What Could Have Been
Faith Erin Hicks is on top of the world these days, thanks to her critically acclaimed graphic novels (Friends With Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong), as well as her game tie-in series for Dark Horse, The Last of Us, and the collected edition of her webcomic The Adventures of Superhero Girl. And yet, she admits, there’s a comic even she can’t sell.
Hicks described the project in July during her spotlight panel at Comic-Con International, where she told Bone creator Jeff Smith that she had pitched the book to First Second, publisher of Friends With Boys and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, but the imprint had rejected it. “It is my most-rejected pitch,” she said. “It is this extremely weird story about work, and about people who work in this office, but it is literally an office that is a way station for dead people, and so it’s all about having a crappy office job but with this insane supernatural bent and it is a ridiculous story, but the thing is, it has been rejected everywhere.”
“So your coworkers are all zombies?” Smith responded. “That sounds like real life to me.”
A few weeks ago, Hicks was rummaging through her hard drive and found her pitch for the comic, which she posted on her blog. The response was so enthusiastic that she posted more of the pitch the same day. The comic is called Afterlife, Inc., and while Hicks admits it may not make a good graphic novel, she does say, in the second post, “I think this story would make a good webcomic or floppy comic (maybe at somewhere like Image), because it’s very meandering and would benefit from serialized storytelling to build the weirdness of the world its set in. Plus, the web LOVES weird stuff!”
Like with the pulp space pitch the other day, Tony Lee has shared several other failed pitches on his Twitter feed (#ForgottenPitch). I’ll leave most of them for you to discover yourself (there are lots of wonderful ideas on show), but Shieldmaiden caught my eye for a couple of reasons: First, it would have been drawn by Dan Boultwood, creator of the current series It Came! that I’m enjoying so very much. And second, Vikings.
Sadly, it was the Vikings that killed the comic before it began. Lee pitched the idea in 2011, the year that Vertigo canceled Brian Wood’s Northlanders. Ivan Brandon’s Image series Viking had ended prematurely the year before after only one story arc. So, when Lee was told that no one wanted new Viking comics, publishers had some evidence to back that up.
Still, Lee and Boultwood had a different take from the realistic comics by Wood and Brandon. Shieldmaiden would have included a mythological element as a young woman led her clan in battle against the gods during Ragnarok. That, plus Boultwood’s art, makes me wish it could have found a home.
A lot of these “What Could Have Been” posts are focused on pitches for corporate-owned characters. It’s easy to imagine DC Comics or Marvel looking at those and saying, “Yeah, no, it looks great, but that’s not the direction we want to go in.” But very often creator-owned ideas don’t go anywhere either, for many many reasons.
Tony Lee (2000 AD, Doctor Who) shared one of those on Twitter not too long ago: an idea for a pulp space adventure that he and artist Stefano Martino created after they worked together on their DC/Zuda project Where Evils Dare. The main character was named Crash Landing, and Martino’s pinup for it evokes a strong Flash Gordon feel. Lee wrote that it was “basically Flash Gordon meets The Rocketeer via Warlord of Mars,” but it never happened because Martino was “lured away by Europe.”
Since then, Martino has returned to American comics, penciling George R.R. Martin’s Doorways for IDW Publishing and even an issue of Dynamite Entertainment’s Warlord of Mars, so it would be cool to see if he and Lee could do something like Crash Landing. There’s a lamentable lack of pulp space comics these days (Christopher Mills and Gene Gonzales’ Perils on Planet X being one of the few I know).
Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna have made a few appearances since the cancellation of the Super Friends TV show and comic book in the early ’80s. Robert Washington III and Tom Morgan added them to Captain Atom’s Justice League in Extreme Justice, they showed up on Smallville, and most recently they popped in to audition as Beast Boy’s replacement on Teen Titans Go!.
If Bobby Timony (The Night Owls) had had his way, they would’ve also appeared in a short story he pitched to DC Comic. He doesn’t say exactly what it was for and why it didn’t get picked up, but he recently shared the story on his blog, with the first four pages colored by Jordie Bellaire. Check out part of “Wonder Twins” below, and visit Timony’s blog for the rest.
Artist Ilias Kyriazis doesn’t say why his and Scott Lobdell’s pre-New 52 pitch for a Doom Patrol miniseries didn’t go anywhere, so while calling it “doomed” is technically correct, I’m not implying that it was shot down in any sort of malevolent way. There are many reasons that pitches and projects don’t get off the ground and, frankly, I’m not that interested in what most of those are. What I do love are cool, imaginative takes on familiar characters and this definitely falls into that category.
Kyriazis describes the concept this way:
Loath as I am to go back to the well that is Dave Johnson’s social-media output so soon again after last week, he’s been celebrating reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter by sharing art from an undeveloped Micronauts animated television series, and it’s pretty special work.
Of course, anyone producing any sort of Micronauts license these days does so without the characters originated for the 1979 Marvel comic, which is why that line-up above doesn’t feature Bug or Marionette. The Bug role went to a new character called Dit-Dat (third from left, the most Ben 10-ish looking design there). The solution to losing Princess Mari was to make the Time Traveler female.
Musician and comics writer Gerard Way once pitched a Batman miniseries to DC Comics titled Kingdom of the Mad, and this weekend on Twitter the former lead singer of My Chemical Romance started sharing some of the concept art.
The designs are “from a comic I pitched to DC the year Gab[riel Bá] and I won the Eisner” in 2008 for The Umbrella Academy, Way said on Twitter. He notes that it was approved and would have been released through Vertigo; however, he tweeted, he “Never got to write it. Sadface.”
Check out the cover and designs for Batman and Mr. Freeze below.
In the wake of twin announcements that Andy Diggle has left Action Comics and Joshua Hale Fialkov has exited Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns before their first issues could arrive on shelves, Nick Spencer recalled his similarly aborted plans for Supergirl in 2010.
The Morning Glories writer, who penned a well-reviewed Jimmy Olsen story in Action Comics — even as DC Comics eliminated co-features — was named in October 2010 to replace Sterling Gates on Supergirl only to be removed two months later, before his run could begin (he ultimately shared co-writing credit on Issue 60 with James Peaty).
Taking to his blog on Wednesday, Spencer shared his idea for a Supergirl story that would have featured such other young characters as Klarion, Arrowette and, judging from Amy Reeder’s unpublished cover, Robin, Miss Martian, Blue Beetle, Static and Batgirl.
“My secret hope was that the whole thing could work as a back-door pilot of sorts for a new Young Justice series,” he writes. “That obviously didn’t happen.”