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Edward Morris
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 12:36 am:   

Lucius, what are your thoughts (if any) on the post-Frank Miller Batman? In keeping with the wishful-Vertigo-thinking-good-thoughts line of reasoning... I always wondered about a Shepard Batman. Especially with the direction Miller's taking it now (biting my tongue until I hear your thoughts, especially on the Taliban issue, if any...)

I once wrote an Asimov-esque alt-Batman episode that was read by a certain penciller for a certain Batman story. He said that DC would never touch it. So I'm rewriting it without any DC indicia and publishing it elsewhere as satire.


However, I've had a Spiderman story published that used no actual DC characters or indicia. WHACK. Dark Wisdom liked 'True Believer', and called its resolution "great and climactic and daring."

I used to read the Helix line while working as a Kafka clerk at a comic-book store in Altoona, PA.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on writing for Vertigo/ Helix; good, bad, or indifferent. I'm working on several creator-owned graphic novels myself, and would welcome any advice.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 05:50 am:   

Edward, I haven't really kept up with comics since I left the biz. I never really liked Miller's work that much -- I liked the original Dark Knight stuff, but after that....I'm more of an Alan Moore guy.

Writing for Vertigo. Well, my info is 10 years out of date. But I had a great editor, Stuart Moore, who's now a writer. They fired him after Helix tubed for no fault of his own, right after he won the Eisner -- the Helix line was designated all-ages by Karen Berger, which was a major mistake. Berger's a complete idiot, was my finding. She commissioned me to do a mini-series; I did a thing based on Poe and the Masque of the Red Death. She said she couldn't understand it -- I believe her. When they tubed Vermillion, they had a massive ad with quotes from gene wolf, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, Garth Ennis, etc. With Helix, they seemed intent on throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I did two other things, finished the script for a mini-series called Bamboo Union and another based on Santeria called Black Sun. I turned in the scripts, got paid, but they never did them. Berger was too dim to communicate with. After Moore was let go, I just bailed on the business and really haven't looked back. My sense is, there was a window in the nineties when they were open to innovation, when a lot of people got rich, but that window was closing when I was around.. Maybe it's opened up again -- I don't know. Probably not, though. If I can answer any specific questions, I'll try, but that's all that occurs at the moment.
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Edward Morris
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 03:59 pm:   

Yeah, it was insipid. Miller is smoking crack.

Lucius, you nailed it. My cynicism stands confirmed and seconded. After DC Vertigo put their stamp on that turkey 'Constantine', I knew the death knell had sounded... well, right about when they dropped Helix, absolutely.

As far as any specific advice questiopns for a new graphic novelist, I'm not sure. Was that the first time you ever did anything like that? How were you sold on the idea. Did the process disillusion you more than you thought?
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 05:20 pm:   

Yeah, it was the first time. I was approached, met Stuart, liked the money considering the amount of time i'd have to put in. No, I wasn't disillusioned--I had no illusions to begin with. If Berger wasn't an idiot, it would have worked. Stu fought like hell to make Vermillion an adult book--but she was adamant. You run up against idiocy everywhere.
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PM
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 05:49 pm:   

Where are the Ellens when ya need them? :-)
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 05:54 pm:   

Not at DC
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Edward Morris
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 05:54 pm:   

What an alternate history piece that would make.

"DC Vertigo editor Ellen Datlow proudly announced the 9/11 release of Lucius Shepard's Batman trade paperback 'Crinoline', calling it, "the coolest thing to hit newsprint since Bob Kane."...

Sigh.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 30, 2006 - 06:14 pm:   

Yeah, I could dig that. I may work up the first arc of the Vermillion into a story,,,,
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ben peek
Posted on Saturday, July 01, 2006 - 10:47 pm:   

wasn't the helix line where warren ellis and darick roberton's TRANSMETROPOLITIAN came from? that was alright--same yours didn't get to live like theirs, lucius.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, July 01, 2006 - 11:22 pm:   

Yup. The warren ellis one went down too, but someone changed their mind. Stuart still got fired, mine was outselling the other titles...Go figure.
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 04:24 am:   

fucked up. the comic industry have a long history of doing weird shit though. i mean, look how many superman or batman titles there are--like you need more'n one. plus, american wise, anyhow, you can argue that it's basically an industry built up round the idea of keeping corporate logos alive.

the ellis and robertson TRASMET was pretty cool. fell apart a bit at the end, but overall it was pretty strong, so i'm pleased it stuck round. shame bout the others, though.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 05:03 am:   

Gotta keep the trademarks alive! Otherwise another publisher can swoop in and seize the name.

Of course a successful film is going to make more than publishing will any day of the week for the publishers and the creative folk involved...
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 05:20 am:   

The interesting thing about TRANSMET was it was the only book that was adult-labeled.

Batman's almost a religion at DC. One time I was at lunch with some comics people and they were talking about a graphic antho of Batman short stories -- they were struggling to find a name and I suggested Bat Turds or, as an alternative, Batshit. Laughter was uneasy, hesitant, as if they suspected that the Cowled One might be listening in.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 05:49 am:   

Isn't it a good thing for folk to be passionate/interested in what they're writing? And it's what folk want to buy.

For better or worse.

But there's perspective and the comic/sci-fi/fantasy fans can just get creepy when perspective is lost...
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 06:18 am:   

These weren't writers....
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 06:23 am:   

...and the trepidation they expressed wasn't passion, more of a corporate unease...
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 06:37 am:   

it's good to be passionate for what you write, yeah, but part of me has always found it strange that a huge chunk of creative people would be passionate about, well, work for hire. for producing work for a company that will own it and see fit to use it as they please, and toss the creative personale away when some shiny new thing comes along. now, i've read x-men and a few other corporate comics, so maybe i'm as much to blame for creating an audience for it... but that passion is just a strangeness when you think about it.

anyhow, i thought that TRANSMET was adult orientated. maybe that's what saved it? vertigo is the adult orientated line of dc, and i always figured the helix imprinted was aimed at the same bunch. ah well. whatever.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 06:47 am:   

The Helix imprint was all-ages, except for Transmet. My editor Stuart Moore argued vociferously that Vermillion should be adult, but Paul Levitz and Berger believed that scifi was for kids. Oh well. Water under the bridge.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 07:11 am:   

Well you're not an all ages kind of guy. Granted you're going to try and change that :-)

There is that public perception that comics and scifi are for kids.

Ben, one can be passionate about this sort of stuff when one shares similar goals. DC wants Batman written a certain way. There are going to be writers that share that viewpoint. It's restrictive when the writer is in disagreement or feels unable to do the work in the manner they wish to.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 10:45 am:   

But you felt good afterwards.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 10:47 am:   

I felt pretty good at the moment...
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Edward Morris
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 12:04 pm:   

Sounds like that great Harlan Ellison story about getting kicked out of his Disney job for loudly scripting the Mickey-Goofy-Minnie porno while Roy Disney was standing behind him. Well done. Especially given the current unbelievably idiotic "I'm the goddamn Batman!" direction that particular idol has gone.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 12:16 pm:   

Well, it's not as good as that. And I wasn't really trying to be offensive, because I didn't understand their attitude. But when I said it, I sort of got a charge out of the reaction.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 01:09 pm:   

Well at least you didn't chew off the head of a Batman action figure.

That could have left scars...
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 06:04 pm:   

Ben, one can be passionate about this sort of stuff when one shares similar goals. DC wants Batman written a certain way. There are going to be writers that share that viewpoint. It's restrictive when the writer is in disagreement or feels unable to do the work in the manner they wish to.

sure.

but you know, for a portion of the american comic scene, you can argue that all their passion is is keeping these trade marks alive. take that away from them, and they actually don't know what to write, unless it's a thinly veiled version of it. the actual desire to actively create new work, work without a long standing history behind it, is not very strong, either in a writer or reader point of view. it's a strange thing, least as far as i'm concerned.

i'm not arguing that they shouldn't do it. just sorta saying how it's weird. almost like a little factory town where all the parents are loyal to the factory and its bosses, and so they instill this loyalty in their kids, who go to work there, and never think about maybe opening their own factory. they just work there, fight for rights within the factory, make the factory shiny, and then get replaced by their children later on, who sit there and discuss how the factory is now. but no one ever really leaves the factory, and if they do, they're kinda weird, out there, fucked up hippies or something.

or maybe not. it's no big thing. just a thing to be vaguely interested in from the outside.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 06:31 pm:   

I bet there was a lot of resistance when Miller brought his Dark Knight concept to DC -- It's a miracle they bought into it. Probably the only reason they did is Batman wasn't doing so good. Now it is doing good and you'll play hell doing anything creative with the character. The corporate way. So that's the downside...

How this relates to book publishing is obvious.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 07:11 pm:   

Ben, that's part of it. Another part of it is that there is a reluctance to create new characters and then give away that ownership. Because if it takes off into other media then the creator loses the financial rewards.

It is of course something of a pipe dream that someone will create a new character(s) that will quickly generate millions.

As to Miller's Dark Knight if it will sell then what the hell. Miller had already established himself as being able to sell.

LS, you're right though. It's unlikely that anyone is going to mess with "the formula" when it's makin' mo...
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ben peek
Posted on Sunday, July 02, 2006 - 08:07 pm:   

yeah, the little factory town thing can been seen in books as well. just a different version of it. though some days, i imagine a future of science fiction, where writing a star wars novel is the upper act of creativity...

PM: it doesn't have to be that way. there's lots of different publishers for creators. but there's more money and glamour, i suppose, in the coporate places these days.

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