the dramatic changes to the book — the new “X-Force” is miles away from its origins as a revamped “New Mutants” as done by Rob Liefeld featuring his new creation Cable — there was some discussion about restarting the book at issue #1, but they decided against it.

“It’s intended out of respect to the fans to show them that this isn’t a marketing scam to get them to buy another #1 issue. This is a very sharp turn in this title.”

But fans of Allred’s other work won’t be left hanging, and he hopes that they won’t regard him as some sort of sell out.

“I can honestly say that we’re doing this for the right reasons. My definition of selling out is taking money for something that you don’t want to do. I want to do this BAD.

“For 10 years, I’ve kind of adopted the attitude of a lot of my peers, that if you work for one of the Big Two, it’s not significant, it’s not important. Now it’s like I’ve cracked open that toy box that is why I was excited about comic books in the first place. But to be in on the ground floor … it’s unbelievable that I’m in this place. It’s stunning, and thrilling. I just want to put everything I possibly can into making this the best comic it possibly can be. It’s not just, you know, about creating some marketing surge. I’ve always wanted to do a significant body of work … a run that would fill up a comic book box. … Throughout my career there have been so many sidetracks that have steered me away from that. … I’m not saying ‘X-Force’ is that book, that I’ll get 100 issues under me, but I hope that it is.

“I’m going in this with my eyes open. If any of these characters get popular, and they’re used in different ways, in merchandising, I get a significant portion of that. And that’s important to me, in an ethical way. But they do own them, and I do understand that.”

[The Atomics]

His non-Marvel work in 2001 from his own company, AAA Pop, includes a Spaceman one shot with painted backgrounds by animator and comic creator Lawrence “Sparks” Marvit out late summer or later. Allred describes the merger of richly painted backgrounds and more flat comic characters in the foreground as an attempt to capture the feel of animated cartoons.

Also look for a “Madman/Jetcat” special done by Jetcat creator Jay Stephens, probably colored by Laura Allred, out this fall.

“We’ll be wrapping up ‘The Atomics’ with issue #16. Before any of this happened, we were thinking it was time to give Madman his monthy series. As much as we love the Atomics, and as much as he’s practically the star of the series, we were getting these letters asking when he’d get his own series back. … There’s always been this outcry to ‘make ‘Madman’ your flagship title.'”

The plan had been to make a new monthly called “Madman Atomic Comics.” Its fate now depends on the success Milligan/Allred “X-Force,” but the current plan is for it to be a series of miniseries squeezed in around work on “X-Force.”

“I’ve been averaging 30 pages a month” working Mondays through Fridays, Allred said. “That allows me to fit in other things.

“I really want to put less pressure on myself, so I’m not going to put myself on a strict schedule with the side projects. ‘X-Force’ will be my main gig, and I’ll put everything into it. … I’ll have this intense hunger to do ‘Madman’ or ‘Atomics,’ and when that’s done, only then will we solicit it.”

Also look for extremely deluxe collected editions of “The Atomics,” with “personalized limited edition” hard covers. Fans will be able to send away for personalized bookplates to put in the collections.

And finally, there will be four or five issues of “Madman Picture Exhibition,” which will be a series of gallery books collecting renditions of Madman and the Atomics by over 120 artists, including Art Adams, Sergio Aragones, Chris Bachalo, Peter Bagge, Kyle Baker, Brian Bolland, Dan Brereton, John Byrne, Dan Clowes, Jeff Darrow, Frank Frazetta, Dave Gibbons, Matt Groening, one from each of three Hernandez Brothers, Adam Hughes, Mike Kaluta, Joe Kubert, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane, Moebius, Terry Moore, Kevin Nolan, Bill Plimpton, Paul Pope, Frank Quitely, Alex Ross, Steve Rude, Tim Sale, Mark Schultz, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jeff Smith, Jay Stephens, William Stout, Bruce Timm, Matt Wagner, Chris Ware, Barry Windsor-Smith and many others.

“As a fan, this is my greatest achievement.”

But for now, all eyes are on May’s debut of the all-new, all-different X-Force. Allred hopes it’s the shape of things to come at the company.

“For years, I’ve heard people complain about the generic aspect of Marvel,” he said. “Now we have an editor in chief who’s encouraging diversity. … When I look through my Marvel Masterworks [hardcover collections] and look at the diversity of style … those people were celebrated for their uniqueness, and the fresh breath of air they brought to those books.

“I just hope the people who’ve longed for that sort of identity and uniqueness and character to be brought into comics will be aware of it and give it a chance.

Quesada, he says, is “assembling the new millennium’s Bullpen. What’s more electric than that?”

And for fans who are still a little nervous about “X-Force,” “keep your mind open: Be on the boat, don’t miss the boat. Maybe you’ll be very, very pleasantly surprised. … At least on my part, that’s what I’m working towards achieving. I want to surprise everyone. Very pleasantly,” he laughed.

MIKE CAREY’S SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

The star of DC/Vertigo’s “Lucifer” comic — calling him “the Devil” isn’t entirely accurate in the company’s rather confused cosmology — owes more to “Paradise Lost” than the Bible, specifically in regards to what kind of guy Lucifer is, and what his role in the events of the Bible was.

Just as in Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” according to “Lucifer” writer Mike Carey, the question of how much free will God actually gave his creations is central to the story.

“There’s at least a couple of millennia worth of metaphysical shouting and wrangling over that one,” Carey posted at DC Comics’ message boards last week. “Does foreknowledge abrogate free will? Not necessarily. The fact that God knows how it’s all going to turn out doesn’t mean that he made it happen that way. Milton said that God created humankind ‘Sufficient to have stood, but free to fall.’

“But what do we mean by free will in any case? If you assume the existence of an all-seeing eye like God’s, with an omnipotent will behind it, then the entire universe has to be a deterministic system.

“So where I have a slight problem is with *this* part of the conundrum. Human nature, or personality, or whatever you want to call it, is the outcome of heredity and environment. It’s not a predictable outcome for us: no amount of unraveling of the human genotype and no amount of sociological and psychological theorizing will ever put us in the position of being able to compute the output of human thought or behavior that will be caused by a given input of external happenstance.

“But God is by definition capable of understanding, influencing and indeed controlling every one of the millions upon millions of variables — both inside and outside — which feed into a given person’s decision on a given occasion. You can’t get away from this: if He’s all-powerful, He could if He wanted to build a thinking being entirely to specification, sculpting a mind with a near-infinite number of minute tools.

“So you’re left with a choice between two conclusions. Either God presided over Adam and Eve’s internal and external make-up, in which case they were set up; or He decided not to exercise his powers, but rather to give the whole thing over to chance. In which case, it’s hard to see how they themselves were anything other than the victims of circumstance.

“I think what I’m trying to say here is that if there is a being called God, then free will is the one thing that isn’t within His gift.

“I know you’re talking general theology here, rather than commenting on the comic, but this conflict is central to the dilemma of ‘Lucifer’ as he’s depicted in the series. He suspects that God has mapped out his entire course, and the thought is all but unbearable to him. The freedom to define himself and to choose his own path is, above all, the prize that he seeks.”


ROSEMANN, WEINBERG SPAR OVER ‘CABLE’ REMARKS

Updated Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Part and parcel with Marvel Comics’ forthcoming revamps of their X-Men line is the reality that creators working on the books at the moment are losing their jobs, at least on those books.

Sometimes creators in these situations go quietly. Sometimes they don’t.

Last week, Robert Weinberg, Marvel’s current writer on “Cable,” landed squarely in the “don’t” category. He issued several statements to his fans, complaining about Marvel’s decision in the wake of his efforts to keep the book from cancellation.

Late last week, Bill Rosemann, Marvel.com‘s Online Editorial Manager (and close personal friend of the site’s one man promotion machine Your Man @ Marvel) responded:

“While I by rule keep my nose out of online ‘controversy,'” Rosemann said in a release of his own, issued on Thursday, “I feel it is necessary to respond to the following statements that Robert Weinberg recently made in his ‘press release’ concerning his removal from ‘Cable:’

“‘I do know that lack of any sort of publicity hurt the book. My two-part story returning Rachel Summers to the mainstream Marvel Universe received no advertising or promotional push. And, my Dark Sisterhood storyline has been listed now three times in a row in Previews without any covers to attract readers and retailers. That’s not a good way to promote and sell a lesser known comic.’

“As a person involved in Marvel’s promotional efforts, I must respond to a public accusation that assaults not only my reputation, but that of the entire Direct Sales team as well as that of Mark Powers and Pete Franco. I also want to make it clear to both Bob and all the ‘Cable’ readers that, yes, we did in fact work hard to support recent issues of the title. This is not an official company statement, but my own view of the situation.

Here’s a list of the promotional efforts we took to increase sales on ‘Cable:’

“1. The ‘X-Men: Revolution’ campaign for all the changes in the March 2000 X-titles focused not just on ‘X-Men,’ ‘Uncanny X-Men’ and ‘Wolverine,’ but also embraced Bob’s and Michael Ryan’s debut as the new creative team with ‘Cable’ #79. Coverage included:

“a) showing an image from the ‘Cable’ #79 cover on the cover of our Previews section;

“b) mentioning ‘Cable’ #79 in our section’s intro;

“c) a 1/2 page ad in that month’s section;

“d) a 1/2 page solicitation for that issue with a bio and extensive quotes from Bob;

“e) making ‘Cable’ #79 a Featured Item of the month in that catalog section;

“f) including the cover to ‘Cable’ #79 on the [point of purchase display] poster that sent to all comic retailers;

“g) including ‘Cable’ #79 in all initial sales incentives and follow-up sales offers to retailers;

h) including ‘Cable’ #79 in our two-page ad in that month’s ‘Wizard’ magazine;

i) including ‘Cable’ #79 in our telemarketing campaign through Diamond reps.

“2. The following ‘Cable’ covers were shown (in full-color) in additional issues of Previews: #80, #81, #82, #83, #84, #85, #86, #87 and #88. The reason that the ‘Dark Sisterhood storyline has been listed now three times in a row in Previews without any covers’ is because no covers were completed in time for the catalog deadlines. Obviously, Mark, Pete and Michael busted their butts to get covers in the catalog, and every time cover was ready, it was used. We would have gladly run these new covers if only they were available.

“3. ‘Cable’ #87, part of the ‘Dream’s End’ crossover received an extended solicit and a 1/2 page ad in Previews Vol. 10, #9. I believe the issue was also included in Sales incentives to retailers.

“4. ‘Cable’ #88 was spotlighted, with a positive review quote, in a ‘Nuff Said! ad in Previews Vol. 4, #11.

“5. ‘Cable’ #88, featuring a guest-appearance by Nightcrawler, was shown as one of two covers in a ‘Marvel Spotlight’ feature in the Bullpen Bulletins (which appeared in a majority of a week’s worth of Marvel titles).

“6. Bob attended both the Wizardworld convention and the San Diego Comic Con as a Marvel creator. As such, he was invited to sit on X-Men panels and was given free issues of ‘Cable’ to sign at the booth throughout the weekend.

“If Bob believes that those efforts amount to a ‘lack of any sort of publicity,’ then I wonder what he thinks would qualify. I’m truly sorry that Bob feels we haven’t supported his work. I enjoyed his run on the title and wanted it to succeed. For a company that produces nearly 50 titles a month, I believe we took strong steps to spotlight this single title.

“Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to defend the reputations of Marvel’s Direct Sales team, a small group that does all they can to support, promote and nurture all of Marvel’s titles. I also want to thank Mark and Pete for their ongoing efforts to work with us to draw attention not only to this series, but to all of their books. Finally, I look forward to working with them to promote Howard Chaykin’s upcoming run on ‘Cable.’ This spring is going to be an exciting time for the X-books, and the Askani’son will be squarely in the middle of the action!”

Weinberg responded to Rosemann’s response to him with another open letter:

“I’m extremely disappointed and concerned that Bill Rosemann felt that my statement concerning the lack of publicity for ‘Cable’ was aimed at him or anyone at Marvel. I went out of my way to say how much I appreciated all that Mark Powers and Pete Franco did for the book. Perhaps I should have listed Bill Rosemann in my letter as well and if he feels slighted, I surely didn’t mean for that to be the case.

“However, Bill’s response to my statement was less than accurate. I’m sure that this is due entirely to Bill’s difficult job of handling publicity for Marvel and through no fault of his. In any case, I’d like to correct a series of misstatements and inaccurate remarks made in Bill’s letter. Since he made it clear that his letter was not a company statement, I’m sure he won’t mind if I point out his errors.

“I was not complaining about the lack of publicity given ‘Cable’ when the comic was first published with my by-line, but six months later, when a major storyline took place and no publicity at all was focused on that plot. I assume Bill read the two Rachel Summers issues and knows how popular Rachel (the new Phoenix) is to so many fans of the X-Men. Yet, there was no effort made to publicize the return of this highly popular character. I think Bill’s own arguments prove my point.

“Bill ignores the fact that I specifically addressed the question of publicity for ‘Cable’ issue numbers 85 and 86 (featuring the return of Rachel Summers) and instead focuses on the massive publicity campaign that took place for the March 2000 revolution. I agree with him fully that ‘Cable’ # 79 received a very nice publicity push. I was quite pleased with the publicity.

“What Bill does not mention is that with this publicity push, ‘Cable’ #79 sold well over 65,000 copies and was #12 on the Diamond sales list for March. So the publicity campaign did pay off. Many more people bought that issue of ‘Cable’ than had bought any issue of the comic in years.

“Afterwards, the numbers started slipping each month. I surely did not expect a continued major promotion for Cable, but lack of publicity did hurt sales.

“Bill again forgets to mention that EVERY X-Men title had their covers published in Previews during this period. This is a common practice for Marvel, to run pictures of all their covers. This was not done special for ‘Cable.’ It was done monthly for all Marvel titles. Again, while ‘Cable’ did have its covers featured in Previews, there was no other promotion done to push the book. I didn’t expect much, though I felt that Marvel did lose sales by not promoting the return of Rachel Summers (as I stated above).

“As to the past three months, I understand that the ‘Cable’ covers were late. However, Bill seems to ignore the fact that by not featuring any cover reproductions, the sales of ‘Cable’ were bound to drop without any other type of publicity.

“Bill was very busy at both conventions, so has obviously forgotten some of his facts.

“I did attend both conventions (one with my wife, one with my son). Marvel did give me two free passes for each show. However, I paid my own way to both shows (hotel, airfare, meals, etc). Though I wrote to Bill two months before the shows that I would be in attendance, my name was never listed as a Marvel creator in any advertisements for the shows or in any Marvel ad, or at the Marvel booth.

“I did sit in on panels at both shows, though there was no indication on the programs that I was in attendance at the shows or on the panels. This was particularly distressing in Chicago, since I am a well-known writer in Chicago (my home city) and no fans knew I was at the show.

“Bill mentions that I was provided with free issues of ‘Cable’ to sign and give away at both shows. Again, his memory is playing tricks on him. I was concerned that I would have nothing to sign at San Diego so I brought (in my suitcase) 50 issues of ‘Cable’ that I bought special for the convention. There was no sign with my name at the convention nor were there any free issues of ‘Cable’ available. I signed and gave away MY OWN copies of ‘Cable’ at the San Diego show. While Bill obviously has forgotten this, he can easily check with Chris Claremont or Brian Wood who I sat next to at the show to refresh his memory.

“Bill did promise to bring boxes of ‘Cable’ issues to give away in Chicago, my home town. Unfortunately, he evidently forgot to place the order, as there were no free issues of ‘Cable’ for me to sign at the show. Again, not wanting to disappoint fans attending the show, I BOUGHT 250 copies of ‘Cable’ from dealers at the show and gave them away free during the show. Bill can easily check with Mark Powers or numerous other creators at the show to verify this information. No mention was ever made to me about paying me back any of the money I spent, and the point was never raised after the show.

“As a Marvel creator, I did receive a free t-shirt from Graffiti Designs with the X-Men logo on it. I also got several Coca-Colas for free. In return, Bill probably remembers I brought three dozen Krispy Kreme donuts to the show to be shared with the creators at the Marvel booth. Again, paid for with my own money to give everyone signing an extra boost. I was never taken out for a meal or invited to dinner at either show by any representative of Marvel or the Marvel staff. Though Bill knew for three months beforehand that I would be at the show in Chicago and that I had a strong fan base in my home city, my name was never used in any Marvel advertising or promotion.

“I feel, as I am sure do most creators, that ‘Cable’ could have been given more publicity, as that would have resulted in better sales. The examples Bill cites (issues #79 and 87) prove my point. I’m truly sorry that Bill didn’t understand that I meant a lack of publicity OVERALL has hurt the book, but I stand by my statement. If Marvel had pushed ‘Cable’ a little harder, I think it would have sold even better than it did. I’m deeply disappointed to have been removed from the book but I hope that it continues to sell well and remain profitable.

“And, in closing, I will point out that even without the publicity I desired, ‘Cable’ has remained a top 50 title on Diamond’s sales list for my entire run on the comic, and response to the comic both in and outside the comic book field has been terrific. My first story arc (‘The Undying’) is the leading nominee for best Comic Book Horror story of the year from the Horror Writers of America. I’ve received positive quotes about the comic from writers like Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Lumley, and F. Paul Wilson, all best-selling authors, the type of people Marvel says they want to attract to their comics. These are all facts that Bill never discusses, though I didn’t expect him to.

“I appreciate all that Mark, Pete, Bill and the people that work with him did for ‘Cable.’ As I stated, I think every creator feels that their book deserves more publicity than it gets. I’m sorry if Bill took my remarks as a personal attack on his efforts, as they were never meant to be. It’s unfortunate that the examples he uses about publicity done for ‘Cable’ only further prove my point and in no way prove his.”


FASTER, COMIC BRIEF, KILL, KILL!

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