Recently I found myself in yet another engaging comics related discussion with the esteemed Augie De Blieck Jr. of Comic Book Resources and Pipeline Podcast fame. Don’t ask me how, but we were reminiscing on those classic moments in comic history. No, not a death or a resurrection or a great fight. Rather what were those moments behind the comics, in the meeting rooms of the publishers that were the meetings we’d love to be a fly on the wall of, watching and observing. We tended to focus on meetings of the last 15-20 years or so, as that makes up the majority of our collective experiences with comics. We debated over the best meetings, so we thought we’d put it to a vote and let you, the iFanbase decide. We’ve whittled it down to the 6 meetings that were the most pivotal, amusing, impactful, and let’s be honest, the most awkward and we now present them to you.
Which wall would you have liked to be a fly on?
Augie and I have split them up, three each to talk about here today. To see the first three, you’ll have to go check out Augie’s column today. But before I dive into my meetings, I wanted to make some quick comments on the one’s Augie discussed:
Image Founders Quit – What cracks me up about the time when Todd MacFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio decided to quit their jobs at Marvel to begin Image Comics isn’t so much the meeting they had at Marvel to tell them they were quitting, rather the following meeting at DC Comics, for which none of them were working, where they told DC’s top brass that they wouldn’t be working for them either. Totally awkward.
Marc Alessi’s CrossGen – I actually have nothing to say here other than I saw Alessi at a con once and he gave me chills.
Jim Lee Tells Alan Moore He Sold Wildstorm - I don’t know about you, but try sitting across the table from Alan Moore and tell him something he doesn’t want to hear. We may joke about Jim Lee’s height, but that took balls.
Now onto the three meetings that I’d like to tell you about in a bit more detail:
Rob Liefeld “Leaves” Image Comics
Picture this: It’s 1996, the bottom has dropped out of comics. The speculator boom is over and the dust is settling all over the place. Image Comics, the publisher that seemingly started it all is doing whatever they can to simply stay in business. The thing that makes Image so different from other publishers, as explained in George Khoury’s excellent book about Image Comics, Image Comics: The Road to Independence, is that Image doesn’t act as a traditional publisher, like Marvel or DC. Rather as a collection of studios, doing their own thing, publishing their comics independent of one another, but under one banner. So in one corner of the company you have Todd MacFarlane and his mini Spawn empire, and another you have Erik Larsen happily working away on Savage Dragon and so on and so forth. There’s strength in numbers, and as long as everyone is supportive and plays nice, then they should be able to weather any storm. That is unless one member of the group starts to not play so nice.
That member turned out to be one of the most notorious names in comics, Rob Liefeld. Publishing comics through his Extreme Studios imprint at Image Comics, 1996 became a year of bizarre decisions and downright odd moments that led to his firing quitting Image Comics. First there were the growing rumors of financial impropriety such as not paying people for work completed, shady printing deals and the like (DISCLAIMER: These are rumors, I have no facts to back this up, this is just what I’ve heard as the stories have been passed down through the years). Then there was growing cause for concern about Liefeld using his power as CEO of Image Comics to help his own publishing company, Maximum Press (which begs the question: You have Image Comics, you help to found one of the hottest comics publishers in years. Why the hell do you start another one by yourself?). Throw in the sense of betrayal as Liefeld and Lee go back to Marvel to do Heroes Reborn. Then once the stories of attempts to woo creatives from Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow studio to his own studio finally led to the Image Founders having to take action.
In a course of events that is only similar to Nixon and Watergate, before the Image Founders could meet and vote to decide once and for all to kick Liefeld out, he faxes them his resignation. You can’t make this stuff up people. And to cap the story, 11 years later, Liefeld is back at Image, publishing Youngblood.
Grant Morrison “Breaks Up” With Joe Quesada and Marvel
If you ask me what the most pivotal moment in recent Marvel’s history, I would argue that it’s not Kevin Smith on Daredevil and the birth of Marvel Knights, nor is it the Ultimate line of comics. Nope, it’s the moment in 2003 that I think is not only the key to where Marvel is today, but also to where DC Comics is as well. The day Grant Morrison signed an exclusive deal to DC Comics.
Allow me to paint the picture: Marvel is, for the first time in years, on an upswing. They’ve pulled themselves out of Chapter 11, and behind Joe Quesada as Editor In Chief, they’re enjoying a creative renaissance. Grant Morrison, who for the majority of the 1990s has worked on high profile projects at DC Comics has come to join the party at Marvel and is handed the keys to the kingdom of the X-Men. Along with long time collaborator Frank Quitely, New X-Men is flagship of the Morrison guided X-Men franchise. But the run is plagued with artistic delays as Quitely can’t keep up and the likes of Igor Kordey, Ethan Van Sciver and Phil Jimenez step in to help the load, but the writing is solid. Everyone knows Morrison is on a legendary run of Marvel’s top characters.
And then they broke up. At the San Diego Comic Con 2003, it’s announced that Grant Morrison has signed an exclusive deal to DC Comics (one of the first in the wave of years of exclusive contract signings). Now, apparently Quesada found out about this as Grant told him at the San Diego Comic Con, moments before it was announced at a panel. It was a crushing blow to Quesada, or so the story goes.
Now here is where I inject my little bit of creepy weirdness. I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty sure I witnessed this meeting. And if not, I witnessed something shortly after this meeting. I vaguely remember walking the con floor and seeing Grant Morrison and Joe Quesada in a heated discussion. Their body language was that of a couple that was in the midst of a breakup. A lot of sighing and cold stares and you know how when one person steps away, sighs, and then steps back toward the person they’re fighting with? Exactly like that. Of course, at the time I had no idea, but once I heard the news (which ran through the con like wildfire), it all made sense.
This moment is important because if you look at the effect it had on both companies, it’s somewhat astounding. It’s safe to say that if Morrison hadn’t quit and gone to DC, we wouldn’t have gotten Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men. And if Morrison had stayed at Marvel, would we have gotten 52 and this summer’s Final Crisis? Who knows, but it sure is fun to speculate.
Civil War is Delayed…Again
A more recent entry in our little discussion and one that should still be fresh in everyone’s mind. Remember Civil War? That little mini series from Marvel in 2006 that was supposed to affect the entire status quo of the Marvel Universe. You know the one, written by Mark Millar with art by Steve McNiven. It was 7 issues that was supposed to run the summer of 2006 and be over before the start of 2007. But then, the dreaded delays began.
Whether it was Millar or McNiven’s health or whatever the specific issue was, we made it 3 issues on a monthly basis and on time, and then with issue #4, the delays began, and seemingly never ended. Issue #4 was delayed one month, shipping in September 2006. And then issue #5 was delayed 2 months, shipping in November 2006. Then issue #6 was delayed 2 weeks from its original release date, pushing it to January 2007. And then finally issue #7, was delayed a month and a half, finally releasing in February 2007. It was a painful time to be a fan.
Now it’s been argued that Marvel did the right thing by allowing the delays to happen in order to keep the creative team and vision solid, keeping Millar and McNiven together for the entire run. And while I can see that point, the fact that this mini-series was the backbone of many Marvel Comics titles, so that when an issue of Civil War was delayed, it affected tons of other books that then had to ship late as they connected to the Civil War book directly. It basically became a quagmire of confusion, frustration and lost sales. But I don’t want to drag this dead horse to beat anymore.
No, I’d rather focus on the last meeting. The meeting in January 2007, when Marvel knew that the New York Comic Con, in their own backyard, was a few weeks away. When publisher Dan Buckley knew that if Civil War #7 wasn’t released by the time of the con, that there would be hell to pay as legions of angry fans would flood the Marvel booth and every panel Marvel gave bitching about the delays on Civil War. Who knows how they did it, but sure enough, the Wednesday before the New York Comic Con, Civil War #7 was released. After 6 months of dealing with delays on this title, this last meeting was, and I’m guessing here, the most tense and frustrating of them all. To be so close to finishing and hearing of yet another delay, I can’t even imagine what the tone of that meeting was like.
I hope you enjoyed that little trip down memory lane. I’m sure there are other monumental comics related meetings we’re forgetting here (and I’m guessing at least a few involve Neal Adams and Jim Shooter), but like I said, we wanted to focus on ones of recent memory. Now it’s your turn to weigh in and let us know what meetings you would have liked to witness the most. Just vote in the poll below and be sure to leave a comment as to why you’re interested in that particular meeting: