Critically acclaimed. Featuring one of Marvel Comics' most enduring characters. Written by an up and coming superstar writer. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a breakout hit, right?
Unfortunately for Dan Slott's "Thing" series, featuring the ever lovin' hero from the Fantastic Four, critical acclaim just wasn't enough to keep the series afloat. With news that "Thing" will be cancelled as of issue #8, we caught up with Slott to learn what led to this development.
The first question on most people's minds is "how did it feel?" and Slott answered with the above image, chronicling his reactions to the news of the series' cancellation. "If you read some of my earlier 'Thing' interviews, you'll see where I mentioned that I had issue #25 all planned out," he explains. "And I do! It's a great story! It's got action, excitement, a musical number (I kid you not), and a moment that could go down as one a' Marvel's top tear-jerkers. So, when I heard the news? I was really disappointed.
"But, that said, I'll be damned if I go out with a whimper! So expect two jam-packed issues for #7 and #8! And consider all the stops officially pulled! You stick with us to the end, and we won't let you down! "
It's a tough industry to compete in for a variety of reasons, the biggest being the overwhelming amount of comic books put out each month. One need only peruse the latest "Previews" (the industry ordering catalogue) to see that "Thing" faced lots of competition. Still, with so many fans rallying online to support the book, some have wondered why the series didn't connect to a larger audience. "It didn't connect with fans because it didn't connect with retailers," contends Slott. "Most of the fans that read the book liked it! But it's a tough market. If you're a retailer, there's a lot out there that's competing for your dollar. When 'Thing' #1 came out, retailers had to place their orders for the end of 'House Of M,' the start of 'Infinite Crisis," the 'Decimation' titles, the start of 'Spider-Man: The Other', and so on… Man, it was a crazy time. And a 5th ongoing FF book wasn't high on their list. I get that. But those circumstances meant that the book was dead out of the gate, before the fans ever got a chance to crack open the cover.
"There's really no one to blame here. I can totally see where retailers were coming from. And I can see where Marvel was coming from. What? They shouldn't have launched a book that month? Well, if you go that route, then all your launches start lumping together. And then people would make the same kinds of complaints they were making during the Tsunami launches. Marvel just has to take their shots and hope something sticks."
Given more time, Slott does believe that "Thing" could have found its audience, especially with the trade paperback collection scheduled for this July. "The comics industry is so different than the TV industry. Some of the most popular TV shows of our generation -- 'Cheers' and 'Seinfeld' -- started out with very low ratings and built up their audiences over time. If products of similar quality came out in the comics field, they'd be canceled before they ever had a chance to catch on. That's just the way it is.
"I think the lesson of it is. if you're working on a non-flagship title, you better knock it out of the park with your first issue. There is no room for a slow or gradual build up. It's like Alan Moore's run on 'Swamp Thing.' Here's this book about a 3rd tier DC character by a writer who really wasn't that well known to American audience. But his run came out of the gate with 'The Anatomy Lesson.' That has to be the model now. Your first issue better have everyone talking - or you're dead. You need to be Kurt Busiek's 'Thunderbolts' #1. You need to sweat blood and get every ounce of it on the page. That's the lesson. "
When comic book series cancellations are announced, there's often a worry that fans won't pick up the last few issues because they "don't mean anything." Slott assures fans that, "'Thing' #8 will bring all the love! This will probably be my favorite comic of 2006. It's going to tie up some threads. It's going to bring in the guest stars - darn near everybody (and the GLX too!). It's going to feature an escalation of the Thing's floating poker game (which has been around since 'Marvel Two-In-One' #51) into the first ever Marvel Superhero Poker Tournament! And it will also feature another Marvel First! (And for the few people online who found out about it - please don't spoil it, okay?)"
While Slott admits he would have loved to bring Lockjaw (the Inhumans' unique pet) into the series earlier ("He's just too much fun!"), he has no major regrets about the series, and doesn't hold a grudge against Marvel either. "Hey, Marvel sends checks to my house for writing a book about one of my all-time favorite characters! That's like someone paying you to eat chocolate," he laughs. "As far as I'm concerned, Marvel is aces with me and can do no wrong."
Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada has said that a revival of "Thing" is possible if the trade paperback sales would indicate increased interest, much as was the case with "Sentinel." The series could easily be re-launched, much as Slott's "She-Hulk" was re-launched and successfully garnered a larger interest. So would Slott be up for that? "Oh heck yes!" he politely exclaims. "Seriously. We had a six-issue arc planned (which would've started at 'Thing' #9) that I honestly believe would have been my best work for Marvel. No joke."
To support "Thing," Slott also recently launched a "Pull My Thing" contest and here on CBR, for the first time, he reveals the winner. "Okay. Drum roll please. The winner of the "Pull My Thing" campaign is... Dingo!
"Dingo's posts can be seen (most notably) here at CBR and over at the Bendis boards. He has consistently plugged the book from the start of the contest all the way to the present. He was in for the long haul. He was polite, never pushy, and put a good "face" on the campaign. He mobilized others, consolidated promotional aids (like sigs and so on.). And anyone who's seen how much work this guy has done around the net knows that he's earned this!
"Kudos, Dingo! As soon as the new 'She-Hulk' trade comes out (which is part of the winner's swag), I'll get in touch with you for your snail mail address. (On a side note -- I really was hoping someone could outdo Dingo, because according to his sig, he's from Australia and the postage is gonna be murder! But, hey, I never said U.S. only -- and the guy did earn it!)
In addition to his work on the increasingly popular "She-Hulk," Slott has more projects lined up at Marvel, while he waits for you all to devour the "Thing" trade. "Next up is the rootin', tootin', always fast shootin' 'Two-Gun Kid' one shot. It's part of Marvel's all-new Western event! These are a fun bunch of books where everyone from Jimmy Palmiotti to Steve Englehart are going to have a rip-roarin' time spinning yarns about all of your favorite Marvel jaspers, owlhoots, and sidewinders. It should be a hoot and a half!
"On the art side I was lucky enough to be teamed-up with Eduardo Barreto! So every single page of 'Two-Gun Kid' is drop dead gorgeous! I can't wait for people to see this!
Finally, for those fans who stood by Slott and "Thing," he has a few parting words (and will be at Wizard World Philadelphia this weekend). "Don't miss 'Thing' #7 out this Thursday! This is a story I've been waiting to tell since Marvel offered me the 'Thing' series. This is the Hercules episode. Every artist I've told this story to has said "I wanna draw that!" And as Fate would have it, we were lucky enough to have Kieron Dwyer up to the plate on this one. And he absolutely nailed it! This is a good one, people! Don't believe me? Just read the first three pages in the store. If we don't have you then,well, then what's the matter with you? This is the Merry Marvel Comic you've been waiting for! 'Thing' #7!"
And now you can discuss this story on CBR's Marvel Universe Forum.