Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Your Move, Seaguy

At the recent New Yorker Festival in New York City, writer Grant Morrison and some other people went on a stage and had a public discussion on superheroes. Comic Book Resources and Galleycat have reports and pictures, while The New Yorker promises to provide video footage of some of the festival's events soon - so, with a bit of luck, it may pay off to watch their website in the next few days.

In comparison with your average Grant Morrison panel or interview, this one doesn't seem as juicy, if only because it lacks one of those statements which don't just turn accepted wisdom on its head, but actually make you wonder why it's been upside down all along. Still, there are few nice quotes, such as Morrison's response to an audience member's suggestion that comics "as a genre" may be in trouble.
Morrison said that comics have always been a bit despised. “But,” he continued, “comics are currently a licensing farm for Hollywood, and as long as that keeps happening, comics will be okay.

“Comics are the wellspring of imagination; comics can tell stories cheaply that other mediums cannot express. Today it costs 100 million dollars to do special effects on film in Fantastic Four that Jack Kirby could create 40 years ago with a pencil.”
That said, one of Morrison's most interesting statements at the panel actually comes when he's asked about his current projects: In addition to his ongoing runs on All Star Superman and Batman and the upcoming Final Crisis for DC Comics' mainstream line, Morrison reveals that he's writing a second Seaguy limited series. Now, personally, I'm tickled pink, because I liked Seaguy tremendously and think it's the probably most underrated thing Morrison's done to date. But this raises a couple of questions.

When the initial three-issue miniseries came out via DC Comics' Vertigo sublabel, we recall, it sold rather poorly (well, by the standards of 2004, anyway; today it'd be a modest hit for them) and was met with mixed reviews. Although the final issue announced a follow-up series (the first of three planned sequels, Morrison has said), titled Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye, the publisher apparently wasn't very enthusiastic about the project, according to artist Cameron Stewart, and recently, nobody really had it on the map anymore. I guess the fact that it's finally concrete enough to mention it either means that sales of the Seaguy collection have served to restore Vertigo's faith in the property or that Morrison has produced enough blockbusters for DC in the last few years to earn himself another go. (Then again, perhaps Vertigo are just desperate for big-name talent, given that their average periodical sales are currently threatening to drop below 10,000.)

What's almost as interesting, though, it what doesn't make Morrison's list of things he's working on: Wildcats and The Authority, notionally the flagship titles of that other DC imprint, WildStorm. Both supposedly bimonthly series were launched with much fanfare and decent numbers last fall, but after one issue of Wildcats and two of The Authority were released, both titles vanished in publishing limbo. Jim Lee, Wildcats penciler and WildStorm's editor-in-chief, and Gene Ha, artist on The Authority, recently seemed to suggest that the two titles' massive delays mainly rest on Morrison's shoulders. Still, Lee was optimistic about Morrison's commitment to Wildcats.
[A]ccording to Lee, Morrison reiterated his enthusiasm for [Wildcats], and he still wants to do it. Currently, plans call for the collaboration to run for a minimum of six issues, but maybe as many as 12. Ideally, Lee wants to stockpile the issues, and not solicit it until there are multiple issues in the drawer drawer, but when it came down to which project to work on, [Lee] had to chose between that and [All Star Batman], and [All Star Batman] had more scripts in.
Regarding Morrison's work on The Authority, Gene Ha sounded rather more skeptical, however.
[...] I don't think The Authority #3 by Grant Morrison and Gene Ha is ever coming out. Grant is busy redesigning the DC Universe and I've moved onto new projects. Most importantly, it seems that editor Scott Dunbier has been forced out of WildStorm. There is no #3 script, there may never be a #3 script.
Emphasis mine. Now, let's summarize what we know, if we take the comments by Lee, Ha and Morrison at face value for a moment:

o Grant Morrison is still interested in doing between six and twelve issues of Wildcats, all told, but hasn't written enough scripts yet to make it worthwhile for Jim Lee to continue drawing the book.

o Gene Ha isn't working on The Authority due to a lack of scripts, doubts he ever will be again, and has moved on to other projects.

o Grant Morrison isn't working on Wildcats, and he isn't working on The Authority, but he's not too busy with his DC Universe work to be writing a second Seaguy series.

o Editor Scott Dunbier's alleged firing (see here, here and here for more on that) is the "most important" factor in the apparent abortion of The Authority.

Initially, the reason behind the books' delays seemed to be an unfortunate combination of both Jim Lee and Grant Morrison being overwhelmed by other work which had to take precedence over their WildStorm commitments - in Lee's case, All Star Batman and a time-intensive trading card game featuring DC's mainstream characters; in Morrison's case, his involvement in the weekly 52 series. And, really, it's not a great surprise that DC want their talent to make work on their mainstream properties a priority.

Now, things seem to have changed, however. Plainly, what the collective comments by Lee, Ha and Morrison imply is that it's no longer conflicting schedules keeping Morrison's Wildcats and The Authority from publication (or, perhaps, creation), but office politics.

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