Comic Wire

Tue, August 31st, 1999 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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LARSEN, VEITCH CONFIRM

DC TO BUY WILDSTORM

It

may not quite be the end of an era, but one of the upstarts who bucked the DC/Marvel

monopoly early in the 1990s to form Image Comics has sold his line of comics

to DC Comics.


Jim Lee has sold Wildstorm Comics, along with its specialist creator-owned imprints,

Homage and Cliffhanger, to DC, according to fellow Image Comics founder Erik

Larsen.

The story broke Friday morning, when Newsarama (http://www.mania.com/newsarama),

quoting an unnamed source, reported the rumor that negotiations were underway.

A firestorm of speculation ensued, and it wasn't long before it was revealed

that not only were discussions were underway, but they were over and the deal

was done. Larsen learned of the rumor online, then called Jim Lee personally.

"Ultimately, Jim Lee will do the best for Jim Lee," Larsen told the Comic

Wire. "I think it's a shame that he found it necessary to sell his characters.

I couldn't do that. I can only assume that his characters don't mean as much

to him as mine do to me and I think that's too bad as well. Image will continue

to put out solid entertainment for your funnybook dollar just as we always have.

There will be a couple less cool Image books but we'll cope. New, exciting projects

get pitched to Image all the time and for creative people -- we're the best

deal in the biz. I don't honestly think this will affect me or Image a whole

lot."

Before helping to start Image, which now publishes the work of his Highbrow

studio, most notably "The Savage Dragon," Larsen worked for both DC and Marvel

Comics, drawing both "The Doom Patrol" and "The Amazing Spider-Man." He's currently

taking over the reins of DC's "Aquaman" and Marvel's "Wolverine."

"As for the other studios -- I have no idea what they're up to," he said.

"This move took me by surprise. I know that none of my characters are for sale

-- at any price. I've never even considered it."

"It ain't a rumor, but a fact," Image artist Rick Veitch posted at the COMICON.com

message board Friday afternoon. "It wasn't supposed to be announced until Tuesday,

(and I sure as hell didn't have a clue) but as I now understand it, Warner Brothers

is buying Wildstorm, lock stock and contracts in some multimillion dollar deal.

As briefly explained to me by Wildstorm, with promises of more info after Tuesday,

Wildstorm will remain autonomous and in California. The comics will not have

the DC bullet but DC will be in charge. I don't think Alan even knows yet, since

he's off on holiday. My bad blood with DC is well documented, but I'm holding

off judgment until I get the full story of the deal, but I can't say I like

what I've heard so far!

"This situation doesn't really surprise me, since it just reflects another

death rattle of the old Direct Sales Market."

This isn't the first time DC has bought out another company's stable of characters:

Plastic Man, Captain Marvel and the Blue Beetle are all part of comic book universes

the company has picked up over the years. But the Wildstorm deal is different:

While those other characters were picked up in fire sale conditions, after their

popularity had peaked, the Wildstorm characters, including Gen13 and WildC.A.T.S.,

are still successful properties. And by publishing the creator-owned "Kurt Busiek's

Astro City," "Danger Girl," "Battlechasers" and "Crimson," they've acquired

a mix of some of the most acclaimed and most successful new series on the stands.

Although details haven't yet been officially released, Jim Lee and Wildstorm

will gain from the deal as well. Animated television shows, like the short-lived

"WildC.A.T.S." show, will likely find an immediate distribution channel on the

WB network, owned by Warner Brothers, which also owns DC Comics. Warner Brothers

has also produced the Batman and Superman movies, and with a "Gen13" animated

movie the first of potentially many more movies, Warner Brother's distribution

channels might have played into Jim Lee's thinking as well.

But the effects of the buyout go beyond just DC and the Wildstorm titles.

Wildstorm includes two creator-owned lines, Homage and Cliffhanger, which publish

"Kurt Busiek's Astro City," "Danger Girl," "Crimson" and "Battlechasers." Rumors

say that those titles, along with Alan Moore's upcoming "League of Distinguished

Gentlemen," will experience no change under the new management.

But Alan Moore in the past has very publicly announced that he would never

work for DC Comics again, after a dispute in the 1980s over editorial oversight

of "Swamp Thing," which he was writing at the time. Larsen says Lee was on his

way to England this weekend to sit down with Moore and talk the move over.

There's no official word from either DC or Marvel Comics yet, with DC giving

out a flat "no comment" and Wildstorm Vice-President Jeff Mariotte having only

this to say: "My official response is, I'm not at liberty to confirm this story

at this time. But if it's true, I think it's a pretty cool thing."

Also potentially affected by the move are the other Image Comics creators.

Although other titles, including the wildly successful "Spawn" remain under

the Image banner, Wildstorm produces a large percentage of the Image line, and

Lee's pulling-out of the company has made some of the other creators jittery.

"I don't see how Image can keep its exclusive deal with Diamond after losing

50 percent of their volume," Veitch said at the COMICON.com message board. He

has been drawing stories for one of Moore's upcoming creator-owned books, "Tomorrow

Comics."

"Speaking as an Image guy, albeit not Wildstorm, I am a little worried about

Image if and when WS leaves, and worried about the future of my book," Brian

Wood, creator of "Channel Zero," posted at the Image Comics Message Board at

CBR. "But that aside, I think it would be OK to see WS at DC. I trust DC not

to [mess] anything up, and I think the books would thrive."

LIEFELD'S 'MARK' REDONE

Although Rob Liefeld's comic book fortunes are possibly the biggest roller coaster ride in the industry, his film fortunes seem to be chugging along just fine.

As previously reported, Liefeld - who was one of the original founders of

Image Comics before being ousted two years ago by his partners - will be directing

the film version of his comic "Re:Gex." He recently spoke to the Detroit News

Comic Continuum (http://www.detnews.com/comicbooks)

about the screenplay rewrite on another property he's associated with, "The

Mark."

"The Mark" will be produced by Universal Pictures, be produced and star Will Smith and is currently being rewritten by Glenn Morgan and Tom Long.

"They've written all the best 'X-Files' episodes that Chris Carter couldn't write and they've been writing and producing 'Millennium,'" Liefeld said. "They are serious sci-fi and fit the job really well."

"I know for a fact that everybody wants to get this movie out by the summer of 2000," he said. "They're continuing to say they would like to begin production by February or March. Those guys are writing now, and they're really fast, so that could very well happen."

Liefeld said he was not upset that his script for The Mark was being rewritten.

"It's par for the course," he said. "In this day and age there are very few movies written by one person. These guys have a lot more expertise than I do. I would go so far as to guess that they won't be the last guys to touch the script, especially with the committee style in Hollywood."

CRISIS ONE-SHOT NOT IN NEW COLLECTION

Contrary to a report published

in "Wizard" magazine, the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" hard cover compilation

will not include the new "untold" "Crisis" chapter being released at the same

time, according to Marv Wolfman.


That one shot, first reported here in the Comic Wire, will focus on a previously

unseen Earth, where the familiar DC superheroes will get all-new extra-dimensional

incarnations. Unfortunately, the fact this new Earth is something of an interdimensional

backwater will make its heroes totally unprepared for the carnage to come. The

story, set between issues 4 and 5 of the original classic series, will be written

by original "Crisis" scribe Marv Wolfman and pencilled by former "Flash" penciller

Paul Ryan.

The landmark "Crisis on Infinite Earths" series trimmed the DC Comics milieu

of its panoply of alternate Earths, or "multiverse," streamlining it down to

one Earth, with all the major characters from each world now having always been

residents of this one Earth. Now, 14 years later, "Kingdom Come" writer Mark

Waid and "Justice League of America" writer Grant Morrison have begun hinting

that the post-"Crisis" status quo will be changing somehow after the "Crisis"

collection is released, as part of the fall-out from "The Kingdom" set of one-shot

stories that form the sequel to Waid's acclaimed "Kingdom Come" alternate future

miniseries.

Both the hard cover "Crisis" collection and the new one-shot go on sale in

December.

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