Comic Wire

Thu, May 10th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

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THE RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF THE WAID/KITSON 'EMPIRE'

[Empire #1]You can probably be forgiven for thinking that "Empire" was dead when Gorilla Comics went quietly into that good rain forest night.

After all, if series creators Mark Waid and Barry Kitson couldn't afford to produce the comics, readers wouldn't see the remaining issues, right?

Wrong.

On Wednesday, DC Comics announced that it would be publishing the miniseries, along with "new material" presumably added to the Gorilla-published issues, at a date to be determined.

If you didn't see this news coming, that's because Waid played his cards close to his chest.

"Sorry for the surprise," Waid told the Comic Wire on Wednesday, "This has been in the works for a while now. Most of the 'Empire' scripts are finished and awaiting publication as per my arrangement with CrossGen, since my exclusivity with my new employers shouldn't penalize Barry, James Pascoe and Chris Sotomayor by making them unable to bring our stories to life. I'm anxious to see 'Empire' finally released on a regular schedule!"

Format and publication dates for "Empire" have yet to be determined.

WOULD AN 'ALIAS' BY ANY OTHER NAME SMELL AS SWEET?

[Chuck Dixon]
Chuck Dixon
In the last edition of the Comic Wire, Brian Michael Bendis described "Alias," his forthcoming comic from Marvel Comics, which will also be the flagship of the company's new mature readers line.

But if you seem to recall a comic book named "Alias" from the 1980s, you recall correctly. But don't worry about the creator of that "Alias," Chuck Dixon exercising his rights to the title, for a very good reason.

"No, actually the title and entire property still belong to Universal Studios who bought all rights from NOW Comics during the bankruptcy," Dixon told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. "They were very close to filming it 10 years ago. It had a screenplay by Frank Darabont and was to be directed by Joe Dante with Nick Cage and Gene Hackman to star. As I said, 'very close' to filming. The project was axed two months before principal photography was to start. The story I was told was that the producers lacked faith in Cage's box office. Guess the joke's on them."

MARVEL FLIRTS WITH BREAKING UP WITH THE CCA

If you watch NBC's "The West Wing," you know how floating a trial balloon works. The president's administration (both on television and in real life) leaks something to the press about something they're considering, gauges public reaction to the leak, and are able to back away from the position if reaction is negative, since it's something they've never officially espoused.

Someone at Marvel Comics may well be a big fan of "The West Wing," as they've floated trial balloons a number of times through the Your Man @ Marvel news column.

This week, the column takes on the venerable Comics Code Authority, the parent-friendly seal of approval first established in the 1950s as a way of self-regulating a comic book industry then under increasing public scrutiny for its sometimes excessive content.

"At the time, it was a smart move. At the time," Wednesday's YM@M column reads in part, "But as we've seen in other entertainment industries, ratings systems must evolve to allow more creative freedom and provide consumers with more information."

While the company has been somewhat schizophrenic in recent years in their deference to the Comics Code Authority -- which essentially looks for G-rated comics with only the most cartoonish violence and with a very black and white view of morality and ethics -- approving adult-oriented comics, then suddenly canceling or dramatically revamping them to meet CCA standards, the company is taking their first major step away from the authority in years, with their newly announced mature readers line.

But is Marvel intending to dump the CCA entirely? It sure sounds like it, according to YM@M

"Right now, a comic book either sports that little Comics Code seal of approval or it doesn't. But if it doesn't, what does that mean? What exactly does the Code find offensive? Does the issue contain pages of decapitations and full frontal nudity, or does it contain a single word the Code deems taboo? Readers -- and if they're young enough, their guardians -- should be told exactly what the comic book contains ... just like they're told by the TV, music, video-game and movie industries.

"This is the thought process that may lead us to step away from the Comics Code -- and develop our own, more modern and informative ratings system."

While the column never officially establishes that Marvel will definitively move in this direction, YM@M does get editors -- Mike Marts, Tom Brevoort, Andrew Lis, Mark Powers and Stuart Moore -- on record about the issue.

All of them endorse the idea that Marvel should abandon the Comics Code Authority system.

RUN, COMIC BRIEF, RUN

Here's what's news and press releases in CBR's Comic Brief:

  • Cartoonist Henry Boltinoff dead at 87

  • DC to published Waid and Kitson's "Empire"

  • Top Cow returns to "Ship Weeks"

  • PREVIEW: Ted Rall's "2024"

  • PREVIEW: Joss Whedon's "Fray" #1

And last time in the Comic Wire:

  • Marvel Grows Up with Mature Readers Line as Bendis Gets Down and Dirty with "Alias"

  • All the Sugar, Twice the Caffeine: Shannon Wheeler Expands "Too Much Coffee Man"

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