Pipeline: Contemplating Quantum & Woody, Marvelman and John Stewart

Tue, March 26th, 2013 at 2:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

THE POLAR OPPOSITE OF "SLOW NEWS WEEK"

At this point, it's almost a tradition for me to start begging Marvel and DC on Sunday night to do something controversial on Monday so I'll have something to write about for Tuesday's column. This past week, the entire comics industry got together and decided to fill my coffers early. We haven't had a treasure trove of good material like this in a while. Let's hit the highlights.

We start at DC, for something that almost doesn't qualify as "news" since it's nothing new over there. Two more writers, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andy Diggle, have left high profile assignments shortly after taking them. It was so "shortly" that their first -- and last -- issues haven't come out yet. Bleeding Cool and CBR independently confirmed that Fialkov left over DC's intentions to kill off African-American Green Lantern John Stewart. You would have thought they learned nothing from that time Robert Kirkman killed Freedom Ring in "Marvel Team-Up". And since the last "Death of a Green Lantern" storyline still gets Ron Marz hate mail two decades later, I'm guessing DC Editorial is just a collective glutton for punishment.

It's amazing DC can still find people who want to write books for them, the way writers keep jumping and complaining of editorial interference. But DC is skilled at this by now and have replacements lined up almost immediately. Practice makes perfect, I suppose.

It's also a good example of the draw Marvel and DC have over creators. Coming up through the ranks in the last forty years of the comics industry meant working with the intention of "hitting it big" at Marvel or DC. That's why you're doing comics, right? To "make it" there.

Thanks to the Hollywood Sugar Daddy Syndrome today, that might be slowing up a bit. People are increasingly more concerned with owning their works and creating multimedia-friendly properties. (It's not common enough, but we're getting there.) That's where they'll cash out -- not on "X-Men" or "Superman." It might be the one positive aspect of Hollywood's infiltration and hostile takeover of the comics industry.

The other thing this mess teaches us is that there will always be someone ready to pick up where the last guy left off, no matter how the last guy left or how miserable the situation might be. It's part of the reason why a union has never taken hold of the creative community in comics. There are plenty of people desperate enough and new enough to circumvent the union to take those jobs. And if they start changing their minds, well, there's the generation after them willing to take those jobs. There's a mythology built up around being a writer for Marvel and DC that can drive some people nuts. It's not that people don't go in without their eyes open, but that there are too many who'd blindly take it on the chin for the sake of "living the dream." That dream -- of reaching the pinnacle of comics by writing "X-Men" or "Batman" -- shouldn't be the creator's life mission anymore. It never ends well when it is.

TWO MEN AND A GOAT

Valiant teased the return of "Quantum and Woody," which might just be the happiest tease of the year for me. Sure, there's a small part of me that thinks the book is timed just to keep the rights from reverting fully to M.D. Bright and Christopher Priest, but I thought that had already happened. Who knows? With my luck, the whole line will collapse and go under after the first issue of the one series I was waiting for gets published. Cross your fingers, everybody!

EDITOR: Augie did it again! Earlier today, we published an interview with James Asmus about writing the new "Quantum and Woody" title, along with news from Valiant about Priest and Bright's unpublished issues.

In the meantime, if you need to catch up, all of the published issues of the series are available at Comixology, at $1.99 a pop. They did once say that there were two more never published issues that would go digital, too, but I see no sign of them yet. I reviewed the series back in 2009, though it looks like my first mention of the book goes back to May 1999.

SEND MARVEL AN ANGEL; SAVE THE MIRACLE (ER, "MARVEL")

Marvel announced that Angela is coming to the company. Angela. The "Spawn" character created by Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman and, to a certain extent although not in the legal paperwork, I suppose, Greg Capullo. (The act of creation does not necessarily end at inception.)

Sometimes, I think Marvel is looking for new ways to get people excited for Marvelman's return just to throw another curve ball at them. When they started hinting to something big happening at the end of "Age of Ultron," the chattering immediately latched onto the obvious candidate: Marvelman. This, though, is one curve ball that fell right off the table about 50 feet after leaving the pitcher's hand. Nobody saw this one coming. I have a theory at this point that Marvel has no intention of bringing Marvelman back to print ever. He's a convenient smoke screen to hide the real surprises. Any time someone suggests that a tease is pointing to Marvelman, it's always misdirection from the real news. Misdirection at its finest.

Axel Alonso kept the ball rolling here at CBR by saying that we're "closer" to seeing Marvelman in the Marvel Universe, but he couldn't say more.

Next week, Marvel might have a tease for "A Mighty Return" and everyone will guess it's Marvelman. It'll just be a new "Thor" spin-off title. Then they'll tease "The most powerful character in the universe returns!" and Marvelman will be a trending topic on Twitter, only for the Sentry to show up.

Does anyone care if Marvelman ever returns to comics? All anyone wants are reprints of the Moore/Gaiman-era series. We certainly don't want the older books, though Marvel made a stab at that. Do they care enough about the character to want him in today's continuity? How could they? They've never read the comics. They don't know who he is. My current theory is that only a tenth of the people who have claimed to have read the series today ever have. And 9 out of 10 of those read it through illegal downloading.

Marvelman might have been trend setting and unprecedented back in his hey day, but haven't we seen enough copies of him by now that he's old hat? Why not just revamp another pre-existing character that won't give Marvel Legal nightmares and go with that?

To recap while rubbing salt in an old internet fanboy wound: Angela joins the Marvel Universe, but the Ultraverse is still in deep freeze. Contract law is a funny thing, isn't it?

The big difference seems to be the marquee value of the creators' names on the two properties. You'd pay to have Neil Gaiman's character in your universe. You'd put the legal team you have on retainer to work to get those contracts working. But James Hudnall or Len Strazewski or Gerard Jones? Not exactly burning up the charts these days, are they? And if Jerry Ordway can't find regular work, what hope do we have for Prime or Sludge?

Should we really have hope for Sludge, though? Aren't there more productive things to do with our excitement?

MEANWHILE, OUT IN LEFT FIELD

Speaking of pulling characters out of mothballs for the sake of comics, DC also announced that Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case will be doing a digital comic featuring the 1960s Batman television series characters. And what is the foremost question on everyone's mind after hearing that news?

"Does this mean the DVDs are coming?"

Comics will break your heart, kids. Always remember that.

CONGRATULATIONS TO...

...American Idol contestant, Devin Velez, for surviving another week on the show. I'm sure he's surviving thanks to his popularity around comic book fans who are happy to see a live action Tintin who isn't CGI.

...the Asbury Park Comic Con for going back to basics and away from Hollywood. Their first listed guest is Batman movie producer, Michael Uslan. Whoops. (To be fair, he is a legitimate comics fan with comic book writing credits under his belt.)

...Bill Willingham for his successful Fabletown convention this past weekend. I have nothing humorous to add to that. I just like that it went smoothly and everyone had a good time. I still like this idea of boutique thematic conventions, such as Fabletown or MorrisonCon.

...Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin for their new digital comic launch of "The Private Eye." It was a crazy coincidence, I assure you, that the release happened right after I finished writing last week's Pipeline about the need for DRM-free comics. I bought my copy -- for $2 -- and will be reading it shortly.

...the video game folks who are bringing back the classic Nintendo "DuckTales" game for a new generation. I remember paying for the game with my own money, back in the day, and obsessing over when the UPS guy would be delivering it to my door. (I must have mail ordered it through the Sears catalog, maybe?) Uncle Scrooge bouncing up and down on a pogo stick was an awful lot of fun, and the new graphics look awesome.

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TAGS:  pipeline, john stewart, green lantern, action comics, andy diggle, joshua hale fialkov, marvelman, neil gaiman, quantum and woody, angela

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